McDowell promises to halt alcohol-related crime

 

The Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, tonight promised to follow a "get tough" policyto halt escalating alcohol-related crime.

Mr McDowell said that although some of his policies may be regarded asdraconian he was committed to carrying them out.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Association ofGarda Sergeants and Inspectors today, Mr McDowell said:"I make no apology for the fact that I intend to be even tougher ondrink-induced criminality."

"Some may consider that the measures I intend to introduce, coupled with theexisting law, are severe, even draconian, he said. But, he added: "I believe the situation warrants such a course."

He said he wanted to tackle the serious problem of binge drinking byintroducing a number of measures as a matter of urgency:

  • The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, which is currently going throughthe Oireachtas, will allow gardaí to close down premises which are thefocus of serious trouble or disorder.
  • Officers will also be able stop anybody convicted of an offence under thePublic Order Act from entering or being in the area of a specified premises.
  • New legislation will make it mandatory for young people to showidentification cards when buying alcohol either in pubs or off-licences.
  • It will also give plain clothes officers the right to look for under agedrinkers in bars and pubs.
  • There will be new and heavier penalties for drunkenness on premises and forlicensees who intentionally continue to serve persons who are drunk ordisorderly.
  • Close circuit television will be used more widely to detect and prosecuteoffenders.

Mr McDowell also said a professional approach to alcohol should come fromtop-level management.

"Strict enforcement of the law in this area is a matter of huge importance,"he said. Lives are lost, lives are ruined and lives are jeopardised by drink-relatedcrime."

Mr McDowell also condemned the "thugs" responsible for theescalating number of gangland killings.

He promised to support the Garda in its fight against organisedcrime in the light of another fatal shooting this weekend.

"The gangland murders of recent times do not need detailed social analysis,"he said."They have been committed by vicious thugs who are beyond the reach of reasonor morality."I know that the Garda Síochana will spare no effort to show that they arenot beyond the reach of the law."

Over 300 hundred new gardai will be added to the force over the next two years, the Minister also announced. The number falls far short of the 2,000 promised during last year's general election but Mr McDowell promised more resources when financial circumstances allow.

He also said the process of 'civilianisation', where clerical staff perform administrative duties currently done by gardai would continue.

"The intention is that, in so far as possible, Garda members should be available to perform duties which require policing skills," Mr McDowell said.

The Minister said he was "open" to the use of electronic tagging as a means of monitoring offenders especially for those who have committed sexual crimes.

"I can assure this conference that I am keeping developments under close review, and that I stand ready to make use of technology in this area as soon as I believe that it can make a contribution to the monitoring of offenders".

Mr McDowell also said a bill providing for the introduction of an independent Garda inspectorate which will have the powers of an ombudsman would be ready before the end of the year.