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Other Questions - Organised Crime

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 69.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  the extent to which the necessary personnel, general resources, communications, mobile equipment, intelligence and forensic facilities continue to be available to gardaí to tackle the ongoing activities of criminal gangs; the extent to which the activity of such gangs continues to be monitored at present with a view to taking steps to decommission them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6517/12]

 398.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  the extent to which adequate provision is being made to tackle organised crime with particular reference to surveillance and monitoring the activities of criminal gangs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6921/12]

 399.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  the extent to which it is expected to concentrate the resources available to the Garda Síochána on the activities of organised crime; the efforts being made to identify the level and scale of such activity with a view to taking measures likely to detain such persons in the public interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6922/12]

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 400.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  if he is satisfied that adequate resources can be made available to the Garda Síochána to meet the ongoing and increasing threat arising from the activity of criminal gangs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6923/12]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 398 to 400, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware from the replies I have provided for him in response to a number of recent parliamentary questions of my determination to ensure the necessary resources and measures will be in place to deal with organised crime, the fight against which is one of a number of priorities I have specifically set for the Garda Síochána in the Garda policing plan for 2012.

The issue of organised crime on the island of Ireland was also one of the subjects discussed at the tripartite meeting held on Wednesday last involving the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice, Mr. Ford, and the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, at which we considered the interaction between organised crime in Ireland and Scotland and what could be done to achieve better co-ordination in these areas.

The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the allocation of resources, including personnel, within the force; this is a function which is exercised in close consultation with his senior management team. The Commissioner has indicated that the Garda Síochána deploys significant resources for operations and strategies aimed at targeting, dismantling and disrupting criminal networks using advanced analytical and intelligence-led methodologies. Moreover, he has confirmed that this is a process that will be maintained.

  3 o’clock

In implementing Garda actions a multi-agency law enforcement approach is used as part of which Garda national units from the national support service work together to combat those involved in organised crime. Furthermore, the multi-agency operations are supported by Garda personnel at divisional and district level. The multi-disciplinary approach also plays a key part in targeting the assets of individuals and groups involved in criminal enterprises. This includes the ongoing work of the Criminal Assets Bureau, the use of proceeds of crime and money-laundering legislation, and co-operation between the Garda and external agencies such as the Revenue Commissioners, the Customs service and international law enforcement agencies. This comprehensive approach has led to many successes in combating organised gangs, depriving them of their financial resources and bringing individuals involved in such groups before the courts.

I appreciate that the Deputy has asked a number of specific questions about how the Garda Síochána operates in the fight against organised crime. Perhaps we might revert back to these in a supplementary question.

Additional Information not given on the floor of the House

Owing to the nature of the relevant Garda activities, I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to go into detail on the measures the Garda is adopting. I can, however, confirm that they are extensive and have proved to be very successful. In the circumstances, I hope the Deputy will appreciate the extent to which measures have been put in place to combat criminal gangs. The Commissioner has indicated that the pressure being put on gangs will continue. They will be monitored and kept under constant review, as will the level and nature of Garda resources required to continue to target their activities.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I commend the Garda on its ongoing efforts to tackle the problem. The issue I raise is specifically related to organised crime. Has the Minister identified a number of measures which might have the effect of decommissioning, for want of a better [263]description, highly organised criminal gangs which seem to have ready access to firearms and be the only groups in society not suffering in the recession?

Further, in identifying issues to address these matters has the Minister considered the punishment that follows prosecutions and whether that is in line with what is required at present given the threat presented by organised criminals?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Obviously the Garda deploys a range of different strategies in targeting organised crime, those engaged in drug crime and those who use firearms, and the Deputy would not expect me to reveal those strategies in the House. However, I share the concern of every Member about the extent to which those engaged in organised crime are using firearms, their lack of respect for human life and their capacity to cause serious injury not only to those engaged in competitive crime gangs but also to the general community.

The Garda has been very successful in bringing prosecutions against many of those who have been involved in violence. Our legislation prescribes a variety of sentences for conviction of a broad range of offences. It is not for me to comment on sentences passed by our courts because they are independent. However, it is very important that the sentence passed fits the crime that has been committed and for which an individual has been found guilty.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary The Minister previously indicated his intention to discuss with his European colleagues an extension of the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, model on a European basis. Can he update the House on how that is progressing? Second, with regard to the Minister’s meeting with the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice, Mr. Ford, last week, are there any priorities for cross-Border co-operation in this area at present?

Deputy Jonathan O’Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Has the Garda Commissioner asked for any resources that we have been unable to provide due to the economic circumstances?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Will the Minister indicate the extent to which information is available to the Garda on the total number of people involved in organised crime who have not been brought before the courts, with obvious consequences?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I will take the questions in reverse order. There is substantial information available to the Garda on a broad range of individuals who might be engaged in criminality. I do not wish to say more than that. As to those who have not been brought before the courts on criminal prosecution, the Criminal Assets Bureau has performed a very important function in targeting assets that appear to have no legitimate origin and that are clearly the proceeds of crime. That is a hugely important mechanism.

On Deputy Calleary’s question, I am happy to confirm that matters are advancing substantially in Europe with regard to a framework of criminal assets bureaus across Europe. I expect some announcements from initial work done in this area at Commission level to be made within the next two to three months. I have had direct discussions on this issue with Commissioner Reding, who is co-ordinating with other colleagues in the Commission. It will be a substantial priority of the Irish Presidency of the EU next January.

Dealing with organised crime is a specific matter of conversation between myself and the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice, Mr. Ford, and between the two police forces, North and South. There is huge co-operation in these areas. There have been substantial drug finds as a consequence of that co-operation and laundered fuel has been seized. More recently, major hauls of tobacco and cigarettes brought illegally into the State were derived from co-operation in the area of organised crime between the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, and the Garda Síochána.


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