Irish Penal Reform Trust

Why is diversion important for young people?

18th August 2020

It’s important that people are held to account for offending behaviour. However, it is also important to respond to offending with appropriate sanctions that address the underlying causes, meet the needs of the victim, and reduce reoffending.

So, what is the Garda Youth Diversion Programme?

A child or young person who receives a formal caution through the Garda Youth Diversion Programme (GYDP) is placed under the supervision of a JLO (Juvenile Liaison Officer) for 12 months. A child who receives an informal caution can be supervised for up to 6 months.

Diversion is not suitable for all offences. The nature of the offence, the views of the victim, the interests of society, and whether harm can be repaired are all considered before a decision on diversion is made.

Before a young person is considered for admission to the GYDP, they must admit responsibility for their criminal or anti-social behaviour. Parents/guardians will be involved in the cautioning processes.

Supervision normally includes active engagement with the JLO. It can involve the child agreeing to engage in certain activities or programmes, which can be designed to address the original offending behaviour.

A unique feature of the GYDP is ‘conferencing’. This can include mediation between the child and the victim. Conferencing establishes why the child became involved in the behaviour, and seeks to find how parents/others can help prevent the child’s involvement in further offending.

Does diversion work?

There are numerous factors to be considered when evaluating the successes of a criminal justice programme, including cost and victim satisfaction. However, the most common factor considered is reoffending. While it is complex to compare reoffending rates on the GYPD to those in prison, due to different measuring techniques, slightly different age groups and different offence categories, reoffending among those cautioned under the GYDP is considerably lower than young people sentenced to prison.

Read the 2017 Annual Report of the Committee Appointed to Monitor the Effectiveness of the Diversion Programme here.

Prison recidivism statistics, as compiled by the CSO, are available here.

Why is diversion important?

A criminal conviction, while sometimes appropriate, can often far outweigh the crime. A conviction can result in lifelong punishment, creating barriers to employment, education and even housing. This is especially true for young people. These barriers can lead to further offending.

Diversion – as established in the Children Act 2001 – recognises young people’s capacity for change and is an opportunity to divert young people from the full criminal justice system and prevent them from incurring a criminal record, while still tackling offending.

The Garda Youth Diversion programme, in general, is a serious undertaking for children and their families, and can give children an opportunity to address their behaviour, repair harm and have a second chance.

For more information on diversion, visit Citizens Information or the Garda website.

IPRT’s work on youth offending:

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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