Thursday, 13 June 2013
Department of Justice and Equality
15. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the current operation of the Garda Diversion Programme; the current level of funding provided to the programme; his views on whether the use of restorative justice processes are being expanded in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28220/13]
As the Deputy will be aware, the Diversion Programme operates in accordance with Part 4 of the Children Act 2001, as amended, and under the general superintendence and control of the Garda Commissioner. The programme embraces, whenever possible, the principles of restorative justice and has regard to the needs of the victims of youth offending. An Annual Report of the Committee appointed to monitor the effectiveness of the Diversion Programme is published each year which gives details of the resources deployed by the Commissioner in relation to the Programme. The reports are available on the website of my Department via the Irish Youth Justice Service link. The latest published report indicates that there are 123 Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) posts comprising of 115 Gardaí and 8 JLO Sergeants.
The work of the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers under the Diversion Programme is supported by the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) through the 100 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) located across the country. The Garda Youth Diversion Projects are multi-agency crime prevention initiatives managed by community based organisations in cooperation with the local Garda District Officers. These projects seek to divert young people from becoming involved or further involved in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour. Last year approximately 5,100 young people engaged with these projects. Provisional funding of €11.5 million has been allocated to the GYDPs for 2013.
Moving on to restorative justice and its role in impacting on youth crime; I should say that, essentially, the delivery of restorative justice approaches are primarily a matter for IYJS strategic partners - An Garda Síochána and the Young Persons Division of the Probation Service. Restorative justice in the context of youth crime was introduced on a statutory basis for the first time in the Children Act 2001, as amended, with two restorative justice initiatives provided for in the Act: a restorative conference or restorative caution included in the Garda Diversion Programme and a court-ordered restorative justice family conference delivered through the Probation Service. An Garda Síochána use restorative justice processes in the delivery of the Diversion Programme under Part 4 of the Act. The Diversion Report referred to earlier indicates that JLOs dealt with over 900 cases in 2011 using a restorative justice approach. In addition, since 2010 JLOs have been collaborating with local communities and other agencies, in particular the Probation Service, in delivering training and developing restorative practice in the community. Restorative Justice philosophy and approaches have also been promoted through the training provided to Garda Youth Diversion Project staff and this training is ongoing.
In regard to the Probation Service, all Young Persons Probation staff have been trained in the preparation, delivery and action planning/monitoring which are essential to the restorative family conference (as provided for under Part 8 of the Children Act 2001 as amended). The Probation Service in conjunction with its partner agencies has also introduced and consolidated a number of restorative practices and approaches in the management of court ordered supervision in the community and more infrequently supervision following a period of detention. I am satisfied with the work undertaken to date and the ongoing developments in the further roll out of restorative youth justice initiatives and will continue to monitor the impact of these latest developments on an ongoing basis.
Finally, I wish to add that the Diversion Programme has been shown to be successful in diverting young offenders away from crime by offering guidance and support to the young people and their families. Tackling youth crime continues to be a key priority for this Government as set out in the Programme for Government and I am committed to continuing the Programme as is reflected in the resources available to the Garda Commissioner and the 2013 budget for the GYDPs which remains similar to the budget of 2012.