The Minister for Justice, Simon Harris, has 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.
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. This means 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.
The law would give An Garda Síochána the power to intervene locally to prevent offences from taking place. It will contain specific offences covering cases where an adult compels, coerces, induces or invites a child to engage in criminal activity. Gardaí will be given additional powers in order to make such grooming a separate, prosecutable offence.
Minister Harris stated he was 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 government is committed to building stronger, safer communities and breaking the link 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.”
The bill also follows through on commitments in Helen McEntee’s plans to break the link between gangs and the children they try to recruit into crime, and Mr Harris intends to enact the legislation by the summer.
It is also part of 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.
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