Alternative to courts to be piloted in Dublin City

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is set to approve the piloting of a new scheme that would divert adults accused of minor offences from the courts into education, rehabilitation or community programmes, the Irish Independent reports.

The newspaper says it has seen plans to have minor cases “diverted” from the courts system in a bid to deal with them more quickly.

Under the scheme, offenders will be told they can avoid going through the courts if they agree to participate in either an educational or rehabilitation programme or a brief stint of community service. The scheme is loosely modelled on a similar initiative in the Netherlands.

In some cases, offenders may also be issued with fines or assigned with a probation officer in order to ensure compliance with the terms of the programme.

It is thought the option of rehabilitation will help tackle repeat offences by individuals suffering from alcoholism or substance abuse problems.

The scheme will be piloted in Dublin City early next year ahead of a nationwide rollout.

A Government source reportedly said: “This is a two-pronged approach: it’s about dealing with low-level offences speedily while also addressing the underlying behaviour problem.”

David Brennan, chief executive of the Dublin City Business Association (DCBA), added: “The problem with our current system is it doesn’t work effectively. The principle of this scheme is helping people to help themselves and we believe society as a whole can benefit.”

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