No reason given for Oberstown report delay

Oberstown Detention Centre.
Oberstown Detention Centre.

Operators of the children’s detention centre, Oberstown, have failed to outline the legal reasons for their refusal to publish a long overdue review of the centre’s operations.

The review was commissioned by Oberstown’s board last September following several incidences at the campus including a fire and industrial action by staff over health and safety concerns.

Ursula Kilkelly, who is the chairwoman of the board of Oberstown, said the review was carried out in “late October, early November”, and received at the end of February.

“The board sought legal advice on the question of the report’s publication and counsel’s opinion has strongly advised against publication of the body of the report and the board has, very regrettably, had to accept that advice,” said Prof Kilkelly.

“It was always intended to publish this report and we were disappointed not to put the full body of the report in the public domain.”

She was speaking at the launch of ‘Building the Future,’ a new pathway in youth detention marking one year since Oberstown began operating as a single entity for the detention of children with a conviction or on remand.

This review was one of four independent reviews commissioned by the Oberstown board of management, including reviews of security, behaviour management and health and safety.

A spokesman for Oberstown told the Irish Examiner that recommendations for the operation’s review will be published.

“Recommendations from the operational review will be published in full, together with an update on the progress made in their implementation, due to be considered by the board at its next meeting,” he said.

The recommendations could be published as early as the end of June.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, was asked about the review in the Dáil recently.

“In considering the operational review report, it is important to guard against any potential legal risks and unintended consequences of publication,” said Ms Zappone.

However, interim recommendations by Oberstown’s review implementation group were published yesterday. The group was tasked with bringing together the recommendations of several reviews.

One recommendation was in relation to “illicit drug use on campus”.

Oberstown’s director, Pat Bergin, said drugs included “cannabis, barbiturates, [and] headshops”.

“They [detainees] are not all bringing it in, some are,” he said. “It raises a challenge for us. It raises a challenge for the night supervising officer or the care staff because when the young person is taking some of this stuff, it’s more difficult to reason with them, to rationalise with them, for them to actually comprehend what is going on.

“There’s an approach around education, motivation and then control.”

Recommendations of the review implementation group

Six recommendations were made in relation to fences at Oberstown children’s de-tention campus in relation to height, access, and security.

  • It was recommended that bedroom doors should be “replaced with a more robust type door and lock”. A “steel door and lock” were suggested.
  • A review into “illicit drug use on campus” was also recommended. Its priority was listed as “high”.
  • It was also recommended that a system is put in place whereby managers “undertake a formal safety review on each unit per week.”
  • “Ensuring that lessons learned from incident investigation are implemented across the campus,” was another recommendation.
  • A “positive no-blame incident-reporting culture” was also recommended.
  • Moving a “smoking area at the gate” was also recommended as it shows the detainees the “exit route”.

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