The President of the Irish Pharmacy Union has said pharmacists are seen as easy targets by criminals.

It comes after a recent survey by the IPU found four-in-five pharmacies in Ireland have been targetted within the last year.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Daragh Connolly said there has also been an increasing number of violent incidents.

Mr Connolly said the justice system seems to be loaded in favour of perpetrators of crime and those carrying out the acts are not afraid of repercussions.

He added that one-in-five violent incidents is using a weapon, "most typically a knife, but it's not unheard of for pharmacists to have a gun put in their faces".

Grainne O'Leary, a pharmacist on Pearse Street in Dublin city centre, said she and her staff constantly feel like they are under siege.

She described how a man who was out on bail had come into her pharmacy, armed with a hunting knife, and tussled with her until she handled over the contents of the till.

In another incident, last Friday, a woman, attempting ot steal perfume, threatened to punch her and her colleague.

Ms O'Leary told the same programme that there should be a price to pay for every crime and she would like to see criminals being given community service.

Four out of five pharmacies in Ireland (79%) have been targeted by criminals within the last year, according to the Irish Pharmacy Union Crime Survey published today.

The crimes included shoplifting, break-ins and raids.

The research also shows that crimes against pharmacies are not isolated incidents, with 81% of victims reporting having experienced two or more incidents during 2017.

The IPU has called for tougher sentencing and a more visible garda presence to deter crime against pharmacies.

The survey, among a sample 130 pharmacies nationwide, was undertaken in the week beginning 8 January 2018.

Almost one-third of cases were described as violent and/or involved the use of a weapon.

A knife was used in 77% of robberies or raids where a weapon was present and a gun was present in 8% of these cases.

The number of pharmacists who experienced a raid, at 13%, was up considerably on last year (6%).

The survey found that 45% of pharmacists who decided not to report a crime did so because they felt the perpetrator would not be charged.

It found 23% had no confidence in the garda response, while 97% invested in CCTV to protect their staff and their businesses.

The findings from the survey were described by IPU President Daragh Connolly as "truly shocking" and he was particularly concerned at the level of violent crimes against pharmacy staff, which he described as "extremely worrying and utterly unacceptable".