Justice | Persecution and imprisonment of Organised Crime gangs
To ask the Minister for Justice the extent to which the leaders of criminal gangs are currently in prison or have charges pending against them; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
I am advised by my officials in the Irish Prison Service that there are currently 122 prisoners in custody associated with known criminal gangs, of which 17 would be categorised as leaders. These figures excludes the subversive prisoners in Portlaoise Prison.
I can further advise the Deputy that in respect of the 17 leaders there are currently 5 further court dates pending.
In relation to the information sought by the Deputy in respect of the number of criminal gang leaders who have charges pending against them, it is important to state that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is responsible for the prosecution of crime in Ireland.
Criminal investigations are carried out by An Garda Síochána, who then submit a report to the DPP. It is for the DPP to decide whether or not someone should be prosecuted and for what crime, on the basis of the Garda findings, viewed against the background of common and/or statute law. The Director is fully independent in the performance of her functions.
Membership or allegiance of criminal groups fluctuates on a continuous basis with some persons breaking links and others becoming affiliated on a daily basis. It is also the case that prisoners will not always declare their affiliation to certain groupings and it is therefore not possible to provide definitive numbers in relation to the number of known members of criminal groupings currently in custody. It should also be noted that more than one criminal gang may group together under the umbrella of a particular group and in some instances some gangs may form splinter groups due to family or in house disputes.
I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that a number of prisons have introduced specialist programmes, including a gang desistance group which incorporates collaboration with men with a history of gang involvement in the development and facilitation of the programme. A full range of policies, procedures and standard operating procedures are used by the IPS to identify, monitor and manage specific individuals. Management and staff have to ensure that the various factions are kept apart and, as far as possible, that gang members do not have influence over other inmates or criminal activities outside the prisons.
Measures taken on a continuous basis include regular targeted searching; placement in high security locations; close supervision of all visits, including the use of screened visits and the barring of certain visitors; the use of CCTV, metal detectors and mobile phone detectors; and the examination and monitoring of mail and telephone calls. The Operational Support Group has a core function to gather and collate intelligence information on criminal gang members in our prisons and to carry out intelligence led searches.
In addition, there is regular contact between the IPS and An Garda Síochána to discuss security issues including the operation of criminal gangs and the release of prisoners who form part of these groupings.
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