Ireland must ‘do better’ for children in care who come into contact with justice system
Ireland must “do better” for the small minority of children in care who come into contact with the criminal justice system, according to new research on the link between care and justice.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has launched a new report titled Care and Justice, authored by Dr Nicola Carr of University of Nottingham and Dr Paula Mayock of Trinity College.
It highlights that contact with the justice system is a particular issue for a small cohort of young people, with the association between care and justice being “an area of concern, particularly at the ‘higher end’ of the youth justice system”.
However, the report warns that there is a lack of data in Ireland on the extent to which children in care come into contact with the criminal justice system, and a lack of a co-ordinated policy between Tusla, care providers and An Garda Síochána.
Commenting on the report, Fíona Ní Chinnéide, acting executive director of the IPRT, told Irish Legal News: “The vast majority of children in care do not come in contact with the criminal justice system, but for the small number who do, we have to do better.
“There needs to be joined-up collaborative approaches across agencies, including Tusla and An Garda Síochána. There needs to be systematic collection of data and focus on outcomes to inform more appropriate youth justice responses to this cohort of children and young people.
“Above all, we have to ensure they have equal or greater access to services and supports as those that can be accessed by children who live with their families.”
She added: “It’s important to acknowledge that all of the agencies referenced in the report engaged openly with the researchers, Dr Nicola Carr and Dr Paula Mayock, and were represented at the launch event itself. This includes the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Irish Youth Justice Service, Tusla and An Garda Síochána.
“This demonstrates a strong and shared engagement around the issues, which IPRT warmly welcomes. As a first step, we hope that the report findings and recommendations will help inform the current review of the Youth Justice Action Plan, led by Minister Stanton.”
The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, hosted the launch event for the paper earlier this week, outlining the State’s responsibility to ensure children in care are not further disadvantaged for life circumstances that are completely outside their control.
Other speakers at the event included Karla Charles, policy manager at EPIC, the national child rights based organisation that works with and for children and young people with care experience; Gareth Noble, partner at KOD Lyons; and Pat Bergin, campus director at Oberstown Children Detention Campus.