Irish Penal Reform Trust

2019 Annual Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme

8th April 2021

The 2019 Annual Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme has been published by the Department of Justice. The purpose of the report is to identify the effectiveness of the Diversion Programme and provide recommendations on how the service can be improved. The total number of referrals to the diversion programme in 2019 was 18,567 compared to 16,491 referrals in 2018. Although there is an increase from the 2018 total, it is in line with the average annual total of youth referrals of 18,674 for the period 2014-2019.

The total number of children referred in 2019 was 9,842, an increase of 15% from the number of children referred in 2018. According to the report, 1,605 children were deemed unsuitable for admission to the programme in 2019, an increase of 29% on 2018.

The Diversion Programme promotes the use of restorative justice practices as a way to repair the harm caused by young offenders to their victims. Restorative justice is a victim focused approach to criminal offending. In 2019, the Garda Commissioner approved the allocation of a Restorative Caution Budget to the Garda Youth Diversion Bureau which promotes the use of restorative cautions. Restorative cautions can involve victim-offender mediations or letters of apology. Restorative practices are administered by trained Gardaí officers known as Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLOs). 

A Garda Youth Diversion ‘Child in Care’ initiative was set up on a pilot basis in 2018 to focus on "the underlying needs of those in care by prioritising this group and delivering appropriate interventions". The 2019 Annual Report notes that the pilot was continued in 2019. The effectiveness of the pilot was due to be reviewed in 2020, with a view to progressing it. (For more on this initiative, see p. 13 of the 2018 Annual Report.)

Key statistics & figures

  • 30% of children referred were under 15 years of age in 2019 with 29% being 17 years of age.
  • The main categories of offences for which children were referred continued to be Theft and Related Offences (31%), Public Order & Social Order Offences (19.7%), and Damage to Property and the Environment (8.1%).
  • 57% of children received an informal caution while 21% received a formal caution.
  • There were 7,661 children who received either a Formal or Informal caution in 2019, a 22% increase from the 2018 total.
  • 74% of children referred have just one referral while 5% have 6 or more referrals in 2019. Of those referred 69% were male and 31% were female.
  • 3,127 of children referred reside in the Dublin region.
  • 125 restorative cautions were issued in 2019, up from the 72 restorative cautions in 2018.

Key recommendations by the Monitoring Committee

  • Continue raising awareness and understanding of the Diversion Programme within An Garda Síochána through targeted training sessions and briefings.
  • Continue to develop guidelines for An Garda Síochána staff that provide detailed instructions for the administration of the Diversion Programme.
  • Implement the Restorative Justice strategy developed in 2019.
  • Review and re-establish the Garda Youth Diversion - Child in Care Initiative and introduce measures to further develop the initiative.
  • Implement the National Youth Referral Review Examination Report recommendations within the timeframes given in the Implementation Action Plan [2019-2021].

Read the Annual Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme 2019 on the Department of Justice website here.

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