Monday 23 April 2018

Roof ladder 'did not help' security, says minister after teens escape

Oberstown: child detention
Oberstown: child detention

Paul Williams and Eilish O'Regan

Staff had been raising security and safety concerns for months at the child detention centre from which four teenage boys absconded at the weekend.

Three of the youths were still at large last night following their escape from the Oberstown child detention campus near Lusk in north county Dublin on Saturday night - the third such incident since May.

Minister for Children James Reilly, whose department is responsible for the facility, said builders had left ladders on roofs which "did not help from a security perspective".

The fourth boy, who injured an ankle during the incident, later handed himself in to the gardaí at Swords.

The union representing staff at the facility, which recently underwent a €50m expansion and redevelopment programme, has recently raised concerns for their members' health and safety.

The Impact trade union also claimed that morale among the overstretched staff was low and that there had been an increase in incidents including assaults.

Earlier this year, a report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) raised concerns that there were over 700 cases where inmates were isolated in locked rooms to help manage disruptive behaviour during a 12-month period.

Hiqa inspectors found that at times there was insufficient staff to care for the children.

It is understood that during the incident on Saturday night the boys got out of an exercise yard around 9.30pm and made their way to an adjacent building, where they then used ladders to scale the perimeter wall. Staff were alerted to the escape as it was in progress and raised the alarm. The local community was also notified of the incident.


Dr Reilly added that management was now reviewing the situation. "Any further changes that need to be made will be made," he said. "When the building is handed over in full, the security situation will be easier to handle, I imagine.

"Part of the problem is that builders left ladders on roofs, which did not help from a security perspective.

"We are in a dynamic process of finishing off the buildings. We are in a dynamic situation, but having said all that, where there is a will, there is a way."

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: "They are there because they need to be in a secure facility. And Minister Reilly has asked for a report on it. No doubt he will be looking at the individual circumstances that allowed this happen."

The redevelopment of the detention campus brought to an end the practice of admitting children to adult prisons. It now takes all males under the age of 18, who are remanded there by the courts, instead of to St Patrick's Institution in Dublin.

Irish Independent

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