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Question

317. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which support services exist to rehabilitate, educate and upskill first-time juvenile offenders, with specific reference to the need to ensure they are not influenced by recidivists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35494/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Statutory provision in relation to young offenders is set out in the Children Act 2001 (as amended). Accordingly, where a young person under the age of 18 comes into conflict with the law, the principles of the Act apply.
A key principle in the Children Act relating to young offenders is that detention should be a last resort. In support of this principle, the legislation facilitates the incremental application of a series of measures, ranging from diversion in the first instance through community based sanctions, to detention.
The first main filter in the youth justice system is the Garda Diversion Programme, involving at different stages and depending on the seriousness of the offence, the informal caution (without supervision) and the formal caution (with supervision), including possible involvement with a Garda Youth Diversion Project (GYDP).
The second main filter is the range of non-custodial sanctions available to the courts including court orders for dismissal; conditional discharge; the payment of fines or costs; compensation and the binding over of parents, and orders imposing a community sanction involving a suite of Probation Service supervised sanctions. In supervising community sanctions, the Probation Service utilises a number of community based organisations with dedicated resources to work with young offenders.
Finally and as a last resort, detention may be used.
The operation of the above statutory framework is substantially supported by the significant investment by my Department in community based programmes which are directed at diverting young people from further involvement in criminal or anti-social behaviour. These youth justice community programmes proceed on the basis of evidence that diversion programmes in the form of high quality preventative intervention can do more to reduce crime than more costly custodial sanctions.
In 2015, just under €17 million was allocated to Irish Youth Justice Service Community Programmes to administer Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs), Young Persons Probation Projects (YPPs) and a number of other youth diversion community-based projects. These programmes are managed in partnership with An Garda Síochána in the case of the GYDPs and the Probation Service in the case of YPPs.
From 2015, all GYDPs and four of the YPPs are being co-funded under the European Social Fund Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020. They are being funded as a social inclusion measure to increase the education and employment opportunities available to young people and to divert them from any further involvement with the criminal justice system.