Wednesday, 9 June 1965
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Cosgrave: asked the Minister for Justice if he has yet concluded his examination of the number of stabbing incidents; whether it is possible to institute some form of control on the sale or carrying of knives; if he has considered providing heavier penalties where persons are convicted of stabbing incidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Justice (Mr. B. Lenihan): I assume that the question refers to a statement which I made last month in my reply to the debate on the Estimate for my Department. The reference then was to flick-knives. I have no information to suggest that the use of flick-knives is a problem in this country. As I stated in a reply to a Dáil question on 3rd March last, there were 30 criminal stabbings in a recent two year period and in only one single case was a flick-knife used.
I see no practical way of controlling stabbing incidents by legislation governing the sale or carrying of knives. I would again refer to the fact, disclosed in my reply of 3rd March, that a spot check of eight recent cases showed that in five of the eight the knife used was a penknife.
As regards penalties, I would draw attention to the fact that, where the circumstances justify proceeding on  indictment, the law already provides that a penalty of penal servitude for life may be imposed.
Since there seems to be implicit in this and other recent questions a suggestion that serious crimes of violence are getting out of hand, and that the police and the courts are, for one reason or another, ineffective in controlling them, the following figures are significant.
First, in relation to offences of wounding and the like, the Garda detection rate last year was no less than 96 per cent and this rate obtained both in regard to the more serious offences where there was a danger to life and to the less serious ones.
Secondly, a recent spot-check of the figures for the Dublin Metropolitan District Court showed that, in a four-month period, the court found the charges proved in 44 assault and wounding cases. None of these cases involved danger to life—the latter would be dealt with on indictment— though on the other hand none was trivial. Of the 44 cases, 28 resulted in prison sentences, 22 of them for three months or more. Seven resulted in a fine of £10 or more: one resulted in a fine less than £10 and the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act was applied in eight cases. It will be noted that these offences do not necessarily involve the use of any weapon and that questions of provocation and so on have to be assessed by the court.
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