Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which An Garda Síochána has available the names and membership of the various criminal gangs, those involved in ongoing feuds and-or others associated with them or independent of them; if all the membership continues to benefit from criminal activity; his views on whether it is now time to take emergency measures to deal with the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6021/18]
274. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if consideration has been given to proscribing the activities and membership of criminal gangs with particular reference to the urgent need to bring about a rapid cessation to the ongoing spate of violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6023/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 272 and 274 together.
I can assure the Deputy that tackling organised crime activity is a key ongoing priority for both the Government and An Garda Síochána.
An Garda Síochána's Policing Plan sets out the priorities of An Garda Síochána in tackling organised crime activity including its continued commitment to pro-actively target groups and individuals engaged in criminal activity, including organised criminal activities.
In tackling such activity, An Garda Síochána continues to develop and implement operations and strategies aimed at targeting, dismantling and disrupting criminal networks, utilising advanced analytical and intelligence methodologies. Multi-disciplinary approaches are also utilised to ensure the activities of individuals and groups involved in criminal enterprise are effectively targeted, including through the use of the proceeds of crimes legislation, money-laundering legislation, the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 relating to organised crime and the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau.
Given the fluid nature of such groupings it is extremely difficult to quantify the number of criminal groups operating at a particular time. Splinter groups and new gangs can form overnight. Organised Crime is constantly evolving and new innovations in crime are continuously emerging.
The question of providing for an offence of membership of a criminal gang, in a manner similar to the approach taken in the Offences Against the State Acts with regard to membership of a proscribed organisation, has arisen from time to time.
In this regard, it is important to understand the issues which arise in seeking to simply outlaw membership of a criminal gang in such a manner. Most significant is the fact that a criminal gang is not likely to have the permanency of organisation and structure that a subversive organisation or other more fixed group would have. Relationships in criminal gangs tend to be more fluid with shifting memberships, alliances and a membership which may depend on circumstance.
However, criminal legislation has been updated in recent years, with a view to ensuring that it provides a comprehensive range of provisions for the prosecution and punishment of crime, in particular the activities of those involved in organised crime.
Part 7 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 (as amended by the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009) establishes a number of offences targeting the activities of those involved in organised crime. These offences include participation in a criminal organisation and directing a criminal organisation. The latter offence specifically targets those in criminal organisations who give the orders without requiring their direct participation in the commission of criminal offences. On conviction, this offence carries a penalty of up to life imprisonment.
The Criminal Justice Act 2006 also makes it an offence to conspire with one or more persons to do an act that constitutes a serious offence, irrespective of whether such act actually takes place or not.
Evidential provisions as to the existence of a criminal organisation were introduced aiding prosecution for the offences under the Act.
Provision was also introduced so that where a serious offence is committed as part of or in furtherance of a criminal organisation, it shall be treated as an aggravating factor for the purpose of determining sentence.