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

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

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 Anti-Social 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 spokes-man, has complained that legislation he introduced to the Dáil a number of years ago sat in cold storage until Simon Harris confirmed Complaint: Jim O’Callaghan 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 ‘Preventative measures’ 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.

By Brian Mahon

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