318. Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of young offenders who reoffend; the estimated number of young offenders who enter the criminal justice system each year, and the combined number of convictions between them; the number of school age adolescents who engage with Garda Síochána diversion programmes in each year; the percentage of young offenders who are unemployed 12 months after release; and the percentage of young offenders who leave at 21 years of age with no qualification. [38974/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The information sought by the Deputy cuts across areas of the youth justice system for which my Department is responsible and the area of children’s detention for which my colleague Dr. James Reilly, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is responsible. As the Deputy may be aware, the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS), which is composed of officials from both Department’s, is responsible for leading and driving reform in the area of youth justice.
Statutory provision in relation to young offenders is set out in the Children Act, 2001 (as amended). Under the Act, a child is defined as a person under the age of 18 years and it is further provided in section 52 that a child under 12 years of age shall not be charged with an offence except where certain stated charges apply.
The latest available information in relation youth offending and re-offending is set out in the 2013 Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme which I recently laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. As the Deputy may know, before any young person is brought before the courts, he or she must first be referred for consideration of a caution and inclusion in the Garda Diversion Programme by the Director of the Programme. In 2013, 10,420 young people were referred for such consideration.
With regard to the “estimated number of young offenders who enter the criminal justice system annually”, if by this the Deputy means the number of young people who are brought before the courts and the number of convictions involved, the Courts Service has advised that their statistical information is not compiled in a way which identifies new offenders. The Courts Service points out that figures in relation to the Children Court are published in the Courts Service Annual Report which provides details of offences and outcomes. In this regard, the 2014 Annual Report on page 56, sets out extensive details in relation to “juvenile crime” and the range of offences and their outcomes.
With regard to the number of “school age adolescents that engage with Garda Diversion Programmes annually”, the 2013 Report of the Monitoring Committee which I refer to above states on page 16, that 7,732 young people were deemed suitable for inclusion in the Diversion Programme. In this context, I should mention Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) which my Department funds. In 2013, some 5,065 young people were engaged with GYDPs. GYDPs are youth justice crime reduction/crime prevention community programmes which are specifically targeted at young offenders and those at serious risk of offending. They provide essential support to the Garda Diversion Programme and to the effectiveness of the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer system operated by An Garda Síochána. Funding support for youth justice community interventions is based on evidence that diversion programmes in the form of high quality preventative intervention can do more to reduce crime than more costly custodial options. Just over €11.5 million was allocated to GYDPs (and 5 Local Drugs Task Force projects working alongside GYDP) in 2014.
I am advised that the information sought by the Deputy in relation to the percentage of young offenders who are unemployed 12 months after their release or who are released at 21 years of age with no qualifications is not maintained by the Children Detention Schools or the Irish Prison Service. However, the Deputy may wish to note that Young Persons Probation (YPP), a specialised Division of the Probation Service, in the context of its supervision of community based sanctions, utilises a number of community based organisations with dedicated resources to work with young offenders. A number of the YPP projects provide education courses (such as FETAC levels 3, 4 and 5) through the Educational Trust Boards which result in the young person/offender obtaining an academic qualification. Other YPP projects provide various training or skills programmes and initiatives (such as IT skills) which assist young offenders subsequently seeking employment. The provision of these services enhance the young offender’s personal development and life outcomes, thereby reducing their risk of re-offending and leading to safer communities.