Difficulties can arise when the rationale behind two separate An Garda Siochana programmes collide with each other. Time and time again we see the dilemma that faces young people who are considering accepting a caution under the Diversion Programme only to be met with the possibility that such a caution, depending on the offence, could appear in Garda Vetting as “specified information” further down the road.
The Garda Diversion Programme is a programme set up with the aim of keeping young people away from the criminal justice system. Anyone alleged to have committed an offence whilst they were under the age of 18 must be considered for inclusion in the Programme. Not all offences are suitable for inclusion in the Programme and consideration must be afforded to:
· the interests of the victim;
· the interests of society; and
· the offence itself
Before a person can be administered with a caution, whether formal or informal, and included in the Programme, they must admit responsibility for the offence. It should be noted however, that just because someone admits responsibility for an offence it does not automatically guarantee that they will be included in the Diversion Programme.
More and more we are seeing young people being included, or receiving JLOs (Juvenile Liaison Officer) for serious offences including offences of a sexual nature and indeed possession or distribution of child pornography. This of course means that they are kept away from the court system and therefore spared any criminal conviction.
The problem however arises for these young people in the future where this information could be classified as “specified information “for the purpose of Garda Vetting. This is similar to the situation where someone has been investigated for an allegation of a sexual nature, the Director of Public Prosecution has declined to prosecute that individual but the fact of the allegation still appears as “specified information” under Garda Vetting.
Specified information means information concerning a finding or allegation of harm to another person received by the National Vetting Bureau from An Garda Síochána or a Scheduled Organisation pursuant to section 19 of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Acts 2012 to 2016.
Put simply, it is information that is considered to reasonably give rise to a bona fide concern that the vetting subject (the person who the information relates to) may harm any child or vulnerable person, cause any child or vulnerable person to be harmed, put any child or vulnerable person at risk of harm, attempt to harm any child or vulnerable person or attempt to harm any child or vulnerable person.
Whilst offences such as public order, theft or drugs may never appear as specified information, young people who have been included in the Programme for offences of a sensitive nature, may be faced with this information surfacing on Garda Vetting as “specified information” creating all manners of future difficulties for the young person.
For further information or advice on any of the above, please contact our office.
9th March 2022