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Children Detention Schools

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs delivers package of measures to end the use of St. Patrick’s Institution

Ms. Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs announced, on 2 April 2012, a significant package of measures to end the practice of detaining 16 and 17 year old boys in St. Patrick’s Institution within 2 years.

You can watch Minister Fitzgerald speaking on this issue on the Six One News today

Click here to read the Press Release on this issue.

Since 1 January 2012 the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has had the legal responsibility for the Children Detention Schools, based at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin.  A transitional provision permits the use of St. Patrick’s Institution for the detention of 16 and 17 year old males until sufficient Children Detention School places are available for that age cohort.  However, it is Government policy to end this practice.

On 2 April 2012, Minister Fitzgerald confirmed that €50 million approx. capital funding is being provided to deliver a National Children Detention Facility to end the practice of detaining 16 and 17 year old boys in St. Patrick’s Institution. 

The project will deliver 6 new residential units, with the initial phase of 3 units being used to end the use of St. Patrick’s Institution for under 18 year olds.  The remaining units will replace substandard accommodation at the Oberstown Campus.  The facility is to be fully complete by 2015 at the existing site in Oberstown, Co. Dublin. 

Minister Fitzgerald also announced a series of interim measures in advance of the completion of the capital project.  The measures are:

• From 1st May 2012 assignment of responsibility for the detention of newly remanded or sentenced 16 year old boys to the Children Detention Schools in Oberstown. This will mean that it will no longer be necessary for 16 year olds to be sent to St. Patrick’s Institution by the courts from this date onwards.

• Enhanced provision of specialist therapeutic services for children in residential institutions, in both the children detention schools and special care units operated by the Health Service Executive. A specialist multi disciplinary service is being established for this purpose with the recruitment of a director for this service already underway.

• The introduction of amendments to the Children’s Act 2001 to provide for the management of all facilities on the Oberstown campus (i.e. Oberstown Boy’s School, Trinity House School and Oberstown Girl’s School) on an integrated basis.


Detention – an option of last resort

When a child commits an offence and is charged then s/he appears before the Court. The Court can choose from a number of community sentences to deal with the offence. If the offence is dealt with in the community, then the child can stay in their own school and be part of their community, but still take responsibility for the consequences of their offending behaviour. It is important as part of growing up for a child to stay in contact with their families and community.

However, sometimes because of the type of offence committed, the Court will send a child to a place of detention (see Children Detention Schools).  Before sending a child to detention, the Court will try to make sure that there is no other option available that would address the offences which the child has committed. 


Children Detention Schools

A child can be ordered to be detained by the Court to either a detention school or to St. Patrick’s Institution in Dublin.  The Courts will only sentence a child to a detention school as a last resort.

The Children Act 2001 as amended, has transferred responsibility for detention schools from the Minister for Education and Science to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Act also states that the detention school model of care, education and rehabilitation will be extended to include 16 to 17 year-olds.

The legislation makes it illegal to now order the detention of a child (with effect from 1 March, 2007) under 18 years to a prison.  There are currently three detention schools where a child can be ordered to be detained by the Courts. These are:

• Trinity House, Lusk;
• Oberstown Boys School, Lusk;
• Oberstown Girls School, Lusk;

The Irish Youth Justice Service is responsible for the existing children detention schools and is taking steps to develop additional children detention school places for  16 and 17 year-old boys. Until these places are available St. Patrick’s Institution will continue to be used for 17 year-old boys (and a small number of 16 year olds already ordered by the Courts to be detained there ). From 1st May 2012 all new 16 year old boys ordered to be detained by the Courts will be placed in a children detention school only.

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