Monday, 30 November 2015

 

Commissioner, Members of the Judiciary, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Firstly, I would like to welcome you all and say how delighted I am that so many accepted my invitation and could attend the launch today of the Joint Agency Response to Crime Strategy or J-ARC.

As I look around, I see a complete representation of the “justice family” from the Judiciary and the Executive, from the operational and the administrative, from the statutory and the voluntary sectors. Such a broad representation is an indication of how important initiatives like this are to us and how necessary it is to bring together all the elements required to make, and keep, our communities safe.

At their passing out ceremony in September, I told the new Gardaí that they were setting out to work in partnership with the community they serve to provide a professional police service and that in their Garda role they can make a real difference in the lives of citizens, by making our communities safer and better places to live.

Today I feel it is important to say that they do not do this alone, and the launch of J-ARC is a perfect example of how the diverse groups, with their own roles and responsibilities within the justice sector, by working together can impact on our ability to make our streets, homes, businesses and communities more secure.

Burglary of a person’s home is traumatic crime and can have a devastating impact on our sense of security. I have said before that I am determined to keep burglars off the streets and to improve the safety of our communities.

I have recently published the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015, which targets repeat burglary offenders through new measures relating to bail and the imposition of consecutive sentencing for repeat offending. The Garda operational strategy in relation to burglary coordinated under Operation Fiacla has led to over 14,000 arrests with just under 8,000 charges being brought since its inception in April 2012 to 31 July this year.

Operation Thor, launched by the Garda Commissioner earlier this month, tackles crime on a number of fronts. I am also committed to responding to crime in this way, through a focus on interagency measures in relation to the management of prolific offenders, visible policing and crime prevention support for communities.

Today is about informing you of how the focus on interagency measures in the management of prolific offenders works in practice and I congratulate everyone involved in putting together the presentation we have just watched.

The Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service have signed a Joint Agency Response to Crime Protocol with the Garda Síochána . Their aim is to target, in a co-ordinated way, those prolific offenders who cause a high level of harm or disruption in communities. I am certain that, in collaboration with statutory, community and voluntary partners they will achieve an effective outcome.

In Ireland it is estimated that 75% of property crime is linked to 25% of offenders. Targeting this cohort of repeat offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the number of burglaries being committed. You have heard this morning how the J-ARC strategy will be implemented by the three Justice Agencies with the assistance of other statutory organisations and the three community bodies: “Ballymun STRIVE”, “ACER 3” and “Change Works”. Equally you have heard from offenders participating in J-ARC how challenging it is, and how effective it has the potential to be in identifying and changing behaviour patterns.

ACER 3 for example is a multi-agency approach to the management of identified offenders charged with burglary providing enhanced levels of co-operation and co-ordination on the ground between An Garda Síochána, Probation Service; and Irish Prison Service. The offender is place at the centre of the process; his or her needs, strengths and risks are identified and, a co-ordinated response is made in addressing such needs and risk.

While I believe that prison is the right place for serious and serial offenders, it makes sense that by targeting the identified prolific offenders with cross cutting initiatives like this one, that address their criminal behaviour and the harm it does, offenders’ behaviour can be changed, crime will be reduced and public safety increased.

In working with offenders in this way to change their behaviour, the victims of crime and their concerns are central. For instance, Ballymun STRIVE targets those causing a high level of harm or disruption to a designated area in East Ballymun, motivating them to desist from crime and have their needs provided by local agencies or face an appropriate level of intervention necessary to disrupt their criminal lifestyle.

The Change Works Programme, Dublin Regional Initiative, aims to reduce the frequency and seriousness of offences committed by the target group aligned to the three agencies case management systems.

Crime prevention is therefore linked in a very real way to the implementation of a coordinated penal policy that seeks to rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders. An integrated approach to offender management and rehabilitation from pre to post imprisonment is designed to reduce re-offending and improve offender outcomes. We therefore need a balanced and coordinated approach to offender management, recognising the need for a continuum of sanctions and services. Interagency working is critical. Our citizens deserve no less.

The Department of Justice and Equality is supporting the J-ARC project as part of its overall approach to the integration of the work of Criminal Justice organisations and by providing direct project management for an electronic support for the project, naturally enough entitled eJ-ARC. This is part of a small number of rapidly developing projects which, together, will form the basis of a Justice and Equality Hub.

The Hub programme will bring a new approach to long expressed objectives for better communication and integration. It will provide access to real time data and information around the Justice and Equality sector and, importantly, with other stakeholders outside the sector. We need this approach to help us develop options, inform decisions and evaluate outcomes so that our stakeholders can be sure that we are doing the best that we can.

This approach recognises the appetite for real, meaningful and measurable change. Delivering such change will be assisted greatly by the use of technology and the Department of Justice and Equality is working in tandem with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer on its first deployments of the Private Government Cloud.

Integrated working, as demonstrated by the J-ARC strategy, is the means to achieve the most effective outcomes for our communities and I conclude today by highlighting the “One Vision” this Government has for the provision of public services. A Civil Service that prioritises the shared issues and challenges that are common across all Departments and Agencies will enable it to deliver results for the Government and the public it serves.

In addition, it cannot be stressed enough how the integration of offenders into society is a matter for the whole community and not just the responsibility of the Justice Sector. The importance of community involvement cannot be over emphasised and J-ARC is an excellent example of this. Other services have their responsibilities to assist persons reintegrate and resettle and eventually desist from a life of crime and I haver particularly noted the involvement of Dublin City Council and the Department of Social Protection in how the J-ARC strategy is implemented in practice and I wish to acknowledge how crucial their services are to its effectiveness.

It is my vision to see the integration of services extend beyond collaboration between justice agencies. I would like to see a whole of Government approach developed that prevents an offending lifestyle from developing in the first place. The better use and earlier application of resources, resulting in better outcomes is real reform in public services and something she intends to build on.

I am happy that you accepted my invitation to this launch today and I hope you will leave with a renewed sense of the importance of the job each one of us does towards keeping our citizens safe and of the tremendous value we can add to each other’s work in the delivery of that security.

Thank You