Almost a quarter of a million crimes — from murder to public order breaches — have been committed by offenders out on bail for other charges over the past 10 years, leading a Galway TD to demand changes in the laws as to how such people are dealt with.
The figures were released to Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish in a response to a Dáil question tabled to the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. According to the figures, more than 24,000 crimes a year are being committed by people who are already before the courts charged with another offence. In 2014, 7,465 burglaries and thefts for which people were charged were carried out by offenders who were out on bail at the time.
Among the main offences committed were theft (an average of 5,286 over the decade ), public order offences (5,005 a year ), burglary (1,832 a year ), and drug offences (1,818 a year ). There were also nine homicides a year; 23 sexual offences; and 761 murder attempts or threats and serious assaults.
Furthermore, figures from the Central Statistics Office show the number of recorded crimes, where the suspected offenders were on bail, rose each year from a total of 18,109 in 2005 to a peak of 29,542 in 2008, steadily dropping after that to a level of 22,647 in 2013 before rising slightly to 23,071 last year.
Dep Grealish said proposed changes to the bail laws, and changes in bail, and sentencing for repeat burglars, currently going through the Dáil, were welcome, but that the State still needs to change the laws so criminals are dealt with within days, not months, as is the current situation, of their arrest.
As a result he is proposing the State examine the Dutch model, where the judicial system aims to have a person dealt with within a day, to, at most, a week, after arrest. The Dutch system also decides more minor cases for fines and community service. In 2013 more than 11,000 of 15,000 criminal cases in The Netherlands were dealt with within seven days, and in 40 per cent of those, the matter was settled within a single day.
"Here it usually takes months," said Dep Grealish. "It takes far too long for criminals to be dealt with by the courts. A change in the laws so criminals are dealt with within days of their arrest, rather than being given bail until their cases are heard months later, is needed."
The Carnmore based TD also called for resources to be allocated to the prison system to ensure that when convicted criminals are sent to gaol, " they serve their full sentences and are not released within days because of pressure on prison numbers”. He is also calling for more gardaí to be recruited.
“While the Government makes much of the numbers of gardaí being recruited again," he said, "we have a long way to go before we get back anywhere near the strength that is needed to provide a proper policing force that can keep people safe in their homes."