Seventy free early from 'ad hoc' child detention system
Published 06/04/2015 | 02:30
More than 70 children have had to be released earlier than expected from child detention centres as a result of a High Court ruling on their eligibility for remission.
Records released by the Department of Children show the children were all set free under an "ad hoc system" put in place following the ruling. Officials rushed to put the system in place to avoid further lawsuits after a boy being detained due to a criminal conviction successfully argued he was being denied equality under the law.
Traditionally, detained children have not enjoyed remission as the State considered the detention school regime to be separate from that of an adult prison, where inmates can have a quarter knocked off their sentence if they are of good behaviour.
Despite opposition from the State, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan found it was unconstitutional to deny remission to children who were detained as a result of a criminal conviction. The ruling, made in December 2013, meant each detained child was eligible for release once they had served three-quarters of their detention period.
Data released by the department shows that 74 children have since been released early with the benefit of remission. These include 40 boys from Oberstown Boys School, 28 boys from Trinity House School and six girls from Oberstown Girls School.
The records show that due to an absence of legislation, a convoluted system has had to be used as a stopgap to comply with the ruling. This involves Children's Minister James Reilly applying to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald asking her to exercise powers under the Criminal Justice Act to grant a child remission.
A memo from a senior juvenile justice official said this had been adopted "as a pragmatic approach to minimise unnecessary litigation from children detained". The official said it was accepted this could not be an indefinite solution.
A bill authorising Mr Reilly to issue regulations covering the operation of a system of remission in child detention schools, broadly similar to that in the adult prison system, is expected to be brought to Cabinet in the coming weeks.