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'No fear' Fine Gael senator says 'garda boots on ground' is best burglar deterrent

"If you think you will get arrested you won't commit an offence"

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A rear window is the main access point for one in five burglaries

A rear window is the main access point for one in five burglaries

A rear window is the main access point for one in five burglaries

A Fine Gael senator has said that more gardaí on the streets to deter criminals will prove more effective than blanket bail refusals in targeting roaming burglary gangs.

Barry Ward, who is also the party's spokesman on justice in the Seanad, said that criminals will continue to carry out burglaries if they do not believe they will be caught.

The practising barrister is based in the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown area, which has one of the highest burglary rates in the country.

He told the Herald that enforcement was a more effective strategy to clamp down on burglary, than refusing bail to an accused who has a history of committing offences while on bail.

"The problem with the blanket policy of refusal is that it is unconstitutional," he said.

"It doesn't really deal with the nuance of each individual case and if we go down that road it is a dangerous one."

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Fine Gael senator Barry Ward

Fine Gael senator Barry Ward

Fine Gael senator Barry Ward

He added that detection and enforcement are the most effective ways to deal with burglary gangs who target homes in both cities and rural communities.

"If you think you will get arrested you won't commit an offence. Minimum mandatory sentencing or higher tariffs doesn't deter people, if they don't think they'll get caught," he said.

Mr Ward added that Section 15a of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which brought in minimum sentencing of 10 years for a person caught with over €13,000 worth of drugs, was an example of this.

"It doesn't work and more importantly it doesn't deter. If you don't think you're going to get caught with 20 keys of coke you're going to carry on regardless," he said.

"You've got to imagine the people doing this, the thing is they have no fear of getting caught and are never going to change their behaviour.

"In reality people will only stop doing this if they know guards are going to collar them and make them pay for it, by putting guards on the street, and we've done that," he added.

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Mr Ward also said that, if those who commit offences while on bail are caught, then it shuts them down.

"You can never eliminate burglary crime but you can send out a clear message.

"I do think putting more people out there, taking guards out of garda stations and onto the beat is where we need more resources made available.

"The horse has bolted once somebody is in court; the damage is done to the house."

The barrister also said he has seen firsthand in the community the effects burglaries can have on local residents while out canvassing in his constituency earlier this year.

"There was a house on this fine road with big secure electric gates, and we rang the doorbell. This woman came out with this big golden retriever but she wouldn't open the gate, even in the daylight.

"She said to me that there's been a few burglaries on the road and wouldn't open the gate because she was afraid.

"There's something terribly wrong when a person who has worked as hard as she has, and spent as much money on a house, is living in fear, and that is a problem," he added.

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