Home > Dail Eireann debate. Other questions 6 - Drugs crime [49659/18].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Other questions 6 - Drugs crime [49659/18]. (29 Nov 2018)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

6. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied with the level of sanctions and penalties for persons charged with drug offences; his plans to introduce additional measures to deal with the scourge of drugs which is blighting communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49659/18]


Deputy Brendan Smith

I represent two rural counties, Cavan and Monaghan. Until recently, we thankfully did not have substantive problems with drug-related crime or drug-related issues. Unfortunately, that has changed in recent times. Communities throughout Cavan and Monaghan have serious concerns regarding the use, misuse, prevalence and availability of drugs in every parish. Unfortunately, it is my understanding that is the position in all rural areas. Additional resources are needed. The Garda is working extremely well and as effectively as possible with limited resources. I would hope the Minister would be in a position to enhance those resources.


Deputy Charles Flanagan

The possession, sale and supply of controlled drugs is governed almost entirely by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, which falls within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Health.  The possession of any controlled substance without due authorisation is an offence under the Act.  The legislation distinguishes between possession for personal use, which is dealt with under section 3 of the Act, and possession for sale and supply, which is dealt with under section 15.  The drugs which are controlled under that Act are listed in its Schedules.


Penalties for possession for personal use depend on the type of drug involved, be it cannabis or some other type of drug, and whether a summary conviction or a conviction on indictment is being sought.  Possession of cannabis or cannabis resin for personal use is punishable by a fine on first or second conviction, while third and subsequent offences are punishable by up to a year in prison for a summary conviction and up to three years for conviction on indictment.  Possession in any other case is punishable by up to one year in prison or a fine or both on summary conviction and up to seven years' imprisonment for conviction on indictment.


The law governing possession of drugs for sale or supply has been amended over the years mainly in order to increase the severity of punishment following conviction.  It currently provides that a person found in possession of drugs with an estimated street value of €13,000 or more is guilty of an offence which is subject not only to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, but also to a presumptive minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment on a first conviction.  A ten-year mandatory minimum applies in the case of a second or subsequent conviction for such an offence.


I should also mention the Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Act 2010 with was introduced to allow the prohibition of supply-related activities involving any harmful new psychoactive substances and which was instrumental in shutting down the head shop industry in Ireland.


While I am satisfied with the suite of penalties in relation to drugs offences, it is an area that needs to be kept under review.  I acknowledge what Deputy Smith has said regarding his constituency. He may also wish to be aware of work under way in the context of the Government's national drugs and alcohol strategy, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery.


Deputy Brendan Smith

I thank the Minister for his reply. He referred to a person who is found in possession of drugs worth €13,000 or more and the mandatory minimum sentence of ten years. From reports I have heard and from what I have read, there always seems to be mitigating circumstances. How often are those sentences actually handed down? In many instances we hear that a given person in a community, who is known to possess and sell drugs, has been before the courts again and is out again and not in prison. I understand that we cannot questions decisions made in courts but there is concern among communities that sentences are not severe enough. The Minister mentioned the severity of sentences in his response. The widespread narrative is that in many instances the penalties do not meet the crime being committed, the pain and suffering inflicted, and the innocent lives destroyed by these peddlers of drugs…..


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