Written Answers. - Crime Statistics.

Richard Bruton

Question:

250 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the statistics for headline and non-headline assault in Dublin over the past four years; if he has ensured that data has been collected under the new and the old system of classification for some number of overlapping years in order that strategic understanding of the changes occurring can be assured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15173/02]

Prior to the most recently published Garda annual report, relating to the year 2000, assault offences were recorded under the indictable and non-indictable offence categories. In the annual report for 2000, these offences were recorded under comparable headline and non-headline categories, respectively.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that statistics in relation to the number of headline and non-headline assaults in Dublin for the years 1998 to 2000 cannot be obtained in the available timeframe, but I will undertake to forward them separately to the Deputy as soon as possible. I have been further informed that statistics for the year 2001 are not yet finalised.

In the annual report for 2000, the Garda Síochána changed the system of crime presentation as part of the PULSE information technology project. Specifically, the changeover to the PULSE platform allowed a re-organisation of the crime classification system, so that it more accurately reflects the complex, modern criminal activities reported or known to the Garda Síochána.

On the question of crime statistics generally, it is fair to state that there has been a certain amount of unease in the minds of some about matters, such as the counting rules that apply in the compilation of crime figures; similar questions have, I understand, been raised from time to time in other jurisdictions.

Deputies will be aware that the National Crime Council has published a report entitled Crime in Ireland, which was prepared by the Institute of Criminology in University College, Dublin, and which contains a recommendation that an independent expert group be established with the following remit.

To: (a)

(i) examine the collation of information relating to crimes reported to and recorded by the Garda Síochána, mindful of the capabilities of the PULSE system;

(ii) examine the principal offence rule used by the Garda Síochána, which is incident focused rather than victim focused, and other counting rules used by the Garda Síochána;

(iii) examine the distinctions currently made between offences classified as indictable and non-indictable, as contained in the Garda Commissioner's report, having regard to the seriousness of the crime committed, with a view to possible changes in the classification of offences; and

(iv) examine the collation of information relating to other crimes where the Garda Síochána is not the prosecuting authority, for example, white collar crimes prosecuted by the Revenue Commissioners.
(b) identify the needs of the key stakeholders within the criminal justice system and the wider research community to get appropriate information on crime statistics.
(c) make recommendations on the necessary structures and resources to be provided which will allow statistics compiled within the criminal justice system to be analysed, so that emerging trends can be identified and appropriate policy formulated by Government.
This recommendation seems to me to have considerable merit, and I propose to act on it very soon.