Solutions to preventing anti-social behaviour in Ireland cannot be found solely in the criminal justice system and require a Government response, an Oireachtas committee has been told.
The Joint Committee on Justice heard from a number of stakeholders as part of its investigation into issues around anti-social behaviour.
Molly Joyce, acting executive director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, told members that prison did not work as a deterrent for those involved in low-level crime.
She said: “Anti-social behaviour is an issue of great complexity. The importance of further research in this area cannot be over-estimated.”
The link between anti-social behaviour and socio-economic disadvantage has made clear that solutions do not lie solely with the criminal justice system, but instead require a whole of Government responseMolly Joyce, Irish Penal Reform Trust
She said research had linked anti-social behaviour in Ireland to issues such as socio-economic disadvantage and marginalisation as well as alcohol and drug abuse.
Ms Joyce added: “The link between anti-social behaviour and socio-economic disadvantage has made clear that solutions do not lie solely with the criminal justice system, but instead require a whole of Government response.
“They should approach the issue as one that stretches across a number of Government departments.”
Cormac O’Donnchu, chairperson of North Dublin Inner City Local Community Safety Partnership, said the proposed Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill recognised that community safety was not an issue for the police alone.
He said: “The Bill will provide for this key principle that preventing crime and making our communities safer does not rest with An Garda Siochana and the department for justice alone.
“Rather it would be best achieved as a whole of Government responsibility with departments and agencies responsible for health and social services, educational authorities, local authorities, the Gardai and the wider community working together.
“This new Bill will achieve this by establishing innovative local community safety partnerships to develop local safety plans tailored for the needs identified by local communities themselves.”
Richard Guiney, CEO of DublinTown, an organisation which represents businesses, said there were “legislative enhancements” which could assist in creating a more welcoming environment in Dublin.
He said: “The Criminal Justice Public Order Act 2011 could be tweaked to provide greater protection for the public.
“However, in essence we believe that greater success will be achieved by considering non-criminal sanctions.
“We also believe that there is scope for enhancing anti-social behaviour orders and using them not only to address difficult behaviour but also to provide support which could assist us involved in addressing the underlying challenges.”