Strong provisions are in place to combat anti-social behaviour and vandalism. The primary basis for the law regarding public order offences is the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994, which modernised the law in this regard. Furthermore, because of my concerns about the abuse of alcohol and its contribution to public order offending and broader social problems, I brought forward tough provisions to deal with alcohol abuse and its effect on public order in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003. One of the provisions of the Act is to broaden the application of the temporary closure order penalty, which was originally introduced to combat under-age drinking, to cover also convictions for a series of offences, such as a licensee supplying intoxicating liquor to drunken persons and permitting disorderly conduct on the licensed premises.
The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 has also been enacted, the main purpose of which is to provide the Garda Síochána with additional powers to deal with late night street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking. It does this by providing for the closure of premises such as pubs, off licences, late night clubs and food premises where there is disorder or noise on or close to the premises, as well as the making of exclusion orders on individuals convicted of a range of public order offences, in addition to any penalty they might receive under the 1994 Public Order Act.
The Criminal Justice Act, 2006 contains provisions to deal with anti-social behaviour. The Act empowers a senior member of the Garda Síochána to apply to the District Court by way of a civil procedure for an order which will prohibit an adult from behaving in an anti-social manner.
The relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 will be commenced following consultations between my Department, the Office of the Minister for Children and the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. These consultations are currently ongoing. The purpose of this is to ensure that these provisions will commence as soon as the Commissioner has made the necessary internal arrangements to ensure the smooth introduction of these new procedures.
Separate provision is being made in relation to young people. The Act introduces provisions for behaviour orders for children aged 12 to 18 years into the Children Act, 2001 and the protections of that Act will apply. There will be a series of incremental stages, with parental involvement, preceding an application for a behaviour order. These include a warning, a good behaviour contract and referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme. Only after these stages can a behaviour order be sought through the courts.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána has a pro-active approach to policing anti-social /public disorder issues by immediate intervention, arrest and prosecutions or advice, as appropriate. Local Garda management provide for this in policing plans and make every effort to provide a highly visible police presence on the streets of our towns and villages through the deployment of uniform Gardaí, detective units, divisional traffic corps, community policing units and mountain bike units as appropriate. Garda patrols pay particular attention to areas where the public tends to congregate such as licensed venues and fast food outlets while awaiting transport, so as to prevent and detect incidents of public disorder.
I am further informed that Operation Encounter, which was introduced by Garda management in 2002, targets public disorder offences including assaults and drinking by underage persons.
Juvenile Liaison Officers regularly visit schools, youth clubs and social services to give presentations under the education programme and highlight alternative options for regular offenders. Community Gardaí and the Garda Schools Liaison Officers also visit schools and address young people on a variety of topics including anti social behaviour.
Members of An Garda Síochána are frequently in contact with other Government and non-government agencies, including the Health Service Executive and the local authorities in order to have a multi-agency approach to addressing criminal issues. This multi-agency liaison will continue.
Garda Youth Diversion Projects are community based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved (or further involved) in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development and promote civic responsibility. The Garda Youth Diversion Projects are funded by my Department and administered through Garda Community Relations Section of An Garda Síochána.
The allocation of funding for the 74 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (along with 7 Local Drug Task Force Projects) in 2006 is just over €6.6 million, which is an increase of € 1.2 million on 2005.
It is my intention to ensure that 100 schemes will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. As part of this expansion, ten new projects were established this year and they are located in Blanchardstown, Birr, Carlow, Castlebar, Cavan, Clondalkin, Limerick, Tallaght and Tralee (two projects).
The legislation in relation to noise pollution is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The steps which can be taken where a person is experiencing nuisance caused by noise are primarily a civil matter and as such are outside the remit of An Garda Síochána. However, when the Gardaí receive a complaint about neighbours causing noise, they can request them to lower the noise levels. The Garda powers in this regard relate to ensuring that a breach of the peace does not occur. Complainants may also be advised by the Gardaí of their civil entitlements under section 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992.
The Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 was enacted to make further and better provision for the protection of the environment and the control of pollution and to establish the Environmental Protection Agency.
A local authority, the Agency or any person may complain to the District Court regarding any noise, which is so loud, so continuous, so repeated and of such duration or pitch or occurring at such a time, as to give reasonable cause for annoyance.
The court may order the person or body making the noise to take the measures necessary to reduce the noise to a specified level or to take measures to limit or prevent the noise.
An authorised person, shall, for any purpose connected with the Act, be entitled, at all reasonable times, to enter any premises and to bring therein such other persons (including members of An Garda Síochána).
An offence under the Act may be prosecuted summarily by the Environmental Protection Agency.