Commissioner Drew Harris said the vast majority of the cases involving almost 3,500 youths could no longer be pursued as they were “statute barred” due to the length of time since the alleged offences took place. Appearing at the Oireachtas Justice Committee, Mr Harris apologised again to the victims of crimes perpetrated by young offenders where gardaí did not prosecute due to failures in the youth referral scheme.
TDs and senators heard that improvements to the Garda computer system meant problems that arose between 2010 and 2017 had been essentially solved.
The majority of the cases, 73pc, related to public order, theft, traffic and criminal damage offences. However, there were 55 incidents of serious crime, including a rape, another sexual offence and a case of child neglect. The committee was also told there were three threats to kill and seven cases of violent disorder.
Mr Harris said that gardaí remained in discussion with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in relation to a number of cases, but said he was limited in what he could say about them.
“Obviously, if we can resurrect a prosecution then we will seek to do so,” he said, but added that it would be under the direction of the DPP.
Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers asked about the scale of attempts to get prosecutions.
Mr Harris said the vast majority of the 7,894 cases were statute barred but there was a small proportion still being discussed. He confirmed that it was fewer than 100.
Mr Chambers said it was “regrettable” that the opportunity to pursue cases had been lost. Mr Harris said: “We are trying to retrieve what we can, but whether we’re successful or not, we have to see.”
Around a quarter of Garda members – more than 3,200 of whom are serving officers – were involved in the cases.
Mr Harris said that all cases related to the youth referral system that were not progressed properly had been sent to the relevant Divisional Officer to be considered under disciplinary regulations.