Knife-crime crackdown: Ban on sale of swords

THE sale of swords is to be banned under Government plans to crack down on knife crime.

And the Garda Síochána has invited tenders from the private sector to come up with a “focused and targeted” awareness campaign aimed at people carrying knives.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said he will implement the recommendations of a review on knife law carried out by Garda commissioner Fachtna Murphy.

Mr Ahern said legislation, to be published in the coming months, will:

* Prohibit swords.

* Increase Garda powers to search people suspected of carrying knives.

* Allow more knife offences to be prosecuted in the higher courts, which attract higher penalties.

The minister told the Dáil last week there were strict prohibitions and severe penalties on knives under current law. But he said the review recommended further changes.

“The report makes a number of small suggestions in respect of changes in this area, including in respect of powers of search, the prohibition of swords and providing that summary offences be tried on indictment,” he said. “I will use the Criminal Justice Bill, which it is hoped will be available in the next couple of months, as the legislative vehicle to make the changes recommended by the Garda commissioner.”

A Garda spokeswoman said the review suggested the sale, manufacturing, hire or loan of swords be prohibited. This power is contained in the Offensive Weapons Act 1990, but has not been enacted. She said the possession of swords, as with all knives, is already a prosecutable offence, although there is a defence of legitimate use if the person can prove they were carrying it for work or recreation.

It is not clear from the minister’s statement if the proposed prohibition only relates to sale. A spokesman for Mr Ahern said the minister was reviewing “all aspects” in relation to swords, but could not say if this included possession.

The review was set up last January by former justice minister Brian Lenihan following a sharp rise in fatal stabbings.

Mr Ahern told the Dáil that murders involving knives or sharp instruments doubled from 18 in 2006 to 36 last year.

Just before the review was set up, a man’s hand was severed in a pub in Finglas, north Dublin, by an attacker wielding a samurai sword.

There are currently no restrictions on the sale of swords. The review recommends more knife offences, including possession, could be tried in the circuit courts, and not just the district court. The review also recommends increased Garda powers to search people without a warrant when they suspect they may be carrying a knife. The review found the current law was restrictive.

The Garda spokeswoman said the force had tendered for the first knife awareness campaign, which was likely to run in the autumn. She said it was important that lessons were learned from similar campaigns in other jurisdictions. “The campaign has to be targeted at those who are vulnerable and those who are most likely to carry knives. They are a hard-to-reach group.

“But it must also have operational impact. It is not just an ad or PR campaign, it has to have an operational edge and achieve something,” said the spokeswoman.


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