I thank Deputy Burton for raising this matter. I am deputising for my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, who would like to be present but is unable to be here as he is committed to other business.
As the Minister made clear in the House last week, he considers gun crime to be a matter of the utmost gravity. As a Dubliner I am concerned about this matter. The Minister has been concerned for some time that serious offences taking place have pointed to the emergence of a gun culture in Dublin. This, sadly, has been manifest in the number of fatal shootings, including the shooting referred to by Deputy Burton, which have taken place in recent weeks.
The Garda has amassed a considerable amount of intelligence about gun crime in Dublin and it has a very clear picture of what is going on. In the view of both the Minister and the Garda Commissioner, Noel Conroy, the time is right to strike at this emerging gun culture. Consequently, the Minister reported to the House on 17 May that the Garda Síochána had launched Operation Anvil, specifically targeted at those involved in gun crime.
The Minister, my Government colleagues and I will put renewed energy and vigour into stamping out any gun culture that may exist. A clear message must be given to criminals of this nature that there will be no safe houses for them. This is one of the most intensive special policing operations ever undertaken in the State. It is intelligence-driven and is aimed at those involved in gun crime of any kind in the Dublin metropolitan region. Its cost will amount to €6.5 million, which the Minister has made available from his Department's allocation for this year. It is intended that it will involve about 15,000 additional hours overtime being worked each week by Garda in the Dublin area. I should emphasise that this expenditure will not adversely affect existing agreed overtime allocations across the Garda divisions, including those for the Dublin metropolitan division.
Operation Anvil will involve divisional uniform and detective patrols throughout the region, backed up by national units, overt and covert operations, mobile and foot patrols, random checkpoints at specific locations, searches, execution of warrants and gathering and collation of high quality criminal intelligence.
A feature of the gun culture that has emerged is the apparent belief on the part of some criminals that they have immunity from the laws of the land. While our legislation for tackling organised crime is one of the toughest in Europe, the Minister is proposing that it be strengthened further. As Deputies will be aware, the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is currently on Second Stage in the House, provides for a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures that will enhance the powers of the Garda in the investigation and prosecution of offences. These include a general power in regard to the issue of search warrants, including a provision to allow a superintendent to issue an emergency search warrant in certain circumstances, increased detention powers of up to 24 hours for arrestable offences and a statutory power to preserve a crime scene.
In addition, Part 3 of the Bill makes provision for the admissibility as evidence in court of statements by witnesses who subsequently refuse to testify or who retract their original statements. Furthermore, the Minister is considering bringing forward a number of amendments to the Bill, including a proposal to provide for criminal offences in regard to participation in a criminal organisation.
There is a particular overriding necessity, in view of the recent increase in violent crime involving firearms to which Deputy Burton has referred, to ensure that public safety and security are given priority in any review of policy and legislation in regard to firearms. With this in mind the Minister has decided to bring forward at an early stage certain proposals for inclusion in the Criminal Justice Bill. The Bill as published contains one of those proposals, to provide for the secure custody of firearms. The Minister is increasing the sentences for the more serious range of firearms offences, including the possibility of mandatory minimum sentences in some cases, as well as new offences of illegally modifying a firearm, for example, sawing off a shotgun barrel, and the imposition of severe penalties for this offence. The Minister has already asked all sides of the House to assist in the early enactment of this legislation. We look forward to the support of all Deputies in that regard.
The Garda authorities have informed the Minister that the incident to which the Deputy refers is the subject of a major, ongoing Garda investigation that encompasses several Garda divisions and specialised Garda units. The Minister is further informed that this investigation has, to date, led to a number of arrests and that it is anticipated that more arrests will follow as further progress is made. The Garda investigation team is aware, as reported in the national press, of allegations that unlawful organisations were involved in this incident. Garda inquiries are continuing in this regard.
The Garda authorities have also informed the Minister that the level of both foot and mobile patrols in the Dublin 15 area has been increased and that the area is also the subject of intensive policing activity, in accordance with the operational goals of both Operation Crossover and Operation Anvil. Moreover, local gardaí will continue to liaise with residents and residents groups in the area to ensure that their concerns are being met. I hope that is somewhat helpful to Deputy Burton.