'Garda technology caused backlog of 115,000 warrants'
Outdated Garda technology is one of the main reasons for the massive backlog in executing warrants issued by the courts - which now total 115,000.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald admitted there were still "significant deficiencies" in the systems used by the gardaí to try to cope with the problem. These are mainly to do with the recording and monitoring of critical information regarding these warrants.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil Justice spokesman Niall Collins insists a special garda taskforce should be set up to deal with the crisis. A failure to upgrade garda technology, and the significant cutbacks to garda resources, are the main causes of the problem, he said.
He also warned failure to execute these court warrants is now "a serious threat to our criminal justice system and said there s growing concern among the judiciary about the problem.
"If people see that our justice system cannot implement the orders it makes, it fundamentally undermines their confidence in that system.
"This is nothing less than a threat to the criminal justice system overall," he added.
In response to a parliamentary question from Deputy Collins, the minister confirmed there were 115,772 warrants outstanding on June 30 last.
"As the deputy is aware, difficulties in relation to the execution of warrants have been a matter of concern for many years, with similar or higher numbers outstanding in the past,'' she said.
"It is also true to say that this is a long-standing difficulty for many police forces around the world. While genuine difficulties can arise where it does not prove possible to enforce a warrant, I regard it as a priority that systems are in place to ensure that warrants are enforced as quickly as possible.
"In this regard, I am advised that An Garda Síochána gives priority to the execution of warrants in respect of serious crime and will continue to do so."
She pointed out there was an analysis of this problem by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate in its report on Crime Investigation in November last year.
A 'Warrants Review Group' is now examining ways of speeding up the whole process.
"A relevant issue which was highlighted in the Garda Inspectorate report, is the number of warrants generated as a result of non-payment of fines, in circumstances where previously imprisonment was the only option available to the court in cases of non-payment.''
She said warrants of this nature made up a significant proportion of the total figure outstanding.
The aim was to "significantly reduce" the number of people imprisoned for non-payment of fines, she added.