Juveniles ‘felt they’d get away with crime’ amid failure to prosecute 3,500 young offenders

By Cormac O'Keeffe
Security Correspondent

The failure of gardaí to prosecute some 3,500 juvenile offenders may have “fuelled a perception of immunity leading to the commission of further offences”, an interim Garda report has found.

Further details have also emerged of the crimes committed — that of the almost 8,000 offences there were 82 cases of assault causing harm and 176 robberies of the person.

These offences are in addition to the 55 serious crimes previously revealed by gardaí, which included one rape of a female, one sexual offence, seven cases of aggravated burglary, and one case of child neglect.

The information emerged at a Policing Authority meeting after the oversight body received an interim Garda report into the controversy, which affected almost 2,500 individual victims and nearly 1,000 businesses between 2010 and 2017.

Authority member Paul Mageean said that while the report documented 55 serious offences, the assault and robbery offences would have had “serious consequences” for the victims concerned.

Fellow authority member Moling Ryan read from the interim report, which said 3,489 children suspected of committing a criminal offence had received “no sanction or intervention” and that there was little evidence on the Garda Pulse computer system that the child perpetrators or their parents were kept informed.

He said the report said that “this failure could potentially have had a psychological impact on some of the children”.

Mr Ryan went on to say that the report said that, for other children, the failure to prosecute “may have fuelled a perception of immunity leading to the commission of further offences”.

The interim report was provided to the authority, with various members, including authority chairwoman Josephine Feehily, commending the quality of the report, compiled by Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary.

It found that in around a third (2,500) of the almost 8,000 offences investigating garda claimed they never received correspondence from the Garda Youth Diversion Office sending the case back to them for prosecution.

Almost 300 cases were not appropriately pursued because the garda member was transfered to another area or was on leave or a career break, while in almost 150 cases there was no progress despite a direction to prosecute from the DPP or the local district officer.

The reasons for the failure to prosecute were described by Mr Ryan as “quite disturbing”, describing the number of gardaí claiming they had not received the correspondence as a “very significant number”, before adding “if that can be believed”.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the matter had entered an “entirely different process” now, with local chief superintendents considering disciplinary investigations in relation to some 3,200 individual gardaí.

However, he said that, as that process progressed, they would have a greater idea as to what went wrong other than correspondence getting “lost in the post”.

Mr Harris said that of the 7,894 referrals, there was a prosecution or a caution of adults also involved in the crime in 2,205 cases, including 18 of the 55 serious crimes.

The commissioner said the fact that adults had been brought to justice for the crimes, though juveniles involved in the offences were not, could provide “some comfort” to victims.

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