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Garda Operations.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 8 July 2008

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Questions (827, 828, 829)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

862 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which increased time resources and Garda surveillance are expected to be provided to combat criminal gangs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27640/08]

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

An Garda Síochána carries out on a continuous basis intelligence-led operations against groups and individuals engaged in illegal activity. There is a particular focus on organised criminal gangs, and intelligence on the personnel of such groups is continually updated. Those suspected of involvement in criminal activity are arrested, detained and questioned in accordance with the law in relation to specific criminal activity.

An allocation of €20 million has been ring-fenced from the Garda Budget for 2008 for activities under Operation Anvil. These are augmented by other operations and initiatives by units and sections of An Garda Síochána, both locally and nationally.

The funding available enables the continuation of successful anti-crime measures directed at the prevention and detection of serious crime such as gangland murders, racketeering and other organised criminal activities, including through making available extra overtime. It addition to overtime, it should be noted that as of May 2008 there were 13,874 fully attested members of An Garda Síochána, with 1,074 recruits in training. This gives a combined strength for the Force of 14,948, representing a net increase of 459 in the past eleven months, and makes available increased personnel hours.

The Commissioner has been given significant additional resources to carry out these measures.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

863 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action taken or expected to be taken to combat the supply of weapons to criminals; the number of suppliers who have been identified, prosecuted and convicted including the imposition of prison sentences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27641/08]

View answer

One of the strategic actions to achieve the goals set out in the Garda Commissioner's Policy Plan for 2008 is the continuation and intensification of intelligence-led operations against groups and individuals engaged in the trafficking of guns into and within the State.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all available intelligence is fully analysed and used in the strategic deployment of both local and specialised operational Garda units in targeting the procurement of weaponry by and for criminal gangs.

Operations against organised criminal gangs operating in this jurisdiction are undertaken on an ongoing basis. The members of such gangs and their operating methods, criminal interests and financial assets are the subject of such operations, which are primarily undertaken by specialist units of An Garda Síochána, including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Measures to deal with serious crime include Operation Anvil, which commenced in May, 2005 in the Dublin Metropolitan Region and was extended countrywide in 2006. The primary focus of Operation Anvil is the disruption of serious and organised criminal activity.

The most recent figures available show the significant impact which Operation Anvil is having. In the Dublin Metropolitan Region there have been 906 firearms seized up to 1 June, 2008. A further 734 firearms have been seized outside the Dublin Metropolitan Region up to 4 May.

A wide range of provisions to combat gun crime was introduced by the Criminal Justice Act, 2006. With effect from 1 November, 2006 mandatory minimum sentences, of between five and ten years, came into effect for certain firearms offences, including possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, possession of a firearm with criminal intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle and use or production of a firearm to resist arrest.

Question No. 864 answered with Question No. 859.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

865 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent, quality and degree of cooperation between the Gardaí and other police forces outside this jurisdiction in the context of the pursuit of criminal gangs; if he envisages improvements in this area with particular reference to achieving successful prosecutions against major criminals of Irish descent but living outside the jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27643/08]

View answer

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that it maintains close liaison with other law enforcement agencies throughout Europe, and elsewhere, exchanging information and intelligence on Irish criminals living abroad. This ongoing liaison has led to a number of successful joint operations targeting the attempted importation of drugs and firearms and resulting in a number of significant arrests here and in other jurisdictions. Where intelligence, supported by evidence, is available, law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions put operations in place, as appropriate, in cooperation with An Garda Síochána to prevent and detect such criminality.

Where information exists that a person who is wanted in relation to a particular crime in this jurisdiction is living abroad, and where particular legal requirements apply, extradition is sought, or an application is made for a European Arrest Warrant.

Where there is justification and a legal basis, those suspected of involvement in criminal activity are arrested, detained and questioned in relation to specific crimes. A member of An Garda Síochána must, at all times, have reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has been involved in criminal activity before they can arrest and question any person in relation to criminality.

Ireland is a party to various International Conventions which provide for assistance in criminal matters between jurisdictions. An Garda Síochána send and receive requests for assistance via the Central Authority for Mutual Assistance which is based in my own Department. Requests for assistance may also be dealt with on the basis of reciprocity where certain jurisdictions may not be a party to specific conventions.

The new Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 will provide An Garda Síochána with an additional ability to fight organised crime and obtain evidence outside Irish borders. This Act provides a greater role to An Garda Síochána in servicing requests from outside this jurisdiction in terms of the monitoring of accounts in financial institutions in this jurisdiction and in obtaining evidence for use in other EU Member States in the fight against organised crime.

An Garda Síochána participates in Europol, the EU law enforcement organisation that handles criminal intelligence. The aim of Europol is to improve the effectiveness of, and cooperation between, the competent authorities of the Member States in preventing and combating serious international organised crime and terrorism. In this respect, Europol facilitates the bilateral and multilateral exchange of information via secure and encrypted channels among the EU Member States, other European countries, and certain other nations such as the USA and Australia.

Europol provides an extensive analytical capacity, providing operational and intelligence analysis on request. Europol also generates and disseminates strategic reports such as threat assessments and early warning messages, which are distributed and actioned nationally as appropriate.

Expertise and technical supports are also available on request. Member States, including Ireland, second ‘national experts' to Europol from time to time for these purposes. Europol channels are used by operational Garda units investigating trans-national organised crime affecting Ireland, and are similarly used by police and customs officials in other EU Member States who are investigating any serious criminal activity in their country.

An Garda Síochána is also a member of the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) which is a worldwide organisation whose aim is to promote and facilitate enquiries into criminal activities. One of its primary objectives is to ensure that criminals who operate at international level are arrested and successfully prosecuted.

Interpol coordinates actions between police forces of member countries, of which there are 186. The five priority crime areas for Interpol are Fugitives, Public Safety & Terrorism, Drugs and Organised Crime, Trafficking in Human Beings and Financial & High-Tech Crime. Interpol fosters close relationships with key international organisations. The General Secretary of Interpol has achieved observer status at the United Nations and has developed a good working relationship with Europol.

An Garda Síochána also has Liaison Officers based in the Hague, London, Paris, Madrid, Europol and Interpol to assist with international aspects of Garda investigations and assist other Law Enforcement Agencies in investigations involving Irish nationals.

There are two categories of organised crime groups operating in this jurisdiction. The first category consists of individuals/groups that are well established and tightly structured involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by less cohesive group structures and criminal activities which are mainly confined to Ireland.

Organised criminal gangs operating in this jurisdiction are being targeted on an ongoing basis and profiles regarding the personnel of such groups are continually updated. Their members, operating methods, criminal interests and financial assets are likewise proactively targeted and a Garda response embraces intelligence-led operations primarily undertaken by An Garda Siochana specialised units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Drug Unit, the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau. In addition, information relating to these groupings is disseminated on a regular basis to Europol at The Hague in order to ensure that those operating outside of this jurisdiction can be pursued with the full rigour of the law.

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