Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Department of Justice and Equality
73. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which policing methods here are in line with best practice internationally, with particular reference to the need to ensure adequate rapid deployment when required and the optimum use, location and response to various criminal challenges while at the same time maintaining good relations with the general public; his plans to introduce particular and further initiatives of a helpful nature in the ongoing battle against criminal activity including further amendments to the bail laws; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51737/17]
As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
An Garda Síochána with the support of this Government continue to tackle criminal activity. Operations such as Thor and Hybrid have had success in tackling burglary and property crime, including rural crime and gangland crime. Concentrated Garda actions against criminal gangs have been illustrated by a number of notable successes this year with a series of very significant drugs seizures valued at over €79.5 million, including the huge haul of illegal cannabis valued at €37.5 million seized at Dublin Port on 20 January 2017 and most recently a significant seizure on the 15 November 2017 of €7 million.
The dedicated Armed Support Unit for the Dublin Metropolitan Region was launched on 14 December 2016, and is now operational on a 24/7 basis.
The Government has introduced new legislation including the Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act 2016 which provided greater powers to CAB in the fight against gangland crime, the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime Bill) 2016 which has been passed by the Oireachtas and I recently introduced the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017. In addition the Criminal Justice Act 2017 (changed from the Bail (Amendment) Bill 2016), which was enacted in June of this year, strengthens the operation of the bail system with the aim of making the law as effective as possible in protecting the public against crimes committed by persons on bail.
Under the Act, the Court will be required to have regard to persistent serious offending by an applicant for bail and the nature and seriousness of any danger presented by the grant of bail to a person charged with an offence, that carries a penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment or more. The Court will also have the power, in certain cases, to hear evidence from the victim of an offence before a decision on bail is taken.
Where an accused person is granted bail, the Act will provide for stricter bail terms for repeat serious offenders, including the use of curfews, strengthen Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail, and introduce electronic tagging for those on bail in certain circumstances where requested by Gardaí.
The Deputy will also be aware that there is currently an extensive programme of reform underway affecting all aspects of the administration and operation of An Garda Síochána. This follows the Government's approval in July 2016 of a Five Year Reform and High Level Workforce Plan for An Garda Síochána which combines the Government’s response to the Garda Inspectorate report 'Changing Policing in Ireland' and the commitments in the Programme for a Partnership Government aimed at increasing the visibility, effectiveness and responsiveness of An Garda Síochána.
The key structural change under the Five Year Reform and High-level Workforce Plan is the replacement of the current District model of policing with a Divisional model where responsibilities will be allocated on a functional rather than geographical basis, subject to modifications to ensure the close relationship with communities is maintained in both urban and rural areas.
The Divisional model is being out on a phased basis starting with a pilot programme. The four Divisions of DMR South Central, Cork City, Galway and Mayo have been selected for the pilot in order to provide a mix of urban and rural policing environments. This new model will support the more flexible and effective deployment of Garda resources.
The Policing Authority is overseeing the implementation of the reform programme and reporting on a quarterly basis. It latest progress report - its third which is available on my Department's website - indicated positive progress has been made in the development and implementation of the Divisional/functional model of policing and it is continuing to monitor progress in relation to the pilots, in particular any learnings which could be applied in advance of the national roll-out. The Authority has also indicated that it would like to see this project progressed more rapidly.
I believe the only way to deliver world class policing in Ireland is to ensure that An Garda Síochána has the resources it needs and that those resources operate in an organisation whose culture is open and responsive and where the best management systems and practices are deployed. I am confident that the reform plan, including the development of a functional model of policing that is being pursued by An Garda Síochána, supported by the Government and overseen by the Policing Authority, has the capacity to achieve this. It will not be done overnight but as I have made clear, the implementation of the ambitious reform programme, including the implementation of the Divisional model, must continue and, indeed, must move at a greater pace, to ensure the best possible policing services to the people of Ireland.