Young male criminals a true menace to society

Taking a scattergun approach to justice is ignoring the real root of the violence issue*

Much has been written over the last week about the terrible violence on our streets. Depending on which side of the bleeding heart you find yourself we should either all have a group hug, or at the very least get right to the core of the problem — society. Few, if any, are calling for lengthy sentences to be meted out without fear or favour, or a radical overhaul of our prison system where prisoners might actually serve their full term and get no remission. Zero tolerance appears to be an expression that even our most fed up of commentators appear unwilling to shout. Aside from missing the point on how we might deal with the lunatics who stalk our streets, the general analysis that it is all a societal problem is way off the mark.

Firstly, it of course diminishes the notion of family upbringing and personal responsibility. These are considered dirty words, which means we as a group are therefore responsible for pushing a screwdriver into the head and neck of the two unfortunate Polish men — not the individual or individuals who did it, but society as a whole.

Coupled with this nonsense is that somehow men, women and children are equally responsible for crime in the country. Your sex is irrelevant, as is your social background, as is your age. We all apparently share this criminal burden. It is this scattergun approach to justice that has us in the mess we are in today. Let’s say it straight once and for all. Males, and more specifically lower income/no legal income males, are responsible for crime in this country. Not the decent young man scratching a living trying to pay a mortgage and make ends meet but the hoodie generation, the automatons that rule our street corners. It is these flotsam and jetsam that are responsible for all our crime. Not women, men.

Only one opinion piece recently has managed to identify this correctly and if you think it’s all wild opinion, think again. The Prison Service Report of 2006 tells a sorry tale of the collection who are currently lolling in our prisons and one statistic above all others sticks out. Over 90pc of our prison population is male. Nearly all violent crime is committed by males, be it murder, rape, or assault. Virtually all the serious drug offence are committed by males. You name the crime, it almost certainly has a male behind it and the more serious it is, the more certainty you can have that it has been committed by a man.

Most of the tiny percentage of females in prison are in there for relatively petty offences such as shoplifting and street robbery to feed a drug habit and there is no need to ask who encouraged them with this habit — males. This small group are not without responsibility. They are, however, merely an hors d’oeuvre to the main course that is the criminal Irish male.

An examination of the age ranges of male prisoners makes for equally fascinating reading. You might have thought that the vast bulk would be under 30. You would be forgiven for thinking, maybe even hoping, that by 30, men would have acquired some sense as they stand on the cusp of early middle age. But in Ireland we boast a male prison population of just shy of 40pc who are over the age of 30. A laughable 15pc are over 40 and 4pc are hurtling towards their pensions.

It is this 60pc group aged under 30 who should be our target. As a rule, 50-year-old men with jobs do not commit crimes. When they do it is white collar and before you ask, yes I would prefer to be approached by a white collar criminal on a dark night with a file then a blue collar thug looking for his next fix. Young and not so young males with no jobs and no discernible income stream need to be the target of An Garda Siochana if we are to free our streets of violence and drugs. We are in a crisis and chaos is evident in our towns and cities. Forget the women, the young and old, target instead males and particularly the type of recidivist males who come before the courts every day.

It is high time we stopped making sweeping statements about crime being endemic across class, creed and sex. It is not. Know your target. It is male. It is young(ish) and unfortunately it is coming soon to a town near you.

You have been warned.

* Opinion piece by John O’Keeffe, Dean of the Law School, Dublin Business School.

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