Community Sanctions and Restorative Justice
The Children Court
There is a special Court for children who are in trouble with the law and who are being charged with a crime. The Children Court is where a Judge listens to both sides about what happened and decides what happens next.
The Children’s Courts are held in the courtrooms where ordinary sittings of the District Court are held, except in Dublin which has a dedicated Children Court. The sittings are held at different times to those for adults who have to come to the District Court.
The Children Court gives special attention to helping children understand what it going on. If the parents or guardian cannot afford to pay a solicitor, the Court can offer legal aid for the child.
If you require more information regarding the Courts please visit their website here.
Young Persons Probation
Young Persons Probation (YPP) is a division of the Probation Service working with young people under 18 years of age who come before the Courts. It works to:
• Help young offenders avoid re-offending.
• Provide integral social work services to the Children Court and Children Detention Schools.
• Convene Family Conferences with young offenders, their families and victims on behalf of the Courts.
YPP also has responsibility for implementing the community sanctions now available to the Courts. For more information on Community Sanctions, please see the Community Programmes section of the website.
For further information on YPP, please see the Probation Service website at www.probation.ie.
If a child has been to Court and convicted of a crime, then he/she may receive a sanction which allows him/her to stay in school and in their community. This is called a community sanction and can be used instead of detention.
Community sanctions have to address the consequences of the actions of the child and, in some cases, they can be used to help strengthen relationships in the family. The sanctions include a range of measures, such as community service, intensive supervision, mentoring and restorative justice.
If a community sanction is being used, the child will be told why it is being used and what he/she has to do. The parents, or guardians, are expected to support and encourage the child to complete the sanction and to stay out of trouble in the future.
There are 10 community sanctions available to the Courts, namely:
- Community Service Order: A child of 16 or 17 years of age agrees to complete unpaid work for a set total number of hours.
- Day Centre Order: A child is to go to a centre at set times and, as part of the order, to take part in a programme of activities.
- Probation Order: This places a child under the supervision of the Probation Service for a period during which time the child must meet certain conditions which are set by the Court.
- Training or Activities Order: A child has to take part in and complete a programme of training or similar activity. The programme should help the child learn positive social values.
- Intensive Supervision Order: A child is placed under the supervision of a named probation officer and has to attend a programme of education, training or treatment as part of their time under supervision.
- Residential Supervision Order: This is where a child is to live in a suitable hostel. The hostel is to be close to where they normally live, attend school or go to work.
- A Suitable Person (care and supervision) Order: With the agreement of the child’s parents or guardian, the child is placed in the care of a suitable adult.
- A Mentor (family support) Order: A person is assigned to help, advise and support the child and his/her family in trying to stop the child from committing further offences.
- A Restriction of Movement Order: This requires a child to stay away from certain places and to be at a specific address between 7pm and 6am each day.
- A Dual Order: This combines a Restriction of Movement Order with either supervision by a probation officer or attendance at a day centre.
Restorative Justice Programmes
A way for a child to address the consequences of his/her actions is to apologise to the victim. In this process, the victim can often speak directly to the child about the hurt and harm that they have caused. In some cases, there is an agreement on a way that the child can compensate the victim or do something positive for the community. This could include an apology to the victim, financial or other reparations to the victim or an initiative with the child’s family and community that might help to prevent re-offending.
Restorative justice was introduced for the first time in the Children Act 2001. There are two restorative justice initiatives provided for in the Act:
- A restorative conference or restorative caution included in the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme
- A Court-ordered restorative justice conference delivered through the Probation Service.