95. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which crimes continue to be committed by persons on bail in respect of previous criminal activity; the extent to which multiple crimes continue to be committed in this fashion; the action taken or pending; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40773/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, is responsible for the publication of crime statistics and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.
I have requested the CSO to provide the available statistical information in relation to the matters referred to directly to the Deputy.
There are a number of recent measures which have been introduced in relation to repeat offenders, including those on bail. In particular I might mention the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act, 2015, which I introduced as part of a comprehensive strategy targeting burglary and related property crime. This legislation is targeted at those repeat burglars who have previous convictions and who are charged with multiple offences of residential burglary. The Act requires the District Court to provide for consecutive jail sentences where a burglar is being sentenced for multiple offences. It will also allow Courts to refuse bail for offenders who have a previous conviction for domestic burglary coupled with two or more pending charges.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Bail (Amendment) Bill 2016 was published on 8 December 2016. This Bill will strengthen the operation of the bail system with the aim of making the law as effective as possible in protecting the public against crimes committed by persons on bail. The Bill will meet the commitment in the Programme for Government to introduce and fast-track legislation providing for stricter bail terms for repeat serious offenders which will strengthen Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail, increase the use of curfews, and introduce electronic tagging for those on bail where requested by Gardaí.
The new Bill will place clear new requirements on the courts in considering bail applications, including requiring the court to have regard to persistent serious offending by an applicant for bail and the nature and seriousness of any danger presented by the grant of bail to a person charged with an offence with a penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment of more.
The Bill will also introduce some important reforms to the law, such as:
- Providing that courts must give reasons for bail decisions.
- Providing the Gardaí with new powers of arrest without warrant for breach of bail conditions, where it is necessary to arrest the person immediately to prevent absconding or to prevent harm, interference or intimidation to the victim or a witness to the offence.
- Giving the courts the power to prohibit an accused person from driving, where the person has been charged with a serious road traffic offence and the court considers this necessary to prevent the commission of a serious road traffic offence.
- Providing for the imposition of curfews as a condition of bail.
In addition, there will be provision for a court, in certain cases, to hear evidence from the victim of an offence before a decision on bail is taken.