Gov Not Up to Task of Combatting Anti-Social Behaviour
29 November 2005
by Cllr Joe Costello
Labour Party Spokesperson on Justice, Joe Costello TD, has said the graphic images of serious public order offences and related crime depicted in last night’s Prime Time Investigates programme highlight the failure of the authorities to respond in an effective or professional manner to the serious scourge of anti-social behaviour afflicting all cities, towns and villages.Deputy Costello commented, “Last night’s programme was a shocking depiction of anti-social behaviour and related crime in a community context. It illustrated the extent to which the lives of many Irish families are terrorised by loutish, thuggish behaviour and casual vandalism.
“The Labour Party is well aware of these realities and has set out strategies for dealing with two of the serious contributory factors that give rise to anti-social behaviour in our policy documents on alcohol, ‘A Culture of Responsibility’ and in our submission to the Midterm Review of the National Drugs Strategy. “Moreover, in our ‘Taking Back the Neighbourhood’ document published in April we spelt-out precisely what steps the Government needs to take to address anti-social behaviour. In particular we emphasised the need for Community Policing in a new partnership approach as the key to policing and interacting with local communities.“There are also extensive laws enacted to provide the authorities with sufficient powers to tackle all forms of ant-social behaviour, that the Government has failed to implement. The Public Order Act 1994 and the Housing Miscellaneous Act 1997 give the Gardaí and the local authorities respectively vast powers to restrain recalcitrant citizens. However, they are inadequately enforced.“The Children’s Act 2001 and the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 provide a comprehensive template for juvenile justice and school attendance. However they have not been funded or staffed to allow them to operate in any meaningful or effective way.“Inadequate resources, insufficient personnel and a lack of enforcement characterises this whole area of public order and juvenile justice. The Government’s response to the phenomenon, such as lowering the age of criminal responsibility, would be a retrograde step, as it would merely lead to the criminalisation of children.“Anti-social behaviour takes place in the community and should be dealt with in the community. Therefore restorative justice community service local mentoring, diversionary and training programmes, juvenile liaison schemes should be the order of the day. A person having to make good the damage they have done makes more sense than sending them out of the community into an institution for a period of time.“Finally there is little sense in talking about tackling crime and antisocial behaviour if the context of the offending behaviour is not addressed. The failure to deliver on the RAPID programmes was a real scandal. €2 billion allocated from the National Development Plan for Youth Projects and community facilities and employment and training was promised in 2002 but not delivered by the last and present Government. “That is the type of investment that is needed to eliminate the causes of crime.”