Zappone order to end detention of under-18s in adult prisons

Minister for Children to seek approval to stop practice condemned by UN rights committees

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone is to issue a ministerial order to end the detention of young offenders in adult prisons.

Ms Zappone is to seek Cabinet approval on Tuesday to end the practice, which has been condemned by international human rights bodies including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee Against Torture, and the Ombudsman for Children.

It is not known exactly when the decision will take effect but the measure is expected to come into force within a matter of weeks.

The last government had committed to ending the practice of detaining children in adult prisons in 2012. The then-minister for children Frances Fitzgerald allocated €56 million towards the development of the National Children Detention Facility at Oberstown.

However, speaking in the Dáil last month, Ms Zappone confirmed seven young men were still being detained in Wheatfield Place prison.

Under Irish law, the age of criminal responsibility is 12 years and a “child” is defined as a person under the age of 18.

Ms Zappone may seek a statutory instrument meaning Oireachtas support may not be required but such a move would probably receive all-party support.