Wednesday, 24 October 2012
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the contact that he has had with the Garda Commissioner regarding the conviction rate for white collar crime as reported in a publication (details supplied); his views on the statistics outlined in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter [46310/12]
The conviction rate for any given category of offence relates in the first instance to the outcome of the criminal prosecution process and the Deputy will appreciate that my role does not extend to the bringing of prosecutions, or indeed to the determination of guilt, which is a matter for the courts. However, I am of course concerned to ensure that the investigation and detection of fraud and white-collar offences is as effective as it can be and that An Garda Síochána has available to it the necessary legislative and other supports to this end.
I am familiar with the particular newspaper report referred to by the Deputy. At the outset I should point out that the relevant Central Statistics Office offence category is "Fraud Offences". This category may encompass a wide range of criminal activities from elaborate corporate fraud to offences such as forgery and consumer frauds. It is also important to note in interpreting figures for detection and conviction rates that the investigation, detection and prosecution of any offence may take a number of years. This is particularly so where the crime may be complex, as is often the case in fraud offences. Accordingly, the initial conviction rate for any given year will inevitably appear lower than the eventual rate. For this reason great caution should be exercised in comparing, as the article appears to do, conviction rates for offences recorded in 2004 with those recorded in 2010.
Notwithstanding the challenges faced in the investigation of fraud and white-collar crime, I attach the highest priority to the full investigation of these offences and bringing the perpetrators of such crime to justice. The programme for Government contains a commitment that rogue bankers and all those who misappropriate or embezzle funds are properly pursued for their crimes and that the full rigours of the law will apply to them. I am briefed on an ongoing basis by the Garda Commissioner on the progress of the major white-collar crime investigations which are under way, and have been assured by the Commissioner that sufficient resources are allocated to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.
Within eight weeks of taking up office, I moved urgently to draft, and seek Government approval for the introduction of additional legislation.
This new legislation, the Criminal Justice Act 2011, was enacted on 2 August 2011 and provides vital assistance to the Garda Síochána in the completion of current white-collar crime investigations, as well as providing assistance to them in investigations undertaken in the future. The Commissioner is aware that any further legislative proposals he might wish to have put in place to assist in the investigation and detection of white-collar crime or of fraud offences generally will be positively considered by me.