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Thursday 23 May 2019

Gardai still log ASBOs 'by pen'

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

GARDAI are still using pen and paper to record details of ASBOs because their computer system is unable to process them.

The revelation comes as new figures show that no ASBOs (anti-social behaviour orders) have been issued by the courts since their introduction more than a year ago.

Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan said he was concerned about the inability to record details of ASBOs on the "cumbersome" Garda Pulse system.

"It highlights the lack of technological advances in the Garda Siochana. On the one hand, criminals have highly sophisticated mechanisms across a wide range of areas and gardai are playing catch up," he said.

Garda unions have expressed frustration with Pulse (Police Using Leading Systems Effectively) since it was introduced in 1999 at a cost of €60m. It contains details of criminal records, which can be assessed by members of the force, and allows them to enter details of most offences -- but not ASBOs.

Instead, each garda division has to send paper-based monthly statistics to the office of the Assistant Commissioner of Crime and Security.

Mr Flanagan questioned whether the lack of ASBOs being handed out was linked to the difficulty in recording them.

"It could well be if there are difficulties compiling statistics, we can see a situation that is not actually working," he said.

According to the latest figures up to March, no ASBOs have been issued by the courts. But 557 adults and 211 children have received three-month-long behaviour warnings, which is a first step to alert them to the fact that their behaviour is causing distress or fear to others in the community. Another seven children have signed a good-behaviour contract, which remains in force for six months and is the next step before receiving an ASBO.

Youth Work Ireland, which was strongly opposed to the introduction of ASBOs, has welcomed the way the system has worked so far. Its spokesman Michael McLoughlin said it was being operated in a sensible way.

"I've heard from some parents that their youngsters were playing on the road and the guards gave them a behavioural warning -- so it's being used as a bit of threat. But I think it could be argued that people were better behaved than we thought they were," he said.

Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, responding to a Dail question from Mr Flanagan, confirmed that the Pulse system could not process ASBOs. But he said that an interim solution was being piloted.

"I am also advised by the garda authorities that the development of a full IT solution for capturing and processing such of information is under review," he said.

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