Written answers

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Crime Levels

9:00 pm

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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Question 86: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will state, in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2010, the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases in which convictions were secured; if he has satisfied himself with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28351/10]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I am informed by the Garda authorities that during the period 1998 to 2010 (to 24 June) 196 murders involving a firearm were recorded. To date proceedings have commenced in 58 of these cases, and 24 convictions secured. All cases of murder where proceedings have not yet been taken remain under active Garda investigation. The detection rate by its nature increases over time as Garda investigations progress. It is expected that the number of convictions obtained will increase as Garda investigations are concluded and proceedings commenced are finalised by the courts. This applies particularly to murders committed in the most recent years. In addition, directions may be received from the Law Officers to charge persons arrested in connection with such incidents with offences other than murder, for example firearms offences. Furthermore, such persons charged and brought before the courts may be convicted of offences other than murder.

I am, of course, deeply concerned about the incidence of gun murders and I deplore all such killings. All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of rigorous investigation by An Garda Síochána and will continue to be so. In setting the policing priorities for An Garda Síochána in 2010, I asked the Commissioner to continue the focus of the Force on serious crime, in particular organised crime. This priority is also reflected in the Garda Policing Plan for this year, and specific initiatives, including under Operation Anvil and involving members of the Emergency Response Unit, have been put in place. I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are currently a number of initiatives underway targeting the activities of organised crime groups, the focus of which is to gather evidence which will support effective prosecutions, including under the new anti-gangland legislation.

While An Garda Síochána have made significant progress in the investigation of a number of killings, the reality is that there can be considerable difficulties in obtaining evidence in shootings which are the result of gangland activities from associates of a victim of a gangland killing or indeed from gangland figures, even when they themselves are the victims of violence. It has also to be accepted that there is often no connection or personal association between the victim and the perpetrator, which makes it very difficult for An Garda Síochána in its investigation of such a murder. Witnesses may also be subject to high levels of intimidation not to come forward, and it is to assist such witnesses that the Witness Protection Programme is in place.

It was in that overall context that I introduced greatly strengthened legislation in the area of organised crime which is being fully utilised by An Garda Síochána. I am pleased to see that criminal charges are being brought under the new legislation. An Garda Síochána has submitted further files to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and more are being prepared for submission to him. I have also introduced further significant legislative proposals, which are currently before the House, including the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) and Criminal Procedure Bills, and I will not hesitate to introduce further proposals if that becomes necessary.

In addition, I have secured Government approval to commence work on a new Bail Bill to consolidate and update bail law with a view to presenting a clear, accessible and modern statement of the law. There are already very severe penalties for firearms offences in place under the Criminal Justice Act 2006. For example, possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and using a firearm to resist arrest or aid escape carry a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years. Possessing a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, possessing a firearm or ammunition in suspicious circumstances, carrying a firearm with criminal intent and altering a firearm carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

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