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Teenager (15) questioned over two Kinahan feud murders received over 10 juvenile cautions

Sources said that the JLO system is too lenient.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

A YOUNG TEENAGER questioned twice in relation to Kinahan murders and suspected of being a “driver for hire” has received the benefit of at least 10 referrals to juvenile liaison officers, TheJournal.ie has learned as sources describe the current system as “merely papering over the cracks” of the previous, problematic one.

The child first came to the attention of gardaí for drug dealing when he was just 12 years old. 

This week, a damning garda report detailed how nearly 8,000 crimes committed by juveniles were not prosecuted or progressed due to the failings of the Juvenile Diversion Programme. 

Problems with the management of the scheme began after it moved from a paper-based system to the Garda PULSE network in 2010.

Under the computer-based system, an automatic referral to the youth diversion scheme was sent whenever an officer entered a crime and recorded the suspect as being between the ages of 12 and 18. The JLO then had to make a decision on eligibility. If the suspect was not suitable for the scheme, individual JLOs had to contact the original arresting garda to inform them and that a prosecution should be pursued. 

It is believed that the workload created by having to create a referral for each offence, for each offender, ground the system to a halt. The offenders’ cases lingered until a point where their offences – even if rediscovered – could no longer be prosecuted as they exceeded the statute of limitation.

Actions have since been taken to remedy the problems. But sources have told TheJournal.ie that it is still a “shambles” and there are regularly children who have received more than 10 cautions and who gardaí believe to be involved in serious criminality. 

Under the current system, a senior officer in the area the crime took place now needs to sign off on whether or not a reported crime is referred to the force’s youth diversion office. 

Many within the force believe the JLO system is too lenient and that it is easier for officers to accept the person into the system than returning them for full prosecution.

Kinahan feud links

In one case known to TheJournal.ie, a teen based in the north inner city of Dublin is known as a “youth for hire” and is used by many gangs, including the Kinahan cartel, to drive for them. A number of gardaí have identified him as being part of the cartel’s young members. 

Despite garda fears for his and the public’s safety, he continues to rack up JLO referrals. He has been apprehended for drug dealing, assault, car theft, public order offences and aggravated burglary. In recent months, he was arrested again for drug dealing. 

Gardaí have told of their frustration of the system – with one source explaining there are cases where “the young lad is going to end up dead or killing someone”. 

However, there have also been successes in the JLO programme. Deirdre Malone, executive director of Irish Penal Reform Trust, said, therefore, that every case that is not progressed represents an opportunity missed to address the offending behaviour.

“This fails victims and it also fails the young people who committed those offences,” she told TheJournal.ie.

Victims are entitled to expect that their cases will be promptly investigated, and there must be appropriate consequences for young people found guilty of committing offences.

But the IPRT is a big advocate of the JLO scheme, describing it is an “effective” tool for reducing reoffending. 

Malone added: “We need more information on why so many children and young people are found to be not suitable for diversion, and the longer-term outcomes for those young people.

“The disproportionately high numbers of young people aged 18-24 in prison indicates that the right interventions are not being made at earlier stages. This is at great cost to victims, to society, and to the young people themselves.”

Research from the IRPT has shown:

  • Of all persons committed to prison in 2017, 17-24 year olds represented 22.8% (1,711 out of 7,484 total).
  • Of all committals under sentence during 2017, 17-24 year olds represented 23.3% (1,408 out of 6,037 total).
  • Of a total prisoner population under sentence on 30th November 2017, 18-24 year olds represented 16.5% (495 out of 2,990 total).

Malone added: “It is crucial now that, along with the establishment of the National Bureau of Child Diversion, Government continues to invest in research and data to inform the most effective responses to offending by young people, and that these responses are applied consistently.” 

DREW HARRIS 758A8471_90562552 Deputy Commisioner John Twomey speaks to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Source: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Report

Apologising for the failures of the youth diversion programme this week, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris also outlined what other actions have been taken, including a new monitoring system for youth referrals and a mandatory requirement for Garda members to complete e-learning on the youth referral process. 

Each victim of a reported crime that went unpursued will receive a letter specific to their case signed by the senior officer in their area. The letter will include an apology, a victim information leaflet and contact details of the Garda Victim Services Programme. 

In a small number of cases, victims of serious crimes will receive a personal visit in the coming days. Other victims of serious crimes can also request this. 

The first of the letters were sent on Thursday and it will take until nearly the end of January before the postal drop is complete. 

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