Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
489. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the growth in drug intimidation in many working class communities but not exclusively so; his plans to address this; and his further plans to introduce or work on new legislation to confront and address this issue. [6780/20]
I share the Deputy’s concern about the serious issue of drug-related intimidation in communities which involves the targeting of persons who use drugs, or their family or friends in relation to a drug debt.
I appreciate that the threat of violence to enforce drug debt impacts people's lives greatly and can create an atmosphere of fear within communities. While the reality is that drug-related crime occurs in communities nationwide, in many instances the communities most acutely affected are already marginalised and are also having to contend with other forms of criminality associated with the illicit drugs trade. This type of crime can have a serious impact of perceptions and feelings of safety in these communities. I am acutely aware of the importance of tackling such behaviour effectively.
Government policy is guided by the national drugs strategy "Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025". This represents a whole-of-government evidence-informed response to the scourge of drug and alcohol use in Ireland. Implementation of the Strategy is led by my colleague, the Minister for Health and the Minister of State with special responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy and Health Promotion, although obviously the Strategy includes a wide range of actions for all stakeholders, including my Department and An Garda Síochána.
An Garda Síochána continues to proactively tackle all forms of drug crime. The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau is having significant success in disrupting drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs in Ireland, as well as organised crime groups. Its work is supported by Divisional Drugs Units nationwide, and of course more generally by all Gardaí working in local communities.
As the Deputy may be aware, there is specific action in the National Drugs Strategy in relation to drug-related intimidation. An Garda Síochána, in partnership with the National Family Support Network (NFSN), has developed ‘The Drug Related Intimidation Reporting Programme’, which is now been implemented on a national level since 2013, to respond to the needs of drug users and family members who may be subject to the threat of drug related intimidation.
In fact Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy is unique among national drugs strategies across EU Member States in recognising the need to address drug-related debt intimidation at a community level. I am advised that An Garda Síochána and the National Family Support Network have each concluded their own separate evaluations of the Drug Related Intimidation Reporting Programme and have jointly agreed a number of actions in relation to the programme going forward. It has been agreed that the effectiveness of this Programme will be further enhanced through training, knowledge sharing and awareness raising.
More broadly and recognising that the issue of drug use and drug related crime in communities is a complex and multi-faceted one, the Deputy might be interested to know of the "Greentown" project, a research project examining the recruitment by criminal networks of children in Ireland and to make recommendations for interventions to disrupt children being lured into criminality. The project is led by the REPPP Project (Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice) at the School of Law in the University of Limerick and is a strategic research partnership with the University of Limerick, funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and supported by my own Department.
Finally and as the Deputy will be aware, a key principle arising from the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing is that policing is not the responsibility of the police alone, but also involves other agencies of Government, such as health or social services, as well as other sectors of society. This principle is at the centre of a new policy on community safety which is being developed in my Department. The policy, which will be given a statutory basis in the new Policing and Community Safety Bill, proposes to establish and support a system of community safety at local level across the country. Through cross-sectoral collaboration, and by drawing on the available services, these systems will be best placed to identify, support and implement, community safety according to the needs of the local community.