A pilot scheme for a community court is planned for Dublin city centre following approval by Cabinet earlier today.
Minister of State Foreign Affairs and Trade Joe Costello made the announcement in the Seanad this afternoon on behalf of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.
The move followed a private members motion from Fine Gael Senator Mark Conway which received widespread support in the Upper House.
Mr Conway's motion called for the establishment of a court on a pilot basis which could effectively deal with low-level offences, focusing primarily on criminal anti-social behaviour by responding to the underlying problems of offenders.
It was debated in the Seanad this afternoon.
Mr Conway described international examples of how community courts had helped reduce prison populations.
He said it was important that people be given another chance and that locking people up and throwing away the key was not working.
The motion was welcomed by Fianna Fáil Senators Denis O'Donovan and Thomas Byrne and Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartiagh.
Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said it was an exciting development and she hoped to see it move beyond a pilot scheme on a modest but effective basis.
Independent Senator David Norris also welcomed the motion, saying that prison had no remedial effect.
Mr Costello said he saw the importance of community policing in Dublin's north inner city area and he saw the move from community policing to community courts as an "organic development".
Mr Conway said it was great that the motion had received Cabinet support and he also thanked the Opposition for its support.
He said he wanted to see a time-frame for the establishment of the court, adding that there was momentum for the idea and he wanted to see it in the lifetime of the Government.