Written answers

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Crime Prevention

2:30 pm

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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Question 497: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the measures that are in place to regulate the increasing number of cash for gold outlets that have been set up in recent months in view of the fact that thefts of gold and jewellery from domestic homes are increasing and that such unregulated enterprises act as an incentive to such unscrupulous activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1091/11]

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Labour)
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Question 502: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if the cash for gold industry is supervised and regulated by the Financial Regulator and if not, his plans to introduce measures to regulate this industry. [48115/10]

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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Question 514: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans to regulate the cash for gold shops which have opened in the past two years; his view of whether the establishment of these shops attributes to the increase in theft and robbery of jewellery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48313/10]

Photo of Chris AndrewsChris Andrews (Dublin South East, Fianna Fail)
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Question 572: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will provide details of the regulations governing the so called cash for gold outlets; if proof of ownership is necessary when selling gold to these outlets; if his attention has been drawn to reports that the proliferation of these outlets is encouraging a rise in burglaries targeting jewellery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1072/11]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 497, 502, 514 and 572 together.

The Deputy will be aware that there has been a significant increase in the number of outlets offering to buy gold for cash in towns and cities in the State. The prevalence of this trade would appear to be linked to the high price that gold now commands on international markets, and the 'cash for gold' concept would appear to be an international phenomenon. I am aware that the trade gives rise to concerns reported in communities about crime that may be linked to the cash for gold trade. I understand that this trade is not supervised or regulated by the Central Bank, or any other regulator in the State.

The informal purchase of jewellery is not specifically regulated in criminal legislation; however the circumstances under which jewellery is being bought and/or sold may indicate the commission of certain offences, for example handling stolen property and / or possession of stolen property under sections 17 and 18 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001. An Garda Síochána enforce the provisions of the criminal law in respect of theft and robbery including the theft and robbery of jewellery and gold. Should members of the public have suspicions that goods being sold or traded may be stolen, the correct action is for these suspicions to be referred to An Garda Síochána for investigation.

To take account of concerns about the matter, my Department recently asked the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána to ascertain his view as to the extent, if any, that criminal offences are being committed in the procurement and receipt of gold and similar items in transactions carried out at the cash for gold locations. In particular the Commissioner has been requested to examine whether the trade may be linked generally or in particular areas to burglary offences; whether Criminal Justice legislation, and in particular, the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 is adequate in the context of cash for gold transactions; whether criminal elements involved in organised crime or otherwise may be connected with the operation and ownership of the cash for gold outlets; and whether any new legislative provision may be required to address criminality in respect of cash for gold transactions.

I can inform the Deputy that my Department has now received the Commissioner's report in the matter. While the Commissioner's report is under consideration, he has indicated that there has been an overall decrease both in the number of burglaries recorded in the years 2005 to 2010 and in the number of burglaries recorded involving jewellery/trophies and antique gold in the same period. He is also of the view that the relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 are adequate. I might also add that the Commissioner has indicated that a significant number of the premises in question have been visited by Gardaí and the responsibilities of the owners in respect of purchases of the relevant items under the criminal law has been brought to their attention.

I can assure the Deputy that as soon as the Commissioner's report has been given full consideration by my Department, I will make an assessment as to what if any action, legislative or otherwise may be required.

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