The main focus of the Council work programme for 2007-2008 was on Fear of Crime.
‘Fear of Crime’ is a complex issue, both in terms of defining what exactly constitutes Fear of Crime and how it should be measured.
It covers many issues including: fear of physical violence; fear of being mugged or robbed; fear of invasion of one’s home; fear accentuated by anti-social behaviour; differing levels of fear experienced by different groups of the population; the role of the media and the relationship between changes in the incidence of crime and Fear of Crime. The Council’s study examines the factors associated with Fear of Crime as well as strategies/initiatives which may serve to reduce Fear of Crime and its possible impact on quality of life.
The first phase of the study involved secondary data analysis of the raw data collected in the Annual Garda Public Attitudes Surveys to determine whether the inclusion of additional questions on Fear of Crime would be beneficial. The Garda Public Attitudes Survey is conducted annually and covers up to 10,000 respondents (400 in each of 25 Garda Divisions). A number of additional questions were added to the Garda Public Attitudes Survey in 2006 at the request of the Council and these comprise questions related to fear of: rape; physical attack by a stranger; being mugged or robbed; burglary of the home etc. and the possible effect of Fear of Crime on quality of life.
In the second phase of the study, the raw data collected for the Garda Public Attitudes Survey in 2007 was examined to determine what factors influence Fear of Crime and the extent to which Fear of Crime impacts on quality of life. Where possible, the results of this analysis were contrasted with comparable data in the British and Northern Ireland Crime Surveys and the International Crime Victimisation Survey.
The National Crime Council completed two presentations and a research paper on its work on Fear of Crime including:
The Council’s work on Fear of Crime is ongoing.
In seeking to raise public knowledge and awareness of crime, the Council commissioned the Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law at University College Dublin in December, 2000 to undertake an extensive examination of crime trends in Ireland for a 48 year period, from 1950 to 1998. The Council appended an overview and recommendations to this report entitled Crime in Ireland and it was published in November, 2001.
The Council is pleased to note that progress has been made on implementing its recommendations, for example:
The Council published its report on Public Order Offences in Ireland on the 9th May, 2003. In commissioning this research from the Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law at University College Dublin in March, 2001, the Council was aware of the growing concern about this particular type of behaviour. The report looked at the patterns of public order offending for a period prior to the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act in 1994 (the period 1988 to 1994) and the period from 1996 to 2001. The Council appended an overview and set of recommendations to the report. The Council’s recommendations relating to the licensing laws assisted in the formulation of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 2003. The Commissioner of An Garda Síochána has also taken on board the recommendations of direct relevance to the Force.
It has long been recognised that tackling the underlying causes of crime requires interventions above and beyond the Criminal Justice System. The development of a more ‘holistic’ approach - with early intervention at the core of any strategy that aims to reduce crime and divert ‘at risk’ persons from becoming involved in a pattern of offending behaviour that may ultimately lead to imprisonment - must be the aim of Government working in partnership with statutory, non-statutory and community groups.
Central to the development of this project was a series of consultations. Firstly, with a range of Government Departments and agencies and secondly, in a series of community hearings in Dublin, Limerick and Tullamore, Co. Offaly. This resulted in the publication of the Council’s Consultation Paper, Tackling the Underlying Causes of Crime: A Partnership Approach in October, 2002. The focus of the Paper was on those crimes which cause the greatest damage at a local level, such as drug offences, assault, burglary and larceny.
Following from the publication of the Consultation Paper in October, 2002, the Council invited submissions on the Paper and subsequently hosted an Open Forum in February, 2003.
The report entitled A Crime Prevention Strategy for Ireland: Tackling the Concerns of Local Communities was published on the 27th June, 2003 and set out a model for a crime prevention strategy that would operate at the local, county/city and national level and which would be aligned to the County and City Development Board structure.
Garda Síochána Act, 2005
The Garda Síochána Act, 2005 provides, inter alia, for the setting up of joint policing committees by local authorities and the Garda Commissioner. Guidelines for the setting up of the joint policing committees include provision for persons representing local community interests to be on the joint policing committees in addition to elected public representatives and members of An Garda Síochána. The establishment of the joint policing committees is consistent with the strategy outlined in the Council’s report of June, 2003. The Council intends to monitor implementation of the joint policing committees on an ongoing basis.
The Council published Domestic Abuse of Women and Men in Ireland: Report on the National Study of Domestic Abuse in association with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in July, 2005. This was the first ever national study in Ireland to include both women’s and men’s experiences of domestic abuse in intimate partner relationships. The Council believes that the findings and the Council’s recommendations will assist policy makers and service providers to better plan and provide appropriate services for women and men experiencing such abusive behaviour in intimate relationships.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform requested that the Council undertake research examining delays which occur in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences. The agreed Terms of Reference were as follows:
“The National Crime Council will undertake research at the request of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to:
This research needs to examine the roles and responsibilities of all key elements in the criminal justice system involved in the processing of such cases including An Garda Síochána, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Courts and all other relevant bodies. It is accepted that this is a wide research brief. Accordingly, the research will initially concentrate on examining some specific offences such as murder, manslaughter and rape.”
The project concentrated on examining the cases disposed of in the Central Criminal Court in the period January, 2002 to March, 2004 looking in detail at the time intervals involved in the processing of cases from arrest/charge through to disposal. The Council’s findings with recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform were published on 4 September, 2006.
The Council published its report Problem Solving Justice – The case for Community Courts in Ireland on 2 May 2007. The report examined the potential for the introduction of Community Courts into Ireland along the lines of community courts already established in US and UK.