I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.
The suggestions referred to by the Deputy are, of course, baseless.
It should be noted that the Central Statistics Office crime statistics for 2011 show a welcome decrease in 11 of the 14 crime groups compared with 2010. These statistics reflect the capacity of An Garda Síochána, which continues to receive substantial resources, to respond effectively to emerging crime trends.
While some categories of property crime are up, the overall trend shows a decrease in most types of crime, including homicide, assault, criminal damage, and drug and public order offences.
I particularly welcome the reduction of more than a quarter in the number of murders. This reflects in part a reduction in the number of gang related killings in 2011, against a backdrop of significant enforcement as well as legislative measures to tackle and disrupt serious organised crime. In this regard, I have made it clear to the Garda Commissioner that I am open to considering any additional changes in the law which the Gardaí believe would be helpful in tackling the activities of organised criminals.
An Expert Group, established under the auspices of my Department, is currently engaged in a comprehensive review of the Proceeds of Crime legislation with a view to identifying possible improvements which would serve to strengthen the operation of the Criminal Assets Bureau.
A number of matters are being reviewed by the Group including decreasing the amount of time which must elapse before criminal assets which have been frozen become the property of the State; increasing the powers of receivers over properties so as to immediately deprive criminals of the use of those properties; short term seizure of assets believed to be the proceeds of crime pending determination by the courts and further improving measures supporting international cooperation.
When that work concludes later this year it is my intention to make available, in due course, the outcome of that review and to bring forward my proposals in the normal way.
As the Deputy will be aware, I have also commenced the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011, which clarifies the law concerning the defence of the home.
Furthermore, and within eight week of taking up office, I moved urgently to draft and seek Government approval to the introduction of new legislation to tackle white collar crime. This new legislation, the Criminal Justice Act 2011, was enacted on 2 August 2011. Its main purpose is to address delays in the prosecution and investigation of complex white collar crime by improving certain important procedural matters and strengthening Garda investigative powers.
The details of the policing response to crime and lawlessness is of course an operational matter for the Garda authorities. However, I can inform the Deputy that all crime trends are monitored closely by Garda management, with appropriate intelligence-led initiatives put in place to target various types of crimes and I have every confidence that the Gardaí will continue to provide a robust response to criminal activity. The fact is that, week in week out, the Gardaí are successfully detecting offenders and bringing those people before the Courts and securing convictions. An Garda Síochána is also further disrupting criminal activity through significant seizures of drugs and firearms, with an estimated €65.5m worth of drugs and a total of 737 firearms seized last year.
In addition, the Deputy will also be aware of the Commissioner's recent announcement concerning the introduction of a new operation, Operation Fiacla , aimed at tackling mobile gangs involved in burglaries around the country as part of the response to recent crime trends. I cite this as simply being one of a wide range of targeted operations which An Garda Síochána has in place and which are making a real impact in terms of community safety throughout the country.
I can further inform the Deputy that I intend to build on existing work in order to put in place a National Anti-Crime Strategy, arising from the White Paper on Crime consultation process. This will provide a strategic framework for all of the measures in place to tackle crime, including prevention, intervention and enforcement measures, as well as measures to support victims. My intention is to publish this Strategy later this year and that it will help to guide our work to tackle crime into the future.