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Govt pushes ahead with juvenile detention centre

As the Government takes steps towards establishing a juvenile detention centre in Gibraltar, latest data shows that HM Windmill Hill received 18 juvenile admissions in the last two years.

According to Government statistics, six local juveniles were detained at the adult prison between October 2015 and October 2017. Most of them, however, were repeat offenders.

One juvenile was admitted five times during that two-year period and only two of the juveniles detained at Windmill Hill had just one spell in custody.

Of the remaining juvenile offenders, two of them were detained in prison twice and another endured three spells in custody.
A further four juveniles detained at Windmill Hill during the same time frame were immigrants, data shows.

Gibraltar’s courts use custody as a last resort when it comes to juvenile offenders but when it becomes necessary to detain youngsters, they are sent to the adult HM Windmill Hill prison as Gibraltar lacks a purpose-built detention centre for them.

The establishment of alternative provision for young offenders is a long-standing matter which was recently placed under the spotlight by a series of cases involving juveniles being detained at the adult prison.

The data therefore, once again, places a spotlight on the lack of facilities to appropriately accommodate juvenile offenders when detention becomes necessary and further highlights the lack of rehabilitation facilities in Gibraltar for youth offenders.

In an interview with the Chronicle earlier this year, Childline representatives revealed the charity had received more call-outs to assist detained juveniles through its Appropriate Adult scheme during a six-week period between July and August than it usually does in an entire year.

The charity’s representatives described those figures as “unprecedented” and “concerning” as they flagged how a number of the juveniles they have been called upon to assist are repeat offenders.

This comes against a backdrop of year-on-year increases in demand for its services assisting juveniles detained by the police.

The Government is, however, taking action on the issue which is wide ranging and encompasses the role of not only the police but also the likes of Social Services, the Care Agency and the community as a whole.

Last month, in a question and answer session of Parliament, the Government revealed that it has identified a ‘potential location’ and is assessing its suitability for establishing secure accommodation and a detention centre for young offenders.

Justice Minister Neil Costa confirmed that the Government is actively looking at the possibility of alternative provision for young offenders.

He explained that consultations are already ongoing between pertinent government departments and agencies with a view to finding a satisfactory solution.

“At the present stage, we have identified a potential location which we are actively considering to determine if they are suitable to provide a secure accommodation and a detention centre,” Mr Costa told MPs.

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