Other Questions. - Drug-Relared Prosecutions.

Denis Foley

Question:

10 Mr. Foley asked the Minister for Justice the number of successful drug-related prosecutions in County Kerry in each of the years from 1993 to 1996; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6364/97]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of drug related prosecutions in respect of Kerry division from 1993 to 1995 are as follows:

Year

Number of prosecutions

1993

35

1994

41

1995

36

Final figures for 1996 are not yet available.

How many of the cases mentioned were for possessionper se and how many were for possession with intent to supply? What were the average sentences imposed in respect of the offences?

I do not have the information on sentences but I will let the Deputy have it as soon as possible. The Garda authorities established a special drugs unit in Tralee consisting of one sergeant and three gardaí which concentrates on detecting more serious drugs offences. As a result of such detections, a number of cases are due before the courts. Since the setting up of the unit in June 1996, I understand 13 cases of possession for sale or supply were reported under section 15 of the Misuse of Drugs Act and 52 cases of possession were reported under section 3. Also, in excess of £50,000 worth of drugs have been seized by members of the unit. Cash and radio monitoring equipment has also been seized. Apart from the specialised drugs unit in Tralee, I am advised all gardaí in Kerry have been instructed in changes in legislation and are briefed at inservice sessions on up to date drugs matters. They are encouraged by their supervisors to be proactive. Consequently, when carrying out other work they are also on the look out for drugs.

In January 1996 the Kerry gardaí also launched a coastal watch service under the umbrella of the community alert scheme, which has resulted in an increased flow of information to the gardaí in Kerry on suspicious movements at sea. There is also ongoing co-operation with the Customs authorities to prevent the illegal smuggling of drugs by sea or air. The Deputy's area is getting a great deal of attention in the fight against drugs. The drugs problem is no longer centred in cities or towns, but along even the remote and beautiful coastline of County Kerry.

For a change, I was delighted to hear the Minister refer to my native county in laudatory terms.

She is going there on holidays.

I am a native.

In regard to the offences of possession and possession with intent to supply, what type of illegal drugs were involved? It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the outstanding work being done by the gardaí in Kerry on all types of crime.

I join Deputy O'Donoghue in paying tribute to the gardaí in Kerry. Tralee, in particular, has witnessed a number of traumatic murders in the past year or two and effective police work has been carried out there.

The drugs involved in the possession offences were mainly cannabis and ecstacy. There is no evidence of consistent hard drugs abuse in Tralee. However, there is evidence of soft drugs abuse, particularly in Killarney which attracts many tourists. Perhaps the drugs are being brought into the area by people who do not usually reside there. The attractiveness of Kerry as a tourist area may also have caused the increase in drug abuse there.

Has there been a massive increase in the abuse of ecstacy in rural areas in recent years? The large seizures of ecstacy tablets indicates that there must be an increase in their abuse in all areas.

Only a few years ago none of us had even heard of ecstacy. It is a new designer type drug on the market. Therefore, any increase is massive. There is no evidence that there is a massive problem with ecstacy in the Kerry area, but there is clear evidence that what up to a now was a problem only in big urban areas is now a major concern from teachers, parents and gardaí in all our towns and villages. That is why the gardaí have set up specialised drug units and trained gardaí to give talks in schools. My colleague, the Minister for Education, Deputy Bhreathnach, has introduced a scheme to make children aware at a very young age of the risks of being seduced by their peers or older brothers or sisters into the culture of smoking cannabis or taking even a half or one ecstacy tablet. This public endeavour must be continued in all areas to ensure the serious hard drugs problem does not spread outside Dublin.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.