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Detention of Minor Children in Garda Stations

Under Irish Criminal Law, a minor is anyone under the age of 18.

The Irish State provides safeguards to protect the personal rights of children under the age of 18 while they are being detained in a Garda station.  If a child is being interviewed at a Garda station, the following provisions apply.

Under section 1 of the Children’s Act 2001, a child may not be interviewed unless they are in the presence of their parent or legal guardian.
The exceptions to this provision is where Gardai believe a delay in questioning a child suspect would involve:-
A) Risk of death or injury,
B) Serious loss of or damage to property,
C) The escape of accomplices,
D) The destruction or interference with evidence.

In relation to the above four exceptions, the Garda in charge at the station can require a written statement from the child in the absence of the parent or legal guardian. This however should only happen in very serious circumstances.

If the Gardai propose to question a child where there is no parent or legal guardian then the Gardai must first arrange for another relative, parent or other responsible adult to be present during the interview.

When the child suspect is brought to the Garda Station; the Garda in charge of the Garda Station must tell the child in a language the child understands the following information:-
a) That the parents or legal guardians have been notified
b) That they are entitled to consult a solicitor
c) The details of the crime for which they are detained.
If for whatever reason the parent or legal guardian cannot be contacted or if they just simply refuse to attend the Garda Station, then the child must be informed that they can nominate another adult relative or other adult to be informed.  Next, if the child being detained, has asked for a solicitor, then the Garda in charge is obliged to notify that solicitor as soon as possible. If that solicitor cannot attend or cannot be contacted then the child must be informed and allowed to ask for another solicitor.
The Gardai must then contact that solicitor. If the situation arises where the child does not know of any other solicitor then the Garda in charge is under a duty to give to the child the name of a number of solicitors who are willing to attend at that particular Garda station.   It must be noted that if a parent or a legal guardian arrives at the Garda station that parent or guardian is also entitled to ask for a solicitor on behalf of the child.

Laura Wycherley

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