As I have stated previously, there are very serious issues to be addressed arising from the Garda Commissioner’s Interim Report on the handling of youth crime cases.
They will be addressed through implementation of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. I want to emphasise the Government’s commitment to implementing that report, which provides a strategic framework to address the full range of systemic, organisational and cultural deficits within An Garda Síochána.
A High Level Implementation Plan was published in December, which was endorsed by every Minister and Government Department. This is an ambitious but realistic plan and the timescale is in line with the Commission’s own recommendations. It is being overseen by an independently chaired Programme Office located in the Department of the Taoiseach, in recognition of the multiplicity of agencies and Departments charged with implementing it.
One point I want to emphasise again is that this issue should not cast any shadow on the value of the Garda Youth Diversion Programme itself. These issues relate to cases that were deemed unsuitable for the Garda Youth Diversion Programme. Therefore, no negative implications have been identified for the Diversion programme itself, which is very beneficial and has helped generations of young people take a path away from criminal activity. Neither is it regarded as having implications for the community projects funded by my Department to support the diversion programme. We need to distinguish between the failings in relation to youth crime case management and the very valuable work of the Diversion programme.
I am of course aware that members of the Policing Authority asked if similar issues could arise in relation to prosecutions and case management for adult crime cases. The Commissioner has acknowledged that it would be necessary to examine that question further. Needless to say, I am concerned that we have assurance about the quality of Garda prosecution procedures and systems in relation to all crimes, not just youth crime.
The Policing Authority has indicated that it will assess whether there are any wider implications for Garda crime management and prosecution procedures which need to be addressed. The Authority is responsible for independent oversight of policing and is clearly the appropriate body to examine these matters in the first instance.
My Department has already been in touch with the Authority and will maintain close contact to monitor developments to make sure we get a clearer overall picture of crime case management and prosecution.