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I will find jail places for young criminals, says Children's Minister

CHILDREN'S Minister Frances Fitzgerald has vowed to find jail space for young criminals after being asked by a Children's Court judge to explain the lack of detention and custodial places for juvenile offenders.

Speaking to the Herald earlier today, Ms Fitzgerald conceded that having sentences for young offenders suspended due to lack of accommodation was not acceptable.

She added she was "hopeful to meet the requests of the courts in that regard".

During the last three weeks, there have been 18 instances where the Children's Court has not been able to detain young offenders due to the lack of detention spaces.



In one case, a 15-year-old was given a six-month suspended sentence for sexually assaulting a female care worker when he was 13. He was also sentenced to four months' detention for other offences.

But when the judge was told there was no place for him, the offender was released.

Nine other children could not be remanded in custody even though some had repeatedly breached bail conditions.

A 16-year-old appeared four times before the court in the last three weeks, twice on new charges, including repeated breaches of bail but there was no place to detain him.

Children's Court judge Ann Ryan said that she wanted the Head of the Youth Justice Service Tony O'Donovan and either Ms Fitzgerald or a representative to attend her court and explain the situation.

A second judge, Judge John O'Connor, said the lack of detention places is making a mockery of the judicial system.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Ms Fitzgerald last year ordered that children under 16 should no longer be sent to St Patrick's Institution.

Meanwhile, work on a proposed new detention facility at Oberstown has yet to begin.

Ms Fitzgerald today told the Herald that a representative from her Department attended the Children's Court to address the issues raised by Judge Ryan.