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Travellers have lower level of trust in gardai and judges than rest of the population study shows

‘It is abundantly clear that the relationship between Travellers and our criminal justice system too often starts from a point of mistrust’

Travellers rights groups staged a demonstration in Dublin recently

A landmark study has revealed how Travellers have a significantly lower level of trust in the gardai and the judiciary system than the general population in Ireland.

For the first time the relationship between Travellers and the Irish criminal justice system has been examined by academics at the University of Limerick.

Researchers spoke with one in every 100 Travellers in the Republic from 25 of the 26 counties as part of the Irish Travellers’ Access to Justice (ITAJ) report.

The levels of trust that Travellers have in gardaí is approximately half that of the general population, the study found, while trust levels are lower again among Travellers who have been victims of crime.

Travellers also have a significantly lower level of trust in judges than the general population has in the legal system.

Half of those responding to the ITAJ survey had been victims themselves of criminal offences in the five years prior to the survey, and only one-fifth had been arrested in that time period.

Half of those surveyed had been present in a home that gardaí entered without permission and in only 11 per cent of those cases was a search warrant shown to someone present in that home.

Travellers interviewed as part of the research reported hearing expressions of overt racism by gardaí and judges.

The report is the culmination of an 18-month-long project that chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Sinead Gibney has called a "landmark study" in both its conduct and findings.

Ms Gibney said: “This report breaks new ground in speaking with a huge diversity of Travellers nationally about their personal experiences with our criminal justice system as victims of crime or as those accused.

“It is abundantly clear that the relationship between Travellers and our criminal justice system too often starts from a point of mistrust, developed over decades.

“This report needs to be read and shared widely and to be used as an evidential grounding for reforms, to make our criminal justice system accessible by all.”

Prof Amanda Haynes from the University of Limerick said: “This report shows that Travellers do not trust the Irish criminal justice system to treat them fairly, and that their mistrust in grounded in personal and shared experiences of unsatisfactory and sometimes biased treatment at the hands of criminal justice professionals, as victims and suspects.

“While Travellers participating in this research identified examples of excellence among police and judges, these experiences were described as the exception rather than the rule.”

Dr Sindy Joyce, lecturer in Traveller studies in the University of Limerick’s department of sociology, said: “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.

“It is of paramount importance that this research is used for the benefit of Travellers, and to guide the criminal justice system in bringing out the meaningful change it shows is required.”

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