Thursday, 10 December 2020

Ceisteanna (34)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Ceist:

34. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Justice her plans regarding the grooming of children by criminal gangs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41794/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Diverting young people away from getting involved in criminal activity is a key priority for the Government and the exploitation of young people and children is a particular concern. 

As the Deputy will be aware, while an adult may be prosecuted for a crime which has been committed by a child who has been incited to do so by the adult, there is currently no mechanism in law for explicitly recognising the damage done to the child.

The Programme for Government commits to developing a law which would take account of this and penalise adults for the exploitation and harm done to the child in such cases. I can inform the Deputy that officials in my Department are already working to develop legislation in this regard and it is intended to bring proposals to Government in the form of a General Scheme in the coming weeks.

It should be noted that this is a complex area as in many cases the adult in question is known to the child and may in some cases even be a family member, causing potential issues with regard to witness testimony.

In addition, the Deputy may be aware of the “Greentown Report”, published in December 2016, which was produced at the School of Law in the University of Limerick and examined the influence of criminal networks on children in Ireland. The Report outlines how the influence of criminal networks increases the level of offending by a small number of children and entraps them in offending situations. As part of the wider 'Greentown' project, targeted interventions are to be piloted to further protect children in Ireland from becoming involved in criminal networks.

With regard to broader issues of youth justice, the Deputy may also wish to note that my Department is currently finalising a new Youth Justice Strategy and it is intended to bring a final Strategy to Government shortly.