I can inform the Deputy that my Department lacks neither the ability nor the will to fully support the Garda Síochána with sufficient resources to tackle crime. With regard to Garda resources, the Deputy may be aware that a new Garda recruitment competition is under way. It is planned that 690 Garda trainees will be taken into the Garda college during 2003. The Commissioner has projected, based on the anticipated rate of retirement, that this level of recruitment will result in the current maximum authorised strength of 12,200 being achieved during 2004. I have already stated that as soon as budgetary circumstances permit, the Government will work towards the target strength of 14,000 provided in the programme for Government for achievement by 2007.
A range of factors determines the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. I am committed to supporting the Garda Síochána in every way I can in tackling crime, not only through increasing Garda numbers, but through facilitating and promoting change and reform, both within the force and in the criminal justice system in general, aimed at meeting the challenges of present day crime. I have received Government approval to bring forward a criminal justice Bill which will assist the Garda in the fight against crime. I expect the Bill to be published during the spring session of 2004. The purpose of the Bill is to amend criminal law and procedure in light of the recommendations of the expert group on criminal law.