Dublin City Council believes that a U.S.-style community court would help to curtail habitual relapses into crime.
Council members believe that setting offenders fines or periods of community service, like the United States system, would seriously decrease the numbers of people who are put in jail and constantly reoffend.
Tom Coffey of the Dublin City Business Association told a joint policing committee that 75 percent of all misdemeanor crimes in Ireland are “carried out by 25 percent of offenders.”
Coffey explained that a community court is presided over by a "problem-solving judge" who supervises penalties involving anything from cutting grass to picking up litter.
“It means fewer people get sent to jail, while petty crime is also reduced … There's a big saving to the taxpayer in not putting people in jail.”
Offenses that might come before a community court include begging and public drunkenness.
Community service is not an option used by courts in Ireland as an alternative to jail time.
Coffey said that in jurisdictions like the United States where this method is used, "reoffending rates are down to almost 18 percent .. In normal courts, the rate is 80 to 90 percent.”
Any decision on whether in to introduce such a court system to Ireland will rest with the Irish Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern.
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