There has been a sharp decline in the number of children and adolescents committing rape, although overall crime rates by juvenile offenders are on the rise.
New figures compiled for the Garda Youth Diversion Programme show underage offenders were identified as the assailant in 115 out of 830 incidents of rape reported in 2019 – almost 1 in 7 cases.
It represents an annual decrease of 43% in the number of juveniles suspected of rape in 2018 when they accounted for over a quarter of almost 800 rape cases recorded that year.
The latest GYDP figures show juveniles were implicated in two out of 36 murders during 2019 – down from four the previous year.
They also reveal that offenders aged 17 and younger accounted for 8% of all crimes reported over the 12-month period.
Figures show the number of children and adolescents referred to the GYDP in 2019 increased by 15% to 9,842.
The number of crimes committed by young offenders in the same year rose by 13% to 18,567.
However, some crime categories showed dramatic increases with the number of drug offences involving children up 26% to almost 1,800 incidents, while fraud offences by juveniles more than trebled to 720 cases.
Certain parts of the country also experienced above-average increases in the rate of juvenile crime including Donegal where the number of offences committed by underage criminals rose by 58%.
Other areas with a significant rise in the detection of crimes by juveniles were Sligo/Leitrim (+52%), Dublin West (+48%), Mayo (+36%), Roscommon/Longford (+30%) and Kerry (+25%).
Only six of the 28 Garda divisions recorded a decrease in juvenile crime during 2019 – Dublin South Central, Meath, Wexford, Galway, Cork North and Limerick.
Overall juvenile crime levels across Dublin were up 18% to almost 6,500 offences, while there was a 17% increase in the number of offences committed by juveniles in Cork city with just under 1,200 crimes recorded.
Despite almost 1,300 additional juvenile offenders identified during 2019 compared to the previous year, the chairperson of the GYDP monitoring committee, assistant Garda commissioner, Orla McPartlin, said the figure was in line with the average annual over the previous five- year period.
Official statistics also reveal that almost one in 10 of all juveniles referred to the GYDP during 2019 were serial offenders as they had been referred to the programme on at least four occasions that year.
Figures show three out of 10 juvenile offenders identified in 2019 were aged 12-14, while approximately three-quarters of all juvenile offenders were males.
The number of children who received a formal or informal caution was up 22% to 7,661.
Following a steady decline since 2012 when it peaked at over 1,000 cases, the number of restorative cautions, where the victim meets the offender, issued in 2019 rose by 74% to 125.
However, 1,605 children who committed over 6,000 crimes – representing 16% of all juvenile offenders – were deemed unsuitable for admission to the programme in 2019 – an annual increase of 29%.
Ms McPartlin said the GYDP was “a vital crime prevention tool complimented by a restorative justice framework that translates into a strategic asset for An Garda Síochána.” Since the start of 2019, a newly established Garda Youth Diversion Bureau makes the decision on the suitability of juvenile offenders to enter the GYDP.
Ms McParltin said the programme provided gardaí with a unique opportunity to engage with young offenders which was critical in supporting them to address their behaviour and to assist them in making positive choices.