55. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the implementation of measures to tackle gangland crime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40311/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy is aware, the Government is pursuing a comprehensive and robust response to gang-related violence and crime.
We have enacted new legislation to further target criminal activities including the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2016 which provides additional powers for Gardaí; in particular, powers to allow in certain circumstances for the immediate seizure of assets suspected of being the proceeds of crime to prevent them being disposed of. The thresholds applying under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 are also to be reduced from €13,000 to €5,000.
I have also made new regulations to reduce the prescribed amount of cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime which can be seized, from €6,500 to €1,000.
In addition, the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2016, brought forward by the Minister for Health, has new provisions to counteract the illegal sale of prescription drugs.
On 5 July 2016, I received approval from Government in relation to enhancing and updating legislation for the lawful interception of communications and for covert electronic surveillance, and work in this regard is ongoing. My Department and An Garda Síochána are also considering if there are any other legislative measures which might strengthen the response to the activities of organised crime groups.
I have also signed the rules of court to complete the establishment of a second Special Criminal Court, so that it can deal with the backlog of cases on hand.
The Deputy is aware of the substantial investments which have been made in policing resources, including an additional €55 million provided in 2016, which more than doubled the overtime allocation for this year, bringing the total to over €90 million. For 2017, I was pleased to be able to secure a further €88.5 million for Garda overtime which will facilitate the continuation of large scale policing operations, including those targeting gangland crime, burglary and terrorist activities.
Garda operational responses to gang-related crime in Dublin are coordinated under Operation Hybrid. As of 6 December 2016, there have been 44 arrests in relation to gang-related killings, with 5 persons charged in connection with those murders and a further 3 persons charged with related offences. In addition, 22 firearms have been seized and over 8,000 lines of enquiry conducted. In excess of 11,520 high visibility checkpoints have been implemented with significant support from Armed Support Units and a significant amount of CCTV footage, mobile phone traffic, and forensic evidence is also being examined. Operation Hybrid is reviewed on a weekly basis to maintain optimal impact.
In addition we have seen unprecedented co-operation with the Spanish authorities with Gardaí and officers from La Guardia Civil taking part in joint operations in Spain and Ireland which have led to important seizures and arrests.
Yesterday, I was present at the launch of the new dedicated Armed Support Unit (ASU) for Dublin. The new Unit has been established following completion of the necessary specialised training and preparation of equipment. While full armed support was already being provided on an overtime basis, I am very pleased that the new ASU is now fully operational.
The Garda Commissioner is overseeing the operation of a Garda Special Crime Task Force, operating under the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. The Special Crime Task Force will be sustained for as long as is necessary and is adaptable to the prevailing organised crime situation at local level. I am advised that there will be in the region of 50 persons contributing to the work of Task Force, with a dedicated core of officers, including members of the CAB and Divisional Asset Profilers. Inter-Agency information sharing will be achieved through the CAB’s well established procedures. The Task Force leverages existing local connections to target the proceeds of crime, including local community Gardaí, the CAB and Divisional Asset Profilers.
The Deputy will appreciate that the response to gang-related violence and crime is ongoing and must remain adaptable to changing circumstances. I remain in close contact with the Commissioner and I will continue to provide every support possible to enable An Garda Síochána face down the threat posed by violent criminal gangs.