Thursday, 10 December 2009
Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Question 29: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a survey carried out by An Garda Síochána which concluded that members of the public rated youth crime as a major national problem; his views on this finding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46312/09]
Barry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I presume the Deputy is referring to the Garda Public Attitudes Survey 2008 which was published over a year ago in October 2008. The full survey is available on the website of An Garda Síochána (www.garda.ie). While 76% of respondents said they regarded juvenile/teenage crime as a major problem in the country as a whole, it is interesting to note that only 27% of the respondents saw juvenile/teenage crime as a major problem in the community where they live. The report appears to indicate that people's perceptions of the levels of crime generally, and not just youth related crime, are much greater than the levels which they experience locally. This is similar to a 2006 survey on crime and victimisation published by the Central Statistics Office, which indicates that the level of public concern about crime is not a measure of the actual levels of crime nationally.
A significant aspect of the Garda Public Attitudes Survey is that the preferred response of respondents to youth related crime is through non-punitive measures. This is consistent with the general approach adopted by the Government in the deployment of Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers, and the use of measures such as the Garda Diversion Programme, Garda Youth Diversion Projects, Young Persons Probation Projects, community sanctions and the incremental process of warnings, good behaviour contracts and anti-social behaviour orders, all of which attempt to confront youth crime and related behaviours in an incremental way, using detention as a measure of last resort. Tackling youth crime is a key priority for this Government. Public order, which is one of the most significant aspects of youth crime, is one of the priorities set by my colleague, the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform, for the Gardaí in 2009 and it is one of the 6 strategic goals in the Garda Policing Plan 2009.
In addition, the National Youth Justice Strategy 2008-2010 sets out plans for co-ordinated programmes and services in the area of youth justice which will be delivered through a number of agencies including my own office (OMCYA), the Irish Youth Justice Service, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children, HSE, an Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the Probation Service and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The net effect of the strategy is to ensure a more co-ordinated strategic approach to service delivery, make better use of existing resources and deliver better outcomes for children in trouble with the law and the community in general.
The Strategy is being progressed at a national level by the National Youth Justice Oversight Group, which has been established in order to facilitate the cross-agency collaboration required. The Oversight Group, which comprises members from each of the key agencies and is chaired by the Director General from my office, reports to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Social Inclusion twice a year.