305. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Justice if she will request statistical information from the Garda Commissioner on the number of instances of spiking that have taken place to date in 2021; if she will request the views of the Commissioner in this regard; if such spiking took place in the form of an injection into the body of a third-party by syringe; the number of reports that have been made of the spiking of drinks to An Garda Síochána; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58098/21]
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 appreciate, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended), the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of Garda business, including the direction of investigation priorities and the management of the PULSE system. As Minister, I play no role in these independent functions.
I have been advised by the Garda authorities that identifying incidents which involve drink or needle spiking is dependent on the use of keywords in the incident narrative or investigation notes. A search was carried out for incidents reported between 01 January 2021 and 21 November 2021 which include any of the following terms in the narrative or investigation notes: “spike”, “spiking” “needle”, “syringe” or “date rape”. Some incidents contained these terms but did not relate to drink or needle spiking.
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.
Figures are based on data obtained from PULSE on 22 November 2021. I am informed that crime counting rules are not applied and all figures are operational and liable to change.
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.