Cabinet discussing new ‘legal armoury’ to tackle burglaries

Fitzgerald to propose stronger powers for judges to refuse bail to serial burglars

 

A “legal armoury” will be put in place to tackle gangs who carry out repeat burglaries, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said on Wednesday.

Mr Howlin said concern had been growing at Government level over the issue and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald would bring a memo to Cabinet proposing the introduction of tough new measures for repeat burglars including consecutive sentences and tougher bail restrictions.

“Burglary is a very intrusive crime. It’s a violation of somebody’s home, particularly for the elderly,” Mr Howlin said.

“It is really a traumatic experience and we need to make sure whatever legal armoury can be put in place to take people who are engaged in this practice off the streets is put in place and we will do that.”

Mr Howlin was speaking on his way into Cabinet.

Ms Fitzgerald’s proposals are expected to allow for consecutive sentencing at District Court level for the first time.

Currently, those convicted of multiple offences can serve several sentences concurrently.

The Minister will also strengthen powers of judges to refuse bail to serial burglars. The new restrictions will apply to those who have two or more charges of burglary pending.

This is expected to be the first in a series of measures to be announced between her department and the Garda.

Ms Fitzgerald is concerned that a small number of criminals appear to be carrying out a large number of break-ins. She met senior gardaí in February to raise concerns over the number of burglaries, particularly in the Dublin area.

She asked gardaí to review their operational response and is expecting further announcements from Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan shortly.

Ms Fitzgerald also asked her officials to carry out an inspection of the legislative response to repeat offenders.

She first raised her plans to tackle burglary at the Fine Gael national conference earlier this year. She told party colleagues this was a heinous crime that affected families across the country.

“One way or the other, this Government is demanding action on the burglary front - and it will get action, so that when we meet next year, we will see provable improvement,” she said.