Dáil Éireann - Volume 481 - 21 October, 1997

Written Answers. - Zero Tolerance Initiative.

23. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the precise instructions, if any, he has given to the Garda Síochána in relation to the implementation of his policy on zero tolerance; if he has evaluated the results since the implementation of this policy; if he will give a breakdown of the success in respect of various categories of crime for the past three months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16866/97]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): The implementation of this policy and the development of policing strategies is the subject of ongoing consultation between the Minister and the Garda Commissioner as well as between senior management personnel in the Garda Síochána and my Department. A number of specific initiatives have already been taken and more will follow. Evaluation of the effects of such initiatives will be made after an appropriate lapse of time.

[1369] The Government has set out very clearly what it intends to do to meet the challenge of crime in society. The intention is that no category of crime which interferes with the safe and peaceful conduct of citizens' lives will be ignored. Clearly, however, the major focus must be on serious crime. The approach being taken comprises a range of practical measures and key legislative changes which will focus mainly on the serious criminal — in particular those who seek to profit from the deadly trade in illegal drugs, whether as financiers, suppliers or pushers. That focus is directed towards assisting the Garda Síochána with resources to strengthen its operational hand and to increase the State's statutory armoury to deal effectively with those engaged in major crime — in particular introducing a minimum ten year sentence for drug dealing, speedier trials and automatic asset inquiries at the sentencing stage.

At a structural level the Government is taking a number of steps to ensure that the crinimal justice system is an effective deterrent to criminals. These include the provision of 1,000 more prison spaces in two years, increasing Garda numbers to 12,000 over five years and giving agency status to the Prisons Service and the courts to help them function more efficiently.