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The court has a number of sentencing options at its disposal. These include ordering a child to pay a fine, costs or compensation, imposing a community order, a detention order or a detention and supervision order. Where a court decides to impose a community order it is required to explain its reasons in open court. It must also outline the conditions of the order, the court expectations, and possible consequences of non-compliance in a language appropriate to the child’s understanding. The 2001 Act makes provision for a number of community-based supervision orders including a training or activities probation order, an intensive probation order, a residential probation order, a day centre order, a mentor order, a suitable person order, a restriction on movement order, and a dual order (see further Seymour 2012). In practice, orders provided for under the 2001 Act are used in a small number of cases and the standard probation order as adjudicated for under the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 remains the most common community-based supervision order imposed on children before the courts (Seymour 2013).[1] A common judicial practice in Ireland involves a court postponing the decision about the penalty to be imposed and requesting the Probation Service to supervise the offender during the deferral period. The practice known as ‘an order for supervision during deferment of penalty’ accounted for half of the 740 orders supervised by the Probation Service involving children in 2014 (Probation Service 2014:56).[2] A potential benefit of supervision during deferment of penalty for children is that the court may dismiss the charges and leave them without a criminal conviction following a successful period of supervision. A contrasting argument is that retaining children in the criminal justice system for undefined periods of time compromises their right to have criminal matters finalised in an expedient manner and potentially risks drawing them further into the criminal justice system (Convery and Seymour 2016). Electronic monitoring for children is not used either as a stand-alone measure or as part of the conditions of a community sanction or other measure. A notable feature of practice in the Irish system, relative to other jurisdictions, is that a child cannot be detained in custody for technical violations of community supervision orders. In circumstances where the child does not comply with the conditions of community supervision, the court is required to direct the child to comply or revoke the order and impose an alternative community sanction (for further information on how compliance and enforcement is managed as part of community supervision, see Seymour 2013).

The supervision of children, while varying according to individual need, typically entails one-to-one meetings with probation officers, supported by community-based organisations who deliver programmes and interventions to change behaviour in areas that include vocational and educational training, personal development, substance misuse, and mentoring. Probation officers’ professional backgrounds are in the areas of social policy and social work. Their approach to working with children under supervision is framed by their professional training and the welfare, rehabilitation and reintegration ethos of the 2001 Act (Seymour 2013). They have considerable scope to exercise their professional judgement in decision-making about children under their supervision. O’Leary and Halton’s (2009) evaluation of the use of risk assessment for children subject to probation supervision in Ireland provides a useful illustration in explaining that probation officers’ clinical judgement may supersede the actuarial conclusions from risk assessment exercises where different outcomes arise.[3]

Parental Sanctions

Parents or guardians are obliged to attend court appearances relating to their children’s criminal proceedings and to participate if required. The court has the power to adjourn proceedings and issue a warrant for the arrest of the parents or guardian who fails to appear. A number of orders can also be imposed on parents. They can be ordered to pay compensation for offences committed by their children or have a parental supervision order imposed if the court is satisfied that they wilfully neglected to care or to control their child and this contributed to the criminal behaviour. The court may also order parents to enter into a recognisance to exercise proper and adequate control over their children. The recognisance may be forfeited if further offences occur and the court deems that the parents’ failure to exercise adequate control over their children was a contributing factor. In practice, parental supervision orders are rarely imposed by the Children Court.

  • [1] The Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill 2014, when enacted, will replace the ProbationAct 1907 and create a modern statutory framework for community sanctions in Ireland.
  • [2] Probation orders accounted for a further one-third and the remainder consisted of supervisionorders under the 2001 Act (13 %), community service orders (3 %), and full and partially suspendedsentences with supervision (2 %) (ibid.).
  • [3] The risk assessment instrument used by the Probation Service in Ireland is the Youth Level ofService/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI).
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