Gang participation laws ‘bordering on useless’, say gardaí

Key organised crime laws are “bordering on useless” and delays in securing search warrants are jeopardising investigations, experienced gardaí have claimed.

Garda sources said that legislation criminalising participation in, and direction of, a criminal organisation had resulted in less than a handful of convictions in the past six years.

The laws were included in the Criminal Justice Acts 2006 and 2009.

“That legislation is bordering on useless,” said one senior garda.

While significant numbers have been arrested under the legislation — 259 up until May 2015 — there have only been a small number of prosecutions directed by the DPP.

Apart from the conviction of two Galway brothers, Michael and Eddie O’Loughlin in June 2012 for participation, there have been very few other convictions.

“The number of arrests is all very good but the key test is prosecutions and convictions,” a senior garda said.

A number of Garda sources said files have been submitted to the DPP who, in most cases, has directed against prosecution.

“That is because the legislation is very weak and the DPP is not confident in it,” said a source.

Another garda said: “The legislation sounds great but, in practice, it’s not. I know one file where it showed all the mobile phone contacts between gang members, demonstrated the associations, the file went to the DPP and he didn’t run with it and people lost faith in it.”

Gardaí said evidence from a chief superintendent that a suspect is a participant in a gang should have more weight in the legislation and it shouldn’t be necessary to provide a ‘primary offence’ has taken place.

They also complain at the delay often experienced in securing a court warrant and they could be waiting two to three hours.

“Life and death is being dished out on the streets but we have to take our queue in the courts,” said one garda.

“You need to get it [the warrant] and get to the house in 20 minutes,” said a garda.

“They talk about the golden hour, it’s a golden 20 minutes, otherwise the evidence is gone. The lads are having a shower, they are burning their clothes, they’re getting rid of their car, the drugs are gone, the firearms are gone.”

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