Investigation finds equivalent of 2,000 crimes a month are committed by people on bail

An investigation by RTE has found that more than 300,000 crimes have been committed by people on bail between 2003 and 2016.

That equates to around 2,000 crimes every month.

The figure is revealed by a special programme of RTÉ Investigates to be broadcast tonight which examines what has been described as the 'chaotic nature' of Ireland's District Court system.

According to the Central Statistics Office, 307,465 crimes have been committed by people on bail in the 13 years to 2016, including those by Zigimantas Gridziuska who killed Shane O’Farrell in a hit-and-run accident in 2011.

Zigimantas Gridziuska who was involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident in 2011. Pic via RTÉ Investigates.

A law was passed in June making it more difficult for people, especially repeat offenders, to get bail.

Shop owner, Sarfraz Hummayun says he detects between five and 10 cases of shoplifting or attempted shoplifting every single day at his shop in Dublin, including offences by repeat offenders who are on bail. Bail can be granted at a Garda station or in court by a judge.

The programme also found that outcomes in court can depend not on the crime, but on where in Ireland you are prosecuted.

From the Courts Service’s annual report on the number of orders made by judges, they found that 10% of all orders in assault cases in Kildare were for strike out or dismissal. In Meath the figure was 64%.

The number of judge's orders is not the same as the number of offences because some offences may result in more than one order, for example a dangerous driver may be fined and disqualified, which is two orders.

In County Cork’s court district 18 (which includes Bandon, Bantry and Skibereen) 6% of orders in dangerous driving cases were for a strike out or dismissal while in the Leitrim/Sligo/South Donegal district the figure was 51%.

In Cork city 15% of all orders were to jail the offender in dangerous driving cases but in Kerry none of the 115 court orders for this crime was for imprisonment.

In the districts of Wexford, County Limerick, Carlow-Kilkenny, Longford-Westmeath, Tipperary, Waterford City and Leitrim/Sligo/South Donegal, just 1% of more than 3,100 court orders in drugs cases were for jail. In Cork city it was 11 times higher at 11%, as judges used their discretion to impose custodial penalties.

For theft offences there can be a great disparity also, where in Louth 37% of court orders were to jail the offender, while in Waterford city it was just 6% and in Dublin 9%.

There are also significant county-by-county differences in the outcomes of prosecutions of drink driving offences.

In 2016, of the nearly 5,000 drink-driving offences before the District Court, convictions were recorded in only 58% of cases, according to Courts Service figures.

    Successful prosecutions of drink driving offences in 2016, according to court service figures provided to Independent TD, Tommy Broughan.

  • Westmeath - 85%;
  • Longford - 82%;
  • Kildare - 80%;
  • Leitrim - 45%;
  • Kilkenny - 43%;
  • Waterford - 34%

An Garda Síochána says around 15% of drink driving summonses do not get served. But figures provided by An Garda Síochána to RTÉ Investigates show that in 2015, 43% of summonses for all crime were not served, though this figure improved to a still high 27% last year as Gardaí focused efforts on improving the summons service.

Taking into account nearly 972 cases where the summons was not served, the conviction rate where intoxication has been measured scientifically falls to 48%.

During the past six months, RTÉ Investigates researchers sat through 100 court sittings across the country’s 24 district court areas where an average of 65 defendants were due to appear before the court on the day in question. On three of those days more than 150 defendants were due to appear in court at a single sitting, and on one day 185.

In 2016 alone the District Courts dealt with 285,000 criminal offences. Last year each judge dealt with an average of almost 5,000 criminal offences and that’s before he or she deals with other types of cases such as civil or regulatory.

A poorbox contribution allows the defendant not just to escape conviction but for offences where penalty points should apply it allows them to escape those penalty points. Since 2010, however, for offences where driver penalty points should apply, it has not been provided for in law for judges to offer defendants the chance to pay money to the court poorbox and thereby avoid penalty points.

In 2014 the High Court ruled “the District Court enjoys no jurisdiction to impose an informal sanction such as accepting a donation to the poor box, as this would amount to an indirect circumvention of the law”.

However, 843 cases were dealt with by the poor box in 2015, but that number fell to 258 in 2016.

It stayed at around the same level with 223 in the first nine months of this year, as shown in figures provided in response to a parliamentary question.

The Courts Service figures, which record money paid into the court’s poor box and not donations that a judge orders to be paid directly to a charity, show the court poor box of Mayo paid out under €10,000 (€9,930) to charities in 2016 while Kerry’s poor box paid out nearly €400,000 (€394,000), which is more than a quarter of the national poor box total.

Courts Service figures provided to RTÉ show that in 2016 the average case required two-and-a-half court appearances, with one case in Kilrush being adjourned 41 times before reaching a conclusion on the 42nd appearance.

Other cases in Killarney had 39 adjournments, another in Dundalk had 35 and another in Sligo had 35 adjournments over five years before concluding in 2016.

Many of those cases required the services of free legal aid, of which the cost of the overall scheme to the taxpayer was €53m in 2016.

* RTÉ Investigates - Law and Disorder, will be broadcast on RTÉ One at 9.35pm tonight.


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