| 15.9°C Dublin

Crime stats might be down, but our ludicrous bail laws paint a very different picture CRIME is down – that's according to the latest crime stats, released this week.

The CSO figures show a reduction in most categories of crime last year. Burglary, fraud, assaults, robbery, drugs.

All down.

Things must be getting better then.

But is this the same country that has witnessed a spate of very serious criminal incidents in recent weeks?

In fact, hardly a week has gone by of late without a gangland assassination, or attempted assassination, in our capital city.

Of course this underworld violence is nothing new, it's been bubbling away for the past decade or more, with a death toll of 100 or so victims since the late 90s.

But many of the recent killings have taken place in broad daylight, some in front on innocent bystanders.

Take the murder of Declan 'Fat Deccy' Smith outside a Donaghmede crèche at 9am last Friday week. Or the shooting of Stephen 'Dougie' Moran days earlier outside his home in Lucan.


Despite what the recent figures show there is no doubt that the State is still facing a serious crime problem.

And it's not just murders. It is difficult to find a citizen who does not live in fear of some form of crime.

Over the weekend former hurler DJ Carey (above) spoke out on the matter, and many citizens will agree with him.

Carey slammed the "scumbags and a***eholes on free legal aid" who are targeting GAA grounds, carrying out petty thefts from parked cars, or stealing the vehicles.

His brother fell victim to such a theft last week, prompting Carey's comments.

This type of crime affects everyone. A day before Carey's remarks were reported it emerged that Junior Minister Joe Costello's car was stolen from outside his office on Aughrim Street in Dublin's north inner city.

Fast-forward a couple of days and innocent residents of Long Lane, a quiet street in the south inner city, were treated to a car explosion, no less.

What is disturbing to many people, and what DJ Carey put his finger on, is the way our justice system treats the criminals who carry out these offences.

The main problem, in my opinion, is that our courts see fit to bail recidivist criminals, who go on to commit offences straight away.

These criminals appear back on the streets hours or days after they've been charged, and are immediately back to their old habits. And it's not just petty crime.

Over the past decade rapes and murders, along with those lesser offences like burglaries and assaults, have been committed by individuals freed by the courts.

The most recent and shocking case was the murder of Limerick woman Sylvia Roche-Kelly - murdered by criminal Jerry McGrath. He had been freed on station bail, after being charged with the assault of another woman.

This case, recently highlighted by garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, is a tragic example of our malfunctioning bail laws. The application of these laws by courts is bringing our justice system into disrepute.

I accept, of course, the golden thread that runs through the law – the presumption of innocence. I am not in any way advocating the refusal of bail in all circumstances. But it is clear that the current lax application of the bail laws in our courts represents a woeful shambles.

Not many years ago a referendum was held to reform and strengthen Ireland's bail laws. It was passed.But the judges of our country chose to ignore the will of the people as expressed in that poll.

Another referendum on our bail laws is required. This time the wording and terms must be unambiguous and watertight. The decision of judges to grant bail to those charged with spates of offences, or serious crimes, must be limited in the law.

This would go some way to restoring the faith of victims of crime, and the public generally, in the justice system.

Certainly more than another raft of crime stats.