Drug-related intimidation is an extremely serious issue which involves the targeting of persons who use drugs, or their family or friends in relation to a drug debt. It involves insidious and coercive behaviour directed at forcing compliance of another person against their will. The intimidation can be either explicit or implicit, involving actual, threatened or perceived threats of violence to a person or damage to property.
The threat of violence to enforce drug debt impacts people's lives greatly and can create an atmosphere of fear within communities, particularly those where there is a concentration of illicit drug markets. In many instances, such communities are already marginalised and are also having to contend with social and public disorder and other forms of criminality associated with the illicit drugs trade.
I understand from the Garda authorities that whether or not a family or loved one has paid these debts, this should not be a deterrent to seeking help, advice and support from An Garda Síochána.
As the Deputy will be aware, An Garda Síochána, in partnership with the National Family Support Network (NFSN), have developed a framework, ‘the Drug Related Intimidation Reporting Programme’, which is now been implemented on a National level since 2013, to assist persons who may be subject to the threat of drug related intimidation.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are currently 28 Inspectors nominated in this regard. They liaise directly with the local Superintendent in relation to each individual case, as required. I am further informed that there are 6 such inspectors in the Dublin Metropolitan Region; 7 in the North-Western Region; 8 in the Eastern Region; and 7 in the Southern Region.
I am informed that, in dealing with any complaint of drug related intimidation, or advice sought in relation to this issue, An Garda Síochána have the utmost regard to the safety and most effective means to afford the person or family subject to the threat, the best level of security, advice and support. I am further informed that confidentiality and security of the persons concerned are paramount for An Garda Síochána when dealing with reports under the Programme.
I consulted with An Garda Síochána in relation to the Deputy's query on the number of times support has been sought from and provided under the drug related intimidation reporting programme since it was established. I am informed by the Garda authorities that this information is highly sensitive and not suitable for release into the public domain.