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Thursday 21 February 2019

3,500 gardai investigated as youth crime scandal exposed

Regrets: Drew Harris revealed the failure at a meeting yesterday. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Regrets: Drew Harris revealed the failure at a meeting yesterday. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has called the failure to prosecute 3,000 youth offenders a "humiliating professional failure" for the force.

He also apologised to all those who were victims of crimes committed by those who were never prosecuted.

An internal report into the force's youth referral scheme found that 7,894 cases where youths were deemed not to be suitable for the diversion programme were not appropriately dealt with over a seven-year period.

About a quarter of the force's officers were involved in the cases, it revealed.

"It's profoundly humiliating for us as an organisation," Mr Harris said yesterday.

One incident of rape, one case of child neglect and one incident of a sexual offence were among those cases not properly progressed.

The other crimes included public order 23pc, theft 19pc, traffic 14pc, and criminal damage 11pc.

There were 2,492 individual personal victims and 988 individual business victims of these crimes, which took place between 2010 and 2017.

"I want to apologise to the more than 3,000 victims," the commissioner told the Policing Authority yesterday at a public meeting.

"We've let society down by not pursuing these crimes."

Mr Harris also apologised to the children involved in the cases, saying they were also failed by the system.

He revealed that some 57 of the children involved in the review had since died, 45 of whom were adults at the time.

He said he believed that proper intervention could have saved them, adding: "These were people living chaotic lives."

Mr Harris said there were some 3,500 members of the force, 25pc of the total number of officers, identified as part of the review.

Disciplinary action may follow, he added.

The commissioner said the issue was unlike the breath tests scandal, in which officers were fabricating the number of people caught drink-driving.

He said gardaí could now be questioned about the decisions they made during investigations.

Mr Harris said the issue was especially prevalent at busy stations dealing with high workloads.

None of the cases identified has since been prosecuted in the courts.

However the commissioner said that this was still a possibility in the cases of serious indictable crimes.

Mr Harris said he hoped the revelations would not take away from the valuable work done in the youth diversion programme and preventing crime.

More than 158,521 youth referrals were examined during the review.

It was found that in 16,877 cases there was no prosecution. A total of 7,894, had not been properly progressed by gardaí and another 4,851 were dropped due to there being insufficient evidence.

Some 2,659 could not be prosecuted because of the actions of the injured party.

A national helpline has been set up on 1800 589 589 for anyone who thinks they have been affected.

Each victim is to also receive a letter specific to their case signed by a local district officer.

Irish Independent

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