Thursday, 26 February 2004

Questions (12, 13, 14, 15)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

12 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of securing premises containing quantities of seized drugs until their destruction in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6328/04]

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Paul McGrath

Question:

20 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the consideration he has given to changing the laws of evidence in order to negate the need for large quantities of seized drugs to be retained and stored for evidential purposes, in circumstances in which a mere sample would suffice. [6330/04]

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Billy Timmins

Question:

28 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the types of premises which quantities of seized drugs were retained in between the event of seizure and the event of destruction in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6326/04]

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Paul Kehoe

Question:

66 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of time between the seizure of large drugs hauls and their destruction in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6327/04]

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 20, 28 and 66 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all illegal drugs seized are initially conveyed to the Forensic Science Laboratory at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park for technical examination.

When analysed, smaller quantities of seized drugs are retained at the relevant district or divisional headquarters where they are stored until required for court purposes. The drugs are placed in evidence bags which are labelled and sealed and placed in secure conditions until required for evidential purposes. These stations are manned on a 24 hour basis with no specific cost involved in securing the stored drugs.

In regard to significant drug seizures, they are retained at Garda Headquarters which is also manned on a 24 hour basis, with no specific cost involved, until the case has been determined and an order for their destruction obtained.

There were no other costs incurred in securing premises containing quantities of drugs seized in 2003.

During the year 2003 there were a number of significant seizures involving cannabis resin, ecstasy tablets and cocaine. In respect of two seizures of 1.6 tonnes and 0.25 tonnes of cannabis resin, respectively, in which prosecution were not forthcoming, both were destroyed after a six-month period with a representative sample being retained in case of any future developments that could lead to a prosecution. All other significant seizures occurring during 2003 have resulted in persons being arrested and charged. Their cases are currently before the courts awaiting determination. Section 10 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1984, provides for the introduction in evidence of a certificate of analysis signed by an officer of the Forensic Science Laboratory in regard to the drug. The certificate constitutes sufficient evidence of the facts stated therein until the contrary is shown.

I have no plans at present to change the laws of evidence in this regard. There is, at present, no evidential requirement under law to retain the full amount of seizures of drugs for the purposes of prosecution. The arrangements for the retention, production in evidence and destruction of seizures are operational matters for the Garda Síochána. I understand that such arrangements are the subject of periodical advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to the Garda authorities.