Garda Youth Diversion Programme


The Garda Youth Diversion Programme aims to prevent young offenders and children involved in anti-social behaviour in Ireland from committing further offences and entering into the adult criminal justice system.

The programme helps young people under 18 years of age.

While the age of criminal responsibility for children is 12 years of age, the programme can involve children as young as 10 years old.

When a young person comes to the notice of the Gardaí because of their behaviour, they may be dealt with through the Diversion Programme.

The details of the Youth Diversion Programme are found in Part 4 of the Children Act 2001, as amended.

Garda Youth Diversion Bureau and JLOs

The Garda Youth Diversion Bureau is responsible for the operation of the Diversion Programme.

The Bureau liaises with voluntary and statutory bodies:

  • Regarding the welfare of young people,
  • Developing contacts with school attendance officers,
  • Formulating crime-prevention programmes for children at risk and
  • Recording and examining cases of children missing from home.

Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLOs)

The Diversion Programme is administered by specially trained Gardaí called Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLOs).

These Gardaí are specially trained to deal with:

  • Young people and their families in relation to crime-prevention
  • The operation of the diversion programme
  • All other areas involving young people and the criminal justice system.

Each Garda Division in Ireland has JLOs who maintain informal contacts with young people at risk. They also liaise with teachers, Tusla staff, school attendance officers and other Gardaí in their local area.

How the Youth Diversion Programme works

Young people who commit criminal offences or anti-social behaviour can be dealt with by a caution under the Diversion Programme, which informs them that they have committed an offence or anti-social behaviour. This is instead of the formal process of charge and prosecution for offences or an anti-social behaviour order.

A caution is a warning by An Garda Síochána against committing the offending behaviour or similar behaviour again.

Steps in the Garda Youth Diversion Programme after admission:

Step 1: The child is cautioned by a Garda

Step 2: The child is placed under the supervision of a Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO)

Step 3: A conference or meeting can be held with the child, parent or guardian, JLO and victim (if appropriate) to discuss the behaviour and possibly to mediate between the child and victim.

Step 4: An action plan can be drawn up for the child

Eligibility for the Garda Youth Diversion Programme

Before admission to the programme

A Garda investigating the young person's behaviour assesses if the person is suitable for inclusion in the programme and prepares a report.

Before the young person is considered for admission, they must:

  • Admit responsibility for their criminal or anti-social behaviour
  • Consent to be admitted to the programme
  • Consent to be supervised by JLO, if necessary

It’s important to note, the final decision of whether or not a young person is cautioned lies not with the Director of the Diversion Programme and not with the referring Garda.

Factors considered for admission to a diversion programme

In making their decision, the Director may consider:

  • The nature of the offence
  • The views of the victim
  • The interests of society
  • The views of the arresting Garda
  • The views of the JLO
  • The attitude and views of the young person who offended
  • The views of the young person’s parents or guardians
  • Whether an apology has been made
  • Whether or not something can be done to repair any harm caused
  • The child’s previous involvement in the programme

If a child is not admitted to the programme, they may be prosecuted or an anti-social behaviour order may be sought.

After a child is admitted to the programme

Written notice 

The Director directs a JLO to give notice in writing to the parents or guardians of a child who is admitted to the programme. This notice includes:

  • The type of criminal or anti-social behaviour the child will be cautioned for
  • If the caution will be formal or informal.

The parents or guardians are obliged to attend the cautioning process.

The Director of the Garda Youth Diversion Programme ensures the written notice is in language the parents or guardians can understand. The notice may be given in the first language of the parents or guardians if appropriate.

The notice will also be available in Irish for children from Gaeltacht areas or those whose first language is Irish.

Protections when in the Garda Youth Diversion Programme?

Any child who has been admitted to the Diversion Programme is protected from:

  • Prosecution for the criminal behaviour that caused their admission, or
  • Application for an anti-social behaviour for the anti-social behaviour that caused their admission to the programme.

If the child accepts responsibility for their behaviour for which they have been admitted to the programme, such acceptance cannot be used in any criminal proceedings against that child unless the child is convicted for behaviour which occurred after their admission to the programme.

The child's identity is protected

The identity of a child who is admitted to or considered for admission to the programme is not disclosed publicly. A person who publishes or broadcasts such information is guilty of an offence.

Cautions for young offenders

Two types of caution

Two types of caution may be given to a child

  • Formal
  • Informal

The Director of the Programme decides whether to administer a formal or informal caution. Generally, the decision depends on the seriousness of the child’s criminal behaviour.

Formal cautions are more serious than informal cautions.

If a child has previously been formally cautioned, they cannot be informally cautioned on a later occasion.

How is a formal caution delivered?

The formal caution is given by a JLO, a Garda inspector or a more senior officer. The following people must be present when a caution is given:

  • The child
  • The child’s parents or guardians
  • A JLO (if the JLO is not administering the caution).

The Director of the Programme may also invite the victim of the crime to attend.

There is no specific wording or procedure for administering the caution. The officer who gives the caution, however, normally discusses the behaviour and highlights to the child the seriousness of their actions.

The child may be invited to apologise to the victim and, where appropriate, make financial or other amends to the victim.

The formal caution normally takes place in a Garda station to highlight the seriousness of the situation to the child.

How is an informal caution delivered?

An informal caution is for less serious criminal behaviour and may be given at the child’s home or in a Garda station.

It is administered by a JLO. The only people who must attend when an informal caution is given are the parents or guardians and the child.

Supervision during the Youth Diversion Programme

Every child who receives a formal caution through the Garda Diversion Programme is placed under the supervision of a JLO for 12 months. This can be changed in certain circumstances.

Who decides on the level of supervision?

The level of supervision is normally decided by the JLO. When deciding the level of supervision, they consider the following matters:

  • Seriousness of the child’s behaviour
  • Level of support given to, and the level of control of, the child by the parents or guardians
  • Likelihood of the child committing further offences or anti-social behaviour
  • Directions from the Director regarding the appropriate level of supervision

Generally, a child who gets an informal caution is not placed under the supervision of a JLO. However, in exceptional circumstances, a young person given an informal caution can be placed under the supervision of a JLO for 6 months.

What is JLO supervision?

Supervision normally involves the JLO closely monitoring the child’s behaviour in relation to the caution.

The young person may have to agree to:

  • Engage in certain activities
  • Attend a local youth project, or
  • Report on particular occasions to the JLO or another Garda.

Youth diversion conferences

What is a Diversion Programme conference?

The Diversion Programme can hold a meeting (or conference) to discuss the welfare of a child admitted to the programme.

The conference may:

  • Mediate between the child and the victim (where appropriate) in line with the terms of the programme.
  • Formulate an action plan for the child.

Conferences must also uphold the concerns of the victim and consider their interests.

The conference aims to:

  • Establish why the child became involved in the behaviour that gave rise to their admission to the programme
  • Discuss how the parents, guardians, family members, relatives or other people can prevent the child from becoming involved in such behaviour
  • Review the child’s behaviour since their admission to the programme, where appropriate

These conferences are established in law under Section 29 of the Children Act 2001

Who runs the conference?

The Director of the Diversion Programme will decide whether to hold a conference.

Before the decision:

  • The Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) supervising a child recommends in writing that a conference is held.
  • The child’s parents or guardians must agree to the conference

The child's consent is not required but their views must be obtained on the matter.

The Director must appoint a facilitator to convene and chair the conference. The facilitator person must be the supervising JLO or another Garda.

Who attends the conference?

The conference must be attended by:

  • The child
  • Their parents or guardians
  • The facilitator

If appropriate, the facilitator may invite:

  • The victim and their family members if their attendance would contribute to the conference
  • Other family members and relatives
  • Representatives from Tusla, the Probation Service and the child’s school.

What does the conference consider?

The conference considers:

  • The level of supervision the child needs
  • If the existing level of supervision should change

Normally a conference only occurs if the supervision of the child is not having the desired effect and the child’s behaviour isn’t improving.

Action plan

When a conference is called, an action plan is normally agreed for the child. The action plan must be agreed by all those present at the conference, unless the facilitator believes a person’s refusal to consent is unreasonable.

An action plan is usually an outcome of the conference but is not compulsory.

What is in an action plan

An action plan may include:

  • An apology (verbally or in writing or both) by the child to the victim
  • Financial or other reparation to any victim
  • Participation by the child in a suitable sporting or recreational activity
  • Attendance by the child at school or a place of work
  • Participation by the child in a suitable training, educational course or a programme that does not interfere with any work or school schedule of the child
  • The child being at home at certain times
  • The child staying away from specific places or people (or both)
  • Initiatives within the child’s family and community to help prevent the child committing further offences or anti-social behaviour
  • Any other matter in the child’s best interests or would make the child more aware of the consequences of their behaviour.

Action plan start and review dates

The final agreed action plan starts on the date it is signed by the facilitator, the child (if possible) and one other person present.

The action plan is reviewed at any time within six months from the date the plan is signed.

The conference and any action plan are reported to the Director of the Diversion Programme. The Director then decides if they need to vary any period of supervision.

Schools programme and youth diversion projects

Garda Youth Diversion Projects

The Youth Diversion Programme is supported by a network of Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs).  The projects give the children opportunities to engage in activities such as education, employment training, sport, art and music. Most projects operate outside of school hours, although activities may also be planned during the daytime.

The projects are community based, multi-agency youth crime prevention initiatives that aim to divert young people from anti-social or criminal behaviour.

There are over 100 projects managed by community-based organisations as part of the programme. These include Foróige, Crosscare, Extern and other independent agencies. You can find programme locations on this map.

Schools Programme

The Gardaí run the Schools Programme to discourage young people at school becoming involved in criminal behaviour.

Gardaí visit classrooms and run projects and trips with pupils in 5th class in primary schools.

A programme for post-primary schools has been developed to run alongside the Social, Personal and Health Education syllabus for Junior Cycle.

As well as making young people aware of the dangers of criminal behaviour, the Schools Programme shows children the positive side of the work of the Gardaí and encourages good relations between pupils and the Gardaí.

Garda Síochána

Phoenix Park
Dublin 8
D08 HN3X

Tel: 01 6660000; Garda Confidential: 1800 666 111

Garda Schools Programme

Community Relations

Harcourt Square
Dublin 2

Tel: (01) 666 3823 / 3818
Fax: (01) 666 3827
Page edited: 10 June 2024