Sex crimes at record high in 2019 after sixth consecutive rise

Rise in burglary, assault and public order crimes as Garda return €2m to exchequer

Gardaí at Dunbeg,  June 2019. Security around  Trump and Pence visits cost  Garda €14.7m. Photograph:   Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

Gardaí at Dunbeg, June 2019. Security around Trump and Pence visits cost Garda €14.7m. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

 

The number of sex crimes reported to the Garda increased for the sixth year in succession last year, surpassing what was already a record high, new unpublished figures show.

There was a 3 per cent increase in the total number of sexual offences reported to the force last year, up from 3,179 offences in 2018.

It means a new record for sex crimes reported annually has now been reached for four years consecutively.

Garda officers and some groups working in the area of sexual violence believe the #MeToo movement accelerated an increase in reporting in that it gave some victims more confidence to make a formal complaint to the Garda.

However, many senior officers also believe it is very likely the number of sex crimes being committed in the Republic has increased.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris set out the increase in some crime trends in a report to the Policing Authority. The report, which has not yet been published by the Garda, was submitted to the authority in January and relates to Garda activity and crime across the Republic in December and a look back at the year in full. It states the number of sexual offences recorded by the Garda has been increasing since 2015, with last year’s increase at 3 per cent.

“This increase is not unique to Ireland and may be partially attributable to a change in reporting behaviour, whereby victims are increasingly likely to report sexual crime,” he said.

“However, given that crimes against the person are also on an upward trend, it cannot be precluded that there has been an increase in the number of sexual crimes occurring.”

Burglary

The report also reveals residential burglaries increased by 3 per cent last year though other types of burglaries – mainly on businesses – were down 11 per cent. Property crime increased by 1.3 per cent last year compared to 2018 and criminal damage was two per cent higher.

Crimes against the person, which include assault, were up by 5 per cent. Public order offences were up 4 per cent last year driven by a 6 per cent increase in drunkenness. Mr Harris has said those crime types were increasing as the Republic became more prosperous and spending on alcohol and drugs was increasing.

It has also emerged that An Garda Síochána came within budget and returned €2 million to the exchequer last year. This was despite the extra costs incurred when US president Donald Trump and vice-president Mike Pence visited the Republic.

Overall, Garda expenditure was €1,669.2 million, some €3.1 million less than the annual budget of €1,672.3 million, which included a supplementary estimate of €17.5 million.

The fact some money was surrendered back to the exchequer at year end is likely to anger some members of the force and the Garda staff representative bodies as overtime was scaled back significantly during the year, with discretionary overtime stopped in the latter part of 2019.

However, Mr Harris’s report says the return of the money was agreed between senior Garda management and the Department of Justice as part of a deal in which a supplementary estimate of €17.5 million was agreed at the end of last year. That was to cover the costs of the security around the Trump and Pence visits, which cost the Garda €14.7 million.

The €17.5 million supplementary estimate was also used towards the €3.6 million of mobility devices which allow Garda assess at roadside checks if motorists they encountered are banned from driving or not.

The Garda also purchased 450 vehicles last year, with €2.7 million available after an “underspend” in the capital building being used towards that investment.