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Saturday 1 October 2016

Gardai prosecute over 600,000 drivers while murders go unsolved

The detection rate in gang-related gun murders has plummeted with no convictions being recorded in some Dublin Garda districts

Published 06/03/2016 | 02:30

'The failure to prosecute in so many gang murders is becoming a major cause of concern among gardai who fear that the current feud between northside and southside gangs in Dublin could lead to what some term a 'bloodbath' incident' Photo: PA
'The failure to prosecute in so many gang murders is becoming a major cause of concern among gardai who fear that the current feud between northside and southside gangs in Dublin could lead to what some term a 'bloodbath' incident' Photo: PA

The four north Dublin Garda districts which are at the centre of last week's murder investigation of dissident republican Vinnie Ryan and the Regency Hotel attack have been the scene of more than 40 unsolved gang murders over the past decade.

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In the last 10 years there have been around 200 gun and knife murders related to gangs in Dublin. Around 160 gang murders involving firearms remain unsolved, with no charges or court proceedings. There have been charges brought in only 23 gun murder cases over this period.

This contrasts sharply with the massive level of Garda prosecutions resulting in fines imposed on Irish drivers over the same period. Available statistics suggest there have been something like six million traffic prosecutions by Traffic Corps gardai in this period since the garda began its aggressive prosecution of driving offences.

The failure to prosecute in so many gang murders is becoming a major cause of concern among gardai who fear that the current feud between northside and southside gangs in Dublin could lead to what some term a 'bloodbath' incident. Gardai in the south of the city are on high alert this weekend, fearing retribution for either the Regency Hotel attack last month in which David Byrne was killed or for last week's murder of Real IRA man Ryan.

The southside gang in which David Byrne (32) was a leading member controls much of the city's cocaine and heroin supply. The northside gang responsible for the Regency attack is heavily involved in the supply of cannabis and the massive market for opioid tablets.

The Regency and Vinnie Ryan murders has highlighted the continuing level of unsolved murders on the northside of the city.

The Ballymun district, in which the Ryan and Byrne murders occurred, has six unsolved gang killings. The Coolock and Finglas districts each have 17 unsolved gun murders and the Cabra district has a further five murders unsolved.

It has also emerged that the Garda central detective unit, which formerly had responsibility for investigating major crimes, including gang murders, is devoting 50pc of its resources to 'internal' investigations.

A 2014 report by the independent Garda Inspectorate also found that the National Bureau of Crime Investigation (NBCI) is not significantly involved in investigating any gang murders. The report, Crime Investigation, also found that the detective ranks have been severely depleted in the past decade, with up to 700 gardai with no proper training involved in investigating major crimes such as murder and rape.

The Inspectorate was critical of the strict adherence to rostering under which detectives involved in murder cases are taken off investigations as soon as their leave days occur. They cited one case in which the initial team of investigators were taken off a case just a day after it started to begin their four-day leave period. The case was transferred to other detectives who worked on it for their rostered five days' duty before passing it on to yet another team of gardai.

Gardai say that much of the responsibility for murder investigations is being passed to gardai appointed as 'crime scene examiners' who, the Inspectorate found, receive relatively little training in investigating serious crime. The Inspectorate also found major deficiencies in the preparation of court cases which is resulting in significant numbers of cases being struck out.

Garda sources say the depletion of the detective ranks and the introduction of new regulations in 2006 preventing detectives from handling their own intelligence sources has resulted in the breakdown in prosecutions for gang murders.

The breakdown in major crime investigation contrasts starkly with the massive prosecution of motorists for minor offences, which accounts for 62pc of cases before district courts, according to the Irish Courts Service.

Figures on the Garda website for traffic offences show that 177,744 people were prosecuted for speeding for the 11 months to the end of November last year. A further 25,195 were prosecuted for using mobile phones while driving during the same period and 9,586 were prosecuted for not wearing seatbelts. These figures are in line with 2014 when 223,191 were prosecuted for speeding, 30,524 for using mobile phones and 11,513 for not wearing seat belts.

The traffic prosecution statistics on the Garda website for the past three years do not contain figures for the 'other' category of prosecutions of people for other minor offences, such as driving in bus lanes, overtaking on the left and parking on yellow lines. The last published year with these statistics was in 2012 when the website recorded that 404,638 people were prosecuted for offences other than speeding, no seat belt on or talking on mobile phones. In 2011, the total for 'other' offences was 459,908.

This would suggest that around 600,000 people are prosecuted by gardai each year for traffic offences.

With fines of at least €80 per offence, this would suggest the Traffic Corps is raking in around €50m a year for the State from motorists who are already paying an estimated €5bn in driving related taxes - with the prospect of insurance costs doubling this year.

Sunday Independent

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