Assistant Commissioner ‘frightened’ over drug decriminalisation proposal

Senior garda said he had not seen “definitive evidence” around drug decriminalisation

Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy said gardaí were on board with current plans to open a supervised drug injection clinic in Dublin city centre, run by Merchants Quay Ireland.  File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy said gardaí were on board with current plans to open a supervised drug injection clinic in Dublin city centre, run by Merchants Quay Ireland. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

The Assistant Garda Commissioner for the Dublin region has told an Oireachtas committee he had not seen “definitive evidence” that decriminalising drugs for personal use would have a positive outcome.

Pat Leahy told an Oireachtas committee on justice that proposals to remove criminal sanctions for small quantities of drug possession “frightens” him.

“I haven’t seen definitive evidence that we would be heading into a better place,” he told the committee on Wednesday. A government working group is currently considering the issue, and will make recommendations early next year.

“You have to operate from a position of do no harm, that’s what frightens people, this is a significant change and it must not make the problem worse,” Mr Leahy said.

“Where is the proof that we are going into a better place with this, some police forces have gone into this space and have tried to reverse back out,” he added.

“Somebody has to convince me as an individual, and this is a personal expression, they’d have to convince me. It frightens me because I have to operate from a position of do no harm,” he added. However, he said he was “absolutely open to the discussion” around the proposals.

Gardaí were on board with current plans to open a supervised drug injection clinic in Dublin city centre, run by Merchants Quay Ireland, he said.

Earlier this week the Ana Liffey drug project launched a report which called for drug decriminalisation, and for drug users to be dealt with in the health system, rather than the justice system.

Burglaries

In Portugal those found with drugs for personal use are brought before “dissuasion commissions,” after decriminalisation was introduced in 2001. The commissions are made up of a social worker, psychiatrist, and an attorney, and have the power to fine people, or in cases of addiction refer them to treatment.

Addressing the Oireachtas committee on the issue of community policing, Mr Leahy said the number of reported home burglaries has fallen by 17 per cent in the first eight months of the year.

Under Operation Thor, a national garda operation targeting burglaries, 8,300 arrests had been made since late 2015, he said.

“All this activity has seen residential burglaries reduced by 34 per cent, and non-residential burglaries down 23 per cent since November 2015,” he said. However despite the falling numbers, there was still a prevalent fear of burglaries, particularly among “elderly people living in isolated areas.”

Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly said the perception of a rural crime wave of burglaries had been “overhyped” and “sensationalised” by the media.