Almost 3,500 juveniles got away with nearly 7,900 crimes over an eight-year period, an internal Garda report has found.
The failure to charge these minors meant that some 2,500 individual victims and nearly 990 businesses did not get any justice.
While the bulk of crimes are categorised as less serious offences – such as public order and theft – some 55 offences are considered serious crimes.
They include one rape, one sexual offence and one case of child neglect.
A Garda review examined the operation of the Garda Youth Diversion Programme, which considers all juvenile offenders for inclusion in its system, with the objective of diverting children away from the criminal courts..
The Review of Garda Referrals found that of the 158,521 youth referrals between 2010 and 2017 some 103,515 were deemed suitable for the programme.
Of the 55,506 referrals deemed unsuitable and sent back to local district offices for charges or summons to be brought, no initial evidence of an associated charge or summons was found in 22,174 cases.
On examination, the garda review team identified 2,869 cases where the action taken was appropriate and 1,331 where there was a breach of bail only.
In total, if found 16,877 referrals where no prosecution was taken.
In some cases, the victims would have received a letter saying someone had been identified in relation to the crime.
The review shows that the bulk (73%) of crimes not appropriately progressed were in four crime categories: public order (29%); theft (19%); traffic (14%) and criminal damage (11%).
There were a total of 55 serious offences identified, including one rape, one sexual assault and one child neglect case.
An Garda Síochána declined to publish a full breakdown of the 55 serious offences, but they include crimes such as assaults, violence disorder, robbery and burglary.
Garda HQ yesterday published a 10-page highlight report yesterday and also submitted a detailed letter to the Policing Authority.
The review found that 96% of the offences took place between 2010 and 2015 and that, as a result of administrative and technical changes, the problem fell away in 2016 and 2017.
Under Chief Superintendent Anne-Marie Cagney, a support programme was put in place for the victims affected.
As of today, letters were being sent out to each victim explaining to them what had happened and apologising for it.
The letter contains a victim information booklet, contact details of the local Garda Victim Services Office and the independent Crime Victims Helpline.
A freephone helpline 1800 589 589 has also been set up for anyone who thinks they might be affected.
Garda HQ said a small number of victims of serious crimes would receive a personal visit, with the letter, in the coming days.
The review found that the “vast majority” of the 3,489 children led chaotic lives and had a history of reoffending, meaning they had significant contact both with Gardai and the Courts “before and after the incident that was not appropriately progressed”.
The review found that before the referral under review, these children, on average, had four prior referrals, two prior charges and one prior summons.
Subsequent to the referral, these children had, on average, 10 referrals, 17 charges and seven summons.
The review identified a range of factors behind the failure to prosecute the 7,894 cases, including a lack of training, a lack of awareness of the process and issues of governance and oversight.
The Garda review was initiated after the chief superintendent of the Garda Bureau of Community Engagement raised concerns about the issue in 2014, followed by concerns raised by the Garda Inspectorate in its Crime Investigation Report in late 2014.
An examination by the Garda Professional Standards Unit was set up in October 2015 and reported in June 2017 and after a scoping exercise, a formal review under Detective Superintendent Paul Cleary was set up.