Dáil Éireann - Volume 523 - 05 October, 2000

Written Answers. - Juvenile Offenders.

130. Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of places of detention currently available for juvenile offenders; the number of occasions in 1999 and 2000 on which juveniles were remanded in custody or sentenced to detention where no places were available; the number of occasions in that period where juvenile offenders, refused bail or sentenced, were detained in Garda stations; the plans he has to provide an adequate number of secure places for juvenile offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20153/00]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): For the purposes of this question, juvenile offenders are taken to be those under the age of 18 years.

There is no pre-determined limit on the number of custodial places available in the prison system for juvenile offenders at present. There were 98 offenders under the age of 18 years in prison custody on Tuesday 26 September, 2000. The following table outlines the institutions in which they were housed:

Institution

Number in Custody

Limerick (Male)

2

Cork

2

St Patrick's Institution

56

Fort Mitchel

15

Cloverhill

12

Wheatfield

6

Shanganagh

5

Total

98

Male offenders aged 16 and 17, and up to the age of 21, may be committed on remand or to serve a period of detention at St. Patrick's Institution. Male offenders aged 16 and over may be committed on remand to Cloverhill Prison. Male [1254] offenders aged 17 years and over may be committed on remand or sentenced to imprisonment to the five adult committal prisons, Mountjoy, Cork, Limerick, Castlerea and Portlaoise. Sentenced male offenders aged 16 and 17 may be transferred from any of the five adult committal prisons and from St. Patrick's Institution to Wheatfield Place of Detention, Fort Mitchel and Shanganagh Castle to serve their sentences.

Female offenders aged 17 years, and over, may be committed on remand or sentenced to imprisonment to Mountjoy and Limerick women's prisons.

Offenders under the age of 15 years cannot be committed to prison under any circumstances. Fifteen year old male offenders and 15 and 16 year old female offenders can be committed to prison only in exceptional circumstances. This can occur only in cases where the court certifies under the provisions of sections 97 and 102 of the Children's Act, 1908, that the young person is so unruly or depraved of character that he/she cannot be detained in a place of detention provided under part V of the Act.

Every effort is made to segregate juvenile offenders from the general prison population in each institution at all times. The few held in the more traditional adult prisons are accommodated with other young offenders or with carefully selected older prisoners.

All persons committed from the courts to institutions or prisons under the aegis of this Department are accommodated, none are refused due to limitations on accommodation.

The number of occasions whereby juvenile offenders, refused bail or sentenced, were detained in Garda stations is as follows: 1999 – 5; 2000 – 14.

The legal provisions for the committal of young offenders under the age of 18 years will change on the enactment of the Children Bill, 1999, which proposes that where a court imposes a period of detention on a child, it shall, where the child is under 16 years of age, order the child to be detained in a children's detention school, operated by the Department of Education and Science; where the child is 16 or 17 years of age, order the child to be detained in a place of detention, provided by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Under the provisions of the Bill, separate, dedicated secure detention centres will be required for the accommodation of 16 and 17 year old offenders.

The prisons building programme includes provisions for the following accommodation exclusively for children: 40 place unit with full support facilities on a dedicated site adjacent to Cork Prison. Planning of this project is at an advanced stage and building work will commence in 2001. 100 place unit with full support facilities in the Dublin region comprising separate secure detention for up to 20 females and 80 males.

The primary objective of these detention centres will be to afford young offenders the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to [1255] avoid future offending by the creative design of high quality purpose built facilities and the provision of high grade support services delivered through a progressive regime tailored to their special needs.