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on the agenda

Grooming children into a life of crime to carry penalty of five years in prison under new law

Minister for Justice Simon Harris will today seek Cabinet approval for the new Bill.

NEW MEASURES TO introduce a penalty of five years imprisonment on conviction of grooming children into a life of crime are set to be approved by Cabinet today. 

Minister for Justice Simon Harris will today seek approval for a new Bill which will, for the first time, create specific offences where an adult compels, coerces, induces or invites a child to engage in criminal activity.

It will give gardaí additional powers and make it a separate, prosecutable offence, on top of provisions in current law where an adult who causes or uses a child to commit a crime can generally be found guilty as the principal offender.

This means they can be punished as though they committed the crime themselves. 

The new legislation also gives the gardaí the power to intervene locally to prevent offences taking place.

The new law will specifically recognise the harm done to a child by drawing them into a world of criminality. 

In tandem with this legislation, the Greentown Project, currently has two trials underway to reduce and disrupt the influence of criminal networks on children in two local areas and to provide supports for the positive development of the children who are affected.

The project, which is based out of the University of Limerick, aims at developing new effective responses to the problem of children’s engagement with local criminal networks in Ireland. It 

Preventing exploitation

Harris will today outline to his Cabinet colleagues work that is underway at preventing criminal networks from exploiting children to commit crime, and at breaking the link between gangs and the vulnerable young people they seek to recruit. 

He will also outline how some children are being deceived by criminal networks into believing crime can bring “wealth, bling and a party lifestyle but in reality it brings debts and fear”, it is understood. 

The Criminal Justice (Engagement of Children in Criminal Activity) Bill 2023 follows on from Minister Helen McEntee’s work at drafting the new Bill. 

It is expected that the legislation will be enacted by the summer. 

Future of Media

Separately, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin will bring forward the Implementation Strategy and Action Plan for the previously published Future of Media Commission Report.

The plan sets out how Government intends to give effect to the accepted recommendations within the Commission’s report, which is a blueprint for enabling the development of public service media in Ireland.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion standards by Coimisiún na Meán are to be developed, along with a review of Irish language services across the entire media sector, as well as the introduction of new funding streams through a new media fund.

Consideration will also be given to increasing spending on independent productions. 

The government has also committed to reform Ireland’s defamation laws and review the country’s copyright laws.

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