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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 14 Dec 1988

Vol. 385 No. 7

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Crimes by Persons on Bail.


asked the Minister for Justice if his attention has been drawn to the disquiet in the community regarding the commission of crimes by persons remanded on bail who have been charged with other crimes; if he will consider the making of a bail surety responsible for the good behaviour of the person accused of a crime who is given bail, in some circumstances and under certain conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I am aware of the problem referred to by the Deputy. However, the Deputy will appreciate that there are constitutional difficulties in relation to any proposal to limit the circumstances in which bail may be granted and I am advised that the approach suggested in the question is unlikely to get around this problem.

The Deputy will be aware that the law relating to bail has been strengthened by the Criminal Justice Act, 1984, which provides that a sentence of imprisonment for an offence committed by a person on bail must be consecutive on any sentence passed or about to be passed on him for a previous offence. The operation of the relevant provisions in the 1984 Act is being monitored and should they not prove to be effective I will give further consideration to what action might be taken.

The Minister said the new procedures are being monitored, but is he not aware that with a 26 per cent crime detection rate criminals are willing to take the chance of not being detected, not facing a court and, therefore, not facing consecutive sentences? Would he not consider that the essence of the problem is that there is nobody, neither the criminal nor his bail surety, who has to take responsibility for his behaviour between the time he is charged and his trial?

I agree that this area causes great concern in the community. As I said, the question of the consecutive sentences and their impact is being monitored. There is information available on this at this stage. In 1983 the number of offences committed by persons on bail was 8,295; in 1984 the figure was 6,338 and up to 9 December 1988 the figure was 2,414. Since there has been a consistent drop from that figure of 8,295 in 1983 it appears the message has got across. I am sure Deputies will be interested in this fact because there was all-party agreement that this was a very important step. It is heartening to see that consecutive sentences could have such an impact——

I appreciate that the Minister is giving figures which indicate a downward trend, but the point should be made that that is only a quarter of the offences which have been committed on bail, because they are only the offences which have been detected and prosecuted. Would the Minister give an assurance that this particularly thorny problem, which, as he admits, is of real concern to the public at large, will be referred to the Law Reform Commission to establish a realistic method within the Constitution of dealing with the problem of crimes committed on bail?

I will ask the Minister to consider that.

That disposes of questions for today.