Monday 5 December 2016

Claims of teen solitary confinement rejected: Oberstown

Oberstown

Published 15/09/2016 | 15:07

The Children’s Detention Campus in Oberstown
The Children’s Detention Campus in Oberstown

Claims three teenage boys have been kept in solitary confinement at Oberstown youth detention centre following a fire and demonstration at the facility have been rejected.

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The three boys, it is claimed, were confined alone in separate rooms and were refused access to others without any reasons being given at Oberstown since August 29th last when the blaze broke out.

Since being moved to solitary it was claimed one of the teenagers has been sleeping on a mattress attached to a board on the floor in a locked room and was given his food through a hatch in the wall. 

In addition, they had no access to recreation or education facilities, reading materials, or support staff. 

It was also claimed the teens were subjected to strip searches.

The teens, who cannot be identified for legal reasons,  have brought High Court proceedings against the Director of Oberstown Children's Detention Campus and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

They seek orders bringing their detention in solitary confinement to an end.

They also seek various declarations including that their constitutional rights to bodily integrity and rights under the European Convention on Human Rights have been breached.

The cases returned before Mr Justice Anthony Barr on Thursday. 

Counsel for the respondents Cormac Corrigan SC said the three were not kept in solitary confinement.

Counsel said two of the teens would be moved to interim units at the Oberstown campus on Thursday afternoon. Depending on what progress they make the two teens could be allowed associate with other detainees within 24 hours, counsel said.

The third teen would remain where he is.

Counsel argued the urgency in the action had been removed and asked that the case be adjourned for a number of weeks to allow his side, which was made up of various different parties, could prepare their response to the claims.

Patrick McGrath SC and Sean Gillane SC for the teens opposed that application. Both counsel said that given the seriousness of the issues raised in the applications the cases should be heard as soon as possible.

After hearing submissions from both sides the Judge said the cases, which raised very serious issues if the teens had been kept in solitary confinement, should be heard on Tuesday of next week.

The actions "should not be put off" for any significant period of time, the Judge added.

He said that the state respondents had until Sunday at 5pm to provide a statement of opposition and sworn statements in support of its arguments. If that meant somebody had to work through the weekend "then so be it", the Judge said.

The teens claim they have received inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Oberstown’s own regulations for dealing with children and were suffering an egregious breach of their rights to association with their families.

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