IPRT to Publish New Report on the Detention of Children in Ireland

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The Irish Penal Reform Trust will publish a new report: Detention of Children in Ireland: International Standards and Best Practice. The report, which will be launched Monday 30th November in Dublin, considers the implementation of international human rights standards to children detention in Ireland, and details best practice examples from Ireland and other European jurisdictions.

The report outlines 63 recommendations across a number of areas, including: admissions procedures; physical environment; health care; protecting children from harm; discipline; inspection and complaints systems; suitable and qualified personnel; rehabilitation and social integration into the community.

On the publication of this report, the Irish Penal Reform Trust is making three main calls on the government to:

1. Bring an immediate end to the detention of children in St Patrick’s Institution

2. Extend the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to receive individual complaints from children held in St. Patrick’s Institution

3.  Improve child protection procedures and practices in all places where children are detained

The report includes a Foreword by Emily Logan, Ombudsman for Children, in which she echoes IPRT concerns about the continued detention of boys in St. Patrick’s Institution, which is not in compliance with international human rights standards.

She also writes: “Of additional concern is the fact that I cannot investigate complaints from children held in St. Patrick’s Institution due to an exclusion in the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002. I therefore particularly welcome the recommendation contained in the report that supports both my own and the Committee on the Rights of the Child recommendation to extend the remit of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office to include the power to receive complaints from children so held.”

Currently, because of the exclusion in the Ombudsman for Children Act, 2002, the Ombudsman for Children cannot receive individual complaints from children detained in St. Patrick’s Institution. As a result detainees have no independent body to whom they may take complaints.

Detention of Children in Ireland: International Standards and Best Practice will be launched on Monday 30th November 2009 at 3.30pm in Pearse Street Library, Dublin 2. There will be a number of speakers at the launch, details of which will be announced shortly.

More About the Report

The report considers the application and implementation of international human rights standards to children detention in Ireland, and how the aims enshrined in these standards can be best achieved in the Irish context.

The report also seeks to influence the debate on the design and best practice policies in the new National Children Detention Facility to be built at the Oberstown Campus in Lusk, whilst renewing a call for an immediate end to the detention of boys at St Patrick’s Institution.

For more information about the report, contact Agnieszka Martynowicz, IPRT Research & Policy Officer.

Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Ireland in 1992, requires that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child should be a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. Detention as a last resort requires parsimony in the use of custody for children and that it be limited to exceptional cases, including for example where a child has been found guilty of a violent offence.

As long as detention exists as an option, places of detention for children should aim to maximise their chances of rehabilitation and integration into society by providing a humane, safe and secure environment whereby the offending behaviour of children can be addressed, and where children will be assisted to make better choices about their lives during custody and on their return to society.

The Detention of Children: International Standards and Best Practice considers how these aims can best be achieved in the Irish context.

The paper is divided into three parts:

Part I discusses the context of the detention of children in Ireland, outlines international standards applicable to detention of children, and provides a comparative analysis of a number of youth detention systems in Europe.

Part II of the report looks at specific standards relating to a number of practice areas (such as physical environment and accommodation; personal and social development; health care provision; staffing requirements, etc.) and highlights examples of good practice both in Ireland and in other European countries in those areas, which may serve as guidance for the development of policy and practice in the new National Children Detention Facility.

In Part III, a number of detailed recommendations are made.