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Eamonn Farrell/
youth diversion

Over half of youths not punished for serious crimes due to garda scheme failings went on to reoffend

In more than 2,000 cases an adult who was also involved in the crime was cautioned or prosecuted for the offence.

MORE THAN HALF of the youths accused of serious crimes who were not pursued due to failings of a garda scheme went on to reoffend afterwards. 

It emerged last month that almost 8,000 crimes by more than 3,000 children and young people went unpunished due to deficiencies in the garda juvenile diversion programme.

This included 55 very serious crimes such as threats to kill, child neglect, affray, aggravated burglary and one case of rape.

Just one child involved in the 55 crimes had never been suspected of offending before and did not go on to re-offend. The remaining 54 all had other interactions with gardaí – either before or after the incident which was not progressed correctly.

Under the diversion programme, all children suspected of an offence are referred so they can be considered for the scheme instead of a criminal caution or prosecution.

If they are deemed unsuitable for the programme – because of the nature of the crime, or a failure to admit responsibility for example – the case is sent back to the original investigating garda. 

In 7,894 cases involving 3,489 children the investigation was not appropriately progressed from this point, ie the young person was not cautioned or prosecuted. 

Figures provided by An Garda Síochána to Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire reveal 29 of the 55 youths in the most serious cases had referrals to the youth scheme and prosecutions initiated both before and after the failure to progress the referral. 

A further three had a referral or prosecution after the non-progressed incident but had not offended prior to it. And 22 had youth referrals prior to the non-progressed incident, but not after. 

For the remaining young person this was their first referral and they never offended again. Of the 55 youths, 26 admitted to the offence and 29 denied it. 

Today the Policing Authority was also given an update on the organisation’s review of these failures. It was told that in 2,025 cases out of the 7,894 an adult who was also involved in the crime was cautioned or prosecuted for the offence.

This happened in 18 of the 55 cases of very serious crime. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said there was “some comfort” in the fact that other perpetrators involved in the offences were “brought to justice”.

Harris also said discipline is being considered on a case-by-case basis for the 3,200 gardaí involved in the cases. 

He said each case will be “examined on its merits” by a chief superintendent and once this is done they will have a better idea of how these failures happened and whether there are any trends. 

The Policing Authority also discussed the fact that 57 of the 3,000 young people involved have since died – 44 as adults. Causes of death included suicide, road traffic collisions and drug overdoses.

Harris described them as “individuals who are in jeopardy” in terms of their health and lifestyles.

“It is a very sad fact but the reality of our society is that these particular individuals die young and die in pretty dire circumstances.”

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