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The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Brendan Smith announced that the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill 2011, which establishes a new general law for the control of begging, has been signed into law by the President.

Previous legislation, dating from 1847, was found to be unconstitutional in 2007.  An Garda Síochána will now possess the right to request anyone begging near ATMs, night safes or shop entrances to leave the area. The Minister added; “under the new law, a person who begs in an aggressive, intimidating or threatening manner will be guilty of an offence.” Furthermore, “by avoiding the need for prosecutions and sentences, it represents a more effective way of dealing with the problem.” Two new offences are also created in the Act; one offence is the organisation and directing of begging and the other offence is living off the proceeds of the organisation and directing of begging. These offences will carry with them severe penalties of up to five years imprisonment, or a fine of €200,000, or both.

Minister Smith did not deny that those begging are often in difficult circumstances, but, he added; “I feel the public want to see that the public order aspects are addressed.” He admitted to be being very pleased with the legislation and the approach it takes in that it gives people “ample opportunity to avoid a prosecution for a criminal offence”.