Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Questions (463)

Tom Fleming

Question:

463. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will enforce the ban on the possession of knives with limited exceptions, that is, trades people in the work place, such as fishermen, and so on, in view of the fact that there has been an increase in knife crime, murders, stabbings and assaults here; if he will take into consideration the lifelong physical and psychological scars suffered by victims and their families and also the significant cost to the medical services, the Garda authorities and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30463/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

While I share the Deputy's concern regarding the offences referred to, I would call his attention to the fact that the most recent official crime statistics from the Central Statistics Office show that assault and related offences were down 10.3% in 2012 over 2011 and the figure for weapons and explosives offences, including knife and other offensive weapons, was down 13.6%.

I can assure the Deputy that a comprehensive and robust legal framework is place with respect to knife crime including heavy penalties for breaches of the laws concerned.

Under the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990, the possession of specified offensive weapons is prohibited and it is an offence for any person to manufacture, import, sell, hire or loan such weapons. Specifically, under Section 9 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, it is an offence to possess any knife or any other article which has a blade or which is sharply pointed in any public place, without having good reason or lawful authority.

I can further advise that the Garda Commissioner, in 2008, made recommendations in relation to knives and sharply pointed or bladed weapons, and subsequently the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 was enacted, further strengthening the law and responding to Garda concerns about knife crime. The maximum penalty for possessing a knife in a public place without good reason or lawful authority has been increased from one to five years, and An Garda Síochána were given an extended power of search without warrant in relation to knives and offensive weapons. In tandem with the new legislation, samurai swords were generally banned from importation and sale.

At an operational level, An Garda Síochána pro-actively targets public disorder and anti-social behaviour, including knife related crime. Areas identified as public order hot-spots by local Garda management are the subject of additional foot and mobile patrols. Incidents of public disorder and anti-social behaviour reported to the Garda authorities are the subject of investigation and are dealt with appropriately in accordance with the law. However, it should be noted that statistics show that nearly one third of knife crimes occur in domestic settings and often with a degree of spontaneity, which increases the challenges for policing and enforcement.