WHILE more than 3,200 young people appeared before the Children’s Court in 2009 accused of committing in excess of 8,400 crimes, just under 300 received a custodial sentence.
Reacting to the figures, published for the first time today as part of an Irish Examiner special investigation, a member of Dublin’s joint policing committee has suggested communities throughout Ireland are living in fear of increasingly violent juvenile crime.
It has also emerged that the joint policing committee and the city’s north west area committee recently wrote to the Department of Justice requesting a review of what it perceives to be too lenient sentences for young offenders.
The department refused the request, but according to Dublin city councillor John Redmond, who sits on the policing committee, the issue is “high on the agenda” and needs answers.
Mr Redmond said the concerns had been raised on a cross-party basis and had been brought to the attention of the committee by concerned residents and communities living in fear of juvenile crime.
He said it was broadly felt that the courts are not handing down tough enough sentences to young offenders, sending the message that they are untouchable.
The legislation which deals with juvenile crime, the Children Act 2001, is based on the philosophy that children in conflict with the law should only be detained as a last resort. Under the act there are a range of community-based sanctions, 10 in total, in place to deal with young offenders.
According to the chair of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, Ursula Kilkelly, there is a dearth of information and research about which of those sanctions are working, how they are being used and what the outcomes are.
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