32% of non-firearm offences lead to convictions

LESS than one-third of offences for the possession of knives and other non-firearm weapons have resulted in convictions over the past five years, figures have revealed.

An analysis of CSO statistics conveys just how difficult it is for gardaí to secure prosecutions in this type of crime, as from 2003 to 2008, of 13,460 offences carried out with knives, sticks or other weapons, only 4,361 people were convicted.

Fine Gael spokesman on Justice Charlie Flanagan said antisocial behaviour had morphed into London-style knife and gang culture where young people continued to intimidate communities, and were frequently carrying lethal weapons.

Three out of 10 knife crime offenders are under 20.

One in seven victims is under 20, while nine out of 10 people who commit knife crimes are male.

Following a dramatic upsurge in knife and samurai sword assaults in 2007, Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy was requested by the Department of Justice to carry out a review of garda measures and propose any legislative changes, which would help tackle the problem.

On the back of this, a nationwide offensive to persuade young men, in particular, not to carry knives, was launched by gardaí last month.

But, according to Mr Flanagan, the campaign has been a “spectacular failure”.

“We are in the middle of a campaign to combat knife crime but nobody knows anything about it,” he said.

“In any case, a PR exercise itself is wholly insufficient to meet the requirements.”

Mr Flanagan said another major issue which will impact on front line policing is the recruitment embargo.

“The government promise for increased numbers on the streets will not happen,” he said.

“Research shows the answer is to embed gardaí into communities. This is paramount to tackling crime. The taxpayers of Ireland want high visibility. What we need is a special grade of community gardaí who live and work in the communities.”

The knife crime campaign, being run by gardaí and the Department of Justice is based around the website www.howbigdoyoufeel.ie.

A new five-year jail sentence for possession of a knife is to be introduced and the sale of some bladed weapons, such as Samurai swords, is to be banned in the effort to tackle knife crime.


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