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04 Dec 2021

Two Kildare Gardaí admit having little knowledge of controversial proposed phone checking law at Joint Policing Committee meeting

The two Gardaí made the comments at the most recent JPC meeting

The two Gardaí made the comments at the most recent JPC meeting

Two prominent members of the Kildare gardaí admitted to not knowing enough about proposed legislation that would give gardaí the power to check people's phones.

When Superintendent Oliver 'Ollie' Henry and Inspector Tony Connaughton were asked by Michael Corcoran of the Public Participation Network about the proposed legislation, which generated controversy when it was first unveiled back in June, they admitted to having little knowledge about it and thus declined to comment.

The conversation took place during the most recent Joint Policing Committee (JPC), which was held online and highlighted a number of surprising crime statistics relating to County Kildare.

The proposed Bill which was discussed was based on recommendations from the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, and states that a person who refuses to surrender a password for a mobile device or other device to Gardaí could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €30,000.

It was initially reported that this Bill was introduced due to the increase in criminals opting to instead use or otherwise rely on the internet to commit their crimes.

The latest figures:

A range of statistics concerning crime in County Kildare was discussed at the latest JPC meeting.

Theft from a person is also down by 69 per cent, while criminal damage by fire is down by 4 per cent and burglaries are down by 8 per cent.

However, a number of crimes have seen some notable increases.

Robbery from a person is up by 33 per cent, while theft from a shop is up by 20 per cent.

In addition, all forms of harassment — including violent threats and sexual harassment — is up by a startling 225 per cent (4 cases to 13 cases this quarter), while the number of menacing phone calls has gone up by 92 per cent (from 14 cases to 23).

Public drunkenness offences have also seen an increase throughout Kildare by 35 per cent, while drugs and weapons charges have gone up in the county by 12 per cent.

Simple drug possession has also gone up by 27 per cent (from 318 cases to 381).

The towns of Kildare and Naas saw an overall decrease in drugs and weapons charges, while Leixlip saw an increase.

In terms of road traffic statistics, fatal traffic collisions have increased by 100 per cent, and arrests made over people in charge of a vehicle while intoxicated saw a 180 per cent increase.

Kildare and Naas overall saw an increase in traffic related issues, but Leixlip saw a decrease.

Independent Councillor for Clane Padraig McEvoy asked for specifics regarding the increase in road traffic issues, to which Garda Superintendant Martin Walker replied that the change came about due to the easing of pandemic restrictions.

Supt Walker explained that, simply put, there are more cars on the road, while fellow Supt Henry said that if there was any increase in speeding offences, it would be a small one akin to possibly one per cent.

When asked about the increased number of scam phone calls by Maynooth Fine Gael Cllr. Tim Durkan, Gardaí revealed that they have put out warnings about the scams, but are considering a 'possible revamp' of the campaign.

Another Fine Gael Cllr., Bernard Durkin of Kildare North, enquired a possible Garda campaign against road rage, to which Inspector Tony Connaughton agreed that it could be something to look into.

Cllr. Durkin also asked about the decrease in 'grow houses,' which Gardaí credited to an increase in Garda checkpoints driving many criminals further underground.

When asked by Social Democrats Cllr. Nuala Killeen, who represents Leixlip, about the increase in simple possession, and if it was a growing problem, Supt. Eamon Curley replied that the arrests were due to an increased amount of regular and undercover patrols in Kildare, particularly in the Maynooth and Leixlip areas.

He further explained that arrests relating to drink-driving offences were due to the Gardaí having improved equipment for detecting intoxicated drivers.

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