Community Policing: Presentations.

I welcome the delegation to the meeting. This the first of a series of hearings on community policing which will take place over five days. The context of the decision of the joint committee to embark on these hearings is the engagement of members in ongoing work on the development of the criminal justice system. The committee has appointed Deputy Costello as rapporteur in examining how best to approach the establishment nationally of a workable, flexible model for community policing.

The select committee will shortly debate Committee Stage of the Garda Síochána Bill which provides for co-operation between the Garda, local authorities and communities through the establishment of joint policing committees which will review and advise local authorities and the Garda on levels and patterns of crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour in local areas, including the levels of misuse of alcohol and drugs. They will also involve communities in discussions on such matters. In certain instances discussions will be facilitated by the establishment and co-ordination of local policing fora which will be able to make recommendations to relevant joint policing committees. The committees will prepare annual reports on the performance of their functions and provide them for local authorities, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Commissioner.

To glean opinions from as wide a range of perspectives as possibles, the joint committee has decided to invite written submissions on community policing from the general public and all interested parties. We have also issued invitations to parties to discuss the issues involved with representatives of the main players in community policing, the criminal justice system and the community and business sectors. We are delighted to have received positive responses from all those invited. All verbal and written submissions will be noted and taken into account in the compiling of a report on the matter by the committee.

I welcome our first speaker who is from the National Council on Ageing and Older People, Councillor Eibhlin Byrne. I ask Ms Byrne to make a short presentation following which Deputies O'Connor and Ó Snodaigh will, in the first instance, ask questions.

Ms Eibhlin Byrne

I thank the joint committee for the invitation to attend this morning. I will start by defining "older people" as they are members of a heterogenous group whom we have a tendency to put aside when speaking about issues of concern to them as if they know nothing about them. We have chosen to call our body the National Council on Ageing and Older People because, whether we like it, we are all growing older. In the context of this discussion, older people are those aged 65 years and over.

While I have a healthy disrespect for statistics, there are some which are worth bearing in mind. People aged 65 years and over constitute 11% of the population and the proportion is growing rapidly. It is an issue one must take on board when discussing Irish society. Of the 11%, 50% are married, 55% live in urban settings and 80% own their own homes. The 80% who own their own homes are living in the environments they have chosen, which is very important to them. They do not want to live anywhere other than within their own communities. More than 80% of older people have no health issues and are, therefore, living effective, happy lives. Despite the fact that they are living comfortable, healthy lives, the greatest worry listed by 82% of older people is crime.

Members must bear in mind that those who are 65 years and older live in a very different world from the one they experienced as young people. They grew up in the 1940s and 1950s since which time Ireland has experienced fundamental changes. To a great extent, they have moved from rural to urban settings, which in itself has meant a great many changes. Older people came of age at a time when authority was imposed on them locally by a priest, schoolteacher or garda, the three figures of authority. Each of the institutions those figures represented has been rocked in the past 50 years by various problems. Some say the banning of corporal punishment in schools was a bad idea or that the fall of religion as a result of sexual abuse in the church has led to problems but whatever one's opinion there has been a fundamental change in where authority is seen to originate. Since absolute authority has disappeared, very little attention has been paid to notions of personal and moral responsibility and the idea that authority can come from within. It is an issue for older people who find these circumstances difficult to cope with.

We must consider what kind of society ours has become. Despite what we might like to think or our notions of what we have been, we live in an advanced, capitalist society. We must, therefore, address seriously the balance between rights and responsibilities. While I work with homeless people and, as a result, speak daily about the need to respect people's rights, I am also aware of the notion ofnoblesse oblige. We cannot have a society in which we offer people rights unless we give equal impetus and importance to their responsibilities. We are not managing to do this to a sufficient extent. In considering people’s rights we can sometimes fail to hold them to the responsibilities which should go with them. If one has rights, one must accept one’s responsibilities.

When the Lord Mayor's crime commission was sitting, I met various focus groups around Dublin which dealt not just with older people but with those living in deprived areas. These are the areas in which drug problems are most ingrained and imprisonment and social issues are rife. I spoke to many people about what they considered to be the most serious crime problems in the city and anti-social behaviour was cited by everyone, old and young, as the most significant. It reduces their quality of life to the greatest extent. Using the term "anti-social behaviour" is almost to condone it by failing to describe the activities involved as crimes. Anti-social behaviour is a crime.

Most people called for more visible policing, suggesting the continuing belief that if there are more gardaí on the street, people feel safer. People said they looked to their communities for support. In many areas it was this which was cited as providing people with most hope. Communities were seen to be developing and to have produced many strong community activists who wanted to work with the authorities. It was pointed out that the authorities could not work in the areas in question unless they did so through community groups, which is something we should note. Parenting was often cited in conversations with community groups. In the courts people say young people are out of control as a result of parenting failures. Many community groups are having to take over in areas where young women have died as a result of drug abuse and their children are no longer being cared for by families and so on. Parenting must be a priority in everything we decide for society.

In terms of what is required, we need not view older people as victims. Ageism is endemic in society. In portraying older people as victims we contribute to it. It is important to note this. We must be careful about the perceptions we create when speaking about crime. The media, in particular, have a role to play in this regard. The numbers of incidents of violent crime against older people are decreasing. The issue is no longer as serious as it was in the 1980s, particularly in rural areas.

When the burglary rate in Clontarf, the area I represent on the council, increased considerably, I had to consider whether I should send a leaflet to older people asking them to be security conscious but decided against it. The fear that can be engendered by such actions, particularly in older people, can be counter-productive. In such situations it is better to keep in close contact with and put pressure on the Garda Síochána to apprehend the perpetrators of crimes. The media, in particular, have an important role in this regard.

The National Council on Ageing and Older People is in the process of putting together a short but important document to be entitled, An Age-Friendly Society, in which it tries to engender a belief in inter-generational support whereby we no longer view ourselves as various groups in society but as a society in which we are all dependent on each other. There is a need for public debate on these issues.

We need to establish a baseline and consistency between what we say we want in terms of public policy and the support available on the ground. We also need to engender support for communities and work with the Garda Síochána in that regard. We are doing this through working with community gardaí and trying to impress upon the Garda that it is not acceptable for it to place a community officer in an area for six or 12 months and then replace him or her when he or she has built up a good relationship with older people and particularly young people when he or she requests a move for promotional reasons, naturally so. It takes a long time to build good relationships. We are asking that the Commissioner consider community policing as a fundamental part of policing and that promotions be available within that area in order that a position is not refilled every six or 12 months. Such action damages relations with the Garda.

We are working with the Garda Training College in Templemore in encouraging thesis studies on ageing as part of the training provided. As the Chairman asked me to be brief, I will conclude on that remark.

I thank Ms Byrne for her excellent contribution.

I take it the Chairman wishes members to be brief also. I wish to be associated with the words of welcome to the delegation. I agree with the Chairman that the presentation was excellent and touched on issues we all understand. It is interesting to hear somebody say publicly that anti-social behaviour is a serious community crime. The point on community policing is also important.

How does the organisation see its members becoming involved in this issue? Bearing in mind the profile of the elderly person who does not have health problems and is active in the community and concerned about crime, how can we move forward, in terms of the model being discussed, and utilise the elderly to ensure its success?

Ms Byrne

The elderly are playing a much more valuable role in communities than is being portrayed. The media play an important role in ensuring they do not constantly refer to them as victims. My 76 year old father was up poles during the election erecting posters. Parents would not be able to go to work if they did not have families behind them and communities would be short of volunteers given that people have little time nowadays for volunteer work. If one visits any community, one finds it is the elderly who are keeping many social and community activities going. It is they who are keeping parish and support centres open. However, one is more likely to read in the media of an elderly man or woman having been attacked or about health cuts and so on. While they are important issues, they buy into ageism which is endemic in society. We must all make a conscious effort not to do so.

The presentation was interesting. One of its main points was that a large part society had fundamentally changed. Despite my criticisms of it, I hope the Garda Síochána Bill will assist in tackling and changing that part of society.

I was interested in the point about gardaí working with community groups. Perhaps the delegation will expand on how that would operate. Gardaí in Cherry Orchard in my constituency have attended many meetings of development boards and policing fora, even though they have not been placed on a statutory footing. Should this happen right across the board? The suggestion in the Garda Síochána Bill is that it should happen at a higher rather than local or district level. Is there a need for a structure which would recognise the role played by the National Council on Ageing and Older People and other community groups? How can communities engage with the Garda Síochána if this does not happen? It is important trust is rebuilt in some parts of the city.

Ms Byrne

The Deputy raised a number of points. We are at a watershed in society and have difficult but necessary decisions to make. If we do not make those decisions, as a society, we will run into serious problems. Many older people come from rural areas and would have known local gardaí personally and had close relationships with them. That closeness and those links were lost with the development of large urban communities. We must now try to rebuild them. Unfortunately, it is in the areas with the greatest crime levels that gardaí often have the least amount of knowledge of those with whom they are working. Many young gardaí come from rural areas and have no concept of what it is like to be a young person in the city with no job and, perhaps, a drugs problem.

Older people have a difficulty adapting to change. If we are to develop society in the way we would wish, the only way we can do so is by the community route. We must address the problem from the ground up rather than, as was done 50 years ago, from the top down. We realise that system of authority no longer works as we live in a different society. Many could not read or write 50 years ago when it was often the local garda or teacher who read letters for them. Irish society has changed fundamentally. As a consequence, levels of authority must also change. However, we must make the necessary decisions if we are to assist older people.

I thank Councillor Byrne, chairperson of the National Council on Ageing and Older People, for attending today to present her submission and answer the questions raised. I now welcome the representatives of the National Crime Council, including the chairman, Mr. Padraic White. Will he, please, introduce his colleagues?

Ms Mary Burke is the director of the National Crime Council, Mr. Philip Maguire is the assistant city manager of Dublin City Council, Ms Lillian McGovern is the former director of Victim Support and Mrs. Rosemary Tierney is a founder member of Neighbourhood Watch with which she has been actively involved for 20 years.

Before I invite Mr. White to make his presentation, I remind all speakers that while Members of the Oireachtas enjoy parliamentary privilege, they do not enjoy the same privilege.

I am very privileged to have the opportunity to lead this delegation this morning. The National Crime Council was established in 1999 to facilitate broadly based informed discussion of crime issues and aid policy formulation. One of our key mandates which relates closely to the focus of the work of the joint committee is "to focus on crime prevention with particular emphasis on the underlying causes of crime and the development of partnerships and practical approaches which will be effective at community level".

The council's most direct response to its mandate was manifested in the report, A Crime Prevention Strategy for Ireland — Tackling the Concerns of Local Communities, published in 2003 which resulted from a two year exercise of consultation with all the agencies involved and communities up and down the country under Mr. Justice Michael Reilly. Its core recommendation was the establishment for the first time of a national crime prevention model with representation at national, county and local level. It was clear that the consultations in some communities, particularly those with high levels of crime and drug abuse, had suggested there was a gap between the perceived policing needs as identified by the Garda Síochána and what local residents saw as policing priorities. The council noted the positive impact made by the community policing fora in Dublin's north inner city, set up in response to drug related crime and recommended in the report that "An Garda Síochána further develop community policing structures with in-built evaluation procedures that are responsive to community needs".

In May 2003 we published a report on public order offences which resulted from detailed research, including pioneering observational research of public order offences and the Garda response. As a way of minimising public order offences, especially in suburban areas, we recommended that the Garda Síochána "should further develop community policing structures that are responsive to community needs. These structures should be developed in conjunction with local community and youth leaders". They are the two main sources of our interest.

When we look ahead, what do we see? The Garda Síochána Bill now before the Oireachtas represents the first major reform of the Garda Síochána since the foundation of the State. We have followed the debate in the Seanad and its commencement in the Dáil with much interest. The joint committee's hearings on Chapter 4 of the Bill are timely and welcome. For the first time, the Bill provides a statutory basis for the engagement of the Garda Síochána with local authorities and other local interests. This is highly significant since the Garda is organised on a national basis in contrast to many other jurisdictions such as Britain and the United States where the police force is accountable to county or city based authorities.

Since the publication of the Bill, the council has urged the Minister to give more weight to the involvement of community representatives in the joint policing committee structure proposed in Chapter 4, section 31(2)(b). On behalf of the council, I met the Minister in early February when he undertook to consider further the points made by me about giving more explicit recognition to the community sector in the joint policing provisions. I welcome his subsequent comments in the Dáil on 10 February in which he referred to the meeting. We hope the ongoing examination of the chapter will lead to corresponding amendments to the make-up of joint policing committees.

There are many concepts and definitions of "community policing". It could take a more narrow focus of looking at it as the responsibility of the 400 gardaí assigned exclusively to community policing duties. However, the council believes community policing should be seen in a wider way, whereby an intrinsic approach of the Garda presence in an area would be to have a genuine partnership with the community. There are benefits to both gardaí and communities to such an approach. The model of community policing fora established in response to the drugs crisis in Dublin's north inner city and the emerging crisis in Cabra provides a useful model on which to build.

The Bill can provide welcome new structures for the engagement of the Garda Síochána with elected representatives, relevant State and local agencies and community organisations at county level and local level through the proposed local fora. The results of the joint committee's work can provide further encouragement along this road.

Deputies Jim O'Keeffe, Peter Power and Costello and Senator Jim Walsh will enter into dialogue with the representatives of the National Crime Council.

I welcome the delegation. The National Crime Council has addressed this issue as part of its remit and I acknowledge the importance of its submission to the joint committee. As rapporteur, I would appreciate the opportunity to revert to the council outside this forum.

As I see it, there are two key areas in the Bill. Will the representatives of the National Crime Council indicate how they see the composition of the membership of the joint policing committee being extended under section 31? The Minister seems to be contemplating a rather subservient and tentative role for the fora in section 32. Does the council think its role should be more robust? In the context of the dynamic between the local authority, the Garda Síochána, the local community and business, how does the council see the relationship working?

We look at this against the robust model we set out in the report, A Crime Prevention Strategy for Ireland — Tackling the Concerns of Local Communities. We had a national overseeing steering committee, a structure at county level and provision for local level. The Bill provides for the county and local fora levels.

Specifically, on the make-up of the joint policing committee, we have proposed that community based organisations should be specifically listed as a constituent member. There is an important underlying issue about the role of modern community based organisations which, as the Deputy knows, are well established and many of which have adopted a highly professional approach. I have always seen them as complementary, rather than opposed, to the role of elected representatives. There is a complementary role for representative community based organisations and the council has advised that they are entitled to be listed specifically in the Bill. An amendment should be brought forward to provide that such organisations may be members by right. We have seen the emergence of excellent successful models for workable local fora, especially in the context of the drugs strategy. The models are very close to the systems envisaged by the council which would like to see some modification of the requirement to make the establishment of local fora subject to the consent of the Garda Commissioner in all cases. The requirement creates, psychologically and otherwise, an incorrect view of the relationship. One would like to think that in the real world of adult groups joint committees will not establish a policing forum in every community, making it impossible for the Garda Síochána to support them. An amendment could be made to make their establishment contingent on approval by a qualified majority within a joint policing committee rather than on the exercise of the Commissioner's veto. The relationship between existing fora and the new joint policing committees is important, must be structured and provided with sufficient resources. Experience indicates that unless support is provided by a co-ordinator or other resource, fora are unlikely to be successful.

Should funding be provided by a local authority or the Garda Síochána? Where would the chairman of a joint policing committee or forum be sourced?

On funding, the council strongly believes crime prevention must be brought centre stage. Whenever issues arise and there is discussion of the prison population, we say the real solution lies in crime prevention. Nevertheless, historically, very little has been done in this area. The community model is capable of addressing the problem. If crime prevention is to be taken seriously, it should be funded properly. Funding is provided under the national drugs strategy. While this is welcome, there is a case for——

Exchequer funding.

Is the Deputy asking a question or making a statement?

It is a rhetorical question.

If crime prevention is to be taken seriously, this should be reflected in the provision of a proper level of funding. If funding is not made available, one might as well kill off the idea. Chairmen should be selected according to the collective wisdom of the groupings involved.

Mr. Maguire is the assistant city manager. Structures are extremely important. In this context, it has been suggested that policing committees should be facilitated by local authorities. Can Mr. Maguire set out the ways in which Dublin City Council's structures, including policy committees, area committees and policing fora, will be involved? Has the local authority begun to think about which structures will be the most appropriate and consider how they will coincide with existing Garda structures?

Mr. Philip Maguire

Our existing structures encompass a number of functional or strategic policy committees. There are also five area committees. Much of the work of joint crime and policing committees will be done at area committee level. As the needs of areas vary, much of the day-to-day work can be done at that level. Some area committees hold semi-formal, structured meetings which take place quarterly with the local Garda superintendent and his or her team. We expect that in the coming months all our area committees will begin to hold such meetings which may form an embryonic structure which can continue when the Bill passes into law.

While formal structures are important, they are not the only consideration. Informal day-to-day operations, relationships as well as the ethos andmodus operandi of policing operations on the ground also count. As the Chairman said, community policing is not simply a question of designating four or five or even ten or 12 community gardaí; it is also about continuity of committee appointments and relationships with local communities, schools and businesses. People must believe information is passing in both directions and that they are included in policing and events happening in their areas. We see area committees as conduits through which relationships can be built and information on crime targeted and fed back. Local crime surveys down to neighbourhood level are important in identifying the real and perceived policing needs of local communities.

I welcome Mr. White and his colleagues. I echo Deputy Costello's comment that their experience will ensure their submission is given great weight.

Deputy Costello also focused on an the area I wish to address. As Mr. White pointed out, the mandate of the National Crime Council is to focus on crime prevention and the development of partnerships. It has occurred to me and many others for a long time that one of the most significant partnerships at community level is between the community and the local authority. I am a former local authority member who represented an area of acute social disadvantage. The disadvantage was tackled ten years ago by a partnership approach by the community and the local authority which helped to solve many problems of an anti-social and public order crime nature.

Dealing directly with the community provides the local authority with an extensive knowledge bank. Has such an approach been explored? Has the relationship between the community and the local authority been examined and its enhancement considered to deal with public order offences and anti-social behaviour? In many areas housing policy has been a significant contributory factor to crime and anti-social behaviour. Does the council have a view on this?

Any member of the delegation who wishes to contribute may do so. I ask committee members to be as brief as possible in asking questions.

We explored the matter in detail during two years of consultations with communities, including those in the Limerick area which Judge Michael Reilly conducted. There was a great deal of frustration at community level about the lack of involvement in this area. That lack of involvement relates to the gap, which I mentioned earlier, between communities and local police in terms of their being a channel through which to deal with social and public order issues.

The key players are local authorities through elected representatives, the Garda Síochána and the community sector. The community sector, particularly in urban areas, has an enormous body of knowledge. Local drugs task forces and the Leader programmes in rural areas have a vast pool of knowledge and a body of expertise which can be drawn upon. We are aware of the players and have the potential and structures to address this issue but we do not have the resources. Mention was made earlier of the models operating in members' constituencies. We must establish in law structures that reflect different needs and provide them with resources. We must give crime prevention its proper status within the approach we take to law and order as distinct from going the custodial route.

I will now ask my colleagues, Ms Lillian McGovern and Mrs. Rosemary Tierney to comment, as both of them have been involved in the community sector.

Ms Lillian McGovern

We cannot discuss the Garda Síochána Bill and the issue of community involvement in isolation. We must also examine other measures such as the Children Bill in terms of the establishment of family conferencing and restorative justice initiatives within communities which seek to put centre stage victims of crime, offenders of crime and the communities affected. Local authorities should be involved in this area.

When speaking about crime prevention, we do so in the context of ensuring fewer victims and of rehabilitating more offenders, something that can be done only with community support. It has been my experience that problems are resolved and there is less crime when community presence is evident and where the Garda works well with communities. Victims of crime feel better when the community and the Garda support them. However, it is not enough to work on individual areas in isolation. The system must work nationally and be co-ordinated nationally. There must be a central mechanism which addresses local issues at a higher level and ensures policy decisions apply nationally.

Mrs. Rosemary Tierney

I have been involved in Neighbourhood Watch for the past 20 years. There was great enthusiasm for the project when it commenced but owing to life, people moving houses, traffic problems, people not being able to attend meetings and so on, it needs a new strategy. I welcome the Garda Síochána Bill which will assist in getting Neighbourhood Watch back on its feet. The project is not dead but is, as many members will be aware, inactive.

I have two questions. The central feature of Mr. White's speech is his reference to the intrinsic approach of the Garda, in terms of its presence in an area, to have a genuine partnership with that community. What constitutes a community? Mr. White probably will be aware that I come from west Cork. Ballydehob is a community in west Cork served by one garda. Is Ballyfermot a community or is it a series of communities? How local should one go when deciding what is a community?

I am a great supporter of subsidiarity and believe the more one can do on the ground or the more local one can go the better. I am against strategies being developed from the top down. I would much rather they are developed from the bottom up. Is that being done?

Is there tension between members of the Garda Síochána and local communities? Did I detect from Mr. White's speech that there is? Mention was made of the gap between perceived policing needs as identified by the Garda and policing priorities as identified by local residents. This issue may surface in the context of visible presence through which the gardaí believe they can be more effective in catching criminals.

How many gardaí should be devoted to one area? I will also ask that question of the Garda Commissioner when he attends these hearings tomorrow. The point was made earlier that gardaí should be deployed to particular areas to get to know the local residents, groups and organisations involved in that community. What percentage of policing should be associated with community policing? Will the number required pose difficulties for the Garda Síochána in the context of the current shortage of manpower?

I, too, welcome Mr. White and the delegation from the National Crime Council. I refer to the initiative undertaken by Judge Michael Reilly in the Nenagh community reparation project with which I am aware the National Crime Council is familiar given Justice Reilly's emphasis on the success of that community based project. I am interested to hear the council's response on the involvement of communities with particular emphasis on reparation and demands made of the community in which the offence is committed.

Is the National Crime Council prepared to urge the Judiciary to expand that type of project which is assigned through the initiative of Judge Michael Reilly?

I thank the council for its presentation. Part of Mr. White's contribution focused on the joint policing committees. Does the delegation accept councillors who are elected by the people to represent them are the most important community based group available?

Deputy Hoctor spoke about the reparation project. There are many other groups involved in this area such as, the National Council on Ageing and Older People, Neighbourhood Watch, Victim Support and others. Are the joint policing committees, in terms of accountability, not diluted the more one brings on board such organisations? Mention was made in the presentation of the strong local accountability for policing services in other jurisdictions.

On the percentage of gardaí that should be devoted to community policing, community policing should not be viewed as an add-on to the proper police force. When we suggest it should be intrinsic, we mean it should pervade the work of the local police in a district. The evidence shows that successful models of community policing have been successful because senior gardaí bought into them and signalled them as being an integral part of Garda work.

The issue of the gap between communities and the Garda Síochána was one of the central themes that emerged from our consultations with communities. It was clear from our consultations that there is a significant gap at local level between the Garda Síochána as it is now structured and local communities. We are looking for ways to fill that gap. On the question of what is an appropriate area, one cannot introduce a one-size-fits-all project. We do not need to provide policing fora throughout the country; they should only be established in areas where the need is greatest. I am familiar with the northside partnership area of Dublin. There is a strong sense of organisations working together which might be appropriate in the area but inner city areas may be different. There must be a certain flexibility. In response to Deputy Hoctor, Judge Michael Reilly has briefed us well on the position in Nenagh.

I will ask my colleague, Ms Burke, to comment on the alternatives to custody, reparation and so forth.

Ms Mary Burke

As the Deputy is aware, the Nenagh project has worked well and has been evaluated positively. One of the other issues at which the National Crime Council is looking is non-custodial sanctions and the panoply of solutions as alternatives to custody. We have spoken to a large number of people and what is being reinforced all the time is that custody should be the last option; that the provisions of the Children Act, to which my colleague referred, should be brought fully into force; that the use of fines instead of imprisonment should be examined much more seriously, as is evident from a comparison of the cost of imprisonment and a community service order. The report on the probation and welfare service presented a number of years ago reiterated in stark terms the need to bring forward many more non-custodial sanctions.

In the next few months we will bring forward a report which will gather together the ideas of the large number of people whom we met in the past year. There is far more scope for the use of non-custodial sanctions but they must be resourced, implemented and overseen in the community. Obviously, that would involve the probation and welfare service and, again, it is a question of resourcing it, perhaps leading to rehabilitation of the offender. The number of short-term prisoners, as borne out by the 2003 annual report on prisons which showed that a large proportion of prisoners were incarcerated for a three to six month period, allows very little time for rehabilitation.

Mr. Maguire

Returning to a point made by my colleague, Ms McGovern, when I spoke independently to the Garda Síochána and people involved in youth services, they agreed that many levels of crime were committed by a small number of perpetrators from extended families grouped together. They identified the need for family support, parenting and coping skills. The normal socialisation in families does not occur in these families. As a consequence, there is a need for support from a range of services. Some of the measures provided for in the Children Act need to be implemented quickly and in a targeted and focused manner. Such intervention can have a significant payback.

Will Mr. White respond to Senator Walsh's question?

I touched on this important issue in my opening remarks. I see a genuine partnership between elected representatives and the community and voluntary sector. I make a plea that they should not be seen as opposing each other. There must be respect for the role of elected representatives who will form the core of the joint policing committee.

When one looks at the work that the voluntary and community sector is doing in local drugs task forces, community based projects, area partnerships in reducing unemployment and preventive education, they are making an enormous contribution in multiple ways to elements that affect crime. There is a great opportunity to make them a part of it, rather than exclude them. That is the central part of our case and the reason we are pressing that they should be legitimately recognised in the Bill as an important player.

What about the dilution of the accountability factor which will inevitably occur the more one broadens the committee? Would a joint policing committee, made up exclusively of elected members who have a mandate and the Garda Síochána, interacting on a regular basis with the community be a better model? Otherwise the accountability factor will be seriously diluted.

I totally disagree; that would be disastrous. What would happen is that one would put them outside the door. They should be on the committee as a serious partner and nobody will lose. I am chairman of the northside partnership. There are six elected members who work hand in hand with the community and other sectors. There is no problem. Everybody is enriched by the mutual experience of sharing. That is the philosophy that we would like to see followed.

Mr. Maguire

The crime commission under the auspices of the Lord Mayor of Dublin also recommended that community representatives be included because at the end of the day it is about the relationship between the Garda Síochána and the community.

We will have the representatives of the Lord Mayor's commission in another day. I thank the representatives of the National Crime Council for attending and helping us in our deliberations.

The administrator of Victim Support, Ms Finola Minch, is very welcome. We met representatives of Victim Support when we were considering the criminal justice system. I remind speakers that while Oireachtas Members enjoy parliamentary privilege, they do not enjoy the same privilege.

Ms Finola Minch

I thank the Chairman, Deputies and Senators for giving me the opportunity to tell the joint committee about Victim Support, what it is doing to prevent crime and about its input in the community

Victim Support is a voluntary organisation which provides emotional and practical support for all victims of crime. We have branches throughout the country and take our volunteers from the local community. Victim Support is, in fact, an outreach organisation of volunteers who want to give something back to the community by giving as much support as possible to victims of crime in their area. The essence of our organisation is an outreach service. We try to get people from the local community who are trained specifically to deal with trauma, the emotions and feelings that people experience after a crime. Ours is a listening organisation. We want people to tell us their story and, by telling the story to somebody else who is non-judgmental, help them to get over the trauma.

Victim Support also offers special services, for example, a court witness service, as part of which a person will accompany a victim witness to court and stay with him or her during the trial. We have a national helpline and a tourist victim support service which looks after tourists who are unfortunate enough to become victims while on holiday in this country. We provide support for the families of murder victims. This speaks for itself. We have specially trained staff to look after the families and give them as much emotional support as possible after such a traumatic event. We have a hospital service which looks after people who have been admitted to hospital as a result of a crime. We have a service called Crime in the Workplace which deals with the different emotions experienced when a crime happens in the workplace. A number of specially trained individuals will go to a workplace and talk either individually or to a group of employees.

The Victim Support youth awareness programme is aimed at crime prevention. It is a countrywide service aimed at transition year students. We make a presentation over two class periods. The emphasis of the programme is on decisions, consequences and responsibility — the need to be responsible for one's decisions and to be aware of the consequences of one's actions. The programme has been ongoing for a number of years and is very successful. We are invited to return to the same schools every year. In the main, we work during the September to Christmas term and the Christmas to Easter term. Obviously, after Easter schools are busy preparing for examinations. The Garda Síochána is the main source of referrals and we work very closely with it. Each branch has a Garda liaison officer assigned to it from among the local community gardaí. With the permission of the person concerned, the Garda Síochána will refer him or her to the local branch of Victim Support if it is believed he or she could use the service. We visit the training college in Templemore four times a year to talk to students and make them aware of the service. We also visit Trinity House in Lusk once a year to talk to young offenders. I often wonder if it makes any difference to them but even if one of the five or six young people listens to us, it might help in the future.

Victim Support is locally based and its aim is to provide as much practical and emotional support as possible for the victims of crime. In addition, it has a crime prevention section and runs a very successful youth awareness programme.

I thank Ms Minch for her presentation. Deputy Hoctor and Senator Cummins will discuss the matter.

I welcome Ms Minch. Let me assure her that we regard the verbal and written submissions on the work of Victim Support as very important. My question is on the use of mediation by Victim Support. I am interested in knowing what happens when a member of Victim Support meets a victim who wants to meet the offender. How does the person concerned organise it and how is mediation used?

With the increase in the number of non-nationals in the country, has Victim Support met with difficulty in responding to them when a crime has been committed, for example, difficulties in interpreting and with translation when addressing their needs?

I am interested in the youth awareness programme for transition year students. Does this Victim Support programme emphasise the responsibility of individuals to report evidence and information to the Garda Síochána? The community can be complacent and not proactive in reporting incidents that may provide valuable information for the Garda.

Ms Minch

On the question of mediation, since the Children Bill became law in September, the probation and welfare service must hold family conferences in which we have been asked quite often to be involved because the victim does not want to meet the offender. We are present to represent the victim and communicate with the offender. We have been actively involved and if family conferencing works, it will be fantastic. Again, we must wait and see. The probation and welfare service would have the statistics. I do not remember ever being asked by a victim to meet the offender. We are also involved in a restorative justice project in Tallaght and are represented on the board and management committee. Therefore, from that point of view, we are actively involved in mediation.

In response to the Deputy's second question, not many non-nationals are referred to Victim Support and those who are usually need help in filling a form. We have no problem doing this but it is more appropriate to social services.

We will start a training programme next Saturday and one non-national will undergo training with Victim Support. It is a small beginning but we hope more non-nationals will join our organisation in order that they can help victims from their own countries.

Deputy Hoctor asked about our youth awareness programme. We do not emphasise reporting crime to young people who are very aware of what goes on in the street. They are not stupid. In our programme we show them a video about real events where various young people are victims of crime. We then ask them questions about the scenes in the video and how they would feel if somebody hit them on the head and they were paralysed as a result. We talk to them about what they did on wakening and then tell them that the young man who was injured cannot do this. It is to heighten awareness of the impact of some mindless action.

Young people are very responsive. Two weeks ago on a visit to an all boys school, when discussing residential burglary, I asked if any of them had ever been burgled. I picked out one boy and asked him how he had felt when it happened. He was about eight years old at the time but he had slept downstairs for six months after it had happened. Another boy told how the family had moved house. It just shows the effect a burglary can have on a whole family. I thought it was very brave of the boys concernred to stand up in front of their peers, 14 and 15 year olds, and tell their story. It is heightening awareness of crime, crime prevention and being aware of one's actions. We have been conducting the programme during the past four years and it is working very well countrywide.

I welcome Ms Minch and thank her for her presentation. We are dealing specifically with the community policing provisions in the Garda Síochána Bill 2004. Does Ms Minch have a view on representatives of Victim Support becoming members of joint policing committees?

Representatives of Victim Support visit the training college in Templemore to give a talk to those training to become members of the Garda Síochána. Is it beneficial that the young trainees learn about the problems of victims of crime?

Ms Minch

Victim Support is active in the community and works very closely with community gardaí. Therefore, I do not see a role for Victim Support on joint policing committees. We are doing the work for which we are trained, that is, helping victims in the community.

In Templemore we make a presentation on the court witness service which is very useful as it takes a great deal of responsibility from the gardaí in charge of the case if there is somebody present who is well trained in court procedures to look after witnesses. We also make presentations on tourist victim support, residential burglaries and on the needs of the families of murder victims. From our point of view it is good that we travel down to Templemore because many students come to us afterwards or telephone to say they are doing a dissertation on victim support and ask if we would send them some literature. If it does nothing else, they have, at least, heard the name of Victim Support. That in itself is good.

I have a supplementary question to Senator Cummins's question. Ms Minch is involved with community policing and referrals are made to her but she said she did not see a role for Victim Support in the joint policing structures. I presume the interaction with community policing is informal. Does Ms Minch not see the need for involvement in a formal structure if community policing is to be established on a formal basis with committee structures and so on?

Ms Minch

Our involvement with community gardaí is formal. Each branch has a liaison officer assigned to it. The community garda concerned attends branch meetings every month. As it stands, there is formal interaction with community gardaí.

I thank Ms Minch. I welcome Mr. Watt, director of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, and invite him to introduce his colleague. I do not wish to get the pronunciation wrong.

Mr. Philip Watt

I introduce my colleague, Ms Anna Visser, who is the research and policy officer of the NCCRI.

She is very welcome. I am sure they have already heard but I remind Mr. Watt and Ms Vissner that they do not enjoy the same privilege as members of the joint committee. I invite Mr. Watt to commence his presentation.

Mr. Watt

We very much welcome the opportunity to present our views to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights on community policing. The NCCRI is an independent, expert, partnership body which brings together both Government and non-governmental bodies to look at the issue of racism and how to plan for the fact that Ireland is becoming a more multicultural society. We work closely with the Garda Síochána, particularly the recently established Garda racial and intercultural office.

Diversity in Ireland is growing. We have lobbied in recent years to ensure all policing policies, including policies related to community policing, are inclusive of minority ethnic groups and that whatever strategies are being developed are inclusive of their needs. Community policing is no exception.

A number of important initiatives have been developed by the Garda Síochána in recent times, in which we have taken part, to meet the challenges of policing in a multicultural society. In particular, I pay tribute to the establishment of the racial and intercultural office which is based in the Harcourt Square office of the Garda and more recently the appointment of 145 garda ethnic liaison officers. The Garda has also been most active in developing resource and training materials on the challenges of policing in a multicultural society.

We welcome other recent policing initiatives, especially the development of local forums in which the local community and the Garda Síochána can get together to look at issues in a holistic and strategic way. We also welcome the fact that one of the six strategic objective of the 2005 Garda corporate plan is to build its capability to meet the emerging policing needs of our diverse ethnic and multicultural community.

A number of specific challenges face the Garda Síochána. Many of the new communities coming to Ireland do not have trust in the police forces in the countries from which they came. They have often been treated badly by the police forces in their home countries where there is not the same community support for policing. There is a need for proactive police strategies to build trust, especially with new communities but also with existing communities such as the Traveller community.

A further key issue is the need to ensure the Garda Síochána continues to respond effectively to racist incidents. Unfortunately, the evidence shows that racist incidents are on the increase in Ireland. We concur with the suggestion of the National Crime Council that local crime surveys should be undertaken to try to identify where racist incidents are happening which could inform effective, targeted policing strategies.

We would like to see more of a challenge to the canteen culture which I am afraid is evident in police forces around the world. What I mean by this is that one has policies in place at a national level to ensure the police force is as inclusive as possible but when it comes to the canteen or the squad car, police officers come out with racist jokes or cultural insensitivite remarks. This sets a very bad example, especially for those joining the police force.

We would like the Garda Síochána to become more inclusive of minority ethnic groups. We welcome the recent comments by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that he will remove some of the barriers that may have prevented members of minority ethnic groups joining the Garda. Such barriers include the Irish language qualification. Irish language training could be provided for trainees accepted onto the Templemore course. We welcome the fact that the Garda Síochána Bill will establish joint policing committees which should be inclusive of civil society, including minority ethnic groups.

There is a need for greater resources to be given to the racial and intercultural office of the Garda Síochána which has only two dedicated staff. Three to four additional staff should be appointed to meet the challenges of community policing in a multicultural society.

We call for more research in this area, in particular, the development of an action research project on community policing in a diverse Ireland. We should begin to identify practical strategies of good practice in this area. Good practice has featured in a number of police stations where local gardaí have made efforts to be in contact with new communities or Traveller communities. However, that is not happening in other areas. We would like to see more consistency in the policies that have been developed to date.

An intercultural liaison committee needs to be established at policy level. The Garda Síochána consults with groups such as the NCCRI and the Irish Refugee Council on anad hoc basis. A committee should be established on a formal basis which would look at policing for the whole community that would build on the success achieved to date.

It is the case that more and more immigrants will be living here as we need them for economic reasons. Their first point of contact is at airports. I have received complaints in recent years about the way people were treated when they arrived at airports. My understanding is that immigration officials are members of the Garda Síochána and have received no dedicated or special training in dealing with this issue. It should be remembered that only two gardaí have been assigned to the racial and intercultural office. We have many airports where we obviously need highly trained officers in the area of immigration rights who will know how to handle highly sensitive situations when people enter the country for the first time. Such exchanges create lasting images in the minds of the people concerned. This is a matter of great urgency which I hope will form part and parcel of what the joint committee is now examining. Does Mr. Watt consider a certain number of places should be reserved on local area committees in which immigrants may actively participate in the formulation of policy?

Mr. Watt

One can concur that we have received a number of overtures through our complaints process about a small number of immigration officers who acted in a culturally insensitive way.

For instance, they sometimes pick out persons who are black on the assumption that they are the only ones who will possibly need to be checked. We certainly support the call for anti-racism and intercultural training to be provided for immigration officers and are concerned that this is not happening. It is happening as part of primary training at Templemore but no specific training is provided for immigration officers. There is no in-service training for sergeants or inspectors. While a number of initiatives have been taken, much more needs to be done.

We support the view that minorities should be represented on joint policing committees. However, we have to be reasonable and point out that not all minority communities will be covered. There will be about five or six representatives on the committees but we agree that one or two places should be set aside in recognition of the fact that Irish society is now much more diverse.

I welcome the delegation and thank Mr. Watt for his detailed presentation. He talked about the need for a research project on community policing in a diverse society which should focus on identifying strategies of good practice. In the absence of such a project, as the legislation passes through the Dáil, how does he see ethnic groups, the marginalised, Travellers, etc. becoming involved in the structures about which we are talking — joint policing committees, policing forums and so on?

Mr. Watt

Whatever initiatives are developed should take account of the fact that Irish society is now more diverse. Unfortunately, this fact is often overlooked.

As regards the role of non-governmental organisations, there are many Traveller and refugee support groups as well as migrant rights organisations which operate not only in Dublin but also throughout the country. These are the bodies from which representatives should be sought. The role of the joint policing committees and local policing forums will be pivotal as will recruitment to the Garda Siochána. If we find in five years time that the Garda Síochána is not reflective of the fact that Irish society is more culturally diverse, questions will need to be asked. Positive action rather than positive discrimination is needed to encourage equal opportunity in joining the Garda Síochána. This would send out a powerful and important signal. However, good things are happening in Garda stations. Some fantastic gardaí are doing great work with local communities which, unfortunately, is not being recorded. Neither is it being promoted throughout the force. There is a need to build on some of the exciting work being done.

Have the delegates had the opportunity of speaking to recruits at Templemore?

Mr. Watt

Members of the committee have been invited to Templemore to provide anti-racism and intercultural training and it has been a positive experience. There is a human rights unit which encourages this. However, we would like to see this form part of the examination process. It is done on a voluntary basis but trainee gardaí should have to pass examinations in this subject before they qualify. As I mentioned, courses should be extended to sergeants, inspectors and immigration officers.

I have come across large numbers of asylum seekers in recent years because there are concentrations in certain areas of Dublin, as well as around the country. Because they are not allowed to take up employment, the numbers who participate and get involved in voluntary organisations seem to be on the increase all the time. Does Mr. Watt see such participation as improving our appreciation of multiculturalism? Is there a positive role for asylum seekers in the proposed community policing initiatives?

Mr. Watt

One of the things that has struck us recently is the lack of stories about asylum seekers in the local press and the national media. There is considerable integration throughout the country. Many community groups have been established which are inclusive of asylum seekers. We do not hear as much about the urban myths that asylum seekers are scroungers, etc. People now understand that they are not allowed to work because of the regulations and so on. We see local community groups and sports organisations such as the GAA which are inclusive of asylum seekers. There is considerable potential for representatives of asylum seekers to become involved in local policing strategies. I know many of them want to make a positive contribution in Ireland. It is a matter for the refugee process to determine whether they are allowed to remain. While they are here, many want to make a positive contribution to the society in which they are living. If local police forums can be inclusive of asylum seeker representatives, that would be positive.

Has theNational Consultative Council on Racism and Interculturalism undertaken any research or examined the position in any other cities or countries where a system of community policing is in operation and where interculturalism and racism are relevant factors?

Ms Anna Visser

We have done some work and looked at various models. The obvious examples are to be found in the United States and the United Kingdom. There was a report issued yesterday by the Commission on Racial Equality in the United Kingdom which looked at policing and the continuing problems in recruitment and internal structures. Good practice has emerged in community policing. It encompasses such principles as avoiding negative experiences of policing on the part of minority ethnic groups. Effective monitoring, complaints procedures and the need to increase the recording of racist incidents are also dealt with in order that minority ethnic groups will actually see the outcome when they approach the police. Other initiatives revolve around identifying multi-agency approaches to respond to the needs of victims of racist crime in order that police officers would be liaising with other support services in responding to those needs. Mr. Watt has discussed the issue of recruitment which is of significance in involving minority ethnic groups. There is an emergence of good practice in community policing initiatives but it is reasonably fair to say it is quite nascent in many other contexts. There have been significant developments in Ireland but there are models in other countries.

If Ms Visser has any material on that issue, the committee would appreciate receiving it.

Ms Visser

I will forward it.

Does the procedure for making a complaint against a member of the Garda Síochána need to be changed? If somebody believes he or she has been mistreated by a garda on arrival at an airport, he or she must abide by stringent criteria when making a complaint. For instance, the person concerned who may be in a vulnerable position must make the complaint, not an Irish person who witnesses the incident.

Mr. Watt

That is a very interesting question. As the Deputy will be aware, reform of the complaints process in the Garda Síochána is being undertaken and that is one area we would like considered. We want to ensure people are aware of the complaints processes and have the potential to make complaints, if necessary. Some further consultation with migrant rights groups and asylum seekers would be useful to ascertain the practice on the ground. From our experience, there is room for improvement.

It appears there may be a plethora of joint policing committees because we are talking not only about local authority areas but areas and neighbourhoods within local authorities. Will organisations such as the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism and similar sized organisations be resourced to play their part or is it over-play?

Mr. Watt

We use the term "reasonable accommodation of diversity". We would not take the view that a representative of somebody from a minority ethnic group should be on every committee but that a sensible approach should be taken, taking into consideration the problems in the local population. In the short term we see the major urban areas as the key place where things will happen.

At local authority level.

Mr. Watt

Exactly. We would look beyond that as resources permit. One of the problems is that local community groups are under-resourced. There are groups representing non-nationals springing up around the country which are finding it very difficult to access funding. There is a need for joined up government and for the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to ensure some funding is provided for these groups to help them engage with local joint policing committees and so on.

Ms Visser

To give an example, the Commission on Racial Equality report which was released yesterday looks at training structures and involving minority ethnic police officers in training structures. It recognises that this might not always be possible in a local area because there may not be a significant number of minority ethnic populations in the area. It, therefore, suggests it might be useful to tap into other areas in importing that knowledge and awareness. This recommendation might be useful in the case of the local structure where there are not the resources to include a representative. Every so often one could look at other areas where it is more active.

I thank Mr. Watt and Ms Visser for their very helpful presentation. We will note their submission and look forward to receiving other material they may have.

I welcome the representative of the Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament, Mr. Michael O'Halloran, its chief executive officer, who assisted the joint committee in its review of the criminal justice system. I remind him that while Members of the Oireachtas enjoy parliamentary privilege, he does not enjoy the same privilege.

Mr. Michael O’Halloran

May I offer an apology? I understood I would come before the joint committee on 24 March but co-operated with it by coming today. I would prefer if my submission were more substantial. However, I would be delighted to send a copy in the future.

We would be delighted to receive it. I apologise for having to rearrange the meeting and discommoding Mr. O'Halloran.

Mr. O’Halloran

My written submission is one and a half pages long, almost an Albert Reynolds one page document.

The Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament has 80,000 members nationwide and a presence in every area of the country. Therefore, the establishment of greater co-operation between local communities and the Garda Síochána is in the interest of the community. We welcome and support the idea of community policing committees. However, their composition is important and must be representative of communities. We see this as a positive development.

The Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament is an inter-generational organisation, as I have often said before, because our members have children and grandchildren. We are not only interested in our own well-being but that of the whole community. We want members to make a positive contribution to enable a local community to be more proactive, not only in dealing with issues of crime and disorder and anti-social behaviour but also in trying to come forward with good ideas and identifying areas where communities ought to be involved.

We recognise that since the foundation of the State, the Garda Síochána has played a significant role in the development of the country. Everyone would admit this but, as pointed out by the last delegation, this is a changing society with which we must come to grips. I am not making a generalised statement but some gardaí who are not au fait with multiculturalism are not even au fait with local culture. I can give as an example — one of the few who ever got to university from a certain part of Dublin — a student in Trinity College who was stopped when walking down Meath Street because of his appearances and the earring on his lip. This must stop.

Local committees will have a role to play in assisting gardaí, though not all, to understand the nature of a particular community in terms of its culture and language — how the locals speak — which is often not the language used in schools, the Dáil or on television. To be successful, gardaí need to receive the co-operation and have the respect of communities. That is important. The committees will have a vital role to play in developing good community relations. However, if they are to be successful — I am sure they will have their successes — they must be concerned about more than policing. They must also be concerned with helping communities to understand what it is they need to do to assist the Garda Síochána. A flow of information between the two will help enormously.

It is vital to ensure the committees will be involved in the provision of training, an issue referred to by the previous delegation. There are two types of training needed, one of which is training of gardaí in understanding communities. There is also a responsibility on all of us to ensure the members of the committees will understand the existence in communities of issues which will not assist the Garda Síochána or ethnic minorities about whom lies are often told. Many problems arise as a result of lies, misunderstandings, misconceptions and untruths told about ethnic minorities. As a responsible society, we must come to grip with these issues. For this to happen, we require a great deal of information. I view the local committees as a vehicle in that regard.

Members of local committees must fully understand their purpose. They should be aware that it is not the responsibility of the older person to be concerned only with issues relating to older people but that they should be concerned with the wider community in which they live. We hope that as far as is practicable — a great word in law which means one does not have to do anything — older people will be represented, be it through sub-committees, area or neighbourhood committees. We want to ensure a positive role, not alone for older people but also for the wider community. Most older people have a wealth of experience that dies when they retire. They should not be cut off from playing a role in the consultation process.

I will conclude on that remark and forward a more lengthy submission to the joint committee at a later date.

We look forward to receiving it.

I thank Mr. O'Halloran for his brief and concise presentation.

Mr. O’Halloran

I am not a Deputy.

We would welcome a more lengthy submission which would be very valuable to the joint committee.

I presume every area of the country is well represented by the 80,000 members of the Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament. The Bill does not make provision for representation by such an organisation. Is Mr. O'Halloran arguing that there should be representation by the Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament? If so, how does he see it being reflected in the structures? Would it participate at joint policing committee level or the policing fora?

Mr. O’Halloran

As older people, we maintain that we should be present when issues affecting our quality of life or security are being discussed. This happens only some of the time. Older people have much to offer to the committees. Those active in our organisation — not all of the 80,000 are active in a representational sense — have had vast experience as community leaders. Some may still be community leaders and could bring an valuable insight to the committees.

The Deputy asked how the Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament could get involved. I am merely stating the principle that older people should be involved in the process. Their presence, at whatever level, could add to the insights needed.

While there is often a great deal of publicity about the security of older people, most are not insecure. They are secure and not being attacked every day of the week. They may have ideas on how the Garda Síochána can assist them to feel more comfortable in their surroundings. We provide our members with positive feedback through our newsletters and so on. We would like to be aware of the positive things that are happening and make them known to others.

We believe that in principle we should be represented. However, I am not sure by what mechanism that could be done, if at all.

An 80,000 membership is an enormous resource, given that older people are an essential part of communities.

A great source of subscriptions.

Mr. O’Halloran

A great source of quotas in elections.

I am trying to explore how the Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament can get involved. There are many other groups which also represent older people. Does Mr. O'Halloran have a breakdown of his organisation's structure on a regional basis?

Mr. O’Halloran

Yes. However, it has not been done nationwide but in five or six areas. Divisions of the parliament operate locally with politicians, the health service and the Garda Síochána. They are located in Wexford, Finglas, Cork, the west, Kilkenny and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. We hope to develop further divisions in our work programme for next year. Each division has its own structure and functions, part of their which is to become involved at local level, wherever appropriate. I am not suggesting the Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament alone should be represented but that older people should be represented. However, we would be in a position to identify suitable people who would be willing to participate in the consultative committees.

Given that a community police force would be totally non-confrontational——

Mr. O’Halloran

The Deputy is referring to a police force but I was speaking about the consultation process.

Yes. The Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament has an enormous membership, among which I am sure there is a vast wealth of talent. If the recommendation is made that community police officers be persons living and working within a community, there will be available to us a large resource of highly qualified retired people willing to participate on a part-time basis, although it need not necessarily be totally voluntary. It is an asset worth examining.

Mr. O’Halloran

In principle, I would have no objection. My objection is to the non-participation of older people in so many areas such as State bodies dealing with the arts and education. It occurred to me this morning that Clint Eastwood could not be a member of the boards because he is 74 years of age, even though he can win Academy Awards. He has done more for the Irish language than the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. There is a revival of Irish language teaching in America as a result of his film. However, that is not what the Deputy asked me.

On the general principle, we have strong views on the selection process and the training of part-time gardaí. One does not want people to take these positions for all the wrong reasons. A more careful selection process would be required for a part-time than a full-time garda. Many older people may be willing to participate. I am not available.

I thank Mr. O'Halloran who has always facilitated us in the past and continues to do so. We are most appreciative.

I thank Mr. Denis Bradley for coming to the meeting. It is a pleasure to welcome him. He is vice-chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and chairman of the North West Alcohol Forum. While members of the joint committee have parliamentary privilege, that same privilege does not extend to Mr. Bradley. After his presentation, Deputy Peter Power and Deputy Jim O'Keeffe will ask questions.

Mr. Denis Bradley

I thank the Chairman. It is a pleasure to be here.

Community policing is a little like the word "love". It is to be found in most places, a slightly overused phrase which can mean different things to different people. I can only talk about my experience of being a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board for the past two years and the experience I have had in dealing with police forces throughout the world. I was in America last week where I spent time with the police forces in Washington and Boston.

I should start with a Kerry phrase in that having read the Bill, I would not start from here if the aim is to go where I think it should be going. Community policing is not achievable unless there is oversight which cannot be provided for by a police service in its own right. There is a great danger that it will remain a concept unless it is driven into the culture of the police service that will implement it.

As a Donegal man who had much contact when growing up with people who came from this culture and as someone who has nephews and nieces who serve with the Garda Síochána, I am aware of the advantages with which this country starts. It has the privilege and gift of a police service that is deeply embedded within the community. This generation of politicians and gardaí would do a great disservice to the nation if that were ever lost.

The danger is not so much that policing is changing but that the community is changing. Community policing involves two words: "community" and "policing". Both are changing rapidly but the one that is changing fastest of all is community. In some ways it is more difficult to define and describe what is a community. A small group of people living in harmony in a neighbourhood is less easily identified. The actual mechanisms of what that means are becoming more difficult to define for all kinds of reasons. First, the authority structures in place 20 or 30 years ago are either gone or going. Second, people's identification with the local area is less strong. I do not wish to bore the joint committee with all of this.

Policing in the community is the subject of one of the most important debates taking place at an international level. It is taking place in America, New Zealand, Canada, England and the North of Ireland. I welcome the fact that it is now taking place here. Community policing or policing with the community, as it is sometimes known, generally means one and the same thing, except that the connotations can sometimes be slightly different.

In some cases the police will establish a dedicated group within the service to act as community police officers. These are sometimes referred to as community beat officers who are attached to a particular locality and that is their specific job. That is one definition of "community policing". The near universal experience is that it is wonderful, in principle, but does not work. What happens is that the officers concerned are the first to be pulled out if there is a shortage of personnel or a crisis and given other tasks.

The second aspect is that culturally they are seen to be less effective as police officers. They lose part of their status because they are seen as the soft side of policing rather than the effective side. Another aspect is that everybody adopts the words and principles but they discover ten years later that not all that much has happened. That has been the experience in many places around the world.

One does not have to reinvent the wheel. The Patten report was one of the finest ever written on policing from a pragmatic and practical point of view. It studied policing throughout the world, including here. It took the best of what had emerged in the debate in various places and set out a series of 175 recommendations, many of which concerned community policing.

In Northern Ireland we have achieved most of the recommendations but if one were to ask me if we have community policing, I would say we have yet to achieve it. That is where we want to go. Two factors are stopping us, the first of which is that politics does not help the situation and makes matters difficult, while the second is that the core of the cultural change needed in policing is the most difficult to achieve. However, we are lucky and in many ways blessed that we had two commissioners from this island, two from America and others from elsewhere who were familiar with this material and gathered much of it. We are also lucky in having leaders who have come close in trying to guide us through some of this material. In the third place we are lucky in at least having a strategy.

Two years ago the police in Northern Ireland drew up a document entitled Policing the Community in Northern Ireland, and I would recommend it to the committee. It contains all that is needed within this area. If members of the committee would like copies, they can be made available. It is practical and down to earth, and goes through the principles, succinctly. It also emphasises, somewhere in the middle, that what is called for is a cultural change, that must go right across policing. Such change realises, in Ronnie Flanagan's words, that "policing is too big to be left to the police themselves". If the community is not formally engaged with, and there is no great participation within the community, and the community does not have an ownership stake in policing, there is a danger that within the shifting sands of present-day democracy that is redefining itself and finding its own mechanisms, there will be a separation between the police and the majority of citizens.

Having looked at the Bill and had discussions with the Minister, I have two difficulties. One is that there is no police authority between the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the appointment of the Commissioner and senior Garda officers. The Conroy report of 1968, with which I am sure the committee is familiar, pointed out that this was not good for policing. Our experience in Northern Ireland is that having a political but also independent group of people acting rationally together as regards those senior appointments creates a distance between government and the police — and this is something the police become extremely comfortable with after a period.

The second point is that this type of organisation creates a slight distance from government as well as from fashion — from the various forces that exist at any particular time — to actually drive matters through to the point where it may be seen that change has become effective rather than just cosmetic.

We have all suffered from a terrible centralism, where power is centralised, hierarchical and mostly male. No organisations in the world are more centralist, hierarchical and male than police services. This has only begun to change within recent years through ways and mechanisms being found to cut through that. Above all, they remain centralist, where most decisions are taken at the top or at the centre. They are predominantly male because women still only comprise a small part of policing. The third point is that they seldom devolve power if they can avoid it.

They are incredibly hierarchical. This came from an old military tradition which stipulated that unless there were men and women on the ground who obeyed commands, one risked putting other people in difficult situations. That was true 100 years ago, but it is not true today. There are different forms of leadership and different ways of responding today. Unless power is devolved within the police structures and through civilian involvement and engagement as well as through oversight of policing, then the police will remain centralist and very distant from what is hopefully to be achieved, namely, the community. Therefore mechanisms must be found to do that.

One of the difficulties, from my reading of the Bill, is that the Garda will sit on all the overseeing committees. Why is that? The fact that oversight has been devolved to local authorities, which was not the original proposal, is an advancement. That is an improvement, but I cannot understand why the Garda will sit on the committees with the same power, authority and involvement as the local citizen or whatever political or civilian oversight is established. This means that cosy little cliques can be created, but it does not necessarily mean that any proper monitoring is going on or proper oversight.

I would argue that no one walks the streets with the same power as a garda or police constable and that is the reason for oversight. I recall being very engaged and convinced by a senior police officer in Northern Ireland when I asked whether we were not downloading ourselves with oversight. His answer was, "Denis, you tell me anybody else who has the type of authority that I have, in that I can put you away for a night or two and you are not going to demand oversight".

When that power is considered against a background of the intelligence services and so on, and the experience we have had in Northern Ireland, then it is obvious that oversight becomes important. It is a question of how such oversight is to be created. We have been lucky in that we are beginning to learn from the experience of district policing partnerships on which the police do not have a seat. They come and give their reports, answer questions and engage with that. The district policing partnerships have two responsibilities. One is to monitor the performance of the police and the other is to properly engage the wider community within the wider policing mechanisms.

At this point in our development we have done reasonably well at the monitoring stage but not particularly well in engaging the wider community in providing effective and efficient policing. That is part of the next stage to be addressed.

The task in which this committee is involved is one of the most central and important that the Government is gifted with at the moment. It involves providing safety, decency and a sense of well-being within community. I will end on this note, which is important and is something I have noticed in recent years. There has always been a debate between effective policing and what the community wants. Senior police officers will tell one that what the community wants is not effect policing. They will say for example that patrols on the street do not deliver effective policing. They will say that there are better and more professional ways of policing. The community, on the other hand, will say they want police officers walking the street and there is this supposed clash. I have come to the conclusion that both sides are right, but the police and the community are looking for two different things. The police officer wants effective policing and he is right in saying the man or woman on the beat does not provide this. The person who lives on the street, however, and who wants the beat officer there is also right because what he or she is talking about is the fear of crime. If one looks at policing at the moment throughout all of these islands and further afield, the actual number of crimes is dropping and the fear of crime is rising. That is true in Ireland, currently. The two separate dynamics can be engaged in and progress can be achieved. There are new developments within policing that can provide for both those needs. In other words, police can be very effective and professional in what they do, but they can actually meet the needs of people in addressing the fear of crime, which is a slightly different matter. Some of that can be done through community policing, but to develop it will depend on the style, the fashion and the mechanisms engaged in.

I have probably talked for far too long at this time of the day. That is not unusual for me.

I thank Mr. Bradley for his thought provoking contribution. Finishing as he did by contrasting effective policing with what the community wants, is a big question that must be examined.

I thank Mr. Bradley for his thought-provoking insights, in particular his views on oversight monitoring and engagement. He is not the first person today to provide us with such an insight into the perceived gap between community requirements and the delivery of policing. Filling that gap is an important issue to resolve.

I am glad Mr. Bradley mentioned the Patten report. It would be helpful if the committee could get a copy of the recommendations made in that report and of the document on community policing. Mr. Bradley indicated, in the context of the Patten report recommendations, that it has been difficult to achieve progress on the recommendations on community policing. It is recognised that the PSNI and others have made great strides in many areas. Why has there been difficulty in making strides on the community policing front? Perhaps if we had the answer to that question we would know how to progress matters.

Perhaps Mr. Bradley would elaborate on the concept versus the culture of policing in so far as it relates to community policing being the soft under-belly of policing? The suggestion that this is not the hard career line to take was also mentioned in other contributions. Perhaps people should have an opportunity to confine themselves to community policing as a career and to have real progression within that career. I am interested to hear if Mr. Bradley has further insights on that matter.

Mr. Bradley

The Deputy has asked good questions. I would be our toughest critic. I am not a person who believes the best way to achieve things is to say one is doing everything well. I do not believe any organisation ever achieves its full potential. It must be constantly examined and questioned. I am a harsh critic of the policing board. I agree we have made great advances in a short period. The difficulty is twofold. A police officer once told me three communities existed in Northern Ireland: the Protestant community, the Catholic community and the policing community. That was true. The police had initially cut themselves off from the Nationalist Catholic community as a result of security and policing issues. It then, under stress, cut itself off from the Unionist community and formed its own social circle. It was not, however, completely cut off from these communities. The situation is sometimes slightly exaggerated.

There are very few police officers living in some of the harder working class areas of Dublin. That is a guess but I do not believe too many would contradict me. Police have professionalised themselves in that, first, they have become richer and, second, they have become ambitious. However, often the out-working of that is a separation from working class communities. The police do not live or go to mass, to the pub, to the bookmakers and so on in those areas. They do not do the normal every day things others in those areas do.

The question then arises, in terms of community policing, as to whether one should appoint ten officers residing in other areas to work in particular communities or should one draw people from within a community to do the work. That is a major issue for debate and is one on which I do not have full answers. Ireland, because it is a small country, can experiment and try to achieve that goal. Boston has a population of 600,000 and London has a population of ten million. Our cities and towns are small. While such policing would be achievable in many of our small towns and villages such as, Tullamore and so on, it might not be achievable in more working class areas from which policing has removed its being. Not one police officer lives within ten miles of Derry city. I am a critic of the idea in terms of whether it can be referred to as community policing.

If members read the document they will find that most community policing is about intelligence-led policing. That does not mean secret intelligence, it means knowledge, understanding, appreciation and sensitivity to all the differences in different communities within society.

We may soon have to go to the Dáil for a vote. We will have a further five minutes to discuss the matter after the vote and must finish our meeting at 12 p.m.

Mr. Bradley is an inspiration to those who seek genuine policing on this island. He has stood up to intimidation from shoot-to-kill merchants in Northern Ireland and their political mouthpieces and is an inspiration to all genuine Nationalists on this island.

I would like to discuss two issues. It is obvious Mr. Bradley is favourable towards the establishment of an independent oversight body and policing board. What is his view of the Minister's exclusion of an independent policing board in the proposed reforms? It is a core issue as far as we are concerned. The Minister has gathered more power onto himself and future Ministers and has removed any prospect of an independent policing board.

Regardless of what district bodies, fora or otherwise are established down the line, many believe residents of a particular local authority will join with policemen and form a committee. Does Mr. Bradley believe that is the wrong approach and that the superintendent should report to a body which does not consist of police representation?

Mr. Bradley

The Deputy has, in asking his question, also answered it for me. The longer I am around this issue the more I believe in the establishment of an independent oversight body which, while including politicians, is separate from politics. I do not believe the police alone can drive such a body regardless of their worthiness or otherwise. There should be a healthy tension between the two needs. I agree with the Deputy in that regard.

I have told the Minister at many conferences that I do not support the Garda Síochána Bill because it excludes a policing board. I visited America last week. Americans, in my opinion, need a type of oversight authority which differs slightly from the mayor simply appointing a particular person.

Before you reply to the second party of Deputy O'Keeffe's question, Deputy Costello would like to ask a question.

The committee appreciates Mr. Bradley's attendance and recognises the good work being done by him on this issue. The culture of this part of the island differs from that in Northern Ireland. There are different traditions involved and there is polarisation in Northern Ireland. It is obvious we will not get a policing board at this point despite our belief that one should be established.

On the joint policing committees, does Mr. Bradley believe it would be better to have the gardaí in the tent with the local authorities and local communities rather than outside it? Would it be difficult to get the gardaí to accept the new culture of community policing unless they are equal participants in all structures, leaving aside the authorities? Has Mr. Bradley undertaken research in Northern Ireland on the provision of a police college, training or education in order to change the culture from investigation-detection to prevention and community policing?

Mr. Bradley

I am disappointed the hear the establishment of an oversight body has been ruled out.

The idea was presented during the early stages of the debate and the Minister was strongly against it.

Mr. Bradley

I think the Minister will change his mind on that.

I understand what the Deputy means about police being more comfortable inside the tent, so to speak, but I am not sure I agree with that from a structural point of view. The police find their way to appear before various committees, regardless of whether they are being overseen. They are good enough to do that. The principle is important in that they are not there just to hear people's views. They are there to be the servants of people in the proper sense of the word, not operationally. Patten did a very good job of defining the difference between operational independence and operational responsibility. This issue was dealt with in the Patten report. There is always a fear that a busybody in the local area, or even a busybody politician, will try to make the gardaí do something. That is not what oversight or monitoring is about. Operational responsibility is very clear. It is about engaging within the whole dynamic and culture of policing, which brings me to the point about culture.

There is an idea in all such institutions that the professional knows best. That is found in all situations. The truth of the matter, however, is that the professional does not always know best. The professional may know his profession best but he or she does not always know best about everything. There is a place for monitoring. Our district commanders in Northern Ireland were reluctant initially about the monitoring aspect but if they were asked about that now, 90% of them would say they would not give up their district policing partnerships for anything. They find it much easier, they have better contact with people and it is a shared responsibility. Even people who had experience would go back to where they were. They welcome the new initiative. They were a little formal about it at the outset. It took about a year before people relaxed about it but they are now asking very tough questions. They are getting very knowledgeable and experienced and their relationships are much better under that type of regime than they were in the previous cosy situation, which was a case of "I'm the guard, you are somebody else and while we might sit around the same table, we come from two different worlds". That is our experience.

Thank you for appearing before the committee today, Mr. Bradley, and going out of your way to assist us.

Mr. Bradley

You are very welcome.

We appreciate it very much.

Mr. Bradley

Wearing another hat, I discovered only the other day that I submitted another report, which is about alcohol abuse in the north west. That is a major dynamic as regards policing because one of the biggest policing issues we face both North and South is public order offences. Rather than coming before the committee on another occasion to talk about that issue, I ask the members to note the report.

We will do that and we will ensure it is distributed. In fact, I understand it has been circulated already.

Mr. Bradley

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. Bradley, for your helpful and thought-provoking contribution. You have given the committee something to think about.

The joint committee went into private session at 12.04 p.m. and adjourned at 12.08 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 10 March 2005.