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Dáil Debate: The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to address the increase in violent burglaries in Ireland


Check Against Delivery

Topical Issues Debate
22nd September 2015

The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to address the increase in violent burglaries in Ireland.
– Niall Collins TD

The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to outline her plans to tackle rural crime in County Tipperary following a spate of local robberies, subsequent public meetings and media attention, to address the concerns and worries of communities who are and continue to be affected by burglaries, her Department’s plans to increase policing in rural areas such as Tipperary; and the need for the Minister to address same issue.
– Noel Coonan TD
Opening Remarks by Minister of State Jimmy Deenihan TD on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD

I am speaking on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality who regrets that she cannot be present as she is attending an extraordinary meeting of EU Justice & Home Affairs Minister to discuss the very serious Migration Crisis. The Minister is however is grateful to the Deputies for raising these important matters in the House today.

The Minister recognises that burglary is a persistent and highly damaging crime, particularly in the very distressing situations where householders may be assaulted by the criminals involved. She is conscious of the serious impact on families and communities and recognises the public concern at these crimes, in Tipperary and elsewhere.

The Minister is in close contact with the Garda Commissioner to ensure that the policing response is effective and that Garda operations take account of evolving trends and patterns in burglary offences, both in rural and urban areas.

Earlier this year the Minister initiated a broad and urgent review of the criminal justice system’s response to the problem of burglaries. This included a focus on interagency measures in relation to the management of prolific offenders, visible policing, crime prevention support for communities, and an examination of legislative issues.

One important fact which emerged during this review was the finding of the Garda Síochána Analysis Service that 75% of burglaries are committed by 25% of burglars. Targeting this cohort of repeat offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the number of burglaries being committed.

In response, the Minister has now published the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill, 2015. This legislation targets repeat burglary offenders through bail measures and provisions concerning the imposition of consecutive sentencing for repeat burglary offending. The key objective of this legislation is to target a cohort of persistent offenders who prey on law abiding householders and clearly have no concern for the damage and distress which they inflict on others. It is hoped to have this new legislation enacted as soon as possible.

A newspaper opinion piece from two days ago (Sunday Times 20th September) reflected on the effects of burglaries in rural communities and concluded that the Minister’s new Bill would be a lever for change which would have the effect of

“… – obliging the criminal justice system to lock up violent, repeat criminals, while dealing more humanely with non-violent offenders – it should be welcomed as a progressive measure. And rural Ireland will be a safer place on winter nights.”

In recent times, Garda strategy to counter burglaries and related crimes has been coordinated under Operation Fiacla, which is a national operation targeting burglary by using an intelligence and analysis-led approach. In support of Operation Fiacla there are burglary related Operations in place in each Garda Division.

Special targeted patrols have been implemented with the assistance of Garda National Support Services against criminal groups. These arrangements have also targeted the use of motorways by criminal gangs and have contributed to the arrest of a number of high-priority suspects.

The sustained Garda response to criminal activity under Operation Fiacla has produced many successes. As of 31 July 2015, Operation Fiacla had led to 14,050 arrests, with 7,996 charges being brought against suspects.

In addition, €700,000 has been allocated for new specialised vehicles to support Gardaí in responding to current and emerging crime threats, including burglaries committed by highly-mobile gangs. In fact this Government has invested nearly €29 million in new Garda vehicles since 2012, with 370 new vehicles coming on stream this year. The Government’s investment in new Garda Vehicles clearly supports the delivery of highly-mobile Garda patrols, which must be the priority for rural policing.

Of course the fight against burglaries and crime generally will be aided greatly by this Government’s decision to recruit new Gardaí Since September 2014, 400 new Gardaí have entered the Garda College in Templemore. Of these 295 having already attested and are now working in communities nationwide. In addition, 150 more recruits are due to enter Garda College next month. This additional recruitment will bring to 550 the total number of Gardaí that will have been recruited under this Government between September 2014 and 2015.

In addition a series of reforms are helping to free up more Gardaí for frontline policing. For example the civilianisation of Garda immigration functions and the transfer of certain functions to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service will release 125 Gardaí for other duties.

All of these measures, including new legislation and targeted Garda operations, will strengthen the Minister’s carefully considered approach to dealing with serial offenders and supporting improved community safety.

Thank You.