Garda Youth Diversion Programme

A.     Service overview and contact details 

Focus of restorative justice activities

The Garda Síochána is Ireland’s national police and security service. It administers the Garda Youth Diversion Programme, as provided for under Part 4 of the Children Act 2001, which aims to divert young offenders and children involved in crime and anti-social behaviour from prosecution. The young people admitted to the Programme are dealt with by means of a caution and period of supervision, which are administered by a Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) who is specifically trained to engage with young offenders. As JLOs are trained in Restorative Practice and Mediation, all cautions (whether a victim is involved or not) are managed through a restorative lens.

The Programme provides for the views of victims to be considered and for victims to be invited to attend a caution. The Children Act 2001 (Sections 26 and 29) provides for victim involvement. 

A network of Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs), which are community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives that also use restorative approaches, further supports the Programme. 

Year of commencement 

The Garda Youth Diversion Programme has been operational since the 1960s. The restorative justice elements of the Programme came into effect under the Children Act 2001. 

Service details

Garda Youth Diversion Bureau

Harcourt Square

Dublin 2

Tel:  01-6663831/32

Website:  https://www.garda.ie/en/crime-prevention/community-engagement/community-engagement-offices/garda-youth-diversion-bureau/

E-mail:  youthdiversion@garda.ie 

Head of service 

Superintendent, Director of the Garda Youth Diversion Programme

Staffing structure

The Garda Youth Diversion Bureau (GYDB) has responsibility for overseeing and developing the Programme nationally, which was put on a statutory basis under Part 4 of the Children Act 2001. The Bureau is headed by a Chief Superintendent.

The remit of the GYDB includes the administration, coordination and development of the Programme nationally. It holds an oversight position on all aspects of youth referrals and the Programme supports Garda districts and divisions in ensuring effective governance and the timely processing of referrals. It also supports a network of Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) Sergeants and Gardaí distributed across every Garda division. A Director of the Programme is appointed at Superintendent rank; this is a statutory position.

The Children Act 2001 provides for restorative interventions under Section 26 and 29. Section 26 provides for the possibility of oral or written apology and reparation to victims and attendance by victims. Section 29 provides for a conference that may include parents or guardians and victims as well as discretionary involvement by other community members. JLOs convene the restorative interventions. Restorative interventions are just one element of JLO work but a restorative ethos informs their work in all areas.

In 2019, there were 8 JLO Sergeants and 107 JLO Gardaí across the Garda Regions. 

Staff training in restorative justice 

Training of JLOs consists of:

  • Induction Training: 5-day training for new JLOs focused on the legal and statutory obligations underpinning the role, international best practice in youth justice and guidance on administrative processes and procedures.
  • Mediation Training: 60-hour, Mediator’s Institute of Ireland (MII) accredited training in conflict resolution skills and techniques through the process of mediation.
  • Restorative Justice Facilitator Skills Training: 3-day accredited course in Restorative Practices (RP) to provide JLOs with the necessary skills to facilitate restorative cautions and to use restorative practices in their engagement with young offenders.
  • JLO Training Conference: Biennial, 2-day training conference. 

Use of volunteers 

Volunteers are not involved in the facilitation of restorative events (cautions or conferences). 

Volunteer training in restorative justice

Not applicable

Main source(s) of funding

The Diversion Programme is funded from the Garda Síochána budget.   

Nature of funding 

Annual – the Diversion Programme is provided for in statute and staff have permanent status.

Organisational status 

The Garda Youth Diversion Office is part of the Garda Youth Diversion Bureau within the Garda Síochána.

Target client group 

12-17 year olds. In some cases of serious offences, 10 and 11 year olds can also be referred and accepted into the Diversion Programme. 

Nature of offences 

The nature of offences dealt with by restorative justice events to which a victim is invited is not readily available. Juvenile Liaison Officers use restorative practices when engaging with children referred to the Diversion Programme and a wide variety of offence groups and types are referred to the Programme annually. In 2019, overall referrals to the programme included: 

  • Theft and Related Offences (31%)
  • Public Order and Social Code Offences (20%)
  • Controlled Drug Offences (10%)
  • Assault, Murder Attempt/Threat, Harassment (9%)
  • Damage to Property and Environment (8%)
  • Road and Traffic Offences (4%) 
  • Burglary and Related Offences (4%).

Source of cases

Where criminal behaviour by a child comes to the notice of the Gardaí, he/she must be referred to the Garda Youth Diversion Office. The decision on admission to the Diversion Programme is made by the Director, who may direct that a restorative caution is to be administered. 

Geographic area of activity

Nationwide 

B.     Nature of RJ service

Model(s) of RJ services provided

  1. Restorative Conferences
  2. Restorative Cautions

Both conferences and cautions can involve victim-offender dialogue. All cautions (whether a victim is involved or not) are managed through a restorative lens.

Main process elements and short description of each model 

Restorative Cautions are a form of caution that is administered specifically by a JLO trained in mediation and restorative justice practices. 

The JLO introduces everyone and outlines how the meeting will run. The young person accounts for his/her behaviour. Each participant then has the opportunity to tell his/her story without interruption, outlining how the offending behaviour impacted upon them. When everyone who wishes to speak has concluded, there is an opportunity to respond and ask questions. The offender is given an opportunity to apologise and the victim is invited to suggest what outcome they would like from the meeting. A discussion takes place on how best to meet the needs of the victim and to address the harm. The future behaviour of the young person is then discussed. The meeting also identifies supports to be put in place that will help divert the young person from reoffending. 

The JLO supervising a child can alternatively recommend that a ‘conference’ is held.  The parents or guardians must agree to the conference, but the consent of the child is not required, although their views must be obtained. The child, their parents/guardian, the supervising JLO and a facilitator (usually another JLO) must be in attendance. The facilitator may also invite other relevant people (e.g. relatives, representatives from Tusla or the child’s schools). Some, but not all, conferences are restorative in nature. Where conferences are restorative, the victim is also invited and any family or friends that the victim requests, unless the facilitator believes their attendance would not contribute to the conference. In this case, the victim will be given the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with the young person who committed the offending behaviour.  

Number and nature of cases

Category 2019 2018 2017
Referrals to GYDP – incidents 18,567 16,491 20,006
Referrals to GYDP – children 9,842 8,561 10,607
Restorative events (n) 125 72 477

Victim involvement: In cases where victims are invited to attend restorative events, they have the opportunity to express their views in person or have their views represented by someone else. A breakdown of cases with direct or indirect victim participation in restorative events is not available.

Community involvement: While specific details of numbers of cases with participation by community representatives is not available, examples of people invited to attend restorative events include: persons to support the victim, teachers, social workers, sports trainers and youth or project workers.

Case profiles 

The age of young people in the GYDP in 2019 is shown in the accompanying table. As regards gender, 72 percent of children referred in 2019 were male, 28 percent female.  

Age 12 13 14 15 16 17
Percentage 5% 10% 15% 20% 22% 29%

Information on the gender breakdowns and outcomes of restorative justice events is not readily available. 

C.     Sources of further information 

Legal Instruments

Information Leaflets

Garda Youth Diversion Office 

Webpages

Irish Youth Justice Service

An Garda Síochána

Citizens Information

Annual Reports