Dermot Ahern: 'imminent'

FOUR months after legislation was introduced to try gangland criminals at non-jury trials, not one criminal has been arrested on suspicion of controlling a crime gang or membership of an organised crime gang.

More than six months ago, senior gardaí began identifying prime targets in advance of the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill, which was signed into law by President Mary McAleese in July. Garda and justice sources told members of the press that arrests of serious criminals were "imminent" in the days and weeks following the introduction of the new laws.

However, the Sunday Tribune has established that no gangland figures have been arrested on suspicion of controlling a crime gang or membership of a gang. While it is expected that the DPP will take several months to consider any garda file that recommends criminals being charged under the new laws, the fact that no gangland bosses have been quizzed means that no garda files are near completion.

Pat Rabbitte, Labour's justice spokesman, said the fact the legislation has not been used proved justice minister Dermot Ahern's plans to tackle gangland crime were "a gimmick" and "a stunt".

"Several months after this legislation was enacted, we have not had a single case. We were told there would be prompt arrests. There have not been. We were told gangland criminals would be rounded up and arrested but there has been no case of a criminal being brought before the special criminal court," he said.

"I never believed the criminals would be rounded up. It was a stunt. The minister had to be seen to be doing something because of the level of gangland feuding.

The family of Roy Collins, the innocent man murdered in Limerick on the orders of a crime boss, were among those that publically supported the legislation.

Rabbitte was opposed to elements of the proposed new laws as they were going through the Dáil. He said there was no evidence of juror intimidation and said the perception was created that the special criminal court would become a "sentencing tribunal" for gangland bosses.