herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Burglary bill to 'keep repeat offenders off our streets'

Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Burglars who repeatedly offend will now face longer jail terms and may be refused bail.

The new planned laws are specifically aimed at "prolific" offenders.

The dedicated home burglary law, which Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald says is designed to "keep repeat burglars off the streets", has been approved by Government and is set to be passed later this year.

The move will result in District Court judges applying mandatory consecutive sentences for multiple offences committed within a 12-month window.

Judges will also be allowed to refuse bail to offenders who have a previous conviction for burglary coupled with two or more pending charges.

Publication of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Bill 2015 comes in the wake of a series of high-profile home burglaries in which the elderly were targeted, particularly in under-policed rural areas.

Ms Fitzgerald said the bill was targeted at those repeat burglars who had previous convictions and who were charged with multiple offences of residential burglary.

"Burglary of a person's home is a heinous and traumatic crime," Ms Fitzgerald said.

"A large proportion of domestic burglaries are committed by serial offenders. This new bill is targeted at those repeat burglars who have previous convictions who are charged with multiple offences of residential burglary.

"Targeting this cohort of repeat offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the number of burglaries being committed."

Recent garda figures indicate that 75pc of burglaries are committed by 25pc of burglars.

Reoffending rates are almost 80pc for people imprisoned for burglary and related offences, which means that many burglars are released from prison only to commit new offences.

The bill will require a court which decides to impose custodial sentences for multiple burglary offences committed within a 12-month window, to impose such sentences consecutively.

The legislation is the result of a review of this area of the law, which began earlier this year following high-level meetings convened by Ms Fitzgerald and attended by the Garda Commissioner, the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service.

Fine Gael TD for Dublin Fingal, Alan Farrell, has said that a new law will make a significant difference in tackling crime in the city.

"It is clear that it is the same few who are causing trauma for many, and that the deterrents in place up until now were hugely insufficient," he said.

"This new bill is targeted at those repeat burglars who have previous convictions and who are charged with multiple offences."

Bail

"This new law will also allow the courts to refuse bail for offenders who have a previous conviction for domestic burglary, coupled with two or more pending charges.

"In addition to the new legislation, €700,000 has also been allocated to An Garda Siochana for the purchase of specialist vehicles to support the gardai in tacking highly-mobile criminal gangs, including those involved in burglaries," he added.

No date has been given for when the Government hopes the bill will be passed into law.

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