Over the weekend TheJournal.ie reported that 93.4% of the drugs seized between 2010 and 2014 have yet to be destroyed
The figures, which were provided by the Departments of Justice and Finance, reveal that drugs valued at almost €500 million have yet to be destroyed by law enforcement agencies.
The information first came to light following a parliamentary question asked by Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty in March of this year.
Doherty asked the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald the following question:
“(What is) the reason the value of illegal drugs destroyed has dropped each year since 2010, from €14,930,279.80 in 2010 to €404,153 in 2014; and if she will make a statement on the matter”
The Minister for Justice’s reply was as follows:
“I am informed by the Garda authorities that the volume and value of controlled drugs destroyed by An Garda Síochána varies year on year depending on a number of factors.
In circumstances where criminal proceedings have been initiated the legal destruction of controlled drugs can only take place when such proceedings have reached finality and an appropriate order has been made by the courts. It is also the case that significant seizures of drugs can, on their own, make up a significant volume or value of drugs destroyed in any given year and this can cause a variance to arise from one year to the next.
I am further informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána has also carried out a review in relation to the handling, storage and destruction of controlled drugs. This has meant that quantities of drugs authorised for destruction have been held back while new systems are put in place. Any noted decline in the quantity of drugs destroyed in recent years should therefore be redressed in the future.
Finally, I am assured by the Garda authorities that every item of controlled drugs seized by An Garda Síochána is appropriately recorded, securely stored and destroyed under stringent authorisation guidelines.”
The response from the Minister is hardly surprising, in the sense that it is long-winded and reveals very little. What one gathers from her reply is that there is a review underway of how the Garda currently handle, store and destroy drugs.
A couple of weeks following his initial question Pearse Doherty enquired about the value of illegal drugs awaiting destruction currently in the possession of An Garda Síochána.
On this occasion the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald replied that “I wish to advise the Deputy that it has not been possible to provide the data sought in the time available for reply. However, I have requested the Garda authorities to provide the requested information and I will arrange for all available information to be forwarded to the Deputy upon receipt.”
Last week Pearse Doherty addressed the issue again and stated “I was amazed to find that over the last five years almost half a billion euro of drugs seized by An Garda Síochana and Revenue appear to have not been destroyed.”
He went on to add that “I am calling on the Minister to ask a few more questions and to give a more detailed and credible response”
This latest revelation follows the news in July that some Garda stations are stinking of cannabis for days following its seizure due to poor storage facilities
There have also been concerns about the storage of the evidence from crimes following at least two incidents in previous years where cash that was seized has gone missing from Garda stations
So what happens the drugs when they are seized by law enforcement agencies?
In a previous article on TheJournal.ie a Garda spokesperson stated that drugs are “brought somewhere and destroyed when no longer needed for investigations”
While Revenue officials stated that drugs they seize are “destroyed under official supervision”
The seized drugs (along with items like bootleg DVDs) are sent to a incinerator for destruction, although the location of the incinerator is not public knowledge due to security concerns.
Credit to Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty and TheJournal.ie for their work on the matter. It will be interesting to see what is revealed in the coming months.