As the Deputy is aware, the key headline statistics for 2002 were first released in their provisional format in April 2003. The final validated statistics published recently in the commissioner's annual report do not differ significantly from those provisional figures. The statistics for provisional headline offences for 2003 were made public on 21 January 2004 and show a cumulative decrease of 2% for 2003 compared with 2002. The figures in 2003 showed a welcome and marked decrease in most categories.
Although there were increases in the categories of rape of a female, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault in 2002, the Deputy will be pleased to note the reduction in these categories in 2003 of 19%, 54% and 7% respectively. Furthermore, cases of assault causing harm decreased by 21% in 2003 which represents the largest volume decrease of any offence in the year.
It is my conviction that this Government's firm and coherent strategy for dealing with crime is proving effective. The gardaí are being given the resources to investigate crime, the courts are being given the resources to deal effectively with criminal cases, and I will continue to ensure that those convicted of crime will serve the sentences imposed on them by the courts.
A significant number of the robberies, thefts from the person and similar type offences concern mobile phone thefts. I believe mobile phone theft will decline steeply with the introduction of the new technology that renders stolen mobile phones useless where the victim records the phone's IMEI number and informs his-her network of the theft.
I wish to point out to the Deputy that there are complicating factors in relation to the 2002 statistics, not least of which is the conclusion, based on a detailed analysis of the data, that a certain proportion of the increase in the figures for recorded headline crime is due to the increases in recording rates resulting from the phasing in of the Garda PULSE IT system. The positive benefits of PULSE can be noted in the more detailed treatment of non-headline crime statistics in the 2002 report, which are extracted from the PULSE system for the first time.
The Expert Group on Crime Statistics which I established has been engaged for the past year on a detailed examination of the methods of collation and presentation of crime statistics, and I understand that, as part of its work, it has examined the question of the timeliness of the production of the Garda crime statistics.
As the Deputy will be aware, I have already arranged for the release of provisional statistics on a quarterly basis. My initiative ensures that members of the public, those working in the criminal justice system and public representatives have almost immediate access to this important quality of life indicator. I am informed that the delay in producing the commissioner's 2002 report was due to the volume of work involved in extracting and formulating the non-headline statistics which, as I have mentioned, were extracted from PULSE for the first time. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that work has already commenced on the compilation of the 2003 annual report and it is expected that it will be submitted significantly earlier.