Thursday 19 September 2019

More than 3,000 gardai could face discipline over youth offender failings

Single incidents of rape, sexual wrongdoing and child neglect were among 55 of the most serious offences which were not forwarded for prosecution.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said thousands of Garda officers are under consideration for discipline over failure to send youth cases for potential prosecution (Niall Carson/PA).
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said thousands of Garda officers are under consideration for discipline over failure to send youth cases for potential prosecution (Niall Carson/PA).

By Michael McHugh, Press Association

More than 3,000 gardai are being considered for disciplinary action over youth offender crimes which were not followed up, the Garda commissioner has said.

Single incidents of rape, sexual wrongdoing and child neglect were among 55 of the most serious offences which were not forwarded for possible prosecution.

They were mostly committed between 2010 and 2015 and were part of the Youth Diversion Programme.

Chief superintendents have been asked to initiate disciplinary proceedings but it could take months to resolve, Commissioner Drew Harris said.

We also let society down by not pursuing these crimes, some of them serious, committed by young people Drew Harris

He added: “There is an element of individual accountability. I would not want to shirk what is a systems failing here as well.”

A total of 3,489 children aged 12 to 18 were associated with referrals which were not appropriately progressed.

Most crimes involved public order, theft, traffic and criminal damage.

Many perpetrators had a history of reoffending and considerable contact with gardai but their cases were not appropriately progressed amid changes to the system, Mr Harris said.

The commissioner told the Justice Committee 96% of cases were dealt with correctly, suggesting many members of his force knew they had to prepare a file and submit that for consideration for prosecution.

Mr Harris said 3,414 Garda members were associated with cases which were not appropriately referred. Of these, 184 are no longer serving.

He added: “All referrals not properly progressed have been sent to the relevant divisional officers for them to consider under the disciplinary regulations.

“In addition, general guidance on disciplinary processes and penalties have been provided to all divisional officers.”

He said the disciplinary process was under way but substantial issues could take months to resolve.

Mr Harris reiterated his apology to more than 3,000 individual and corporate victims who he admitted were let down.

“They expect us to pursue the crimes committed against them to the fullest extent possible and in their cases we did not do this.

“We also let society down by not pursuing these crimes, some of them serious, committed by young people.”

He also apologised to vulnerable young people who had committed crimes in the past and would commit further crimes.

“We should have done better by them at the time.”

The force has increased its staffing in response. New standard operating procedures have been introduced and e-learning provided on youth referral.

An assistant commissioner has been appointed full-time to oversee community engagement which includes youth diversion.

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