The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD and Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter TD, today welcomed the publication of the Youth Justice Action Plan 2014-2018. 

The focus for the Action Plan is to continue the downward trends in high volume crime and reduce the necessity for detention. Since the first National Youth Justice Strategy commenced in 2008, the number of children sentenced to detention by the Courts on criminal conviction has consistently dropped; the operational costs of detention have reduced by over 30%; the capital costs and space required in the new national detention facilities being built at Oberstown are approx. 50% of what was estimated in 2008 and youth crime has fallen.

Minister Fitzgerald said "For the critical few requiring secure care and therapeutic intervention, detention facilities will be delivered to the highest standard. I am determined to deliver on the Programme for Government commitment to end the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities. Already, we have ended the detention of 16 year old boys in adult prisons. This Government has grasped the challenge of ensuring that proper facilities will be available in a suitable setting by committing over €50 million to the development of the new national children's detention facility (NCDF) campus at Oberstown. I am happy that the first of these new facilities will be delivered in the 3rd Quarter, 2014".

Minister Shatter said "This Action Plan aims to change behaviour by using the available evidence in developing interventions with children in the youth justice system. Importantly, the voice and experiences of children involved in the youth justice system have influenced the development of these interventions. The pro-active engagement by the Irish Youth Justice Service and partners in the criminal justice agencies in the development of this Action Plan, such as An Garda Síochána, Courts Service and Probation Service and with the services in health, education and welfare systems and the community and voluntary sector, is testament to the joined up Government approach to the promotion of integrated policy and service delivery in respect of these vulnerable children."

The Youth Justice Action Plan 2014-2018 will form part of the National Anti-Crime Strategy being developed by the Department of Justice and Equality as part of the White Paper on Crime process, with its focus on crime reduction and safer communities. It will also form part of the Children and Young People’s Policy Framework (CYPPF) being developed in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, with its focus on better outcomes for children and families.

Data will increasingly determine how resources are prioritised, including the means to maximise the coverage of Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) nationwide. Research studies, such as levels of compliance with community sanctions; identification of the progression routes for certain children into serious crime; study of children’s pathways into detention; and the tracking of levels of recidivism will inform both targeted interventions and strategy in the youth justice system.

The Youth Justice Service Action Plan 2014-2018 will be monitored by a steering group, chaired by the Director of the Irish Youth Justice Service, and comprise senior representatives of the key stakeholders who will report, in due course, through the oversight mechanisms of the National Anti-Crime Strategy and the Children and Young People’s Policy Framework as appropriate.

A copy of the Action Plan is available on the Irish Youth Justice Service website: www.iyjs.ie

3 February 2014

ENDS

 

Note to Editors:

Tackling Youth Crime: Youth Justice Action Plan 2014-2018 was developed by the Irish Youth Justice Service in consultation with key stakeholders. The Youth Justice Action Plan 2014-2018 can be downloaded from www.iyjs.ie 

Irish Youth Justice Service

The Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) is responsible for leading and driving reform in the youth justice area under the principles of the Children Act 2001. The IYJS moved to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs towards the end of 2011. Responsibility for the criminal justice elements of the Children Act 2001 remains with the Minister for Justice and Equality. Responsibility for children detained on remands or sentenced on conviction transferred to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with effect from 1st January 2012 (S.I. 668/2012).

Children Act 2001 principles

The youth justice system should be considered in its entirety, from the Garda Diversion Programme through to the Children Courts and the Children Detention Schools. Under the Children Act 2001 the age of criminal responsibility is 12 years and a "child" is defined as a person under the age of 18 years. The principles of the Act require the various authorities to apply incrementally a series of "filters" or tests to each case where a child comes into conflict with the law. These principles include:-

· A child who accepts responsibility for his/ her offending behaviour should be diverted from criminal proceedings, where appropriate.

· Children have rights and freedoms before the law equal to those enjoyed by adults and a right to be heard and to participate in any proceedings affecting them.

· Detention should be imposed as a last resort and may only be imposed if it is the only suitable way of dealing with the child.

· Due regard to the interests of the victim.

· A child’s age and level of maturity may be taken into consideration as mitigating factors in determining a penalty.

The first main filter is the Garda Diversion Programme, involving the informal caution (without supervision) and the formal (supervised) caution, including possible involvement with a Garda Youth Diversion Project (GYDP). The second main filter is provided by the non-custodial options available to the Courts, including dismissal under the Probation Act and unsupervised sanctions (fines, disqualification, peace bond, curfew etc.). The next stage involves the Probation supervised sanctions (community service and other community sanctions). Finally, as a last resort, detention may be used.

Community Based Programmes (Department of Justice and Equality)

The youth justice crime reduction / crime prevention community programmes are specifically targeted at young offenders and those at serious risk of offending. They have a direct bearing on the Diversion Programme and effectiveness of the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer system operated by An Garda Síochána.

While community based crime prevention/reduction programmes are funded by Dept. Justice and Equality through the Community Programmes Unit of IYJS, efforts will be made to engage with other youth service providers nationwide to promote the use of complementary crime prevention supports and service delivery in respect of vulnerable children.

The purpose of youth crime intervention work is to engage young people in a process of learning and development that enables them to make positive lifestyle choices. The youth justice system through its community based projects targets early interventions to address those at risk of offending behaviour through the Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) and the Garda Diversion Programme and links with other service providers in supporting pro-social messages to young people.

Their objectives are to:

Ø Promote focussed and effective interventions through GYDPs to challenge and divert young people from offending behaviour.

Ø Utilise GYDP resources in areas of greatest need and to establish effective crime prevention supports in co-operation with other youth service providers nationwide.

Ø Actively promote crime prevention policy through focussed educational interventions influencing positive development of young people towards becoming responsible citizens.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects

Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) are nationwide, community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives, funded by the Dept of Justice and Equality through the Community Programmes Unit, Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS), which seek to divert young people from becoming involved in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour. The GYDPs are designed to engage with young people who have been identified as being at risk of involvement in criminal or anti-social behaviour. They operate in tandem with the Garda Diversion Programme. They aim to bring about the conditions whereby the behavioural patterns of young people towards law and order can develop and mature through positive interventions and interaction with the project. The projects are particularly targeted at 12-17 year old "at risk" youths in communities where a specific need has been identified and where there is a risk of them remaining within the justice system.

Community Programmes Unit, IYJS provides funding to 100 GYDPs and also administers 2 measures through the projects under the European Social Fund 2007 - 2013 part-funded Human Capital Investment Programme. The specific purpose of the ESF programme measures is to increase the capacity of project participants to find employment. The ESF claims for 2012 come to €2.122million (based on expenditure of €4,244 million).

Supported by the Garda Office of Children and Youth Affairs (GOCYA), each project is managed by a Community Based Organisation (CBO) which is required to ensure that best practice is followed in terms of quality of service and financial accountability. Funding for the 100 GYDPs amounted to just over €11 million in 2012.

Breakdown of CBO distribution of projects:

· Youth Work Ireland (15 individual CBOs) – 37 projects

· Foróige – 33 projects

· Catholic Youth Care – 11 projects

· 19 Independent CBOs (1 project each)

National Children Detention Facilities (Department of Children and Youth Affairs)

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs assumed legal responsibility for the Children Detention Schools (CDS) in Oberstown on 1 January 2012. In April 2012, the Minister announced a capital investment package for the Oberstown children detention schools project in Lusk, Co Dublin. The timeline for the project will see the first 3 new residential units available in third quarter of 2014. These units will be used to facilitate the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old boys from adult prison facilities to the Oberstown campus.

The remaining 3 residential units, to be delivered in 2015, will be used to replace existing accommodation that has reached the end of its useful life on the existing Oberstown campus. The development will also provide associated education, recreation, security and other ancillary facilities and will result in all detention services for children being delivered in a single location, maximising the scope for ensuring best practice standards using the children detention school model and for operational efficiency. The total contract is valued at €56.4 million (including VAT).

With effect from 1 May 2012, the Minister ended by Order (S.I. No. 136 of 2012) the detention of 16 year old boys in St Patrick’s Institution through using existing capacity that was available on the Oberstown children detention school campus. Since July 2012 no 16 year old boys have been detained in adult prison facilities.