132. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice the number of incidents of drink spiking reported to An Garda Síochána in Cork city and county in recent months; the number of incidents reported nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57994/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Spiking a person’s drink or spiking someone by injection are obviously very serious offences. They are, in effect, poisoning and they are criminal offences, under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, that can result in a three year prison term.
I can assure the Deputy that any incident of this type of crime, including those with evidence to suggest a link with ‘spiking’, will be investigated by either local Gardaí supported by, or attached to, Divisional Protective Services Units.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including the investigation of all allegations of criminal activity. As Minister, I play no role in these independent functions.
I am advised by the Garda authorities that identifying incidents which involve drink spiking for statistical purposes is dependent on the use of keywords in the incident narrative. I am further advised that a search was carried out on the PULSE system for incidents reported between 1 January 2021 and 21 November 2021 which include any of the following terms in the narrative or investigation notes: “spike”, “spiking” or “date rape”.
I am advised by the Garda authorities that this search indicates that, as of 21 November 2021, there have been 46 crime incidents recorded nationally this year. 25 of these incidents specifically refer to syringes or needles. The remaining 21 either refer to drink spiking or do not specify the method of spiking. Fewer than 10 of these incidents relates to incidents of drink spiking recorded in the Garda Divisions of Cork City, Cork North and Cork West. As the Deputy may be aware, An Garda Síochána Analysis Service does not typically report on details where there are fewer than 10 incidents in a given period, as there is a risk, due to the sensitive nature of the information, that offenders or victims may be identified if the information were to be released.
It is worth noting that figures are operational and liable to change and are based on a reported date using data obtained from PULSE.
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 has been widely recognised as a landmark piece of legislation dealing with consent and exploitation in sexual activity. For the first time, it set out in statute what consent actually means - a free and voluntary agreement between people to engage in sexual activity.
The 2017 Act amended the Criminal Law (Rape) Amendment Act 1990, to set out certain circumstances where consent is impossible, such as when a person is asleep or unconscious, or if they are so drunk or intoxicated that they are in no position to consider the activity and make up their mind.
The commitment of this Government to combatting domestic, sexual and gender based violence and to supporting victims is reflected in the funding allocated under Budget 2022, with a total of €13m allocated to the Department of Justice in this area. This represents an increased allocation of €5.35m and will enable the roll out of specific awareness raising and training programmes to combat domestic, sexual and gender based violence. It will also provide additional supports to NGOs and specific domestic violence intervention programmes, and it will support a number of front-line activities.
The Deputy will be interested to note that a national public awareness campaign, led by my Department, around the meaning and understanding of consent in the context of sexual relationships will be launched in the new year.