The Government has announced plans for legislation which will outlaw the grooming of children into crime.
The Criminal Justice (Exploitation of Children in the Commission of Offences) Bill includes new offences which could lead to up to five years in prison.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister of State for Law Reform James Browne TD today (15 January) announced the publication of the general scheme of the bill.
The legislation will create specific offences where an adult compels, coerces, induces or invites a child to engage in criminal activity.
The ministers say that while current law already provides that an adult who causes or uses a child to commit a crime can generally be found guilty as the principal offender, it does not recognise the harm done to a child by drawing them into a world of criminality.
'Separate and additional' offence
Those found guilty of the new offences face imprisonment of 12 months on summary conviction and up to five years on indictment. Under the proposals, the child does not have to be successful in carrying out the offence for the law to apply.
The ministers intend to make the offence of grooming a child into criminal activity prosecutable as a completely separate and additional offence to any crime committed by the adult using the child as their innocent agent. They say the details will be finalised during the legislative process.
“Breaking the link between criminal gangs and the vulnerable young people they try to recruit will be essential if we are to divert young people away from lives of crime,” said Minister McEntee.
As well as legislation, the Government says it plans to strengthen and develop the 'Greentown' initiative, which aims to reduce the influence of criminal networks on children, as part of a new youth justice strategy.
The ‘Greentown Report’, published in December 2016 by the School of Law in the University of Limerick, found that the influence of criminal networks increases the level of offending by a small number of children and entraps them in offending situations.
Minister McEntee also said she would publish the Vivian Geiran report on the effect of criminal gang feuds on communities in Drogheda “in the coming weeks”.