Call for law changes on "time bomb" AIDS syringes


THE law on murder should be changed to allow for the "time bomb" effects of stabbing with an AIDS or Hepatitis infected syringe, the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) has heard.

It also sought an answer from Government about when it intended to change the law on bail following last year's referendum.

In his opening address to the conference last night, the AGSI president, Mr John Durcan, called for measures to counter the increasing threat to gardai and the public from disease infected syringes.

He claimed Dublin drugs dealers were leaving syringes in furniture and other places in their homes so that gardai might prick themselves during searches on these "booby traps".

Mr Durcan, who outlined the issues to be debated in the three day conference, referred to the current law that a person can only be charged with murder when the victim dies within a year and a day as "archaic and in need of change".

"In this day of time bomb ailments like AIDS or hepatitis this situation is ridiculous. Rape by an AIDS infected person or stabbing by a syringe used by them is effectively a death sentence. Although the tragic victim may take more than a year and a day to pass away, he or she has been murdered as surely as if they were shot."

Mr Durcan congratulated the Government on last year's referendum which amended the Constitution to allow the extension of powers to refuse bail. He said the existing bail laws "contribute to the criminal's sense of invulnerability and his contempt for the criminal justice system".

He asked the Minister for Justice, who also addressed last night's opening of the conference, when the legislation on the granting of bail could be expected.

"The referendum may have left the general public with the view that the matter has been finalised but you and I know that is not so.

Another issue for debate during the conference is the fact that the 11,000 strong force has only four welfare officers to assist members with problems.

Mr Durcan pointed out that the four welfare officers have been supplied with mobile telephones by the main garda staff association, the Garda Representative Association, and the bills were being paid by the Garda Benevolent Trust Fund, which is maintained by private garda subscriptions.

It was a "shame and a disgrace" that welfare officers, as State employees should require to have binding from voluntary organisations and called on the Government to increase and properly fund the welfare service for gardai.

Mr Durcan said the AGSI, along, with the other garda staff associations, had embarked on a campaign to have a commission on pay. The campaign would include a public demonstration to the Dail on April 16th, the first such demonstration by gardai.

He pointed out that the stress of policing had increased dramatically in recent years due to the increase in crime. This coincided with the steady introduction of new laws and regulations which also annually increased a garda's workload.

On the garda pay claim, he said: "Remember Minister, that we are not demanding telephone numbers as a percentage increase. We are content to place our case before an independent, objective commission and let the commission issue its findings. We know our call is a reasonable one and we cannot understand why the answer has not been "yes" to date."

Garda anger and annoyance over the issue of vexatious complaints by criminals against officers is also to be debated.