108. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice the measures that can be introduced to deter boys and young men from engaging in gratuitous violent behaviour against others; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51420/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): The Government is determined to tackle anti-social behaviour and I am very conscious of the negative effect it can have on the quality of life for our local communities. We are clear that incidents of assault or intimidation are completely unacceptable, and that people must be safe and feel safe in their communities.
An Garda Síochána continues to implement high visibility policing plans to address public disorder related issues and anti-social behaviour, with particular overt and targeted policing of public places at times when public order incidents and anti-social behaviour typically increase, such as at bank holiday weekends.
An Garda Síochána's ongoing ‘Use your brain, not your fists’ campaign highlights the dangers and consequences of any assault to both the victim and the attacker. The Garda Commissioner has also established Operation Soteria to ensure a reduction of assaults in public, reduce fear of assault within communities, prioritise assault investigations, and focus on problem areas and assault hotspots. The Operation includes targeting knife crimes in areas where it is shown to be relevant and necessary.
As the Deputy will be aware, a new Youth Justice Strategy for 2021 – 2027 was published on 15 April. In line with international best practice, a key principle of the new Youth Justice Strategy is providing as many opportunities as possible to enable young people to change direction in their lives and adopt more positive behaviours
The Strategy includes the full range of issues connected to children and young people at risk of coming into contact with the criminal justice system, including early intervention and preventative work, family support and diversion from crime, through to the court process and facilities, supervision of offenders, detention and reintegration and support post release.
The Strategy strengthens and expands the role of the Youth Diversion Projects (YDPs) and promotes appropriate linkages and alignment with other community-based initiatives. Bringing the full range of relevant interventions together in a coherent and holistic response to youth crime will support the objective of diverting young people from crime and anti-social behaviour. The immediate priority within the Strategy is to enhance engagement with children and young people who are most at risk of involvement in criminal activity, principally by strengthening the services available through the existing network of 105 Youth Diversion Projects (YDPs) across the State.
YDPs engage with young people through a range of supports, including education, training and employment support, social enterprise initiatives, as well as personal development and supports such as mentoring and personal development activities. Experience in the operation of the Children Act highlights the need to include children below the age of criminal responsibility (12 for most offences) in preventative measures, and to consider the extension of measures to divert young offenders away from the criminal justice system beyond the age of 18.
In line with a commitment in the Programme for Government, I have also established an Expert Forum on Anti-Social Behaviour. This forum is considering the effectiveness of existing legislation and will seek to propose new ways forward, including new powers for An Garda Síochána, if required, and additional interventions to support parenting of offenders.
Two subgroups of the forum have also been set up to examine the issues of knife crime and misuse of scramblers and quadbikes. Similar sub groups can also be established for other issues as appropriate. Question No. 109 answered with Question No. 105.