Judge criticises shortage of juvenile detention places

Wednesday 19 June 2013 18.49
Judge Mary Ellen Ring is the third judge in recent weeks to raise the issue
Judge Mary Ellen Ring is the third judge in recent weeks to raise the issue

Concern over the lack of juvenile detention places has again been highlighted by a Circuit Court judge.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said the situation was making a mockery of the courts.

She is the third judge in recent weeks to raise the issue.

The judge was commenting on the case of 16-year-old boy who is facing trial for robbery.

He had allegedly attacked a witness but was released on bail and warned a detention place could be found for him if necessary.

He was back before the court this week over breaches of a curfew and concerns raised by his parents.

The judge had ordered the Minister for Children or a representative to come before the court to explain where the youth could be remanded.

Today, a representative from Irish Youth Justice Service told the court that there were only 36 beds for the detention of young people.

Oberstown has eight remand places and 12 committal beds, while Trinity House has 16 beds.

Tony O'Donovan said the service hoped to increase the beds in Trinity House by up to eight. He said at the moment a bed would not become available for detention until 9 July.

Judge Ring replied: "This makes a whole mockery of this court. It seems to me there's no point in putting any conditions on bail.

"He builds up a justifiable sense that there is no fear of punishment of the court's authority.

"In the event of a conviction there's nothing the court can do until July 9. It sends out the wrong message. In the meantime, this accused is running amok and it makes a mockery of any requirement placed on him.

"He is putting two fingers to the courts and the guards."

She said it was alleged that he has committed further offences while on bail.

Seamus Clarke BL, prosecuting, said that the youth was coming home at 6am.

At a previous application for revocation of bail, Mr Clarke told the court that the youth was part of a group that attacked a witness in his upcoming trial.

The victim was allegedly punched in the back of the head, hit with a wine bottle and called a "rat".

He told the court that the accused did not attack him, but was part of the group.

Judge Ring had warned the boy that if he breaches any of the conditions or goes near any of the witnesses he should "pack a bag" before he comes back to court.

She told him on that date: "And you can put any ideas of Oberstown [youth detention facility] being full. You're in the Circuit Court now and when the Circuit Court looks for a bed we get a bed."