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07/15/2015 12:00:00 AM


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Daly, Clare

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Bills

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Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 [Seanad]

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Report and Final Stages

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887

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Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 [Seanad]\Report and Final Stages
Bills\Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 [Seanad]\Report and Final Stages

3 Part Topic Index

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Amendment No

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4

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B4a

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Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 [Seanad]

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Report and Final Stages

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Not applicable

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No

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1

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Senator


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Deputy Clare Daly

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Deputy Clare Daly

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ClareDaly

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Clare Daly

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6F40EB9A4E5CED0880257E83006D89C6

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11/02/2016 06:33:22 PM

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Snippet Contents:

I move amendment No. 4: Amendment No. 4 relates to providing for a maximum sentence of three years for children. Maximum sentences for juvenile offenders are common elsewhere in Europe. This country is unusual in the fact that we have not had a maximum sentence since 2006. For example in Spain, between the ages of 14 and 16 years there is a maximum period of four years, irrespective of the crime committed, while between the ages of 16 and 18, it is eight years. In Portugal the maximum period of detention for children is three years; in Germany, five years and in Sweden and Switzerland, four years. The Children Act 2001 contained a provision providing for an upper limit on the length of time a child could spend in detention and did not permit the courts to give a sentence of more than three years. I do not understand the reason such a provision cannot be contained in the Bill. If it was acceptable then, why was the provision changed and why can it not be included now? I compliment the Minister on what is, generally, very good legislation. However, it is based on the premise of assisting vulnerable young people and not seeing them as criminals but as people who need assistance. If detention is supposed to be about rehabilitation and not punishment, three years is a considerable time to work with a person. Engaging with people after their release is equally important, be it on issues relating to drug addiction, their mental health or whatever else.
Amendment No. 5 is very important as it deals with a court giving its reasons in writing for the handing down of a sentence involving detention. On Committee Stage the Minister noted that the writing down of judgments by judges was under review elsewhere. The strategic review group on penal policy recommended that such an approach be taken. A working group set up by the Minister for Justice and Equality is undertaking this work and examining the entire area. The Minister suggested that if we were to include the measure now, we would be jumping the gun. I do not agree. The fact that these two organisations support the measure and that the Law Reform Commission suggested it in 2003 also means that we are heading in that direction. Why, theredore, would we not be ahead of the posse with legislation dealing with children? That would be beneficial because data on child offenders in this country are scrappy and data collection is left to organisations such as the Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The State with all of its resources should support them in their job of gathering data.
The amendment would assist in that regard because if we want to understand the current use of imprisonment and detention and encourage a more select use of detention as a sanction, it is essential that information on the reasons for the handing down of sentences involving a term of detention must be publicly available. This is particularly important in the case of children, not just because they are children but because it can help us to gain a more thorough understanding of the social inequalities which are such a feature of the lives of children who end up in the criminal justice system and of which they are often the victims. If we were to include the change proposed in the amendment, it would focus judges on the reasons for imposing custodial sentences, promote consistency in sentencing and provide clarity and transparency for courts, victims, offenders and the public and would not involve any extra work for the Judiciary because judges already have to give their reasons. It would just mean they would have to write them down. I do not think that would kill them and it would be a worthwhile social project which other aspects of the criminal justice system are examining. We could be ahead of the posse in accepting amendment No. 5.