Northern Ireland

Under 18s to be moved from Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre

Hydebank Wood Prison and Young Offenders Centre
Image caption Young people under 18 will no longer be held at Hydebank Wood Prison and Young Offenders Centre

Young offenders will no longer be detained at Hydebank Wood Prison and Young Offenders Centre following a review of the youth justice system.

From November, offenders aged under 18 will instead be held at Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre, a secure facility in Bangor, County Down.

The Justice Minister, David Ford, confirmed the new custody arrangements to Stormont MLAs on Thursday.

The change was among 31 recommendations made in the Youth Justice Review .

At present, Hydebank Wood accommodates convicted male offenders aged between 17 and 21 who have been jailed for no more than four years.

Convicted women, including young offenders, are also detained at the prison site on Belfast's Hospital Road.

Campaigners have repeatedly called for a separate and dedicated women's facility.

Mr Ford said he had been lobbied about the ongoing detention of young people at the Hydebank site since he was appointed as minister in April 2010.

Children

He commissioned the review of Northern Ireland's youth justice system in November of that year and the team published their final report in September 2011.

Among their recommedations, the team called for an end to the practice of detaining under 18s at Hydebank Wood within 18 months.

Addressing MLAs at Stormont's justice committee, Mr Ford comfirmed that when the review commenced there were "around 20 offenders in Hydebank under the age of 18".

He said that the number "has now been reduced to low single figures".

"It is my intention that, in all but the most exceptional circumstances, Woodlands will be the sole justice location for the detention of children by 1 November," the minister explained.

Mr Ford told the committee that he intends to publish an implementation plan against the review's recommendations in the autumn.

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