The Department of Justice has invited comment on the White Paper discussion document Organised and White Collar Crime. The paper examines the extent of and legal reactions to a vast array of crimes like drug trafficking, fraud, money laundering, white collar crime and bribery. It asserts that the complex nature of such crimes, the degree of organisation involved, and the use of technology in the perpetration of such acts warrants strategies over and above those used in traditional law enforcement. It questions whether legislative and structural approaches adopted in other jurisdictions should be implemented in Ireland in combating organised, armed gang and white collar crime.
While a range of crimes are addressed, my comments centre on the section on organised crime. Although the paper acknowledges the difficulty in defining organised crime, this does not deter it from seeking to address the phenomenon. It also adopts the dubious, morally loaded and indefinable term “gangland” which is unappealing in a formal document rather than a journalistic piece.
The paper specifically outlines the available laws (such as the Criminal Justice Acts 2006 and 2007, the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 and the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1995 (sic) and 2005); the agencies involved (such as the Criminal Assets Bureau) and selected Garda operations (like Operation Anvil). As well as specific criminal justice strategies, the document asks whether community development programmes are a means of responding to organised criminality but does not engage with this in substance. The document also acknowledges that much organised crime is predicated on a demand for illegal goods from the public, referred to as “ordinary citizens”, and invites comments on how this can be addressed and altered.
It claims that while criminals have always relied on weapons, the ease of access to firearms and the willingness to use deadly force have increased. As I have written in the British Journal of Criminology, while armed robberies are decreasing and armed kidnappings remain in single figures per annum, a key generator of public fear in the context of “organised” criminality is indeed the indisputable rise in killings by firearm in the past decade. However, what is ignored by policy makers, by and large, is the poor detection rate for such crimes – this is what needs to be addressed, rather than considering the introduction of more laws.
The tone in this White Paper is in line with the dominant narrative in political and media circles that the present criminal justice system is incapable of dealing with crime in twenty-first-century Ireland, and that the State is inordinately restrained in its powers. While a litany of statutory measures are described, the paper fails to indicate or unpack the implementation and use of these powers, and does not question whether more law is needed, which is unlikely to be the case. The critical question that must be asked is rather more difficult, namely why it is that certain specific pockets of and populations in our country suffer most from drug-related violence. Unless policymakers consider structural and socio-economic forces and factors relating to the expression of masculinity, the problem of serious, armed and drug related crimes cannot be prevented or adequately tackled.
Responses to the White Paper are requested by the end of December 2010: firstname.lastname@example.org.