Proposed Ireland bill would criminalise luring minors into life of crime News
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Proposed Ireland bill would criminalise luring minors into life of crime

The Irish Department of Justice Wednesday announced a bill that would make it a crime to entice a child to engage in criminal activity. The bill, the Criminal Justice (Engagement of Children in Criminal Activity) Bill 2023, has secured Cabinet approval and would tailor offences for crimes where the adult “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.”

The bill aims to protect minors from being forced into a life of crime. Violators would be subject to a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.

The proposed legislation is aimed to deter adults from involving minors in criminal enterprises. Currently, adults only bear criminal responsibility for a child’s actions if they directly cause or use a child to commit a crime.

Minister for Justice Simon Harris stressed the bill as an essential step in tackling child poverty and disadvantages:

Criminal behaviour and conviction can alter the course of a child or person’s life – damaging employment, education, travel prospects, damaging social connections and overall leading to more negative life outcomes.

He also believes that the bill would confer intervention power to An Garda Síochána, the national police of Ireland, to locally prevent offences from taking place and “make Ireland the best country in Europe in which to be a child.”

The legislation was created in response to a study, the Greentown Project, carried out by the University of Limerick. The project studied the criminal networks in Ireland between 2010 and 2011, focusing on the criminal networks and the use of children in these criminal enterprises in Greentown, a pseudonym for the Garda Sub-District located outside Dublin.

The study showed that in networks governed by a family and kinship-based core, close relationships between members played an important role in the network’s power and influence. Children, in particular, were found to be encouraged and compelled to participate in criminal activities.

A national survey conducted in 2010 suggested that up to 1,000 children who engaged in serious and prolific offending may be related to local crime networks, and that “malign, intrusive and coercive adult influence [are found] in the lives of children in these criminal networks.”

A similar bill, the Criminal Justice (Exploitation of children in the commission of offences) Bill 2020, was proposed in 2021 as a part of a general scheme, seeking to “address, discourage and protect against the grooming, recruiting and exploitation of children into criminal activity by adults”.