UL research to improve youth justice system

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD launched a new research programme in University of Limerick recently to help improve the effectiveness of the youth justice system in Ireland.

The Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP) programme, funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, is a joint initiative with the School of Law, University of Limerick.

It will undertake research and evaluations and bring together international expert opinion to practically apply evidence across the youth justice system in both community and detention settings.

One of the first research studies undertaken by the programme relates to the involvement of children in locally based adult criminal networks. This research, based in an anonymised location, Greentown, clearly demonstrated the influence that local criminal networks exert on children’s behaviour, welfare and life chances. 

The programme will now examine the national prevalence of the findings presented in the exploratory Greentown study completed in 2015.

The REPPP programme will be led by Dr Sean Redmond who carried out the Greentown research and has more than two decades of experience in the area of youth justice and child welfare.

“There is the small number of children involved in the most serious types of offending behaviour who may be at risk of being caught up in criminal networks. Internationally the body of knowledge in this area is poor and our own knowledge base is very patchy,” Minister Zappone said.

“There have been only a limited number of small-scale studies such as the Greentown study carried out by Dr Sean Redmond. These children face the most difficult adversities day-by-day but they are also responsible for a hugely disproportionate level of crime,” she continued.

The programme will be supported directly by a range of academic expertise within the University of Limerick.
“‘The evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of children who for whatever reason are involved in offending behaviour grow out of crime by the time they hit their late teens or early twenties when they take on adult responsibilities. Our performance with such children in minimising the effects of offending behaviour on their own development and on the communities they live in is promising,” the Minister stated.

“However the Greentown research commissioned by my department and the Department of Justice and Equality clearly shows that for a small number of children we have less reason to be optimistic. Children identified in the Greentown network were involved in burglary and other serious offences along with adults. They were found to be enticed, bullied and groomed into criminal behaviour with little chance of them escaping the Greentown network’s influence,” she said.

“Because Greentown was a case study, it is necessary for us now to see how prevalent these findings are more generally but also, at the same time, to start working on what we can do better to reduce such networks’ influence and improve the chances of children involved in crime to escape and lead a pro-social life. Internationally the knowledge in this area is poor so I’m very pleased that the REPPP programme will be active in this area,” Minister Zappone concluded.