herald

Monday 5 December 2016

TD wants 'radical' reform to stop dangerous young offenders being given bail

TD Niall Collins wants reform
TD Niall Collins wants reform

Dangerous young offenders are being released back on to the streets while they are facing serious charges because there is not enough space in youth detention centres, it has been claimed.

A security source working in the capital has revealed that on several occasions such youths were granted bail because there was nowhere to hold them on remand.

In one instance, a gang of teenagers who were repeatedly carrying out aggravated burglaries at pensioners' homes were continually granted bail despite the severity of the charges.

Led by a 17-year-old, the gang carried out a further three serious aggravated burglaries while on bail. The victims in each instance were all tied up, beaten and robbed.

The situation has been described as "a disgrace", but a source told the Herald that the lack of free beds has led to the granting of bail "becoming the norm".

"Gardai were determined to put members of this gang away, who despite being in their early teens were causing a major headache for officers," said the source.

"On several occasions they requested that the youths be placed on remand, and the judge agreed, but each time they were granted bail because there was nowhere to facilitate them."

A similar instance happened earlier this year in a separate court hearing

Three teenage boys, one described as being "a danger to himself and others", avoided being held in custody due to a shortage of space in detention centres.

Detention

In each case gardai had applied for bail to be revoked and the residing judge agreed that they should be held in custody.

However, after hearing that there were no spaces available in the Oberstown detention facility, the judge was forced to grant bail to the teens.

All of the youths were before the court on separate charges, with one accused of assaulting his father.

Fianna Fail justice spokesperson Niall Collins has called for a "radical" reform of the country's current bail system.

More than 8,077 burglary offences have been committed by individuals while on bail, as well as 38 homicides, since 2011.

"Oberstown is a very good facility, but it can reach capacity and this is something the Government has to look at," Mr Collins said.

"I have regularly called for more youth diversion programmes and increased engagement with young offenders.

"There are cases where detention is required to punish offenders and protect communities and the Government has a responsibility to ensure it can safely house such offenders."

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