Probe into juvenile offenders getting off

Garda Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy

A fresh Garda controversy is emerging concerning a nationwide problem of juvenile offenders involved in thousands of serious crimes “getting away with it”.

Gardaí confirmed to the Policing Authority that a major probe had so far identified almost 13,000 cases where they could not find that any action had been taken against juvenile offenders whose cases were deemed too serious for a youth diversion programme.

In total, the garda team, lead by Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy, is examining more than 21,000 cases over a seven-year period.

Senior gardaí said that, as well as the “significant risk” involved in failing to pursue lawful sanction for crimes, there was the additional prospect that the juveniles concerned went on to commit additional offences, resulting in further victims.

Authority chair Josephine Feehily said that this meant that while young people who accepted their crimes were admitted into the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme, other juveniles, who were not accepted, perhaps because they were involved in more serious crime or were repeat offenders, “got away with it”.

In a packed agenda, the authority’s public meeting with garda chiefs heard:

  • The Garda Code of Ethics has only been signed by 40% of the 8,000 gardaí who have undergone training — but the Garda Representative Association later told the Irish Examiner that the entire process was a “one way street” with a lack of the necessary training by the organisation;
  • Garda chiefs said they were not confident they were accurately recording hate crime, and that their own internal specialists did not yet have access to the Garda Training College;
  • Two officers have yet to respond to repeated requests from the Garda Deputy Commissioner on the findings of an internal report into the Jobstown incident;
  • An incident in which a van aligned with one side in the Eighth Amendment referendum was parked on Garda property has now been reported to GSOC;
  • An interim report of an ongoing Garda review, led by Chief Superintendent Brian Sutton, on eight homicide investigations — sparked on the back of concerns over homicide data — was praised by Ms Feehily for its thoroughness.

Authority member Moling Ryan commended the internal Leahy review regarding the Youth Diversion Programme, but said the authority had “significant concerns” regarding some 21,000 cases where the juveniles were not accepted and referred back to divisions for appropriate action.

The Leahy review has identified 13,000 cases where they were not able to find what action had in fact been taken, given that no charges had been brought.

Mr Leahy accepted there was a “significant risk” attached to this and when Mr Ryan said there was “the potential, if not the reality” that the juveniles may have subsequently committed further crimes, Mr Leahy said that was correct.

Mr Leahy confirmed that disciplinary procedures were underway in divisions.

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