Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Questions (290)

Jim O'Callaghan


290. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the operation of the juvenile diversion programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39836/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Youth Diversion Programme is a statutory programme under Part 4 of the Children Act 2001, as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which focuses on preventing criminal behaviour as well as diversion from the criminal justice system and rehabilitation of children between 10 and 18 years of age. The programme is an essential part of Government strategy to help tackle youth crime, administered by An Garda Síochána, and it is very important that it operates effectively.

As the Deputy is aware, serious issues arose in relation to the handling of cases which had been deemed unsuitable for the Garda Youth Diversion Programme. These issues did not involve any negative implications for the effectiveness of the Diversion Programme itself, which is a valuable mechanism to help young offenders turn away from crime.

The operation of the programme by An Garda Síochána is strongly supported by a nationwide network of 106 Garda Youth Diversion Projects, which are funded by my Department and operated by community-based organisations. The projects receive referrals from a number of sources, but primarily from the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers.

The Deputy may also be aware that an expert Steering Group is currently developing a new Youth Justice Strategy, including a review of the Children Act. The Steering Group commenced its work in February and has had a series of meetings during this year which will continue into next year. The Group is tasked with advising and guiding the development of the new Strategy, including consideration of the full range of issues connected to children and young people at risk of coming into contact with the criminal justice system, from early intervention and preventative work, including family support, diversion from crime, through to court processes and facilities, supervision of offenders, detention and reintegration and support post release.