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Irish Examiner: 'Youth justice to suffer swingeing cuts'

8th December 2010

Swingeing cuts to youth justice, immigration services, legal aid and the courts, but more money for prison building, witness protection and specialist agencies are detailed in the budget 2011.

 Funding for the Probation Service – signalled by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern as a way of addressing the prison overcrowding crisis – is being marginally cut. However, the union representing probation officers does not think the cut will hurt and believes the planned expansion will be able to take place.

 Reacting, Liam Herrick of the Irish penal reform Trust, said: “The main problem with Irish crime policy for many years has been a wasteful overemphasis on imprisonment and an underinvestment in crime prevention measures. This measure will be dramatically exacerbated by this budget.

“The retention of most of the Probation budget is very welcome: however the decision to slash the youth justice budget is short sighted and likely to prove counter-productive.”

 Mr Ahern welcomed investment in key areas, including additional prison spaces, new investigation technology for gardaí and a state-of-the-art laboratory for the State Pathology Service.

But Fine Gael’s Alan shatter said drug gangs “will be toasting” Mr Ahern following cuts in gardaí numbers from 14,500 t0 13,500 next year.

 Within the total Justice budget, the Department of Justice’s own funding is significantly down (13%). The biggest losers are; legal aid (down 9%); immigration and asylum (down 17%) and youth justice (down 24%).

 Specialist agencies have gained, including: Data protection Commissioner (up 21%); Criminal Assets Bureau (up 7%); Prison Inspectorate (up 14%); Garda Inspectorate (up 26%) and Cosc, the domestic and sexual violence agency (up 18%).

 The Probation Service budget is down 2%, with funding for community service orders unchanged. Mr Ahern wants a significant expansion in these orders as an alternative to imprisoning people for a short period.

 Justice points:

  •  Total Justice budget cut by 3%, from €2.47bn in 2010 to €2.4bn in 2011.
  • Department of Justice’s own budget down 13%, from €430 to €373m.
  • Garda budget unchanged at €1.532bn
  • Prisons budget down 1%, from €352 to €347.6m.
  • Courts service budget down 27%, from €152.6m t0 €111m
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