Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (154)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the new measures he has taken to combat the activities of drug barons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2640/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they have initiated a number of strategies designed to address the issue of organised criminal networks involved in criminal activities, including drug trafficking. These measures include generic strategies utilised on an ongoing basis as well as new measures formulated in response to emerging issues and trends.

In general terms, the Garda Síochána addresses the issues of drug trafficking through the following measures: conducting intelligence driven operations against criminal networks involved in drug distribution at both a national and international level; undermining the structures and systems which support this activity; and depriving criminal organisations of the proceeds arising from drug trafficking and related activities.

The Garda national drugs unit, operating under national support services, has the primary responsibility for addressing national and international drug trafficking. This responsibility is discharged in co-operation with other enforcement agencies, most notably the Revenue service, as well as other national units and district and divisional drug units.

Current strategies designed to address the present situation concerning drug distribution are outlined in the recently published annual policing plan 2004. This document sets out fourteen strategic goals and eight policing priorities. The policing priorities include strategies specifically designed to address both organised crime and drug distribution. Strategic goal two specifically relates to drug misuse and includes the following elements: co-ordination of district policing plans; continued implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008; inter-agency co-operation; information dissemination on substance misuse and related items; and support to both local and regional drug task forces.

In regard to the measures which I will bring forward to enhance the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences, including drugs offences, I refer the Deputy to my address of 9 December 2003 to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights where I addressed the issue in some detail, with particular reference to the activities of criminal gangs. I will be happy to make a copy of this address available to the Deputy if he so wishes.