Fianna Fáil launched their election manifesto, 'An Ireland for All', on Friday 24th January 2020. The manifesto can be accessed here. Below, IPRT analyses relevant proposals in the 'Building Strong, Vibrant & Safe Communities across Ireland’ section, which starts at p.65.
Analysis of individual policy proposals:
(i) Crack down on knife crime
Knife crime must be addressed. However, proposals to introduce a mandatory minimum 12-month sentence for the carrying of a knife in public is likely to result only in the imprisonment of vulnerable people – in particular young adult males – with no positive impact on reducing crime. Ireland has seen these approaches fail before: the introduction of mandatory sentencing for drugs in the late 1990s resulted in long-term imprisonment of low level players at significant expense to the country. Moreover, national and international policy consensus is that mandatory sentencing does not work. See IPRT’s position paper on Mandatory Sentencing.
Instead of reactive populist proposals, Ireland should look to other jurisdictions for approaches that have been proven to reduce knife crime – for example, the public health approach taken by Violence Reduction Units in Scotland.
(ii) Establish Community Safety Networks in every part of the country
IPRT broadly welcomes the connection that is made between tackling crime and the need to invest in community services and crime prevention.
See IPRT’s position paper Shifting Focus: From Criminal Justice to Social Justice – Building Better and Safer Communities.
(iii) Support victims of domestic abuse across the country
IPRT supports the proposal to ensure there is consistent and sustained funding provided to rape crisis centres and increased capacity at domestic violence refuges.
(iv) A Statutory Parole Board
IPRT welcomes the commitment to implementing the Parole Act in full, but does not endorse the overall aim of keeping people in prison for longer. What is important is that the parole system is coherent, transparent and fair and is guided by public safety. For more on IPRT’s work on Parole Reform, see here.
See PIPS 2019, Standard 33 – Parole System.
(v) Bail Laws
IPRT is critical of Fianna Fáil’s proposal to extend bail laws; this is not necessary to improve public safety. The most effective way to improve compliance with bail conditions and reduce offending while on bail is to resource the monitoring of bail conditions, along with the provision of bail supports and services. This may include bail hostels, particularly where the accused person has a chaotic life and complex personal challenges.
As of 31 December 2018, there were 726 people detained on remand in prison. This compares to 664 persons on remand on 31 December 2017, and a monthly average of 475 in January 2016. Further analysis is required to understand the drivers of increasing numbers of people being detained pre-trial. Recent research commissioned by the Scottish Government to support work reducing the number of people being held on remand here. See also IPRT’s Position Paper on Bail and Remand.
See PIPS 2019, Standard 10 – Separation of remand from sentenced prisoners.
(vi) Disability Rights
IPRT supports the proposed commitment to Ratifying the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. See IPRT’s recent report Making Rights Real for People with Disabilities in Prison.