Home > Minister McEntee and Minister Browne welcome passage of legislation to combat grooming of children for the purposes of crime.

[Department of Justice] Minister McEntee and Minister Browne welcome passage of legislation to combat grooming of children for the purposes of crime. (06 Mar 2024)

External website: https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/be261-minister...

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, James Browne TD, have welcomed the passing of the Criminal Justice (Engagement of Children in Criminal Activity) Bill 2023 through all stages in the Oireachtas. This important Bill seeks to address the very specific issue of grooming children for the purpose of committing criminal acts. The legislation is being introduced in line with two Programme for Government commitments to “legislate against the coercion and use of minors in the sale and supply of drugs” and to “criminalise adults who groom children to commit crimes.” 

The Bill also delivers on the objective in the Youth Justice Strategy 2021 – 2027 to review the legislation surrounding grooming of children by adults for the purposes of committing criminal acts. The Criminal Justice (Engagement of Children in Criminal Activity) Bill will:

  • Make it an offence for an adult to compel, coerce, direct or deceive a child for the purpose of engaging in criminal activity.
  • Make it an offence for an adult to induce, invite, aid, abet, counsel or procure a child to engage in criminal activity.
    Limit the liability to adults to avoid further criminalising children, some of whom could influence other children to commit crime.
  • Those found guilty of the new offences face imprisonment of up to 12 months on summary conviction and up to five years on indictment. Crucially, the child concerned does not have to be successful in carrying out the offence for the law to apply. 

Welcoming the progress of the Bill, which he brought through the Houses of the Oireachtas, Minister of State Browne said: "I am so pleased to see this new legislation passing through the final stages of the Oireachtas. This Government committed to address the damaging practice of adults grooming children for the purposes of committing crime. It is only right to make punishable the harm caused to children by drawing them into a life of crime. “The Engagement of Children in Criminal Activity Bill makes new provisions in Irish law which will allow for the prosecution of an adult who uses a child in this way as if they had committed the crimes themselves. 

“The law as it stands today does not recognise that there are, in fact, two distinct aspects to this type of crime: the visible crime against the victim, as well as the very grave wrong against the child. After this Bill has been enacted, it will be possible to prosecute the adult for both the crime that is committed by the child and for the harm done to the child. “It falls to us all to protect the children of Ireland and this Bill is a huge step in the right direction. My Department colleague, Minister Helen McEntee, and I have been steadfast in our commitment to ensuring this vital legislation comes to pass. I hope to see this important law enacted as soon as possible.” 

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee added: “I want to acknowledge Minister Browne’s work in developing this Bill and in steering it through the Oireachtas. Along with other important milestones such as the recent extension of the Greentown Project, it marks another step as we strive to deliver on our commitment to criminalise those who target some of the most vulnerable in our society, our children and young people, in order to commit offences. This legislation will it be an effective tool for tackling organised crime, it will also protect children from the harmful effects of crime on their lives, their families' lives and futures as citizens who are properly equipped to benefit fully from all that society has to offer."  

A key objective in handling youth crime is to try to keep young people out of the criminal justice system as far as possible. The provisions in this Bill limit liability for the offences to adults in order to avoid further consequences for children who are already victims of crime themselves and who may also have been groomed. The Government is committed to supporting youth justice services in every way possible. In Budget 2024, a further €2.9 million in funding was allocated to youth justice services, increasing the total budget allocation for the youth diversion measures to over €33 million. 

This new legislation has been informed by the Greentown Programme, which is being implemented by the University of Limerick in partnership with the Department of Justice and was recognised at the 2020 European Crime Prevention Awards. The aim of the Programme is to investigate the involvement of children in criminality and to establish interventions to tackle the problem.

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