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long arm of the law

Gardaí currently have 113,500 arrests waiting to be carried out

The Justice Minister says she accepts that this is unacceptable but adds that most are for minor offences.

THERE ARE MORE than 113,000 outstanding arrest warrants on the garda Pulse system according to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The figure was revealed  in the Dáil yesterday following a question from Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson Niall Collins who described it as a “huge blow for people who rely on our criminal justice system”.

Fitzgerald told the Dáil that there is “no question” that the current position should be allowed to stand but that the “vast majority” of these bench warrants did not relate to serious crime.

The minister said that she had been advised by gardaí that the number of warrants on the system totalled 113,500 at the end of the first half of this year. This is down, she said, on the 122,000 that were in place at the beginning of 2014.

She added that there is an inspector in place in each garda district dealing specifically with the execution of warrants and has been assured that they prioritise serious crime.

These, however, represent a minority of the outstanding warrants she said:

I do not mean to minimise the situation but the vast majority of warrants do not relate to violent and serious offences – most are due to the non-payment of fines relating to road traffic offences and other offences.

Fitzgerald added that the issue of outstanding warrants is one which is a “longstanding difficulty for many police forces around the world” and has been an issue for a considerable period of time in Ireland.

Collins told the minister that, while he accepted that many of the warrants related to the non-payment of fines, the volume must leave many victims of crime “with a sick feeling in their stomach”:

Warrants are the bread and butter of the criminal justice system and issued by judges in order to make a citizen appear in court or in certain cases commit them to prison. The fact that thousands of bench warrants remain outstanding is proof that the criminal justice system is in a dysfunctional state.

Garda inspectorate report

During the course of the Dáil debate the minister made reference to the recent garda inspectorate report and said that the authors had made several recommendations about clearing this backlog.

“Some of the difficulties are very much tied to the technology, which must be addressed,” she said.

Collins pushed the minister to provide the Dáil with specifics of what is planned, asking whether the Government is considering introducing a “overarching criminal justice inspectorate to examine all the major players in this area”.

This, he said, should include “the Probation Service, the courts, prisons, the Garda Síochána and so on”.

Fitzgerald said said that such an overarching inspectorate was one such suggestion in the report but that it will be considered along with the 500 recommendations made.

Read: Three new Garda headquarters on the way for Galway, Wexford and Dublin >

Read: In two years, 34,000 people who should have had fingerprints taken did not >

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