· “This Bill is designed to keep repeat burglars off the streets and to improve the safety of our communities” – Fitzgerald
· 75% of burglaries are committed by 25% of burglars.
· Bill proposes refusal of bail and tougher sentencing for repeat home burglars
7th September, 2015
Frances Fitzgerald TD, has today published the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015. The bill has been approved by Government.
The new Bill will:
· Require the District Court to provide for consecutive jail sentences where a burglar is being sentenced for multiple offences;
· Allow Courts to refuse bail for offenders who have a previous conviction for domestic burglary coupled with two or more pending charges.
Minister Fitzgerald stated: “Burglary of a person’s home is a heinous and traumatic crime. A large proportion of domestic burglaries are committed by serial offenders.”
The Minister added: “This new Bill is targeted at those repeat burglars who have previous convictions who are charged with multiple offences of residential burglary.”
Figures from the Garda Síochána Analysis Service indicate that 75% of burglaries are committed by 25% of burglars. Targeting this cohort of repeat offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the number of burglaries being committed.
“This Bill is designed to keep repeat burglars off the streets and to improve the safety of our communities.”
The Minister noted that this legislation underscored the importance of the home which is recognised by Article 40.5 of the Constitution which states ‘‘The dwelling of every citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered save in accordance with law.”
The new Bill contain two main provisions.
Firstly, the Bill will require a court which decides to impose custodial sentences for multiple burglary offences committed within a 12 month window, to impose such sentences consecutively. This is in response to the fact that, in many cases, relatively short sentences are imposed when multiple burglary offences are taken into account.
Secondly, the Bill provides that for the purposes of bail applications, previous convictions for domestic burglary coupled with pending charges or recent convictions shall be considered as evidence that an accused person is likely to commit further domestic burglaries. This is in response to the fact that prolific offenders are repeatedly granted bail even when charged with a series of burglaries
The new Bill emerged from a review of the criminal justice system’s response to the problem of burglaries, which was initiated by Minister Fitzgerald earlier this year. As part of the review, the Minister convened and chaired a high-level meeting on the problem, of burglaries, which was attended by the Garda Commissioner, the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service. The review highlighted that a significant number of burglaries is committed by a small number of offenders and targeting these prolific offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the harm being caused.
In addition to the new legislation, Minister Fitzgerald also recently announced the allocation of €700,000 to An Garda Síochána for the purchase of specialist vehicles to support the Gardaí in tacking highly-mobile criminal gangs, including those involved in burglaries.
The Minister concluded: “I hope that the Bill will be passed by the Dáil and Seanad as early as possible.”
The Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill is available at http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=29527&&CatID=59
Note for Editors
Bail in burglary cases
A decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the court, which is, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of its judicial functions. Section 2 of the Bail Act 1997 permits the courts to refuse bail to a person charged with a serious offence where refusal of bail is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person. Burglary offences are serious offences for the purposes of the Bail Act.
Section 1 of the Bill will amend section 2 of the Bail Act. The new provisions will apply where a court is considering a bail application from an adult charged with a domestic burglary. In such a case, the existence of certain circumstances must be considered as evidence that the person is likely to commit a further domestic burglary.
Those circumstances are that the person has a previous conviction for domestic burglary committed in the 5 years before the bail application and that:
(i) the person has been convicted of at least 2 domestic burglaries committed in the period starting 6 months before and ending 6 months after the alleged commission of the offence for which he or she is seeking bail, or
(ii) the person has been charged with at least 2 domestic burglaries allegedly committed in the same period, or
(iii) the person has been convicted of at least one domestic burglary committed, and charged with at least one other domestic burglary allegedly committed, in the same period.
Consecutive Sentences for Burglary
Section 2 of the Bill will insert a new section 54A (Consecutive sentencing for burglary of dwelling) into the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. It provides for the problem of concurrent sentences being handed down for multiple burglaries.
It provides that where an adult:
(a) is being sentenced to imprisonment for a domestic burglary,
(b) was convicted of another domestic burglary committed in the 5 years before the offence for which he or she is currently being sentenced, and
(c) was sentenced to imprisonment for another domestic burglary committed in the period starting 6 months before and ending 6 months after the burglary offence for which he or she is now being sentenced,
any sentence of imprisonment which the court chooses to impose for the offence for which he or she is currently being sentenced must be consecutive to any sentence of imprisonment imposed for those prior domestic burglary offences.