Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Questions (174)

Jonathan O'Brien


175 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if will consider introducing court-supervised individual support orders and parenting support orders in this jurisdiction. [4292/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

While the Deputy's question is not very clear as to what exactly the subject matter is, I am assuming that he is referring to anti-social behaviour by children. The Deputy appears to have borrowed terminology from a neighbouring jurisdiction where, I understand, these court orders are used as part of the response to anti-social behaviour by children. Before debating the possible benefits of procedures used elsewhere, it would be best to examine the existing procedures in Ireland with regard to anti-social behaviour by children.

The Children Act 2001, as amended, provides for civil proceedings to tackle anti-social behaviour by children. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for An Garda Síochána to address anti-social behaviour by children using a behaviour warning, followed by a good-behaviour contract, followed, where appropriate, by a behaviour order. The scheme is essentially part of the process to divert children from the formal criminal justice system and the intention was that behaviour warnings or good-behaviour contracts would themselves address the problem behaviour. In the event that they fail, the next stage is to consider the admission of the child to the Garda Diversion Programme which can involve supervision by a Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer. If admission to the Diversion Programme is not considered appropriate, a behaviour order may be applied for in the courts or, if criminal offences are involved, prosecution is a further option.

Parents or guardians are brought into this process by An Garda Síochána at all stages. The process operates on the basis that court intervention would only be considered if the system of behaviour warnings, good behaviour contracts and the intervention of the JLO do not work. If court intervention is deemed essential and in the event that the process results in the successful prosecution of a child, it is then open to the courts to apply various sanctions on parents or guardians as set out in Section 98 of the Children Act 2001, as amended. Where a court is satisfied that a child is guilty of an offence, it may make an order for a community sanction involving supervision by a probation officer under Section 115 of the Children Act 2001 and providing various support options, including mentoring and access to training and education.

I am not convinced that additional court orders are needed to strengthen our response to anti-social behaviour by children. However the consideration of any further measures to promote community safety and combat crime will take place in the context of the ongoing work which my Department has undertaken to produce a White Paper Crime. This has already involved a wide ranging consultation process and I have previously stated my intention that this work will support the production of a comprehensive National Anti-Crime Strategy.