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Time to cop on: garda shortage is key issue


Frances Fitzgerald

Frances Fitzgerald

Frances Fitzgerald

The publication of new legislation to "keep repeat burglars off the streets" by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is a case of too little, too late.

The introduction of tougher sanctions, which include longer jail sentences and a refusal of bail for repeat offenders, will come as cold comfort to the people who have been victims.

Many have featured this week in the Irish Independent's ongoing series on rural crime.

The planned Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 - which won't be made law until at least the end of the year - is aimed at prolific offenders.

It allows for District Judges to apply mandatory consecutive sentences for multiple offences committed within a 12-month window.

Judges will also be allowed to refuse bail to offenders who have two or more charges pending if they have a previous conviction for burglary.

One would be tempted to hazard a guess that Monday's repeat announcement comes on the back of the coverage given to the scourge of rural crime as told by the victims.

It has also belatedly dawned on the Government that this issue of rural security, where the decent, hard-working, country people feel defenceless, helpless and under siege, will be a major electoral issue when Enda and co decide to pull the plug and take their chances with the voters. The fact is, this Government must take the blame for much of the current crime crisis.

Since 2011, they have cut garda budgets and closed garda stations - giving cause for celebration to the thugs who are now terrorising rural Ireland.

The reality is that this legislation will not be worth the paper it is written on because there are not enough gardaí out there in the countryside to catch the criminals in the first place.

And once the thugs have been brought before the courts and refused bail, there are no places in the overcrowded prisons to put them. In order to make room inside, the Prison Service will be forced to grant other convicted burglars temporary release.

And then they'll head off into the cop-free Irish countryside to rob again.

The Irish Independent has had an incredible response from people across Ireland since we first highlighted the problem of rural crime.

What is abundantly clear is that this is a real and present crisis and it is certainly not the product of media hype.

No country, even those more broke than Ireland, cancelled police recruitment during the worst of the recession.

The fantasy line we are being fed is that the 500 or so new gardaí coming out of the Templemore academy will, like super cops, make the mean streets safe again.

This legislation is a little bit like the response the victims of crime receive these days from an over-stretched, under-resourced police force. They are arriving at the scene of the crime too late.

Irish Independent