Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of Justice and Equality
An Garda Síochána
461. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of cautions, both formal and informal, issued through the Garda youth diversion programme in each of the years 2010 to 2020 for offences (details supplied). [49713/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 460 and 461 together.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible, by law, for the administration and management of Garda business, including the operation of the statutory Garda Youth Diversion Programme. As Minister, I play no role in these independent functions.
The aim of the Garda Youth Diversion Programme is to prevent young people between the ages of 12 and 18 years of age from entering into the criminal justice system. Diverting young people from committing further offences is another intended outcome of the Programme. For certain serious crimes, as provided in Section 129(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, young people aged 10 and 11 will be considered for inclusion in the Programme.
The Garda Youth Diversion Bureau (GYDB) has responsibility for overseeing and developing the Diversion Programme nationally, which was put on a statutory basis under Part 4 of the Children Act 2001. The Bureau is headed by a Chief Superintendent.
The remit of the GYDB includes the administration, coordination and development of the Diversion Programme nationally. It holds an oversight position on all aspects of youth referrals and the Programme supports Garda districts and divisions in ensuring effective governance and the timely processing of referrals.
It also supports a network of Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) Sergeants and JLO Gardaí distributed across every Garda division countrywide. There is an appointed Director of the Diversion Programme at Superintendent rank. The Director’s role is provided for under section 20(1) of the Children Act 2001 and is a statutory position.
When a young person comes to the attention of An Garda Síochána because of their alleged criminal or anti-social behaviour, they are required, under section 18 of the Children Act 2001, to be first considered for the Diversion Programme. In order to be considered for inclusion in the Diversion Programme, the young person must be under 18 years of age, accept responsibility for the offending behaviour, agree to be cautioned and, where appropriate, agree to the terms of supervision.
The Director’s decision on whether or not to admit a young person to the Diversion Programme is based on a number of factors, such as the nature of the offence, the impact of the offence on the community, the views of the victim, and the offending history of the young person.
If a child is deemed suitable for inclusion in the Diversion Programme, a JLO will be assigned to the child and they will administer a caution to the child. A caution may include a period of supervision where the JLO will continuously monitor the child’s progress in line with the plan they have agreed upon to reduce the likelihood of the child re-offending.
In addition, where other needs are identified, the young person will be referred to a Garda Youth Diversion Project (if one is available in their area) or other clubs or projects in their community. If a child is deemed unsuitable for admission to the Diversion Programme, the Director will issue a signed certificate deeming them unsuitable for this offence.
Due to the serious nature of the offences queried by the Deputy, and that an alleged offender referred to the Diversion Programme is a minor, I have been advised by An Garda Síochána that there is a significant data protection risk involved in releasing the information requested by the Deputy. The release of this information could potentially identify offenders, and importantly, victims of these offences who are afforded anonymity. As the Deputy will appreciate it is not, therefore, possible to provide the information requested.