Anti-terror laws lead to 226 arrests in last year

Some 226 people were arrested under emergency anti-terror legislation and 17 under special gang laws within the last year.

Anti-terror laws lead to 226 arrests in last year

The figures, covering the period June 2015 to May 2016, were provided by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald as she sought Oireachtas approval to renew the emergency powers, which must be done annually.

Amendments to the Offences Against the State Act 1939 were introduced in the wake of the Omagh bombing in August 1998.

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 was brought in following threats to the operation of the justice system by organised crime, including the intimidation of witnesses and jurors.

The arrest figures for the current year compare to 250 and 25, respectively, in the previous 12 months.

Details for the operation of the Offences Against the State legislation show that 68 people were arrested under section 2 for membership of an unlawful organisation where inferences were drawn from their failure to answer material questions.

The next most used provision, section 9 (withholding information), was used on 32 occasions.

There were 16 convictions secured in the courts in the period and a further 58 people were awaiting trial.

In her report to the minister, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said it is “essential” the legislation is renewed, adding that the powers were used “regularly”.

Figures show there were 199 arrests under the act in 2013; 253 in 2011; and 423 in 2009.

Ms Fitzgerald argued that the provisions should be continued for another year, due to the “ongoing significant threat posed by paramilitary groups”, the “threat from international terrorism”, and on the advice of the gardaí.

The Criminal Justice Act 2009 made certain offences in 2006 legislation scheduled offences, diverting prosecutions automatically to the Special Criminal Court.

The main offences relate to participating in, or contributing to, certain activities of a criminal organisation and directing activities of a criminal group.

Figures show 17 people were arrested within the last year — seven for participation and 10 for committing an offence for a criminal organisation. No prosecutions were brought before the Special Criminal Court within the last year.

Since the Act came into force on July 2009, 276 arrests have been made, but just eight individuals have been charged — six for participation and two for directing. There were three convictions, all for participa-tion, with prison terms of between three and nine years.

The commissioner said that given the “significance of the threat posed by organised crime”, the legislation had proved to be an effective tool to combat the gangs.

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