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Thursday 22 February 2018

Locking up child offenders never right - Ombudsman

Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon. Photo: Maxwells
Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon. Photo: Maxwells
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Jailing children and young people in any capacity is wrong, the Children's Ombudsman has said.

Niall Muldoon believes society should focus more on prevention and rehabilitation than it does on incarceration.

He told the Parnell Summer School in Wicklow that Ireland had "improved a lot from the horrors of St Patrick's Institution".

However, he said that after a teenager entered the new Oberstown Detention Campus there was "a very small window of time to turn the tide when a child arrives to help them to avoid re-offending".

"Therefore, where I believe we need to focus now is on taking more and more children 'out of harm's way' by upping our game in early intervention and prevention - we owe it to every child who might end up in Oberstown to have given them a real chance to avoid that fate," he said.

Mr Muldoon said there were easy changes the Government could make to help children avoid ending up in serious trouble. He noted that gaining admission to the Garda Diversion Programme required a child to admit to the offence.

"Many may not understand the implications of this at the time.

"This could mean that a child would need to go as far as court and meet the judge to be told they can have legal aid to advise them about how to avoid going to court," he said.

At the same event, Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless said the Jobstown trial showed the difficulties of "labelling actions as criminal when a political motive exists".

"While, historically, organised media outlets have been mindful of their limitations in commenting on ongoing court proceedings, the 'democratisation' of information through social media presents a new challenge to the criminal justice system," he said.

The Kildare TD said "the manipulation of trials by social media is a danger which neither locking someone up for contempt of court, nor lengthy civil proceedings for defamation, is adequate to prevent".

Irish Independent

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