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Anti-social behaviour requires solutions, not gimmicks - Spain

5 September, 2006

Responding to calls from the Labour party to introduce a pilot scheme for ASBOs (anti-social behaviour orders) in Lucan and Clondalkin, Sinn Féin Dublin Mid West representative Joanne Spain said that "solutions, not gimmicks, are needed to solve the issue of anti-social behaviour".

Spain said:

"It is irresponsible to lead vulnerable people suffering the effects of anti-social behaviour to believe that ASBOs will solve the problem. ASBOs are a quick-fix solution, similar to the Garda Reserve force, a knee-jerk response from a government that has failed abysmally to tackle crime in this state.

"My party has challenged anti-social behaviour in our communities for many years. We are glad that other political parties are finally waking up to this problem. However, much of the problematic behaviour identified by ASBOs is actually criminal and more Gardaí are needed to consistently enforce existing laws. Can the Labour party tell me how, if there are not enough Gardaí to respond to actual crimes in Clondalkin and Lucan, they will magically appear to hand out ASBOs to gangs of kids on street corners?

"ASBOs can be used against anyone over the age of ten. They can be obtained through hearsay, because the rules of evidence and procedure do not apply. Yet breach of an ASBO is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment. ASBOs have resulted in imprisonment for non-criminal behaviour, without the benefit of a trial.

"They rarely stop the perpetrators of anti-social behaviour, who just move from one area to another. They are most frequently used against young people, people with mental health problems, and are open for abuse against immigrants.

"ASBOs are contrary to children's rights and are inconsistent with the Children's Act 2001. They are also inconsistent with human rights standards of due process and the right to a fair trial. They have provoked outrage from children's and community sector organisations and a coalition against them formed as soon as Minister Michael McDowell floated them.

"Sinn Féin wants the Garda Síochána to be made accountable to the communities they serve, through the introduction of an effective formula such as the Community Policing Partnerships at District Level. This should come into line along with proper funding and support for the Probation and Welfare Service, to prevent re-offending and supervise offenders returned to the streets. It's important too that we get a proper mental health care service, so that the mentally ill get treatment rather than come into conflict with their neighbours and the law.

"ASBOs will not fix the problem of anti-social behavior in Dublin Mid West. Human Rights organisations the length and breadth of the country can tell you that. I can understand that other political parties want to capitalise on people's unhappiness at crime in their areas, but election year or not - some statements should be more measured. And I would expect a so-called opposition party to be more critical of legislation produced by a Minister that has whole-heartedly stated that he does not believe in equality - not to support it and call for its immediate implementation." ENDS

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