Garda pilots to target 'trauma' of young offenders

Garda pilots to target 'trauma' of young offenders

Gardaí are set to pilot projects targeting childhood trauma experienced by young people caught up in crime. File picture

Gardaí are set to pilot projects targeting childhood trauma experienced by young people caught up in crime.

The scheme, to be rolled out in the coming months, could have the benefit of reducing aggressive behaviour and repeat offending.

These projects – which have already involved training of gardaí and Tusla professionals – are separate to work gardaí are already undertaking with 'Trauma Aware Cork', an initiative of Cork City Council.

The pilots follow research that showed high levels of trauma among young people who attended Garda youth diversion projects in Dublin and Cork.

The research, commissioned in 2019, examined what is termed “Adverse Childhood Events” (ACEs) among a sample of 125 young people who previously took part in the Garda Youth Diversion Programme.

Adverse childhood events

The study, published last November, found more than six in 10 (63%) young people had experienced four or more adverse childhood events before the age of 18.

Researchers from applied psychology at UCC and Quality Matters said three-quarters had lost a parent and two-thirds had suffered emotional abuse.

About four in 10 had a family member incarcerated and almost the same number experienced physical abuse, and a third physical neglect.

One fifth experienced domestic abuse against their mother and one in 12 suffered sexual abuse – 28% among girls (28%) and 5% among boys.

The report recommended Garda bosses set up a pilot "trauma-informed" project for juveniles, involving staff training and supports.

Speaking at a recent virtual conference, Chief Superintendent Colette Quinn said that over the years it had been observed that “time and time again” trauma was a factor in the lives of young people referred to the diversion programme.

She said the research identified that the ACE profile of the young people was similar to that of the homeless population or adults involved in the criminal justice system.

She said the research found diversion projects that were informed about trauma were more effective, but that to date little formal training had been offered to Garda juvenile liaison officers (JLOs) or youth workers.

Trauma training

Chief Supt Quinn said the trauma training could be expanded beyond JLOs and youth justice workers to lawyers, community gardaí and others.

She said pilots were ready to go in some areas and would be launched as soon as possible and by the third quarter of 2021.

In a subsequent statement to the Irish Examiner, the Garda Press Office said: “Garda colleagues and colleagues from Tusla have completed online training on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Early Trauma during 2021.

“Garda colleagues are also working with “Trauma Aware Cork”, this project is led by Cork City Council.”

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