I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce the Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 to the House and look forward to engaging in a constructive debate as the Bill proceeds through the various Stages. The provisions in the Bill which is proposed to amend the existing Children Act 2001 relate to the relatively small number of children who are in trouble with the law and are sent by the courts to the children detention schools.
The Bill will deliver on a key programme for Government commitment to end the practice of sending children to St. Patrick's Institution, to provide a system of remission in children detention schools and introduce equal treatment between children and adults and capitalise on reforms to date by amalgamating the children detention schools to enable greater efficiencies.
On 1 January 2012 responsibility for remand places in children detention schools, under section 88 of the Children Act 2001, and for children detention schools under Part 10 of the Act transferred from the Minister for Justice and Equality to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Responsibility for other parts of the Children Act remain with the Minister for Justice and Equality.
Children detention schools provide residential facilities for children who are subject to a children detention order following conviction or who are remanded in custody to a remand centre arising from criminal charges. The objectives of the children detention schools are to provide for the care and educational needs of the children and to address offending behaviour in order to prepare them for their return to the community in due course. There are three children detention schools in the State, all located on the same campus at Oberstown, near Lusk, County Dublin. Oberstown girls' school accommodates girls under 18 years of age who are remanded in custody or subject to a detention order. Trinity House and Oberstown boys' school accommodate boys aged under 18 years who are ordered by the courts to be remanded in custody, as well as boys aged 16 or under who are subject to a detention order. The Government is committed to ending the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities and several positive steps have been taken to date to meet that programme for Government commitment. In 2012 capital funding of €56 million was confirmed for the Oberstown development project; responsibility for 16 year old boys was assigned to the Oberstown campus and the remit of the Ombudsman for Children was extended to include children detained in adult prison facilities. Last year a first recruitment process for care staff to work in Oberstown was completed and further recruitment steps are ongoing. I recently authorised the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old males who are newly remanded in custody to Oberstown from 30 March 2015.
The Bill seeks to achieve several objectives. Significant initiatives and reforms have taken place in recent years on the Oberstown campus to enable a more efficient use of resources, including centralisation of services, common policies across the three schools and better use of accommodation. These initiatives are complemented by a major capital development at the Oberstown campus to redevelop and expand facilities. The Bill builds on the reforms achieved to date by providing a statutory basis for the amalgamation of the three children detention schools.
The Bill deletes all references on the Irish Statute Book to the possibility of detaining children in adult facilities, in line with the programme for Government commitment to end the practice of sending children to St. Patrick's Institution. Since 30 March 2015, 17 year old males who are remanded in custody are sent to a remand centre situated in a children detention school. On commencement of the relevant provisions of this legislation, 17 year old males on whom a detention order is imposed will be detained in a children detention school.
Under section 155 of the Children Act 2001, children serving a period of detention who are convicted on indictment can remain in a children detention school for an additional six months beyond their 18th birthday where they satisfy certain conditions. The Children Act does not address the position of children who are convicted of summary offences and are still the subject of a detention order when they reach the age of 18 years.
The Bill clarifies the treatment of all children in such cases. As I said, the Bill gives the director the option to keep a young person in a children detention school for six months beyond his or her 18th birthday where certain conditions are met. This regime reflects current provision for children convicted on indictment. The conditions to be met are that the person is engaged in a course of education or training in the children detention school, or that there are less than six months of the sentence remaining to be served on the person's 18th birthday. If these conditions are not met, the director shall request the transfer of the person to prison or a place of detention.
The principle of equality of treatment between children in children detention schools and adults in the prison system is reflected in the Bill. This reflects the High Court ruling of December 2013 in the case of S.B. v. the Minister for Justice, in which the court ruled that children in children detention schools had an entitlement to remission on the same basis as adults in the prison system. Therefore, the Bill provides for remission in children detention schools, incorporating a new disciplinary process and an appeal process whereby the sanction imposed is forfeiture of remission. The Bill provides for the introduction of a system of remission where a child engages in good conduct while detained in the children detention school. Remission will be introduced by way of regulations made by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs under section 221 of the Children Act 2001. In particular, the regulations will provide for the same rate of remission of detention as that in place for adults - one quarter, and in some cases not exceeding one third, of the sentence of detention concerned.
The Bill provides for an amendment to section 42 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 to allow the Garda to arrest a child who is already on a detention order, or on remand in a children detention school, for questioning in relation to an offence or offences other than those for which he or she is in detention or on remand. The Bill augments existing provisions in this area in relation to adults. The Bill provides for a number of other amendments, including the creation of an offence of supplying a mobile phone to a child in detention and a number of consequential amendments related to ending the detention of children in the adult system.
I will now set out the provisions of the Bill. In Part 1, sections 1 to 3, inclusive, provide for the Short Title, collective citation, construction, commencement and definitions of the Bill, as well as for the repeal of certain provisions of the Children Act 2001 that provide for the remand in custody or detention of males in St. Patrick's Institution.
Part 2 of the Bill provides for matters relating to closure and amalgamation of children detention schools, clarification of matters relating to children turning 18 years in detention and a new system of discipline and remission. More specifically, section 4 provides for the amendment of terms referred to in section 3 of the 2001 Act, while section 5 provides for an amendment to section 88 of the 2001 Act relating to remand centres to enable the Minister to designate all of a children detention school as a remand centre. The amendment will enable the Minister to designate part or all of a children detention school as a remand centre.
Section 6 inserts new sections 88A and 88B to enable the transfer of children remanded in custody between remand centres and to apply the disciplinary regime for children subject to a detention order to remand children. Section 7 provides for the deletion of the reference to "an order under section 155(1)" in section 98 of the 2001 Act as no such order is referred to in the section in question. That is really a technical correction. Section 8 substitutes a new section 149 incorporating some of the provisions of section 155 to clarity the period of detention that may be imposed by a court on a child. Section 9 provides for an amendment to section 151 of the 2001 Act to refer to the granting of remission being introduced in children detention schools by the Bill.
Section 10 substitutes a new section 155 to provide for the treatment of people who reach 18 years of age during their detention and are still subject to children detention orders. Section 11 provides for an amendment to section 157 relating to definitions for the purposes of Part 10 of the Children Act 2001. Section 12 provides for the substitution of a new section 163 to enable the Minister to make an order relating to the permanent or temporary closure of a children detention school or part thereof. I hasten to add that there is no such intention any time in the near future.
Section 13 inserts a new section 163A to enable the Minister to make an order relating to the amalgamation of two or more children detention schools. Section 14 inserts a new section 174A to provide for the preparation and submission of final accounts and final reports to the Minister on the closure or amalgamation of a children detention school. Section 15 provides for an amendment to section 179 of the Children Act 2001 to revise the power of the board of management to make rules in relation to discipline in children detention schools. The board of management will continue to make rules for the maintenance of good order, but disciplinary matters will become subject to a new regime under sections 201 to 201D of the Act. Section 16 substitutes a new section 184 to provide for and update matters relating to the superannuation of staff of a children detention school. Section 17 substitutes a new section 201 and provides for an inquiry by the director into an alleged disciplinary breach by a child detained in a children detention school.
Section 18 inserts new sections 201A, 201B, 201C and 201D. Section 201A provides for the sanctions that may be imposed where the director finds that a child committed a disciplinary breach. Section 201B provides for a petition to the Minister where a child is found by the director to have committed a disciplinary breach and on whom a sanction has been imposed. Section 201C provides for an appeal to an appeal tribunal against forfeiture of remission. Section 201D provides for the establishment of an appeal tribunal.
Section 19 amends section 205 to provide for the power of the Minister to suspend a temporary leave programme of a child. Section 20 amends section 206 to provide for a variation of the conditions attaching to a programme of temporary leave for a child over 18 years who continues to be detained in a children detention school pursuant to section 155. Section 21 amends section 207 to provide for the power of the director to authorise the placing out of a child over 18 years of age without a requirement to reside with a specified person, but with a requirement to reside in a particular place.
Section 22 amends section 215 to provide for matters relating to the escape of a child who on return to a children detention school is under the age of 18 years and six months, or is over the age of 18 years and six months and, therefore, an adult. Section 23 provides for an amendment to section 217 to amend the offence of harbouring a child who has escaped from a children detention school or is otherwise absent without permission to include a person over the age of 18 years and six months. Section 24 inserts a new section 218A to provide for an offence of supplying or attempting to supply a mobile telecommunications device to a child detained in a children detention school or remanded to a remand centre. Section 25 amends section 221 of the 2001 Act to provide for the making of regulations by the Minister in relation to remission of a portion of a child's detention and the acts that constitute disciplinary breaches.
Part 3 of the Bill amends relevant legislation to reflect that children will no longer be detained in St. Patrick's Institution. It also provides for the arrest of detained or remanded children in connection with the investigation of other offences. I will give more specific details of the provisions of Part 3. Section 26 provides for the definition of terms used in Part 3 of the Bill. Section 27 provides for the amendment of section 1(1) of the Prevention of Crime Act 1908 to revise the references to the age of people detained in St. Patrick's Institution from "sixteen"' to "eighteen" years. Section 28 provides for the amendment of section 10 of the Criminal Justice Administration Act 1914 to revise the references to the age of people detained in or remanded to St. Patrick's Institution from "sixteen" to "eighteen" years. Section 29 provides for an amendment to section 13 of the Criminal Justice Act 1960 to revise the references to the age of people detained in St. Patrick's Institution from "seventeen" to "eighteen" years. Section 30 amends section 42 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 to provide for the arrest of children detained in a children detention school or remanded to a remand centre situated in a children detention school in connection with the investigation of other offences. Section 31 provides for transitional arrangements in relation to sections 27 to 29.
The Bill underpins significant initiatives and reforms that have taken place in recent years which have been developed with the overall goal of extending the child care model of detention to all children under 18 years of age. It also reflects the principle of equality of treatment between children in children detention schools and adults in the adult prison system. It provides the necessary amendments to legislation to achieve the programme for Government commitment to end the practice of detaining children in adult facilities. I thank Senators for their support for and engagement with the Bill.
I look forward to our debate and commend the Bill to the House.