I share the Deputy’s concerns about the very serious issues outlined in the Garda Commissioner’s interim report on youth crime cases from 2010 to 2017. In that period, almost 160,000 youth crime incidents were referred for consideration under the Garda diversion programme. Roughly one third of these incidents were deemed unsuitable for inclusion in the juvenile diversion system, and it has emerged that almost 8,000 of these crimes were not properly pursued. This is a completely unacceptable situation that must be thoroughly addressed in the interest of victims and the proper administration of justice, and for the future welfare of the children who committed the crimes.
In addition to the apology which was appropriately issued by the Garda Commissioner, gardaí have commenced a process to contact victims and have also provided a helpline for anyone who might be affected by the failure to process these cases. Details of the helpline are available on the Garda website. I am anxious that all relevant information must be made available to the victims, including the steps being taken to deal with the failures that have occurred.
A number of fundamental issues have been identified by the Garda examination, including inadequate ICT and supervision, a lack of training, and alleged failings by individual gardaí.
Concerns about similar gaps surfaced previously on different issues and, as the Deputy is aware, last month the Government published the implementation plan which will give effect to the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. This plan is aimed at addressing, in a systematic way, all the failings identified.
The Government is committed to the implementation of the commission’s report and a programme office has been established in the Department of An Taoiseach to oversee and report on progress.
In addition, the Policing Authority will continue to follow up with an ongoing examination of these specific youth justice-related matters to ensure the effectiveness of the remedial actions which the Commissioner has set in train.
As I mentioned, the issue related to Garda oversight of cases deemed too serious for diversion, and not to the Garda diversion programme or to the community-based Garda youth diversion projects which support the diversion programme. I am assured that no negative implications have been identified for these projects arising from this issue. I can assure the Deputy that I will keep in very close touch with the Commissioner and the Policing Authority to monitor progress.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In relation to the individual cases, the majority took place in the period from 2010-2015. Therefore, unfortunately, most of them will be statute barred. However, senior Garda managers are looking at the more recent individual cases to determine whether any further action can be taken. The Commissioner has been very clear that alleged failings by individual gardaí will be fully investigated at divisional level. The Deputy will appreciate that this is a matter for the Commissioner and his management team and any process of that kind has to be allowed to take its course and should not be pre-judged.