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. 

Oberstown 2018 sml

Publication of Oberstown Annual Report 2023

3rd July 2024

Oberstown has published its annual report for the year 2023. The report outlines a number of key developments made in providing care for young people in custody, in addition to progression pathways for those leaving the facility.

Publication of Oberstown Annual Report 2022

4th July 2023

Oberstown has published its annual report for the year 2022. The report outlines a number of key developments made in providing care for young people in custody, in addition to progression pathways for those leaving the facility.

IPRT Submission to the Department of Justice Consultation on diversion for young adults 18-24

18th January 2023

IPRT appreciates the opportunity to make this submission to the Department of Justice, as part of its public consultation on the topic of diversion paths for young adults aged 18–24. The Department’s...

IPRT Submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

15th August 2022

This IPRT submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child makes 22 recommendations relating to child justice and children with a family member in prison in Ireland.

IPRT response at webinar: Judicial Discretion and the Justice & Welfare Dichotomy

23rd May 2022

IPRT Executive Director Saoirse Brady was a panel respondent at this important Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and the Children’s Rights Alliance webinar.

IPRT appears before Joint Committee on Justice to discuss Anti-Social Behaviour

22nd February 2022

IPRT Acting Executive Director Molly Joyce and Senior Policy & Research Officer Sarahjane McCreery appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice to give evidence on the topic of ’Anti-Social Behaviour’ (ASB).

IPRT Submission to the Joint Committee on Justice on Anti-Social Behaviour

21st January 2022

IPRT was invited by the Joint Committee on Justice to make a written submission on the topic of 'Anti-Social Behaviour'.

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.

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

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