asked the Minister for Justice if, in view of the alarming increase in juvenile delinquency, as indicated by the latest official returns, he is prepared to appoint additional probation officers, especially for duties outside the City of Dublin.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Juvenile Delinquency.
The amount of juvenile crime has doubled since 1939, but I am glad to be able to say that there was no increase during the year 1943 as compared with the year 1942. The number of juveniles charged with indictable offences in the years 1939, 1942 and 1943 were 1,605, 3,350 and 3,345, respectively. The returns of crimes by adults show a similar trend. It seems reasonable to believe that circumstances arising from the emergency are the main cause of the increase in crime and that, with the return of normal conditions, both juvenile and adult crime will decrease.
In regard to the appointment of probation officers, I would refer the Deputy to the reply to a similar question asked by Deputy Connolly on the 4th of November last. I should like to repeat, however, that I am doubtful about the policy of appointing full-time probation officers outside the Dublin Metropolitan Area. The conditions in Dublin are unique: nearly one-third of all the juvenile indictable offences arise in the Dublin area, and there is a justice who is engaged whole-time in looking after this class of offender. I doubt whether there would be sufficient work for a full-time probation officer in any other area. In my opinion, the best solution of the problem outside Dublin would be, that voluntary organisations which are interested in the welfare of juveniles should undertake the supervision of juvenile probationers. Section 7 of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, provides for the recognition of such organisations and provides that recognised organisations may receive financial assistance from the State towards their expenses. I feel that it is very desirable that there should be local interest and initiative in this kind of work.
In Cork City the local Council of the St. Vincent de Paul Society was declared a recognised society in April last. It is doing very good work and I should like to see similar schemes adopted in other areas.
Everybody will agree that the Minister and the Government are deeply concerned about juvenile delinquency, but in face of the facts that confront us every night and day, even in the immediate vicinity of this House, does the Minister not think that somebody should be there to advise these boys and girls around the cinema queues to get off the streets? They go away from home and neither their parents nor anyone else know anything about what they are doing. They are singing in front of the cinema queues appealing to the charity of the public, and are building up a semi-criminal class. I think the Minister should consider the possibility of appointing a few men and women to look after them. These voluntary organisations cannot do the work themselves.
There is a certain number of probation officers in Dublin, and with the help of His Grace the Archbishop about two years ago, one of these societies, the Legion of Mary, has been able to do very good work and is continuing to do it. The reason I gave such a lengthy reply is that I do not want people to be unduly alarmed about the situation. There has been no increase since last year. I quite admit that it is still very bad, but I do not want people to run away with the idea that it is still increasing, and I hope as a result of the efforts now being made that there will be a decrease.