140. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Justice her assessment of the recent rise in fraud crime. [57818/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the detection of and response to any criminal activity is an operational function for the Garda Commissioner. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.
As the Deputy will be aware, the most recent statistics published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that reported fraud offences have increased by 40.6% across the country in the period covering the 12 months to the end of June 2021. The trend towards online crime is one which had been building but clearly that sharp rise is attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and the new opportunities which it presented to criminals with increased levels of working from home, far larger numbers engaged in online shopping and so on.
It is worth noting however that the most recent recorded crime statistics also show welcome steep decreases in more traditional crimes against property and other types of crime nationwide. Burglary was down 37.2% nationwide compared to the previous 12 month period, while robbery was down 20.7% and theft was down 22%.
I am advised by the Garda authorities that in recent years An Garda Síochána has significantly stepped up its dedicated resources in the cyber area and is continuing to grow its capabilities. The dedicated Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau is now led by a Detective Chief Superintendent. As of 30 September, there were 45 Garda members attached to the bureau, and plans to continue to expand further over the next year, including the recruitment of 20 civilian expert posts at engineer grade.
The Bureau is responsible for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of cybercrime incidents in the State. Both the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Cyber Crime Bureau continue to engage with telecommunications service providers regarding online scams and the identification of the persons involved in them.
I am pleased to note that Cyber Satellite hubs have also recently been established in Cork, Galway, Mullingar and Wexford. These hubs are engaged in cybercrime forensics, investigations and support roles.
Combatting and preventing fraud and related cybercrime falls under the remit of several Departments and Agencies. There is close cooperation across the whole of Government on this issue and, in particular, between An Garda Síochána and the National Cyber Security Centre.
The Deputy may also be aware that last month my Department launched a major cybercrime awareness campaign, as part of European Cybersecurity Month. This campaign involved Community Gardaí and Crime Prevention Officers around the country providing information to local communities on how to avoid falling victim to such scams. This included local information events, as well as the normal engagement Gardaí have with their communities. There were also dedicated radio advertisements broadcast nationally as part of the campaign.
Cooperation with our EU and international partners remains a key part of Ireland's response to cybercrime and online scams. Ireland is also committed to ratifying the Council of Europe Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, the first binding international treaty on cybercrime, when the necessary legislative requirements have been fulfilled. My Department is currently drafting a general scheme of a Cybercrime Bill which will give effect to those provisions of the Budapest Convention not already provided for in Irish law.