Tuesday 25 June 2019

Five knives and a hammer among dangerous weapons seized from youths during searches

Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

This frightening photograph of five knives shows the dangerous weapons that gardai have taken from young people in north county Dublin alone in the last week.

Two kitchen knives, a folding hunting knife, a box-cutter and a scalpel, as well as a hammer, were all taken from youths during searches, meaning many more teenagers could be carrying weapons that have not been detected.

Gardai have posted the image on Facebook as a warning to parents to make sure they keep their children safe and know what they are up to.

The gardai also advised parents to report any sightings of dangerous weapons to gardai so that other knives can be taken off the streets.

Concerns are mounting that knife crime is rising rapidly, and that more and more teenagers are carrying knives either as weapons to inflict harm or weapons they perceive they can use to protect themselves.

However, the sad reality is that a knife produced in a dispute for what a person might describe as protection can easily end up in someone else’s hand and be used to do harm or kill.

When contacted over the seizure, a spokesperson for the gardai said all the items seized were during high-visibility patrols due to community concerns in the Balbriggan garda district area.

"All items were seized from teenagers and young adults. A 'flick knife' as pictured in centre is always illegal. Other knives/ offensive weapons cannot be carried without reasonable excuse," the spokesperson said.

Figures released by gardai to Fianna Fail justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan recently show a 66pc increase in knife seizures since 2016.

Some 2,000 knives were seized in 2018 compared to 1,600 in 2017 and 1,200 in 2016.

Gardai have said most of the weapons were taken from young people during stop-and-search operations.

“The increased seizure of knives reveals that many young men think it is acceptable to carry knives. It is important that people are aware that carrying knives for no lawful purpose is not permitted and will be severely punished,” said Deputy O’Callaghan.

“At present, the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990 imposes a maximum sentence of five years and/or a fine for carrying a knife that is intended to incapacitate or injure another person. The maximum sentence needs to be increased so that there is a real deterrent for carrying knives in public,” he added.

“I will be seeking the approval of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party to increase the maximum penalty in order to respond to what is a developing problem. We should not wait for further atrocities before seeking to act.’ said Mr O’Callaghan.

The Central Statistics Office has not routinely recorded information on knife crime in Ireland because it says the relevant incidents were not being recorded in a reliable manner on the garda Pulse computer system.

“The information has proved unreliable because some stations recorded incidents in different ways, which is why we have not published statistics on it,” said a CSO spokesman.

Recorded Crime statistics are based wholly on the administrative records of crime incidents recorded by An Garda Síochána on the PULSE system.

The CSO has no role in recording crimes reported to An Garda Síochána.

Deputy Jim O’Callaghan fears the lack of data on knife crime could affect how gardaí tackle the issue.

He fears we will not be able to tackle knife crime effectively due to a lack of data on the issue.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said he wrote to the Garda authorities in February 2019 to seek an update on the recent work of An Garda Síochána in tackling knife-related crime, and in particular the progress being made by Gardaí to improve the quality of knife crime statistics recorded on the PULSE system.

He also said a working group set up within An Garda Siochana will continue to monitor the prevalence and frequency of individuals carrying a knife and knife-like instruments on their person, whilst devising a strategy to tackle assaults against the person, including assaults involving the use of a knife.

The working group is expected to present a draft strategy to the garda executive for consideration by July.

Knife crime among teenagers came to prominence most recently when south Dublin teenager Azzam Raguragui (18) in a park in Dundrum on May 10.

He was attacked as a group of youths gathered in the park.

Gardai are continuing to investigate the fatal attack on Azzam, as well as an alleged knife attack in Rathfarnham a short time later which left a teenager with a leg injury.

It is not known if the incidents are related.

Azzam’s killing was raised in the Dáil by Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who said knife crime

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