Community sanctions for young offenders
Detention of a child who is convicted of a crime is considered a last resort. As an alternative to detention, the Children Act 2001 provides for a range of community sanctions that can be imposed by a court. The court must consider that a community sanction is the most suitable way of dealing with the case.
These sanctions allow a child to remain in the community and stay at school. The Young Persons Probation division of the Probation Service oversees the implementation of most of the community sanctions.
If a child does not comply with a community sanction that has been imposed the case is returned to the court.
Apart from a community service order, all community sanction orders expire 6 months after the child has reached 18 years of age, if they have not already done so.
There are 10 community sanctions available to the courts.
1. Community service order
Under a community service order, a child aged 16 or 17 completes a set number of hours of unpaid work. The number of hours can range from 40 – 240 hours.
2. Day centre order
A day centre order requires a child to attend a day centre and participate in a programme of activities. Attendance at the centre is for a maximum of 90 days. The days need not be consecutive, but attendance cannot exceed a period of 6 months.
Generally, the programme is available in the evenings and on weekends so as not to interfere with school, training or employment.
3. Probation order
A probation order places a child under the supervision of the Probation Service for a period of time. During the period the child must meet certain conditions that are set by the court. Standard conditions include:
- To be of good behaviour
- To follow the instructions of the supervising probation officer
In addition to a standard probation order, there a number of different types of probation order set out in the Children Act 2001 specifically for children.
4. Probation (training or activities programme) order
This is a type of probation order where the child has to complete a programme of training or activity recommended by a probation officer. The programme may be managed by the Probation Service or some other body.
5. Probation (intensive supervision) order
Under an intensive supervision order a child is placed under the close supervision of a probation officer. During the period of the order the child is required to live at a specified residence and attend a programme of education, training or treatment. The order cannot exceed 180 days. If the order is over 90 days it is subject to review after 60 days.
The education or training programme may be managed by the Probation Service or some other body.
6. Probation (residential supervision) order
A court can order that a child lives in a hostel approved for that purpose. The hostel chosen would normally be reasonably close to where the child usually lives or to where they go to school, work or attend training. However, where a court believes that the child may benefit from a period in a hostel away from their usual residence, it can depart from the general rule.
The period of the order cannot exceed 1 year. A child, their parent or guardian, or a probation and welfare officer can apply to the court to vary the order if there is a relevant change in circumstances.
7. Suitable person (care and supervision) order
Under a suitable person order the court places a child into the care of a suitable adult, other than the child’s parents or guardians. The suitable person can be a relative but doesn’t necessarily have to be. The suitable person then takes on the role of the child’s parent or guardian
The child’s parents must give their consent in writing before this type of order can be made and the period of the order cannot exceed 2 years. The child also remains under the supervision of a probation officer for the duration of the order.
8. Mentor (family support) order
A court can assign a mentor to support the child and their family in an effort to prevent the child from committing further offences. The mentor also monitors the child’s behaviour generally.
The child and their parents must give their consent and the period of the order cannot not exceed 2 years. The child also remains under the supervision of a probation officer for the duration of the order. The probation and welfare officer assists the mentor in performing.
9. Restriction on movement order
A restriction on movement order is a curfew order supervised by the Gardaí who have the power to arrest a child for non-compliance.
Under a restriction of movement order, the child is required to be at a certain address, normally their home address, at specified times between 7pm and 6am (a curfew) and/or be required to stay away from a specified area or location at specified times.
The maximum period of time for a curfew to be imposed for is 6 months. The maximum period of time for a stay away order to be imposed is 12 months.
10. Dual order
A dual order combines a restriction of movement order with either a day centre order or a probation order.
The child’s movements are restricted for a maximum of 6 months. At the same time, the child attends a day centre for a maximum of 90 days or is under the supervision of a probation officer.