Tackling serious drug crime is a priority for the Government and An Garda Síochána.
The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) is having significant success in proactively disrupting the illicit supply of drugs by organised crime groups. The Bureau's work is further supported by Divisional Drugs Units, which tackle drug-related crime on a local basis throughout the country, in collaboration with CAB and other law enforcement partners and all Gardaí working in local communities.
The Deputy may be aware that the National Drugs and Alcohol Strategy, "Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025 ", is unique among national drugs strategies across EU Member States in recognising the need to address drug-related debt intimidation at a community level.
The Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, includes a commitment to support the Drug-Related Intimidation Reporting Programme. The programme, which was developed by An Garda Síochána in partnership with the National Family Support Network (NFSN), responds to the needs of people who use drugs and family members who may be subject to the threat of drug related intimidation and has been implemented on a national level since 2013.
An Garda Síochána regard drug-related intimidation as a hugely serious issue which impacts significantly on communities throughout Ireland. An Garda Síochána advise people to seek help and support from their local Gardaí, even where a person has felt compelled to pay money to those who engage in drug related intimidation.
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. Confidentiality and security of the persons concerned are paramount for An Garda Síochána when dealing with reports under the programme.
An Garda Síochána deals with drug-related intimidation in a confidential and secure manner. Insofar as possible, An Garda Síochána offers confidentiality and provides practical personal security and safety information and advice in relation to particular threats or instances of intimidation, along with information on appropriate drug support services for the individual in the family who is accruing drug debts, while also providing information regarding the process involved in making a formal complaint.
The Deputy will also be aware of the new Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027. This strategy includes a commitment to develop the work of the Youth Diversion Projects (YDPs) to include targeted work with ‘harder-to-reach’ young people. This includes young people heavily involved in crime and anti-social behaviour, for whom there are little supports and interventions available in practice, unless they are before the courts, in which case they may be under the supervision of the Probation Service. The strategy also prioritises early intervention work, including with younger children who are assessed as being at serious risk. Both of these cohorts may include children at risk of recruitment by crime gangs.
The development of this work within the YDP network will be supported by the Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP) project at the School of Law in the University of Limerick (UL). The REPPP project has also led on the production of the “Greentown Report”, which studied the influence of criminal networks on children in Ireland, and was published in December 2016. The REPPP project is a strategic research partnership between UL and the Department of Justice.
The Greentown Report identifies crime networks as a separate and plausible risk factor underlying criminal offending by certain children. It outlines how the influence of criminal networks increases the level of offending by a small number of children and entraps them in offending situations.
The Greentown Report recommended the design of a programme to include interventions with children and their families to help them withstand the influence of criminal networks. The REPPP project team implemented a bespoke process to produce a model for an Irish evidence-informed intervention programme. This pilot has been designed with the input of leading international expertise on crime and criminal networks, together with Irish scientific, policy and practice expertise in child protection and welfare, drugs and community development. The programme is managed jointly between my Department, An Garda Síochána and the University of Limerick.
The pilot applications of the Greentown programme, developed by the REPPP project, commenced in two locations in 2020 and will run for three years. The learning from these pilots will then be incorporated into mainstream YDP practice. This specially designed intervention programme was developed with international expert advice to tackle coercive control of children by criminal groups which entraps them in offending situations. Funds are already available for the initial pilots from the Dormant Accounts Funds, with a total of €4.2m allocated over three years.
The implementation of the Greentown pilot programme is part of the strategic objectives of the Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027. This implementation process began with the establishment of the Governance and Strategy Group, and the Youth Justice Oversight Group. Both groups are chaired by my Department, which will provide oversight arrangements for youth justice initiatives, including the Greentown pilots, to ensure that there is a cohesive response in practice to the needs of particular cohorts of children and particular communities.