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Kinahan Hutch feud coincides with huge need for armed Garda prisoner escorts to courts

Last year, there were 740 requests by the Prison Service for an armed Garda escort for prisoner transfers to courts here.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE SHARP RISE in gangland murders in Dublin in the past two years has coincided with the number of applications for armed Garda high security prisoner escorts to the courts more than doubling.

New figures provided by the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan in a written Dáil reply to Fianna Fáil Justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan show that last year, there were 740 requests by the Prison Service for an armed Garda escort for prisoner transfers to courts here.

This represents an increase of 156% on the 289 applications in 2015 – the year prior to the major escalation in the Kinahan Hutch feud that has now claimed 14 lives.

2016 has been the bloodiest year in the ongoing feud and applications for armed Garda high security prisoner escorts to court soared to 679 that year.

However, the figures show that a sizeable number of armed escort requests are refused by gardaí.

Last year of the 740 requests, 434 – or 58% were approved with 289 – or 39% – refused with the remaining applications cancelled or no longer required.

The 58% approval rate last year represented a sharp increase on the 46% approval rate for armed Garda escorts in 2016 when 48% of applications were refused with the remaining cancelled or not required.

Today, Deputy General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA), Jim Mitchell described the refusal rate as ‘high”.

He said: “Our main concern is that any refusal that concludes in violence ultimately leaves Prison Officers bearing the burden of that decision and not the decision maker.”

The ongoing feud has undoubtedly increased the number of escorts requiring armed support which in itself places huge burdens on an already overstretched system but also it places additional stress upon our members individually.

“It had been the case previously that armed escorts only occurred when escorting prisoners to and from the Special Criminal Court but now the frequency and severity of organised violence requires significantly more which, in turn, obviously places our members in harm’s way.

“We have long highlighted the incredibly difficult circumstances that Prison Officers have to deal with while inside prison which unfortunately still culminates in assaults on our members.”

Deputy O’Callaghan said: “The sharp rise in armed escorts reveals the extra resources required to fight organised crime. High profile criminal trials and increased gangland violence is part of the reason for the increase.

“It is imperative that the government ensures that gardaí and prison service are fully resourced to meet this ongoing threat.”

In his written reply, Flanagan said: “Prison Management make a request for an armed escort based on a risk assessment of a prisoner due to be escorted outside the prison. Armed garda escorts are requested for prisoners who are deemed to warrant such an escort.”

An Garda Síochána has full discretion on whether or not to provide an armed escort to individual prisoners.

A spokesman for An Garda Síochána said: “The security implications surrounding the movement of prisoners with in this jurisdiction are dealt with on a case basis in consultation with the Prison Services.”

Read: Senior Kinahan gang member flees after murder of Derek Coakley Hutch

More: Security ramped up at Regency Hotel trial as Defence Forces form part of armed escort

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Gordon Deegan

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