Councillors to contact Justice Minister over ‘revolving door system’

Members of Mayo County Councils Joint Policing Committee this week proposed to contact the Minister of Justice to condemn the “revolving door system of prisons” as prison sentences are not a “deterrent” and gardaí are frustrated that “criminals can act without impunity”.

During a discussion on a national White Paper on Crime — which the JPC will send submissions on in the next couple of days — Superintendent Willie Keaveney said that prison is “not a deterrent at the moment” and proposed that members of the JPC contact the Minister for Justice to outline their concern. The superintendent gave an example of one person who arrived at Castlerea Prison at 5pm and then signed on at Castlebar Garda Station at 8pm as part of his bail conditions.

Swinford based Supt Ronan Galligan also gave an example where one prisoner last week was released from Cork prison after he spent half an hour there, which shows that “criminals can act without impunity” and it is hard for gardaí to” fight the battle with one arm tied”.

Supt Galligan said that it was frustrating that after spending a long time trying to catch someone the convict might soon be out of prison, and suggested that the amount of State money which it costs to bring a person to court should be outlined to the judge before sentencing so that this can be reflected in his punishment.

Fianna Fáil councillor Al McDonnell said: “Prison conditions are on a par with household living conditions,” adding “there is a strong rumour” that criminals commit crimes in October/November so that “they will spend the winter in prison”. Westport area councillor Austin Francis O’Malley said that community service would be better than spending a lot of taxpayers’ money on “banging up some young fella” for six to eight weeks. Swinford based councillor Joe Mellett said that “do-gooders” who are standing up for the rights of prisoners would soon change their minds if they went down to local towns and to what is going on. Cllr Mellett also said if a person causes criminal damage the cost of the repair should be taken out of his dole, “so it hits them where it hurts”.

Parents need to take responsibility

Supt Keaveney said that the night of the Junior Certificate results where 2,000 young people came to Castlebar, the gardaí were babysitting drunk teens and that the majority of parents “didn’t give a hoot”. Supt Keaveney said that parents need to take “severe and serious responsibility”.

Drugs in satellite towns to be addressed

Ballinrobe councillor Damien Ryan said that there is a serious drug issue in his area and teenagers have informed him that drugs are “readily available, like alcohol in the off-licence”. Supt Galligan raised a point that local doctors and pharmacists should be informed of the drug problem in areas, as a lot of drug use is from prescription drugs such as Valium.

Neighbours need to look out for each other

Supt Keaveney said that neighbourhood watch and community alerts in rural areas are in place, however the “concept of a good neighbour is out the window” as it is difficult to get people to attend these meetings.

A ‘good decent dog’ prevents crime

Cllr Weir said that for older people living in rural areas “you know what’s lacking is a man’s best friend”— “a good decent dog” which will bark at anyone who would come near the home. Cllr McDonnell suggested certain items with value should be electronically tagged and if moved more than five metres the owner’s mobile phone would be alerted.

The next JPC meeting will take place in March 2010.

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