Apply now for MSc/PGDip Youth Justice at Queen’s University Belfast

27 Apr

This innovative programme has been designed for those who want to advance their understanding of youth issues, youth offending and social and criminal justice responses to young people. The course is delivered through a blended learning approach which includes a mixture of face-to-face and online learning, traditional lectures, workshops, condensed weekend module and online discussion forums.

Course Content

The MSc and PG Diploma can be completed over 1 year full-time and 3 years part-time.

The MSc comprises of a number of core modules. There are also a number of optional modules available for students to choose from across a range of relevant subject areas. MSc students also complete a research-based dissertation on an aspect of youth justice.

The PG Diploma involves the same range of subject choices with a mix of core and optional modules, but students are not required to complete a dissertation.

Course Features

The course has been designed to encourage students to consider the interface between social justice, criminal justice and children’s rights.

The course ensures students receive a grounding in the field of youth justice and are also provided with opportunities to benefit from inter-disciplinary teaching and learning.

Building capacity – The course will equip graduates with a range of knowledge and skills of direct relevance to work in areas including youth justice, youth and community work, criminal justice, public policy and research. For participants already employed in these areas, the programme will build on existing skills and knowledge and enhance the capacity to engage in comparative analysis alongside international standards.

For further details on the programme contact: Dr Nicola Carr ( or Dr Siobhán McAlister (

Click here to: download a prospectus or to apply for the course

Changing Ireland, Changing Law

26 Apr

‘Changing Ireland, Changing Law’ is a new IRC-funded project, led by Dr Mary Rogan, of DIT Law, and Professor Ivana Bacik, of the School of Law TCD, alongside community partners: Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), National Women’s Council (NWCI), Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) and the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen). The project seeks to explore the impact of the law on  society through an examination of the societal benefits which have flowed from individual cases, the research project will be hosting a series of seminars looking at topics from sexuality to immigration.

The first seminar will be held on Friday 8 May in Trinity College Dublin, ‘Women Changing Law, Changing Society’.


  • Professor Aileen McColgan (King’s College London);
  • Orla O’Connor (NWCI); Mary O’Toole SC; Professor Yvonne Scannell (TCD);
  • Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington (to be confirmed).

The seminar will focus on legal cases which have brought about social change for women in Ireland. Speakers will explore both the experience of taking such cases, and the impact that these cases have had.

This seminar series aims to explore the relationship between legal action and social change, and to promote debate on how public interest litigation has influenced or contributed to social change in Ireland, on a range of issues. The seminar series forms part of a joint DIT/TCD legal research project entitled ‘Changing Ireland, Changing Law’ (CICL) funded by the Irish Research Council, along with additional contribution from the Trinity College Dublin Equality Fund and Arts & Social Sciences Benefactions Fund.

Lunch will be provided at 1pm.

Attendance is free, but places are limited. To register for a place, please RSVP to:

Venue: Room 2.03, Áras an Phiarsaigh, Trinity College Dublin

Discipline & Punish 40 Years On – Call for Papers

2 Apr

Time Served: Discipline and Punish forty years on

11-12 September 2015, The Galleries of Justice, Nottingham, UK

40 years after it was first published in French, the impact of Michel Foucault’s seminal text Discipline and Punish on theories of incarceration, discipline and power remains largely unchallenged. The aim of this conference is to revisit the text in light of the past four decades of penal developments, public debate and social consciousness on incarceration as it continues to constitute society’s mode of punishment par excellence.

In addition to thinking through the legacy of Discipline and Punish and its continued relevance today, specific focus will be given to the text itself, its position within Foucault’s wider critical project and its important relationship with his activism most notably the work of the GIP [Groupe d’Information sur les prisons] during the early 1970s. For example, the publication in 2013 of his 1973 lectures at the Collège de France on La Société Punitive, calls for a return to this period and a new engagement with Foucault’s work on prisons, not least in its pursuit of a more openly Marxist critique of the relationship between incarceration and bourgeois capital accumulation.

Here, attention should also be paid to Foucault’s methodology in researching and writing the text. Discipline and Punish marks his movement from an archeological to a genealogical approach towards what he terms the ‘history of the present.’ What is at stake in this shift and how effective is his genealogical method for thinking through the material and discursive structures of incarceration operating within our own society and moment? How does the juxtaposition set up between the torture and killing of Damiens and the prison timetable of the book’s opening raise important questions not simply about punishment but the role of representation – images and narratives of incarceration – in framing public consciousness about the space of the prison?

It is hoped that the conference will bring together a range of participants: scholars working in the fields of philosophy, sociology, criminology, urban geography, architecture, history, literature, media studies as well as artists, writers and activists involved in projects based in and about prisons and their conditions.

If you would like to offer a paper please send us a 250 word abstract along with your name, e-mail and (if relevant) institutional affiliation.

The deadline for abstracts is the 17th of April, 2015. Email:

The conference is organised by Nottingham Trent University and will be held at the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham.

#Blog Dr Mary Rogan: ‘Judicial conceptions of prisoners’ rights’

2 Mar

Decisions of the courts have the potential to alter penal policies in radical ways. As the Plata litigation before the Supreme Court of the United States has shown,[1] judicial decision making can disrupt policies of penal expansionism, and even reshape how prison is conceived of.[2] While this is so, criminology has paid rather limited attention to litigation as an influence on the penal policymaking process, and also to judicial decision making as an indicator of a state’s penal culture.

The Irish experience of prison litigation is developing slowly, but a series of cases have determined the contours of how the judiciary conceives of the rights of prisoners. These statements are essential to the legal regulation of Irish prisons, but are also important sources of understanding about the nature of Irish penal culture and practice. This blog traces the development of judicial discussion of whether and how prisoners are holders of rights in Ireland.

Several decisions have held that, while imprisonment inevitably involves the deprivation of rights, those rights which are not necessarily diminished must continue to be upheld.

In Mulligan v. Governor of Portlaoise Prison[3] the High Court held:

 any attenuation of rights must be proportionate; the diminution must not fall below the standards of reasonable human dignity and what is expected in a mature society. Insofar as practicable, a prison authority must vindicate the individual rights and dignity of each prisoner”.

In Murray v. Ireland[4] it was held that the rights which may be exercised by a prisoner are those which do not depend on the continuation of liberty, and which are compatible with the reasonable requirements of the Prison Service or do not impose unreasonable demands on it.

In Holland v. Governor of Portlaoise Prison[5] it was held that a prisoner is obliged to suffer such restrictions on constitutional rights as necessary to accommodate the serving of a sentence. Subject to this proviso however, McKechnie J held that all other rights should be capable of being exercised. McKechnie J also considered prisoners to have the right to free communication, the right to practice one’s religion, and the right to natural and constitutional justice, holding that this was not an exhaustive list.[6] The court reiterated that any restrictions on the constitutional rights of prisoners must be proportionate.

In Devoy v. The Governor of Portlaoise Prison[7] Edwards J recognised the broad discretion vested in each Governor, but held that:

the application of the Rules must be in a manner which is respectful of and intended to vindicate the constitutional rights of the prisoner to the extent that they are not abrogated or suspended by the very fact of his being sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Among the residual constitutional rights of a prisoner which are not abrogated or suspended is the right to be treated humanely and with human dignity.[8]

Perhaps some of the most uplifting language on the rights of prisoners is to be found in Connolly v. Governor of Wheatfield Prison where Hogan J held:

The obligation to treat all with dignity appropriate to the human condition is not dispensed with simply because those who claim that the essence of their human dignity has been compromised happen to be prisoners….

For even though prisoners may have strayed from the path of righteousness and even though …  they may have severely and wantonly injured other persons, the protection of the dignity of all is still a vital constitutional desideratum. This is because the Constitution commits the State to the protection of these standards since it presupposes the existence of a civilised and humane society, committed to democracy and the rule of law and the safeguarding of fundamental rights. …

All of us are, of course, sadly aware of the great failures of the past and the present where these rights seemed and seem like hollow platitudes. But this is not quite the point, since it is by upholding these values and rights that we can all aspire to the better realisation of the promise which these noble provisions of the Constitution hold out for us as a society.[9]

In Kinsella v. Governor of Mountjoy Prison the High Court had no difficulty in accepting that a prisoner has a right to bodily integrity and that this right encompasses a person’s psychological wellbeing.[10]

We may well see the judiciary becoming a more influential factor on penal policymaking. As Justice Kennedy in Plata held:

A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society.

If government fails to fulfill this obligation, the courts have a responsibility to remedy the resulting Eighth Amendment [prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment] violation.

These statements are crucial indicators of our approach to the treatment of prisoners. They deserve greater attention within criminological scholarship. Furthermore, we must never lose sight of the fact that lawyers and judges engaged in prison law cases play an essential role in ensuring accountability and the upholding of the rule of law in places which are very far from public view.

[1] Brown v Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910, 1923 (2011).

[2] See further, Simon, Mass Incarceration on Trial, The New Press, 2014.

[3] [2010] IEHC 269.

[4] [1991] ILRM 465.

[5] [2004] 2 IR 573.

[6] [2004] 2 IR 573, at p. 594.

[7] [2009] IEHC 288.

[8] [2009] IEHC 288, at paragraph  88.

[9] [2013] IEHC 334 Paragraphs  15-18. Internal citations omitted.

[10] [2011] IEHC 235.

Criminalising ten-year-olds is no way to run a justice system

23 Feb

By Nicola Carr Queen’s University Belfast

At age ten, children in England, Northern Ireland and Wales can be found guilty of a criminal offence. They can face trial and be placed in detention.

We don’t allow children of ten to hold a driver’s licence or get married or travel on a plane unaccompanied – we don’t even allow them to be left at home alone. Yet we treat them as responsible enough for their own actions – and indeed as significantly au fait with the law – to face court if they commit a crime.

Children of this age cannot consent to sex – for this you have to be 16. Yet our criminal laws mean that children from age ten upwards can be charged with a sexual offence. There is something very contradictory here.

The age of criminal responsibility in England, Northern Ireland and Wales is well below the average of other countries in the European Union – which is 14. In the Netherlands children cannot be charged with an offence below the age of 12. In France it is 13, in Sweden it is 15. In Belgium the age of criminal responsibility is 18.

Rare cases shouldn’t set the age

While the youth justice system operates separately from the adult criminal justice system, its processes largely mirror it. The consequences for a young person when they enter the criminal justice system mirror those of adults too.

In countries with a higher age of criminal responsibility, young people whose behaviour is causing concern are dealt with in the child protection and welfare system. This approach reflects wider social and cultural attitudes towards children and young people. The same goes for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Those who resist calls to raise the age invariably point towards the case of James Bulger, the toddler murdered by two ten-year-old boys in 1993. The crime provoked a strong public reaction and the boys eventually became the youngest convicted murders in modern English history. But the UK government was challenged in the European Court of Human Rights over the way it treated these young defendants.

While evoking understandable concern, incidents as serious as the Bulger murder are extremely rare. And where they do occur they are invariably symptomatic of deeper problems and need. They should not form the basis for setting the age of criminal responsibility.

Out and staying out

International evidence shows that offending by young people is best addressed by keeping them out of the criminal justice system. Once inside it, there are all kinds of negative consequences – not least being labelled a “young offender”.

What’s more, the range of circumstances under which a criminal record can be disclosed is widening and it is possible for criminal records acquired as a juvenile to follow a person for the rest of their life.

This has profound implications for a young person’s educational opportunities and employment prospects. We know that many of the young people that are processed through the youth justice system already suffer the consequences of this.

Groups are emerging to call for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised and I would argue that 16 is more in line with other responsibilities.

Suggesting that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised does not mean ignoring behaviours of concern. It means precisely the opposite. Rather than labelling and punishing children and young people, support should be provided to help them and their families.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Funded PhD opportunities: ‘Exploring Pathways and Transitions between Juvenile and Adult Penal Institutions’

13 Feb


Fully funded ESRC/NWDTC PhD Studentship

Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, School of Law and Social Justice, The University of Liverpool in partnership with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons

Exploring Pathways and Transitions between Juvenile and Adult Penal Institutions

Full details available at

Tender for Research – Ballymun STRIVE Integrated Offender Management Programme

2 Feb

Tenders are sought to undertake a process evaluation of the local implementation of Ballymun STRIVE Pilot Programme.

Ballymun STRIVE Programme is a designated, Opt-In Project (Integrated Offender Management Project) which is a joint agency response to crime between the Probation Service, an Garda Síochána and the Irish Prison Service in partnership with non-justice community/statutory organisations and groups.

Arising from concerns about serious offending and anti-social behaviour, in 2013 the Ballymun Local Drugs Taskforce, along with other relevant governmental agencies and organisations, began work on planning an Integrated Offender Management pilot project for the area of Ballymun. IOM seeks to bring various agencies together to tackle persistent offending (for a discussion of the IOM see a previous posting here). The resulting Ballymun STRIVE Programme is a 24-month pilot project aiming to implement the lessons learned from IOM elsewhere.

The closing date for tenders is Wednesday, 18 February 2015. For more information about the proposed research, please see here.


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