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Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages (Continued)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 887 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly] They should not be identified and tagged as criminals but as young citizens who need serious intervention and help. It is normal to place limits on the length of time they should spend in detention. Given that it happens in other countries and we previously had a three-year limit in place, it would not be radical. I will not rehash the arguments made.

The Minister did not comment on amendment No. 5 which I deliberately split off to give him the luxury of supporting one without the other, given that he does not like the amendment that would implement a maximum limit of three years. Amendment No. 5 contains the points I made at length about the court giving its reasons in writing, which is critical for all of the reasons I outlined such as the gathering of data and consistency. I do not see why he could not incorporate it.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Section 143(2) provides that where an order is made for the detention of a child, the court making the order shall give its reasons for so doing in open court. On Committee Stage I brought forward an amendment to section 143 of the Act to provide for the insertion into section 143 of the words "in language that is appropriate to the age and level of understanding of the child concerned". The Deputy's proposal is, therefore, provided for. Her contention about children and mental health and other issues is provided for in so far as orders can be made for detention and supervision, which allows for early periods of release to see how they get on in the community. The difficulty is that one cannot apply a law, as the Deputy has suggested, regardless of the seriousness of the crime. While the Deputy is correct that for certain crimes, there is a cap on the duration of time for which a person can be detained, it is done on a stratified basis. Her proposal indicates that regardless of the seriousness of the crime involved, it could never exceed a three-year sentence, which is unreasonable.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly The Minister has said it cannot be done. Of course, it can be done and it is done in many other jurisdictions. I appreciate his amendment on Committee Stage which has improved the position. While it is good that the reasons will have to be given in open court and in language the child can understand, the amendment does not specify that they be given in writing. Despite the State spending millions of euro on digital audio recording systems in the courts, in many instances, there is no access to the recordings or they are turned off. Putting the reasons in writing would provide a better record.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I move amendment No. 5:

In page 10, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:
“(3) Where a court imposes any period of detention on a child it shall give its reasons for doing so in writing in language that is appropriate to the age and level of understanding of the child.”.”.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan I move amendment No. 6:

In page 10, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:
“(3) The Court shall not impose a period of detention in excess of three years. Where a court imposes any period of detention on a child it shall give its reasons for doing so in writing.”.”.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I move amendment No. 7:

In page 24, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
“(2A) Where an inquiry is held under subsection (1) the child shall be provided with an opportunity to be heard and to respond to any allegation of disciplinary breach orally or in writing.”.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jerry Buttimer): Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Amendments Nos. 8, 10 and 12 are related and will be discussed together.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I move amendment No. 8:

In page 25, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:
“(5) At the conclusion of the inquiry, if a finding of a disciplinary breach under section 201 has been made and/or if a sanction has been imposed under section 201A, the child shall be informed of his or her right to send to the Director, for transmission to the Minister, a petition concerning the finding or sanction or both the finding and sanction, and he or she shall be informed of the time limit of 7 days after the date of being informed of the finding and the imposition of any sanction for the submission of such a petition, as provided in section 201B(1).

(6) At the conclusion of the inquiry, if a finding of a disciplinary breach under section 201 has been made and if a sanction of forfeiture of remission of portion of a period of detention has been imposed, the child shall be informed of his or her right to notify the Director of his or her intention to appeal against the finding or sanction, or both finding and sanction, to an Appeal Tribunal, and he or she shall be informed of the time limit of 21 days after notification of the finding or sanction to notify the Director as such, as provided for in section 201C(1)(b).”.”.

I raised these amendments on Committee Stage because the Minister had said he hoped to deal with some of the issues but was not sure how he would get on. He got on pretty well and given that amendment No. 10 in his name covers the issues raised in amendment No. 8, I will not press it.

  On a small, technical point, amendment No. 12 would give the Minister the power to affirm, modify, suspend or revoke a finding, as well as a sanction. While in another amendment he is dealing with the findings, is it not necessary to insert my amendment in order to be in line with section 201B(1) which allows a child to petition the Minister on a finding, as well as a sanction? He has already allowed a child to petition him on a finding, as well as a sanction, which I welcome. My amendment would specify only when a child petitioned the Minister, would he have the power to affirm, modify, suspend or revoke a finding, as well as a sanction. It is a technical point and I hope I am not melting anybody's head. The Minister should include it in order to make the section compatible with his amendment, with which I agree.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I thank the Deputy and appreciate that she is not pressing amendment No. 8, given that amendment No. 10 encapsulates the issue.

I do not propose to move amendment No. 11 which would amend the shoulder note in the Bill at section 201B. The shoulder note will be updated administratively, given that it does not form part of the provisions of the Bill. When updated, the revised marginal note will more appropriately reflect the wording of section 201B to provide for a petition to the Minister by a child against a finding of a breach of discipline, a sanction, or both a finding and a sanction.

On amendment No. 12, I refer to amendments I brought forward in the Seanad and which were agreed to on Committee Stage. The amendments made to section 201B(2) provide that where the finding of the director is a subject of the petition, the Minister may affirm, modify or revoke the finding and where the sanction imposed by the director is a subject of the petition, the Minister may affirm, modify, suspend or revoke the sanction. The purpose of the amendment proposed appears to be to enable the suspension of a finding. A suspension of a finding would give rise to uncertainty for a child. It is more appropriate that a finding be affirmed, modified or revoked with certainty and that there be a clear outcome for the child following a petition to the Minister arising from a finding of a breach of discipline. I do not propose, therefore, to accept amendment No. 12.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I move amendment No. 9:

In page 25, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:
“(1A) Any child who breaches the rules of a children detention school may be sanctioned on the instructions of the Director of the school in a way that is both reasonable, proportionate and within the prescribed limits.

(1B) Without prejudice to the power of the Minister to prescribe limits for the disciplining of children detained in children detention schools, the following forms of sanction shall be prohibited:
(a) corporal punishment or any other form of physical violence;

(b) deprivation of food or drink;

(c) treatment that could reasonably be expected to be detrimental to physical, psychological or emotional well-being; or

(d) treatment that is cruel, inhuman or degrading.”.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I move amendment No. 10:

In page 26, to delete lines 14 to 18 and substitute the following:
“(7) When the Director informs a child under subsection (1) of a finding that the child has committed a disciplinary breach and whether or not the Director imposes a sanction on the child under that subsection in respect of the disciplinary breach, the Director shall explain in ordinary language to the child the content of section 201B(1) and, if any sanction imposed consists of or includes forfeiture of remission of portion of his or her period of detention, of section 201C(1).”.

  Amendment put and declared carried.

  Amendment No. 11 not moved.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I move amendment No. 12:

In page 26, line 40, after “sanction” to insert “and/or finding”.

Given the excellent explanation by the Minister, I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

  Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I thank the Deputies for their co-operation and support for the main thrust of the Bill which is to improve outcomes for children and end the practice of people under the age of 18 being detained in the prison system rather than in detention centres which are focused more on rehabilitation and education and to give them the best chance in life.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I compliment the Minister and his staff. It is a great step forward and igood that we are passing this legislation before the recess. It is an important departure from the dark old days when children, like women, were treated as vessels. The Bill treats them as individuals with problems who can be worked with and make a valuable contribution to society. It is a great body of work. Well done.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan I, too, thank the Minister and his staff and recognise that it is good legislation.

  Question put and agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jerry Buttimer): Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Bill which is considered to be a Bill initiated in Dáil Éireann in accordance with Article 20.2.2° of the Constitution will be sent to the Seanad.


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