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Witness protection programme must be part of larger plan to tackle crime

31 October, 2007

Speaking ahead of a Debate on a Labour Party Bill which calls for clear guidelines for witness protection programmes Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said Sinn Féin would have no problem with the Bill itself but stressed that The Labour Party are being very naïve if they believe a witness protection programme is the key to tackling serious crime. Speaking this morning Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Currently witness protection is fairly ad hoc in its operation. Given the potential for wrongly handled witness protection arrangements to corrupt criminal proceedings or result in miscarriages of justice Sinn Féin agrees that this matter should involve clear guidelines underpinned by primary legislation. "However anyone who's sole focus in terms of fighting serious crime is to promote witness protection shows themselves to be devoid of real solutions. We have heard little else from the Labour Party in recent weeks and they are being very naïve if they believe that this issue is the key to tackling serious crime. "The impact of this legislation will be near negligible to the fight against serious drug and gun criminals. Communities want to be protected from criminals through effective on the ground policing not through being hidden away from friends and family with a false identity. "If we are to seriously tackle serious drug and gun crime then it is essential that the Gardaí work in genuine partnership with communities while using the resources available to us in the most effective manner. This means the civilianisation of administrative Garda tasks to free up approximately 4,000 fully trained Gardaí to be re-deployed into the fight against crime. "Illegal drugs supply chains must be disrupted with the proceeds of drug-related crime being channelled back into the communities worst affected by the drugs crisis. "Community input should be sought via Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) and community policing forums to the Garda Drug Units with a view to rolling out campaigns such as the successful 'Dial to Stop Drug Dealing' campaign. "Sinn Féin has produced a comprehensive set of proposals to tackle serious drug and gun crime which we have presented to both the Garda Commissioner and to Justice Minister Brian Lenihan. Some of our proposals have been mirrored in the latest recommendations from the Garda Inspectorate. If implemented we feel our poposals will have a major impact in the fight against crime. "Witness protection needs to be seen as one piece of a larger plan to tackle crime." ENDS

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