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To tackle gangland crime we must tackle drugs – Ó Snodaigh

18 November, 2008 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD


Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, speaking in the Dáil this evening on a Private Members' Motion on Gangland Crime said tackling the drugs crisis must be a priority for the Government if we are to deal with gangland crime. Deputy Ó Snodaigh tabled an amendment to the motion in an attempt to commit the Government to practical measures to tackle serious drug and gun crime.

He said, "I cannot stress this enough - to tackle gangland crime we must tackle drugs as they are inextricably linked. With every major shipment of drugs entering the country is a consignment of weapons adding to the criminals' arsenals.

"The Government must focus on tackling the drugs crisis. Resources for the Garda Drugs Squads must be at least doubled at this time, extra sniffer dogs are needed and modern equipment such as secure radios for Gardaí. There must be a focus on new highly addictive drugs on the scene such as crystal meth and crack cocaine while continuing the focus on the major problems with heroin and cocaine. The decision not to substantially increase and in some cases to cut funding for the local drugs task forces must be reversed and resources must be increased to reflect the growth of the drugs crisis over the past year.

"In the long term a reactive justice approach operating in isolation will do little to bring an end to gangland crime. The young ages of those involved in gun crime highlights the urgent need for measures to be introduced to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in criminal activities. Many impressionable young people are looking up to the criminals and drug dealers in their areas with their vast amounts of money, their flash cars and in some cases their seeming immunity from prosecution.

"We need a multi-departmental response in partnership with communities that prioritises early intervention for children and young people who grow up in an environment of violence and abuse and who are identifiably at risk of becoming serious offenders themselves. This is the real challenge to which we must agree to rise together." ENDS

Full text of Deputy Ó Snodaigh's contribution follows:

Statement on FG PMB on Gangland Crime

18th November 2008

I move my amendment to the government amendment.

I welcome the opportunity to speak again in this house on the issue of serious and organised crime. I am not going to repeat at length the contribution which I made to the debate on this issue last week. Many of those points are reflected in my amendment including:

the need for secure digital radio to be rolled-out to Limerick at least as early as it is rolled out to Dublin, currently Limerick is scheduled to receive the new secure radio a full year later than Dublin;

likewise the need to immediately roll the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing confidential non-garda freephone initiative out to Limerick and the rest of the state;

the need for practical witnesses protections;

the need for greater and faster civilianisation in order to free-up fully trained Gardaí from behind desks to fight crime;

the need for more to be done and for more funding to be aimed at tackling the drugs crisis;

the need for more sniffer dogs

the need for delays in the justice system including the processing of CAB cases to be addressed;

the need for CAB to focus squarely on drug-related crime and for monies confiscated to be ring-fenced for the communities worst affected; and

the need to reverse the budget cut to the DPP.

I will move now to a series of further proposals that I was unable to include in my contribution last week due to time constraints.

Prison must become a more effectively deployed part of a sustainable response to gangland crime. The problem of minor offenders entering the prison system and emerging at the other end as hardened criminals in league with gangs or factions must be addressed. In addition prison sentences must be used as an opportunity to remove serious criminals from their associates and potential associates. To this end the placement of such prisoners must be intelligence-led. And in the making of orders to apply post release Judges should reinforce these efforts and aim towards maintaining the disassociation of serious criminals on the outside.

The Superprison planned for the Thornton Hall site is a retrograde step. Just like the US model gangs will flourish there. The prison estate must be refurbished for humanitarian reasons but substantially expanding it on one site is not the way to go.

The issues raised last month by the first report of the new Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly must be addressed. He identified serious shortcomings in our prisons' educational facilities. For younger offenders in particular the focus of time spent in prison and related investment must be on effectively preventing re-offending.

In terms of legislative deficits. There is an urgent need for the introduction of ECHR-compliant legislation governing covert surveillance. The legislation must take heed of the criticisms made to date by Justice Morris and others and of ECHR jurisprudence. It must protect against unwarranted invasions of privacy and harassment. It must put in place a sound framework and thresholds through which Gardaí or the DPP can argue a case and seek judicial approval for the use of covert investigatory techniques in particular serious cases. This evidence once gathered properly and in accordance with the ECHR-compliant law would be admissible in court. We need movement on this from government.

Now, I want to urge caution in relation to some of the proposals that have been floated by ill-informed, all be it well-intentioned, political representatives. At this painful and fearful time in the aftermath of yet another callous murder there is a temptation to dismantle the safeguards and protections that all good citizens currently enjoy. There is a temptation to demand ultra-regressive and ultimately ineffective measures such as internment, non-jury trials and mandatory sentencing. This temptation is understandable but it must be resisted.

The fact that criminal trials are undertaken in front of a jury is not the reason gangland criminals operate with impunity. Juries have proven themselves more than willing to convict when a properly evidenced prosecution case is made before them. Also in the absence of a jury the risk of miscarriage, and by extension of the real perpetrators getting away with their crimes, is substantially increased. And mandatory sentences are proven NOT to reduce crime in other jurisdictions where they operate. Many of the proposals being aired are dangerous, short-sighted and will ultimately fail victims because they simply will not deliver justice or reduce serious crime.

I cannot stress this enough - to tackle gangland crime we must tackle drugs as they are inextricably linked. With every major shipment of drugs entering the country is a consignment of weapons adding to the criminals' arsenals.

The Government must focus on tackling the drugs crisis. Resources for the Garda Drugs Squads must be at least doubled at this time, extra sniffer dogs are needed and modern equipment such as secure radios for Gardaí. There must be a focus on new highly addictive drugs on the scene such as crystal meth and crack cocaine while continuing the focus on the major problems with heroin and cocaine. The decision to cut funding for the local drugs task forces must be reversed and resources must be increased to reflect the growth of the drugs crisis over the past year.

In the long term a reactive justice approach operating in isolation will do little to bring an end to gangland crime. The young ages of those involved in gun crime highlights the urgent need for measures to be introduced to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in criminal activities. Many impressionable young people are looking up to the criminals and drug dealers in their areas with their vast amounts of money, their flash cars and in some cases their seeming immunity from prosecution.

We need a multi-departmental response in partnership with communities that prioritises early intervention for children and young people who grow up in an environment of violence and abuse and who are identifiably at risk of becoming serious offenders themselves. This is the real challenge to which we must agree to rise together.

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