Garda to focus on children who have been groomed by gangs to break the law
Separate law targeting criminals that encourage children to offend is being developed, but unlikely to be enacted until 2022
Minister of State with responsibility for law reform James Browne during a press conference to mark the launch of Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Children who have been groomed by gangs to break the law are to be prioritised as Garda Youth Diversion Projects are strengthened as part of efforts to prevent youth crime.
A separate law targeting criminals that encourage children to offend is being developed, but is unlikely to be enacted until next year.
The Government’s six-year Youth Justice Strategy was launched on Thursday by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister of State James Browne.
Under the plan the existing network of 105 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDP) is to be “strengthened” to provide greater early intervention, family support, engagement with younger children and support to schools.
Some places do not have a GYDP service and the geographical coverage of such projects is to be expanded within two years to cover every child in the State that could benefit from it.
This will be done by expanding the operating area of some projects as well as adding a small number of new ones. The goal of the strategy is to prevent offending behaviour from occurring, and to divert children and young adults who commit crime away from further offending.
Mr Browne said in any one year around 10,000 children come into contact with the justice system, and around 1,000 end up being prosecuted in the courts.
“The impact of youth crime can be quite serious – not just on those children and young people committing the crimes but on their families and on communities. It’s in everybody’s interests that we tackle those hard-to-reach young people who are getting involved in criminal activities.”
He said those children disproportionately come from backgrounds where challenges include poverty and other issues like mental illness.
Mr Browne said there must be a “wrap-around response” involving services like the Child and Family Agency and health and education services. The strategy “targets hard-to-reach young people that require sustained intervention, that perhaps have been groomed into criminal activities or are coming from families that are involved in criminal activities as well”.
He said there must be a “a never-give-up attitude with working with these young people”, and that the crime gangs that groom them would be targeted by legislation that was being put in place by Ms McEntee.
She said the general scheme of a Bill that will bring in five-year prison sentences for those caught encouraging children to break the law is being developed.