The oral question's answer is up now (and we've all heard it on the news as well, as Operation Anvil), but here's the answer, just for completeness and because it does mention us...
5. Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the upsurge in the level of gun crime, robberies and hostage-taking; and the steps he has taken to deal with the activities of armed gangs to bring them to justice. [16224/05]
6. Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to deal with the surge of serious crime over the past few months, including the spate of gangland style killings, robberies of cash in transit consignments and abductions and kidnappings; if he intends to provide additional resources to the Garda to help it combat these killings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16261/05]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 and 6 together.
I have outlined previously to the House the extensive range of measures which have been taken to deal with the types of crime referred to in the questions. Those measures will, of course, continue.
I have been concerned for some time, and this is a concern shared on all sides of the House, that serious offences which have been taking place have made evident the emergence of a gun culture in Dublin. This, sadly, has been manifest in the number of fatal shootings that have taken place, particularly in recent weeks. Those deaths will be comprehensively investigated, as will the incidents of armed robberies and other gun crimes which have taken place. The Garda Commissioner advises me that he is confident of success in a number of those investigations.
The Garda has amassed a considerable amount of intelligence about gun crime in Dublin and has a very clear picture of what is going on. Both the Garda Commissioner and I, in the course of intensive discussions in recent days, have agreed that the time is now ripe to build on that work in ways that will strike at the heart of the gun culture which has emerged.
I can report to the House that last night the Garda Síochána launched Operation Anvil. This is one of the most intensive special policing operations ever undertaken in the State. It will be intelligence-driven and will be aimed at those involved in gun crime of any kind in the Dublin metropolitan region.
Its cost will amount to €6.5 million, which I have made available from my Department’s allocation for this year, in addition to other allocations to the Garda Síochána. It will involve about 15,000 additional hours overtime being worked each week by gardaí in the Dublin area. This expenditure will not adversely affect existing agreed overtime allocations across Garda divisions, including those for the Dublin metropolitan division.
It would be counterproductive for me to give precise details of what will be involved in Operation Anvil but it will involve divisional uniform and detective patrols throughout the region, backed up by national units, overt and covert operations, mobile and foot patrols, random checkpoints at specific locations, extensive searches, execution of warrants and gathering and collation of high quality criminal intelligence. The Commissioner is adamant this will not be done by sucking in those involved in community policing, depriving that area of the necessary manpower. The operation will be focused, sustained, targeted and relentless.
One feature of the gun culture that has emerged is the apparent belief on the part of some criminals that they are not bound by or subject to the laws of the land. Nobody is above the law and, likewise, nobody is beneath the protection of the law. Operation Anvil is intended to supplement existing operations to ensure that lawlessness does not prevail, that the threat posed by these criminals is met sternly and effectively and, above all else, human life is respected.
While our legislation for tackling organised crime is one of the toughest in Europe, I propose it is strengthened further. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is on Second Stage in the House, provides for a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which will enhance Garda powers in the investigation and prosecution of offences. These include a general power on the issue of search warrants, including a superintendent’s right to issue an emergency search warrant in certain circumstances, increased detention powers of up to 24 hours for arrestable offences and a statutory power to preserve a crime scene. Part 3 makes provision for the admissibility as evidence in court of statements by witnesses who subsequently refuse to testify or retract their original statements. I am considering introducing several amendments, including a proposal to provide for criminal offences for the participation in a criminal organisation, as requested by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights.
And now the stuff that directly refers to us shows up...
With the recent increase in violent crime involving firearms, there is an overriding necessity to ensure public safety and security are given priority in any review of policy and legislation on firearms. I have decided to bring forward proposals in the context of the Criminal Justice Bill to provide the secure custody of firearms, minimum sentences and new offences for modifying firearms, such as the sawing off of a shotgun barrel. I intend to provide for severe penalties for the possession of sawn-off shotguns and the modification of shotguns.
I ask all sides of the House to help me expedite these measures in a genuine spirit of co-operation. I ask all Members to welcome the measures the Garda Commissioner has put in place since last night, which will be a substantial and unprecedented operation against gun crime in Dublin city.
It's a pity that, even after admitting that they don't keep the statistics to back it up, that the claim's still being made that stolen firearms are the source of criminally abused firearms