Report suggests legal advice for child suspects should be made mandatory

It should be mandatory for children detained by gardaí to receive legal advice from specialist solicitors, a landmark study commissioned by the Policing Authority has suggested.

A first-of-its-kind study into children’s experiences of their rights during police questioning in Ireland has been carried out by Professor Ursula Kilkelly and Dr Louise Forde and was published last week.

Its key recommendations are grouped under 10 headings:

  1. Clear policy on interviewing child suspects
  2. Develop law and policy framework to address the issue of parents, guardians and “other” or “appropriate adults”
  3. Develop resources and tools to aid communication
  4. Improve facilities in Garda Síochána stations and detain children in garda custody only as a last resort
  5. Develop approaches to promote children’s exercise of their right to legal advice and assistance
  6. Adopt a zero-tolerance approach to any mistreatment
  7. Develop specialist training for all members of the Garda Siochána and lawyers
  8. Take children’s views into account in measures to improve policy and practice in the Garda Síochána
  9. Enhanced oversight of children’s rights during police questioning
  10. Conduct further research into garda interviews with child suspects

The report notes that children “do not always avail of their right to consult with a lawyer”, in some cases because they want to complete the interview and leave garda custody as quickly as possible, without waiting in a cell for a solicitor to arrive.

It states: “Consideration should be given to making it mandatory for children to access legal representation prior to the police interview. The presence of a lawyer during questioning should also be mandatory in these circumstances.

“In the short term, approaches need to be developed to ensure that children understand the consequence to them of waiving their right to legal advice in such circumstances.”

The report also recommends the introduction of a “systematic training programme” for gardaí and lawyers, incorporating children’s needs, rights and circumstances.

“Lawyers who represent children should also receive mandatory and specialist training and this should be a condition for all lawyers who represent children,” it adds.

Bob Collins, chairperson of the Policing Authority, said: “The Authority welcomes this significant contribution to the knowledge of how children and young people experience interacting with the Garda Síochána.

“The study offers an important and original insight into children’s experiences of their rights during police questioning and offers recommendations for how these rights might be better protected.

“We hope that it will help inform policing service delivery into the future, for one of the most vulnerable group in society.”

Related posts