- 23 Jun 22
IHREC Chief Commissioner, Sinead Gibney, remarked it is "abundantly clear" that the connection between Travellers and criminal justice too regularly starts from a point of mistrust.
New research has shown the extent of how damaging Ireland's criminal justice system has proven for the Traveller community, with discrimination rife and trust at an all time low.
Fears the Irish Traveller community experience include worries regarding wrongful arrest and excessive use of force, according to The Irish Travellers' Access to Justice (ITAJ) report.
Researchers at the University of Limerick interviewed to one in every 100 Travellers in Ireland for the study, which was funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Irish Research Council under the COALESCE programme.
The authors of the report say it reflects a "need for radical change" in how criminal justice institutions engage with Travellers.
The report comes after an internal study of An Garda Síochana in August 2020, in which not a single frontline Garda surveyed on attitudes towards Travellers had a favourable view of the community.
Gardaí also had similarly poor views of the Roma community, with almost 75 per cent of frontline members surveyed expressing poor opinions of its members in Inspector David McInerney's study.
The Irish Travellers' Access to Justice (ITAJ) research found that Travellers were simultaneously "over policed as suspects and under policed as victims".
Travellers reported hearing expressions of overt racism by gardaí and judges, and also recounted experiences of garda harassment and provocation.
50 per cent respondents said they were victims of criminal offences in the five years leading up to the study.
Half of those surveyed said they had been present at a home that gardaí entered without permission.
2019's Garda Public Attitudes Survey reporteed that 71 per cent of the general population agreed with the statement "the gardaí in this area treat everyone fairly regardless of who they are". However, 84 per cent of Travellers disagreed.
Dr Sindy Joyce, Lecturer in Traveller Studies in University of Limerick's Department of Sociology, told The Irish Times: "The results of this research will come as no surprise to members of the Traveller community, whose experiences and perceptions of the criminal justice process are unequivocally linked to both their identity as a historically traditionally nomadic community, and their present day status as a racialised indigenous ethnic group in Irish society."
Extensive evidence-based findings include the introduction of an ethnic identifier throughout the criminal process from the point of reporting to the point of sentencing.
This includes a commitment to make the resultant data available to independent researchers.
Researchers also seek the publication of an annual report on ethnic minorities in the criminal process, as well as a criminal justice strategy for the Traveller community and an independent complaints body.
For those unable to travel to @UL on Thursday for the in-person launch of our report, we are live-streaming the proceedings on our Facebook page here: https://t.co/QlOtUrR77A. In the event you can’t watch it live, it will be available on our website for viewing after the launch.
— Irish Travellers’ Access to Justice (@ITAJinUL) June 20, 2022
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