Sunday 18 March 2018

Justice Minister: It will take until the lifetime of the next government to restore Garda numbers

The pilot programme was announced by the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan
The pilot programme was announced by the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan

Cormac McQuinn and Barry Lennon

Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald said it will take until the lifetime of the next government to restore Garda numbers to up to 14,000.

Members of An Garda Siochana are retiring at a rate of 300 every year, so it will take some time before Garda numbers are built up, she said.

“Previous Government effectively closed down Templemore Garda College. There have been about 300 retiring every year. It’ll take the life of next Government to get up to 14,000, said Ms Fitzgerald speaking on RTÉ’s Seán O’ Rourke.  

“We are putting resources into Gardaí to win the battle against crime. However, criminal activity is part of modern life.” 

“2014 was the highest rate of burglary. I sat down with Gardaí who said they could detect crimes but legislation wasn’t strong enough to deal with them and then I decided introduced more powers for them,”

The Minister also defended Operation Thor, which combats burglaries, after recent criticism.

“People do not have the information to make a statement (that the operation is not working) yet. Everybody will tell you they’re being stopped more by Gardaí. That’s police forces and community groups that are saying that.”

Garda patrol cars are to be supplied with crime scene kits and extra cameras to help officers gather evidence at domestic violence call-outs.

The pilot programme was announced by the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan at the launch of the the Second National Strategy fro Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence which will cover the next five years.

Ms O'Sullivan described such violence as "insidious" and that the additional tools for gathering evidence will help, particularly in cases where victims are fearful of making a complaint.

"A lot of those crimes are hidden by they are very physical and mentally scarring for victims and their loved ones.

"Communities are affected, individuals are affected and I think it's important to remember that that's children, women and men right across all strata of society.

"Everyday single day the the men and women of An Garda Síochána see and are witness to the effects of violence, trauma, hurt and suffering right across individuals and family groups.

"We're on the front line of this misery so we're very eager to play our part in implementing the actions advised in the second national strategy."

Ms O'Sullivan said that An Garda Síochána is in the process of finalising its revised policy for dealing with cases of domestic abuse which is to be launched at the end of the month.

"We will provide further training to our own members in how to respond to and investigate domestic abuse and sexual crime sensitively, professionally and consistently," she said adding that the force will be enhancing its multi-stage risk management process for helping victims.

"We're also setting up a pilot where all patrol cars will carry crime scene kits including additional cameras to record evidence of injury or damage at domestic abuse incidents," Ms O'Sullivan said.

"This is aimed at supporting the victim, even somebody who doesn't feel they have the courage the empowerment to be able to make the complaint at that particular time.

"This means that even if the victim doesn't in the first instance either want to or have the confidence to make a complaint there'll be evidence about the incident put to the perpetrator should a complaint be made at a future date."

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald also spoke at today's event at her Department in St Stephen's Green.

She said €950,000 is to be spent on a campaign to raise awareness of the issue, calling the problem domestic and sexual violence "pernicious evils and a blight on any civilalised society".

"My aspiration is that the awareness campaign will have a significant impact by making a real and substantial difference to people's lives, offering hope and support to those affected by these despicable crimes and that it will send an irrefutable message to perpetrators that this violence is totally unacceptable in Ireland and that it must stop," Ms Fitzgerald.

The new strategy which involves Tulsa - the child and family agency - as well as the Gardai, was developed by Cosc - the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

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