Concern expressed over alleged abuse by gardaí
AN OFFICIAL report has expressed concern about a serious allegation of mistreatment by gardaí during the return of a young person to the State’s only detention centre for children.
Staff and inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority were concerned about the seriousness of the allegations made by a vulnerable young person, according to the authority’s report.
At the time, authority inspectors visited the detention centre at Oberstown in north Dublin, there was no outcome from the Garda ombudsman despite repeated efforts by staff to secure one. “Inspectors felt that despite this young person being in the care of the HSE, there was little external advocacy and intervention on their behalf.”
The report found that none of the practices it examined at the centre fully met the required standard. The campus includes Oberstown boys’ and girls’ and Trinity House schools for young offenders.
It found the young people interviewed had little or no faith in the complaints system and most complaints were not upheld.
The inspectors were critical of the frequency with which young people were separated following incidents. The longest separation was for 35 hours, but another involved a young person being separated for 10 hours a day for seven days.
The report criticises conditions in the “protection” rooms in which young people in Trinity House were separated. Conditions were “extremely poor” and “reminiscent of a cell”.
“Inspectors are of the opinion that this bleak environment is not suitable for children. These rooms were locked by a heavy metal door and had no furniture, seating or windows.”
All of the young people were unhappy at not being allowed to smoke and felt that if their parents permitted it, they should be allowed to do so as it helped them manage their stress.
As a result, cigarettes became a trigger for incidents when some young people smuggled them into the school.
Two young people made a formal complaint about the “inequity” of staff being able to smoke while they were not allowed to. They said that they could smell cigarette smoke from some staff.
The deputy director investigated the complaint and found it to be valid. He told inspectors the matter was being looked at.
Another issue of contention was food. The inspectors found that the food served in the schools was attractive, nutritious and of a high standard. However, the young people told them there were unhappy with the type and choice on offer, describing it as “too fancy” and “not what I eat at home”.
Their preference was for traditional meals such as meat, vegetables and potatoes and fast food. They didn’t like stir fries or Thai curries when they were served.
Catering staff, aware of the young people’s preferences, provided traditional food but this wasn’t to staff tastes and the menu was changed.
The report said young people’s preferences should be the primary consideration in menu planning and recommended the menu be changed accordingly.
Among the activities for young people detailed in the report are golf, football, tennis, astronomy, running, gardening, care of livestock and gym.
Some of these have been curtailed to due a lack of staff.