The sentencing of child and adolescent sexual offences in the Irish youth justice system: judicial discretion and the justice/welfare dichotomy

O'Connor, J., 2021. The sentencing of child and adolescent sexual offences in the Irish youth justice system: judicial discretion and the justice/welfare dichotomy. DLegal, Nottingham Trent University.

John O'Connor 2021.pdf - Published version

Download (1MB) | Preview


This thesis explores the nature of judicial decisions in juvenile sexual offending in the context of the justice and welfare debate in Ireland. It does so by reference to the Children Act 2001, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and extensive literature in the area. The research is the first study in Ireland to explore the complex terrain of juvenile sexual offending and judicial sentencing in the youth justice system.

Qualitative semi-structured interviews with judges and young people’s probation officers combined with an interrogation of best practice in such countries as New Zealand, England and Wales, and the United States of America, are central to the methodology. By adopting qualitative mixed methodology and a combination of doctrinal socio-legal and comparative analysis, the research contends that although Irish youth justice has made substantial progress in recent years, this progress has not necessarily transferred to judicial sentencing for sexual offences. It is acknowledged that children who sexually offend are not a homogenous group and are amenable to therapeutic interventions that assist in reducing or eliminating recidivism.

The thesis considers the implications of personal issues such as the age, maturity and neuro developmental nature of children and adolescents who sexually offend and the implications for sentencing. Findings in this research point to a paucity of resources to deal effectively with children who sexually offend exacerbated further by inadequate court data, significant delays in bringing cases to court and limited judicial training and specialisation among the judiciary.

Drawing from the research findings, a new holistic model of sentencing is recommended. The model is child-structured and takes a balanced account of justice and welfare issues by moving away from an increasingly defensive youth justice system and a punitive youth sentencing approach. A new judicial specialism court model is proffered to serve both justice and welfare requirements in youth justice in Ireland. In doing so, it is submitted that the needs and best interests of the child who sexually offends, public policy, and the interests of victims are accommodated within both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: O'Connor, J.
Date: 10 August 2021
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree revealed pagination. Queries or requests for another use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the owner of the intellectual property rights.
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Law School
Record created by: Jeremy Silvester
Date Added: 18 Feb 2022 09:37
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2022 09:37

Actions (login required)

Edit View Edit View


Views per month over past year


Downloads per month over past year