Irish Daily Mail

O’Callaghan: Knife-crime law was ‘in cold storage’ for years

McEntee rejects claim, saying committee worked on plan for ‘some time’

- By Brian Mahon Political Correspond­ent

NEW legislatio­n will introduce tougher sentences for knife crimes as a ‘preventati­ve measure’, the justice minister has said.

Cabinet yesterday approved a proposal from Justice Minister Helen McEntee to increase sentences for knife-related crimes after Taoiseach Simon Harris pledged to focus on law and order.

These include possessing a knife with intent to unlawfully cause injury, trespassin­g with a knife and producing a knife to unlawfully intimidate, from a maximum sentence of five to seven years.

The penalty for importing and selling knives is to be increased from seven to ten years.

Crediting her colleague James Browne for his work with the AntiSocial Behaviour Forum and its subgroups, which resulted in these proposals, Minister McEntee said: ‘Knives are extremely dangerous and knife crime must carry significan­t consequenc­es.’

However, Jim O’Callaghan, Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman, has complained that legislatio­n he introduced to the Dáil a number of years ago sat in ‘cold storage’ until Simon Harris confirmed that new legislatio­n would be brought forward on the issue when he became leader. Ms McEntee said: ‘I think what’s clear from today’s Minister Browne is that he has actually been working on this for some time. This is a recommenda­tion from a committee that he has been chairing since the beginning of this Government. ‘The committee has looked at a number of different issues in our community and the ways in which we can respond to them effectivel­y. Knife crime is the next issue that they have been looking at as Minister Browne has alluded to. ‘What they’ve done is actually taken the proposals by deputy O’Callaghan and, obviously, engaged with An Garda Síochána and with other community groups to see what was most appropriat­e here. That’s how we work. We are working collective­ly as a government.’

She added: ‘This is his Government colleague bringing forward this recommenda­tion, so I certainly don’t see it as a u-turn. I see this as a positive step.’

There were 2,146 knives seized in 2019, 2,260 in 2020 and 2,186 in 2023, according to garda figures.

Asked whether she expected knife-related crime to decrease as a result of this change, she said: ‘What we always need to do is try and put in place preventati­ve measures.

‘Thankfully, we’re not in a situation where we potentiall­y are in London or Glasgow, where we have particular gangs where knife crime is a really serious issue.

‘We have seen a small and incrementa­l problem here in Ireland, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t get any worse.

‘So this is about making sure... the punishment matches the crime at the moment. Simple possession for a knife is five years, possession with intent is also five years. So what is happening here is we’re increasing the sentence to match the crime committed.’

She said the measures were based on recommenda­tions from the Anti-Social Behaviour Forum, to increase penalties on possessing or producing knives.

‘Preventati­ve measures’

 ?? ?? Complaint: Jim O’Callaghan
Complaint: Jim O’Callaghan

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