Witness protection ‘straining’ Garda resources

PROVIDING round-the-clock armed protection to witnesses in gang trials is putting a serious strain on Garda resources, Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said yesterday as he revealed police were targeting 15 major gangs countrywide.

He was speaking at Templemore College at the graduation of 263 gardaí bringing the force up to a strength of almost 14,900.

Mr Murphy said he was committed to providing these security resources as he needs people to come forward and give evidence to ensure the courts can deal with these criminals.

He said: “It is major drain on resources and a significant challenge for us. We are committed to ensure that people who come forward to give evidence are protected through the system and that they are in position to give evidence to the court without fear of intimidation.”

Mr Murphy said people who are prepared to give meaningful evidence in ensuring that people who go about killing, are convicted in the courts, the gardaí are in the business of protecting them.

“All the resources of the state must be available to those people to ensure they give evidence before the courts,” he said.

Mr Murphy said up to 12 major investigation files on criminal gangs have been sent to the DPP under the new anti-gang laws introduced last year.

To tackle the spate of gun murders which, this year, have claimed 17 lives in Dublin, Mr Murphy said ERU covert patrols have been increased in Finglas and the north inner city.

He said: “There are a small core of ruthless killers who are still intent on eliminating their rivals, be it for reasons connected to the illicit drugs trade or for revenge and in many cases for very small motives indeed.”

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said given the success of the Gardaí in major investigations since he brought in new anti-gang legislation a year ago, he believed there will be substantial cases where people will be brought before the non-jury Special Criminal Court, as was envisaged by that legislation.

He said: “Because of the circumstances of cases and to make sure jurors and witnesses aren’t intimidated, and I would expect in the future that legislation will be used and used regularly, because of the threat by gangland crime against this country.”

The minister refused to be drawn on whether gardaí should carry out an investigation into expenses drawn by Senator Ivor Callely.

At yesterday’s graduation the Commissioner’s Medal for the best academic results was awarded to Garda Majella O’Sullivan from Clonmel, who left her bank official's job with AIB to join the force. She will be stationed in Tallaght.

The Gary Sheehan Memorial Medal for the best all-round student went to Garda Maureen Finnerty from Kiltomer, Co Galway.

She completed a BA in French and History before entering Templemore College two years ago. Garda Finnerty will be stationed in Tullamore.

The Templemore Town Council Medal for social science studies was awarded to Garda Cathal Murphy from Bishopstown. He was educated at St Finbarr’s Seminary, Farranferris, and subsequently took a BA at UCC in psychology and English.


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