· Bill provides for prolific offenders to be denied bail

· Bill requires consecutive sentences for repeat burglars


16th December, 2015

Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald T.D., today welcomed the passage by Seanad Éireann of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015. It will now be sent to President Higgins for signature.

Minister Fitzgerald said "This Bill gives the Gardaí the legislative tools to tackle repeat burglars by allowing for bail to be denied, and consecutive sentences to be given, to habitual offenders. The legislation is backed up by the Government's ambitious investment programme which will provide an additional €270 million for Garda vehicles, buildings and ICT over the lifetime of the Capital Plan 2016-2021. The Government has also reopened the Garda College and will ensure the recruitment of 1150 new Gardaí between 2014 and 2016.”

The Minister continued: This legislation gives practical underpinning to 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.”

“Burglary of a person’s home is a heinous crime and traumatic for every victim. The Bill is one part of a broader co-ordinated strategy to tackle burglary and other crime through investment in Garda resources, increased recruitment, intensive operations like Thor, coordinated offender management though JARC, the Joint Agency Response to Crime, investment in community initiatives like Community Alert, and investment in crime-fighting technology including the DNA database."

Operation Thor involves a broad range of activities to tackle crime, particularly burglaries, in both urban and rural communities nationwide. These include additional high-visibility patrols in identified burglary hot-spots, increased use of checkpoints to tackle the criminal gangs using the national road network, the use of new high powered vehicles by the armed Regional Response Units, efforts to disrupt the stolen goods market, programmes to help reduce re-offending by prolific offenders, a high-profile national crime prevention awareness campaign, targeted crime prevention advice for local communities and enhanced supports for victims.

The Minister stated "The key objective of this legislation is to target persistent offenders who burgle homes without regard for the damage and distress which they inflict on other people."

A significant proportion of burglaries are carried out by repeat offenders. Targeting these repeat offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the harm being caused. Two issues which can be tackled by legislation have been identified. One relates to repeat offenders who continue to receive bail despite being arrested and charged for further burglaries multiple times while on bail. The other relates to the fact that relatively short sentences can be imposed when multiple burglary offences are taken into account.

The Bill will provide that, for the purposes of bail applications, a previous conviction for domestic burglary coupled with two or more pending charges shall be evidence of likelihood to commit further domestic burglaries. This provision, while leaving the courts all necessary discretion to vindicate the constitutional rights of an accused person, would allow a court in the absence of evidence to the contrary to conclude that the accused is likely to commit a serious offence and could, therefore, refuse bail on that ground.

The Bill will also place a requirement on a court which decides to impose custodial sentences for multiple burglary offences to impose such sentences consecutively. The Bill will require that any sentence of imprisonment for a second domestic burglary must be consecutive to any sentence of imprisonment for any other domestic burglary committed in the six months prior to or after the second sentenced offence.

The discretion of a court whether or not to impose a custodial sentence will not, of course, be restricted. It will still be a matter for the sentencing court to decide whether imprisonment is warranted for any given offence and, if so, the duration of the custodial sentence for each offence.

The text of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill is available at http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?fn=/documents/bills28/bills/2015/7615/document1.htm