Thursday 18 July 2019

Register of drug dealers still not ready after two years

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A Drug Offenders' Register intended to monitor drug dealers across the country has still not been set up more than two years after it was made law by former Justice Minister Michael McDowell.

Garda sources said they are still "working" on the register even though judges have been ordering drug offenders to be listed on it for the past two years. The law obliging drug dealers and traffickers to sign up to a Drug Offenders Register on conviction or on their release from prison came into force in October in 2006.

The register was expected to operate in the same way as the sex offenders register, with gardai responsible for maintaining a database of offenders. Offenders are required to report their address and living arrangements so their movements can be monitored. Those who do not can be fined up to €3,000, imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both.

Mr McDowell claimed the register would help gardai keep track of drug dealers and would help generate intelligence. But the garda response to the former minister's proposals has proved somewhat lacklustre. A senior garda source said this weekend that the Drug Offenders' Register is "being worked on". No other explanation was given for the delay.

Meanwhile, gardai in divisions around the country are still awaiting instructions on what to do with drug offenders who comply with court orders to present themselves to be listed on the, as yet, non-existent register. The revelation will embarrass the force at a time when senior managers have singled drug trafficking and gangland crime as a policing priority.

Judges have been ordering convicted drug offenders to report to gardai so their details can be listed on the register since shortly after the law was enacted. The judiciary also informs the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations of the names of those drug offenders.

Earlier this month, Judge Patrick Moran at Cork Circuit Criminal Court ordered three Englishmen involved in one of the biggest drug seizures in Ireland, to be listed on the Drug Offenders' Register for seven years on their release. The men, who pleaded guilty, received 10-year prison terms.

Under the Criminal Justice Act of 2006, those convicted of drug trafficking are given seven days to provide their address and other personal details to gardai.

Drug offenders who receive a prison sentence must present to a garda station within seven days of their release from jail.

Prison governors must also notify gardai when drug offenders are to be released and judges may make orders compelling drug offenders to report to gardai so they can be listed on the register.

The Irish Human Rights Commission raised concerns about the Drug Offenders' Register, questioning whether it was an "effective, necessary or proportionate response" to the prevention of drug trafficking.

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