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New legislation, Criminalising Grooming Of Children Into Crime, Approved By Government.

* Up to five years in prison for grooming children into a life of crime.
* Minister Harris determined to break the link between gangs and youths they try to recruit.
* New legislation will give An Garda Síochána and other State agencies a mandate to intervene at a local level to disrupt and prevent this harm from taking place
.

The Minister for Justice, Mr Simon Harris TD, has today secured Cabinet approval to publish the Criminal Justice (Engagement of Children in Criminal Activity) Bill 2023.

The Bill will, for the first time, create specific offences where an adult compels, coerces, induces or invites a child to engage in criminal activity.

Minister Harris is determined to protect children and teenagers from being coerced into a life of crime and the penalty on conviction is up to five year’s imprisonment.

The new offence will be a separate, prosecutable offence on top of the provisions in current law where an adult who causes or uses a child to commit a crime can generally be found guilty as the principal offender – meaning they can be punished as though they committed the crime themselves.

This will ensure the law will specifically recognise the harm done a child, by drawing them into a world of criminality.

In welcoming this approval, Minister Harris said: “The Government is committed to building stronger, safer communities and breaking the link between gangs and the vulnerable young people they seek to recruit.
This legislation is aimed at preventing criminal networks from exploiting children to commit crime. Some children and teenagers are being deceived by criminal networks into believing crime can bring wealth, bling and a party lifestyle, but in reality, it brings debts, fear and potentially worse.
Criminal behaviour and conviction can alter the course of a child or a person’s life – damaging employment, education, travel prospects, damaging social connections and overall leading to more negative life outcomes.
Children and teenagers can be more vulnerable to coercion or encouragement to get involved in crime and we need to protect against this.
This Bill will outlaw the grooming of children into crime by making it an offence for an adult to compel, coerce, direct or deceive a child for the purpose of engaging in criminal activity, or for an adult to induce, invite, aid, abet, counsel or procure a child to engage in criminal activity.”

Minister Harris believes that one of the main benefits of this new legislation will lie in the ability it will give to An Garda Síochána to intervene locally to prevent offences taking place.

It will also be a significant contribution to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s drive to tackle child poverty and disadvantage and his ambition to make Ireland the best country in Europe in which to be a child.

Today’s Cabinet approval follows Minister Helen McEntee progressing the draft law in recent years, including commitments in Minister McEntee’s Justice Plans to break the link between gangs and the children they try to recruit into crime.

Minister Harris added: “This legislation will send a strong message to communities that grooming children into criminal activity is not acceptable and can be tackled, and I hope to enact it by the summer recess.”

The Bill will provide an effective tool to help break that link between these children and the adults who control their offending, which in turn is likely to reduce offending by children in these circumstances.

The legislation has also been informed by the Greentown Project, which is being implemented by the University of Limerick in partnership with the Department of Justice and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

The aim of the project is to investigate the involvement of children in criminality and to establish interventions to tackle the problem. The Greentown Report showed that criminal networks in many areas operate coercive control over young children.

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