Local communities standing up to tackle rural crime

“Nearly anyone who’s a member of Save Our Local Community is a victim of crime,” according to the chairman of the group that’s been quietly making waves in the area of tackling crime.

Robert O’Shea, who previously featured on FarmLand detailing his experiences of rural crime, is an agricultural contractor and farmer from Co. Tipperary who has been a farm theft victim and has since become an advocate for rural crime prevention.

Apart from the president of the association, who is a solicitor, every member of the committee is a victim of crime to some degree, Robert said.

We’ve all been hit at some stage or another.

“We all have the same outlook in the sense that we’re not vigilantes or anything; we can see there’s a solution for this within the law,” Robert explained.

Save Our Local Community is a group that was formed in the Anner Hotel, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, on October 8, 2015, following a public meeting of people seeking to express their concerns and frustration at the levels of crime around the country.

The group has five key objectives, including:
  • Collect fines at the source;
  • Reform Irish bail laws;
  • Introduce electronic monitoring of repeat offenders;
  • Increase garda resources; and
  • Give victims of crime an opportunity to express their concern.

Made up of people from all backgrounds, the group seeks to represent victims of crime who feel that they have no voice and, ultimately, reduce crime in general.

The group seeks to drive home the message to members of Government and those with legislative powers that changes in law are necessary to stop crime, both in towns and rural areas.

Since its establishment in 2015, the group has been lobbying to realize its goals, with some success along the way – though there’s plenty more to be done yet.

“As a result of that meeting in 2015, we know but it may be disputed, but Operation Thor came into existence as a direct result of that meeting,” Robert contended.

“We’ve been with the minister on a couple of occasions and we’ve met a number of other politicians.”

The group has been successful to an extent in its attempts to get electronic monitoring measures put forward for repeat offenders of crime who are granted bail; a bill was passed through the Dail and Seanad – but has not yet been enacted by the Minister for Justice.

The chairman noted: “They’ve put in a little twist on it that the prosecution must actively look for it – but it hasn’t been enacted; it hasn’t been worked on.”

Save Our Local Community is now seeking to have this measure enacted, which would see repeat offenders of crimes who are granted bail ordered to wear a discreet ankle bracelet which could be tracked by Gardai.

In terms of bail reform, the group’s proposals have been taken on board by Fianna Fail justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan, who has sought to change legislation with the Bail (Amendment) Bill 2017 proposal.

This proposal seeks to change one word in the current legislation which states: “A court may refuse bail if it’s reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of another serious offence.” The bill has proposed to change the word “may” to “shall”.

While this may seem a minor modification, Robert explained: “What it does is it puts a little bit more onus on the judge; to kind of say maybe he/she should think about it more seriously and not award this guy bail in that respect.”

There has also been a reform to the Household Burglary Act, which took place in the last two years, the chairman added.

What it did was it gave the Gardai more power and enabled them to question potential suspects. We got that reform through.

In terms of plans for the new year, Robert said that there are a few in the pipeline.

First of all, the group is in the process of registering as a charity.

“Secondly, we will be probably having a big meeting, another public meeting again later on in the year,” he added.

Further details will be announced in good time, he said.

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