TD: ‘Catch 22’ must be addressed

A Cork TD has spoken in the Dáil about the need for a “multi-pronged approach” to young people being groomed into criminality.

Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould’s comments came during the Second Stage of the Criminal Justice (Engagement of Children in Criminal Activity) Bill 2023.

The new law would criminalise the luring of children into the world of crime, with a 5 year prison sentence proposed of those found to be in breach of the law.

Speaking in the Dáil recently, Deputy Thomas Gould said it is “no secret” that young people are engaging in crime and being groomed into the lifestyle.

He went on to ask Minister of State at the Department of Justice, James Browne TD, to address the lack of resources for children who engage in criminality and antisocial behaviour who are under the age of 12.

“Gardaí can do nothing because these children are below the age of criminal responsibility and Tusla does not appear to regard criminality as an area in which it can intervene. This means there is a Catch-22,” he said.

Deputy Gould added: “It is a complex issue because no one wants to see children of 8, 9 or 10 years arrested, but there needs to be intervention because these children are victims too.”

The Sinn Féin TD continued: “We often see different gangs target young children, especially around drugs. They coach them by giving them drugs and then lure the children into criminality.”

Turning to education, Deputy Gould said more needs to be done to teach young people about the realities of criminal links to the drug trade at a school level.

explained: “Many young people learn about drug use the wrong way. They learn about it on the streets and from people who try to prey on them.

“More needs to be done from an educational perspective and it is vital that the legislation is coupled with educational supports in schools.”

He said: “The legislation is a step forward. It needs to be part of a suite of measures to protect children. If we can get young people into their mid-20s, it will give them an opportunity to get on with their lives.

“I have dealt with a number of cases in Cork relating to children under 12 years. I have raised it with An Garda Síochána and contacted Tusla,” the TD for Cork North Central concluded.