Hardened burglars to be hit with longer jail sentences
Serial home burglars will face longer jail terms and may be refused bail under new laws aimed at curbing home burglaries.
The planned laws aimed at "prolific" offenders will result in District Court judges applying mandatory consecutive sentences for multiple offences committed within a 12-month window.
Judges will also be allowed to refuse bail to offenders who have a previous conviction for burglary coupled with two or more pending charges amid Government concerns that the criminal justice system is not taking full account of the seriousness of home burglaries.
The dedicated home burglary law, which Ms Fitzgerald says is designed to "keep repeat burglars off the streets" has been approved by Government and is expected to be passed later this year.
The costs of longer periods of detention in jail for recidivist burglars will be kept under review.
Publication of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 comes in the wake of a series of high-profile home burglaries in which the elderly were targeted, particularly in under-policed rural areas.
Ms Fitzgerald said the bill was targeted at those repeat burglars who had previous convictions and who were charged with multiple offences of residential burglary.
Garda figures indicate that 75pc of burglaries are committed by 25pc of burglars.
Reoffending rates are almost 80pc for people imprisoned for burglary and related offences, which means that many burglars are released from prison only to commit new offences.
"Targeting this cohort of repeat offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the number of burglaries being committed," said Ms Fitzgerald, who recently announced the allocation of €700,000 to gardaí to buy specialist vehicles to tackle highly mobile criminal gangs.
Between March 2014 and March 2015, assaults and burglaries both increased by 8pc. However, the Central Statistics Office suspended its crime figures because of several issues in the report of the garda inspectorate on crime investigation, published in November 2014, which raised concerns over how data was recorded on the garda Pulse system.
At present, under the concurrent (at the same time) sentencing system, quite short sentences of six months and less can be imposed even though an offender has committed multiple burglaries, often within a short period of time.
But the new law will ensure judges in the District Court can give consecutive jail terms for up to two years where a burglar is being sentenced for multiple offences.
Under the bill, prolific burglars can be refused bail by judges considering an application from an adult charged with burglary or aggravated burglary committed with a firearm, imitation firearm, any weapon of offence or any explosive.
The law will allow courts to refuse bail for offenders who have a previous conviction for home burglary, coupled with two or more pending charges.
A significant number of home burglaries are committed by a small number of repeat offenders and the new law aims to cut down their reoffending rates by allowing judges to refuse bail and apply consecutive sentences for multiple offences.
As well as consecutive sentences for multiple burglary offences committed within a 12-month window, the new bill will amend further the 1997 Bail Act.
The act will be amended to allow judges to refuse bail to offenders who have a previous conviction for domestic burglary coupled with two or more pending charges.