What is the Diversion Programme in Ireland?

The Diversion Programme aims to stop young people from committing further crimes

Written by Children's Rights Alliance


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This factsheet is an extract from the publication Know Your Rights: The Rights of Children and Young People published by the Children’s Rights Alliance. It is reproduced here with their kind permission. Know Your Rights is a public information project designed to inform everyone, in plain language, of the rights and entitlements children have in Ireland and where to go when they are not respected.

A child suspected of breaking the law is generally referred to the Diversion Programme by the Gardaí. If you accept responsibility for breaking the law you can be considered for the Programme. The exception is when the Gardaí believe this would not be in the interest of society.

What is the Diversion Programme?

The programme aims to divert children from committing further offences by giving the child a warning known as a ‘caution’. You may be included in this programme if you:

  • accept responsibility for breaking the law (also known as ‘committing an offence’)
  • consent to be cautioned
  • are aged between 12 and 18

However, this depends on the severity of the offence or your previous record of offending.

You may also be supervised by a Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO). A JLO is a type of garda who is specially trained to deal with young people and their families in relation to crime-prevention, the operation of the diversion programme and all other areas involving young people and the criminal justice system. You have the right to talk to your parent or guardian and a solicitor before you make this decision.

How does the Diversion Programme work?

The Diversion Programme aims to prevent any child who has committed an offence from entering the full criminal justice system – it offers them a second chance.

There will be a meeting to discuss and highlight the seriousness of your offence and its effect on the victim or victims attended by:

  • you
  • your parents or guardian
  • your Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO)
  • possibly another member of the Gardaí
  • the victim

In order to be included in the Diversion Programme and possibly receive a caution you must accept responsibility for your criminal behaviour and agree to engage with your JLO.

You must take steps to make sure you don’t do anything again that is against the law. You may be required to stay in school or say sorry to the victim. You may also be supervised by a JLO for up to 12 months.

What are Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs)?

The Diversion Programme is supported by a network of Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs). GYDPs are community based and supported youth development projects that seek to divert young people from becoming involved (or further involved) in anti-social or criminal behaviour. There are currently GYDPs state-wide and 10 projects with a special focus (such as for more challenging children or family support.) The Diversion projects are operated by organisations like Foróige and Youth Work Ireland.

Each young person involved in a Garda Youth Diversion Project goes through an assessment process to identify their individual needs and strengths. This allows the project to tailor a programme of activities specifically to meet the needs of the young person.

Will anyone know that I am involved with the programme?

No, your involvement in the Diversion Programme is confidential. A judge will be told of previous inclusion in the Diversion Programme if you are convicted in court of offences after you were in the Diversion Programme.

Need more information, advice or guidance?

We offer information, advice and guidance about the issues that matter to you. Our online Youth Information Chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm (excluding Bank Holidays).

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