The Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust has said vigilance is required to ensure the National Children's Detention Centre at Oberstown in north Dublin remains the last resort when it comes to dealing with children in conflict with the law.

Deirdre Malone said imprisonment should be a last resort for the shortest possible time when it comes to children.

Her comments come a day after Dublin Children's Court heard that a 16-year-old youth accused of a vicious attack on a 13-year-old boy was unable to be detained as the facility at Oberstown was full.

Ms Malone said figures released by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly earlier this year suggested that children were being remanded much more frequently than they are being sanctioned with imprisonment. 

Figures for 2013 showed 96 children were remanded but only 26 went on to receive a custodial service.

She said this shows that what is really needed are bail supports in the community to address issues related to offending, such as mental health, education, poverty and social exclusion.  

Ms Malone said resourcing alternatives in the community must continue, such as mental health provision, to avoid children going into the criminal justice system and to reduce offending.