Juvenile crime represents an important element of the overall crime problem. The Garda Commissioner’s Report for Crime for the year ended 31 December 1990 (the most recent report available) indicates that ‘the total number of persons convicted of crime recorded in 1990, or dealt with by way of caution under the Juvenile Liaison Scheme was 13,654. Of this number, 5,190 (38.0%) were under 17 years of age. The corresponding figure from 1989 was 4,894 (35.7%)’. In addition to constituting a significant proportion of all crime, offences by young people tend often to have a high profile or high nuisance value. Public impatience with vandalism, graffiti or other anti-social activities attributed to young people is palpable and not unjustified.
In the view of the Committee, juvenile crime requires urgent attention as a social problem. Youthful crime causes harm and hurt to the victim, the community and the young people themselves. In addition, the risk of youngsters in trouble developing into hardened adult criminals is very real. Effective responses to youth crime can, therefore, help ease not only current but also future problems of crime. The Committee is particularly concerned about reports of ever younger offenders coming to the attention of the authorities for what may sometimes be quite serious incidents.
Arising from its general concern about juvenile crime and the need to develop effective responses at the level of policy and practice, the Committee decided at its first meeting on 17 July 1991 to address the question. As an initial step, it undertook to prepare this report on crime committed by, or attributed to juveniles, and where possible, to propose appropriate practical remedies and policy measures.
4. SUBMISSIONS TO THE COMMITTEE
Written submissions to the Committee came from all parts of the country and represented a wide cross section of opinion and experience. In addition to submissions in writing which had been invited in the national Press, the Committee also had the opportunity of receiving a number of oral submissions.
While the focus of the Committee in this instance is on juvenile crime, it is clear that many members of the public grasped the opportunity that the Committee’s invitation for submissions seemed to offer to air concerns about their experiences as victims of crime generally. Others wished to add their own ideas about how the problems of crime might be tackled and curbed.
Many submissions, however, did address the particular issues raised by juvenile crime per se. These came from members of the public, representative bodies of different kinds, community groups, professional associations, and statutory and voluntary organisations actually involved in the provision of services to young people in trouble or at risk.
Deep unease about Crime
It is clear that many people suffer through crime, either by way of fear or by way of being a victim. Despite the emotions that this issue can arouse, many respondents were aware of the importance of trying to break the cycle of offending in a constructive way. Others saw the importance of finding effective and positive sanctions and the important role of An Garda Siochana. Some felt that the needs of the victim should receive more definite attention. Other respondents acknowledged readily that juvenile crime, however irritating or troublesome, had to be seen in the context of other forms of crime, which, despite their lower profile, may prove to be more damaging, e.g. fraud and other forms of white collar crime.
A clear thread running through many submissions was the importance of preventing delinquency. Not surprisingly, perhaps, there were widely differing opinions, as to how best to achieve that end. Many laid emphasis on the critical role of parents in influencing the behaviour of their offspring and some felt that greater pressure should be exerted on those parents who are seen as not exercising their responsibilities in this regard. Some respondents stressed the importance of actively promoting the role of parents in decision making about their child, and that the system should build in measures to ensure that this happens at all critical points.
Some correspondents envisaged measures such as curfews on young people under 18, or laws to prevent gangs congregating. Others, notably people already working with youngsters in difficulty, emphasised the importance and value of constructive leisure and educational activities in the community, and the urgent need for more resources for this kind of work.
Other submissions spelt out practical ideas intended to contribute to the prevention of youth crime. These measures include better physical planning, more effective street lighting, a greater priority in car design for the security of the car when parked, various steps to combat alcohol related problems including a ban on the consumption of alcohol in public places, and the education of tourists about the risk of city crime.
The Role of An Garda Siochana
A view strongly argued was that the Garda - youth relationship is a critical one and that sensitive handling of this relationship and the judicious deployment of personnel in problem areas could repay itself as a policy handsomely. The Juvenile Liaison Officer Scheme received a number of mentions, and was generally considered very positively by these respondents.
Attending to the Needs of the Victims of Crime
Many submissions pleaded for more systematic attention to be devoted to the needs of the victims of crime.
Various opinions were offered in terms of extending the range of sanctions. These range from views advocating relatively draconian measures to those promoting a more rehabilitative emphasis.
Legislation and Legal Processes
There were calls for updating of legislation and the general streamlining of legal procedures and structures generally.
5. THE SOCIAL BACKGROUND TO JUVENILE CRIME
There is increasing evidence of numbers of Irish young people experiencing homeless. This may be a result of a family crisis, which can eventually be patched up or it may be part of a more chronic slide into a chaotic and alienated life pattern. It is clear that the disruption and detachment inherent in homelessness puts a young person at serious risk of criminal involvement. A Dublin study sought to gather information about 77 homeless young people who came into contact with either the Eastern Health Board or Focus Point in a 54 day period between October and December 1988. Significant proportions of the youngsters were ‘known or suspected to be involved in’ shoplifting and petty crime (39%); prostitution (25%); drug abuse (18%); solvent abuse (21%) and alcohol abuse (31%) (Focus Point and the Eastern Health Board Social Work Team (1989)).
Personal and Family Problems of Certain Young People
A study of a sample of 100 young people attending St. Vincent’s Trust - a service for disadvantaged youth in Dublin found a complex picture of personal and family problems in the lives of these young people, a picture likely to be representative of the position of many such young people across the country. In their upbringing, substantial proportions of these youngsters had experienced a variety of problems: frequent conflicts/violence in the home (56%); the loss of a parent (53%); alcohol or drug abuse by a parent (38%); child abuse (31%), and neglect (22%). In their own current circumstances, the young people reported involvement in crime (37%); substance abuse (31%); homelessness (26%); physical abuse (20%); and sexual abuse (8%) (McKeown 1991a).
A recent study has found that one in ten school pupils (9.9%) is missing from school on any one day in Dublin city. This adds up to a total of 6,000 youngsters for the city, quite apart from those missing from school elsewhere. The rates will vary by district: the study found more than one in nine (11.8%) missing daily in the Northern inner city of Dublin (McKeown 1991b). Such disrupted school experience inevitably carries grave implications for the academic achievement and social integration of these young people.
Educational Failure and the Consequences for Employment Prospects
One in three working class youngsters in Dublin leave school without any sort of educational qualification, either because they have dropped out of school, or they have failed a certificate examination. Nationally, 23% of boys and 17% of girls experience such educational failure. These young people face a risk of unemployment three times greater than young people who pass their Leaving Certificate (Hannan 1986). Even if employed, they are likely to experience greatly inferior job conditions and poorer job security (Breen 1985).
With a national rate of 20% unemployment, the rate in certain disadvantaged districts will be much higher. Young people will experience the problem in their own lives and in those of their parents or siblings. In the County Dublin Areas of Need Study which examined social conditions in 24 disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the county, it was found that an average of only 37.9% of households had a principal earner actually employed. This rate ranged from a low of 25.6% to a high of 47.1% across the 24 neighbourhoods (SUS Research 1987). Such patterns are likely to be repeated in comparable estates right across the country.
Reports of confirmed child abuse - physical and sexual - have grown dramatically in the 1980s. In the period 1983-89, there was an eleven fold increase in the annual number of child abuse cases and a fifteen fold increase in those cases involving child sexual abuse (Gilligan 1992). It should be noted that child abuse here refers to abuse of children from birth up to at least 16 years. American studies indicate that violent offenders have often been badly abused as children (Lewis, Mallouh and Webb 1989). Similarly many prostitutes, sex offenders and drug addicts prove to have childhood histories of sexual abuse.
Dublin studies have confirmed similar evidence from Glasgow and Merseyside of high rates of unemployment and high rates of drug use. Crime rates also tend to be higher in areas of high unemployment, with for instance the crime rate in the north inner city of Dublin running at something like twice the rate for the city as a whole (Gilligan 1991 p. 24-25).
6. RECENT TRENDS IN JUVENILE CRIME AND THEIR POSSIBLE IMPLICATIONS
Over the past four years an annual average of 3,500 young people under 17 were convicted of offences (including those who had a charge against them held proved). These young people under 17 account for roughly one in five persons convicted in these years (1987 - 1990). The under 14s constitute a modest 3% or so while those aged 14 and under 17 make up a disproportionately substantial 17% of all persons convicted. The number of under 14s involved fluctuated between 500 and 600 over the four years (indicating a downward trend on annual figures for some years earlier), and the figures for the 14 to 17 year olds ranged between a low of 2,331 and a high of 3,407.
Taking a different measure which confines persons convicted to those convicted for offences recorded in the relevant year and which adds in juveniles receiving cautions for offences in that same year gives a more prominent place to the offender under 17. The proportion of persons convicted under 17 represented an annual average of 30 per cent over the four years 1987 - 1990.
In the period 1981 - 1990, there has been a more than doubling in the annual number of young people cautioned under the Juvenile Liaison Scheme, and a substantial rise in the same period for the rates of caution as a proportion of all under 17s convicted or cautioned. This ‘cautioning rate’ was 44.7 per cent in 1981 and a 61.3 per cent in 1990. The trend in this cautioning rate for the decade was fairly steadily upwards which suggests that the 1990 figure is not a fluke.
Some tentative conclusions may be drawn. The first is that the young offender should loom large as a focus in any crime policy. All players in the criminal justice system need to focus on measures to prevent and discourage young people’s involvment in crime. Since the under 14s seem to have relatively modest impact, it seems clear that 14 - 17 year olds should be the focus of attention. More community based prevention services and more deliberate targetting by An Garda Siochana would seem promising strategies. This latter point is meant more to imply a targetting at a strategic level rather than to propose any operational measures which might merely serve to alienate youngsters unnecessarily.
PERSONS CONVICTED/CAUTIONED FOR OFFENCES RECORDED IN SELECTED YEAR
Source: Derived from Annual Reports of the Garda Commissioner
Total Number of Persons (including Juveniles by age group and percentage) convicted or against whom charge held proved and order made without conviction (that is persons convicted for crimes in relevant year and also for cases pending from previous year).
Source: Derived from Annual Reports of the Garda Commissioner
Persons Convicted/Charge Proved by Age 1987 - 90
7. THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN IRELAND
An Garda Siochana
An Garda Siochana is a national police force with a strength of 10,500. It is organised on the basis of 23 divisions, five of which make up the Dublin Metropolitan Area.
The Policy of An Garda Siochana in Respect of Juvenile Offenders
(1991) stipulates that young offenders should not be prosecuted unless the serious gravity of the crime, the past offences of the offender or other circumstances warrant a prosecution. Instead, the policy proposes the use of diversion as a strategy for steering a young person away from further crime or involvement in the criminal justice system. This scheme of diversion is to be operated under the auspices of the Force’s Juvenile Liaison Officer Scheme.
Juvenile Liaison Officer Scheme
This non-statutory scheme was first introduced on a preliminary basis in 1963 and was confined to certain areas initially. During the 1980s the scheme was placed on a national footing. There are currently a total of 83 Juvenile Liaison Officers within the Force. Thirty eight are assigned to Dublin, four to Cork, two to each of Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny and Waterford and one each to 33 other centres.
The role of the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer includes (i) the operation of the scheme in his/her area; (ii) informal monitoring of and contact with young people at risk; (iii) support of youth work and other preventative activities; (iv) liaison with relevant personnel - teachers, health board staff, school attendance officers, gardai etc.
Formal and Informal Cautions
Young offenders may now be dealt with under the Juvenile Liaison Officer Scheme if certain conditions are met: (i) the offender is under 18 years, (ii) he or she admits the offence, and (iii) in the normal course (a) the young person has not been cautioned before and (b) the parents agree to cooperate.
Under the terms of the 1991 Policy Document, a young offender admitted to the Juvenile Liaison Officer Scheme may receive a formal or an informal caution. The decision as to which will depend on the nature of the offence and other relevant factors. In the case of a formal caution, it is administered by the Cautioning Officer in a Garda Station, in the presence of the offender, the parents/guardian and the Juvenile Liaison Officer.
Where cautioned formally, a young person will be subject to twelve months of supervision by a Juvenile Liaison Officer, with, if circumstances warrant, weekly contact. The length of the supervision period may be varied subject to the approval of the National Juvenile Office (see below).
Since the scheme was first introduced in 1963, a total of 41,653 young people (34,914 males and 6,739 females) have been cautioned under its auspices. Of these young people, a total of 4,476 (or 10.7 per cent) are known to have become involved in further crime. This relatively low rate of recidivism would suggest that the scheme has been extremely effective in its aim of diverting young people from any further contact with crime or the criminal justice system.
In 1990, 5,190 young people under 17 were convicted or cautioned for offences recorded in that year. Of all these young people, 61.3 per cent received a caution. The comparable ‘cautioning rates’ for recent years were 61.3 per cent in 1989, 55.5 per cent in 1989, 59.3 per cent in 1988 and 67.2 per cent in 1987.
National Juvenile Office of An Garda Siochana
During 1991, the National Juvenile Office was established with a role in relation to all matters concerning young people. Specifically its brief includes
(i)formulating and operating a Schools Programme;
(ii)formulating Crime Prevention Programmes aimed at juveniles at risk;
(iii)liaising with Statutory and Voluntary Agencies concerned with the welfare of young people;
(iv)researching and developing Diversion Programmes;
(v)recording and examining cases of juveniles missing from home and identifying patterns in this area;
(vi)developing an Outreach Programme designed to establish Garda contact and monitor the activities of ‘detached’ young people, particularly in the areas of drug and alcohol abuse;
(vii)developing a liaison with School Attendance Officers; and
(viii)developing a role in relation to child sexual abuse.
An Garda Siochana Schools Programme
Since January 1990, the Force has been operating a Schools Programme in selected areas. Its aim is to promote a positive image of the work of An Garda Siochana and to discourage youngsters from involvement in crime. To date, schools in Tallaght (2), Coolock (12), Portmarnock (2), and Southill, Limerick (2) have been involved. Specially selected and trained Gardai undertake classroom visits and projects and trips with pupils in 4th and 5th classes. It is expected that this pilot scheme will be extended.
COURTS AND THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK
Three pieces of legislation - the Children’s Act 1908, the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 and the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983 - largely underpin the dispositions available to the Courts in respect of young offenders.
Children’s Act 1908
This Act provides the great majority of sanctions available to the Courts. Section 107 of the Act allows a case to be dealt with by
-dismissing the charge; or
-discharging the offender on his entering into a recognizance [giving a formal undertaking to be of good behaviour for a specified period]; or
-so charging the offender and placing him under the supervision of a probation officer; or
-committing the offender to the care of a relative or other fit person; or
-sending the offender to an industrial school; or
-sending the offender to a reformatory school; or
-ordering the offender to be whipped [a disposition which has fallen into disuse]; or
-ordering the offender to pay a fine, damages or costs; or
-ordering the parent or guardian of the offender to pay a fine, damages or costs; or
-ordering the parent or guardian of the offender to give security for his good behaviour; or
-committing the offender to custody in a place of detention provided under this part of the Act; or
-where the offender is a young person [aged fifteen and under 17] by sentencing him to imprisonment [requiring under a separate section of this Act that the young person be certified as being ‘of so unruly a character that he cannot be detained in a place of detention provided under this Act, and that he is of so depraved a character that he is not a fit person to be so detained’]; or
-dealing with the case in any other manner in which it may be legally dealt with.
The Act allows any child from the age of seven years to be brought before a Court for an offence. The prosecution must, however, show in the case of an offender aged between 7 and 14 years, that at the time of committing the act charged the child knew it was wrong. The age of criminal responsibility in Ireland - seven years - is probably the lowest in Europe if not the world. For example, the age of criminal responsibility is 15 in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, 14 in Germany, Austria and Italy, and 13 in France and Poland.
Under the relevant provisions of the Act there has been relatively extensive recourse to the use of adult prison for young offenders aged 15 and 16. The years for which most recent figures are available are 1987 and 1988. In 1987, 103 boys and 16 girls aged 15 and 16 were committed to adult prison. Of these, 29 were sentenced to a period of imprisonment of between one and two years, and a further eleven for a period of two years and over. In 1988, 10 boys and 22 girls were committed, 17 of the 32 for periods of more than one year. Also in 1988, a further 166 males were committed to St. Patrick’s Institution in Dublin. Designated as a ‘place of detention’ for 17 - 21 year olds, 16 year olds may be sent there in the absence of a suitable legal alternative.
Probation of Offenders Act 1907
This Act allows Courts to discharge conditionally an offender who gives a formal undertaking to be of good behaviour for a specified period and to follow the directions of the Probation and Welfare Officer supervising him or her. The Court may also, where it wishes, attach further conditions to the order requiring, for example, payment of compensation, attendance at work/training programme or residence in a hostel. Where the terms of an Order are not adhered to, the supervising Officer will usually bring the case back to Court where the penalty can be re-considered.
In 1990, 280 young people under 16 years were placed on probation. (A further 304 were placed informally under supervision of a Probation and Welfare Officer in conjunction with a deferment of penalty by the Court - see above.)
Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983
This Act provides the Courts with a disposition of up to 240 hours of community service. This Community Service Order may also include an order for compensation.
Certain conditions must be met for this disposition to be used: (i) the offence must merit an immediate custodial sentence, (ii) the offender must be aged 16 years, (iii) the offender must consent to this type of disposition, and (iv) the court must be satisfied the offender is a suitable person to undertake community service work and that such work is available. Failure to comply with the terms of a Community Service Order may result in a fine in addition to the original sentence, or a custodial sentence.
Probation and Welfare Service
In 1990, the Courts placed 584 young people under 16 years on probation or on supervision during deferment of penalty. These 584 young people so placed represented 22.5 per cent of all such cases referred to the Probation and Welfare Service during 1990.
Under a Probation Order, the offender gets a conditional discharge subject to following the directions of a Probation and Welfare Officer for a specified period and other such conditions as the Court may decide. Failure to comply with the Court’s decision usually entails a return to Court and a re-consideration of the penalty. Supervision during deferment of penalty is an informal judicial practice whereby the Court postpones determining a penalty to a later date subject to the offender responding to the supervision of a Probation and Welfare Office during the period of deferment.
The Probation and Welfare Service has grown from a single post in 1961 to a national service with 169 posts currently, (and the creation of a further 31 announced). Officers of the service prepare social enquiry and other reports for the Courts. They supervise offenders in the community. Under a recently announced Intensive Supervision Scheme, 31 newly appointed officers are to undertake intensive supervision of 200 offenders. Two centres, one in Dublin and the other in Cork will be provided as part of the Scheme and these will be used particularly for the high risk offenders in the 16 to 23 age group. Offenders will be required to attend these centres as an integral part of their participation in the supervision programme.
Probation and Welfare Officers also assist in the setting up of community based facilities (hostels etc) and they assist in resolving family difficulties in civil cases.
Community Services/Facilities for Youngsters in Trouble/At Risk
Neighbourhood Youth Projects
There are now four of these projects operating - one sponsored by the Southern Health Board in Mayfield in Cork, one sponsored by the Western Health Board in Galway city and two sponsored by the Eastern Health Board in Dublin. These projects are intended to work intensively with a group of up to 24 local young people at risk and with their peers and families. The aim to to preempt any need for Court appearances or admission to public care. The projects employ a variety of techniques - personal counselling, group work, informal school work, outings, adverture sports, holidays etc.
Youth Encounter Projects
These Projects are well resourced special schools funded by the Department of Education. Their brief is to cater for boys and girls aged 10 - 14 who are persistent truants and/or have been or seem likely to be in trouble with the law. There are four of these projects operational, one each in Cork, Limerick and in Finglas and Dublin’s North Inner city.
Department of Justice Funded Projects
Centrally, or through the Department’s Probation and Welfare Service, the Department of Justice offers support to a number of programmes aimed at weaning young people away from any involvement in crime.
Two initiatives, one in Cherry Orchard in Dublin (We Have a Dream - WHAD) and in Southill (OUTREACH) are run by local management committees comprised or representatives of residents, non-statutory bodies, Gardai, Probation and Welfare Service. Salaries for full time youth workers are met by the Department. Project activities include counselling, group exploration by the young people in groups (assisted by the youth workers) of criminal/delinquent behaviour and its consequences, leisure activities and community projects.
In the communities of Killinarden and Ronanstown on the west of Dublin, the Department of Justice has lent financial support to a year long community development project run in conjunction with the Probation and Welfare Service and the Catholic Youth Council and in close liaison with the Gardai. This project has a particular emphasis on the needs of local young people (including young travellers).
The work of a number of voluntary bodies who work with young people at risk in the community also receive assistance towards their running costs from the Probation and Welfare Service. These include St. Vincent’s Trust in Henrietta Street in Dublin, which provides training and social support to young people who are actually homeless or at risk of becoming so and the Candle Community Trust in Ballyfermot which is geared to local youth at risk. The Service has also supported the establishment and operation of two training workshops for young people on probation or at risk - Treble “R” Industries in Dublin, and the Dun Laoghaire Youth Project.
Existing personnel may also develop special programmes geared to the needs of local youth at risk. One example is an initiative by Probation and Welfare Officers in the Coolock/Darndale area of Dublin with the support of local Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers. A group of probationers aged 13 - 16 meet for a half day a week for a programme which includes group discussions, educational videos, bowling, snooker and other leisure time pursuits.
Department of Education Special Schools/Centres for Offenders
There are five special residential centres for offenders in the State with a capacity, the Committee is informed, for up to 15 girls and 216 boys.
St. Josephs Special School, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary is run on behalf of the Minister for Education by the Rosminian Order. An annual grant is paid to cover full running expenses. The School is run on an open basis and has a capacity for 75 long term places for boys aged 10-15 years. A recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General found, however, that the centre was operating at 50% - 60% of capacity for most of 1990.
The majority of boys in residence have been committed by the Courts for offences. The remainder are placed by health boards on welfare grounds. Boys are released to their homes once a month and for the full Easter and Christmas breaks.
Finglas Children’s Centre is run by the De la Salle Order with an annual grant from the Department of Education. It comprises a 20 place remand centre for boys - St. Michael’s Remand and Assessment Centre and St. Laurence’s Special School which can accommodate 55 boys. St. Michael’s accepts boys aged 10-15 on Remand from the Courts for a three week assessment. St Laurences accepts boys aged 12-15 who are committed for relatively minor offences for a period, usually of one year.
The Comptroller and Auditor General found that these centres operate below their full capacity because they operate ordinary school terms. Thus, according to his 1990 report, St. Michael’s only provides an assessment service for 33 weeks of the year, resulting in, at best, a throughput of somewhat less than two thirds of its potential. Similarly, he found that St. Laurence’s operated at 25% capacity for 6 months of the year, at between 25% and 75% for 2 and one half months of the year, and above 75% (but never full) for three and one half months of the year.
Oberstown Girls Centre is managed by a Board of Management appointed by the Minister for Education. It provides seven places for girls on remand for assessment and 4-8 long term places. This centre will be transferred to a new 20 place school in Finglas which is due for completion in September 1993.
Trinity House, Lusk is managed by a Board of Management appointed by the Minister for Education. It provides 28 places for young male offenders in secure residential accommodation. It also offers two remand places. Boys must be under 16 on admission and may be detained in the school until they are 18 years of age. The Comptroller and Auditor General reported the view of the Department of Justice expressed to him that the closure by the Department of Education of the open centre at Scoil Ard Mhuire, Lusk in 1985 might have resulted in the inappropriate placement of boys in Trinity House who could be accommodated on an open basis were such accommodation available. According to this view, this meant that other boys definitely requiring secure accommodation could not be accommodated and had to be released, despite having been convicted by the Courts.
Oberstown Boys Centre, Lusk is based in part of the premises of the aforementioned former Scoil Ard Mhuire, Lusk. It opened on 30 September 1991 with a capacity initially for 10 remand places and 4 long stay places. It is intended that the capacity should eventually extend to 12 remand places and 24 long stay places.
Department of Justice Centres
There are four Probation Hostels catering for 14-18 year old boys. These are run in conjunction with the Department of Justice Probation and Welfare Service. Two of these hostels are in Dublin (28 places) and the remaining two in Cork and Waterford offer 7 places each. The Service also has access to places in two Dublin hostels for teenage girls and in one which caters for older teenage and young adult males.
Prison and Places of Detention
Three centres are specially geared to the 16-21 age group, Wheatfield, Clondalkin, St. Patrick’s Institution, Dublin and (the open) Shanganagh Castle, Shankill. There are no up to date figures on the precise age breakdown of the population detained in each centre. However it is known that Ireland had the highest proportion of prisoners under 21 in Council of Europe member countries in 1989. The Irish rate was 26.2 per cent compared to 10.8 per cent in France, 6.7 per cent in Spain, 4.0 per cent in Sweden or 21.3 per cent in the UK (13.8 per cent in the Northern Ireland jurisdiction).
The health boards provide on any given day placements in public care for approximately 2,500 children and young people. One in four of those in care at the end of 1989 were placed in residential settings, usually children’s homes, the remainder being placed with foster families. Slightly more than one in three (38 per cent) of these youngsters were aged 12 and over. In this latter category, there may be some youngsters whose profile of difficulties includes at least some brushes with the law. In that context, a development of particular interest may be four new units supported and/or managed by the Eastern Health Board. These are neighbourhood based units, catering for up to six local youngsters. Two of these are sited in Dublin’s north inner city, one in the flats in Ballymun and one in a housing estate in Tallaght. It is not unknown for at least some of the residents in these settings to have had some involvement with the law, but this has not proved a problem in the smooth and effective running of these centres. Indeed, the successful experience with these centres has prompted the Eastern Health Board to wish to pursue this policy of locally based care further.
8. SELECTED INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS IN APPROACHES TO YOUTH CRIME AND ITS PREVENTION
The National Crime Prevention Council has developed a model of inter-agency cooperation in combatting juvenile delinquency. There is widespread use of its proposal for committees comprised of the local head of Police and local Directors of Education, Social Services and Cultural Affairs together with co-opted representatives of sporting organisations, youth clubs and tenants’ associations. Each such committee has as its brief (i) identifying problem areas, (ii) anticipating the need for, and maximising the efficiency of, early intervention, (iii) coordinating local crime prevention policies and initiatives, and (iv) targetting specific groups ‘at risk’.
Since 1981, France has been implementing a comprehensive national strategy in relation to the prevention of youth crime. There is a strong emphasis on summer activities and recreational alternatives to crime; close links between central and local government on this issue; the development of local youth centres; priority for involving young people themselves; and a focus on longer term benefits such as confidence building, job finding and social integration generally. Since this policy was implemented, there have been no riots of disturbances involving young people and the police say crime overall, and crimes typically associated with young people, have shown a decline.
British juvenile justice policy has been summed up in the word ‘Diversion’. In this context, the word is used in three senses. The first sense is to divert young people from crime, that is crime prevention. The second sense is diverting young people from Court, that is from formal involvement in the criminal justice system and all that that can entail. The third sense in which it is used is in terms of diverting young people from ‘care or custody’, that is from dispositions which entail a young person being sent to a custodial setting.
It should be said of course that this policy is aspirational. While it is certainly having a practical impact on decision making in actual caes and in the allocation of resources within the criminal justice system, it is still the reality that many young people appear before the courts and some, especially older offenders, receive custodial sentences. Two key elements of this British strategy to ‘divert’ young people from crime and custody are ‘intermediate treatment’ and ‘gatekeeping’.
A distinctive feature of the British juvenile justice provision in the past twenty years or so has been the growth in what is known as ‘intermediate treatment’. It represents a key method of realising the policy of diversion outlined above. ‘Intermediate treatment’ involves community based recreational, educational, and supervisory activities of varying levels of intensity. While its overall function is to divert young people from crime, in its more intensive forms its intention is to provide alternatives which pre-empt the need to place a young person in care or custody.
Some ‘intermediate treatment’ agencies in Britain offer local courts packages which can become part of the terms of a probation order. The precise content of what is to be done with the young person depend on the individual’s profile. However the court would know that the programme for the young person would for instance address attitudes to crime, strategies for avoiding re-offending, and the development of social and practical skills. It would also know that such a package would comprise, say, 60 sessions spread over, say, 5 months. Very tight adherence to punctuality and the terms of the individual contract would be expected, and any breach of these conditions would result in the case being returned to court.
In order to put flesh on the concept of pre-court diversion, that is keeping a child out of the Court system, a number of interagency Juvenile Liaison Bureaux have been established. These pool the knowledge and experience of different agencies, police, social services and probation etc. to identify the most appropriate response to the particular child. In this approach, cautioning and other measures may comprise an agreed intervention in the life of a child thus obviating the need for a Court appearance. It ensures that those children who do get through to Court are properly there.
Scottish Childrens Hearing\Panel System
The current Scottish approach to decision making in relation to children in trouble - children’s hearings - has achieved a world reputation since its inception in 1968. Essentially, the Children’s Hearings system, which was established in 1968 operates as an alternative to court for children under 16. A Hearing is a lay tribunal of three Panel members (specially selected and trained members of the public appointed to the relevant regional panel) and a public official - the Reporter. Hearings deal with cases involving children who are referred for offences or because of concerns with their welfare. There are eleven separate grounds specified. Where the facts of a case are disputed, these must first be determined by a Court. A recent major review of Scottish child care law declared as one of its guiding principles the view that ‘the operation of the children’s hearings system on the whole is successful and that any proposals for reform should build on that success’ (Scottish Office (1990 p.27))
The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Bejing Rules) (1986)
These Rules lay down the minimum standards of good practice acceptable to the United Nations. They entail, inter alia, an emphasis on
(i)the well being of the juvenile and his/her family;
(ii)the promotion of social conditions to personal development free of crime;
(iii)the mobilisation of all possible resources in the family community and society to obviate as far as possible legal intervention in the child’s life;
(iv)systematic development and enhancement of services and personnel in national juvenile justice systems;
(v)an age of criminal responsibility set in line with international standards;
(vi)responses to juvenile offences which are in proportion to the circumstances of the offender and the offence;
(vii)expeditious handling of cases;
(viii)the use of diversion;
(ix)the availability of police officers with specialist skills for dealing with young people and the creation, in large cities, of specialist police units’;
(x)the availability of a range of non-custodial options and a priority for the use of such options;
(xi)the absolute minimum use of custodial/institutional options;
(xii)juveniles being held in a separate institution or a separate part of an institution away from adult offenders;
(xiii)special attention to the needs of female offenders held in institutions;
(xiv)the use of volunteers to assist in the rehabilitation of young people;
(xv)the importance of research and evaluation.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
Ireland has signalled its intention of ratifying this Convention. The Convention makes various recommendations in relation to children (under 18 years) in trouble with the law. It requires that such youngsters should be treated in a manner which ‘….takes into account the child’s age and the desirability of promoting the child’s re-integration and the child’s assuming a constructive role in society (Article 40.1). The Convention supports, where at all possible, the concept of diversion from the courts system by calling for ‘measures for dealing with such children without resorting to judicial proceedings, providing that human rights and legal safeguards are fully respected’ (Article 40.3.b).
In terms of dispositions for young people in trouble, the Convention calls for a range of alternatives to institutional care, viz. ‘care, guidance and supervision orders; counselling; probation; foster care; education and vocational training programmes and other alternatives to institutional care’. This is to ‘ensure that children are dealt with in a manner appropriate to their well being and proportionate both to their circumstances and the offence’ (Article 40.4).
United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (The Riyadh Guidelines) (1990)
The Riyadh Guidelines spell out in some detail the role of government, the family, the education system, the community, the mass media, social policy and the criminal justice system itself in the prevention of delinquency.
United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (1990)
These Rules deal with the operation of facilities and institutions to which youngsters in trouble are sent by the court. There are detailed stipulations in relation to staffing, procedures, services and facilities and physical conditions in such settings. The Rules state that ‘in all detention facilities, juveniles should be separated from adults’ (Rule 29). The Rules favour the establishment of small scale settings which ‘facilitiate access and contact between the juveniles and their families’ and which are ‘integrated into the social, economic and cultural environment of the community’ (Rule 30).
These recommendations offer a comprehensive and inter-locking set of recommendations in relation to the development of juvenile justice provision and policy. The recommendations are addressed to the whole of society, not just to the Department of Justice or the other arms of the criminal justice system as it deals with juveniles. The recommendations also concern the role of other relevant Departments of state and the role of local authorities and health boards. There is also discussion of the role of parents, of voluntary bodies and of ordinary citizens.
The Committee believes that the task of public policy in this area is to create a coherent philosophical and operational framework within which state agencies, parents, citizens and voluntary bodies can work together effectively to reduce the damage wrought by juvenile crime in the lives of young offenders themselves and in the lives of victims of crime.
For the purpose of this report, the Committee would remind the reader that it has defined juvenile in the context of its brief as dealing with those aged 12 and under 18. This upper age limit is consistent with current international thinking as manifested in all recent United Nations documents in this area. The Committee believes that those under 12 should be dealt with under the Child Care Act 1991, and those aged 18 should be treated as adults as is the case in other spheres.
The Committee believes that the objectives of public policy in relation to juvenile crime should be clearly articulated by Government. Only when this is done is it possible to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of current policy and provision. The committee would consider the following as important considerations in the drafting of legislation and the fleshing out of public policy in this area
(i)the protection of the community;
(ii)the vulnerability and welfare of the child in trouble;
(iii)the overriding importance both for society and the individual of preventing a child slipping into a lifetime of crime;
(iv)the relevance of adverse social conditions in the lives of most children in trouble with the law;
(v)the importance therefore of a multi-faceted response at the level of prevention and intervention to the problem of juvenile crime, which involves not only the elements of the formal juvenile justice system itself but also all relevant sectors whether at the level of the community, the State or society.
(vi)the importance of every young person being treated with respect in any encounter they might have with the formal juvenile justice system, not only because of their instrinsic worth as human beings and their constitutional rights, but also because such respect lays some realistic basis for expecting a similar respect from the young person for the institutions of society and the state.
(vii)the desirability of maximising the use of diversion - i.e. measures which aim to divert the youngster from the formal criminal justice system and further crime;
(viii)the desirability, on grounds of finance and effectiveness, of maximum possible reliance on non-custodial measures;
(ix)the importance of the efficient operation of the system, and in particular the undesirability of long delays between arrest and any final court hearing.
(x)the importance of a published policy framework within which all decision - makers in the juvenile justice system can operate;
(xi)the desirability of key decision - makers in the juvenile justice system having a brief exclusively concerned with children;
(xii)the importance of the Irish system conforming to the best international standards and practices.
The Committee has formulated recommendations in relation to (i) a new legal framework for the juvenile justice system; (ii) the role of parents in relation to juvenile offending; (iii) community based and custodial/residential dispositions and (iv) the role of other sectors outside the formal juvenile justice system (Gardai, Courts, Probation and Welfare Service and Residential/Custodial Settings).
The Committee calls on the Government to introduce urgently new Juvenile Justice legislation which reflects the needs of a modern society. The Committee considers that the Children Act 1908 is outdated and in need of radical overhaul. The Committee believes that the new Juvenile Justice Act should incorporate a number of significant reforms:
1 Raising of the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years
This would be a very important step in bringing our system into line with international norms. No other European country has such a low age of criminal responsibility. Indeed in most the age is set at 14 or 15. However to allay any possible public concern, the committee has opted for what seems a reasonable compromise of 12 years. It is the age when young people enter second level education, a stage which they and their parents see as a watershed in their social development. Accordingly, we would expect this recommendation to command wide public support, since there are surely few in our society who would wish to defend the status quo in this regard. The Committee would wish to stress that those under 12 who get into trouble would not be left to their own devices. The Committee would envisage that they would be dealt with under the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer Scheme or under the Child Care Act 1991 as ‘children in need of care and protection’. The Committee believes that the new Juvenile Justice legislation should cover those aged 12 years and under 18 years.
2. The articulation of goals and objectives for the operation of the juvenile justice system
The Committee would propose that this section of the legislation would entail a succinct statement of the main intentions of the Act: to protect society from juvenile crime and its effects; to seek to prevent juvenile crime; to aim to divert young people in trouble from succumbing to lifetime involvement in crime; to offer a series of sanctions of gradually increasing severity to the Courts; to favour non-custodial sanctions; to lay down the expectation that heavier sanctions will be employed only when lighter sanctions can be shown to have failed, or where the unusual gravity of the offence requires otherwise.
3. New obligation on the Department of Justice, Garda Siochana, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Probation and Welfare Service to assign suitably trained personnel exclusively to policy and major decision - making in relation to young people.
The development of laws and services specifically dedicated to children and young people, and the recognition of their special position in Irish and international law obliges the authorities to ensure that policy and practice in relation to children and young people are characterised by the necessary degree of sensitivity and expertise. It is essential that the institutions of state in this area ensure that all young people encountered are treated with dignity and respect.
The Committee warmly welcomes the initiative of the Garda Commissioner in establishing a National Juvenile Office within the Force. The new office should play an important part in ensuring the most effective policies and practices in relation to juvenile crime.
In relation to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Committee would suggest that the special issues raised by young people’s involvement in crime, whether as perpetrators or victims (as in sexual abuse), warrant a particularly sensitive approach. This seems likely to be best achieved by regarding this area as specialist, and as one requiring legal and social expertise of a high order. Decisions made in this context carry serious implications for the lives of these young people and for the perceptions of justice and the law with which they and society are left.
The Committee considers that the Probation and Welfare Service has a vital and central role to play in the operation of the juvenile justice system. Indeed, it is clear that many of the committee’s own recommendations will require the involvement or initiative of the Service for their realisation.
4. New duties on the relevant authorities to put in place andsupport measures geared to preventing delinquency.
Under such provisions, the Garda Siochana and the Probation and Welfare Service would be required to promote measures intended to prevent the emergence or recurrence of delinquent behaviour. The legislation should require the (discreet) identification of areas with high numbers of young people coming to attention because of concerns about delinquent behaviour. The authorities would be required to fund locally based programmes aimed at attracting young people away from an involvement in crime. Such programmes would likely embrace elements of youth work, sport, adventure activities, or specialist hobbies such as stock car racing or moto - cross. In addition to such programmes, the authorities would be required to design specifically tailored measures for individuals at risk in order to draw them out of any further trouble. The Committee believes that such preventive approaches at the level of the district and the individual can yield excellent results, especially if they are geared to the early identification of difficulties, that is before children or young people get sucked too deeply into trouble. These preventive programmes will also require the close cooperation of the Health Boards, the education authorities and FAS.
5. The establishment of Juvenile Crime Prevention Committees for each Garda division or district in larger urban areas and a national juvenile crime prevention Committee.
The Dail Select Committee proposes these Juvenile Crime Prevention Committees for a number of reasons. A successful juvenile justice policy requires the active support of all sections of society. It requires the goodwill and confidence of local communities and the active assistance of statutory and voluntary agencies not immediately associated with the criminal justice system. The functions of such Juvenile Crime Prevention Committees would be to provide a relatively local forum on juvenile crime matters for all relevant interests. Patterns of difficulty could be identified, solutions explored, and the overall performance of the different elements of the system reviewed.
The Select Committee would also see the possibility of this structure incorporating, inter alia, similar functions to the panels in the Scottish juvenile justice system (see p. 33). In other words under the auspices of these Juvenile Crime Prevention Committees, local panels could become a layer within the decision making structures between that of the Garda Siochana and the envisaged Juvenile and Family Court (see below).
Comprised of citizen volunteers who receive some special training, and operating with the support of a legally competent public official, these panels could enhance the legitimacy of the juvenile justice system as perceived by victims, offenders, their families and the general public. In a given case, three eligible citizens with the supporting official, would comprise a panel to hear a case. The panel’s function would be to search for solutions aimed at preventing further offences, and which were practical and acceptable to the various parties. Its proceedings would be conducted on an informal basis symbolised, as in the Scottish model, by a round table format. Where appropriate, the panel would have the power to impose non-custodial sentences, or to recommend residential/custodial sentences to the Court, which would of course have to hold its own hearing. The panel might also have powers to refer a case for action by Health Boards under the Child Care Act 1991.
6. Provision for Juvenile Bureaux in Garda Divisions.
The Committee believes that the concept of juvenile bureaux in certain selected divisions of the Garda Siochana has much merit. Juvenile Bureaux operate widely and successfully in police forces around the world. The Committee believe that police contact with juveniles can be highly influential in determining their future attitudes to the law and its observance and enforcement. A specialist unit is likely to be able to muster crucial additional expertise, tact and wisdom in highly sensitive dealings with youngsters, something which busy all - purpose units may simply not be able to manage. In making this recommendation for specialist provision to supplement mainstream police structures, the Committee is mindful of the considerable success which has attended a comparable structure within the Garda Siochana - the Drug Squads.
7. Duties on relevant public authorities (health boards, education authorities, local authorities) to co-operate as required with the formal juvenile justice authorities.
While dealing with juvenile crime is in the first instance the responsibility of the formal elements of the juvenile justice system, it is clear that the multi - faceted nature of juvenile crime and its causation requires concerted effort on the part of a range of public authorities. Begging among children, truancy, offending by homeless youngsters, sexual offences by juveniles are ready examples of the necessity for a close interrelationship between the relevant public agencies in instances of juvenile offending.
8. Statutory recognition and expansion of mechanisms for diversion in the juvenile justice system.
In applauding the great achievements of the Juvenile Liaison Scheme of the Garda Siochana since its inception in 1963, the Committee believes that the principle of diversion for first or minor offenders, and the requisite structures, must now be firmly enshrined in the new legislation.
9. Establishment of special juvenile and family courts, with training for judges and lay assessors.
The Committee believes the introduction of juvenile and family Courts is long overdue in the Irish legal system. The specialist and sensitive nature of the decisions required in these areas hardly warrants an extended rehearsal of the arguments in favour of specialist Courts, aided by training and advisers.
10. Improvement of Court facilities and procedures in relation to juveniles.
It is important that the physical facilities and procedures man a clear distinction between the conduct of adult and juvenile cases. The requirement in relation to the physical separation of proceedings may not have been fully adhered to in the past, but the Committee is strongly of the view that civilised standards demand absolute adherence to it in the future. In relation to procedure, the Committee believes that the emphasis must be on achieving full comprehensibility of what is going on. Appearance in court should be a chastening experience. Excessive formality and obscurity in language or procedure may merely reduce the impact for a young person to the farcically irrelevant or ineffectual. The Committee is very concerned that many young people leave court quite bemused and unaware of what has actually transpired by way of judgement or sentence. For justice to be done and to be effective, it must not only be seen to be done, it must also be understood.
11. Rationalisation and extension of the range of non-custodial dispositions available to the Court.
The Committee’s proposals in relation to non-custodial dispositions are set out below in some detail.
12. Rationalising options in relation to residential/custodial sentences and the conditions attaching to their use.
The Committee’s views on these dispositions are also set out below.
13. Provision for mandatory regulations governing the operation of all residentiall and custodial centres for young offenders.
The new Act provides a vital opportunity to reform the requlations governing the operation of residential/custodial centres for young people committed for offences. The Committee would be anxious that these regulations should provide, inter alia, for visiting committes for all centres, very strict controls on the use of solitary confinement for young people already incarcerated in a secure setting, general requirements in relation to the use of discipline and in particular an embargo on the use of witholding rights rather than privileges as a form of punishment, and ready access to visiting committees in relation to complaints.
14. The development of structures to maximise the involvement by volunteers in the juvenile justice system.
The Committee is convinced of the great importance of the juvenile justice system commanding the confidence and support of the community at large. This prospect is put in jeopardy, if decisions and policies seem to be taken by people who are remote and largely faceless, and if the processes permit no involvement by ordinary citizens. The Committee also believes that the quality of decisions and performance of the overall system can be greatly improved by the contribution of ordinary citizens. Enhanced legitimacy and improved performance are rich rewards indeed in return for the relatively modest effort required in devising structures which involve citizens as volunteers. The Committee envisages a number of structures which would serve inter alia, this purpose, e.g. local crime prevention committees panel membership; visiting committees for all residential/custodial units (see above in relation to these three examples); fit persons (see section on non-custodial dispositions below).
15. A review of the law in relation to loitering.
The Committee urges the competent authorities to undertake an early review of existing legal provisions in relation to loitering. The Committee itself proposes to address the issue of loitering, specifically, at an early date.
16. A complete ban on the use of adult prison to accommodate young people under 17 years.
The Committee abhors the use of prison in any circumstances for juveniles under 17. It offends any civilised standard. It defeats the objective of steering youngsters in trouble from a career of crime. It represents a startling admission of failure on the part of the whole system.
17. Duty on Minister for Justice to publish an annual report on the operation of the juvenile system.
This mechanism is designed to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of the juvenile justice system and to ensure that its operation never returns to the oblivion in which, in policy terms, it has languished since the foundation of the State. This device is similar to one incorporated in the Child Care Act as a check on the performance of Health Boards in relation to the terms of the Act, and to one envisaged for schools in the Introduction to the Green Paper on Education.
18. Requirement on the Department of Justice to fund research into all aspects of the operation of the juvenile justice system.
Despite their great significance socially, there is little if any research available on juvenile crime or on the nature or effectiveness of official responses to it. It is essential that public policies are drafted, and public monies spent, on the basis of the best available evidence. Only through carefully commissioned and conducted research, can the vital information be garnered. Every organisation of any consequence worldwide which wishes to retain its reputation and relevance grasps the importance of spending on research and development. The Committee believes it is high time that the Minister took this point on board in relation to juvenile justice.
19. Commitment to meeting the standards laid down by relevant UN documents (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Riyadh Guidelines, the Bejing Rules and the UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty).
It seems self evident to this Committee that our claim to a valued place in the community of civilised nations depends heavily on our performance in this particularly sensitive area of civil liberties and public policy. Our provision must match the standards laid down by these documents.
Parents and Juvenile Crime
In most societies, parents carry the primary responsibility for the welfare of their children. Indeed, where a child gets into difficulty, most observers will tend to lay the blame at the door of the parents. While parents undoubtedly play what is usually a decisive role in the care and welfare of their children, it is important to recognise that various obstacles may prevent them exercising their parental functions effectively.
Parenting is a very demanding and under-valued role in our society. Parents have to be breadwinners, cooks, sources of encouragement and consolation, homework tutors, arbiters in childhood disputes, imparters of sex education, nurses, calm heads in a crisis, launderers, housekeepers, financial controllers, accountants, enforcers of the family’s code of behaviour and of sanctions for its breach, monitors of the child’s whereabouts, promoters of the family’s religious or ethical standards, purchasers or advisers in relation to clothing, counsellors, willing listeners, career advisers, managers of their children’s social life and so on. However impressive this list, most parents would agree that it still cannot begin to capture the intensity and complexity of the parental task.
Where parents fail to live up to society’s (and usually their own) expectations, it is thankfully in Ireland more usually due to adverse circumstances, rather than parental indifference. Parents may lack the supports, the good health, the physical and mental energy, the know how or the emotional strength to sustain their rule over the long haul. Parents who are rearing children alone, parents who suffer from chronic physical illness or disability, parents with psychiatric conditions, parents with serious marital difficulties, parents afflicted by alcohol - related problems and most of all parents worn down by the struggle to rear children on low and inadequate incomes may simply run out of physical and mental steam. It is not just current circumstances which influence a parent’s functioning. Many parents are severely handicapped by childhoods in which they lacked the love and security necessary for healthy development. Many would hold that people can only give what they have received - one can only parent well if one has been parented well.
Given the complexity of what is being asked of parents, given the critical role in society played by parents, the challenges posed by the rapid changes in attitudes to parental and other forms of authority in society, and given the disparity of personal resources which parents bring to the task, it seems essential to take two steps. The first is to recognise that some parents are bound to get into difficulty and it will usually not be their fault. The second is to recognise that it is more productive, rather than apportioning blame, to see that parents get support so that they - and their children - don’t get into difficulty.
What kind of support? The Committee endorses the concept of parenting education as proposed in some submissions. In particular, the Committee believes that the parents of most adolescents would welcome the opportunity to discuss with other parents and advisers the problems and issues they face. Similarly parents of toddlers could benefit from coaching in the basics of successful behaviour management, since it is in these years that the seeds of problem behaviour in later years may unwittingly be sown.
The Committee recommends that structures for parental counselling and education be put in place across the country by the health and education authorities. These structures should also be geared to identifying parents who may be most likely to encounter difficulty with a view to chanelling the necessary pre-emptive advice and support.
As in many areas of policy, the Committee believes that a judicious mix of carrot and stick may secure the best return, in terms of parental influence over delinquent behaviour. Unrealistic demands of physically or mentally enfeebled parents are likely to be counterproductive, as are flourishes of rhetoric about the duties of parents in general. What is more likely to be effective, is practical help to parents submerged by life’s problems, and down to earth advice and information to the average parent.
With those supports in place, it will seem much more reasonable to also consider some sticks to motivate the small minority of laggards by means such as fines which are already provided for in the Children’s Act 1908; and by a legal duty on parents/guardians to attend when their child is before a Court or being held in a Garda Station. There are, however, likely to be practical problems of enforceability in at least some instances. As a practical alternative to fines, the Committee would recommend for consideration the use of victim reparation orders (see below). Reparation would take the form of practical or financial reparation to the victim by the offender. Where necessary such reparation might be discharged in appropriate instalments. The Committee sees an opportunity for the Court to involve parents in assisting in the discharge of such reparation (or indeed to require them to do so). To work effectively, reparation should afford the youngster ample opportunity to contemplate the personal cost to the victim and to themselves of their action. In addition, unlike a fine, any financial ‘compensation’ under such a victim reparation order is paid to the victim.
Non - Custodial Dispositions and Provision
It may be helpful to think of the responses and sanctions available in instances of delinquency as constituting a continuum of interventions which range from light to heavy. At the lightest end are those measures which do not entail any formal prosecution by the criminal justice system. At the other end of the spectrum are custodial sentences in secure facilities whether a secure special school, a place of detention or, in exceptional circumstances, an adult prison. In this section, recommendations are set out which seek to reinforce and extend the repertoire of non-residential or non-custodial dispositions available to decision - makers in the juvenile justice system. In specifying the range of desired dispositions the discussion encompasses proposed and existing provisions.
Cautioning (Informal and Formal) is widely employed under the auspices of the Garda Juvenile Liaison Scheme (see earlier section for fuller discussion). The Committee wishes to record its great admiration for the excellent work being done under this scheme.
Victim - Offender Mediation
It can be of great value to the victim, the offender and society, for the offender to be confronted with the consequences of their actions and to hear of these at first hand from the victim. Facing up so directly to the responsibility for their actions can be a salutary experience for a young person. It may be one which has a more enduring and positive impact - for both offender and victim - than the more formal and impersonal rituals typical of the criminal justice system.
This process of victim - offender mediation can entail different levels of complexity, it may be confined to the embarrassment of a carefully staged encounter with a victim of one’s behaviour. It may also involve negotiations as to an appropriate form of compensation or restitution which is acceptable to the victim. There may also be measures adopted to ensure the requisite follow through on any steps agreed.
The Court, taking into account the circumstances of the case, would have the option of convicting but discharging the young person. The penalty would entail (i) the recording of the conviction (ii) a solemn commitment by the child or young person to remain out of trouble for a period to be specified by the Court and (iii) the adverse implications for the trustworthiness and reputation of the young person of further Court appearances.
Victim Reparation Order
The Court would order the child or young person to undertake some form of suitable action/work by way of reparation to the victim. This might also entail a carefully conducted encounter with the victim, managed by the Probation and Welfare Service or a voluntary agency under its - or possibly the Courts - auspices.
Fit Person (Supervision) Order
The Court should seek a named and responsible non-relative (teacher, youth worker, member of the clergy, bona fide voluntary worker) who is willing to be nominated as a fit person to monitor the daily activities of a young person who is the subject of such an order. This fit person would undertake this work in a voluntary capacity but would be eligible for the reimbursement of necessary expenses and would have access to the advice and support of a named probation and welfare officer. The Committee believes this measure (which has a long if neglected pedigree in our own law and is popular in many other jurisdictions) can harness the positive relationships with a child or young person in trouble may have. An adult with an existing commitment to the child may be able to exert a more ready positive influence on a child than a relative stranger appointed by the Court.
Fit Person (Care and Supervision) Order
This order would add an obligation to have the young person reside with a supervising fit person. This order would be subject to the consent of the fit person so nominated. It would also be conditional on the suitability of the fit person for this role having been endorsed by the Probation and Welfare Service, Garda Siochana, and the relevant Health Board (to avoid risk of abuse etc.) The fit person so appointed would be accountable to the Court for the child’s welfare for the duration of the order.
This order would place a child or young person under the supervision of a professional Probation and Welfare Officer for the period of time specified.
Probation Order (with Conditions)
The terms of such an order could impose such conditions as the Court deemed appropriate, e.g. that the young person should avoid a certain area of a town, that the young person observe a personal curfew etc.
Probation Order (Place of Residence Conditions)
The terms of such an order would specify the address at which a young person was to live for the period of the probation order. As with any Probation Order, any breach of its terms would entail the youngster being brought back to the Court.
Intensive Supervision Order
This disposition should be extended to cover convicted offenders aged 12 and over. The subject of the order would be placed under the close supervision of a named Probation and Welfare Officer.
Intensive Supervision Order (with Conditions)
The Committee would also recommend provision for an Intensive Supervision Order (with Conditions) for those aged 12 years and over. These conditions could entail requirements regarding attendance at various types of educational, training, sporting, adventure or treatment courses/programmes. The Court would seek regular progress reports to monitor the young person’s adherence to the terms of the order and to signal clearly to the young person the gravity of the situation. Unsatisfactory progress could be recorded in a scheduled report to the Court or in an emergency the case could be dealt with at short notice. In the case of such problems, the Court would be free to impose a heavier sanction.
Intensive Supervision (Personal Challenge) Order
This Order would require a young person’s completion of some very demanding activity which they themselves had proposed to the Court. The Probation and Welfare Service would devise a range of possible such activities. These might include demanding and tightly supervised adventure programmes, e.g. serving as a crew member in a boat sailing around Ireland, being part of an expedition canoeing down the Shannon, being one of a group climbing mountain ranges, being part of a group undertaking long distance treks and sleeping out. These programmes would operate under the auspices of the Probation and Welfare Service either directly or contracted out under license.
Community Service Order
The Committee supports the concept of the existing Community Service Scheme as instituted under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983. The Committee recommends that the scope of this disposition be extended to include young people aged 12 and over. The Committee would also recommend that special programmes of Community Service be devised for 12 to 14 and 14 - 16 year olds in order (a) to tailor the task to youthful capacity and (b) to minimise any adverse influences being exerted by older hands on younger,more innocent,minds. Public authorities and public utilities should be encouraged to cooperate in the conduct of community services programmes for the subjects of Community Service Orders. Local authorities might assist in the management of ‘Grafitti Squads’ where young people are required to do the physical work necessary to remove grafitti. Telecom Eireann, CIE, or the ESB similarly might promote programmes which facilitate offenders in the repair of their vandalised property or facilities.
In appropriate circumstances, the Committee supports the imposition of fines on young people and or their guardians. There are problems with the use of fines as has been pointed out in some submissions to the Committee. Fines can be inequitable. Persons fined may have very different capacities to pay. For a well to do person, a fine may represent a minor irritant; for a poor family a fine may represent a financial calamity. There is of course the added danger that fines may sometimes provoke a further crime to fund their payment.
Day Attendance Order
This order might be used to require a young person to attend a specified supervision centre during specified hours, which may or may not be relevant to the crime (e.g. to attend for the duration of football matches as a sentence for misbehaviour at a football match). It is possible to envisage that in some instances an order might impose additional requirements as to physical work or sporting accomplishments which are to be executed in the course of an attendance session. Such an order could specify attendance for any number of sessions and would be a useful non-custodial sanction for default on lighter sanctions.
Residential/Custodial Dispostions and Provision
The Committee recognises that it will not be appropriate in all cases to dispose of a case by means of a non-residential/custodial measure. The Committee is also, however, satisfied that there are serious difficulties in relation to present residential/custodial provision for young people in trouble. Firstly, it is often very costly - £4.92 million was spent on running the four special schools open in 1990. Secondly, the rates of recidivism by offenders released from some of the most expensive (secure) centres appears, on the information available to the Committee, to be unacceptably high. Thirdly, there is a shortage or absence of facilities of certain categories widely used in other jurisdictions. Fourthly, there are anomalies in the regional distribution of places. Fifthly, there is a relative shortfall in places for young females.
The Committee believes that there is a clear onus on the autorities to maximise the use of facilities which are as cost effective as possible, provide care to a satisfactory standard, and equip young people with practical skills and confidence to lead a crime free lifestyle. The use of lock and key secure facilities should be kept to an absolute minimum for two reasons. Firstly, these facilities are extremely expensive and of questionable efficacy. Secondly, the emphasis should be on generating within the young person the motivation, self discipline and know - how necessary to stay out of trouble. All three of these are more difficult to achieve in the artificial environment of a secure unit. No matter how humanely administered, incarceration automatically deprives the young person of any day to day responsibility or opportunity for managing their lives, resisting temptation, or developing crime free survival skills in the laboratory of the real world. All three of these are key ingredients in helping a young person steer clear of future trouble.
The Committee wishes to recommend that a range of facilities be developed to provide for young people whom the Courts decide are not suitable for a non-custodial/residential disposition. The Committee strongly believes that the range of these dispositions must be extended beyond what is currently available. Current experiences with levels of cost and efficacy mean that the authorities must be willing to contemplate experiments with alternative approaches, especially since these can be shown to have enjoyed success abroad.
Local Community Based Residential Units
These small local units allow young residents to remain in touch with positive elements in their local environment, for example, schools, youth groups, relatives who act as a positive influence. While living under this regime, the young person has controlled exposure to the pressures and temptations which led him or her into difficulty in the first place. With the support and supervision of care staff, the young person has the opportunity to reflect on and rehearse practical ways of resisting the relevant pressures and temptations. The Eastern Health Board funds four of these units in its region for children and young people in its care; a number of places in these units are occupied from time to time by young people who, besides needing care, have also been in reasonably serious trouble. The experience with these units suggest that they have much to offer within the juvenile justice system, and at a cost considerably less than more conventional custodial models of provision.
Family Placement Schemes
These schemes recruit special foster families under whose care and supervision youngsters in trouble are placed. This disposition may be especially appropriate in the not inconsiderable number of instances where a youngster in trouble has serious personal and family problems. In these cases, a youngster is manifesting a clear need for care and control, something which a specialist foster family can offer. While these schemes require meticulous screening and recruitment procedures and painstaking on - the - job support for the foster parents, the costs of fees to foster families and of the recruitment and support structures would be dramatically less per youngster than those of more conventional facilities. Schemes of this kind have been established abroad, and again the Eastern Health Board has launched a comparable Carers Project for young people with personal histories and profiles similar to many young offenders.
This facility may prove especially appropriate for the older young offender whose community or family circumstances require a spell in a suitably supervised environment. While keeping open links to school, work or training, the young person would be obliged to discharge the specific terms of his or her probation order by residing in the hostel for the requisite period. There is a certain number of such places available under funding provided by the Department of Justice’s Probation and Welfare Service. The Committee believed that this provision should be extended to ensure adequate local availability nationally for both males and females.
Regional Special Schools (Open Ethos) with Strong Emphasis on Outdoor Pursuits
The Committee recognises that specialist boarding school type provision has an important part to play in the range of residential provision for young people in trouble. The Committee considers an emphasis on educational attainment for these young people is highly desirable in itself and as a very practical means of reducing the risk of their involvement in crime in the future. The Committee would have a number of observations to make on current provision of this kind. It would wish to see more rational regional distribution of places, so that young people are not placed at very long distances from their families. The Committee would also wish the authorities to ensure that all staff employed in such important and costly institutions are properly qualified and, in addition, have available to them an appropriate programme of ongoing, in - service, training. Finally, the Committee believes that such schools should include a strong emphasis on adventure sports and outdoor pursuits. Such activities should assist discipline within the schools, appeal to the young people’s healthy and innate urge for adventure and quite probably endow the young person with constructive interests and hobbies for the rest of their life.
Sail Training Ship
In the light of our maritime tradition, the self discipline incumbent on any crew member of a sailing ship, and the sense of adventure and achievement available to young people who stay the course, the Committee believe that the authorities should establish such a facility for an initial three year period. A sailing ship by its nature actually entials more confinement, discipline and demands than more conventional forms of provision. As a facility, therefore, it manages to satisfy both those emphasising sanctions which place clear limits on the offender and those more anxious to ensure that any period of residential/custodial sentence is used constructively to promote the personal and social development of the young person.
The Committee recognises that there must be a number of such places available within the juvenile justice system. Given the exceptional cost of each place, the Committee believes that the authorities must apply very rigourous controls to ensure that each place is put to optimal use at all times, that is for use only by those young people who absolutely require a secure place and who cannot be accommodated in any other way. The Committee would have the same comments to make about the importance of staff qualifications and training and the value of educational and adventure programmes for the young people in secure facilities, as it made above in relation to special boarding schools.
Appropriate Psychiatric Facilities for Psychiatrically Disturbed Young Offenders
The Committee accepts that a certain very small minority of offenders suffer from serious psychiatric disorders which must be treated in appropriate psychiatric facilities under the jurisdiction of the health services. Any failure to provide the necessary residential treatment facilities for such youngsters blights their lives and results in an unnecessary threat to the welfare of ordinary citizens.
The Committee believes that the practice of commiting juveniles with obvious psychiatric problems to the existing special schools and centres must be discontinued because (a) the treatment available and provided to them is inappropriate to their needs and (b) they disrupt the good management of the centres by their behaviour. They may thus put at risk the progress of young people who have been placed appropriately in such centres. Accordingly the Committee recommends that the Government, through the Department of Health, should urgently rectify previous neglect of this issue by successive Governments by making proper and specific provision within the health services for the small number of psychiatrically disturbed youths involved.
High Standards of Provision
The Committee believes that public money must be put to prudent and effective use and that the tax payer has a right to expect that these facilities will be run efficiently and to the highest standards. There should be clear structures of accountability for the administrative, financial and therapeutic management of these services. There should be a clear code of practice in relation to the use of different types of provision, for example, a minimum age for certain types of provision. There should be a strong emphasis on the young person’s family in each setting, with a view to involving the family and enlisting its active support for the work of the Centre. There should also be a strong commitment to promoting the all round personal development of the young person, with special attention to practical education and social skills training.
The Committee calls for the drafting of regulations to govern the operation of these different categories of Centres. This is the norm in other comparable spheres of public provision (e.g. extension of this type of regulatory provision for health funded facilities in the Child Care Act 1991) and the practice in most other countries. In particular, the Committee is concerned to ensure the strict regulation of disciplinary measures in secure facilities, and in particular the use of solitary confinement. The Committee would wish to see a system of Visiting Committees established for these different forms of provision, along the lines of those for comparable facilities in the health and criminal justice systems.
The Contribution of Other Sectors to Juvenile Justice Provision
The Committee is proposing that the new Juvenile Justice Act should impose a duty on relevant public authorities to cooperate as required with the formal juvenile justice provision. The Committee would also acknowledge that there exist many examples of how other sectors are already playing an important role in relation to juvenile justice matters. It sets out below its views on how this work cold be built upon, both through goodwill and through the underpinning of legislative duty.
Traditional problems of coordination between different agencies could usefully be tackled by a statutory central juvenile crime prevention committee, with membership being drawn in part from representatives from parallel regional committees. The national committee should be required, in this Committee’s view, to publish an annual report as is good business practice.
The Committee now outlines its view on the contribution to juvenile justice policy and provision of the local authorities, the health boards, the worlds of commerce and industry and the education system.
Local authorities in their roles in relation to physical planning, environmental maintenance and management and the provision of recreational facilities can play an important part in the prevention of crime. Physical planning can incorporate considerations of ‘defensible space’, that is space in which ordinary people have a stake in defending. Much crime tends to be committed in space which is not under anybody’s care or supervision. It is important that planners, engineers and architects are sensitive to these crime prevention factors in their work.
Well positioned and maintained street lighting can play an obvious preventive role in relation to crime. So too can the early removal of grafitti and the early repair of vandalised public property, and prompt cleaning of litter and broken glass.
Good quality municipal sporting, recreational and play facilities must also be an essential feature of crime prevention in relation to young people especially.
Under the provisions of the Child Care Act 1991 and related legislation, Health Boards have many functions concerning the welfare of children, young people and families. Many of the services which Boards provide in pursuit of these functions are highly relevant to the overall operation of the juvenile system.
Under Section 5 of the Child Care Act 1991 Health Boards will acquire duties to provide accommodation for homeless people. It takes little imagination to see how homelessness can easily push a young person into crime. Therefore effective provisions to minimise the level of youth homelessness must be a major element of any juvenile crime prevention strategy.
Health boards will also acquire responsibilities and powers in relation to the promotion and protection of the welfare of children and their families. Health Boards will have to provide a range of family support and other community services. The support and education of the parents of adolescents can obviously play an important part in countering juvenile offending. Parents who have more confidence and more effective techniques will be better able to provide the climate of supervision and support which their young people need.
A number of neighbourhood youth projects are run by certain of the Health Boards. These are aimed at targetting young people at risk and channelling social and psychological help to them while they remain at home in their own community. These projects are judged as making a major cost effective contribution where they exist to preventing the emergence of more serious problems among their adolsescent clientele. The Committee recommends that the number of these neighbourhood youth projects be increased as the concept has clear relevance to preventive strategies in relation to juvenile crime. Young people with personal or family difficulties are almost invariably the ones most likely to succumb to the temptations of crime.
At local level (broadly county or equivalent) the Committee would urge Health Boards to take a lead role in the establishment on a pilot basis of local adolescent teams, with members seconded from the Health Board, Probation and Welfare Service, the youth services and the education system. This type of initiative would mobilise existing resources to maximum coordinated effect. The brief of such teams would be to identify early youngsters at risk of getting into difficulty and then to devise packages of care, support and supervision tailored to the individual’s circumstances and aimed at diverting them from difficulty.
Health boards could also play an important part in the management (on an agency basis for the Probation and Welfare Service) of the fostering schemes which the Committee is proposing for suitable youngsters who are in trouble with the law.
The Committee applauds the work of the Eastern Health Board and the Department of Education in their pioneering Child Abuse Prevention Project, in which all primary school children in the Dublin area will go through a programme aimed at helping them to avoid abuse in its various forms (physical, sexual, bullying etc.). This is relevant in this context since it has become clear that a substantial proportion of children suffering the trauma of sexual abuse do so at the hands of other juveniles.
This type of programme makes an enormous contribution to crime prevention, further proof of the major contribution non-criminal justice agencies have to make in this general area.
Commerce and Industry
The Committee believes that the world of commerce and industry has an important contribution to make in the area of juvenile justice provision. Imaginative design can play an important part in crime prevention and deterrence. Card phones have helped reduce the vandalism of telephone boxes. The vandalising of bus seat covers on Bus Atha Cliath buses has been dramatically reduced by changes in the colour and texture of the seat covers. The Committee believes there is further scope for such initiatives. In particular, the Committee would urge the Minister for Industry and Commerce to require all new cars sold in the State to be fitted with effective anti-theft devices as standard. This single measure could have a significant impact on crime levels given the fequency of car theft as a crime problem.
The Committee would also recommend the establishment, on a pilot basis, of an employment subsidy scheme for employers who hire young people in trouble. In our view, employers should be willing to play their part in the rehabilitation of young people in trouble. In return for the effort involved in this, the State should undertake to refund to employers the full cost of employing young people under this scheme. In terms of cost, this scheme would be considerable cheaper than custodial measures, and in the view of the committee is likely to produce far more fruitful and constructive long term results.
The Committee believes that crime against tourists needs to receive more concerted attention at a policy level. It would also wish to stress that most of the crime experienced by tourists is not necessarily perpetrated by young people in the age bracket covered by the Committee in this report. It is the view of the Committee that greater efforts at alerting tourists to the risks and more intensive surveillance of high risk areas would have a considerable impact on the problem. On the question of begging children and young people, the Committee calls for a concerted effort by all relevant interests to devise humane and effective measures to minimise this practice which is degrading for child and public alike.
The Education System
The Social Contribution of the School
Educational failure whether in the guise of chronic truancy, early drop - out, or failure to pass examinations is probably one of the most telling indicators of risk in terms of juvenile offending. It follows therefore that retention in school and satisfactory social and educational experiences in that school may represent some of the most powerful and promising buffers against pressures on a young person to engage in crime.
Performance in school whether in academic, sporting or social activities influences self esteem, later job prospects and ultimately the extent to which young people feel they have a stake in society.
It is important that schools recognise their important social role in helping all young people - not just those who are high fliers academically - to find a personal and meaningful niche in adult society. Schools committed to and exemplifying an appropriate ethos can foster a precious sense of achievement in even their least likely students. This view of the school’s function has clear implications for the relative weight given to programmes which serve academic, social or personal development. The Committee hopes that the Government’s promised White Paper will address this important question about the social mission of the vitally important institution of the school in society. The Committee would also urge that the funding of schools reflect the special challenges in achieving a positive educational ethos and impact in areas of high social need.
At an operational level, the Committee has a number of recommendations to make.
It would wish much greater urgency to be accorded measures to identify and tackle patterns of truancy whether at the level of the individual, school or community. The Committee is disturbed to learn that no statistics are available on the extent of truancy across the country. It regards with considerable alarm the level of truancy reported in Dublin city - a daily rate of 8.9 per cent and 11.8 per cent in the north inner city. The Committee adds its voice to the calls of many earlier committees and asks that a coherent set of anti-truancy measures be urgently put in place. The Committee calls on the Minister for Education to ensure that effective measures in relation to truancy are also given due prominence in the White Paper on Education. It would also urge that these measures are carefully integrated with the work of the Health Boards under the Child Care Act 1991.
Expanded Number of Youth Encounter Projects
The Committee applauds the success of the concept of the Youth Encounter Projects. It appreciates especially their impact on problems of truancy and on the educational and personal problems of youngsters at serious risk. The Committee recommends that the number of these projects be expanded to ensure provision, initially, in all towns over 20,000 population and in each Health Board community care area in the larger cities. These Projects would have the potential to achieve a dramatic cut in truancy directly, and offending indirectly (since chronic truants are accepted as being at very high risk of delinquency). The Committee believes therefore that such a development could be funded from savings accruing from the resultant drop in demand for places in custodial settings under the auspices of the Department of Education.
Early Identification of Children at Risk
Teachers are in a particularly strong position to identify children whose behavour or presentation marks them out as being at risk. The Committee welcomes measures taken in at least some schools to promote structures for the pastoral care of students. It would urge that such measures become a normal feature of all schools. The Committee would also urge close liaison between Health Board social work and other personnel and school staff to promote appropriate responses in the classroom and the community tailored to the precise circumstances of individual children who manifest serious behavioural or other problems. The Committee would also wish to see the establishment, on a national footing, of the primary school psychological service currently being piloted in West Dublin and South Tipperary. This service would have a crucial role in assisting teachers in the management of demanding behaviour and thereby in minimising the risk of children being expelled or dropping out.
Children in School who Exhibit Extreme Behaviour Problems
As a general principle, the Committee would wish to see children with serious problems being maintained in their own schools. Special training and support for teachers, the deployment of additional remedial teachers and the measures proposed in the preceding paragraph could all assist in attaining this objective. Moving children on because of their behaviour is likely to cause their problems to escalate as they acquire and possibly revel in a new notoriety. There should be very strict controls on the use of expulsion as a sanction. The Committee is alarmed to learn of instances of children not attending school because, having been expelled, they cannot obtain a place in a new school. These children are deprived of the educational and social benefits of school and their constitutional right to primary education. Left to their own devices, their problems multiply as they drift further out of control and almost inevitably into a life of chaos and crime.
This problem cannot be resolved by speculative referral of such children to the handful of schools for emotionally disturbed children. The Committee accepts, however, that that there must be adequately resourced provision of this kind across the country. The Committee is very concerning that some children may even be expelled from these latter schools because there have not been the staff resources necessary to cope with certain types of behaviour. It takes little imagination to think of the ensuing risks facing both children in this category and wider society.
This complex problem requires a series of measures which includes the strengthening of teaching and support resources in those schools with a concentration of such pupils, the expansion of places in schools for emotionally disturbed children, and the development of further Youth Encounter Projects as discussed above. The Committee would submit that it will be considerably cheaper in social and enconomic terms to spend money on these facilities, rather than having to spend vastly greater sums on prison or custodial places when the harvest of neglect is finally reaped.
The Committee believes that schools have an important role in instilling civic pride in our young people. There is a real risk that young people - especially those from disadvantaged areas - may not feel that they have a stake in their community and society unless they can develop an understanding of, and say over, how these work. There is tremendous scope for schools in the vital work of promoting civic pride and commitment through imaginative initiatives within the formal curriculum or in extra - curricular activities. The Committee applauds such work of this kind as is already in hand. It would urge its extension and its explicit recognition and active encouragement in the White Paper on Education. As part of this process, the Committee would suggest that the Minister for Education should institute a system of annual awards for schools in different categories which devise the most imaginative programmes in this sphere.
School can help young people to learn not only how to be good citizens but also how to be resonsible in family and social relationships. Sensitive and effective sexuality education is one example of this role for schools, which must, as in other areas of social education, be undertaken alongside the role of parents. Health promotion and parenting education are other areas where the school can promote positive attitudes and knowledge and raise the confidence and self esteem of the young person - powerful antidotes to the risk of anti-social behaviour.
Outside of the school, youth services - uniformed and non-uniformed - have a vital role to play in creating informal opportunities for the social education and development of young people. The Committee stronglly urges greater investment in youth services especially in disadvantaged areas.
Drug and Alcohol Education in the School
The Committee welcomes the initiative of the National Youth Council and Health Promotion Unit of the Department of Health in developing the Drug Alcohol and Youth (DAY) Project. This provides an important framework for health education efforts by teachers at the top end of the primary school and throughout the second level system. The Committee notes however that this most valuable educational work is an entirely discretionary element of the curriculum. The Committee would therefore urge that the necessary resources be invested, especially in disadvantaged schools, to ensure that this programme becomes an integral part of every school’s curriculum.
By comparison with that of other countries, the Irish education system, especially at primary level is notable for its weakness in relation to physical education. It is not necessary to rehearse here the benefits which sport confers on the social and physical development of the young person. The Committee calls for a serious national effort to be made to develop the facilities and teaching capacity so that all of the nation’s children can have access to an acceptable level of physical education and sports training through their schools. The value of such a programme for delinquency prevention hardly needs to be spelt out.
Schools as Part of the Wider Network of Services to Young People
The Committee believes strongly that in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness there must be close integration between the efforts of the family, the school and local community and statutory services. Schools must make strong efforts to develop effective links with parents and other caring adults -professional or lay - in the community. The Committee commends the development of the Department of Education’s Home - School - Community Liaison Scheme and expresses the wish that it be expanded substantially, especially into all areas of high social need. These Home - School - Community Liaison Teacher posts enhance the possibility of a coordinate approach being forged by schools and other local services in relation to children and young people, especially those who are considered to be at high risk.
The Committee wishes to express its appreciation of the work of the Clerk of the Committee, Mr. Peter Lumsden, and of the assistance given to it by the Secretary to the Committee, Ms. Mary Harte.
Thanks are also due to all those individuals and bodies who took the time to write to the Committee on the topic and especially to those who made time available to come and speak with the Committee.
A special debt of gratitude is owed to Robbie Gilligan, Lecturer in Social Work, Department of Social Studies, University of Dublin, Trinity College, for his work in drafting the Report.
MAIRIN QUILL, T.D.
7 July 1992.