Irish Penal Reform Trust

Youth Justice

Ireland has a long history of poor responses to offending behaviour by children. A core strand to IPRT's work since its establishment in 1994 has been the promotion of a more effective youth justice system, with emphasis on non-custodial alternatives, diversion, early intervention and prevention strategies and programmes. Central to our work was ending the practice of detaining children in adult prisons, which was in breach of international human rights standards and a serious stain on Ireland's human rights record.

International human rights standards, and in particular the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, are clear that custody for children should only be used as a last resort and for the minimum required period of time. All efforts should be made to apply alternatives to detention to ensure that such a measure is only used in exceptional circumstances.

In Ireland, the Children Act 2001 recognizes the principle of detention as a last resort. The Act prohibits the imprisonment of children and the Criminal Justice Act 2006 makes provision for all children less than 18 years of age to be detained in Children Detention Schools. The detention school model is focused on a model of care, education, health and programmes that address offending, with improved outcomes for the young people, their communities and all of society. The Irish Youth Justice Service is responsible for the Children Detention Schools, within the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Following years of sustained advocacy by IPRT, along with many national and international bodies, in 2012 the detention of boys aged under 17 at St Patrick's Institution ended. In March 2017, a Ministerial Order ended the sentencing of children aged under 18 to adult prison in Ireland, and in April 2017, St. Patrick’s Institution was finally closed. Since September 2017 boys aged under 18 are no longer detained in the adult prison system.

IPRT continues to work towards progressive change in youth justice policies and practice, as well as engaging with wider policy and practice issues relating to youth justice, such as the provision of alternatives to detention, diversion and early intervention programmes. 

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IPRT presentation to Universal Periodic Review (UPR) pre-session

7th October 2021

IPRT was one of the civil society organisations chosen to make a statement at the pre-session meeting of Ireland’s UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 7th October 2021.

Youth Justice Strategy marks an opportunity to transform the lives and futures of children facing multiple disadvantages – IPRT

15th April 2021

IPRT welcomes many of the evidence-led plans set out in the new Youth Justice Strategy, however, concern remains over certain proposals.

2019 Annual Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme

8th April 2021

The 2019 Annual Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme has been published by the Department of Justice. The purpose of the report is to identify the effectiveness of the Diversion Programme and provide recommendations on how the service can be improved.

HIQA Inspection Report on Oberstown Children's Detention Campus (2020)

18th March 2021

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published an inspection report on Oberstown Children’s Detention Campus.

Justice Plan 2021 and Department of Justice Strategy Statement 2021-2023

22nd February 2021

Justice Plan 2021 is the first of a series of annual plans which the Minister will introduce to drive reforms across the Justice Sector. Each year, the Plan will be updated with new actions and timelines for delivery. IPRT welcomes this transparency.

Scotland: What Works to Prevent Youth Violence

16th February 2021

From mentoring to parenting training and out of school activities, a new report from the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit looks at the evidence of what works to reduce youth violence.

Young Adults on Remand: A scoping study for T2A

1st February 2021

The briefing examines to what extent the specific developmental needs of young adults are taken into account by courts when making decisions about whether to remand defendants into custody.

Research reports from the Greentown Project launched by Minister for Justice

27th January 2021

The Minister also announced the commencement of a newly designed community intervention programme based on this University of Limerick research.

UK: Disparities in youth diversion – an evidence review

27th January 2021

This literature review by the Centre for Justice Innovation explores how youth diversion can contribute to keeping children and young people out of the formal criminal justice system but, if access to diversion is unequal, it can exacerbate racial inequality in criminal justice outcomes for young people.

UK: Ethnic disproportionality in remand and sentencing in the youth justice system

22nd January 2021

This large-scale study finds that Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic children are less likely to get a formal out-of-court disposal than other children, among other findings

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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