The Government is very conscious of the dangers presented by knife crime, and indeed all violent assaults. Clearly any stabbing has the potential to cause irreparable physical harm and tragic consequences and the Government is determined to ensure that similar problems to those which have developed in neighbouring jurisdictions do not develop here in Ireland.
My Department is keeping the law in relation to sentencing for knife crimes, as well as all other policies around knife crimes, such as targeted interventions, under review. This includes considering approaches adopted in other jurisdictions to reduce violent crime, including knife crime.
The Garda Commissioner and I have agreed we should carry out further analysis on the level of violent crime in our society, including with our colleagues in public health.
We discussed drawing lessons from international examples, such as Scotland and London. Although their challenges were significant and perhaps greater than ours, we can still learn from their approach.
The Deputy will be aware that the mission of An Garda Síochána is ‘Keeping People Safe’. This is a simple message, but a very deep one, and An Garda Síochána keep policing practices and strategies under review with a view to providing the best possible responses.
Knives, knife crime, and crime in general, are classified differently across jurisdictions so accurate comparisons are not readily available. With that in mind, it should be noted that research in the UK points to tougher sentencing, generally, not being seen as an effective strategy for reducing knife crime.
There is a comprehensive and robust legal framework in place with respect to knife crime, including heavy penalties for breaches of the laws concerned. 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.
This is a more severe penalty when compared to the UK where the maximum sentence is four years for possession of a knife or other offensive weapon.