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juvenile prosecution

Garda management ordered officers to drop duties and deal with looming juvenile prosecution scandal

It is believed over 13,000 offences carried out by juveniles went unprosecuted.

SOME SENIOR GARDAÍ ordered officers to drop certain duties and help deal with the backlog of juvenile cases as a new garda report is expected to show that thousands of young people effectively evaded prosecution.

A new garda report is due in October of this year and will find that at least 13,000 offences carried out by juveniles went unprosecuted due to the cumbersome nature of the internal garda system used to deal with these cases.

Now, understands that officers, especially those in a number of Dublin station, were ordered to deal with the backlog in their own stations and leave other paperwork for a later date. It is believed that this was to reduce the number of cases pending when the report is eventually published.

Many had already been trying to shift the backlog in the last eight to 12 weeks as senior officers knew that the news was to emerge.

However, the new work is causing a knock on effect for rank-and-file officers who will have to complete other paperwork which will be accumulating as a result of the extra work.

Sergeants and inspectors have already been drawn from the frontline to help deal with the impending crisis.

It emerged at a meeting between Garda management and the Policing Authority last month that almost 13,000 criminal offences by young people may have gone unprosecuted due to problems with the logging system.

Major audit

A major audit of 22,000 cases is now being carried out into the Juvenile Diversion Programme scheme after it emerged that a significant number of young people may have wrongly escaped prosecution.

The original aim of the Juvenile Diversion Programme was to help prevent young offenders in Ireland from entering into the full criminal justice system.

Instead of a criminal conviction, the young person is given the chance to admit to their crime as part of the scheme and is offered one of a range of options to make amends.

Specially-trained garda Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLOs) are assigned to work with them.

Once the young person admits responsibility for their actions, an action plan is created – this can include apologising to the victim of their crimes, offering money to them, imposing curfews on the offender or ensuring they participate in sporting or other recreational activities.

There were cases where, after a prolonged period of attempted engagement by the JLO, the young offender refused to work with the officer. In other cases, the young person was deemed unsuitable for the programme.

In the past, these young people were placed on a centralised list which gave gardaí blanket approval to proceed with their prosecution.

However, that system was then changed so that individual JLOs had to contact the original arresting garda informing them that the scheme was not working out and that they should go ahead with prosecution.

The way the system was created meant that a referral had to be done for each offence, for each offender – effectively creating a substantial workload for officers.

Last month, we reported how many senior officers had been summoned to garda HQ to discuss the impending scandal.

A spokesperson for the gardaí said there is an ongoing review in relation to the Juvenile Diversion Programme and that a “full media briefing will take place when the final report is issued and it is envisaged that this will take place in October”.

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