Dublin business group proposes community courts system

Wednesday 29 January 2014 19.07
Street cleaning takes place in the US as part of the community courts system
Street cleaning takes place in the US as part of the community courts system

A Dublin business group wants a community courts system to be set up in the capital to combat anti-social crime.

Community courts deal with low level offences such as vandalism, shoplifting and drug use.

The courts are already in use in Britain, Australia and Canada, as well as the US, where they started over ten years ago.

The model recommended by the Dublin City Business Association (DCBA) would involve a designated district court judge hearing cases in a building away from the court complexes.

It is asking the Department of Justice to set up a working group to get the court established.

David Brennan of the DCBA said with this system someone arrested for drunkenness in the city centre during the night who pleads guilty could be before the court the next morning and carry out community service that day.

The court would involve input from local businesses and residents and community service would be carried out in the area where the offence took place.

Mr Brennan said the idea offers a less costly and speedier resolution than the main criminal justice system. It also involves a "one-stop shop" with help for those with housing or addiction problems.

"We have a situation where we continually have drug addicted people on the streets of Dublin. These unfortunate individuals in the main no longer take any interest in society at large and behave in a manner that disturbs and intimidates many passing citizens, not to mention tourists. Workers and shoppers alike pass comment regularly on how unpleasant this makes the city centre," he added.

The DCBA hosted a seminar on the idea this morning.

Julius Lang of US organisation Center for Court Innovation said the court could be set up within six months if agreement is reached.

He ran the community court in Midtown Manhattan, which recorded a 56% reduction in street prostitution as well as reduced incidence of substance abuse.

It also claimed a 14% lower re-offending rate compared to other courts.