Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will outline the legal position regarding the powers of an Garda Síochána to deal with anti-social behaviour in private residential streets and estates; and the avenues of civil redress citizens may pursue.
Reply from Minister Alan Shatter: There is a range of strong legislative provisions available to an An Garda Síochána to combat anti-social behaviour.
The following are some of the more important pieces of legislation and there are many others which may be relevant depending on the nature and gravity of the behaviour at issue.
The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 modernised the law in relation to anti-social behaviour and related criminal actions. It provides for a range of offences which cover behaviours such as disorderly conduct, threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour, wilful obstruction, trespass and entry with intent to commit an offence as well as categories of violent behaviour. The Act also provides for offences for failure to comply with Garda directions.
In addition, the Intoxicating Liquor Acts 2003 and 2008 and the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 provide Gardaí with powers to address public order problems and anti-social behaviour related to the misuse of alcohol. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 provides Gardaí with powers to deal with anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking, including exclusion orders in respect of premises and closure orders for licensed premises and catering outlets following anti-social behaviour related offences. The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 gives further powers to Gardaí to tackle the misuse of alcohol, including the power to seize alcohol in the possession of an under 18 year old which they suspect is for consumption in a public place. Gardaí may can also seize alcohol to forestall public disorder or damage to property. Fixed charge notices may be issued for the offences of intoxication in a public place and disorderly conduct in a public place. This option has the benefit of a more efficient use of Garda and Court resources, while also allowing an offender who complies with the notice to avoid a possible criminal record.
Where anti-social behaviour is directed at property, the Gardaí may have recourse to the provisions of the Criminal Damage Act 1991 which provides a range of offences and penalties, up to and including, on conviction on indictment, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years for the damage, threat of damage or possession of anything with intent to damage, a person’s property.
Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults and Part 13 of the Act relates to anti-social behaviour by children. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and finally to the making of a behaviour order by the Children Court. With regard to adults, they include a warning and the making of a civil order by the court.
I am advised that there are some issues which come within the remit of my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government which could be relevant to the matters referred to in the Deputy's question. In the case of private rented dwellings landlords are responsible for enforcing the obligations that apply to their tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. In this regard the Act prohibits a tenant in a private residential tenancy from engaging in anti-social behaviour in, or in the vicinity of, a dwelling to which the Act applies it also allows a landlord to terminate any tenancy where the tenant is engaging in or allowing others to engage in such behaviour, subject to a notice period of only 7 days in the case of serious anti-social behaviour or 28 days in the case of less serious but persistent behaviour.
The Residential Tenancies Act also provides that a third party directly and adversely affected by anti-social behaviour may, subject to certain conditions, refer a complaint to the Private Residential Tenancies Board against a landlord who has failed to enforce tenant obligations. A specific condition is that the third party complainant must have taken reasonable steps to resolve the matter by communicating or attempting to communicate with the parties to the tenancy concerned.
In relation to avenues of civil redress generally, it is, of course, always open to a person to seek independent legal advice in relation to the forms of redress, including civil remedies, which might be relevant to particular situations.