The Children Act 2001, which was enacted on 8 July 2001, updated the law in relation to youth justice and certain childcare provisions. The Children Act 2001 is the primary statutory framework for the Irish youth justice system.  It adopts a twin-track approach – child welfare and youth justice – to addressing the needs of children who may be in need of special care or protection and offending children. For offending children, the Act emphasises a diversionary and restorative approach based on the principle of the use of detention as a measure of last resort.
The principles of the Children Act 2001 include the following:
A child who accepts responsibility for his/ her offending behaviour should be diverted from criminal proceedings, where appropriate. 
Children have rights and freedoms before the law equal to those enjoyed by adults and a right to be heard and to participate in any proceedings affecting them. 
Detention should be imposed as a last resort and may only be imposed if it is the only suitable way of dealing with the child. 
The interests of the victim are given due regard. 
A child’s age and level of maturity may be taken into consideration as mitigating factors in determining a penalty. 
Children detention schools provide places for a child to be detained in custody in relation to criminal charges. This can be when a Court remands a child in custody or, following a conviction, when a child is sentenced either to a period of detention only or for a period of detention to be followed by supervision in the community by the Probation Service. Before sending a child to detention, the Court will try to make sure that no other option is available that would address the offences with which the child is charged.


Children Detention Schools Development  

On 2nd April, 2012 the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs announced that capital funding over three years had been secured to undertake the National Children Detention Facility Project to be located at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin.  This development project was undertaken on foot of the recommendations made by the Expert Group on Children Detention Schools which reviewed and reported on further development of this area. 
The objectives of the project were to:
Deliver sufficient new residential detention facilities in a single location
To allow the extension of the child care model of detention to all children aged under 18 ordered to be detained by the courts; 
Maximise the scope for ensuring best practice standards; 
Maximise operational efficiency, and 
Allow the closure of St. Patrick’s Institution and thus end the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities,. 
The development provided new and upgraded detention accommodation, a centralised operations building, associated education, recreation, security and other ancillary facilities and systems.


Oberstown Children Detention Campus (Oberstown)

Oberstown Children Detention Campus (Oberstown) provides a safe and secure environment for young people remanded in custody or sentenced by the Courts for a period of detention. The principal objective of the schools under the Children Act 2001 is to provide care, education, training and other programmes to boys and girls aged between 12 and 18 years to promote their reintegration into society and prepare them to take their place in the community as persons who observe the law and are capable of making a positive and productive contribution to society.

Oberstown is governed under a single Board of Management, including nominees from staff and the local community, five members selected through the State Boards appointment process and representatives of government departments. The Director of Oberstown is responsible for the day to day good order, safety and security within the Campus and acts in loco parentis for each child under the supervision and care of Oberstown. Oberstown is funded by the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA). 


Historical Background

On June 1 2016, the State’s three children detention schools located at Oberstown, Lusk, Co Dublin, Oberstown Boys School, Oberstown Girls School and Trinity House School, were amalgamated to form one entity, Oberstown Children Detention Campus under Statutory Instrument 273/2016. The campus currently provides accommodation for 48 boys and 6 girls. The amalgamation was possible due to the enactment of the Children (Amendment) Act 2015. The Statutory Instruments and Certificates outlining maximum numbers, sex and ages of children are viewable here:
S.I. No. 274/2016 - Children Act 2001
SI 273.2016 Amalgamation Order final
Certificate in relation to The maximum number of sex, and ages of children detained in Oberstown


In April 2012, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs approved the project and allocated the required funding to deliver a National Children Detention Facility to end the practice of detaining 16 and 17 year old boys in St. Patrick's Institution, in line with the Programme for Government. 

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs signed the necessary orders, Statutory Instrument 111/2017, with effect from the 31 March 2017, also under the Children (Amendment) Act 2015, to end the practice of detaining 17-year-old boys in adult prison facilities. From that date all children sentenced to a period of detention by the courts are accommodated in Oberstown and St. Patrick’s Institution has been closed.


Oberstown Board of Management

Following the amalgamation of the 3 Children Detention Schools and the creation of a single legal entity, Oberstown Children Detention Campus, a new Board of Management was appointed in accordance with the Children Act 2001. The Board of Management consists of a chairperson and 12 other members. Of the Board of Management members at least one shall be an officer of the Minister, one shall be an employee of the  Child and Family Agency  nominated by the Minister for Health and Children, one shall be an officer of the  Minister for Education and Science nominated by that Minister, two shall be members of the staff of the children detention school, and two shall be representative of persons living in the area of such school.

The Children Act 2001 provides that’s the Board shall manage the children detention school or schools to which it has been appointed in accordance with criteria laid down from time to time by the Minister to provide safe and secure custody for children in detention and in addition, the safest possible working environment for staff. The Board operates within the governance structures as set out in the Children Act 2001.


Children Detention Schools Policies

The national children detention schools policies created by the IYJS are adopted as operational policies and procedures in Oberstown. Oberstown policies are under continuous review by the Board of Management.  A number of policies have been approved by the Board and apply across the Oberstown Campus.  Current policies used in Oberstown can be viewed here.



An Education Strategy provides the framework for the type of education to be delivered and the curriculum to be followed. The attainment of national certificates of educational achievement continues to be a priority within children detention schools. The provision of education in children detention schools is the responsibility of the Department of Education and Skills, and is provided through Education Training Boards Ireland. In Oberstown education is provided by the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education Training Board. Both primary and secondary level courses as well as a wide range of vocational and Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) accredited awards are available through the Oberstown Education Centre. The purpose built Education Centre in Oberstown caters to all young people, with opportunities to engage in a range of learning choices during their placement.


Children Detention Schools Inspections

A Safeguarding Policy has been developed by the IYJS, designed to promote children’s welfare, to safeguard children from harm or abuse, and to protect staff from potential false allegations of abuse. This was been put in place following a review of the Child Protection Policy document, which had been developed and was in use across all  Children Detention Schools. In addition to this policy, a Child Welfare Advisor is appointed to the IYJS who provides oversight with regard to child protection and welfare issues, as well as standards of children detention schools, inspections and complaint mechanisms in children detention Schools. 

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) visit to Ireland in September 2014 incorporated a visit to the children detention schools and a subsequent report. The CPT is scheduled to visit Ireland in 2019.

Inspectors from within the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA),are authorised under the provisions of section 185 and 186 of the Children Act 2001 (as amended), by the Minister of Children and Youth Affairs, to carry out inspections of children detention schools at least once every 12 months. Following inspections the reports and subsequent action plans are published on the HIQA website. Operational policies and procedures in Oberstown are reviewed in light of the findings of the inspections and, actions are taken to meet the HIQA recommendations.


Bail Supervision Scheme (BSS)

In accordance with the key principal of the Children Act 2001, that detention should be used as a last resort, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs officially launched the Bail Supervision Scheme (BSS) on a pilot basis on 12th June 2017. The pilot is for an initial 2 year period during which time a review and evaluation will be conducted to determine the future of the scheme. 

The initial results of the BSS pilot scheme have been impressive and shown increasing compliance with bail conditions; reduction in breaches of bail, reductions in criminal activity, and a return to education/training.  By maintaining a number of young people in the community on the BSS there is a consequent reduction in the need for detention places. This approach is in keeping with the key principal of youth justice policy and legislation, that the detention of a child should only be imposed as a last resort. 

The Bail Supervision programme provides a court with the option to grant bail to a child, rather than detaining the child, during remand proceedings. The option offered to the court is to release the child on bail with conditions set by the court. The child and his/her family consent to engage in a community based Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) programme. MST is an evidence-based programme with a verifiable track record in improving the behaviour of children involved in complex and chaotic circumstances.