Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Crime Prevention.

1.

asked the Minister for Justice if, in view of a report in the media, he will make a statement on the steps being taken to tackle the organised crime problem currently facing Dublin and the country generally.

2.

asked the Minister for Justice the plans he has to deal with the crime wave now facing the community.

3.

asked the Minister for Justice if, in view of the crime epidemic facing the country and the need for a more efficient use of resources and the harnessing of community good will, he will consider the creation of a Dáil committee on crime, its terms of reference to include an examination of the structure and efficiency of the Garda Síochána.

4.

asked the Minister for Justice the specific measures with which he plans to tackle the increasing problem of housebreaking in urban and suburban communities.

5.

asked the Minister for Justice the specific measures with which he plans to tackle the problem of the mugging and robbing of citizens in urban and suburban communities.

6.

asked the Minister for Justice if he will state in regard to the very serious crime situation in the north city centre area of Dublin, the plans or proposals he has to deal with the problem.

Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, together.

I need hardly stress that the crime situation is a matter of the greatest concern to me and to the Government and that the tackling of the problem is one of my priorities. Unfortunately, we are living in an era when, in common with countries the world over, the incidence of crime has greatly increased. It is clear that there are very many factors involved in the growth of crime and that there is no easy or complete answer to the problem.

It would not be possible in the course of a reply to parliamentary questions to set out in any detail the various measures to tackle the crime problem which are being taken or which are proposed or are under consideration. I would refer the Deputy to my reply to the debate in the House on 4 May 1983 on the Second Stage of the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill. The recent debate on the Estimates for my Department provided an additional opportunity for a full exposition of these matters. In brief, specific measures being taken at present include increases in Garda manpower, improved deployment, improvement of Garda operating procedures and the provision of more modern equipment for the Garda, the further development of Garda community relations and the provision of additional prison accommodation. On the legislative front there is the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill to which I have referred and this is being followed by a further Criminal Justice Bill which I hope will be published at an early date and which will contain a number of measures that will strengthen the powers of the Garda in dealing with serious crime.

With regard to the questions in relation to housebreaking and the mugging of citizens, the various measures which I have mentioned are relevant. The Garda are fully conscious of the incidence of these particular offences and are constantly seeking ways and means of controlling the situation by altering manning levels and by changing patterns of patrolling. The general intention is to have an increased Garda presence in our cities and towns and already there has been a noticeable increase in the number of gardaí on the beat patrol duties. I might add that the public could make a considerable contribution to crime prevention by exercising more care in the protection of their property.

With regard to the setting up of a Dáil committee on crime, as proposed by Deputy Mitchell, the House agreed yesterday that such a committee be established with the terms of reference as set out on yesterday's Order Paper.

As regards the newspaper report referred to by Deputy Mitchell, I am informed that subsequent to the report a person was charged in connection with this matter and that the case is at present before the courts.

I thank the Minister for his detailed reply. In view of the fact that this is an important area and I have three questions down to the Minister, I wish to be allowed a supplementary question on each of them.

The Chair will hear the supplementary questions and decide when there have been enough.

Will the Minister request the new committee on crime to take special action to investigate organised crime in the Dublin area particularly but also in the rest of the country?

(Limerick-East): Special steps are being taken by the Garda at present. They are aware of the problem of organised crime. I am glad of the Deputy's intervention to encourage the Garda to continue with this and to show them that they have the support of this House and the community as a whole in their efforts to combat organised crime.

Can the community expect to see more uninformed gardaí not just on patrol but on foot patrol? I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the improvements in this area. Will the Minister request the commissioner to ensure that the Garda become more responsive to community needs, in other words that they take on a more public community-orientated role? Will he arrange for steps to be taken to improve the understanding between the community and the Garda of the role the Garda have and of the needs of the community because——

A question, Deputy.

——there seems to be a certain breakdown in that communication. Will the Minister ask the Garda Commissioner to ensure that there is a significant improvement in public relations between the Garda at community level and the local community and particularly local community organisations?

(Limerick East): The Deputy has raised a number of inter-connected points and I will deal with them as follows. First, the new commissioner has decided to employ more gardaí in uniform on the beat on foot than was hitherto the practice. There is evidence of this now especially in our cities, and communities have gardaí regularly on foot patrol. Traditional relationships which existed between individuals and communities and gardaí are being developed and strengthened by this. Two other aspects are relevant. Many of the extra gardaí now being deployed in the Dublin area are young and have recently been passed out of Templemore. Consequently, it was quite clear earlier in the year that there was a need for sergeants to guide, encourage and organise these young gardaí who will be new to the job and in some cases new to the city. The Minister for Finance has sanctioned the appointment of 100 sergeants, and 50 have been appointed. Most of that 50 have been appointed to the Dublin area already.

Thirdly, in the past there was a practice that gardaí would not be deployed near their home area. That is changed and major benefits are seen now in the practice of appointing new gardaí who pass out from Templemore to areas near their own place of birth and near where they were schooled. This will be of great benefit in Dublin. Increasing numbers of young men and women in Dublin are applying for entry into the Garda and the practice now is as far as possible to deploy them in Dublin. These people have experience of an urban background and many of their friends and relatives are living in the urban area. Consequently, they know the scene and also they are in a better position to establish the close kind of community relationships which the Deputy has requested. I am considering other initiatives to deal with the second point he has made about the relationships between members of the Garda and the general public. I am aware of the importance of this as I have said on a number of occasions. A rather trite statistic which is trotted out in support of various arguments is that half of our population is under 25 years of age: we should remember that when we are thinking in terms of community relationships with the Garda.

In relation to Question No. 4: what plans has the Minister to deal with the question of housebreaking in urban and suburban communities? How would the package relate to that? The Minister has mentioned various aspects of community relations, but there is a great problem of insecurity in homes at present. What measures has the Minister in mind or is he implementing at present to deal with that situation?

(Limerick East): In any area of crime there is first of all the detection of crime and then the prevention of crime. The detection of housebreaking or burglary is carried out by the Detective Division of the Garda Síochána. The deployment policy now of providing many extra uniformed gardaí on the beat will lead to the prevention of housebreaking and burglary. That is a response to that problem and obviously, the response to other problems also.

Another emerging situation is that many communities now as communities are organising to co-operate with the Garda and the idea of a community watch, which has been successful in the US and Britain, is being practised here in communities in anad hoc way. Co-operation should exist between the Garda and communities, but there may be the difficulty of transferring the crime to an adjacent area certainly in the case of burglary and housebreaking. Communities could help here by identifying the people involved in their community so that the names of those operating outside are known to the Garda.

With regard to Question No. 3, I thank the Minister for accepting my suggestion in regard to setting up a crime committee. Will he ensure that this committee will review legislation as well as the use of Garda resources, and will he assure the House that the committee will receive the full co-operation of all the authorities involved and will be given the full assistance and any necessary back-up in carrying out their investigations and operations in the area of crime prevention?

(Limerick East): The formal terms of reference of the committee were set out on yesterday's Order Paper, which I have not got to hand. The Deputy can take it that anything which the members of the committee think appropriate to discuss and are worth while discussing can be discussed by them whether the matter is administrative or legislative. They are quite free to discuss legislation, certainly informally. The Department and I as Minister can go beyond the terms of reference and be as helpful as we possibly can. I see the committee as a very important sounding board of parliamentarians which will be of great benefit to me as Minister to give me a very accurate account of how communities and individual constituents perceive the various problems which we all admit are in this area at present.

The Minister has our full co-operation in an objective and constructive way in the work to be undertaken by that committee the setting up of which, as the Minister knows, we proposed. We welcome his setting up of this committee. In relation to the last question on housebreaking, I am sorry to have to dwell on this but this is a very urgent problem, particularly in many of our suburban areas at present. I accept that the Minister has said that extra gardaí will be on the beat and he has mentioned that somead hoc home watch experiments will be carried out by communities. Will he undertake to get some real support from the Garda for these home watch experiments? I appreciate that they are being carried out on an ad hoc basis, but surely the position at present is so urgent that we should have something more vigorous by way of experiment and back-up for these undertakings. The problem is the question of bringing a package together that will get the kind of results we want. I accept the points the Minister is making and I ask him to look urgently at the need for a package involving legislation, gardaí on the beat, support for the Garda and relations with the community so that they can be brought together in a practical way with a view to overcoming this problem. Will he give an undertaking that during the recess he will have some attention brought to this problem?

(Limerick East): I agree with the fundamental point that a package is necessary to deal with the problems as I perceive them now. Maybe “package” is the wrong metaphor. Perhaps we can talk about parts of a jigsaw which can be slotted in at various times over the coming months. The Deputy is aware that the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill passed through the Seanad today. This is a significant part of the picture. Extra gardaí are a significant part; the deployment of the gardaí is significant; extra sergeants are significant; the Criminal Justice Bill which I will be introducing next session will be very significant. I accept that it is necessary to formalise the work of communities in association with the Garda. The community watch idea is being discussed on the basis, unfortunately, of limited knowledge. There is the difficulty that what might solve the problem in one community might transfer the problem to an adjacent community, which has been the experience abroad.

I take the point the Deputy has made and I am considering what approach can be made to achieving the result he has suggested. The Garda are very much aware of the problem of community relations. We have appointed a chief superintendent specifically in charge of relations between the Garda and the community, but of course each individual garda in uniform must be the ombudsman for the force, and in the final analysis it is the personal relationships the individual garda on the beat builds up that will be most important, even more important than any structures we may come up with subsequently.

I am happy to hear the Minister say he will have extra gardaí on the beat, but does he agree that it is desirable in large centres of population that each Garda station would have at least one female garda on duty at all times? That being the case, would he ensure that in the foreseeable future all large Garda stations — in the Tallaght area, for example, where we have more than 60 gardaí there is not a female garda at the moment — will have a female garda? Specific crimes related to women are causing great concern and indeed are causing a breakdown in the way law and order are being looked after in the area.

(Limerick East): I agree in general with what the Deputy has said. The deployment of ban-ghardaí to major Garda stations is very important for a variety of reasons, apart from community relations. I will have a look at the situation in Tallaght.

As many children are coming on to drugs at school, will the Minister consider providing protection for school-children even though it might mean moving gardaí from banks which contain only money which is not destroying people's lives? Would the Minister also consider that the political will must be there to tackle and to solve the crime problem? Can he tell us when the junior Ministers' report on the drugs problem which has been undertaken in the last few months will be available? Would he consider either meeting the Dublin Deputies or doing a special study of the drugs problem in the Dublin area where the problem is more serious than elsewhere? Would he undertake to examine the efficiency of the Garda, regardless of the numbers patrolling the streets?

(Limerick East): A special Ministerial task force on drug abuse have virtually completed their work and the report is available to the Government. I suggest this might be an appropriate report for the new Select Committee to discuss at an early date. I will be looking at the specific recommendations in that report in so far as they relate to my Department. On the question of protection for schoolchildren, I am not clear about the kind of protection the Deputy has in mind. Obviously, in any caring community children should be protected by the entire adult community from exploitation and abuse, and if there is evidence of schoolgoing children being exploited by drug pushers, the recommendations in the report of the Ministerial task force will contribute to the solution of that problem.

The deployment of gardaí is a matter for the Commissioner. I approve of the changes he has made in deployment. The efficiency of the Garda concerns us all. I share the views of Deputies that we should try for maximum efficiency in the Garda.

Does the Minister agree that the Garda are not being used to the maximum advantage of the community? Is it not a fact that gardaí must carry out work for the Central Statistics Office, going into farms, counting animals, mainly pigs, and surely this is a disgraceful situation? Does the Minister agree that some of the offenders being released from our prisons have committed serious crimes? We are keeping our prisons for cases of contempt of court while serious offenders are being released. Is there not a big imbalance there? Does the Minister not agree that the priorities for releases are not helpful to the common good or to helping community relations?

(Limerick East): The Garda being involved in work appropriate to other Departments causes me concern but the practice is not as widespread as one might gather from the Deputy's supplementary.

It is going on.

(Limerick East): Deputies know, for example, that the Garda are helping the Department of Social Welfare in signing forms for unemployment allowances and so on. That concerns me because we have a serious problem and we have had it for a number of years and I should like to see gardaí being used exclusively for dealing with the area for which they were recruited and trained rather than being involved in the work of other Departments.

In regard to the supplementary on prisons, there are numerous questions down on that subject and because this is probably the last day that Deputies will have an opportunity to raise it before October, and because we may not reach the questions, I should like to make a statement on the matter, with the Chair's permission.

I have no objection.

(Limerick East): Whereas the Minister for Justice has general power to mitigate sentences, he does not have any such power in cases of contempt of court. Only the courts can purge contempt of court and therefore the Minister has not got power to release somebody who is in prison for contempt of court. I think the Deputy was dealing with a specific case and I prefer not to comment on it further.

Have the Department any plans to advance the concept and theory of community policing, that is to say, the provisions of a Garda presence within local communities? Would the Minister give his view and the view of the Department on the increasing tendency towards the formation of vigilante groups in local urban areas?

(Limerick East): Many submissions have been made at different times to the Department on the general idea of community policing. Today I gave some of my views on the matter. I pointed out that a chief superintendent has been appointed to concentrate on this area. The decision to employ gardaí on the beat in uniform is another way to try to establish a stronger community relationship. On the question of vigilante groups, in so far as they exist it is a rather limited problem but I deplore it. It is outrageous that any group should set themselves up as enforcers of law and order. There is one Garda force here and they only are responsible for law and order. That is the way it will remain. On the other hand, there is a strong case to be made for community groups to be involved in a type of community watch operation. They would in a formalised way establish relationships between a local community and the Garda and would, in effect, answer the appeal which has frequently been made by the Garda for the co-operation of the public. That is interpreted quite frequently as the co-operation of individual citizens and I suggest that there is room for a response at community level also.

In relation to Question No. 6, the question of very serious crime in the north city centre area, where a recent survey has shown that 12 per cent of teenagers are addicted to heroin, would the Minister tell us exactly what the position is now in relation to the Drugs Squad? He made a statement on it in his Estimates speech which I took to mean that the Drugs Squad had been downgraded, that the chief superintendent we had put in to co-ordinate the activity in this area had been removed and that it had been amalgamated with the serious crime section and under a detective superindendent in that section. Would the Minister tell us exactly what the position is because this is an extremely important area? I am a bit concerned about the Minister saying someone has suggested that if problems are tackled too vigorously in one area they will be transferred to another area. I would ask the Minister not to let himself be deterred in any way by that suggestion. If necessary there must be a similar pursuit in the other areas so that ultimately people know there is no hiding place for them and that they will end up in jail if they persist with the housebreaking and other activities that are taking place.

(Limerick East): The Deputy obviously misunderstood me on the Estimates speech. There is no question whatever of downgrading the Drugs Squad. Indeed, the whole idea is to upgrade it. The problem of drugs cannot be dealt with in isolation and drugs, organised crime and various other criminal activities are interlinked. It is quite appropriate that serious crime and the problem of drugs should be interlinked at the top of the pyramid. There is a great awareness of the need for an efficient and effective Drugs Squad in this city. Recommendations will be emerging from the ministerial report on the drugs problem. One thing that is quite clear to me even without reading the report is that we cannot deal with the problem of drugs in isolation simply as a law and order issue. It is a wider issue than that, and even within the justice area and the area of policing it also ties in strongly with serious crime. Because of the cost of drugs on the streets people who are addicted get involved in criminal activity to acquire the money to pay for the drugs which they need to satisfy their addiction. I can assure the Deputy and the House that, far from downgrading the Drugs Squad, we appreciate their work and they are being upgraded if anything. Their organisation has been seriously looked at, some changes have been made in their deployment, but I would suggest that it will benefit the situation. I think the Deputy just misunderstood what I said on the Estimate.

As regards transferring crime, the point I was making is that if a community watch is organised in an individual housing estate it will be very effective in preventing crime in that housing estate but that it may have the effect that the minority of criminals resident in that housing estate will operate in a neighbouring one where such a community watch system is not organised. The difficulty is that I do not see a solution if crime is merely transferred from one part of the city to another. In looking at the whole idea of community relationships with the Garda, if it is to be formalised it will have to be implemented over a wide area rather than in one particular section of a county, a city or a town.

I accept the Minister's assurance——

Question No. 7. We have spent half an hour on this question.

7.

asked the Minister for Justice the specific measures with which he plans to tackle the increasing problem of the theft and vandalising of cars in urban and suburban communities.

8.

asked the Minister for Justice if he will state in view of the recent attacks on Garda patrol cars in Dublin northside causing serious risk to lives of gardaí and the public, the urgent action he proposes to take to eliminate this serious situation.

9.

asked the Minister for Justice the immediate action he proposes to take to alleviate the fear and terror among the people of Fairfield, Darndale and Bonnybrook, Dublin, arising out of the constant joyriding by youths through these areas and with particular reference to the ramming of two Garda vehicles in the Fairfield-Ferrycarrig area during Monday night, 7 March 1983.

10.

asked the Minister for Justice if, in view of the inadequacy of the present law relating to the theft of cars, he will state the action he proposes to take in regard to the existing penalties; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

11.

asked the Minister for Justice if he has had discussions with the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána regarding the use of spiked chains in regard to the increase in the theft of cars; and, if so, the outcome of such discussions.

12.

asked the Minister for Justice the action he proposes to take in the immediate future to combat the increasing theft of motor cars.

(Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 12, inclusive, together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they carried out a detailed examination of these problems some months ago. As a result they introduced a number of measures, such as the deployment of more suitable cars to the areas concerned, which they expect will help to control the situation. They are considering other proposals as well. However, I could not give details of the various measures that have been taken and that are being considered because, as Deputies will appreciate the publication of such measures would militate against their effectiveness, something that has in fact been mentioned in this context by the Garda themselves.

With regard to penalties, the penalty for the larceny of a car if the charge is tried on indictment is imprisonment for up to five years and up to ten years in the case of a second offence. If the charge is tried summarily under the Criminal Justice Act, 1951, the penalty is a fine not exceeding £100 or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, or both such fine and such imprisonment. A conviction for larceny requires proof of an intention to deprive the owner permanently of the car. The most usual provable offence is unauthorised taking under section 112 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, as amended. A person who contravenes this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50 or to imprisonment for up to six months, or to both such fine and imprisonment. The unauthorised taking of a car invariably involves for the driver, as with stealing, the offence of driving without insurance for which the penalty is a fine of up to £100 or imprisonment for up to six months, or both. In addition there could also be offences relating to the actual driving of the car. I might add that it is open to the District Court to impose consecutive sentences and that the generally accepted view that an overall maximum penalty of up to 12 months may be imposed for summary offences.

The view could reasonably be taken that at least in respect of some of the offences in question the penalties are adequate. However, I am reviewing the level of penalties for these offences in so far as I am concerned. A revision of penalties under the Road Traffic Acts would be a matter for the Tánaiste and Minister for the Environment.

As regards Question No. 11, the position is that the law allows the Garda Síochána to use equipment such as spiked chains in relation to certain serious offences, as defined in section 8 of the Criminal Law Act, but the Garda authorities have consistently taken the view — for what seems to me to be understandable reasons — that the use of spikes or similar equipment, except in exceptional circumstances, could give rise to more serious problems than it would solve. I should add that in general I am not prepared to disclose whether particular topics have been the subject of discussion between the Commissioner and myself, as I must reserve the right to talk to the Commissioner from time to time about matters of mutual interest on a confidential basis. It is clear from what I have said earlier that the Garda authorities have been consulted.

Will the Minister accept that the measures that are being taken at present are just not working satisfactorily? How can the Minister bring the various kinds of measures together to get a higher success rate? There are sentences available but people who have been sentenced and are out on bail are stealing cars again. There is virtually no safe place to have a car around this city or in other cities to a large extent. What measures specifically can the Minister see being introduced to get some improvement in this situation, which at present is horrific and is leading to deaths? Has the Minister drafted in the Task Force to support the local Garda in special cases and are there any measures which he sees as being likely to get on top of this problem?

(Limerick East): It is difficult to prove that the intention of somebody taking a car to joy-ride was to hold the car and keep it permanently. If you cannot prove that you cannot charge the person with larceny. What happens then is that the charge is taking the car without the owner's consent. The level of the sanctions here, the fines and imprisonment, is something that I am having examined. One could argue that they are not adequate. Certainly the statistics on the taking of cars without owners' consent are fairly horrifying. I am aware of the subsequent dangers to life and limb, the possibility of accidents involving stolen cars and so on. Many of the people who take these cars are extremely young and have little experience of driving.

There is one point I should like to make — I might well have made it earlier also — that it surprises me that people will pay £60,000, £70,000 and £80,000 for a house and take very few precautions to make it burglar-proof when a small additional investment could help quite a lot. It also surprises me that people are so casual about cars for which they have paid perhaps £10,000, £11,000 and £12,000 when the problem is so serious. I am in no way trying to put the onus on the people who are in effect the injured parties in these cases, but the whole area of prevention of crime involves more than the Garda and will have to involve individuals as well.

Is the Minister aware of the very serious concern among the general public at the ease with which these young car thieves, vandals — describe them as you will — are driving to Garda stations, particularly on the north side, openly and deliberately taunting the gardaí, inviting a chase? On a number of occasions it has happened — in the case of Coolock Garda Station — that four squad cars and three patrol vans have been damaged and put out of action on the same evening, all within 90 minutes. In view of the widespread concern this type of action causes surely the time has come for some measures to be taken to eliminate this problem. It is not good enough for the Minister to say that the situation is being examined. Can the Minister say when we can expect such measures as will help in eliminating this problem?

(Limerick East): I am aware of the specific incidents to which the Deputy referred. Certainly they were discussed and talked about when the original questions were put down some months ago. The situation has improved somewhat recently. I do not think we can isolate one area of lawlessness, crime or vandalism, from all other areas. As Deputy Woods rightly said earlier, we need an overall package. I do not think specific measures to deal with one particular problem necessarily constitute the correct approach. We must continuously examine the effectiveness of the Garda on the ground, the relationships between the Garda and the community, the laws required, and if the sanctions imposed by those laws are a sufficient deterrent to bring about a solution.

In the case of cars being stolen for joy-riding purposes — which is the main problem — rather than larceny of cars, the responsibility of the Minister for Justice extends to people of 16 years and upwards. Under 16 years of age the treatment of offenders is really a matter for the Department of Education. I understand that the Minister for Health, in his Children Bill, will be examining various issues which arise here.

I am not trying to evade the seriousness of the point the Deputy raised, but I do not think it is possible to succeed if we approach specific problems with a specific solution which is not related to the overall problem. I would prefer to see how we proceed on an approach which involves a whole package of measures to attack the problem globally.

Deputy G. Mitchell rose.

I appreciate what the Minister has been saying——

Deputy Gay Mitchell need not be looking at the Chair as if he had some reason for grievance. There are six questions being taken together here. Would Deputy Mitchell please resume his seat? The Chair considers that it is his duty to be fair. He adjudges that he is being fair by first allowing supplementaries from Deputies who have put down the questions and that is what he is doing.

I merely rise, a Cheann Comhairle, to protest that a look on my face does not relate to anything on the Order Paper and I would thank you, sir, not to make remarks about a look on my face.

The Deputy has no reason to complain.

I did not raise any complaint.

Whilst I appreciate what the Minister has said in relation to the overall package, I would suggest to him that, when there is an on-going very high concentration of joy-riding in a particular area — to which Deputy Woods and Deputy V. Brady referred — such as that part of the north side of the city area about which we jointly make representations, then I would suggest to the Minister that there must be a very serious look taken at the short-term as well as long-term measures. Might I ask the Minister to address himself to a couple of questions. What are his views in relation to the present measures whereby Garda patrol cars pursue joy-riders? From my information there seems to be a difference of opinion within the Garda Force on that procedure. Indeed I should like to put on record that I am very impressed with their continuous commitment to deal with it. That is one point to which I should like the Minister to address himself. Also, because we are dealing with juveniles, with young people in the main, what significance does the Minister think an extension of the juvenile liaison scheme would have in helping to combat that problem? From my experience of it, in the inner city, I feel it would have a significant contribution to make. I understand that, in the Coolock Garda Station there are only two members of the juvenile liaison scheme operating at present, which I consider totally inadequate for such a large, young population, bearing in mind the implications of the socio-economic groupings in that area. Perhaps the Minister would also address himself to that.

The Minister has made two points already in relation to questions that have arisen. One was with regard to the spiked chains. There is a question mark over the pursuit of joy-riders by Garda patrol cars. Could the Minister comment at greater length on the apprehension felt among the Garda Force about the use of spiked chains? Secondly, could the Minister comment at greater length on the penalties? I am not satisfied that the penalties obtaining for unauthorised taking or stealing of cars are in any way adequate. Does the Minister agree that these need to be more severe?

(Limerick East): To take the last point first, I outlined what were the penalties for the two offences which are akin to the taking of cars, whether it be taking them permanently, larceny, or unauthorised taking. I have said already that in so far as they relate to my Department I will undertake to look at the adequacy of those penalties.

On the question of the spiked chains, I should say that the equipment is available to the Garda but they have taken a decision at present not to use such equipment. I agree with that decision because there would be subsidiary dangers associated with their use which, in certain circumstances, would make it very difficult to justify their use. I understand the particular type of chain Deputies have in mind is something that can be placed across a road, which, rather than physically stopping a car, punctures the four tyres simultaneously. At the speed at which certain joy-riders drive stolen cars I am sure Deputies are aware of the danger of a simultaneous blow-out of four tyres in a city street situation. Therefore there are practical difficulties. I am quite sure that the Garda will be examining the problem again but there are real, practical difficulties and I do not think a solution lies there.

I will have examined the suggestion with regard to the juvenile liaison scheme, in particular with regard to the Coolock Garda Station the Deputy mentioned. There is scope for expansion of the scheme and anything which places the emphasis on prevention rather than detection of crime in present circumstances should be very carefully examined. Of course, when children steal cars and drive them at high speed through cities, it must be remembered that they do have parents, and I suggest that parents have a responsibility in this regard also.

Is the Minister aware that Dublin Corporation will provide £11 million for malicious damages this year, a lot of such damage caused by the stealing of cars. In view of that, would the Minister consider contacting the car assembly companies or reviewing the legislation in this area to ensure that these cars, some of them very expensive and fast-moving, are properly secured, in other words, that anti-theft devices are properly fitted to them? The Minister might bear in mind the fact that car assembly in Ireland need not continue beyond the year 1985, which would strengthen the Minister's hand. Would the Minister examine this area and consider contacting car assembly companies or examining the legislation in this area?

(Limerick East): I am not aware of the statistical information given by the Deputy or the proportion of that which is due to damage to cars or caused by stolen cars. I take the point the Deputy has made and, indeed, I have made it already. Certainly the individual owners of cars, for their own security and considering the valuable asset a car is, should look at the possibility of installing anti-theft devices such as burglar alarms and so on. I will examine the suggestion to see if it would be appropriate for me to contact the manufacturing companies.

I had intended asking a question relating to discussions with the motor car industry but because it would be repetitive I will not put it to the Minister.

The Minister has already covered the subject of spiked chains but I should like to ask him if he is satisfied from his conversations with his counterparts abroad that spiked chains have been used successfully in many European countries. Is he aware that police forces elsewhere do not appear to have the same reservations the Garda have? Will the Minister comment on that?

(Limerick East): I am not aware that it is widely practised or has been successful abroad. I am not disagreeing with the Deputy that such may be so but I will have that looked at.

Is it the intention of the Minister to bring in the changes he referred to in regard to existing penalties for stealing cars? I understand that at the moment a person caught doing that can be charged only with stealing petrol. Is it the intention of the Minister to introduce the changes this year in view of the gravity of the problem of stolen cars in Dublin?

(Limerick East): I am planning to have the matter examined. A decision has been taken to examine the penalties with a view to deciding the appropriate penalties for such offences. We will be bringing in a criminal justice Bill in the next session and that will be appropriate for some of the measures I have in mind but not for them all because some relate specifically to legislation which is the responsibility of other Departments.

I note what the Minister has said about the decision not to use these spiked chains for the present, but I suggest to him that that question is one which the new committee on crime and vandalism might look at and obtain some information from abroad. I have seen on the north side of Dublin adults in cars terrorising small children on narrow roads and incul-de-sacs. That is a factual situation and for such cases there is a need for the use of spiked chains. I would welcome a further study and investigation on this matter.

I should like to ask the Minister to address himself to a difficulty within the Force on whether or not to pursue in patrol cars the joyriders. That is a burning question on the north side of Dublin and my information is that there seems to be a difference of opinion on that. What is the view of the Department? We need reassurance for the people of those areas.

(Limerick East): That type of decision is a matter for the Garda authorities but I will check the policy decision on it. I would have doubts about the efficacy of chasing stolen cars at high speed.

Does the Minister's definition of larceny apply to motor cars only or does it apply also to a person who steals a television set from a house and says he only took it to watch a football match? What is the definition? Does it apply to cars only?

The Chair is tempted to answer that but it would be out of order. We cannot enlarge the scope of the question to include television sets.