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Sunday 20 October 2019

Fitzgerald says new juvenile detention centre will be ready next year

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald has insisted that a new juvenile detention centre is going to be built by next year – after a judge criticised the lack of places available for young offenders.

Last week Judge Ann Ryan asked the minister, or someone from her office, to provide an explanation about the lack of custodial places for children.

According to an RTE report, on 18 separate occasions in the past three weeks the children’s court has been unable to detain children who are convicted of offences because of the lack of spaces available for them.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Ms Fitzgerald said that the new National Children Detention Facilities were going to be built at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin.

“Tenders were received on May 3, the build will start in July and the project is on schedule. The extensive background work is all done and the two units will be available mid next year,” she said.

The existing facilities in Oberstown are full to capacity because of the decision to remove 16 and 17 year old juvenile prisoners from the adult prison environment in St Patrick’s Institution in Mountjoy. They have been sent to Oberstown since last year.

But so far, Ms Fitzgerald’s department has not outlined any plans to deal with the lack of capacity in Oberstown until the new centre is built.

Judge Ryan made her remarks last week in court when faced with a teenager on charges for heroin dealing and car theft.

Judge Ryan told the court she had been assured by the minister over two months ago that the matter was being addressed, but that she understood there was still an eight bed unit in a juvenile centre  unused because of staffing issues.

On another occasion judge John O’Connor has spoken on the matter and said the  current lack of detention places  is making a mockery of the justice system

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