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Question

742. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice the legislation in relation to sentencing for knife crimes and which policies around knife crimes are under review by her Department; the frequency of the issues reviewed; the details of this review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10304/21]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): In the Justice Plan 2021, which I published this week, my Department commits to reviewing Garda powers in relation to dangerous weapons, including knives, to ensure they have the necessary legal tools to protect our communities.
As the Deputy will be aware, the relevant legislation for knife-crime in Ireland falls mainly under the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990, and the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. The maximum prison sentence for carrying a knife is five years, which is high in comparison to other common law jurisdictions, with higher potential sentences for knife-enabled crime such as theft or assault. International research points to increased sentencing not being an effective strategy for reducing knife crime.
Instead, international best practice points to targeted interventions and community engagement as being the best approach to tackle knife-crime and other criminal activity that is particularly prevalent among young people.
The Department will therefore also focus on analysing existing data, as well as developing new sources of data, and looking at international best practice to inform policy in this area. Officials are working to see how we can adapt elements of the Scottish and London approaches to tackling knife crime to Ireland. This work will see them engage with hospitals and education services to build a greater understanding of the problem of violent crime in Ireland.
Much good work has already been done by my Department and by An Garda Síochána, operating in conjunction with local communities and other state agencies. My Department is also helping to coordinate the roll-out of the pilot Local Community Safety Partnerships. These partnerships are the structures proposed under the Department’s new Community Safety Policy to take a holistic approach to safety issues in partnership with the community involved. The pilots will operate at local authority administrative level and will be made up of local representatives, a range of local services, community representatives and residents. They will be aimed at tackling a range of problems, including knife-crime at a local and community level.
The forthcoming Youth Justice Strategy will also strengthen and enhance our supports and interventions for young people who are at risk of involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour. In addressing youth offending, our goal is to support young people to stop offending and to foster socially beneficial changes to their behaviour, most especially with regard to knife-crime. I am very conscious of the need to help rehabilitate young people who commit knife-crime, as is the Government. My Department's review of the legislation in the area of knife-crime will be governed to a certain extent by this overall objective.