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Adams Calls for new Justice Laws to tackle Violent and Anti-Social Crime

31 May, 2010 - by Pat Sheehan, Westminster

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams will meet the Minister of Justice David Ford tomorrow -Tuesday - to discuss recent developments in west Belfast in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Lenadoon man Seamus Fox murder. Mr Adams will also raise concerns about conditions for prisoners in Maghaberry and current situation within the prison.

The west Belfast MP will put specific proposals to the Minister of Justice for new Justice Laws to tackle violent and anti-social crime.

The west Belfast MP will be accompanied by local MLAs and Councillors.

Tuesday’s meeting is a follow up to a series of discussions which Gerry Adams and other senior Sinn Fein representatives have had in recent weeks with the PSNI.

Gerry Adams said:

 “Following an intense series of meetings with the PSNI in recent weeks Sinn Féin has been informed of a number of steps the police will be taking to tackle violent crime in west Belfast.

 These are useful first steps in beginning to address the problem of violent and anti-social crime but much more needs to be done.

 For example, Sinn Féin has also discussed with the PSNI the problem of prolific repeat offenders and the fact that their behaviour is poorly monitored and frequently not at all.

Likewise, the PSNI has pointed out in discussions with Sinn Féin that the Public Prosecution Service and other agencies do not have a definition for ‘hotspots’ in the way that the PSNI and the local community have.

These problems, together with sustaining and investing in the West Belfast Community Safety Forum on a longer term basis will be part of the agenda for our meeting with the Minister of Justice on Tuesday.

But I also intend to put to Mr. Ford very specific proposals to tackle violent and anti-social crime which will require legislation in the Assembly but are vital in the battle against crime.

These include:

o       curtailing under-pricing of alcohol in off-sales and large retail outlets;

o       new standards of enforcement to curb on-street drinking and consumption of alcohol in public parks;

o       more rigorous supervision of and management upon release of the most serious  prolific repeat offenders;

 -         Changes in policy, practice and where necessary codes of practice and legislation to ensure :

o       that there is a shared and coherent community  / statutory definition of ‘hotspots’. This is crucial in ensuring that all of the relevant justice agencies have an agreed position to which they adhere. This will also require that other government departments deliver resources and policy changes;

o       make a single point of contact for the presentation of cases which are to be brought before the courts and the processing of such cases;

o       agree institutional practices and codes on the value of community impact assessments and statements in the function of all criminal justice agencies, not only the PSNI;

o       that victims of crime are given more respect within the process and are empowered to give voice to their own injustice / grievances. The experience of families recently bereaved through crime lends weight to the need for this.

o       the PSNI to overhaul its ‘call-handling’ system which governs the despatch of PSNI patrols to respond to calls for assistance. This was recommended some time ago by the Oversight Commissioner on Policing Al Hutchinson;

o       empower the Attorney General to have superintendence over the PPS, and ensure that the PPS should be required to give reasons for its decisions and disclose documents to the victims of crime.

These proposals have emerged out of the experience of the west Belfast community in dealing with anti-social and violent crime.

They are common sense proposals. But they will require change within the justice agencies. They will also require legislation in the Assembly.

I will be urging the Minister to bring forward as quickly as possible a Justice Bill covering these issues and I will be seeking the widest possible support from other parties and the community.

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