Bail support service for young offenders never rolled out

A BAIL support programme for high risk young offenders, which was due to be rolled out under the National Youth Justice Strategy, was never set up due to “costs and planning” issues, the Department of Justice has confirmed.

Bail support services were supposed to target young people whom the courts believed may be at direct risk of non-compliance or offending while on bail.

Under the strategy, a pilot scheme should have been set up in Dublin and Limerick by the end of 2008. It was expected the programme would then be rolled out nationwide during 2009.

In December 2008, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Barry Andrews said work on developing bail support for young people would be progressed as a main priority contained in the strategy in 2009.

The promises came following a report, Young People on Remand, which found that the most common outcome (80%) of remand hearings observed at the Dublin Children’s Court was a decision to remand a young person on bail.

Over one-third (39%) of the 120 professionals consulted for the study noted that young people rarely, or never, understood what it meant to be on bail and only a small minority (4%) thought that young people always understood.

The report highlighted how limited availability of support services to young people on bail was viewed by professionals as a substantial reason for the extent and nature of non-compliance with bail conditions. It concluded that most professionals thought a bail support scheme, whereby barriers to compliance would be identified and addressed during the bail period, would be most beneficial as a means of improving compliance with the conditions of bail.

Bail support schemes have been widely used in other jurisdictions (Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany and Belgium) in an effort to improve compliance with the conditions of bail; as well as to reduce the number of young people detained on remand and the time spent in detention.

Research undertaken in England and Wales suggests bail support programmes have the potential to reduce the number of young people re-offending while on bail and the number detained on remand.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the bail support project was included as one of the objectives in the National Youth Justice Strategy 2008-2010 and that it was due to be reviewed by the end of the year.


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