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Sinn Féin calls for Joint Policing Committees to examine real alternatives

12 January, 2007

Sinn Féin's Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said that the Dublin Joint Policing Committee has a lot to learn from the British model for dealing with anti-social behaviour, specifically, what not to do. He was speaking at a Dublin City Joint Policing Committee workshop on anti-social behaviour hearing from a range of experts from Britain jurisdiction.

The Dublin South-Central TD said: "While I welcome today's opportunity for the Dublin City Joint Policing Committee to examine the British model for dealing with anti-social behaviour, however, we need to be mindful not to blindly follow the example of their failed approach to tackling the problem.

"The existing evidence demonstrates that the British approach is counterproductive and does not work. In August 2006 the head of Britain's Youth Justice Board stated that their prisons for 10-17 year olds were nearly full up. Britain currently has one of the highest rates of imprisonment of young people in Europe and during the past decade the numbers of 15-17 year olds in custody has increased by 20%. This Joint Policing Committee should not consider rising prison populations the yardstick of success.

"Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) have now been introduced to this jurisdiction and they will be extended to target children next March. Minister McDowell made similar commitments to those previously made in Britain before that ASBOs will not be over-used, but the British experience, where ASBOs are used by lazy police officers and officials to circumvent the standards applying to criminal proceedings, throws real doubt on such a commitment.

"Sinn Féin remains opposed to the introduction of the ASBO gimmick because they do not work. We believe that criminal behaviour should be prosecuted through criminal proceedings. The provisions of the Children's Act must be resourced and fully applied including Garda Juvenile Diversion Programmes and Youth Diversion Projects, conferencing, community sanctions and parental sanctions.

"The Probation Service must also be given increased funding to enhance community supervision. Community restorative justice alternatives and community mediation services must be made available. And there is an urgent need for investment in mental health care, drug treatment and social services. In the longer term of course the only sustainable way to address problems of anti-social behaviour is through investment in community, social and recreational infrastructure in disadvantaged areas in particular.

"These proposals could form a strategy that would really address the problems of anti-social behaviour, instead of get tough gimmicks from a Justice Minister flailing about.

"I am calling for further JPC workshops to take place to allow the membership to examine successful alternatives from further afield to address anti-social behaviour. In particular we need to hear from statutory bodies and the community sector in countries with lower rates of child imprisonment."


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