Wednesday, 23 September 2015
Criminal Justice (Knife Possession) Bill 2015: First Stage
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990 to create a mandatory minimum sentence on conviction of unlawful possession of a knife in a public place
I am introducing this relatively short Bill as a result of the recent release of some truly shocking statistics from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, in respect of knife crime. The involvement of the Central Statistics Office in the verification and release of verifiable crime statistics is welcome because for too long, conversations and debate on crime and crime statistics have been shrouded in doubt as to the veracity of the figures available. People often sought to debunk other people's arguments with regard to how resources should be deployed in the criminal justice system based on the veracity of figures. However, at least we now have an independent organisation, namely, the CSO. The Central Statistics Office has reported that fatalities due to knife crime increased dramatically by 60% last year. This is a truly shocking statistic. As a result of the figures that are available to Members and as a result of contact with victim support groups, as well as some victims of knife crime and people who have been harmed as a result of it, I have brought forward this Bill today.
It effectively seeks to put on the Statute Book a mandatory sentence of 12 months for persons who are caught in possession of a knife in a public place. Unfortunately, we have a subculture in this country of people carrying knives, which obviously leads to the use of knives in the committing of crime and, often, fatal crime. From that point of view, it is opportune that strong and robust legislation to send out the message that it is wrong to carry a knife in a public place be established. It is noteworthy that this week, during which one of the greatest events in Ireland, the National Ploughing Championship, is taking place in Laois over three days, one of the major themes of conversation is the issue of crime and burglary. Previously, I introduced legislation dealing with burglary and assault on elderly persons. Over the past number of days RTE has reported on the horrific assault on an elderly lady in Wicklow. This lady, who is 90 years of age, has been hospitalised for the past two weeks and may never, it has been reported, return to her house.
Leaving aside the debate and arguments around the resourcing of An Garda Síochána and the application of those resources, including the recruitment of additional members, beefing up the Garda reserve and equipping An Garda Síochána, we also need to modernise and update our legislation in the area of criminal justice. The Criminal Justice (Knife Possession) Bill 2015 is yet another policy offering by the Fianna Fáil Party which sends out the message to people who are carrying knives and committing the scourge of burglary and assault on our elderly people around the country that they will be locked up. We have seen such equipment being displayed by An Garda Síochána. Some of the knives that are being carried in public have no place in a modern society. We need to try to cut out that subculture.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to move this Bill today.