Child referrals to Garda for begging rise
Some 12,246 children involved in a total of 24,069 offences were referred
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter welcomed the 15 per cent increase in referrals to the Garda Diversion Programme in 2012. Photograph: Eric Luke
The number of children referred to the Garda Diversion Programme for crimes including begging, theft from the person, homicide and sexual offences increased last year.
A new report published yesterday found that while the number of children referred to the programme fell for the sixth year in a row in 2012, the number of under 18s put in touch with the scheme for begging increased from 12 in 2011 to 59 cases last year (up 392 per cent), the number of referrals for homicide rose from 2 to 6 (up 200 per cent), the number of referrals for alleged sexual offences was up 16 per cent from 250 to 291 and the referrals for theft from the person increased by 48 per cent from 174 to 257.
Overall, some 12,246 children involved in a total of 24,069 offences were referred to the scheme in 2012, down by 536 compared to 2011.
The top three offence categories for which under 18s were referred to the Garda programme in 2012 were public order and social code offences (6,976 or 29 per cent), theft and related offences (5,996 or 25 per cent) and damage to property and the environment (2,511 or 10 per cent). These offence categories percentages are almost identical with the year before.
The programme is described by the Department of Justice as an effort to “find alternative means to court to deal with offending and to prevent future offending”. It involves an element of restorative justice, where the young person who has committed the crime meets the victim. Minister for Justice Alan Shatter welcomed the 15 per cent increase in this practice in 2012.
Children involved in the programme are cautioned and spend a period of time under the supervision of a Garda juvenile liaison officer to deter them from reoffending. Before a young person can be considered suitable, they must take responsibility for the offending behaviour, agree to be cautioned and, where appropriate, agree to terms of supervision.
Some of those referred to the programme last year were as young as 12. The Annual Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme 2012 said 4 per cent were 12, 8 per cent were 13, 12 per cent were 14, 21 per cent were 16 and 35 per cent were 17 years of age .
About 80 per cent of children referred to the programme were admitted. The majority of children involved in the programme were 17, and 30 per cent were repeat offenders. One-quarter were female.
The committee formed to oversee the diversion programme, made up of two members of An Garda Síochána and two civilians, found the majority of youngsters admitted were either first-time offenders or had repeated a minor offence.
Some 6,265 youngsters were given an informal caution in such cases. About 2,840 children were given a formal caution, which includes a period of supervision under a special juvenile liaison officer. A further 1,850 young offenders were deemed unsuitable for the diversion programme and had their files returned to their local superintendent for possible prosecution.
Three areas saw a rise in the number of children being referred. These were the Southern Dublin Metropolitan Region (1 per cent), Louth (11 per cent) and Kerry (9 per cent), while Wicklow saw no change in figures from 2011.
Mr Shatter acknowledged the key role of the nationwide network of Garda Youth Diversion Projects in supporting the programme and committed to continue to protect, “as far as possible” the resources available for these projects.
He added that the work of the Garda Analysis Service to provide the local and national picture of youth crime will enable more effective planning and service delivery to deal with youth crime.