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Burglary conviction rate may be just 7pc, CSO figures suggest

Just over 2,000 convictions resulted from the investigation of 27,653 ‘recorded’ burglaries in 2014, according to new data from the Central Statistics Office.

The CSO has, for the first time, included court proceedings and outcomes with figures alongside the ‘recorded’ cases of burglary.

The figures appear to uphold the long-held view of both gardai and victims of crime that there has been systematic manipulation of figures for years to suggest a higher ‘detection’ rate of crime such as burglary and theft.

Gardai say that as well as burglary, theft, particularly of mobile phones, is also vastly under-reported. Most mobile phone thefts are still recorded as ‘lost property’ even though thousands of phones are stolen annually by organised crime gangs, often from outside the State.

The change in the way the CSO records crime statistics came about in 2014 after an investigation by the independent watchdog body, the Garda Inspectorate, uncovered widespread manipulation of crime figures caused by the ‘recategorising’ of offences such as burglary to less serious offences or none at all.

For decades, Ministers for Justice have annually congratulated the Garda for falls in crime figures and this year was no different. Just before Christmas, the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, congratulated the Garda for their “impressive results in their sustained drive against burglars”. She was referring to a drop of “31pc in the level of burglary crime, continuing the positive trend shown in CSO figures for the first half of 2016”.

The Tanaiste said: “An Garda Siochana continue to achieve impressive results in their sustained drive against burglars under Operation Thor, which is powered by increased resources provided by the Government and supported by new legislation which I introduced this time last year, targeting repeat burglary offenders. The Government remains absolutely committed to supporting Garda efforts to combat crime including Operation Thor. It is encouraging that the regional breakdown of the CSO figures shows that Operation Thor is benefiting communities right across the country.

“Burglary is a terrible and invasive crime and we will continue this crackdown to ensure the safety and security of people in their homes all over Ireland.”

However, the CSO has warned that figures supplied to it by the Garda after years of inaction over an agreed system for accurately recording crime alongside court outcomes may not be accurate. For the first time, the CSO has compiled figures from the Garda and the Courts Service.

This resulted in the first record of the “number of crime incidents recorded, detected with relevant proceedings and court outcomes’ for 2014”, published in early December.

This table shows 27,653 ‘recorded’ burglaries with another Garda figure of 4,883 burglaries detected and 3,369 in which ‘proceedings were commenced’.

However, when the Garda figures are placed alongside the Courts Service records, it shows there were only 2,002 convictions, 672 acquittals and 620 appeals against conviction. This would suggest a conviction rate – rather than the ambiguous ‘detection’ rate – of 7pc or less.

The CSO states on its website that it is incumbent upon all agencies, including the Garda and private industry, to accurately supply it with data. It is an offence to provide the CSO with false data.

Commenting on the efforts made over a decade to try and establish an accurate classification system for crime, the CSO said: “It is possible to speculate that the task of providing these foundations fell between many stools and did not become the responsibility of any agency/department in particular

“There is a clear need to improve the coherence between sources of information in the criminal justice area and the introduction of a robust classification system is a fundamental step in this direction

“Ireland has one police force with one set of laws and therefore uniformity is more easily attainable.”

The figures cited by the minister show a ’31pc drop’ over 2015. This would mark the biggest annual decline in almost any crime category in the history of the force. Normally statistics supplied by the Garda show only small percentage changes.

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