Wednesday, 30 January 2019
Juvenile Crime: Motion [Private Members]
That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:- a review of the Garda Youth Diversion Office (GYDO) recently carried out by An Garda Síochána has identified serious failings within the Garda Youth Diversion Programme (GYDP);
- the review examined 158,521 youth referrals, relating to 57,386 individual children, which were created on the Police Using Leading Systems Effectively (PULSE) system during the period 25th July, 2010 to 28th July, 2017;
- it was found that 7,894 of these referrals had not been appropriately progressed to a conclusion by An Garda Síochána;
- the review shows that the bulk of crimes not progressed were in the areas of public order, theft, traffic and criminal damage;
- 55 serious offences were identified as being not progressed, including rape, sexual assault and child neglect;
- many of the young offenders who were not progressed through the GYDP subsequently became involved in serious crime;
- the Garda Commissioner has described the failure to prosecute these youth offenders as a ‘humiliating professional failure’ for the force;
- this is the latest in a series of issues regarding Garda statistics that has damaged public confidence in An Garda Síochána;
- the Policing Authority said ‘So when there are no consequences for children who are unsuitable for the programme, it is inherently unfair on those who accepted their responsibilities. More seriously than that, however, is that without follow up, opportunities to help those children are missed. Children are failed and victims of crime are failed.’; and;
- these findings are shocking, serious lessons have to be learnt and immediate actions need to be taken by the Minister for Justice and Equality, An Garda Síochána, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to prevent any further lack of follow-up on juvenile cases;acknowledges that:- successive reports have recommended that much more cooperation is needed between An Garda Síochána and Tusla;
- youth diversion programmes are proven to be very successful in reducing reoffending;
- the State has a responsibility to try to divert children from a path of crime should they commit offences at a young age;
- increased illegal drug use is causing greater challenges;
- 8,000 reported crimes by children should not occur without a targeted and strategic response from the State;
- 57 of the child offenders referred to have since died, indicating that many of those participating in this programme experienced chaotic lives; and
- most offences identified as not being acted upon are now time-barred on grounds of delay, and many others would be difficult to progress as they have been contaminated by the poor process to date; andcalls for:- a review into the cause of cases which were not properly progressed, to examine if disciplinary procedures should take place;
- victims of the serious crimes, which were not appropriately progressed to a conclusion, to be informed;
- an anonymised report into the cause of cases and in particular repeated cases which were not properly progressed in order to identify specific failures within the GYPD;
- a stay to be placed on the decision of the Department of Justice and Equality to centralise the Juvenile Diversion Programme pending the findings of these reports;
- the Minister for Justice and Equality, in conjunction with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, to publish an action plan for the reorganisation of youth justice sections within both departments to ensure accountability lies with only one line Minister;
- a quarterly update for the Houses of the Oireachtas on the progress of all issues before the GYDO for a period of no less than three years;
- a significant strengthening of section 28 of the Children Act 2001, to prescribe a minimum standard of supervision for all children under the supervision of a Juvenile Liaison Officer;
- increased and sustained investment in the Juvenile Diversion Programme;
- the Government to promote an effective GYDP to ensure the provision of training for Youth Justice Workers on specific issues such as health and mental health; and
- greater levels of prevention and protection for the public and the children caught up in criminal activity.
I welcome the opportunity to move this motion and open the debate on juvenile crime. I will share time with my colleagues, Deputies Cassells, Chambers and Cahill.
It is important to begin the debate by recognising and emphasising that we are in the unfortunate position in this country that a lot of crime is committed by people who are referred to as juveniles. They are people between the ages of 12 and 17 or 18. It is also the case that a significant volume of anti-social behaviour is committed by juveniles. That poses a particular problem for the State as to how we respond to it because it is clear is that if we do not get a child away from the path of criminality between the ages of 12 and 17, there is a likelihood that he or she will continue to commit crime as an adult. We then have a much bigger problem than we have when the younger person is committing crimes between the ages of 12 and 17.
The range of crimes committed by juveniles is not simply at the lower end of the spectrum. It is not simply the case that we are dealing with anti-social behaviour, breaches of public order or other summary offences. Unfortunately, it is also the case that many serious crimes are being committed by juveniles. I saw in The Irish Timestoday, and I am sure it happens frequently, that there are cases of young men, in particular, who have been convicted of serious sexual assaults or of rape. We need to recognise that the group of young people who are growing up now are exposed to aspects to which none of us was every exposed when we were growing up. I refer in particular to the prevalence of pornography on the Internet, the degradation of women and the submissive nature of women as presented on the Internet. That must have a significant impact on the developing sexuality, particularly of young men.
This country has an increasing drugs problem. I know it particularly in Dublin but it is not just in Dublin. It is throughout the country, and not just in what would be referred to as disadvantaged areas. There is a growing drugs problem throughout this city and the country. At this stage we do not know the extent to which use of drugs, which are getting stronger as time goes on, will impact on the mental health of young people. We need to be clear with young people to advise them of the dangers of taking drugs, particularly drugs which are perceived as being benign such as cannabis. Cannabis is so strong that it can have a very negative impact upon the mental health of young children. That is not just me stating it; it is something that has been recognised in reports produced.
Public order offences and, regrettably, serious offences are being committed by children. From the State's point of view, it needs to have a response and a plan as to how it intends to deal with it because everyone will agree that when a person as a child gets involved in crime for the first time it is appropriate and imperative that the response is not the same as it would be if an adult committing a crime. The objective should be to try to ensure that we can get that child off the path of criminality as quickly as possible.
In 2001, the Children Bill was enacted. It sought to set out a path for children who got involved in crime to direct them off that path and ensure they could be given a different opportunity to get away from it. Under the Act, a juvenile diversion programme was established. It proposed community-based initiatives that would be availed of by the child instead of him or her being put through the court process and the full criminal justice process. An essential prerequisite of that programme was that the child had to admit and accept responsibility for the criminal activity in which he or she was involved. If that was done, the child would be referred by An Garda Síochána, which is the investigator of the crime, to a juvenile liaison officer and the juvenile diversion programme would kick in. It has been a successful programme. We have seen that not just in Dublin but in other areas. It is a programme we should seek to preserve and protect. It needs somebody in government to take hold of it and make it his or her responsibility to ensure that it is working effectively.
The catalyst for this debate was the disclosure approximately two weeks ago by An Garda Síochána that there were significant failings in its operation of the youth diversion programme. A report on a review by An Garda Síochána gave an indication of the extent of juvenile crime. Between July 2010 and July 2017, there were approximately 158,521 youth referrals to the Garda youth diversion programme, which involved approximately 57,000 children. We know from analyses conducted previously, particularly in 2014, that approximately 10% of all criminal activity is committed by children, so it is a significant proportion of the crime perpetrated in the State.
What was most disturbing about the report prepared by An Garda Síochána is that, ultimately, it revealed that in terms of the number of referrals, between 2010 and 2017, approximately 7,900 referrals were not progressed to a conclusion. That related to approximately 3,500 children. In respect of those 7,900 crimes, there was no conclusion to them. Although the child was referred, nothing happened in respect of him or her. There was no conclusion and in many respects that was doing a disservice to three groups of people. First, it was doing a disservice to the victims of crime. The people who are the victims of crime, whether it is committed by a child or an adult, are entitled to believe that when they make a complaint to An Garda Síochána, the crime will be adequately investigated and, if the individual is apprehended, that the individual will be put through the criminal justice process whether it is an adult through the courts or a child, hopefully, through the youth diversion programme. Those people were first and foremost let down. Second, the people who were also let down were those significant numbers of children who did go through the youth diversion programme and who were told that if they did not go through it, there would be more serious consequences for them and that they would be brought through the courts. They went through the youth diversion programme and they availed of the community-based initiatives yet they now recognise that there was a cohort of other children who did not do the same and there were no consequences for them.
The 3,500 children who committed the crimes and who were not progressed to a conclusion were also let down because every child must be given the opportunity to get away from a path of criminality. Most children are lucky in that they do not get involved in criminality. It is unfair on children to find themselves involved in criminality at a young age. They must take personal responsibility for it but there are also environmental and community responsibilities as well. They were let down.
It is important that we get a response from the Government on what it is proposing to do about the failings in the juvenile diversion programme.
I thank the Minister of State. I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I pay particular tribute to our justice spokesperson, Deputy O'Callaghan, on bringing this important motion forward. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle would know about his work in engaging with communities throughout Ireland over the past 18 months. He has toured Ireland, he has met communities in local parish halls to speak about this issue and his diligent work in attending these large public gatherings where a lot of what has been articulated on juvenile crime and on rural crime and so forth, was taken away by him and it informs much of the his contribution to the debate and the motion.
The Deputy referred to the youth diversion programme and the 158,521 youth referrals that the review examined relating to 57,386 individual children. Those figures should shock many people. When it comes to the issue of juvenile crime and the pursuing those who perpetrate it through the criminal justice system, we have had experiences in County Meath which have left us aghast. One shocking incident hit the front pages of all the national and local newspapers, and dominated local radio shows on LMFM as well as "Liveline".
Deputy O'Callaghan referred to serious crimes. There was an horrendous attack on the son of our mayor in Navan, Councillor Tommy Reilly. He was savagely beaten in his own shop, not by a group of armed men, but by a group of six thugs who were juveniles. They kicked him repeatedly in his body and while he lay on the ground, they took a glass vase and beat him around the head with it. Why did they do so? Were they robbing his shop? No, it was just pure thuggish behaviour. It took his father, Mayor Tommy Reilly, to jump in and pull them off his son who at this stage lay battered and bruised on the ground. The Garda was called to the scene but before Mr. Reilly’s broken body had even been placed on a bed in the emergency department in Our Lady's Hospital Navan, the Garda had released the one suspect they had pulled over on the side of the road for a chat. While the brain scans were ongoing, the thugs who beat his son savagely were walking the streets. It took a massive public outcry after pictures of these heinous scenes were splashed across national newspapers in the following days and discussed on radio for days on end to spark action to be taken. In the eyes of the State, this was a crime carried out by children. That term frustrates the life out of people.
The statistics Deputy O’Callaghan set out show that many of the young offenders who were not progressed through the Garda Youth Diversion Office subsequently became involved in serious crime. As he said, it is working correctly in some instances but not in all. It is simply not acceptable that 8,000 children did not progress to the youth diversion programme and if that had been done properly, there would be an admission of guilt, work would be done with a liaison officer and the system would be more efficient. We would not have a system whereby those involved in what I would call heinous crimes to begin with, progress on to even more heinous crimes such as attacks on persons, drug crime or other crime.
All Deputies will agree, no matter what party they are in, that if one goes into any housing estate in any of our respective towns, it is not just the crime sprees that these young juvenile thugs are involved in that are the problem; it is the intimidation that these people inflict on entire areas that is just as serious. That intimidation can be just as destructive to the lives of law-abiding citizens and it is frustratingly difficult for the Garda to deal with. Indeed, at the height of last summer when temperatures were soaring, many green areas on housing estates were turned into "no go" areas because gangs of juveniles took to claiming them for themselves to turn into outdoor drinking venues. On one particular estate in Navan, the fallout from a drink-fuelled evening saw them turn on each other as temperatures soared in their heads and they decided to go at each other with hatchets. The Garda armed response unit had to be called to restore order and it resulted in the road into the estate being sealed off. If these lads want to hack each other to pieces with axes, there are many who I met that evening who would have let them at it but the lives of innocent people were put at risk as well as the lives of the gardaí who were dispatched to deal with the incident. I am sick of these young thugs being let away scot free. There is a need for consequences for their actions, as stated by the Policing Authority. The call this evening for an increased and sustained investment in the juvenile diversion programme is needed and we need to stand with our communities, who in so many cases have had their lives ruined by juvenile thugs.
This is a very important motion which Deputy O'Callaghan has brought forward. It is something that the public are extremely concerned about. The failings identified in the Garda youth diversion programme and the figures presented make for concerning reading. The review examined 158,521 youth referrals relating to 57,386 individual children which were created on the Garda PULSE system during a period from 25 July 2010 to 28 July 2017. It was found that 7,894 of these referrals had not been appropriately progressed to a conclusion by the Garda. The review shows that the bulk of crimes not progressed were in the areas of public order, theft, traffic and criminal damage. Some 55 serious offences were identified as not being progressed, including rape, sexual assault and child neglect cases. Many of these young offenders who were not progressed through the youth diversion programme subsequently became involved in serious crime.
Unfortunately, this is the latest in a series of issues regarding Garda statistics that has damaged public confidence in the force. There must be consequences for those who commit crime, no matter what age they are. That is what protects our society. We are also failing our children if they are not held to account for their actions. By not doing so, we are allowing young people to follow a track to adult crime and subsequently into the prison system, at which point their chances of rehabilitation and of having normal lives are reduced. By doing so, we are failing society because if we cannot address the issue at child and teenage level, what hope do we have to do so in later life?
In County Tipperary, I have been advocating funding for a Jigsaw project. Unfortunately, we were promised it two and a half years ago and it still has not happened. The objective of a Jigsaw project is to ensure that no young person feels alone, isolated and disconnected from others around them. It is intended to provide vital supports to young people in respect of their mental health by working closely with communities around the country. In recent months, I have come across adolescents who have come to the attention of the Garda for various offences. When one sits down with their parents, one learns that quite a few of them have struggled with their mental health and unfortunately they have not been able to access proper mental health care.
At St. Mary's Health Centre in my home town of Thurles, a mental health service is available in theory. In fact, it merely ticks a box. In reality, it is a shoestring, part-time service that serves no effective purpose. I know one young girl with a mental disorder who could benefit from a course in meditation with experts. This course is available in Cork and Limerick but she cannot access it because she does not live in these counties. This service is not available to those who have a Tipperary address. As far as the Garda is concerned, she is known to the force and is considered to be a risk to commit crime, when in reality she is ill and in need of care that is not available to her.
In a percentage of cases our mental health system is letting young people down and allowing them to drift into a life of crime. Also, there must be more co-operation between An Garda Síochána and Tulsa. Youth diversion programmes are proven to be very successful in reducing reoffending. The State has a responsibility to try to divert children from a path of crime should they commit offences at a young age. Increased illegal drug use is also a major factor in youth crime. Unfortunately, the usage of drugs is ever on the increase in both urban and rural settings.
Eight thousand reported crimes by children should not occur without a targeted and strategic response from the State. Shockingly, 57 of the child offenders referred to have since died, indicating that many of those participating in this programme experienced chaotic lives. There are many causes of youth crime. Therefore, the solutions must be multifaceted. To date, what has been happening is not working.
There must be a significant investigation into the role that mental health issues and the lack of services are playing in this problem. If we do not do that, we are sentencing young people to a life of exclusion and society will face increased crime levels.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann:" and substitute the following:
“notes that the Interim Report from the Garda Commissioner to the Policing Authority on the handling of youth crime cases during the period 25th July, 2010 to 28th July, 2017 has identified serious failings within An Garda Síochána, including failure to process the prosecution of almost 8,000 youth crimes and that:
- many of the young offenders who were not progressed continued to commit crime, and some went on to commit serious crimes;
- these included 55 serious offences including rape, sexual assault and child neglect;
- 57 of the child offenders since died, and that many of them lived chaotic lives
- most offences identified as not being acted upon are now time-barred on grounds of delay, and others may be contaminated by the poor process to date;
- the Garda Commissioner has described the failure to prosecute these youth offenders as a 'humiliating professional failure' for the force;
- the Policing Authority said that 'when there are no consequences for children who are unsuitable for the programme opportunities to help those children are missed. Children are failed and victims of crime are failed.';
- there are implications for the quality of Garda case management and data systems and that there are other concerns regarding Garda statistics; and
- this, and previous reports referring systemic and cultural issues within An Garda Síochána have serious implications for public confidence in the force;
- successive reports have recommended better interagency working, including between An Garda Síochána and Tusla, to address the complex socio-economic issues (including increased illegal drug use) that often underlie the involvement of children in crime;
- youth diversion programmes are proven to be very successful in reducing reoffending;
- the State has a responsibility to try to divert children from a path of crime and the existing legislative framework for these actions is provided in Part IV of the Children Act 2001 (as amended);
- lessons must be learned and strong strategic measures put in place to prevent further lack of follow-up on juvenile cases and to improve the response of An Garda Síochána and all relevant Departments and agencies to youth crime, and the factors which give rise to it; and
- the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI) provides a clear vision for a modern, highly professional, human-rights-based police service, focusing on a Garda organisation which works closely and collaboratively with communities and other agencies to keep communities safe and to prevent harm to vulnerable people; and supports:
- the Government’s commitment to the four-year implementation plan, ‘A Policing Service for the Future’, to give effect to the report of the CoFPI, which will address many of the issues highlighted in relation to youth crime, including improvements to systems, training, supervision, accountability and interagency working;
- the strong endorsement by the Chair of the Policing Authority and the Garda Commissioner of the work of the Juvenile Diversion Programme;
- the continuing work of the Garda authorities to clarify all aspects of the issues relating to youth crime and take necessary actions to prevent recurrence;
- the sincere apology issued by the Garda Commissioner and the steps being taken by An Garda Síochána to inform victims as well as the young offenders whose behaviour went unchallenged;
- the clear statement by the Garda Commissioner that all potential failings by individual Gardaí will be investigated and assessed with respect to any relevant disciplinary action;
- the rigorous examination of these matters by the Policing Authority and their ongoing work, in accordance with their statutory remit, to achieve a full explanation of what happened, assurance that comprehensive remedial actions are taken and bring all appropriate information into the public domain;
- the Government’s commitment to funding and enhancing, as far as possible, the operation of Garda Youth Diversion Projects, including training and best practice support for Youth Justice Workers, in consultation with the community and expert stakeholders, to provide services which address the needs and circumstances of children in all parts of the country; and
- the Government’s initiative to develop a new Youth Justice Strategy, assisted by an expert Steering Group, to provide a framework for policy development including consideration of legislation, arrangements to promote interagency working and oversight of policy implementation, and the implications for the most effective alignment of Ministerial and State agency responsibilities.”
I am making this opening statement on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, who will make his remarks in his reply to the debate. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is glad to have the opportunity to engage with Deputies, as he shares many of the concerns outlined in the motion. However, there are concerns about some elements of the motion and the Government is proposing an amendment. The revised text highlights strategic actions that are already in train which address many of the concerns raised in the motion. There are also some aspects of the motion where the proposed actions would be most unwise or where the wording of the it needs tightening up.
That being said, all of us in this House can agree that we are seriously concerned about the issues outlined by the Garda Commissioner regarding the handling of youth crime cases which were deemed unsuitable for inclusion in the juvenile diversion system. The Commissioner provided an interim report to the Policing Authority of a review of youth crime cases from 2010 to 2017. There is more work to be done to complete this review, so we do not have the final picture at this stage. However, it seems there were in the region of 160,000 youth crime cases in that period. Roughly one third of them were deemed unsuitable for the Garda diversion programme. Of those incidents deemed unsuitable, there appears to have been a failure to carry out a prosecution of almost 8,000 youth crime cases. It is completely unacceptable that failures in Garda systems, or by individual gardaí, would lead to a situation where crimes are not properly pursued. On that I have no doubt we are all in agreement.
The Government also agrees that action must be taken to address this situation thoroughly. This must be done not just in the interest of victims and the proper administration of justice, but also for the future welfare of the children and young people who become involved in crime.
However, the motion does not take account of the fact that most of the issues which it highlights are already being addressed in a focused and strategic manner through the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission for the Future of Policing in Ireland, which the Government has endorsed. We should bear in mind that the issues under discussion cover a seven-year period starting in 2010 and that enhancements to PULSE, commencing during 2015, have led to significant improvements in case management in the last few years. This was clearly set out in the Garda Commissioner’s presentation to the Policing Authority.
Fundamental issues identified in the Commissioner’s interim report include inadequate ICT, poor supervision, lack of training and possible individual failings. All Deputies will recall that similar concerns were highlighted in other Garda related reports and that the recommendations of the Commission on Future of Policing are aimed at addressing systematically the failings that have been identified. Having published a four-year implementation plan in December, we as a Government are now setting about putting those recommendations into effect. This is a key strategy to achieve lasting structural, administrative and cultural reform within An Garda Síochána. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, will discuss this in more detail in his reply to the debate.
The amendment underlines the importance of the Commission’s report and it also amends some of the details contained in the motion which was proposed. These include a call for a review to determine whether disciplinary action should be taken. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, agrees that it is very worrying that so many individual gardaí appear to have been at fault over the seven-year period. However, all Deputies will be aware that disciplinary issues within An Garda Síochána are a matter for the Commissioner and he has very clearly outlined the process that is being put in train to address this. Chief superintendents have been mandated by the Commissioner to assess if disciplinary action should be taken in each case. The Commissioner has also undertaken to update the Policing Authority on the outcome of this process. Understandably, the Commissioner has been reluctant to give any more details in relation to disciplinary measures so as not to do anything that might be seen to prejudice such actions. Clearly, such procedures must be allowed to take their course.
The motion contains a call for reporting to the Oireachtas on Garda oversight of youth crime. This would have the effect of subverting the statutory remit of the Policing Authority which operates according to legislation enacted by the Houses of the Oireachtas. It would also involve the Houses of the Oireachtas in direct monitoring of functions of An Garda Síochána. This would be entirely inappropriate and Deputies will be aware that the Commissioner is already subject to examination by Oireachtas committees.
The motion incorrectly attributes the serious failures to prosecute crimes as failures of the Garda diversion programme. The Garda failures in youth crime cases were related to cases deemed unsuitable for diversion and which were dealt with outside of the diversion programme. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, feels that the motion’s confusion of the diversion programme and Garda failures to prosecute could be construed as criticism of the very valuable work An Garda Síochána's juvenile liaison officers do and the community based Garda youth diversion projects. This would be most unfortunate. Over many years the diversion programme has helped thousands of young offenders turn away from crime and anti-social behaviour, and the Government greatly values this work, as I am sure all Members of the House do. Both the chair of the
Policing Authority and the Commissioner were very careful to acknowledge the value of the diversion programme and it is essential that the Dáil Éireann does so as well. Our amendment is framed accordingly.
The sustained focus which the Policing Authority is giving to this matter is very important to help us all understand what happened, why it happened and what is being done to fix it. The authority conducted a very rigorous public examination of the issue on 17 January and has made it clear that it will continue to probe the detail of what has happened, what is being done to rectify it and the implications for Garda crime management generally.
The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, believes that continuing engagement and monitoring by the Policing Authority is the best way for us all to verify that the errors made in the past will not be repeated. However, it will take some time before the full examination and verification of these matters is fully completed.
The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, shares the concerns expressed in the motion in relation to the 3,500 victims of the crimes in these cases. These included 2,500 individuals and 1,000 businesses or organisations. We have to accept that justice was not done in any of these cases. Clearly, people have been let down and have not received the support that should have been given to them by agents of the State. It was right and fitting that the Commissioner made a very full and sincere apology to the victims of these crimes when he addressed the Policing Authority.
An Garda Síochána has taken a number of steps to help the victims of these crimes. The first of these is a helpline which has been set up as a contact point for victims should they need support. Details of the helpline are available on the Garda website. An Garda Síochána has also issued letters to each of the victims. In some cases these letters have been hand delivered by members of the force, depending on the circumstances of the case. In addition to this, each of the victims can request a visit from a local Garda team from the Garda Victim Services Office to provide further information on their individual cases.
Another disturbing issue is the fact that most of the cases which went unprocessed will be statute barred due to the time delay. However, senior Garda managers are looking at the more recent individual cases to determine whether any further action can be taken. The Commissioner has also indicated that relevant discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions will take place as may be necessary and appropriate.
Despite some differences in the approach and some issues with the detail of the motion which has been proposed, there is substantial common ground among all Deputies in the House regarding to this matter. We all want a full explanation of why these very serious issues have arisen. We all want to see effective and reliable systems in place within An Garda Síochána. We all want the victims of crime to see justice done. We all want those children and young people who become involved in crime to have their behaviour challenged. I am sure we are also in agreement that those young people are also worthy of our best efforts to support them in finding a more positive path in their lives.
We look forward to having a positive debate in the House and very much value the input all Deputies make to the ongoing development of our youth justice policies. We are opposing the motion and have moved a Government amendment. Deputies will note we are proposing to keep as much of the spirit and language of the original motion as possible and I hope the House will be able to unite around the revised text that we are proposing.
I thank the Fianna Fáil Deputies for tabling the motion. The issue of youth justice is complex. Nuance and balance are required when dealing with it. To be fair to Deputy O'Callaghan, I think that has largely been achieved in the motion. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, has identified that one or two of the phrases used could be worded better because it indicates more responsibility for the programme than is necessarily the case, but I think the spirit of it is generally correct. There was clearly an issue relating to youth justice and how these cases were progressed. An element of restraint has been shown in the wording of this motion. I hope Deputies, when contributing, will show a similar level of restraint and understanding of the balance and complexity of this issue, none of which is to say that any of this is by any means a light matter.
The statement made by Bob Collins of the Policing Authority was significant. He said that in the three years of the existence of the Policing Authority, this is the most serious issue that has arisen. When one considers some of the issues that have been discussed by the Policing Authority over those years, that is quite a statement. It is unacceptable that 7,894 reported crimes committed by more than 3,500 children and young people were not dealt with. As previous speakers noted, the children in question were failed in this instance as were, more significantly, those against whom the crimes were committed. Some 75% of these cases fall into four crime categories, namely: public order; theft; traffic; and criminal damage. These were significant crimes but the 55 or so that involved extremely serious offences were even more significant. They included rape, sexual assault, child neglect and a number of serious assaults.
On Question Time earlier, I stated that my understanding of the system is that to be referred to a youth diversion project, a person has to accept responsibility for his or her actions. If that person does not do so, he or she goes straight to the standard youth justice and prosecution system. This does not necessarily mean jail time but responsibility has to be accepted. If one accepts responsibility, it is then a matter for the Garda juvenile liaison officer and the arresting officer to discuss whether the young person is suitable to go into the youth diversion project. That might be refused for a number of reasons, including the views of the victim, the frequency with which the person involved had offended previously or the seriousness of the offence. Other factors are also taken into account but those to which I refer are the principal ones.
There were people who accepted responsibility for very serious crimes and were not properly prosecuted. I do not know if that element has been properly reflected upon. The young people we are discussing in the context of the motion accepted responsibility for their actions and that they were culpable. That is extraordinary. It must be deeply upsetting for the victims of assault, sexual assault or rape that the perpetrators had accepted responsibility but, because the cases did not end up in the system with the youth diversion projects, they were somehow not progressed and the files were left on shelves to gather dust. It is right that all the victims have been apologised to in writing. However, what happened is scandalous.
It has been suggested that some of the difficulty arose due to the fact that at one point there was a centralised system in which all names of the relevant young offenders or the juveniles were kept. This was replaced, for potentially good reasons, by a system where there had to be a dialogue between the juvenile liaison officer and the arresting officer who was potentially dealing with any amount of other cases, both juvenile and adult. This requirement for constant feedback meant that a significant number of cases fell through the gaps. I have seen that reported. If it is the Minister of State's view that this is one of the contributing factors, I would be interested in hearing how we can deal with it. There are systemic issues relating to case management and, potentially, resources which need to be resolved. There seems to have been an equivalence between areas that were under resource pressures and those which had high numbers of cases that were not progressed. The latter indicates the existence of resource issues but it is clear that there were also systemic issues because there appear to have been difficulties across the country.
That does not in any way excuse individual gardaí for their failings. Their job is to prevent crime, to seek to prosecute those responsible for the commission of crime and to deal with other matters. This job lies at the heart of their responsibility and if they are aware of and neglecting cases which they know involve serious criminal conduct and which are not being progressed, that is seriously unprofessional and a form of misconduct which I hope will be treated seriously. The extent of disciplinary action on professional failure could vary. There could be a relatively minimal move on the more modest end of the scale but there could also be serious disciplinary issues. I want the Minister of State to assure the House that those responsible for the most serious breaches will be properly disciplined. There is value in carrying out a review in order to identify the reason for the systemic failures.
I have addressed the point about the serious implications for the victims of crime but the motion also recognises that these children were failed. They were ignored by the system and it is noted in the motion that 57 of the child offenders involved in the crimes committed between 2010 and 2017 have since died. The eldest of those people who have fallen through the gaps would surely only be in his or her late 20s or early 30s. These are not elderly people by any means and 57 of them have died. This shows that they were failed because they were not retained in the system and their lives continued along a chaotic and, ultimately, very sad path. That is not to minimise any of the crimes that they might have been responsible for but these people deserved to be kept within the system and to be monitored.
Youth diversion projects may not be perfect but they work. We need more of these projects and we need more investment in them. I have seen them first hand. Individuals with whom I grew up benefited from these project and have now gone back to education to pursue third-level degrees, work in trades and work full-time. They are living perfectly good lives. Garda youth diversion projects have ensured that they did not go down the route they could have gone down, of a chaotic life of crime. That has to be reflected upon. They may not be perfect but, by and large, the research shows that they work and that we need more investment in them.
Tá mé an-bhuíoch d’Fhianna Fáil as ucht an deis labhairt ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo. I have regularly spoken about some of the activities in question, such as joyriding and the use of quads and scramblers in built-up areas and public parks. My constituency, Dublin North-West is affected by a high level of juvenile crime and anti-social activities. I have also spoken about the rise in the use of young people as drug mules. Juvenile crime and anti-social activity can be a source of great annoyance, stress, disruption and harm to our communities. It impacts mainly on families and the elderly and holds our communities virtually to ransom. My experience in Dublin North-West is that the Garda youth diversion projects have been quite successful and are a good way to tackle youth crime and anti-social activity.
This is why I find it very disappointing to learn that there has been a systems failure across the constituency as well as the country in that thousands of young people involved in crime and anti-social activity have managed to fall through the cracks of the judicial system and that these young people are seemingly almost untouchable. This has clearly had an impact on local communities and has added to the frustration they feel as they see some young people basically doing what they want and getting away with it. This perception of being untouchable can also encourage other young people to get involved in crime and anti-social activity without fear of any sanction. Immediate action needs to be taken by the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice and Equality to correct both the systems failure that has been identified and the human failures that have been exposed in this latest scandal.
There are a number of issues raised by this motion that spring straight to mind. I was contacted by email in late 2016 by a constituent about her daughter's situation. The latter travelled by bus with her friends to an underage disco, with some of them drinking on the bus. When she arrived, she was dragged down an alleyway by a number of boys and sexually assaulted. One of the boys in the midst of the assault said, "No. Stop this." He wanted to stop it and pulled away. All of this was caught on CCTV cameras, there were witnesses, the Garda was called, the girl was taken to hospital and all the evidence was there, yet, to the dismay of her mother and herself, it was to the juvenile programme that these three lads were sent and they received only a caution. It states at the end of this email that this destroyed the girl's life, she suffered from post-traumatic stress and she failed her leaving certificate. When she looked on Facebook with her friends, however, she saw the lads who did this enjoying themselves in the community and saw that everything was fine in their lives, yet her life had been destroyed. This mother has done an awful lot of work over the past two years. Her point is that those who commit sexual assault, regardless of age, should not be part of this programme and that something needs to be done to recognise this. We often say someone is in the horrors. This family has been in the horrors since this happened a number of years ago. The girl's younger siblings, who are now teenagers, have grown up to know about this and their mother is worried that if they meet these lads out in a bar or a disco or something, there will be a row and more bad things will happen as a consequence. At the core of all this is that the assault was not dealt with appropriately from the point of the view of the victim, her family or indeed the perpetrators' families.
When I heard a week or two ago of this case coming up before the Policing Authority and what had happened, it brought it all back to me. I said to myself, "Jesus, I raised this with Deputy Frances Fitzgerald two years ago", when I was told the diversion programme was a great programme and everything was fine. At some point or other responsibility must be taken here as to how this has happened. The one thing that needs to come out of this is that sexual assault cases cannot go down this path, and I say this to the Minister of State directly. I would like the Minister or the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, or both of them, to meet this woman and talk to her about her experience. If they do so, perhaps they will start to do the right thing about this. I am not blaming the Minister of State or the Minister in particular, but this situation has gone on for many years. I have talked to a number of other constituents of mine who have had similar experiences, although not at all as severe or as problematic as the case to which I have referred. Young people have carried out serious crimes in the community and these constituents feel they were not dealt with appropriately. I understand gardaí are under stress and at times under-resourced and that all these issues are ongoing, but when we see systematic failure, which is what we see here, it needs to be acknowledged and someone needs to stand up and say it needs to end. That is the one thing I am asking to come out of this. This was a serious sexual assault. I understand there are a number of other such cases. They can no longer be dealt with through the juvenile diversion programme.
I rise to support the motion. On a positive note, I acknowledge some of the changes under way in light of recent reports on the handling of specific cases. We must acknowledge in a positive light the good work the Garda youth diversion office does. We believe strongly that one of the greatest interventions that could be made regarding youth diversion is at the community level. I tabled a question to the Minister about the number of community gardaí in the State in May of this year. I recognise that these figures might have been revised upwards in the intervening period, but my tally of the tabular figures I received is that there are 715 in the State in total and that there are large swathes of the country, such as Laois-Offaly, where there are no community gardaí. In Kildare there are four and in Meath there are eight. There is a large concentration in Dublin but, given Dublin's population, it is probably still underserved as well. In the short time I have I ask that the Minister of State, when replying, gives us some assurances about the resources that are deployed to ensure there are more community gardaí on the ground forming relationships and ensuring that the diversion programmes are working. There is obviously a need to ensure we try to stave off the potential for crime to be committed. This is all based on a strong relationship between an individual community and the garda who serves it.
I also want to speak to whether the figures are being understated. I do not wish to revise for the House the issues regarding the historical problems with PULSE. I have tabled questions about knife crime, and I think it is fair by any rational consideration to assume that most knife crime would traverse the areas covered by youth diversion. I acknowledge that there is some work ongoing on the part of the Central Statistics Office and that someone has been appointed by the Garda Commissioner at assistant commissioner level to interact with the CSO to ensure the figures put out in the public domain are accurate. I speak to the specific issue of knife crime because it has gained a lot of traction within society in the recent past and is becoming a phenomenon to which we have become almost desensitised. If the Minister of State responds, he might tell us about the status of the process in respect of an individual garda recording a knife crime on the PULSE system, how that gets translated regarding the interpretation of the relevant legislation and how it gets recorded in the statistics. I fear the statistics are under-representing the true extent of these crimes. I also perceive there could be, or possibly should be, greater urgency on the part of An Garda Síochána to work with the CSO. For too long we have had figures put out into the public domain, or not, with a reservation attached to them on the basis of - these are my words - perhaps a lack of trust in the mechanism to record these crimes on the PULSE system.
I acknowledge that the State has increased the number of Garda personnel, but if more can be done to increase the numbers at community garda level, it would have a beneficial effect on the relationships on the ground between communities and the gardaí, do a lot to reduce these figures further and stave off this phenomenon and do a lot for youth diversion.
I want to start with a comment the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris made about the report to the Policing Authority. It is reflective of the debate we are going to have. Commissioner Harris said that we should have done better by young people who were "in the main, vulnerable children". That says everything about the report.
The motion touches on some serious incidents that happened between 2010 and 2012. It is obvious to anybody who has read it, or who has read about the failings of the Garda youth diversion project, that there were governance failings of a serious nature, which one could only call systematic and institutionalised failures on behalf of the programme and the police themselves. Some of the offences that were committed and never prosecuted through the criminal justice system were heinous crimes. It was a catalogue of failures from the beginning to the end for both the victims and the children involved.
Other Deputies have touched on this, and this is not to demean or trivialise the people who were the victims of these crimes, but I was shocked to read, in the motion, that 57 of the children accused of offences have died since 2010. Those children are gone. They must have lived chaotic lives if that was the outcome. Everybody will agree that is shocking.
There are 105 youth diversion projects in Ireland. I will refer to two with which I am familiar in the area of Neilstown where I am from and where I grew up. There was not a lot to do there for young people. There were no community facilities and some people got in trouble with the police and so forth. The GRAFT and VALLEY projects are in operation in the north Clondalkin area and their rate of reoffending is extremely low. Those programmes engage with many people who are referred by juvenile liaison officers. These projects have been good at diverting people away from the criminal justice system.
There are also late night football leagues in Dublin and other counties, another initiative of the youth diversion project. Late night football leagues exist in 16 counties and they are positive. They provide indoor and outdoor football facilities for children and young people particularly on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 8 p.m. and midnight. They have been successful in getting young people away from vulnerable situations.
We need to go further than the motion. We must look at the grave inequalities in society and issues which disproportionately affect working class communities. A mistake that people in society make is to demonise young people. It is wrong to associate anti-social behaviour with young people because young people then grow through their early adult years thinking that everything they do is anti-social. What the banks did to this country is much more anti-social than the behaviour of young people. We need to challenge the inequalities in society and that is something that will not be done by a motion or an inquiry. That has to be done politically. It is good that we are having the debate and, hopefully, the failures of the police will never happen again.
We will have three minutes each. I hope the Garda Commissioner will come before the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in order that we can discuss the latest debacle in the juvenile crime statistics. In common with, say, the breath test shambles, and all the others, I will start by thanking God for good gardaí. This report and this issue would not have come to light were it not for the actions of one good garda, in this case a garda working in community engagement, who asked the professional standards unit of the force to examine the youth diversion programme in 2014. The Minister of State, in his closing contribution, might address why it took five years from the time of that request for us to get to where we are now. The headline figure is from an interim report and I guess the reason for the delay is a combination of the fact that record keeping and storage within the Garda is chaotic and, when it comes to scandals, the Garda likes to stagger them. We had the homicide scandal last year so it would not have done to add this scandal at that time.
This scandal has not generated the headlines it should. I assumed young people not being prosecuted for serious crimes was catnip for most of the media but it seems it is not. The media might be fed up with all the scandals. We have let down not just the victims of crime but also the young people who were to be diverted from a path of crime by the youth diversion programme. That was its whole purpose. The lack of early intervention muddies that water.
We do not have a clue about crime statistics in Ireland because of the poor statistic keeping of the Garda. We do not know the information about how we compare nationally, how likely it is that a victim of crime will get justice or whether some crimes are more easily prosecuted than others. We do not know. The crime figures still come with a warning, five years on, which is reprehensible.
The root cause and one of the key planks of that is the appalling IT resources at the disposal of the Garda and the poor quality of PULSE, which Deputy Wallace has highlighted on numerous occasions, as well as Accenture's contracts with An Garda Síochána. It is past time that we had clarity on these issues because the IT system is clearly not fit for purpose. Millions of euro are being spent every year in return for a system that cannot even retain basic records. I hope the Garda Commissioner comes before the committee because we need answers. We are failing all levels of society with our failure to keep proper records.
I support any programme that is an alternative to prison and the youth diversion programme is an excellent example of this but, unfortunately, like many progressive programmes, it is underfunded. Some €14 million was allocated in 2018 but more is obviously needed.
The programme allows young people suspected of a crime, who then accept responsibility for it, to get off with a police caution instead of prosecution. One must, therefore, admit the crime one is accused of to be allowed entry to the programme, while re-offenders are unlikely to be allowed partake in the programme. It is worrying that, of the 55,506 referrals deemed unsuitable for the youth diversion programme, 7,894 were not progressed due to basic Garda incompetence. The State should have fully investigated and, if need be, prosecuted these offences, for the sake of the victims, but also for the sake of the accused children, although one will not read that in any of the newspapers. We sometimes appear to forget that one is innocent until proven guilty. It is possible that if the Garda had progressed these 7,894 suspected crimes through the criminal justice system, some of the accused would have been found not guilty. Commissioner Drew Harris rightly called them "suspected crimes" at the Policing Authority and we should not forget that.
Of the 7,894 suspected offences that were not progressed, 1,635 were public order offences, while 385 were for trespassing in yards or curtilage. It begs the question of whether we need to consider re-examining some of the legislation governing offences.
Section 5(1) of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 makes it an offence for anyone in a public place to engage in offensive conduct between the hours of 12 midnight and 7 a.m., or at any time after having been requested by a member of An Garda Síochána to desist. Should young people be arrested and charged for making noise?
I understand anti-social behaviour is annoying to some but wasting money prosecuting offences like these does not seem logical to me. Why not create a community service-type regime instead? As the Minister of State knows, I have done some community service. It is a powerful system and it makes a lot of sense. The Government can say it has it but until it actually funds it and structures it properly, we do not really have it. Other countries structure it and fund it. It is possible but we are not doing it. Of the 7,894 crimes that were not followed up on, 55 were serious crimes, including one rape. How many gardaí were involved in the decision not to progress this alleged offence through the criminal justice system? Surely it was more than one liaison officer. Commissioner Harris told the Policing Authority that 3,400 gardaí were involved in the offences that were not followed up on. Will he be able to discipline every one? Probably not. I do not envy him his job but from what I have seen to date his handling of it has been positive. There is a lot of work in this area. It is not an area we have put enough thought or resources into. It is something that deserves a bit of work on our end.
I thank Fianna Fáil and particularly Deputy O'Callaghan for tabling this motion. I welcome the opportunity to make a brief contribution on it. We are not talking about the youth diversion programme, which is a brilliant programme. It is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the young people who did not fit into that programme, who committed crimes ranging from public order offences to very serious crimes such as rape and who were not followed up on. In total, there were 7,894 crimes committed by 3,489 children. That is what we are talking about here. We are talking about how it happened, how it was discovered, how long it took and what we are going to do about it. It has already been mentioned that a very brave and public-minded garda raised this issue in the first place and asked for the professional standards unit to come in, which it did. Those inquiries took from October 2015 to June 2017. I do not know how it could have taken that long. It is a question. There was a nationwide probe which took from July 2017 until January 2019 to report. We should have that report before us but we do not.
Our sympathy goes to the victims who suffered and to those victims who did not come forward and give a statement which is the greater number in terms of the crimes that were not prosecuted. Of the children who were ignored and not followed up on, 57 have died. The Policing Authority has rightly expressed sympathy for both the victims and for the children who committed the crimes that were not followed up. It is an indictment of our society. It is only a small subsection of the numbers that have been given out today. We are doing something seriously wrong. How many of the crimes that were not followed up were reported as solved? I understand a substantial number were recorded by the Garda as detected or solved. Am I wrong about that? That is what was reported in the press? It is very worrying in the context of the Charleton tribunal, which we have just completed, and which talked about honesty, visibility, pride and obligations. He listed out the seven obligations on gardaí. There have been various problems with statistics, including on penalty points and breathalysing and domestic violence. In a recent sample on domestic violence statistics, we found the figures were most unreliable. The Central Statistics Office suspended entirely the publication of crime data back in 2017. It has resumed it again but only with caution. It has serious concerns about it. These are the issues that jump out for me with regard to this matter.
When it comes to statistics, I have told the Minister of State and other Ministers before that I do not rely on statistics because it is of great concern that an awful lot of crime is unreported. That is a fact. I did my own check one time and I was frightened by the result I got. Probably more than half of crime is not reported because people do not see the value in reporting it. I would like to send out the message loud and clear, as I know the Minister of State would, that every crime, no matter how minor, should be reported because the gardaí can only work with accurate statistics and they are not accurate if crimes are not being reported. The way we are dealing with this issue and why it is coming before the House is of tremendous importance. When we are dealing with juvenile crime, as with any crime, we are trying to stop it. We are trying to ensure people will be safe and happy in their homes. We see it in the courts every day. Small juvenile crime grows and escalates and young people come into a life of crime. The perpetrators of juvenile crime go on to become adults engaging in worse and more heinous crimes. We have to be accurate about what we are doing. We have to deal with the statistics properly and try to put the resources in to stop further crime being committed and to try to ensure people will be safe. We should have zero tolerance. I always refer to an instance where our late mother was mugged in Spain. It happened on a Sunday and on Wednesday she was taken into a court where a man got 12 months in jail for stealing her handbag. The message from the judge was he would not tolerate that type of nonsense especially against an elderly person. That was the message over there. Why should we not have it here?
I am aware juvenile crime continues to be a major problem in Ireland. Roughly one in ten offences is committed by children. I say with my hand on my heart that in my constituency of west Cork youth crime is not the issue it is in other parts of the country. I do not shy away from the fact that in some towns and villages and various areas of west Cork, we have a certain level of youth crime. Overall we have a very honest community of proactive youths in west Cork. In saying that, I commend the work of the gardaí. One initiative in west Cork is the Garda youth awards which encourage and gives recognition to the positive actions of our youth in local communities. I had the pleasure of attending the 23rd annual west Cork Garda youth awards last November in the Beara Coast Hotel in Castletownbere. It was a truly enjoyable evening and I saw 19 awards being presented to young people from various backgrounds who all contributed to their local communities in various ways. It was not my first time attending the Garda youth awards and each year I am amazed by how much these young people are doing in their local communities. I strongly believe initiatives like the Garda youth awards help to keep young people on the straight and narrow. It helps them to get a sense of reward from contributing to their local community. Further to this, the Garda youth awards help our local gardaí to form a positive relationship with the youth in the area and to keep young people out of trouble. The role of the gardaí in rural Ireland is very important in crime prevention. Gardaí work hand in hand with the local community and community groups. I can see first-hand the tremendous work carried out by our rural gardaí. I and many others value the work they do in rural Ireland and throughout west Cork. This is one of the main reasons I have fought so relentlessly to keep our rural Garda stations open. The prolonged closure of rural Garda stations around the country is without a doubt a big factor in the increase in anti-social behaviour among our youths. In west Cork, I have seen a number of Garda stations close, including Castletownshend, Ballygurteen, Goleen, Adrigole and Ballinspittle. During the talks to form a Government, I, along with the other Rural Independent Deputies, highlighted the mistake that was made by the last Fine Gael-Labour Party Government in closing the rural Garda stations. During those talks, it was agreed by the present Government to reopen a number of Garda stations. By agreeing to reopen a number of Garda stations, mainly in rural Ireland, the Government acknowledged the wrong that was done. Unfortunately, the Government has continued to make the decisions that make life very difficult for young people in rural Ireland. We are still urgently awaiting the opening of Ballinspittle Garda station. We have been told it will happen in one month and then another month but I want an exact date. I would like to get an exact date from the Minister of State tonight. It is vital that all our rural Garda stations reopen in order to allow us to nip crime in the bud and work with young people. Young people in the community are great but they are being treated terribly by the Minister, Deputy Ross, and his carry-on with his legislation that will throw them off the road. There is no resolution with regard to driver tests. There are many issues that are anti-youth and which need to be tackled by the Government rather than coming down on the people of Ireland.
I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate. We, as a society, cannot tolerate or condone crime by juveniles or others, especially serious crimes involving robbing or beating up elderly people. There is a case here of one rape; that is not to be tolerated. We cannot accept those kinds of things. People may criticise the Garda for not prosecuting these crimes, but gardaí are doing their level best. We must go forward; we cannot keep going backwards all the time.
Social farming is a great initiative is being offered in Kerry for people with disabilities. It is being operated by South Kerry Development Partnership, involving especially Joseph McCrohan, Noel Spillane, George Kelly and Eamon Horgan in Kilgarvan. Many youngsters are brought up in an environment with no connection to nature and animals, and are not aware of how little there is between something being alive or dead. My uncle used to say there is only the breadth of one nail between being dead and alive. This is a great initiative where people with disabilities are taken out to farms and get to see nature. They see sheep having lambs, cows having calves, and horses and donkeys having foals.
While I am not saying assaults are minor, where minor crimes are being committed, perhaps these youngsters should be taken out to see nature and understand what it takes to survive or stay alive and then maybe we would not see many of the serious assaults we are seeing today, some of which even involving people ending up dead. It is a great new initiative that has not yet been delivered in other parts of the country. The Government should explore it to see what could be done to get youngsters out of a routine of violence and hatred. It could play a vital role in changing their attitudes.
I thank Fianna Fáil for tabling this important motion. We have not discussed juvenile crime in the House for some time. Many of us were waiting for the audit to be completed and the report released. To a large extent we are still talking in a vacuum because we have not got our hands on the final report yet. While it was completed some time ago, all kinds of excuses were used for delaying the release of the report - double-checking it, going to various people to see beforehand and then going to the Policing Authority. The authority has had its hearings and I do not know why the report still has not been published. Why do we not have all the details involved in this?
For a long time I have been conscious of this issue in my constituency and as a public representative. The same applies to most constituencies but particularly urban ones, where there is a sense at community level that nobody is taking the issue of juvenile crime seriously. This has been the case for a long time. I was digging out stuff on the matter and found newspaper articles I had written 25 years ago. Little has changed in that time. We have the hangover from our historical failures relating to children.
There remains little understanding of the principle of prevention, even in more recent times. That applies particularly to the Department of Justice and Equality. That Department deals with very high profile matters - the Garda, the courts, the Prison Service, etc. However, if we were clever and fair about things, the emphasis would be on prevention at the earliest possible stage. It is almost a cliché to say that teachers can identify in junior infants the kids who are likely to end up before the courts. The kinds of issues that result in a young person going off the rails and getting involved in petty crime, such as anti-social behaviour, far too often lead on to involvement in much more serious crime. Those circumstances can be identified at a very early stage.
It took us a long time to come to the conclusion that we needed a Department and a Minister dedicated to children. When that was finally established, there are still major problems with the whole preventive area. For example, the CAMHS waiting lists for young people are shocking. Many of these young people have mental health problems and experience family dysfunction. There is a lack of family support services. This is not rocket science. To tackle the problems of crime, we need to start at the earliest possible stage. That means putting in family support in cases where there is dysfunction, mental health problems and severe problems of poverty which lead to all kinds of social issues. There is a major failing in the provision of family support services.
There is also failure when it comes to health services and mental health services, in particular. The other safety net that used to exist was having a reasonably well-functioning school-attendance service. Failure to attend school is one of the earliest indicators of a problem in a young person's life. The service is pretty well non-existent in certain areas at this stage. I recently tried to check out how it allocates its limited staff. There seems to be no rationale to how the staff are allocated through the school attendance service. Staff are allocated to areas where it is clear there is little need while limited staff numbers are allocated to areas with obvious need. Those early safety nets that should be in place do not exist or are seriously lacking in many areas.
When it comes to the justice area, many of us are aware of a sense within communities of growing lawlessness among young people and shoulder shrugging by the authorities because they simply do not know how to deal with it. That has been the case with the Garda increasingly in recent years. Previously the local inspector or superintendent would deal with a young person who was causing trouble. They would call down to speak to the young person; they would call their parents or call the parents in. If necessary, they would then take action.
That system changed a few years ago and we now have the national office. With the development of the national office came an appreciable deterioration in services locally. I regularly attend four different safety forums in my constituency with gardaí, local authority officials and community representatives. The constant refrain at those meetings relates to what to do about the young people who are out of control. They are driving motorbikes, scramblers and quad bikes. They are involved in horses, stealing cars, threatening behaviour and damage to public property - all kinds of serious enough anti-social activity. That is having an impact on their community and there is a sense of helplessness on the part of the authorities. One would hear of cases being referred, that there is a new system and that it not the same as it used to be. There are always excuses. Of course the failure to respond to those early stages of young people getting involved in trouble does them a serious disservice with their issues not being picked up. The approach of prevention is not in practice there.
Those young people have been allowed to go on to get involved in much more serious crime. The message that sends to their peers is absolutely appalling. There are many communities in which decent young people from decent families who want to do well in life look around them and say to themselves that they are stupid. They think they are stupid for not getting involved in crime because they see their neighbours or lads they went to school with getting involved in crime and having plenty of money to spend. Increasingly in recent years, there has been an awareness of the fact that gardaí were not tackling these problems and, as a result, there has been a very substantial increase in the use of minors as both drug runners and dealers. The more senior drug dealers knew from experience that young people were untouchable and above the law. That was the strong sense that pervaded.
The failure of the Department of Justice and Equality to deal with the problem of juvenile crime has created many different victims. There are many people paying a price for this. This is not just an academic issue or a question of figures, it is real-world stuff. The victims of the 8,000 crimes that were not dealt with properly are paying the price, as are the young people who should have been met with the proper response and prevented from getting involved in more serious crime. Their future victims will also pay a price for the failure of the Department. Communities are also paying a very serious price because a sense of lawlessness has now taken firm grip in many of our communities which must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
Obviously, key to all of this is the need to make reparation for the failures of the Department and An Garda Síochána. There is an urgent need for An Garda Síochána to address this problem and to respond directly to the victims. Compensation issues also arise. There is a real need to restore a reasonable level of coverage and staffing at community garda level. Figures I obtained recently show that the community garda service has been decimated in recent years. Unless we put our money where our mouth is and commit to supporting community gardaí and getting this service right, nipping these problems in the bud and restoring a sense of law and order in communities across the country, we might as well throw our hands up in the air and walk away. This represents a huge failure. We need details on particular areas and the extent to which there was a failure to do their job on the part of gardaí in particular districts.
I thank my colleague, Deputy O'Callaghan, for tabling this motion, although it gives me no pleasure to speak on it. This is a very serious issue that does not reflect well on the professionalism of An Garda Síochána. However, the fact that the Garda Commissioner stated that this is a "humiliating professional failure" is at least an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the issue. I hope that acknowledgement is used to develop a proper understanding of what has happened here. We have been given some figures, to which I will allude presently, but as previous speakers indicated, the full report has not been made available. We need to understand how these mistakes happened, what caused them and how we can ensure that this type of thing does not happen again.
The scale of this is significant. The data provided from the review of the youth diversion programme covers the period from 2010 to 2017. A total of 158,000 youth referrals relating to 57,000 individual children were examined and the review found that 8,000 referrals had not been appropriately progressed. These figures are staggering. We are not talking here about an individual making a mistake. As other Deputies stated, this was systemic. It is really important that the report underpinning these figures be published in full. I have no doubt that this matter will be on the agenda of the Dáil again and we will be seeking further clarity and assurances that the lessons learned from this report are implemented to ensure that this type of thing cannot happen again.
This is not about statistics. These mistakes or failings have had a significant impact on many people. It is worth noting that 57 of the young offenders involved have died. We do not know the circumstances of their deaths but I suspect that some of them were probably drug-related. I also have a feeling that had they been identified and dealt with properly through the youth diversion programme, many could be alive today. Thousands of other young offenders were not processed properly and went on to reoffend in more serious ways. Again, their lives could have been significantly different had the system not failed them. We also have all the victims of their crimes. Had the young people involved in these 8,000 offences been detected and referred appropriately in the beginning, then thousands of people would not have been the victims of crime. The consequences of the failings are very significant.
The figures in this report relate specifically to information that was on the PULSE system. Others have stated - and I concur - that there is a serious concern that all crimes reported do not end up on the PULSE system for one reason or another. These figures, because they are based on PULSE data, are probably reflective of the minimum number of incidents. I suspect there are other offences that which place but which were not reported or recorded. When one attends joint policing committee, JPC, meetings, one hears details of reported crime statistics and so forth which often bear no resemblance to the experience on the ground.
In the context of drug dealing, juvenile crime has changed significantly. A decade or more ago, street dealing was done discreetly but is now done openly. Many of those involved in dealing drugs on our streets and in our parks are juveniles. I do not know if they feel that nothing is going to happen to them or that they will get away with it but they are causing untold damage to their own communities. I also understand that, as juveniles, they are victims themselves. The whole emphasis of drug dealing has shifted in terms of how it is happening in our communities and in the context of the response of An Garda Síochána. There was a time when we had community policing and local drugs units but the numbers in those units have reduced drastically. This may be due to the fact that many Garda resources have been diverted to the national units. Make no mistake about it, communities are being devastated by on-street drug dealing which results in fear, intimidation, harassment and anti-social behaviour and we must look at how the resources of An Garda Síochána are deployed to tackle it.
I thank Deputy O'Callaghan for giving me the opportunity to speak on this issue. When I read of this report and heard the comments of the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, I was quite shocked. As Deputy Curran stated, we do not want to be talking about the fact that almost 8,000 crimes were not properly actioned or that more than 3,800 of the children involved had committed more than one offence. The youth diversion programme is a great system that must be strengthened further. While this debate is not about that programme, we must think about the resources devoted to it.
In terms of the statistics, I wish to focus on assaults on minors, which represented 3% of the reported incidents. Assaults on minors by minors can include, for example, a young lad getting a slap at a disco. What effect does that have on the young victim?
He knows something should have been done and that this was a wrong done to him but because there was no follow up action, when he next wants to go to the youth disco, he will be nervous that the young lads who perpetrated the previous act on him will be there waiting for him even though he might just have been a random victim of a couple of lads. If a Garda liaison officer, GLO, is assigned to deal with an issue on the day it happens the situation might not escalate. When a GLO makes an intervention, the perpetrator becomes aware that he or she has committed a wrongdoing, admits it and apologises, the victim knows that the person who committed the crime has acknowledged the wrongdoing, and a pathway is created. This provides comfort for the mothers of both families. It provides comfort to the mother of the child who is the victim to know that the law works and protects and also for the other mother who does not want her child to go down the wrong road to know that somebody is watching out for her child and there is a pathway to prevent situations getting worse.
Approximately one year ago I brought forward a Bill to introduce Fagin's law. I sought to introduce Fagin's law for many of the reasons discussed here this evening, including to protect young people who get involved in drug activity and become runners. These young people are not just statistics. We need to protect them. Without early intervention, problems escalate out of control. An Garda Síochána, unfortunately, has come out of this in a poor light. On the up side, the commentary and acknowledgement of the issue by the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Drew Harris, has been positive. While it is welcome, what is important now is how this matter is progressed, how An Garda Síochána can be strengthened and how we can get community policing into our schools. We need the Garda to go into our schools to explain how the law works in the case of 16 year olds and 17 year olds. Pupils need to know that every action has a reaction and they need to know how to be protected. We are not doing that. There are not enough Garda visits to our schools. When a minor incident occurs in a school there is no designated person to whom a pupil can go who can tell him or her that it should not have happened. That is a big piece of this jigsaw and, probably, the most simplest piece of it. There is buy-in from the Garda, the parents and the schools. Earlier, I mentioned the two mothers. Those two mothers need to know that there is somebody supporting them. This is what Fianna Fáil is looking for.
I commend Deputy O'Callaghan on bringing forward this motion. This is a vast and varied area but there are solutions that do not require huge investment. We need to start providing wrap around services and more GLOs because a lot of good work could be done in terms of prevention.
Deputy Rabbitte made a huge amount of sense in her remarks. I thank Fianna Fáil for bringing forward this important motion and I acknowledge the contributions made by Deputies on this serious issue. As stated earlier by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, we are treating this matter seriously. I acknowledge the motion. The Government's counter motion provides a more secure path to ensuring that these concerns are fully addressed. There is not much difference between the motion and counter motion. We wanted to retain the spirit of the motion brought forward. Perhaps Deputies opposite will agree the counter motion such that we can be united on this matter.
In the time available to me there are number of issues I would like to discuss. The motion refers to the implications for the Garda crime data of the failure to progress youth crime cases. The information provided in the Commissioner's interim report indicates that these cases would have been recorded as "Detected" on PULSE, even though no action was being taken. The implications of this for Garda crime data will have to be examined and the Commissioner indicated that this will be pursued with the CSO, which produce the official recorded crime statistics. The Policing Authority has already indicated that it intends to examine the broader issue of the quality of crime case management, prosecution and in data recorded. It has made clear that it will continue to monitor this matter as it evolves, and I welcome its vigilance in this regard. It is very important.
I want to re-emphasise the considered strategic approach which the Government is taking in relation to the reform and modernisation of An Garda Síochána. The four year high level plan, A Policing Service for the Future, sets out the approach to implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. The plan provides a carefully considered strategic approach to addressing the serious issues that have emerged in regard to youth crime case management. It will also provide the framework to address other concerns, including any further issues arising from the continuing Garda review process on youth crime and the broader range of issues which are under ongoing examination by the Policing Authority. I compliment the Policing Authority's examination of the matter. The authority is best placed to do this work and it is doing a good job in my view. I also compliment the Garda Commissioner and his team on the manner in which they dealt with it once it was discovered.
On 18 December 2018, the Government endorsed the commission's report and agreed to accept all the 157 key recommendations, including those related to the Garda Reserve. The four year high level implementation plan was published on the same day. The plan sets the right vision for Ireland to maintain and enhance public trust in policing and to address current challenges. It will also enable An Garda Síochána to meet future challenges. As recommended in the commission's report the implementation group on policing reform has been established under an independent chair, Ms Helen Ryan, and is supported by a high level steering committee and programme office within the Department of the Taoiseach. The high level implementation plan, which has been prepared with the input of the implementation group on policing reform sets out an ambitious but realistic four year plan for the implementation of the recommendations. The actions identified will transform how policing services are delivered. Most important, local front-line policing will be placed at the core of our police service, ensuring that gardaí are more visible in communities. I understand the Garda Commissioner has said that every Garda should be a community garda. The importance of community policing was emphasised by colleagues in this debate. The plan will also deliver a professional, modern and effective police service that is well managed, efficient and cost effective, properly equipped and trained, with a strong ethical core and accountable to the people.
My Department has a particular focus on advancing the legislation required to underpin a number of the recommendations. The policing and community safety Bill will be a particular priority. This will redefine policing to include prevention of harm to vulnerable people and recognise that other agencies have a role to play in community safety. The Bill, once enacted, will provide for a new coherent governance and oversight framework for policing. It will ensure the complementary objectives of strong internal governance of An Garda Síochána and robust, transparent external oversight are achieved. Ultimately, it will ensure more effective accountability and more effective policing. Clearly these reforms will systematically address many of the concerns outlined in the motion in regard to youth crime.
I want to turn now to the situation of the young people who committed crimes. I accept, and Government accepts without reservation, the comments of the chair of the Policing Authority, which are quoted in the motion to the effect that not only were victims failed, but these children were failed also. Clearly, opportunities to intervene in a positive way for these children are missed when their behaviour goes unchallenged. In addition to apologising to victims, the Garda Commissioner also apologised to the almost 3,500 young offenders involved. These young people or their parents or guardians will receive letters signed by the district officer informing them that their case was not progressed appropriately. They will also be given access to the Garda helpline if they wish to access more information and support.
The vast majority of the young people dealt with in the Commissioner's interim report have a history of reoffending. The Garda report highlights the chaotic nature of the lives that many of these young people live, with the tragic finding that 57 of the 3,500 children whose cases were examined subsequently died. These deaths occurred over a number of years, most of them into adulthood, and there is no suggestion that a failure by Garda to deal fully with a particular offence contributed to the subsequent deaths of young offenders. However, it serves to remind us that many young offenders are themselves some of the most vulnerable young people in our society. This should make us think more deeply about our response to youth crime, and especially the factors that give rise to it.
This is already a priority for me as Minister of State with responsibility for youth justice issues and, late last year, I initiated a process to develop a new youth justice strategy. I will chair an expert steering group with representatives of key agencies who deal with young offenders as well as academic and community sector experts. I want to start with a blank sheet because we need to be open to suggestions from all sides on how we can move forward. The group will have its first meeting on 6 February and it will look at all aspects of the youth justice system. This process will also be informed by wide consultation with statutory and community stakeholders and, importantly, by the voices of young people. My intention is to harness the collective experience, expertise and insight of all involved to develop a progressive and more comprehensive approach to youth offending and the complex socioeconomic issues connected to it. This was also referred to in the debate. I intend that the new youth justice strategy will sit within the National Policy Framework for Children & Young People, Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, which is overseen by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
Work to develop the new strategy will address the issues raised in the motion about youth justice structures and departmental responsibilities. Needless to say, I will take careful note of the views expressed by Deputies this evening in my deliberations on the new youth justice strategy and I welcome any further input which Deputies may wish to make in this regard. I have has also embarked on a substantial reform and development programme with the Garda youth diversion projects in partnership with the University of Limerick.
This includes a strong focus on family support and preventative work by the Garda youth diversion projects and practical work to identify best practice in work with young people and to ensure that all the projects can avail of the best advice in that regard. My Department is working to inculcate a restorative practice ethos in the work of the projects and working towards ensuring that this valuable service is available to all young people who need it.
I once again thank Deputies for their valuable contributions to this debate. I hope we share a common purpose to ensure that the serious failings in Garda systems and procedures are fully dealt with. I also hope that the House will agree that the Government’s carefully considered approach to achieving lasting reform, which is being pursued through the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, is the right course to follow. I look forward to continuing engagement with Deputies in relation to youth justice matters. These are really important issues for our society, for community safety and especially for our children and young people. They deserve the best of our
efforts on their behalf.
As I said, we oppose the motion. I hope the Government's countermotion will be agreed as it keeps as much of the spirit and language of the original motion as possible. We, on this side of the House, hope we will be able to unite around the revised text we propose.
I refer to a few points which came up. Deputy Sherlock mentioned knife crime and I certainly will respond to him on that. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae spoke about unreported crime, on which he has spoken about on the record. I emphasise that it is very important that all crimes are reported. If they are not reported, we do not have the facts so that must be done. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae spoke about a life of crime and children moving on to adult crime. He is right about that in that once one is on the slippery slope, it is hard to get off it. That is why the Garda youth diversion programme is so important.
Deputy Rabbitte spoke about the importance of schools and I could not agree more in that schools can indicate when things are beginning to go wrong. Deputy Shortall said we should speak more often about youth crime, with which I agree in that this debate is overdue. She spoke also about the importance of schools in this regard. Deputy Curran mentioned the 8,000 cases. Those 8,000 cases came to the attention of An Garda Síochána subsequently, and many of them repeatedly. Even though they were missed and were not progressed as they should have been, which is the focus of this debate, they came back again and again because of the nature of them and most of them were progressed through the criminal justice system.
Deputy O'Callaghan emphasised the growth and availability of pornography and of drugs and he is correct in that regard. This changes how crimes are committed and that is something on which we need to focus as well as it is of great importance. Deputy Clare Daly along with others spoke about the time taken to conduct a review. The Garda professional standards work between 2015 and 2017 included only a sample of the cases. Based on what was found, a full review was started in 2017. Following on initial assessment, 22,000 cases had to be examined individually, covering all 28 Garda divisions. The Deputies will appreciate that it was complex and detailed and that it had to get it right. The Commissioner was quite involved in that and was anxious that it was correct.
All cases of juveniles are referred to the central office. Those that are not deemed suitable are referred back and a number of these fell through the cracks which is what we are concerned about. That should not have happened. We are interested in why it happened and this investigation is still ongoing. Two thirds of offences are public order, theft and criminal damage. Deputy Ó Laoghaire talked about having balance in the debate and he is right about that.
I welcome the debate and I thank Fianna Fáil for bringing this motion forward and Deputies for being so constructive. There is a lot more we could and should say, and probably will say in the future. I know this not the end the discussion on juvenile justice.
I commend Deputy O’Callaghan on bringing forward this motion, which calls for a review to examine the causes of failings within the Garda youth diversion programme. This motion sets forward the key findings of the Garda audit; the background to the juvenile diversion programmes; the need for ministerial accountability; and increased interdepartmental co-operation, specifically concerning mental health training and supports.
A recent Garda audit found that almost 5% of reported young offender crimes were not appropriately progressed to conclusion by An Garda Síochána between 2010 and 2017. Almost 3,000 young offenders were not prosecuted. These reported incidents missed a prime opportunity to turn a young person away from criminality. Some 57 of the child offenders referred to have since died, suggesting that many of those participating in the programme lived chaotic lives. In turn, they were failed by the State and so too were a huge number of innocent victims.
It is also very distressing that the victims of crime were denied justice. It is right and proper that the victims of the 55 serious crimes, including rape, sexual assault and child neglect, highlighted in this review were informed without delay.
Only a few years ago a ground-breaking British study found that 4% of young people are responsible for nearly half of all youth crime and that by the age of 16 they had committed an average of 86 crimes each. The Peterborough Adolescent and Young Adult Development Study was carried out by Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology. There is little reason to believe that a similar research programme carried out here would provide statistics of any real difference. This research has profound consequences because it supports the contention that to prevent young people entering criminality, it is essential to get in early, instill positive attitudes and teach them how to solve their everyday problems in a better way and that policy-makers should put an emphasis on teaching young people right from wrong. That does not mean lecturing from on high, but rather positive engagement so that they, their families and communities understand the consequences of young persons' actions and that there are alternative positive pathways and that, crucially, these alternative pathways are provided for them, they are supported to take these alternative pathways and that their families and communities are supported, especially where poverty is involved.
To deliver justice, systems need to address key facts about youth crime. Early intervention and identification is critical but it must be done in an intelligent manner. The key purpose of early intervention and identification is to understand the causes of youth crime, prevent criminality and divert young people away from a path of crime. However, one must be very careful. Early identification of at-risk children if done wrongly runs the risk of labelling and stigmatising. Every child deserves an opportunity to be diverted away from a life of criminality and it is also in the interests of society. To do this, we need a cross-departmental approach.
On the 19 January 2018 a working group was set up examine the psychological and mental health services for children and young people. The group includes the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla. I was surprised that the Department of Justice and Equality was not included and hoped that might be a mistake. When I asked the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health why the Department of Justice and Equality was not involved, I was told that the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, requested his officials discuss this suggestion with their counterparts in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and I thank the Minister of State for doing that. They in turn, however, had been advised by Department of Justice and Equality that they do not see a need for representation on this group, as it was not considered of immediate or direct relevance to their area. I believe this was an extraordinary statement by the Department of Justice and Equality. The connection between young people, their mental health and the vulnerability to pathways into criminality are well established and I would ask the Minister of State how can he stand over his Department's statement in this area.
Young people today are exposed to a barrage of pornography and violence and amoral content online, including social media. I do not have time to go into the Government's utter failure to protect our children from the negativity and damaging aspects of social media - for example, this Government’s continued failure to appoint a digital safety commissioner. What is clear, however, is that young people’s mental health is being damaged by social media. The link between poor mental health of young people and the vulnerability of those young people to being dragged into criminality is well understood. Mental health supports serve a key role in preventing crime and protecting the public from juvenile crime. The Government needs to promote an effective cross-departmental programme to ensure the provision of appropriate pathways for young people at risk, which needs to include the Department of Justice and Equality.
This motion recognises that just as young offenders were failed by the State, so too were their victims. The Policing Authority stated that “the children are failed and the existing and future victims are failed”. I hope this motion will lead to a review into this Garda failure, encouraging greater co-operation between the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
I thank all the Deputies who contributed to this debate, which has been a very good one. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to read the countermotion put forward by the Government. I will read it carefully and if it can be agreed, it will be. However, I will need to defer that decision until tomorrow because I have not read it.
Although this debate started because of the recent controversy around what the Garda announced two weeks ago, the debate here went beyond the issues of the Garda's operation of the juvenile diversion programme. We had a much broader debate on the whole issue of juvenile crime. It is apparent from listening to the considered contributions of Deputies that there is a recognition that this is a very complex and complicated issue. I am very pleased the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, will be involved in developing a youth justice strategy.
He has the innovative attitude needed to really try to make a strong contribution in this area. It is an area in which State intervention is crucial, particularly in respect of those who are at an early age.
The contributions from Deputies Cassells and Gino Kenny reveal that this can be a very emotive and difficult matter. Both gave accounts of how people had been viciously assaulted or sexually abused as a result of crimes committed by children. Anyone who is the victim of a crime of this nature would be very concerned to ensure that justice was done and would want to see some retribution for the suffering they endured. That is at one end of the spectrum in terms of looking at crimes of that magnitude and gravity committed by children of say 16 or 17 years of age. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum there are children getting involved in crime very young, at 12 or 13 years of age, whether it is running for drug dealers or theft.
One of the priorities - probably the absolute priority - must be to try to access and get involved with these children at an early stage in order that we can divert them from the path of crime upon which they have started. Statistics show that if a person at 18 years of age has been previously involved in crime on a recurrent basis, he or she will remain involved in crime as an adult. The study of crime and punishment is complicated but it shows not only that it mostly involves men, but also that when they get to the age of 40, in general, they stop or at least the figures decline considerably. Therefore, it is something that men do in their 20s and 30s in particular. The State has to intervene at as early a stage as possible in order to ensure that we get them off this path. That is why I believe State intervention works and should be advanced by the Government in order to try to deter this type of criminal activity.
It is a complex issue. What are the factors that prevent a child from getting involved in crime? None of them can be categorised simply but, for example, home, community, school and sport are all factors that play a role in preventing children from becoming involved in criminal activity. Children are very malleable. They can be moulded to avoid crime just as they can be moulded to get involved in crime, which, unfortunately, we now see being done by serious gangland criminals.
To return to the statistics, there is general recognition in the House that the youth diversion programme should be cherished, preserved and, if possible, improved. I accept fully the points that have been made that the failings disclosed by An Garda Síochána are, to a certain extent, reflective of historical failings up to July 2017. Nonetheless, it is important that this House debates and reflects on those failings to see how they occurred in order to ensure they do not happen again. It is important that we take into account the issue of whether the juvenile diversion programme will be centralised. My view is that we should try to keep this as a community-based initiative. When it is run by locals within a community, they play a strong role in influencing children.
What this really amounts to is a fight between the powers that are good and those that are bad in order to try to mould children. If children are lost to crime in their teens, it has a devastating impact on them and on society. As has been stated, the statistics indicate that 57 children have died. What that really reflects is the tragic, chaotic lives of those children. As a society, we have to ensure that we do not let children down again in the future while at the same time ensuring that we protect the victims of crime.
I am afraid I will have to put this to a vote in order to test the amendment. However, I will reflect further on the matter tonight and tomorrow morning.