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New Law

Children as young as seven targeted by gangs to engage in crime, Justice Minister says

New legislation makes it an offence for an adult to force or encourage children to engage in any criminal activity.

CHILDREN AS YOUNG as seven years old are being targeted by gangs encouraging them to get involved in crime, Justice Minister Helen McEntee has said.

New legislation, which comes into effect today, makes it an offence for an adult to force or encourage children to engage in any criminal activity.

Those found guilty of an offence under the Criminal Justice Act 2024 may face imprisonment of up to 12 months on summary conviction and up to five years on indictment.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, McEntee said around 1,000 young children are susceptible to “being groomed and enticed into a life of crime”.

We’re not just talking about teenagers, we’re talking about children as young as seven, eight, nine, literally being targeted by criminals, by organised crime groups.

“They are being enticed, they’re being shown this fabulous, wonderful life that they think they might have with money and access to whatever they want. But we know that’s not the case.”

McEntee said many of these children are “already coming from perhaps poverty or from a challenging background”.

She said young people who get involved in drug dealing, drug running or petty theft often end up engaging in “much more serious crimes” in the future.

This can mean their prospects for work, travel or other goals are “completely annihilated”, McEntee added, as they end up in prison or elsewhere.

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