General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Exploitation of Children in the Commission of Offences)
A new law is being introduced to target adults who entice children into committing crimes, Minister for Justice Helen Mc Antee TD and the Minister of State for Law Reform James Browne TD have announced. This will outlaw the grooming of children into crime, which if found guilty, comes with a five year prison sentence. This legislation is aimed at preventing the coercion of children into selling drugs in an effort to combat gangs leading children into a life of crime. The Bill sets out specific offences where an adult ‘compels, coerces, induces or invites a child to engage in criminal activity’.
While there already is law in place guiding this general area, where an adult who uses a child to commit a crime can be found guilty as the principal offender, this new legislation will now recognise the harm that is caused to children by introducing them to a life of crime. When prosecuted the adult under this legislation will face and additional charge, aside from the conviction of the criminal act itself. Prison sentences that accompany this legislation includes imprisonment of 12 months on summary conviction and up to five years on indictment.
This legislation comes after a considerable amount of research completed in December 2016 by ‘Greentown Report’ which looked at the influence criminal networks can have on children in Ireland. This research also analysed how networks recruit and control vulnerable children in and attempt understand the size and scale of such a problem in Ireland. This work published by the School of Law, University of Limerick is supported by a number of stakeholders including international teams of experts on crime, experts in child protection and welfare and community development programmes along with An Garda Síochána.
The bill was published on the Department’s website on the 15th of January and will be submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice for pre-legislative scrutiny.