Monday 23 October 2017

Justice review to toughen up gangland laws

Tom Brady Security Editor

A REVIEW is to be carried out of gangland legislation to establish if the controversial measures can be more effective in the garda crackdown on armed thugs and drug traffickers.

The measures were implemented two years ago in the wake of a spate of gangland crimes and resulted in a raft of arrests as garda specialist units targeted suspected members of major organised gangs.

But many of the early files did not result in a prosecution under the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act, 2009, and led to a fresh look by senior gardai at how the legislation could be deployed.

Now Justice Minister Alan Shatter has admitted he was disappointed that the provisions of the 2009 act "have not proven of greater benefit in tackling the death and destruction caused by criminal gangs".

He said he asked his department officials to review the provisions to determine if further measures could be taken.

The garda authorities are satisfied that the measures in the act are indispensable to them in tackling organised crime, according to the minister.

He pointed out that a large number of arrests had been made under the those provisions and charges were being pursued against a number of people.

The legislation primarily provides for:

•The trial of organised crime offences in the Special Criminal Court unless the DPP directs otherwise.

•The creation of a new offence of directing or controlling a criminal organisation.

•An increase in the maximum penalty for participation or involvement in organised crime.

•A court can draw inferences from a failure to answer questions or to account for movements, actions, activities or associations.

•An increase in the penalty for the intimidation of a witness or juror from 10 to 15 years imprisonment.

Instead, gardai have used the Criminal Justice Act 2006 on 72 operations and these have resulted in four people being charged with offences of either directing a criminal organisation or participating in or contributing to the activities of the group.

The arrests have also led to other suspects being charged with firearms offences, the sale and supply of illegal drugs, aggravated burglary and other serious crimes.

Mr Shatter said it was absolutely essential to ensure that the gardai had the best possible range of powers available to them to tackle the gangs.

He noted that none of the cases had yet come before the Special Criminal Court.

However, that did not invalidate the reasoning for having such a provision available for use when the circumstances required it.

The minister outlined his argument as he spoke in the Seanad on a proposal to continue the key Section 8 of the 2009 act for another year.

Irish Independent

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