Some of the teenagers who have been wreaking havoc on Dublin’s inner city over the course of the last 12 months have received the benefit of the juvenile diversion scheme, it has been reported.
The Irish Daily Mail today reports that at least three of the teenagers have received the benefit of the scheme, established under the Children Act, 2001.
The programme aims to prevent young offenders and children involved in anti-social behaviour from entering into the full criminal justice system by giving them a second chance.
In lieu of going through the courts and getting a criminal conviction, the scheme assigns young offenders Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLO) tasked with monitoring the progress of each case.
JLOs work within each Garda Division in Ireland, with these officers responsible for maintaining informal contacts with young people at risk of offending, and to liaise with teachers, Tusla staff, school attendance officers and other Gardaí in their local area.
While the intended outcome of the programme is to divert young people from committing further offences and/or anti-social behaviour, the paper reports that the teens – some as young as 14 – have been involved in robberies, assaults, and intimidation of people across the north inner city.
“Despite the leniency afforded to them by the State, the teenagers have gone on to commit further crimes, often while in the process of being appointed a JLO, with politicians, both national and local, calling for stricter deterrents,” the Irish Daily Mail reports.
Some of the teenagers, the paper reports, have been involved in high-profile incidents, with at least three members of a suspected gang of 20 receiving the juvenile diversion scheme instead of going through the courts.
Former Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring likened the leniency afforded to repeat offenders to “a get-out-of-jail-free card” – telling the paper he was concerned that chances being given were being abused.
“It’s just a bit all over the place. There are children out there who think that the law does not apply to them and they just keep offending,” he said.
Figures recorded by the Garda Youth Diversion Programme (GYDP), published in May, revealed an increase in homicides, robberies, threats to kill, and drug offences by young offenders in 2020.
Juvenile threats to kill, homicide, robberies, and use of weapons all saw an uptick in the first year of the Covid pandemic, according to the report published this summer by the GYDP. Other types of crimes recorded by children and teenagers under 18 included the possession and distribution of child pornography, road traffic offences, and abuse of animals. The report showed that during 2020, the number of juveniles suspected of murder in Ireland doubled to four, while an additional five juveniles were suspected of attempted murder.
The report detailed how the number of under-18s threatening to kill or cause serious harm increased 61 per cent to 74 – while 299 children were detected of being involved in robberies – an increase of 13 per cent on 2019.
The number of detected drug offences involving children and teens was also up, with an increase of 8 per cent to 1,926 in 2020. Most cases related to simple possession of an illegal substance. Theft was the most common crime prevalent among young offenders, with 4,005 referrals recorded for such in 2020.
The report detailed 335 cases where juveniles were suspected of committing sexual offence in 2020, including 53 of rape, however this represented a 16 per cent drop on the previous year. However, there was a rise of 42 per cent in the number of child pornography offences detected, with 78 such cases.
The paper noted that 25 children were suspected of offences against animals during 2020.
Meanwhile, figures from the GYDP also showed that drug-dealing offences by juveniles almost doubled in the space of five years in Ireland. Total juvenile drug offences surged from 1,019 to 1,026 from 2015 to 2020 – an increase of 89%. Cases of drug possession for personal use also increased, from 817 to 1,439 over five years, a rise of 76 per cent.
Concerns over leniency being dealt to teenagers follows the horror attack on an American tourist earlier this summer.
Three male juveniles were arrested by gardai in connection with the alleged assault of tourist Stephen Termini. The 57-year-old American was on holiday in Dublin in July when he was beaten in the savage attack which left him with severe injuries.
Mr Termini suffered a damaged eye in the vicious and unprovoked assault, with his family still unsure if his vision has been affected.
In a separate incident signalling the problem of serious juvenile crime plaguing the capital, a 18-year-old was today charged with the murder of a man in west Dublin.
John Mulrooney, 18, of Manorfield Green, Clonee, Dublin, is accused of murdering Aaron Keating on 13 June at Main Street in Ongar. Mulrooney, who was 17 at the time of the alleged murder, could not be identified in media coverage of the case when it first came before the Dublin Children’s Court in June.
Mr Keating, from Blanchardstown, was in his forties. He succumbed to severe stab wounds inflicted during the attack, and was pronounced dead at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.