'Fagin's Law' | 

Simon Harris to make grooming children into ‘Gangland’ an offence punishable by up to five years

Minister Simon Harris

Senan MolonyIndependent.ie

Adult offenders are to face up to five years in prison for grooming children into a life of crime.

Minister for Justice Simon Harris will today seek Cabinet approval for a new Bill to criminalise the grooming of children into underworld activity.

The Fagin’s Law, named after the character from Dickens’ Oliver Twist who commands a gang of juveniles, already operates in some other countries.

Minister Harris will tell ministerial colleagues that the aim is deter and prevent criminal networks from exploiting children to commit crime and “breaking the link between gangs and the vulnerable young people they seek to recruit.”

The move will be a significant contribution to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's new drive to tackle child poverty and disadvantage. The Government is determined to build stronger, safer communities, with official warning that juvenile criminal behaviour and conviction can damage education, employment and travel prospects as people grow up.

“Minister Harris is determined to protect children and teenagers from being coerced into a life of crime,” a source said. The penalty on conviction for exploiting a child and entrapping them into gangland will be a maximum of five year's imprisonment

Some children are being deceived by criminal networks into believing crime can bring “wealth, bling and a party lifestyle,” Mr Harris has previously told party colleagues. But the reality is that it instead brings debts and dread of retribution.

The Criminal Justice (Engagement of Children in Criminal Activity) Bill 2023 follows initial progress in drafting under Minister Helen McEntee, now on maternity leave.

It follows through on her commitment to break the link between gangs and the children they try to recruit into crime. Minister Harris intends to enact the legislation by the summer The legislation will give An Garda Síochána the power to intervene locally to prevent offences taking place, on suspicion of grooming.

For the first time there will be specific offences where an adult “compels, coerces, induces or invites” a child to engage in criminal activity. Minister Harris will give Gardaí these additional powers and make grooming a separate, prosecutable offence, on top of the provisions in current law.

This includes where an adult who causes or uses a child to commit a crime can generally be found guilty as the principal offender – meaning they can be punished as though they committed the crime themselves

The new law will specifically recognise the harm done a child by drawing them into a world of criminality, the Irish Independent was told.

The Greentown Project currently has two trials underway to reduce and disrupt the influence of criminal networks on children in Ireland.

Pilots are taking place in two local areas and to provide supports for the positive development of the children affected.

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