Update on establishing a pilot Community Court
22 July 2015
Work commenced on setting parameters for a pilot Community Court in a meeting of the key Justice sector stakeholders that took place in May led by the Department of Justice and Equality. Minister Frances Fitzgerald, T.D. had previously commended the work of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and had requested that a programme of work be put in place leading towards the establishment of a Community Court on a pilot basis in the Dublin City Centre area.
Minister Fitzgerald is pleased that progress is being made in regard to establishing a pilot Community Court and said “I consider that Community Courts with their integrated, problem-solving approach to dealing with relatively low-level crime can be of benefit to the Irish Criminal Justice system”.
Minister Fitzgerald welcomed the broad support in the Group for the development of some form of an early intervention model to deal with low level adult offenders. The Group agreed that, the critical point was to ensure that whatever Community Court model is decided upon, it must add value to interventions that are already available. It considered that the net should be cast wide, in terms of considering the success or otherwise of Community Courts and related initiatives that have been tried in other jurisdictions, so that our project can benefit from whatever lessons are to be learned.
The Group confirmed that a considerable amount of preparatory work still needs to be undertaken in collaboration with all stakeholders, both within the Justice sector and the wider community of agencies and groups whose active participation and buy-in will be necessary, before the pilot project can be established successfully.
The Minister said that “Proper planning is essential and realistic goals and priority objectives of the pilot Community Court need to be identified. It will be important that the proposal is fully evaluated to ensure that it will deliver the required results”. The Minister also noted that “attention must be given to considering the format and most appropriate model that would apply to the Irish system. “
The Justice Sector group has identified a number of steps to be taken including gathering of data so as to get a better sense of what is involved in setting up a Community Court and how it should be developed. This work will be undertaken in July and August and further meeting of the Group will be in held in September.
Each of the stakeholders involved is operating with limited resources so the preparation and planning stages of the project are essential to ensure that the resources involved are used effectively. It is also important that the project would operate in a fully integrated way.
The Minister looks forward to bringing forward her proposals for the establishment of a pilot Community Court in Dublin in the early Autumn.