Child offenders should be diverted from the adult prison system at every opportunity, according to expert Dr Ursula Kilkelly.
At a conference today, the professor from University College, Cork, outlined her fears that in some countries, children are at greater risk of being tried, sentenced and detained alongside adults.
She said: “Detention sometimes does good but always does harm. It is an inherently damaging process.”
Dr Kilkelly acknowledged that criminal justice systems did try to keep younger children out of custody but said they were less forgiving towards teenagers older than 16 years. According to the professor, child offenders in this age group risk being treated more harshly.
“There is a failure to treat children as children,” Dr Kilkelly added. “There is a lack of empathy.”
Video: Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer-Buquicchio on the Strategy on the Rights of the Child 2012-2015
Information: Children’s rights