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Improving the effectiveness of the youth justice system in Ireland: Developing monitoring and reporting across the system

Project Supervisors

Ross Macmillan
Chair in Sociology
Department of Sociology
Seán Redmond
Adjunct Professor of Youth Justice
School of Law 
John Reddy
Youth Justice Researcher
School of Law

Project Details


The Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP) project will:

  • Identify administrative data holdings kept by government departments, state agencies and non-governmental bodies who are stakeholders in the youth justice system;
  • Develop proposals for securing data in stakeholder agencies’ administrative databases;
  • Develop analytical tools and frameworks for interrogating data linked to policy questions relating to effectiveness and efficiency in youth justice;
  • Produce a pilot youth justice system performance report;
  • Identify data gaps in the youth justice system; and
  • Propose practical reforms for youth justice data collection and reporting.


The student will be directly involved developing analytical tools and frameworks for interrogating data, undertaking quantitative analysis, and producing high quality accessible reports. The student’s input will be primarily related to quantitative data collection and analysis but there will also be opportunities to learn from an experienced research team regarding the practical application of qualitative research methods.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The project is linked primarily to SDG 16; Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

More specifically the project refers to the following targets within this SDG

16.1 Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere[1]

By improving the quality of useable evidence available to policymakers and stakeholders within the youth justice system, this project aims to contribute toward the development of more effective interventions with young people coming into conflict with the law and to safer communities in Ireland.

This opportunity requires a student with excellent quantitative analysis skills and demonstrable experience of undertaking complex quantitative analysis / enquiry in the social sciences.


  • Hold a first-class honours or 2:1 degree in political science, in other social sciences, another field related to this project, or has relevant professional experience; and
  • A strong interest in public policy.


  • Holds a postgraduate (e.g., Masters) degree and/or has experience of conducting research about children, youth crime or related topics using qualitative and/or quantitative methods;
  • Is committed to and have experience in communicating research and/or policy recommendations;
  • Intends to develop their research in the area of youth criminal justice / youth offending policy into a PhD study;
  • Intends to apply for research funding for their PhD study, including by applying for an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship;
  • Experience of working with administrative datasets.

The student will be based in either the Sociology Department or the School of Law

Supervision Team:  Ross McMillan [Sociology] Seán Redmond / John Reddy [School of Law].

Find out more
Applications and Expressions of Interest should be sent to Seán Redmond:

Background REPPP

Funder acknowledgement [Department of Justice]

The Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP) project is a strategic relationship between the Department of Justice and the School of Law, University of Limerick, to improve the quality of evidence informed policy in the area of youth crime and youth offending.

The REPPP project’s mission is to support the youth justice system in Ireland in making rational evidence informed judgments regarding youth justice reform. The original work plan arising from the agreement outlined six policy-significant areas for priority development where REPPP should contribute:  

  1. The Greentown project focussed on the small number of children in Ireland involved in serious crime. Greentown identified children involved in drugs for sale and supply and burglary who were tied into adult/child offending relationships within crime networks. Following the initial study published in 2016, the project has replicated the original case study in new locations (2017-2021). Additionally, this project sought to understand the national prevalence of the phenomenon and work with experts to develop an effective means to intervene.  In 2021/2022, the Greentown Programme response is being trialled in two areas.
  2. Bail Supervision Evaluation Project (2019) required REPPP to evaluate a new pilot initiative introduced by the Department of Children and Youth affairs for children who would ordinarily be denied bail in the Children Court. The project required the development a complex impact evaluation design to capture attributable changes to young people’s behaviour and bail compliance, identify any contribution made to reducing offending behaviour, and document the conditions that enable the programme to perform.
  3. Action Research Project: Improving practice in Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs). This study identified ‘relationship-building’ between youth justice workers and young people as being a critically important area for development. Relationship building accounts for a large percentage of professional effort in GYDPs (and thus is a large taxpayer investment) but was not well understood from a governance / performance perspective in terms of what constitutes an effective relationship. The project involves two extensive research studies a) a systematic evidence synthesis of extant knowledge in the area of effective relational practice and b) an action research project with sixteen representative GYDPs to examine practitioner and young person relationships in youth justice settings, and co-design and trial new evidence informed guidance.
  4. Executive Leadership Programme: Development of better ways to understand and overcome wicked problems. This project designed, developed, and introduced a new tool for REPPP to engage coalitions of professionals from selected communities to engage more effectively with complex, ‘wicked’ problems. Informed significantly by the work of Prof Horst Rittel and Prof Malcolm Sparrow the ‘Executive Leadership Programme’ combined theoretical inputs on the nature of wicked problems and complex harms with practical participant workshopping of real problems in communities.     
  5. Development of better data collection and analysis practices in the youth justice system sought to baseline current data collection practices against youth justice systems in other comparator jurisdictions. A primary goal was to outline weaknesses in current arrangements in Ireland informed by best international practice, and propose practical non-invasive solutions for improvement, cognisant of wider data collection developments in youthwork and criminal justice.
  6. Teaching and educational resources in youth justice and evidence use.  This project has developed a) a youth crime module and b) a Master’s level module regarding the use of scientific evidence to improve decision making in policy, programmes and practice. The project is developing new modules to create a Masters in Evidence Informed Planning to complement existing offerings in the School of Law.

[1] Of the indicators within this target 16.1.4 Proportion of population that feel safe walking alone around the area they live is of particular relevance