Councillors to make urgent appeal for increase in knife-crime sentence to 10 years

Knife crime sentence increase JIM O'Callaghan

Four Dublin councillors will table an emergency motion at today’s city council meeting calling on the Justice Minister Helen McEntee to act on previously suggested changes to the law which would double the sentence for knife crime to 10 years.

The former Fianna Fáil justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, had proposed the change to the legislation.

But the Government has said there are no plans to amend the current legislation.

In the space of just over a week, the north-inner city of Dublin has been hit with a spate of savage knife crimes.

A 14-year-old boy has been charged in connection with a knife attack that led to an office cleaner needing life-saving surgery after she was stabbed in the neck on January 20 at the IFSC between George’s Dock and Custom House Quay.

Then on Tuesday last, a youth was stabbed on East Wall Road and died from his injuries.

In another attack last Thursday, a person was stabbed in an attack at Seville Place.

The four local councillors, Nial Ring, Christy Burke, Anthony Flynn and Cieran Perry, will bring a motion to the council calling on the Justice Minister to immediately facilitate the reintroduction of Deputy Jim O’Callaghan’s private members bill.

“The purpose of the bill is to amend Section 9 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, which increases the maximum sentence that can be imposed for the possession of a knife to cause injury to incapacitate or intimidate any person from five to 10 years,” the motion reads.

The councillors will also call on the minister to immediately set up a task force to address, research and analyse the causes of the increase in knife crime. But the Justice Department has previously said it has no plans for changing the sentencing on knife possession.

In an email to the Irish Independent last October, around the time of the sentencing of a youth for the killing of Dublin teenager Azzam Raguragui, a department spokesman said the Government is “very aware of the concerns which many members of the public hold with regard to the issue of knife crime”.

“We are all familiar with the problems which have emerged in neighbouring jurisdictions in this regard and the Government is determined to ensure similar problems do not develop here in Ireland.

“While the problem is not of a similar scale here, any stabbing incident can cause irreparable physical harm and have potentially tragic consequences,” he said, adding that the maximum penalty for a conviction for possessing a knife in a public place without good reason or lawful authority was already increased from one to five years.

“There are no plans under the Programme for Government to amend this legislation further at this time,” he said.

Mr Ring said: “People are literally living in fear and looking to the authorities for action. The four independent councillors in the Central Area are now, through this motion, calling for this action and the minister must answer this call,” he said.

Mr Perry said legislation is one part of the jigsaw “but ultimately we need buy-in from the affected communities and in particular, the young people in the areas”. Mr Flynn said: “What is required is an increase in visual police presence, active community policing and engagement with young people.”

Mr Burke has requested an immediate meeting with senior gardaí and senior officials from the Justice Department.

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