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Rural Safety Plan 2022-2024 Launched.

Plan identifies 5 priority areas relating to rural safety and outlines key actions underway to ensure safety in rural Ireland.

At the Ploughing Championships in Co. Laois, on Wednesday morning last, September 21st, 2022, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Mr James Browne, took the oppertunity to launch the ‘Rural Safety Plan’.

This plan brings together and strengthens all of the various strands of work being carried out in relation to rural safety. In demonstrating and highlighting the collaborative efforts made by An Garda Síochána, other State bodies, the Rural Safety Forum, community groups, and supported by the Government, the plan seeks to enhance security in our rural areas and enforces the importance that is rightfully placed on the welfare of rural Irish communities.

The vision of the Rural Safety Plan is for people and communities in rural Ireland to feel safe and be safe in their homes, their places of work, and their local environments.

This plan identifies 5 main priorities in relation to rural safety, which are: –

  • Community Safety.
  • Burglary and Theft.
  • Roads Policing.
  • Animal Crime.
  • Heritage Crime.

The plan outlines the key actions underway in these priority areas in an informative and accessible way and also provides useful contacts for partner organisations, groups committed to supporting victims of crime, and organisations that share the Department of Justice’s aim of advancing the safety of our people.

Speaking at the launch on Wednesday, Minister Browne said:-

“I am delighted to be publishing the Rural Safety Plan today.

People and communities in rural Ireland deserve to feel safe and be safe. I recognise that rural safety isn’t just about the number of Garda but is a total Government responsibility.

That is why the Rural Safety Plan is the result of strong collaboration and brings together all of the excellent work already underway in relation to rural safety.

I want to recognise the wide-ranging and impactful work to further people’s safety and welfare, that is being undertaken in rural communities across the country. Much of this work is undertaken by dedicated volunteers who admirably commit so much of their time to the benefit of our communities and our country.

I wish to thank An Garda Síochána for their input to the Plan, and the National Rural Safety Forum for their support”.

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Statement From Justice Minister Regarding Anti-Social Behaviour.

The Minister for Justice Mrs Helen McEntee TD and the Minister of State for Law Reform Mr James Browne TD met today in the Department of Justice with the Garda Commissioner Mr Drew Harris and Ms Angela Willis, [latter Assistant Commissioner for the Dublin Metropolitan Region].

The meeting was convened to discuss safety and anti-social behaviour in Dublin and other areas around the country, following public concern over a number of recent incidents.

The Ministers and Commissioner agreed that high visibility policing is crucial to ensuring that people are safe and feel safe.

This will be prioritised by supporting and enhancing operations, such as Operation Citizen, which provides a visible presence in the city centre, and Operation Tombola, which tackles anti-social behaviour over the Halloween period, and high visibility policing through local teams in our other towns and cities.

Ongoing recruitment into An Garda Síochána will be key to achieving this, with the Minister and Commissioner agreeing that 200 recruits will soon enter the Garda College in Templemore, Co. Tipperary every three months.

The development of a permanent Garda station on O’Connell Street is a priority and, until the new facility opens, a high-visibility Garda presence will be maintained on the street.

The new, permanent station received planning permission this week and when opened in the coming months, will provide a permanent base for Gardaí working on Operation Citizen.

The Ministers, Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner also discussed how an increased presence on public transport can be provided through the Dublin Metropolitan Region.

The Minister has asked the Commissioner to also review the operation of anti-social behaviour legislation and procedures. An Garda Síochána are continuing to ensure compliance with bail requirements by repeat offenders.

The Minister for Justice will also examine what more can be done to assist Gardaí, such as the potential expansion of bail supervision schemes.

The Ministers, Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner agreed that the most effective way to deal with anti-social behaviour is through supports for communities and young people, such as Youth Diversion Programmes and other services, as led by Minister Browne, through the Youth Justice Strategy.

These include the Community Safety Innovation Fund, established by Minister McEntee and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, to reinvest the proceeds of crime, seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), into community safety projects.

The first round of awards will be announced by Minister McEntee and Minister Browne imminently, with funding being drawn down by the end of the year.

However, Minister McEntee today confirmed that one of the successful applicants is the “That’s a Wrap” project from Familibase, which serves Ballyfermot and the surrounding areas.

The project will be given over €135,000 to assist with outreach programmes for hard to reach young people.

It was also agreed that tackling inter-generational deprivation requires a whole society response, and that the development of Community Safety Partnerships will be the key mechanism for ensuring that all aspects of Irish society, work together to make sure that people are safe and feel safe in their communities.

Ministers McEntee and Browne also provided an update on key Government legislation, including:-

  • Giving An Garda Síochána the tools and technology to fight crime in a digital era by rolling out improved CCTV, body worn cameras and facial recognition technology.
  • Working with Ministers Ryan and Naughton to tackle the illegal use of scramblers.
  • Giving local people and local representatives a real say in how to make their communities safer through the new Community Safety Partnerships.
  • Using community sanctions to address criminality, reduce reoffending and provide protection to the public.
  • The Garda Powers Bill to modernise and update the powers available to An Garda Síochána.
  • New legislation to criminalise the grooming of children to commit criminal offences, together with an intervention programme to support communities and break the link between the gangs and vulnerable youths.

Minister McEntee said: “We will always support communities – honest, hard-working people who want and deserve to be safe on their streets. We will never allow anti-social behaviour from a small minority terrorise any community.

Communities who need our help will get it, and people who deserve to be punished will be punished.

It is vitally important that people are safe and feel safe in the communities and in our city centres, and Commissioner Harris and I today discussed these issues, along with Minister Browne and Assistant Commissioner Willis.

High visibility policing is central to this and Operation Citizen and other initiatives are key to ensuring that people can enjoy Dublin, whether they live or work in the city – or just want to enjoy all it has to offer.

As Minister for Justice, I will always support An Garda Síochána with the resources and tools they need to fund these important operations.

However, the most important way we can tackle anti-social behaviour is through supports and services, such as Youth Diversion Schemes and the Community Safety Innovation Fund”.

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Funding Announced For Property Marking Crime Prevention Programme.

Department of Justice funding will help the service to become available across Ireland.

Minister for Justice, Mrs Helen McEntee, will today announce funding of €300,000 for a crime prevention service which helps protect property from being stolen.

Property marking is a process where a physical mark is etched onto a piece of property such as a bike, laptop or tools.

The mark is made by a specially-designed machine which embosses the property item with small dots in the pattern of the owner’s Eircode – to make it harder for criminals to sell on stolen property.

Property Marking Ireland is a newly established company which has been set up to roll out a property marking crime prevention programme throughout the country.

Property Marking Ireland (PMI) is the trading name of Community Services Network (CSN). CSN is a not-for-profit social enterprise with no shareholders. All funds raised by Property Marking Ireland will be used for the provision of the service and any profits made will be used to improve or expand the service provided.

PMI has developed links with local authorities (through the Joint Policing Committees) as well as community groups (such as Men’s Sheds, IFA, Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch).

The Department of Justice has agreed to provide grant funding to the scheme for a period of four years, after which it is envisaged the scheme will become self-financing. The grant totals €300,000 over four years, subject to annual progress reports from PMI which demonstrate satisfactory progress.

The indicative funding is as follows:

  • Year 1, 2022 – €70,000
  • Year 2, 2023 – €100,000
  • Year 3, 2024 – €80,000
  • Year 4, 2025 – €50,000

Speaking about the funding, Minister McEntee said: “Preventing crime does not just mean putting extra Gardaí on the beat.
Property marking can act as an effective deterrent to property theft. This funding from the Department will mean that the service will eventually be available across Ireland
.

Every piece of property marked is another that criminals will find harder to sell on, if stolen. Every piece of property marked is another that Gardaí can reunite with the rightful owner in the event that it is stolen and recovered. PMI, the service provider for the scheme, work with An Garda Síochána to raise awareness of the service.

The scheme aligns with crime reduction and community safety strategies such as the Rural Safety Plan.

This is another important step towards combatting criminals and ensuring people feel safe within their communities”.

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Department of Justice Supports Crime Victims At Ploughing Championships.

Justice sector representatives on hand to discuss victims’ rights at Department’s stand #328, Row 20 ‘Supporting Victims of Crime’.

Over the course of three days at the Ploughing Championships starting from tomorrow, September 20th , 2022, representatives from the Department of Justice, the Irish Prison Service, the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board and the Victims of Crime Helpline, will be working together to support victims of crime.
Staff from across the Justice Sector will be on hand at Stand #328, Row 20 under the headline ‘Supporting Victims of Crime’ to speak to members of the public about their rights and supports available, as set out in the Victims Charter, if they become or have been victims of crime.

Members of An Garda Síochána will also be there to discuss how An Garda Síochána supports and helps victims throughout the reporting and investigation process, with a view to emphasising that nobody should feel afraid to report a crime.

Representatives from the Courts Service will focus on the technological facilities in place that make the courts process easier for victims, for example the use of video-link and screens in trials. They will also be able to explain the work of court accompaniments organisations funded by the Department of Justice, such as Victims Support at Court (VSaC).

The Irish Prison Service will be highlighting the Victims Liaison Office of the Prison Service, which can liaise with victims on relevant developments in the sentence management of a prisoner, for example temporary release, which a victim may wish to be aware of.

The Legal Aid Board will be available to speak to visitors to the stand about legal aid services for victims of crime.

The Crime Victims Helpline will also be present to highlight their national support service, whether by freephone, text or by email.

Speaking ahead of the event, Minister for Justice Mrs Helen McEntee said: “The National Ploughing Championship is an important event in the calendar each year for agricultural and rural communities in Ireland. While it is a fun and educational event that celebrates farming, rural life, music and entertainment, given the massive and diverse attendance, it is also a really positive opportunity to reach into communities.

That is why I am delighted to be able to attend and share our important message around the supports available to victims of crime. Being a victim of crime can happen to anyone, and if it does, it can be traumatic. If you do become a victim of crime, it is important to know that you are not alone – you are entitled to help and support from a range of agencies across the justice sector.

Colleagues from across the sector are available at the Department of Justice’s tent to engage with anybody interested or affected and I would encourage everyone to drop in to say hello.”

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Action Plan To Counter Threat Of Internal Corruption In An Garda Síochána Published.

  • Implementation plan jointly produced by Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána to ensure the highest standards of integrity in An Garda Síochána.
  • Builds upon significant work already undertaken by Garda Anti-Corruption Unit.

The Minister for Justice, Mrs Helen McEntee TD, today secured Government approval to publish a detailed implementation plan to address the recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate’s report on ‘Countering the Threat of Internal Corruption’, which was published in March 2021.

The purpose of this inspection by the Garda Inspectorate was to examine the effectiveness of An Garda Síochána at preventing, detecting and mitigating the threat of internal corruption.

The Inspectorate’s report contained 34 recommendations, 3 of which were directed at the Department of Justice, 1 at the Department of Transport and 30 at An Garda Síochána.

The report made recommendations around strengthening anti-corruption measures and improving safeguards, including in the areas of:

  • Professional boundaries
  • The abuse of power for sexual gain
  • Conflicts of interest/business interests
  • Substance testing
  • Vetting
  • Discontinued court cases
  • Operation of the statutory exemption from fixed charge penalties in emergency situations.

The implementation plan, which contains actions to address each of the 34 recommendations contained in the report, has been jointly prepared by the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána.

Speaking on the publication of the implementation plan, Minister Mrs McEntee said: “The vast majority of Garda members serve the organisation and the State with integrity each and every day of their careers. The unique nature of policing means it is one which is open to the threat of corruption. An Garda Síochána is not alone in this and this report will help ensure that An Garda Síochána has the appropriate structures and measures in place to guard against that threat.

Any wrongdoing or corruption within policing damages the integrity and morale of officers and staff alike and undermines public confidence in police services.

The Inspectorate’s report and our associated implementation plan will help ensure the highest standards of integrity and ethical behaviour within An Garda Síochána. It is also imperative that we develop a greater shared understanding of the threat of corruption across the broader Criminal Justice sector, and I welcome the work by my Department in that regard.”

As outlined in the implementation plan, significant progress has already been made by the new Garda Anti-Corruption Unit on addressing a number of the recommendations, and clear timelines have been set out for those that are outstanding.

Completed actions to date include the publication by An Garda Síochána of an overarching Anti-Corruption Policy, the Professional Boundaries and Abuse of Power for Sexual Gain Policy, as well as the Substance Misuse (Controlled Drugs) Policy. While most of the recommendations are aimed at An Garda Síochána, the implementation of some recommendations also require the involvement of the Department of Justice, especially in relation to legislation.

Noting work already done by An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice to counter corruption in An Garda Síochána, Minister McEntee continued: “Significant work has been undertaken by An Garda Síochána to counter corruption in the organisation, and to develop a culture where it safe and encouraged to speak up if you are aware of corruption or wrongdoing.

Clear policies and procedures are in place for reporting and dealing with wrongdoing; professionalism and integrity is taught and promoted right from training in Templemore for new recruits through to each and every rank and grade in An Garda Síochána.

To support the Commissioner in this work, we have enacted legislation to enable testing of personnel for controlled drugs in An Garda Síochána and my officials are working on supporting legislation to bring this into effect.

My Department will continue to work closely with An Garda Síochána and the Policing Authority to ensure targets are being met and recommendations are implemented in accordance with this plan”.

The Garda Inspectorate’s report ‘Countering the Threat of Internal Corruption’ can be found HERE.

The implementation plan published today can be found HERE.

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