Three young offenders ‘cautioned’ for sexual assault that ‘destroyed victim’s life’
Sexual crimes should never again be dealt with through youth referral scheme, Dáil told
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said 10 per cent of all crime was committed by children. The victims in these cases were let down, as were the 3,500 perpetrators because “every child must be given the opportunity to get away from a path of criminality”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Sexual assault offenders should not be eligible for the juvenile diversionary programme because it is an inappropriate response to serious crime, the Dáil has heard.
Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny made the call as the House debated a Fianna Fáil Private Members’ motion calling for disciplinary action against gardaí found to be at fault for the failure to properly investigate thousands of crimes by juveniles.
A report on the youth diversionary programme found that 7,894 cases were not properly investigated and did not reach a conclusion. They involved 3,500 children under 18. Juveniles not suitable for the scheme were dealt with inappropriately between 2010 and 2017. Up to 25 per cent of An Garda Síochána was involved.
Mr Kenny highlighted a serious sexual assault where the three offenders received a caution and were directed to the Garda’s youth referral scheme but the victim’s life was “destroyed”.
He had been contacted by a constituent in 2016. Her daughter had been travelling on a bus to an underage disco and some of the boys on the bus were drinking, he said. When she disembarked she was “dragged down an alleyway by a number of boys and sexually assaulted”.
It was caught on CCTV, there were witnesses and gardaí were called.
All the evidence was there but to the victim’s dismay “it was the juvenile programme that the three lads were sent to and received only a caution”.
The girl was severely affected, she suffered from post-traumatic stress and failed her Leaving Cert, he said.
“And yet when she looked on Facebook with her friends she saw these lads who had done this enjoying themselves in the community. And everything was fine with their lives and yet her life had been destroyed.”
The Sligo-Leitrim TD said if there was one thing learned from the scandal it should be that “regardless of the age, sexual assault should not be part of the juvenile programme”.
‘Path of criminality’
Introducing the motion, Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said 10 per cent of all crime was committed by children. The victims in these cases were let down, as were the 3,500 perpetrators because “every child must be given the opportunity to get away from a path of criminality”.
Minister of State for Justice David Stanton said the Garda Commissioner had put in place a process which chief superintendents will assess if disciplinary action should be taken.
But he stressed the importance of the juvenile scheme because thousands of young offenders had been helped to turn away from crime and anti-social behaviour.
Independents4Change TD Clare Daly praised the “good gardaí” in the force because the issue would not have come to light were it not for a good garda working in community engagement who “asked the force’s professional standards unit to examine the youth diversion programme in 2014”.