26th November 2008
IPRT warmly welcomes the publication today by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs of a major report into the situation of young people on remand. Speaking today at the launch of the report, IPRT Director Liam Herrick said,
"IPRT believes that rigorous independent research has a critical role to play in reforming our youth justice system and the Minister deserves great credit for investing in research of this quality. The State's success in breaking the cycle of youth offending at the earliest point has profound significance for those young people and for society. This report shows that opportunities for constructive intervention with young people are being missed during a crucial period while they are awaiting trial."
Among the main findings of the report are that young people on remand do not clearly understand their bail conditions and that bail support is hopelessly inadequate. These gaps in the system must be filled. Coupled with excessively long periods on remand, the failure to monitor and support young offenders on remand means that they are at high risk of re-offending.
The Children Act 2001 recognised that detention of young people causes harm that is not easily reversed. This report shows that the principle of detention as a last resort enshrined in the Children Act is not being respected in relation to remand and that a significant proportion of young people who have not been convicted are being detained for extended periods in St. Patrick's Institution and Child Detention Schools.
Liam Herrick said,
"Given what we know about the levels of drug use and violence in St. Patrick's Institution, the continuing detention of young people there on remand is difficult to reconcile with the principles of the Children Act or with recent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. There is an onus on the State to fully explore all alternatives before detaining any young person and we believe that much more can be done to support and monitor young people in the community."