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Question

148. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she supports calls for the establishment of community courts as recommended in the 2007 Crime Council report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19533/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy may be aware, I have undertaken to consider the issue of Community Courts in Ireland and I have taken note of the recommendations set out in the National Crime Council's report "Problem Solving Justice - The Case for Community Courts in Ireland" published in 2007. It will be important to learn from international experience, and I have asked my Department to evaluate how the Community Court model will work in the Irish context, drawing from best practice, with a view to setting up a Community Court on a pilot basis in the Dublin city centre area. I envisage an initial project where stakeholders will engage in partnership, in conjunction with the local business community.
It was not possible to progress the initiative during 2014 due to the need to dedicate resources to other priority projects including the establishment of the new Court of Appeal and also to progress other ongoing projects, such as the judicial appointments review and the reform of the family law courts. However, I can assure the Deputy that the matter is currently under active consideration in my Department and it is my intention that the proposal will be further progressed in the coming months.
The Community Court is a problem-solving court and the model operates in different ways in different jurisdictions. The research and analysis in the National Crime Council's report will be of benefit in our further consideration of establishing a pilot Community Court. Work commenced on setting parameters for a pilot last week with a meeting brokered by my Department among the key Justice sector stakeholders. This meeting confirmed that a considerable amount of preparatory work will need 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. Proper planning is essential and a needs assessment will first be undertaken to guide the identification of the goals and priority objectives of the pilot Community Court. It is also essential that the proposal is fully evaluated to ensure that it delivers the required results. 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 Justice sector group which met last week has identified a number of steps to be taken pending a further meeting to be held in June and my Department will be actively progressing consideration of the Community Court proposal in the coming months.