The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D., said the statistics on recorded crime for the fourth quarter of 2008 - released by the Central Statistics Office today – show a continuation of the reductions which took place in the third quarter.  Of the 14 crime groups for which statistics are given, all but one show reductions.  The increase in that one group - Controlled Drug Offences – is due mainly to successful police work by An Garda Síochána.   

The Minister said:  "I welcome the trend which these statistics on recorded crime show, and I congratulate the Garda Commissioner on the continuing effective work of the Force.  Nevertheless, we all must remain aware that the nature of criminal activity is constantly developing and adjust our strategies accordingly."

The Minister particularly welcomed the further marked decrease in homicide offences, which dropped by 23.1% in the quarter and by almost a half (42.9%) in 2008.  There were decreases in all the categories of homicide - murder (down 20% in the quarter), manslaughter (down 50%) and dangerous driving leading to death (down 25%).  There were no attempts to murder in the quarter, while there was a small increase in the number of murder threats, from 40 to 47 (an increase of 17.5%).     

The Minister said:  "I welcome the positive trends in homicide offences.  However, I believe a further tightening of the legislative provisions relating to guns and knives and similar weapons is necessary.  Last November I outlined proposals for a handgun ban, which is already de facto in force, and yesterday I announced proposals to tackle knife crime.  Both sets of proposals will be included in the forthcoming Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which the Government have agreed to treat as a priority measure for this Dáil session.
"While the figures are encouraging, there are no grounds for complacency.  I recently stated my belief that the time has come for a strategic review of how we fight crime in the longer term and announced the development of the State’s first White Paper on Crime.  However, as that process develops, there will be no let up in the pace of reform already underway.  In the weeks and months ahead, for example, there will be major progress in areas such as the ban on handguns, controls on knives, new surveillance powers to deal with gangland crime and terrorism, a DNA database and the Justice for Victims Initiative."

In addition to the decrease in the number of cases of dangerous driving leading to death, there also was a decrease (of 66.7%) in the small number of cases of dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm and of cases of driving or being in charge of a vehicle while over the legal alcohol limit (down 10.6%).  The Minister said:  "These figures reflect the welcome significant decrease of 17% in the number of deaths on our roads in 2008, from 338 in 2007 to 279.  These developments show that the road safety message is getting through to road users, and follows significant investment in the resources available to An Garda Síochána for road traffic enforcement." 

An increased Garda focus on motorists driving or being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs has contributed to the increase of 34.6% in the number of such cases.

All categories within the crime group Controlled Drug Offences show increases in the quarter, and all but one in 2008.  The largest increase (51.4%) was in cases of cultivation or manufacture of drugs, which follows Garda successes in detecting such cases.  Detections in this area are predominantly the result of Garda detections, rather than as a result of being reported, and hence reflect continuing increased Garda activity. 

The number of weapons and explosives offences decreased by 2.2%, with decreases in both discharging of firearms (down 31.1%) and possession of firearms (down 26%).  There was an increase of 16.3% in fireworks offences, which reflects recent modernisation of the law in this area and increased Garda enforcement during the Halloween period.  There were decreases in disorderly conduct offences, which represent the largest category of offences (down 6.7%), and in robberies of an establishment or institution (down 5%), of cash or goods in transit (down 28.6%) and from the person (down 9.5%).     

The Minister also welcomed the publication of the final recorded crime statistics 2003 – 2007, which provide expanded data in respect of these years.

6 February 2009