Home > CSO report: drug-crime statistics.

Connolly, Johnny and Forde, Caroline (2008) CSO report: drug-crime statistics. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 26, Summer 2008, pp. 13-16.

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Until 2006, the principal source of information on drug offences was the annual reports of the Garda Síochána. In 2006, responsibility for reporting crime statistics was transferred to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

 On 28 January this year the CSO issued Headline crime statistics: quarter 4 2007. This quarterly report compared the headline crime statistics for quarter four of 2006 and 2007, using the old Garda headline crime classification system. On 17 April the CSO introduced a new Irish Crime Classification System (ICCS), together with an overview summarising the history of the former headline classification system and the rationale behind the new system. On 23 April the CSO published Garda recorded crime statistics 2003–2006, based on the new ICCS.2 This was accompanied by a briefing document, Interpreting crime statistics, issued on 25 April, which explained the sources used and the difficulties encountered in relation to crime classification. The findings of the 28 January and 23 April reports are described in this article.
Garda recorded crime statistics provides an overview of the background to its publication and framework. It also outlines the revisions made to the recording of crime data on the PULSE system (Police Using Leading Systems Effectively), the counting rules used in relation to crimes committed, issues around the detection of crime and the interpretation of court proceedings. There are also a number of selected features, including the breakdown of recorded controlled drug offences by city. Appendix II of the report presents details of the Garda Síochána Diversion Programme.
The vast majority of drug offences reported come under one of three sections of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) 1977: section 3 – possession of any controlled drug without due authorisation (simple possession); section 15 – possession of a controlled drug for the purpose of unlawful sale or supply (possession for sale or supply); and section 21 – obstructing the lawful exercise of a power conferred by the Act (obstruction). Other MDA offences regularly recorded relate to the unlawful importation into the State of controlled drugs (section 21); permitting one’s premises to be used for drug supply or use (section 19); the use of forged prescriptions (section 18); and the cultivation of cannabis plants (section 17).3 
Table 1 displays total headline offences in the drugs category for the years 2006 and 2007. Increases were recorded in all such offences in 2007, with an overall increase of 791 (21.8%). The offence of cultivation, manufacture or importation of drugs, while the lowest in the category, showed the largest percentage increase (58.5%) in 2007. Possession of drugs for sale or supply, representing the largest offence type in this category, increased by 595 (19.7%).
[For clearer images of figures please see the PDF version]
Figure 1 shows trends in relevant legal proceedings for possession and supply between 2003 and 2006.4 The majority of these proceedings are for drug possession, which have risen since 2003 and accounted for 68.4% of drug offence proceedings in 2006. The number of relevant legal proceedings for supply offences in 2006 was 2,291, representing 25.7% of total drug offence proceedings.   
 Figure 2 shows trends in relevant legal proceedings for a selection of other drug offences between 2003 and 2006. Obstruction offences increased steadily from 208 in 2003 to 349 in 2006. Following a two-year decline, relevant legal proceedings for cultivation or manufacture of drugs increased during 2006 to slightly above the figure for 2003.
Source: CSO (2008b)
Figure 3 shows trends in proceedings for possession of drugs, by drug type, for a selection of substances between 2003 and 2006.5 Both heroin and cocaine show steady increases since 2003, with heroin increasing by 47.7% between 2005 and 2006. Following a 38% decline over two years, proceedings for possession of ecstasy-type substances increased by 35% between 2005 and 2006, almost reaching their 2003 level.
Figure 4 shows trends in total proceedings for possession and those for cannabis-type substances between 2003 and 2006. Cannabis-type substances consistently accounted for the majority of these proceedings, representing 6,947 (49.6%) of the total in 2006.


Table 2 provides a breakdown of events that take place once an incident of a controlled drug offence is recorded in the PULSE system. The table is based on the 2006 data and includes the new ICCS references. The data provided in Table 2 enhance our understanding of the operation of the criminal justice system. Of the 67 cases of importation/manufacture of drugs in which court proceedings commenced, 29 resulted in a conviction and 30 were pending. Of the 5,353 possession cases in which proceedings commenced, 2,507 resulted in conviction and 1,729 were pending.
1. Central Statistics Office (2008a) Headline crime statistics: quarter 4 2007. Dublin: CSO.
2. Central Statistics Office (2008b) Garda recorded crime statistics 2003–2006. Dublin: Stationery Office.
3. See also Connolly J (2007) Drug-crime statistics. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 23: 16-18.
4. ‘Relevant proceedings’ refers to the legal proceedings, such as prosecution, taken in relation to the offence as it was originally recorded in the PULSE system.
5. ‘Proceedings’ is a list of charges and proceedings which do not necessarily relate to the offence as it was originally recorded in the PULSE system.  


Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
Issue Title
Issue 26, Summer 2008
Page Range
pp. 13-16
Health Research Board
Issue 26, Summer 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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