892. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice the number of knives seized from 2016 to date in 2021, by county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41925/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): The Government is very conscious of the dangers presented by knife crime, and indeed all violent assaults. Clearly any stabbing has the potential to cause irreparable physical harm and tragic consequences and the Government is determined to ensure that similar problems to those which have developed in neighbouring jurisdictions do not develop here in Ireland.
There is a comprehensive and robust legal framework in place with respect to knife crime, including heavy penalties for breaches of the laws concerned. Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, the maximum penalty for a conviction for possessing a knife in a public place without good reason or lawful authority was increased from one to five years. An Garda Síochána also has an extended power of search without warrant for knives and offensive weapons and Gardaí have secured a substantial number of convictions in the Courts in recent years for possession of a knife or other weapon. That said, the Department will continue to keep sentencing policy under ongoing review and will review existing Garda powers in relation to dangerous weapons, including knives, to ensure they have the necessary legal tools to protect our communities.
I am advised by the Garda authorities that the following are the statistics, as of 16 August 2021, for the numbers of knives seized by Garda Division in each of the years 2016 to 2021.
The Deputy will appreciate that these statistics are based upon operational data from the PULSE system as was available on 16 August 2021 and are liable to change.
I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the 2016-2018 increase in recorded seizures is due in large part to the introduction of the Property and Exhibit Management System (PEMS) which improved the level of recording of all objects seized, including knives.
More recently, the increases in seizures are also due to proactive policing operations, particularly during 2020 with the increased Garda presence due to the COVID-19 public health response. There was a 4.7% increase in the number of knives seized between 2019-2020 (2,143 in 2019 and 2,248 in 2020). There was also a substantial year-on-year increase in the number of searches conducted in 2020 – many of which were associated with An Garda Síochána’s high visibility operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Question No. 893 answered with Question No. 890. Question No. 894 answered with Question No. 890.