Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (699)

Jim O'Callaghan


699. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice if she will progress the Firearms and Offensive Weapons (Amendment) Bill 2019 in view of the significant rise in the number of young men carrying knives. [37858/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I refer the Deputy to the answer provided to Parliamentary Question Number 1057 of 3 November 2020 and I wish to confirm that the position as outlined remains unchanged.

I am very aware of public concerns with regard to knife crime and I am determined to ensure similar problems do not develop in Ireland as have developed in neighbouring jurisdictions.

It is worth noting that recent HSE figures indicate a welcome drop in recent years in the number of hospital admissions for knife wounds where the victim requires an overnight stay. In 2019 there were 178 such incidents, this is a drop from the figures reported between 2005 and 2011 for example, where on average there were 236 such incidents per year.

There has also been a reported reduction in crimes against the person in the first two quarters of this year versus the same period in 2019 according to the Central Statistics Office. Compared with the same periods last year, the "assault causing harm" category fell by 23.9% in the first quarter by 16.9% in the second quarter. While COVID-19 has undoubtedly played a role here, I believe that it is worth noting that the public health restrictions did not come into place until the final weeks of Quarter one.

That said, any stabbing incident can, of course, cause irreparable physical harm and have potentially tragic consequences. Gardaí continue to take proactive action against knife crime – including through the Assault Reduction Strategy 2019-2021, through education and engagement with community initiatives, and at an operational level – and a substantial number of convictions have been secured in the Courts over the past number of years for possession of a knife or other article.

A comprehensive and robust legal framework remains in place in this regard, including heavy penalties for breaches of the law. Under the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, the maximum penalty for a conviction for possessing a knife in a public place (without good reason or lawful authority) was increased from one to five years. An Garda Síochána also has an extended power of search, without warrant, in relation to knives and offensive weapons.

The criminal law is kept under ongoing review and amendments are considered if any new trends emerge.