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Question

316. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which repeat offenders are being granted bail, including those who are members of organised criminal gangs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58167/21]

Answer

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): The information requested by the Deputy is not available. However, I wish to advise the Deputy that I have asked my officials to discuss this request for information with the relevant Criminal Justice Agencies and the CSO to see what statistical information can be developed in this area.
As the Deputy is aware, the decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the presiding Judge, who is independent in the exercise of his or her judicial functions. There is also a constitutional presumption in favour of the granting of bail as, under Irish Law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty has traditionally been considered by the courts to prohibit pre-trial detention except where it appeared that the accused person, if released on bail, was likely to evade justice by absconding or interfering with witnesses or evidence.
In the light of concerns at the increase in the incidence of offences committed while on bail, a referendum took place in 1996 on a proposed amendment to the Constitution to allow the courts to refuse bail where there are grounds for believing that the accused will commit serious offences while on bail. The referendum was passed and section 2 of the Bail Act 1997 gave effect to this constitutional amendment which permits the courts to refuse bail to a person charged with a serious offence where refusal of bail is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person. Subsequent to this, the law on Bail has been strengthened on three occasions, specifically in the Criminal Justice Act 2007, the Criminal Justice Act 2015 and the Criminal Justice Act 2017.
As previously conveyed, I can inform the Deputy that Garda authorities advise that the amended bail laws have proven to be effective and have assisted An Garda Síochána in tackling the threat of organised crime.
In addition, the Government has also supported An Garda Síochána in addressing the threat from organised crime gangs through the introduction of legislative measures such as:
- The Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2016 which provides additional Garda powers for the immediate seizure of assets suspected of being the proceeds of crime to prevent them being disposed of;
- The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014, providing for the establishment and operation of the DNA database providing Gardaí with links between people and unsolved crimes;
- The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, introduced to protect the justice system from being subverted by criminal groups, including potential intimidation of juries.