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Written Answers. - Juvenile Offenders.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

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 169. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  the extent to which he is in discussion with his ministerial colleagues in the Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children with a view to ensuring availability of adequate numbers of juvenile detention places; his plans to take initiatives in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18764/02]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell My Department and the Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children are currently involved in a multi-agency approach to developing responses, including the provision of custodial places, for troubled and troublesome young persons. This work is taking place in the context of the ongoing implementation of the Children Act, 2001.

The National Children's Office has taken the lead role in relation to co-ordinating the implementation of the Act and has established a working group for this purpose. The group, which includes high level representation from my Department and the Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children, meets on a regular basis to review progress in implementing the Act and to bring forward further proposals.

While there is significant emphasis in the legislation on custodial care being a last resort, the provision of appropriate custodial facilities will continue to be a priority. I have responsibility for the provision of accommodation for young offenders aged between 16 and 21 years. Both St. Patrick's Institution and Shanganagh Castle are specifically designated to cater for this age group [1233] and the majority of inmates under the 18 years of age are detained in these two institutions as well as in Fort Mitchel and Wheatfield Prison. On average, there are generally 90-100 inmates under the age of 18 years detained in the various prisons and places of detention under the administration of the Irish Prison Service.

Under the Children Act, 2001, however, I will be obliged to provide separate detention facilities for 16 and 17 year old boys and girls who are committed to custody by the courts either on remand or under sentence. I plan to provide a 38 bed unit for male juveniles with full support facilities on a dedicated site adjacent to Cork Prison. At present, a tender competition is being prepared for this facility. I also plan to provide a facility in the Dublin area for 110 juveniles – 90 male and 20 female. My Department is actively investigating the suitability of several sites in the greater Dublin area.

The Government approved on 17 April 2002 the making available by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of up to 20 places in St. Patrick's Institution for the reception of offenders under 16 years of age. This is a strictly short-term contingency measure to cover for any shortage in the capacity of special schools run by the Department of Education and Science, which is currently reviewing the adequacy of that capacity.

Construction works on this site are ongoing. It is envisaged that the necessary building site and subsequent fit-out works, including lockings, commissioning of safety and monitoring equipment, furniture installation etc. will now be completed by the end of January.

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