Dáil Éireann - Volume 459 - 14 December, 1995

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Drug Seizures.

9. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Justice the security measures employed from the time of seizure of illegal drugs to the time of their disposal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18939/95]

23. Mr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Justice the procedures and safeguards adopted in the destruction of illegal drugs seized by the Garda and the Naval Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18937/95]

42. Miss Quill asked the Minister for Justice the locations in which the destruction of illegal drugs seized actually takes place; if she has satisfied herself that the supervision of the entire procedures is adequate; the Garda rank of those involved in monitoring this process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18938/95]

[1802] Mrs. Owen: I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 23 and 42 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the security measures in place for the carriage, storage and destruction of drugs seized by the Garda are continually reviewed. A Garda officer not below the rank of inspector is involved in the monitoring of the destruction of drugs. It would be contrary to established practice and to the public interest to comment in detail about the security arrangements currently in place.

Ms O'Donnell: Has the Minister initiated an inquiry into leaks to the media about the recent largest ever seizure of drugs in the history of the State, when the prosecution of certain persons allegedly involved was scuppered and the operation had to be implemented prematurely?

Mrs. Owen: I have not instituted any investigation of a leak because I have no evidence of such, although I read newspaper reports to that effect; that would be a matter for the Garda if they felt it hindered some element of the operation. It was an extremely successful operation on the part of the Garda, Customs and Naval Services, demonstrating what can be achieved when there is co-operation between them, and which continues to be nurtured, to ensure they continue to work closely. I am not in a position to comment on what was reported in a newspaper.

Ms O'Donnell: As the Minister is not at liberty to talk about that issue, I will ask a more general question. During the past 18 months there were many successful drug seizures. Have there been any security lapses in the measures employed in the confiscation and destruction of those drugs? Has anybody ever been charged or investigated?

Mrs. Owen: I am informed by the Garda authorities that no case has ever been taken. However, if the Deputy has a reason for raising this, perhaps she [1803] would pass on any knowledge she has and I will pass it on to the Garda Síochána. Certainly no garda has been accused of taking any of the evidence away. All drugs are burned, but the evidence must be kept until all aspects of court cases have been resolved. That raises the question of whether it is necessary to keep every last bit of evidence to produce in court. I have already raised that question following the massive haul of drugs found at Urlingford; fifteen tonnes would be a great deal to put on a table in a courtroom. I have asked if it would be possible, without destroying the integrity of the case the Garda Síochána might take, to dispose of it, because the sooner these drugs are put out of commission the better. Normally the quantities are manageable, but that was a particularly large haul, and it raised in my mind the question of where it is to be kept and for how long.

Mr. O'Donoghue: I do not believe it would hinder any investigation if the Minister were to say whether the identity of those who purchased the drugs found at Urlingford is known to the Garda? Further, is the identity of those who transported the drugs into the country and handled them also known to the Garda?

Mrs. Owen: I regret that I cannot make any comment about a case that is under investigation by the Garda. It would be inappropriate for me to say anything about an ongoing investigation lest I do damage to the integrity of the investigation process.