GRA demands 12-year sentence for ‘gratuitous assaults’

PRISON sentences of 12 years should be handed out to those convicted of “gratuitous assaults” on gardaí, according to the organisation which represents 11,600 frontline members of the force.

Garda Representative Association (GRA) president elect, Garda Damien McCarthy, told delegates at their annual conference in Limerick yesterday that on average two members of the force are attacked every day while carrying out their duty. He said existing legislation only allowed the courts to impose sentences of five years and that wasn’t acting as a proper deterrent.

“This isn’t sufficient anymore. The job is more difficult and dangerous than ever. For a gratuitous assault it should be 12 years. This would send out a clear message,” Gda McCarthy said.

His Dublin-based colleague, Garda Stephen Quinn, said gardaí were three times more likely to be assaulted than members of the public, while Cork-based Garda Michael Corcoran said some of the judiciary and even senior Garda officers didn’t take such assaults as seriously as they should.

GRA central executive council member Ultan Sherlock said no new Garda patrol cars had been purchased since 2008 and some had up to 300,000 kilometres on the clock. He accused Justice Minister Dermot Ahern of making a mockery of the country by claiming gardaí were the best paid and best resourced police force in Europe.

The Dublin-based garda was also highly critical of the Government decision to close the training college at Templemore, Co Tipperary, as an embargo on Garda recruits is in place until 2011. Garda Patrick Harrington, from Thurles, said more than 800 gardaí retired last year and many more would do so in 2010.

He said these people wouldn’t be replaced. Gda Harrington added that many remaining gardaí were being pulled into urban areas to plug the gaps, leaving rural Ireland at the mercy of rampaging criminal gangs.

“We have been let down by our Minister for Justice who seems to be living in cloud cuckoo land,” he said.

Killorglin-based Garda John Galvin said Garda allowances and mileage rates when using the own cars for state work, had been cut drastically.

However, to applause, he added that while this was happening there were no cutbacks for ministers, one of whom splashed out nearly €33,000 of taxpayers’ money on a recent trip to New Zealand.

Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said he would be tendering for new Garda patrol cars later this year.

The conference will continue today and will include discussions on pay and conditions and on the poor state of some Garda stations, including one in Macroom, Co Cork. Members of the force stationed there are threatening to withdraw from the station on May 5 unless the facilities are seriously upgraded.

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