Rule change needed to facilitate boy’s detention in the State

A teen who was at the centre of recent judicial criticism about appropriate care for young offenders in Ireland was finally detained for six months after Oberstown House changed its rules.

The boy was convicted earlier this year for his part in the vandalising of a squad car in Burgess Park on June 24, 2013, and placed in the care of the HSE.

However, because of the pressure on the HSE’s secure places for convicted teens in the State - just 17 beds - the boy was put in an unsecure home in Kildare from which he absconded at will.

The boy had been returned to court on July 9 on account of this, with the State seeking a detention order, and it was here that Judge Seamus Hughes criticised the State when he discovered that “up to 20” Irish young offenders had been exported to secure care homes in the UK because there aren’t enough places in Ireland to keep them.

“It is a totally inadequate system in this country for the protection of children,” he said on July 9.

Each of these places can cost the State between €160,000 and €200,000 per annum.

Though it was revealed that Oberstown House had an available bed for his detention, the staff from the Kildare care home argued on his behalf to release him back into their care, which the judge did in order to give him a last chance.

However, he absconded again, causing “significant damage” and associating with known criminals just two days later.

On July 23 Judge Hughes decreed he should spend “a long time in prison”, and sentenced him to six months detention.

However, on this occasion he was told that Oberstown House had no more detention places available, only for remand, so the judge remanded him in detention until this week (July 29 ) to see if a place could be found for him.

In court on Tuesday, Inspector Aidan Minnock told the judge that Oberstown was willing to re-assign one of its remand beds for detention purposes, and the judge then confirmed the boy’s sentence.

His solicitor, Ms Noleen Geraghty handed in a letter written by the boy seeking a last chance, and though the judge praised his intelligence, handwriting, and spelling - “you spelt ‘psychologist’ right” - he said: “Sorry, no” to a final chance.

“You’re very likely to develop into an adult criminal, and you will spend longer inside than outside. Use the next six months to further your education. Learn some trade, or some skill please. The last thing anyone wants is to see you come back here,” he said.

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