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Social Inclusion Policies as an Alternative Method of Crime Prevention in Ireland

Social Inclusion Policies as an Alternative Method of Crime Prevention in Ireland

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Emily Ghadimi. Originally submitted for Current Issues in Law and Politics at University College Dublin, with lecturer John O'Dowd in the category of Law
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Emily Ghadimi. Originally submitted for Current Issues in Law and Politics at University College Dublin, with lecturer John O'Dowd in the category of Law

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
Social Inclusion Policies as an Alternative Method of Crime Prevention in Ireland
Introduction
Over the past two decades in Ireland there has been an increase in serious crime, and this haschanged the manner in which the media now report on crime. While the situation is notalways as bleak as it is portrayed by the media, there has still been a rise in the levels of guncrime, homicide and drug-related crimes in recent years. This increase has generated panicamongst the general public, prompting a series of reactive legislative measures with thenormalisation of emergency provisions, such as those contained in the Offences Against theState Acts, and the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, resulting in an erosion of therights of accused persons. Many critics and legal writers have identified a number of factorscontributing to higher crime levels, of which social exclusion appears to play a significant part. The attitude of legislators does not reflect this and instead the simplified model of the‘rational actor’ employing punishment as a deterrent is used in the administration of criminal justice. Relying solely on this model has not achieved great success so far, thus it seems prudent for government to consider additional measures of crime prevention in the form of social policy. 
Crime Levels in Ireland
Professor Ian O’Donnell identified a number of emerging trends in various violent crimesfrom 1950 to 2003,
1
 and analysed them with the assistance of two previous studies.
2
 He foundthe rate of homicide increased fivefold in the period examined, and that both offenders andvictims got progressively younger from the 1950s to the 1990s. He noted a shift in thenumber of cases where the victim and perpetrator were strangers, moving from 7.7% in the1950s, to 23.5% in the 1970s, then 24% in the 1990s; a trend which is also clear from the
1
O'Donnell, “Violence and Social Change in the Republic of Ireland”, (2005)
 International Journal of theSociology of Law,
33: p102
2
Dooley, (2001) “Homicide in Ireland 1992–1996”, Stationery Office, Dublin; and Rottman, (1980) “Crime inthe Republic of Ireland: statistical trends and their interpretation” Paper No.102 Economic and Social ResearchInstitute, Dublin
 
declining rate of prosecutions. He concluded that when emigration and the incidence of institutional abuse was taken into account Ireland was not entirely free of crime in the 1950sand 1960s, and importantly that the increase in violence in the 1990s was perpetuated bygreater social inequality caused by the sudden growth of the country’s economy. In addition,he stressed that the improvement in reporting and data collection facilities had resulted in arise in the recorded statistics, but not necessarily in the actual amount of crime committed.
3
Further study into finding a solution to the prevalence of gun crime in Ireland was recentlyundertaken, which emphasised the importance of moving beyond what was termed, “thenarrow perspective predicated on a rational actor model.”
4
A rise in the number of homicidesinvolving firearms was observed from 1998 to 2008, as well as a noticeable change fromspousal or land disputes to premeditated killings perpetrated by more than one individual, anda higher concentration of homicides occurring in the Dublin Metropolitan Region and inLimerick. The statistics showed that a significant percentage of victims had previous criminalassociations, resulting in the term ‘known to Gardaí’ frequently emerging in media reports.
5 
The percentage of convictions for organised killings was considerably lower than comparedto homicides by firearms in total, which was also identified in Dáil debates
6
 and in the mediaat the time. With regard to firearms offences in general, including possession and discharge,once again areas of Dublin and Limerick showed disproportionately high levels of suchcrimes. The study focused on the theory of violence as an expression of masculinity in youngmales where their economic and social circumstances have disconnected them from any other avenues of expression. For this reason, it was concluded that presumptive sentencing basedon the idea of a rational actor who makes a conscious and informed decision whencommitting a crime, as employed in Ireland, is not the most effective way to deal with guncrime.
7
Instead it is recommended that an approach be formulated with consideration to the
3
O'Donnell, n1 pp115-116
4
Campbell, “Responding to Gun Crime in Ireland” (2010) 50
 British Journal of Criminology
, p414
5
Ibid., p416
6
Dáil debates 2008, Vol. 668, col.106
7
Campbell, n4 p429
 
contributing factors of social deprivation and disillusionment in young males, through extra-legal measures, educational programmes and greater economic equality.Figures released by the Central Statistics Office show that from 2008 to 2009 there was infact a drop in the recorded number of homicide offences,
8
assault offences
9
 and controlleddrug offences
recorded by Gardaí. This trend appears to be continuing as the latest statisticsreleased relating to crime figures this year also show that there has been an overall decreasein such crimes.
Although this is certainly a positive discovery, the availability of firearms,and the fact that gun crime is often linked with drug offences and organised crime, is still acause for concern and a problem that must be addressed.
Media Reporting on Crime
Given the rise in crime throughout the 1990s and part of the last decade, there has been anemerging tendency for media reporting of crime to incite fear in the general public. Problemswith media reporting have been identified and discussed by numerous critics, and cleaevidence is available that people base a substantial amount of their knowledge of crime noton actual crime statistics but on the information they receive through the media.
 In someinstances this has created a knock-on effect, whereby an ongoing theme is depicted by themedia, fuelling public fear of a certain type of crime, culminating in calls for legislativeaction to eradicate the perceived problem. As cited by Kilcommins and Vaughan
elected
8
Source: CSO, Ireland. Homicide offences, 2008: 89, 2009: 88.
9
Source: CSO, Ireland. Attempts or threats to murder, assaults, harassments and related offences, 2008: 19150,2009: 18353
10
Source: CSO, Ireland. Controlled drug offences, 2008: 23405, 2009: 21983
11
Source: CSO, Ireland. Recorded Crime Quarters 1, 2 & 3 2010.
12
O’Connell, “The portrayal of crime in the media: Does it matter?” in O’Mahony (ed.)
Criminal Justice in Ireland 
(Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 2002) p251
13
Kilcommins and Vaughan, “Subverting the Rule of Law in Ireland” (2004)
Cambrian Law Review
35, p74

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