Dáil Éireann - Volume 339 - 09 February, 1983

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Juveniles' Behaviour.

9. Mr. L. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health if he intends to amend existing legislation in order to make parents more responsible in law for the behaviour of their juvenile children.

Mr. B. Desmond: This is one of the matters being considered by me in the course of my examination of the draft new child care legislation prepared by my Department. I hope to have the legislation ready for introduction during the next session of Dáil Éireann.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Does the Minister not accept that formative criminal behaviour can be detected by specialists in the field of child psychology and child psychiatry among juveniles at a very early age, that potential criminal traits seem to be in the process of being formed at that early age?

Mr. B. Desmond: There was in the draft scheme — and still remains in the draft scheme of the new children Bill — [1426] tentative provision for the prosecution of parents who fail to exercise what is classified as due control over their children. I am examining that tentative provision at present. I am not entirely happy with it. The children Bill is a very comprehensive one and I am examining its headings at present. It is a very complex area because it relates also to the age of criminal responsibility. There has been no decision taken at Government level yet as to what should be the most appropriate age.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Does the Minister not agree that, notwithstanding the tremendous success of the juvenile liaison scheme and the very obvious enthusiasm and dedication they bring to the job — there has been a very serious escalation in the incidence of juvenile crime — that there needs to be a rapid and effective reorientation of parental attitudes in relation to their responsibilities to their children? Does the Minister not agree further that this is urgent since there are numerous and ever increasing cases of juveniles being brought by gardaí to Garda stations who, on being brought, have to be released on their own bail of sometimes 50 pence because their parents refuse to bail them out? Would the Minister agree that there is need for a concerted and concrete effort on the part of his Department to amend existing legislation or introduce new legislation?

Mr. B. Desmond: I agree with the Deputy that there is the need for a degree of legislation in this area. But I am more particularly concerned with the need for social education, social opportunity and equality of opportunity for the children directly concerned as well. I do not think it can be approached on an exclusively legislative or punitive basis.

An Ceann Comhairle: We are now engaging in something of the nature of a Second Stage debate.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: While I accept what the Minister said in relation to social education can I put it to him that a programme of social education has been conducted [1427] in the schools and we still have an ever-increasing problem? With reference to his reply to Question No. 34 on yesterday's Order Paper——

An Ceann Comhairle: Surely we have got away from yesterday's Order Paper.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Does the Minister support raising the age of criminal responsibility and the introduction of legislation to make parents responsible in law?

An Ceann Comhairle: This is widening the scope of the question.

Mr. B. Desmond: These two matters are contained in a draft Bill which has been circulated.

An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 10.

Mr. Wallace: Arising from the Minister's reply——

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, we are moving on to the next question.

Mr. Wallace: There is a very serious situation in Cork. There are six children ——

An Ceann Comhairle: This is Question Time. It is not a debate. The Deputy is giving information.

Mr. Wallace: The Minister's reply is unsatisfactory.

An Ceann Comhairle: If it is, the Deputy has a way of dealing with it.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: I did not get any commitment from the Minister with regard to his support——

Mr. Wallace: I should like to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair will communicate with the Deputy.