Thursday, 2 May 2013

Questions (19)

Billy Kelleher


19. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress that has been made in addressing border region criminal activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20773/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am happy to inform the House that there is close and ongoing co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI on all aspects of policing. In 2010 the two police forces put in place a joint Cross Border Policing Strategy which has as its aims to improve public safety throughout Ireland, to disrupt criminal activity and to enhance the policing capability of both police services on the island. The joint Cross Border Policing Strategy includes sections dealing with Operations; Cross Border Investigations; Intelligence-sharing and Security; Information and Communications Technology; Training; Human Resources, and Emergency Planning. The two police services are jointly engaged in implementing initiatives in all these areas.

I meet and maintain contact very regularly with the Northern Ireland Minister of Justice, David Ford, to address matters of mutual concern and enhance effective co-operation and co-ordination on all criminal justice matters. Under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Co-operation on Criminal Justice Matters we operate a structured framework to further develop this co-operation. Officials from our Departments meet regularly to assess and report to us on developments in a number of areas where co-operation is pursued.

The two Justice Departments, the police authorities and the public prosecutors North and South have jointly developed and put in place a Joint Manual of Guidance for use in criminal investigations with a cross-border element. The joint manual supports the police and prosecution authorities in both jurisdictions by ensuring that each side has an awareness of the needs of the other jurisdiction and can bear those in mind in conducting an investigation. The joint manual allows them to maximise the chances of a successful detection and prosecution.

The fight against the threat from paramilitary groups is a priority for both police services. The Gardaí co-operate seamlessly with their counterparts in Northern Ireland in actively bearing down on these criminal terrorists. The Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI who have responsibility for operational policing co-operation have repeatedly emphasised that the close and high quality co-operation between their forces has been instrumental in preventing attacks, combating criminality and saving lives. I would emphasise that the joint Cross Border Policing Strategy recognises the particular value of interagency co-operation in certain areas, for example, in ongoing efforts to combat the organised crime gangs operating on this island to whom the paramilitaries are inextricably linked.

The Cross-Border Task Force on Fuel Laundering and Smuggling which comprises representatives from the two police forces, the two customs services, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency has underpinned successful actions which have disrupted the activities of a number of groups involved in the laundering and distribution of illegal fuels. A similar interagency group, the Cross Border Tobacco Enforcement Group, is in place to support the fight against the activities of gangs engaged in tobacco fraud. North-South co-operation at the policy and operational levels in combating crime is positive and dynamic. The challenges that crime presents are shared ones on this island and joint working in the fight against crime will continue to enhance our efforts to improve community safety for all.