Dublin crackdown on organised crime

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The Independent Online
The Irish government yesterday pushed five emergency Bills through the Dail to tackle organised crime and drugs trafficking, promised in the wake of last month's murder of crime reporter Veronica Guerin.

After Ms Guerin's killing it was agreed the Dail would return from its summer break for the 10-hour special session to plug major loopholes in Irish law which it was felt were hampering garda investigations.

No one has yet been charged with the murder of the 36-year-old journalist, one of 12 unsolved contract-type shootings in Dublin in the last two years.

The new powers will allow the assets of criminals to be targeted, and are aimed at providing wider grounds for prosecuting those who orchestrate drugs trafficking but remain remote from their actual distribution. Courts will be able to freeze assets for up to seven years, with further orders thereafter.

Other changes will see more judges appointed to bring prosecutions to trial faster. The right to silence will be qualified in serious drugs cases with courts allowed to draw conclusions from a suspect's refusal to answer questions; and garda liaison officers will be posted in The Hague and Madrid to help co-ordinate international action against drug traffickers.

Court remand hearings will be streamlined, and a November constitutional referendum will propose tightening the country's currently liberal bail laws. A further Bill was introduced to establish a Criminal Assets Bureau to trace criminal wealth.

The Taoiseach, John Bruton, said the measures were "balanced and urgent", and would result in more gardai on the streets and urgently-needed extra prison accommodation.

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