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Government plans to detain children at Thornton Hall run contrary to legislation – Sinn Féin

9 January, 2008


Responding to government plans to detain children in the planned super-prison at Thornton Hall Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Spokesperson on Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said this proposal from Government runs contrary to legislation and should not proceed. Deputy Ó Caoláin said Sinn Féin had successfully amended the Criminal Justice Bill 2005 to preclude the use of prisons to detain children.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Caolain said, "Not only is the government's proposal in breach of our international human rights obligations but it is also in breach of domestic legislation.

"Eighteen months ago my Sinn Féin colleague Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh argued at length with the Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, who was then Minister for Children, and successfully amended the Criminal Justice Bill 2005. This became an Act in July 2006. Section 149 of that Act allows the Minister to make arrangements for children with convictions to be held in places other than a children detention school. However, Sinn Féin successfully amended that Section to preclude the use of prisons for this purpose. Therefore this proposal runs contrary to that legislation and should not proceed.

"The government must now respect its international and domestic obligations by constructing suitable children detention schools as a matter of urgency. St. Pats is highly unsuitable with child protection breaches a daily occurrence. Its closure was recommended years ago but the government prolonged its use by failing to introduce an alternative. Now I fear the government will use the planned super-prison at Thornton Hall not as a brief stop gap measure but to further avoid their duty to provide appropriate child detention settings.

"The diversion of young people away from crime and focused effective rehabilitation of children who engage in criminal activities is in all our interests." ENDS

Note to editor - Section 149 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 reads:

149. -"(1) The Minister may enter into arrangements with any person or body for the provision by that person or body on behalf of the Minister of a place (except a prison) where children found guilty of offences can be detained."

"(1) The Minister may enter into arrangements with any person or body for the provision by that person or body on behalf of the Minister of a place (except a prison) where children found guilty of offences can be detained."

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