Written Answers. - Missing Persons.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

32 Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice the proposals, if any, she has to establish a dedicated unit to co-ordinate investigations into reports of missing persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9057/97]

Noel Davern

Question:

65 Mr. Davern asked the Minister for Justice the additional steps, if any, she intends to take with a view to ascertaining the whereabouts of missing persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9147/97]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 65 together.

I am assured by the Garda authorities that every possible effort is made to locate missing persons. In this regard, the Garda has a particular responsibility in tracing those persons who are under 18 years of age or physically or mentally handicapped or whose disappearance occurred in circumstances which give rise to fears for their physical or moral safety. It has to be borne in mind that some adults may decide, in effect, to go "missing". While this undoubtedly gives rise to great concern on the part of their families and friends, it is a personal choice for the person concerned.

The Garda put substantial resources into tracing those missing persons for whom they have a particular responsibility. In 1995, the last year for which figures are available, the number of such persons reported missing to the Garda was 1,444. Of these, 1,432 persons were subsequently traced.

As the Deputies will appreciate, the detailed deployment of Garda personnel and resources is a matter for the Garda authorities. In this regard, I am informed by the Garda authorities that all reported cases of missing persons are followed up and that in the vast bulk of cases the persons concerned have been located.

All files on missing persons are kept open and are regularly followed up to ascertain if any new evidence of their whereabouts is available. Where the Garda have any reason to think that a person's disappearance is suspicious or is linked to a possible crime, I have been assured by the Garda that investigations remain ongoing leading sometimes to prosecutions many years after the person has gone missing. This can happen where new evidence becomes available or where in the investigation of another matter a link is made to a missing person.
All the resources and units of the Garda Síochána are brought to bear in the investigation of a missing person and the Commissioner has assured me that this is the appropriate way to investigate such missing person cases.