| 13.9°C Dublin

Make beggars work in community to save cash

PEOPLE caught begging in an aggressive manner should carry out community service instead of going to prison, and ease financial burdens on taxpayers, it is claimed

Cllr Claire O'Regan (Lab) has called on Dublin City Council to reject provisions under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill 2010 that will see anybody caught begging in an aggravated manner imprisoned for up to a month.

She argued that advocating a one-month prison sentence is contradicted by details outlined in the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill 2011.



INTIMIDATING

She said the Community Service Bill 2011 had recommended that a prison sentence of six months or less should be replaced by a community service order, whereas the Public Order Bill 2010 cites imprisonment of up to one month for anyone caught begging in an intimidating fashion.

"International research condemns the use of short prison sentences," she said.

She added that one-month sentences would make the "poor poorer" and would turn "children into more sophisticated criminals". She stressed that short prison sentences had been shown to have no rehabilitative effect on people and would cause increased expenses for the taxpayer, while community sanctions would "cost a fraction of what it costs to keep someone in prison".

Outlining the expenses to the Irish taxpayer, Cllr O'Regan said Ireland had one of the highest expense rates for imprisoning offenders.

She explained how it cost an average €18,000 per month to keep an offender imprisoned, as opposed to €4,000 to enrol them into community service.

"Prisoners could do jobs that need to be done across the city, like removing graffiti," she said.

Gardai have carried out a number of arrests under the new anti-begging laws, and those arraigned for begging offences have been imprisoned.

hnews@herald.ie