Tough new legislation stemmed from Omagh bombing
Published 09/11/2010 | 05:00
ALMOST 100 suspects have so far been arrested under tough gangland laws introduced by the Government in the summer.
These have resulted in files on more than a dozen gangs being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as the force steps up its drive against suspected prime players. Two suspects have already been charged with directing a criminal organisation, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Six others are to face trial on charges of taking part in or contributing to a criminal organisation and, if convicted, could face up to 15 years behind bars.
The arrests have also resulted in charges related to a range of other serious offences including possession of firearms, drug trafficking, threats to kill, theft, demanding money with menaces and aggravated burglary.
The legislation provides for gangland-related offences to be tried in the non-jury Special Criminal Court, unless the DPP directs otherwise, and also gives the courts the go-ahead to draw inferences from failure to answer questions, or account for movements, actions, activities or associations.
It has also increased the penalty for intimidation of a juror or witness from 10 to 15 years' imprisonment.
The legislation is based loosely on the new measures introduced by the Government in the wake of the Omagh bomb atrocity in August 1998.
These resulted in the imprisonment of Michael McKevitt -- the then leader of the dissident republican group responsible for the outrage, the Real IRA.
It is being used in tandem with the 2009 Surveillance Act, which has been invaluable to gardai in gathering evidence to support cases against gang members.
Many of the files already submitted concentrate on gangs led by major criminals in Dublin including the group that formerly surrounded Eamonn Dunne, the notorious thug shot dead in a city pub in April.