Plenary 3: Michelle Shannon – Irish Policy Makers and Services Providers: Challenges and Reform

Ms. Shannon, National Director of the Irish Youth Justice Service, began her paper by highlighting some of the recent reforms of the youth justice system in Ireland such as the formation of the Irish Youth Justice Service and the Office of the Minister for Children. All provisions of the 2001 Act have now been commenced, more resources have been provided to the Garda Diversion Programme, and more Children’s Court judges have been appointed. The Government have approved the National Youth Strategy 2008-2010 and new detention school facilities.

She then pointed out the goals of the National Youth Justice Strategy and the need for a multi-agency approach. She argued that is gone beyond the time for talking, there is now a need for action and outputs; a Youth Justice Oversight Group has been established and approved by the government to help in this respect. This will include representatives from various agencies and departments that will come together to work on a more holistic basis. At local level Local Youth Justice Teams linked to Children’s Service committees have been established, which seek to develop best practice and interventions are targeted having regard to level of risk.

Shannon pointed out that the 2001 Act compared favourably with international standards and highlighted the need to be aware of international standards and obligations. There needs to be justice, fairness and accountability. All initiatives must also have the confidence of the public. There is a real hope that with this multi-agency approach that there can be a reduction in offending, value for money and efficiency.

Summary provided by LL.M (Criminal Justice) candidate, John Cronin.