Written Answers. - Crime Levels.
48 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the final validated crime figures for 2002 will be published; when the preliminary crime figures for the second quarter of 2003 will be published; the steps he plans to take to counter the unacceptable level of crime, particularly in regard to violent assaults and street disorder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17096/03]
Bernard J. DurkanCeist:
142 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to combat street violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17303/03]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 142 together.
I strongly support specialised and focused Garda operations, such as Operation Encounter, to counter late night disorder and I remain determined that the resources of the entire criminal justice system are used effectively to combat street crime.
With regard to increasing the Garda presence on the streets, the Government has authorised me to make the greatest possible use of the existing capacity of the Garda Training College in Templemore over the next two years to bring the strength of the force to 12,200, its current authorised maximum strength. While it will not be possible to increase numbers beyond that point for as long as the cap on public service numbers remains in place, this figure in itself will represent an all-time high. This will be higher again as soon as budgetary circumstances permit the Government to make progress towards the target of 14,000 provided in the programme for Government for achievement by 2007.
I also intend to increase, as soon as circumstances permit, the number of Garda members available for frontline policing through a process of civilianisation.
As the Deputy will be aware, the recently enacted Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 will come into force on 28 June this year. The Act is designed to tackle the problem of drunken late night street disturbances and provides for the closure of premises such as pubs, off-licences, late night clubs and food premises, as well the making of exclusion orders on individuals in addition to any penalty which may already be imposed under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994.
I have also this week published a new Intoxicating Liquor Bill which will respond to certain of the recommendations in the National Crime Council's report on public order as well as in the interim report of the strategic task force on alcohol and the reports of the Commission on Liquor Licensing.
With regard to the Deputy's question relating to the provision of crime statistics, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the exact date on which the Commissioner's annual report for 2002 will be presented to me has not yet been determined. I understand that statistics for the year 2002 are the subject of a validation process which must be completed before the figures for inclusion in the annual report for 2002 can be finalised.
I am also informed by the Garda authorities that the preliminary crime figures for the second quarter of 2003 will be made available to me in July.
Neither I nor my Department has any involvement in the generation, compilation or presentation of Garda crime statistics. This includes the date by which the Commissioner's annual reports are produced in printed form. However, it has been my policy since my appointment to make public such data at the earliest possible opportunity following its receipt from the Garda Commissioner. I will continue this practice in respect of both the annual report for 2002 and the provisional figures for the second quarter of this year which, as the Deputy is aware, is not yet over.