Law and Order

4th November, 2010

Zero Tolerance was the major electoral platform that brought Fianna Fail back to power in 1997. Twelve years on and that promise never materialised. Zero Tolerance was the major electoral platform that brought Fianna Fail back to power in 1997. Twelve years on and that promise never materialised.
• Recorded crime increased by 4.7% in 2008
• Gardaí are quitting in record numbers – There has been a 200% increase in experienced Gardaí are retiring from the Force and they are not being replaced.
• Overcrowding in our prisons has reached crisis levels – 13% of the prison population is currently out on temporary release and in 2008 alone, there were 2 deaths and 759 incidents of violence amongst prisoners.
• Over €40m has been spent on Thornton Hall prison and not a brick has been laid. Massive security and maintenance costs are being continually incurred for this site.

Confidence in the effectiveness of our criminal justice system has been damaged. Recent gangland and surveillance legislation has created a public expectation of more prosecutions and convictions. The challenges facing the Gardaí, the Prison Service, the Courts Service, Customs and the Probation Service will only rise and they must have the resources to protect both themselves and the communities they serve.

Some of our key reforms:

Fine Gael has been a strong advocate of community policing and wants to see a change to Garda organisational structures to reflect a focus on community based policing and the resourcing of our Gardaí with basic vital equipment such as digital radio.

Overcrowding in our State prisons reached critical level. With each prison place now costing €100,000 annually, Fine Gael wants a review of the high number of short term prison sentences as it reveals that 87.5% of the prison population in 2008 was for non-violent and minor offences. Alternatives to custody such as community service, the Dublin Drugs Court and the restorative justice programme must be prioritised.

Our bail laws must be radically overhauled with a view to reducing the significant percentage of offensives committed by those released on bail. The law must be amended to focus on a balance of the rights of the individual and the protection of the community. Included in our proposals are measures to allow those on bail to be electronically tagged.

Fine Gael Victims Rights Bill 2007 will provide victims of crime or their families with comprehensive statutory rights under Irish law and makes statutory provision for a Victims’ Rights Charter. Our proposals will for the first time entitle victims to have any violation of their rights investigated and reported upon, introducing greater transparency and accountability into our criminal justice system