Laws will tackle sharp rise in crime, says minister

JUSTICE MINISTER Dermot Ahern said recent legislation he brought in will help combat the sharp rise in gangland crime.

He was commenting as new figures show a massive jump in murders, shootings and robberies in the last three months. There were 15 murders between April and June, compared with eight in the same period last year. Some five of these 15 murders were gangland killings.

Shootings jumped from 49 to 68, while bank and post office robberies rose from 193 to 240.

“While the number of homicides overall show a decrease of 20.8%, I am concerned at the increase in the number of murders,” said Mr Ahern.

“Many of these were gangland-related, and it was partly to combat this trend that I piloted significant legislation through the Oireachtas in the past number of months, including the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act and the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act.

“This legislation makes significant additional powers available to An Garda Síochána to detect criminal behaviour and make its prosecution more efficient and effective in the courts. The Garda Commissioner along with the entire force will make full use of these powers and of the significant personnel and financial resources available.”

Deputy Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the new powers would assist them to take on organised crime gangs.

The rise in bank robberies reflects a drop in raids on cash in transit vans from five to three. Gangs have responded to improved security in the delivery of cash to robbing banks as well as targeting vulnerable ATM machines at banks, supermarkets and shops.

Mr Ahern said the overall drop in homicide offences was mainly due to a sharp fall in cases of dangerous driving leading to death. But the CSO said this may be due to the fact that all road collision investigations have yet to be completed.

Elsewhere, the report showed that overall, drug offences were the same. However, within the category the number of drug importation cases fell dramatically (33%), while incidents of cultivating or manufacturing drugs increased (55%).

Mr Ahern expressed his concern at the rise of 6.7% in burglaries and acknowledged the “great distress” this crime caused to its victims. He said gardaí were paying particular attention to counteracting this trend.

“The recent gangland and surveillance legislation has created a public expectation of more prosecutions and convictions. But the reality is these laws should have been introduced years ago,” said Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan.

“I am also very concerned that the lack of resources available to the gardaí and the draconian cuts in Garda overtime will undermine their efforts to use the new powers.”

Meanwhile, Mr Ahern yesterday published a consultation discussion document entitled Crime Prevention and Community Safety as part of the White Paper on Crime process.

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