Justice Minister David Ford has said that while custody should be a last resort for children, if it is needed, it must be appropriate.
The Minister was speaking as he published a consultation on the custodial sentencing options for children.
From November 2012, in line with the Minister’s policy, no young people under 18 have been detained in Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre. Instead they are located at Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre. This policy meets one of the key recommendations in the Youth Justice Review, published in 2011.
The consultation is asking for opinions on introducing legislation to underpin this key policy – making it law that no under 18s are sentenced to be detained in Hydebank Wood YOC in the future.
David Ford said: “This consultation reaffirms my commitment to ensuring that custody is only used as a last resort for children and that when they are sentenced by a court, children are held in the most appropriate surroundings.
“Since November last year, no young person under 18 has been held in Hydebank Wood and that remains the position. However, I made it clear when I announced this change that legislation would be needed to underpin my decision.
“This consultation is looking at the best way to change sentencing arrangements to ensure that no children can be sentenced to Hydebank Wood in the future and instead are sentenced to Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre where appropriate.”
The consultation runs until 10 January 2014.
The consultation document can be found at www.doj.gov.uk//index/public-consultations/current-consultations/consultation-on-revised-custodial-arrangements-for-children.htm Copies can be made available in other formats on request.
Responses should be returned by 10 January 2014 to: Custodial Sentencing Options for Children Consultation, Youth Justice Unit, Reducing Offending Division, Department of Justice, Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Belfast, BT4 3SG.