Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Martin Kenny TD, has appealed to Minister Simon Harris to increase the maximum sentence for a person found guilty of grooming a child into committing criminal acts.
This comes as the Minister today received approval from Cabinet to bring forward a Bill that will allow for those using a minor to conduct criminality on their behalf to face a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
Speaking today, Teachta Kenny said:
“Along with my colleagues Teachtaí Mark Ward and Denise Mitchell, I brought forward the Coercion of a Minor Bill in January of last year in the Dáil.
“This Sinn Féin Bill focused on the adults involved in criminality and drug dealing, who target and coerce children to move and supply drugs for them.
“Criminals have groomed children in both urban and rural communities across Ireland. Our Bill allowed for a maximum custodial sentence of ten years, because anyone found guilty of this offence must face a prison sentence that fits the crime.
“The children in our communities deserve to be protected from this criminality and kept safe so that they can have a better future.
“The maximum sentence of five years by Minister Harris is simply too short. These despicable criminals are preying on our children and robbing them of a bright future by luring them into a life of crime. It is something that must see significant sentencing.
“This lax approach to sentencing stands to the lax attitude Fine Gael have displayed throughout their decade holding the Justice Ministry.
“The failures of Fine Gael to deliver adequate resourcing to Gardaí and improve funding for youth diversion programmes has now been followed by a failure to give a proportionate sentence to dealers and gangs who continue to be such a scourge in our communities.
“Our Bill is currently going to committee stage but the government have refused to engage with us.
“In the time wasted while Fine Gael try to score points with the communities they have left behind, it is truly the children at the heart of these gang-grooming cases that are being failed.”
Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West, Mark Ward, said:
“We introduced this Bill as a very real way to solve an ongoing issue in our communities.
“In my mind, if the government was serious about stopping the grooming of children by drug gangs, the issue would have been tackled 10 years ago.
“I see it across my own community daily and indeed in many other communities across Dublin.
“These unscrupulous gangs are recruiting our children, luring them into crime with promises of being a ‘somebody’, promises of making ‘easy money’, and having all the luxuries they could only dream of having one day.
“I also echo the calls of former Garda Assistant Commissioner for Dublin, Dr. Pat Leahy, in calling for additional resources that must be put in place for Garda Youth Diversion Projects
“Gardaí and residents in my area have been calling for much tougher laws to be put in place to protect our children.
“This Government Bill is welcome, however it does not go far enough to protect children from grooming by drug gangs.”