Thursday, 26 February 2004

Questions (43)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

41 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to reduce access to and use by criminals of firearms, in view of the fact that the number of murders involving the use of such weapons has increased from four in 1998 to 21 in 2003; the steps he intends to take to ensure that those using such weapons are brought to justice in view of the fact that proceedings have been commenced in respect of only four of the murders in which firearms were used in 2003; the position in regard to his review of the firearms control policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6222/04]

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

I assure the Deputy that I share his concern in relation to the issue of firearms becoming available to criminals. I have made inquiries with the Garda authorities who have informed me that the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation investigates homicides, serious and organised crime on a national basis. I am further informed that any action taken against organised criminal groups who habitually use firearms in the course of their criminal activities is focused through intelligence-led operations.

This approach allows Garda management to utilise local divisional resources, along with specialised units, to maximum effect. I have discussed this matter on several occasions with the Garda Commissioner and I am confident that every effort is made by the Garda Síochána to bring those engaged in crime to justice and that appropriate action is taken where sufficient evidence is available.

The provisional number of murders in 2003 involving firearms has decreased by one following the investigation of an incident where a person received a fatal shotgun wound. This incident is no longer being investigated as a murder and has been reclassified. Therefore, the provisional figure for 2003 for murders involving firearms is now 20 murders recorded, seven detected and four with proceedings commenced. These figures are provisional and are subject to a validation process.

My Department has almost finalised a review of the firearms control policy with the intention of updating the legislation in this area. The security of weapons held legitimately by individuals or dealers from robbery by criminals will be dealt with in the context of this proposed legislation. I hope to bring proposals to Government shortly.