Children who engage in anti-social behaviour and vandalism are causing havoc in local communities and gardai seem to be powerless to do anything about it, according to Councillor Mary Farrell.
The Independent councillor told a JPC meeting that 12 year olds are responsible for incidents of anti-social behaviour in many instances and she asked what could be done to prevent it.
'What message are we sending out, that they can get away with crime. There are communities all over the county experiencing this on a daily basis. There is fear of 12 year olds in communities', said Cllr. Farrell.
She said she had seen a 12-year old commit a crime and then 'we're told that the gardai that they can't do anything about it'.
Inspector Jarlath Duffy said the gardai are engaging with young people in the commmunity and in schools through various initiatives. If there is a crime or anti-social behaviour, it should be reported to an Garda Síochána who can use analysis to identify hot spots.
Inspector Duffy said 12 year olds are dealt with under the Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) Scheme and a high level of proof required as in any case. 'If we proceed through JLO, we have to have proof. It's the same standard of proof required as if you were taking a case to court. He said
what is required in such cases is a multi-agency approach involving the gardai, local authorities and communities.
Cllr. Farrell said she was talking about an incident in which windows were smashed. It was seen but nothing was done about it.
Superintendent Gerry McGrath said people often report things to the gardai but they don't wish to be personally involved so it is necessary to obtain evidence which is sometimes difficult. If someone is prepared to give a statement, then a statement will be taken.
With children under 12, there is a statutary provision that says they are not criminally responsible except in exceptionally serious cases.
Superintendent McGrath said he would like to know the case she was talking about so that he could review it but this was not the forum to discuss it. If she was not satisfied with the review, she could go to Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GHSOC). He was willing to discuss the matter with her in Kilmuckridge.
However, Cllr. Ger Carthy asked him to withdraw the remark about this not being the appropriate forum.
'This is a forum for discussing matters of policy in An Garda Síochána, which as elected members we are entitled to discuss. We are all here for the community good. I would ask the member to withdraw that remark', he said.
Superintendent Jim Doyle said his colleague was simply pointing out that if any member of the public has an issue and it's not being investigated properly, it is open to them to have it reviewed and if that person is still not satisfied, they can take it to GSOC.
Superintendent Doyle said one thing not mentioned at all in relation to 12 year olds being involved in anti-social behaviour is parenting - it is a parenting issue too.