The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) says it deeply concerned about the systemic failure by An Garda Síochána to follow up on thousands of cases where children were deemed unsuitable for the Garda Youth Diversion Programme.
Youth diversion is proven to reduce reoffending, the IPRT says, and failure to intervene can lead to an escalation in offending behaviour, sometimes with grave consequences.
It has welcomed the review of the Garda Youth Diversion Programme and the establishment of the National Bureau of Child Diversion.
Executive director Deirdre Malone said "Every case that is not progressed represents an opportunity missed to address the offending behaviour, to improve life outcomes for the young people involved, and to improve public safety.
“This fails victims and it also fails the young people who committed those offences.
Victims are entitled to expect that their cases will be promptly investigated, and there must be appropriate consequences for young people found guilty of committing offences.”
“However, we must not lose sight of the fact that youth diversion programmes are proven to be very successful in reducing reoffending. Other effective responses include family conferencing, mentoring, intensive case-management and restorative justice."
Figures show that in 2017, 17-24-year-olds represented 22.8% of those committed to prison (1,711 out of 7,484 ).
In May 2015, the IPRT published a report on the over-representation of young adults in prison in Ireland.
Turnaround Youth: Young Adults (18–24) in the Criminal Justice System – the case for a distinct approach can be downloaded at: www.iprt.ie/iprt-publications
The report showed that young adults are more amenable to rehabilitation and change than older adults who commit the same crimes.
Their brains and maturity continue to develop beyond adolescence and into the mid-twenties and supervised bail support, diversion programmes, intensive community orders, and restorative justice practices are among the more effective responses to crimes committed by young adults
The IPRT campaigns for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.