The Children Act 2001 was amended by Part 13 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to provide for civil proceedings regarding anti-social behaviour by children. These provisions, which were commenced on 1 March 2007, set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by children. They are just one element of the Government's policy on youth crime, which is set out in detail in the national youth justice strategy 2008-10. The approach adopted by the Government involves an incremental process of diversion from the formal criminal justice system, community sanctions as alternatives to custody and detention as a last resort. In the case of anti-social behaviour, the diversion process includes the use of warnings, good behaviour contracts and anti-social behaviour orders where appropriate. In the event that the behaviour warning or good behaviour contract fails to change a young person's anti-social behaviour, it is only then that further measures such as the anti-social behaviour order or other diversion approaches might be used.
For this reason the number of anti-social behaviour orders should not be considered in isolation but must be viewed as part of a wider incremental process to deal with anti-social behaviour. I am informed by the Garda authorities that, up to 30 October 2010, 1,541 behaviour warnings have been issued to children, 15 good behaviour contracts have been made with children and three behaviour orders have been issued by the courts. It was always the intention that this approach to anti-social behaviour would operate as part and parcel of the Garda diversion programme.
The diversion programme operates in accordance with Part 4 of the Children Act 2001, as amended, and under the general superintendence and control of the Garda Commissioner. The aim of the programme is to deal with children who offend, by way of administering a formal or informal caution, thus diverting the offender away from the courts and minimising the likelihood of further offending. The programme has proven to be successful in diverting young persons away from crime and anti-social behaviour by offering guidance and support to juveniles and their families. In the event that warnings or good behaviour contracts prove inadequate to deter a young person from anti-social behaviour, the next step is to use the structures of the diversion programme before resorting to behaviour orders or criminal prosecution.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The 2009 annual report of the committee appointed to monitor the effectiveness of the Garda diversion programme showed a reduction of 13% in the number of incidents referred to the programme and a 14% reduction in the number of children referred, compared to 2008. Alcohol offences were down by 22% compared to 2008. I commend the work of An Garda Síochána and, in particular, juvenile liaison officers and community gardaí on their excellent work with young people.