Judge says lack of spaces in youth detention facility making a ‘mockery of the court’

Irish Youth Justice Service tells court there are only 36 beds for the detention of young people

Judge  Mary Ellen Ring said the lack of detention places for young people meant a young offender had built up a justifiable sense that there is no fear of punishment of the court’s authority.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring said the lack of detention places for young people meant a young offender had built up a justifiable sense that there is no fear of punishment of the court’s authority.

 

A judge has said the lack of spaces in a youth detention facility is making a mockery of the court.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring was commenting in a case before her where a 16-year-old who is facing trial for robbery, had allegedly attacked one of the witnesses in the trial.

She had granted the teenager bail before after warning him that a place in a detention centre could be found for him if he continued to misbehave.

The youth was before her again this week because of breaches of his curfew and concerns raised by his parents.

On Tuesday Judge Ring ordered the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs or a representative from her department to come to Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to explain where she could remand the youth.

Yesterday 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 July 9th.

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 9th. 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’s committed further offences while on bail. Seamus Clarke BL, prosecuting, said that the youth was coming home at six in the morning.

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.”