Tuesday, 17 May 2005
Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Children Act 2001
The Deputy will appreciate that the Children Act 2001 is very complex and comprehensive legislation and, for those reasons, provisions under the Act are being implemented on a phased basis, as was envisaged at the time of enactment.
Responsibility for implementing the Children Act 2001 lies with three Departments, the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Education and Science mainly in respect of juvenile offending, and Health and Children mainly in respect of children who are non-offending but out of control. The National Children's Office is co-ordinating the cross departmental aspects of the implementation of the Act.
Three main areas of the Act for which I have responsibility remain to be brought into operation. These concern the age of criminal responsibility, community-based options and the provision of children detention centres for 16 and 17 year old offenders.
The first commencement order under the Act in respect of my Department was signed by my predecessor on 23 April, 2002. This order, which came into force on 1 May 2002, brought into operation a wide range of provisions including:Part IV — diversion programmes, including the Garda restorative justice provisions; most of Part VI — treatment of child suspects in Garda stations; Part VII — children's court; and Part XII — child protection measures. Among the other provisions brought into operation on 1 May 2002, were: the payment of compensation by parents in respect of offences committed by their children — section 113 of the Act; a court order which would require parents to exercise proper and adequate control over their children — section 114 of the Act; and restriction on movement order.
I signed the second commencement order under the Act on 29 July 2004. This order brought into operation the remaining restorative justice provisions. Restorative justice is a philosophical framework, which considers the ways in which crime harms relationships in the context of the community. It is a way of dealing with victims and offenders by focusing on the settlement of conflicts arising from crime and resolving the underlying problems which cause it.
The family conference which was placed on a statutory basis on 29 July 2004 is convened by the probation and welfare service and the convening of the conference is directed by the court where it considers that the preparation of an action plan would be desirable in an individual case.
A pilot programme for the mentor, family support, order is due to commence shortly. Pilot programmes of parental supervision orders are also being developed and are expected to be introduced later this year.
Under the Children Act, I, as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, will be obliged to provide separate detention facilities for 16 and 17 year old boys and girls who are committed to custody by the courts either on remand or under sentence. The provision of appropriate custodial facilities is a priority for the Irish Prison Service. The primary objective of these detention centres will be to provide a secure but supportive environment in which young offenders can develop the personal and social skills necessary to avoid future offending.