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Question

38. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which he plans to respond to the trend evidenced in the most recent statistics released by the Central Statistics Office which showed an increase in violent crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42340/18]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will be aware, the recently published Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland report recommends that policing must be information-led and that data should be seen as a strategic asset and a key factor in determining policing decisions. My Department is currently analysing the Report and my officials are currently engaging in consultations with An Garda Síochána, the policing oversight bodies and the relevant Departments in order to inform my substantive response and the high-level implementation plan and project structure that I intend to bring to Government by December.
With respect to the Deputy's question, while the most recent publication of the official recorded crime statistics remain 'Under Reservation', it is important to note the Central Statistics Office (CSO), in conjunction with An Garda Síochána continue to make good progress on returning the crime figures to the higher standard expected of our national crime statistics. I am determined that this body of work be completed as soon as possible and I welcome the continued diligence of the Policing Authority in monitoring this matter.
I welcome the slight decrease in burglary offences (-0.8%) for Q2 2018 and, while I am concerned at the rise in recorded incidents of robberies year on year, it should be noted that both these categories remain at low levels when compared with the years 2014 and 2015.
I am advised by An Garda Siochana that through targeted initiatives at District, Divisional, Regional and National level, Gardaí use a range of interventions to target various facets of criminality, to prevent and detect crime, including, proactive patrolling of ‘crime hot spots’ as identified on a weekly and monthly basis based on analytics provided by Garda Síochána Analysis Service (GSAS), targeted crime prevention advice, and the management of prolific offenders. An Garda Síochána works in partnership with other Government Departments and agencies and expands the policy options available to reduce crime beyond the immediate realm of policing.
I can assure the Deputy that the Government also remains committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána have the necessary resources to tackle all forms of violent crime in our community, including sexual assaults. An Garda Síochána continue to tackle this insidious form of violence and abuse. Recent Garda measures include the establishment of the National Protective Services Bureau which is tasked with improving services to victims of sexual and domestic violence, improving the investigation of sexual and domestic violence incidents, and identifying and managing risk.
I would also make the point that an increase in recorded incidents of sexual assault can also indicate an increase in the reporting of sexual crimes and I urge anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault to come forward and report the incident to An Garda Síochána.
As the Deputy will be aware, this Government has put a number of legislative and practical measures in place to tackle the scourge of sexual assaults. The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 has significantly enhanced protections for victims of crime, including victims of sexual offences. I recently commenced Second Stage of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill which provides for presumptive minimum sentences for repeat sex offenders.
I am committed to ensuring that victims of sexual crimes have appropriate protections during a court process and I have ordered a review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences with an emphasis on vulnerable witnesses. A review group chaired by Mr. Tom O’Malley BL, an acknowledged expert in this field, will report to me by the end of the year.
The Deputy will also be aware that the Government has dedicated very significant resources to support An Garda Síochána in tackling all crime, including violent crime. Indeed, Budget '19 saw an increase in the Garda budget from €1.65 billion to €1.76 billion, an increase of €110 million.
Furthermore, under the National Development Plan and the overall vision in Project Ireland 2040, the Garda capital allocation has increased from €61 million to €92 million in 2019, a 50% increase. This will facilitate investment of around €65 million in ICT which is now an important element of the fight against crime – this substantial investment will provide new and leading edge technology to support our front line Gardaí in their daily work. The Budget also provides for a further €10 million investment in the Transport Fleet and €17 million in the Garda Building Programme. This capital investment is a key enabler in the reform programme and will be one of the main pillars on which the future of policing will be built.
Under the Programme for Government there is a commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. This is underpinned by the Government’s commitment to continue the ongoing accelerated Garda recruitment programme with a view to increasing Garda numbers to 21,000 by 2021.