Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill, 1983: Second Stage .

,Limerick East): I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.

A White Paper dealing with community service was published in June 1981. A Private Member's Bill introducing community service was presented to this House on 16 June 1982. The following day a Government Bill which also provided for the introduction of community service was presented to the House.

Before going on to talk about the Bill itself, I should like to refer to one or two problems which face us in dealing with offenders convicted by the courts.

The first is that the courts do not always have available to them appropriate sanctions to suit individual cases. For example, case arise where the courts for one reason or another consider, even where the offence may be a serious one, that a sentence of imprisonment or a fine is inappropriate but yet feel that the offender should repay society in some way for his wrongdoing.

In some of these cases community service may well be the answer. However, community service apart, I would favour giving the courts as wide a range of sanctions as possible — provided always, of course, that they are of a practical nature. I am open to any proposals in this regard, particularly to any proposals which would operate as an alternative to a custodial sentence.

This brings me to the second problem which I should like to mention, namely, the difficulties being encountered in providing adequate accommodation for those offenders committed to custody by the courts.

The choice of sentence in each individual case is, within the parameters laid down by the law, a matter for the courts. To that extent, therefore, the number of offenders committed to custody is determined by the courts. The number of offenders being committed has risen over the past decade or so but the increase has not been significant. I want to make it clear that in referring to this matter I do not imply any criticism of the sentencing policy of the courts.

Unlike prisoners in many other countries in Western Europe, most of our prisoners enjoy the relative comfort of a cell each. It may not be possible to allow this situation to continue. Deputies will be aware that it has been necessary in some instance to release prisoners back into the community before their normal release date. Usually prisoners who are released prior to their normal release date are released under the supervision, sometimes under the intensive supervision, of the Probation and Welfare Service. In cases where prisoners have been released because of lack of accommodation it has not been possible to provide this supervision.

However, I would hope that the accommodation problem will ease soon. Loughan House will shortly be reverting to usage within the prison system and the second wing of Cork Prison will also be coming into use fairly soon. Apart from this extra accommodation, community service should help to ease the problem. I would be cautious, however, about any suggestion that community service will bring about a reduction in the prison population but it should at least help to contain any increase in the numbers likely to be committed to custody.

Now I return to the Bill itself. The purpose of the Bill is to provide the criminal courts with a further sanction which they may apply in appropriate cases. Stated very briefly, the Bill provides that when a person is convicted of an offence for which the court considers that in the ordinary way the appropriate sentence would be one of imprisonment, the court may, with the offender's consent, instead order him to perform a specified number of hours of unpaid work. The work contemplated is work of a kind that will benefit the community but that people cannot readily be got to do in the ordinary way for pay. It will generally have to be performed within a period of 12 months from the date of the order. The work will be done under the general supervision of the Probation and Welfare Service of my Department.

First of all, let me say a few words about the origin and background to community service as a court sanction. The idea of making a wrongdoer compensate his victim or, indeed, the wider community is a very old one but the concept of community service as a requirement of an order of a court is relatively new. As far as I am aware, Britain was the first European State to introduce community service as a requirement of a court order, in 1973.

It was introduced there following recommendations made by a sub-committee of the Advisory Council on the Penal System, a body concerned with the penal system in England and Wales. That sub-committee of distinguished lawyers, academics, sociologists and public servants considered, for four years, what changes and additions might be made to existing non-custodial penalties, disabilities and other requirements which may be imposed on offenders. The committee reported in June 1970 and legislation was enacted in 1972 to introduce community service and re-enacted in 1973. Community service was introduced in particular areas on a pilot basis and has been extended since to the whole of Britain. Since its introduction there it has been very carefully monitored and there appears to be general satisfaction with it, though there have been some difficulties. I make these comments because I think it is important for us to see the care with which this new idea was introduced in another country. This Bill which we are debating here today coincides, to some extent, with the relevant British legislation although the opportunity has been taken to improve where possible, in the light of British experience on the corresponding British legislation. Community service legislation was extended to Northern Ireland in 1976 by an Order in Council which came into operation there three years later. It has been introduced also, or is about to be introduced, in a number of other European countries as well as in the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand.

In fact, in one sense we have had a type of community service in this country for the past decade. Prisoners are released under the control and guidance of prison officers to do work for the community which would not otherwise be done; examples of the kind of work which prisoners have done are the construction of a scouts' hall in the Dublin area and the refurbishing of a centre in Dún Laoghaire for the treatment of persons with alcohol problems or alcohol-related problems.

Although the number of prisoners released under this scheme is small in the context of the whole prison population, nevertheless the results have been encouraging and the public reaction to it has been very favourable. The Bill, of course, deals with offenders at the other end of the spectrum, that is, pre-prison stage, since one of its aims is to keep out of prison offenders for whom custody is not essential.

Community service as a court sanction has a number of advantages. For example, it is of advantage to the offender since the making of the order will require his consent and thus he will be given a say in the way in which he will repay the community for his criminal activity. As the order will be non-custodial the offender can continue with his education or employment while fulfilling the obligations of the order in his spare time. There will be the minimum disruption of the offender's family life and if the order is used as an alternative to a custodial sentence it should keep the offender from associating with experienced offenders.

There is the advantage to the community in that the community service order will provide an opportunity to have useful work done which might not otherwise be done. When I say that only work which would not otherwise be done will be undertaken I mean work which cannot be done because of lack of funds. It is certainly not the intention that work which would otherwise fall to be done by a paid work force would be undertaken. The committee to which I shall be referring shortly may be given a role in seeing that appropriate work is made available.

As I see it, examples of the kind of work which would be involved would be helping the disabled and the old with some of the problems which they have to face in dealing with their incapacities, or helping organisations both voluntary and statutory which provide assistance for those people. Other examples of the kind of work which could be undertaken under a community service order are set out in the White Paper to which I have already referred.

There is also the advantage that the courts will be provided with an additional power of dealing with offenders by providing for a sanction suited to the crime. In some other jurisdictions rather striking use has been made of the principle. For example, state and municipal courts in the United States of America order traffic offenders to carry out work in hospitals and in the Federal Republic of Germany juvenile courts can order young offenders with alcohol problems to help in homes for inebriates. However, the success of community service orders does not necessarily depend on any such close connection between the nature of the crime and the punishment. Finally, there is, of course, the important advantage that, applied as an alternative to a custodial sentence, community service orders should slow down the rate of increase in the number of offenders being committed to custody.

New ground is being broken here in many ways, not the least of which is that the community is being given an opportunity to involve itself in dealing with its members who step out of line. The Bill will not achieve its purpose unless the community is prepared to play its part. I can appreciate that some people may be apprehensive about offenders being put to work in the community, particularly since it may involve them, for example, in working in people's homes. In the Bill I have tried to achieve a situation, so far as this can be achieved, where there is little or no risk to the ordinary members of the community by reason of the fact that offenders are sent to work among them.

First, community service will not be an option in respect of crimes for which the law has provided a mandatory sentence. This excludes offenders convicted of murder. Secondly, the judge dealing with the case is required before making his decision to satisfy himself that the offender is a suitable person for community service and for this purpose to consider a report about the offender prepared by a probation and welfare officer. As I have already mentioned, the offender while doing his community service will be under the general supervision of a probation and welfare officer. I believe these safeguards are adequate and should allay any fears which people might have on this aspect of community service.

I might add here that it is a matter for the Probation and Welfare Service to satisfy the court that arrangements can be made for the offender to perform work under a community service order. Once the order is made the service will have the responsibility of ensuring that the offender carries out the work. It may be necessary for the service to employ people either on a paid or a voluntary basis to supervise the actual performance of the work. Ideally, these supervisors would have some expertise or experience in the performance of the type of task involved. In those circumstances, apart from providing necessary supervision, those supervisors should be able to ensure that a reasonable standard of work is maintained.

In both Britain and Northern Ireland there are committees or boards vested, to varying degrees, with responsibility for community service. The Northern Ireland Probation Board, of which there is only one, is somewhat similar to the British committees. Our situation is, of course, different from that obtaining in either of those jurisdictions. Our Probation and Welfare Service is organised on a national basis and is directly under the control of the Minister for Justice, always bearing in mind, of course, the individual probation and welfare officer's responsibility to the courts in matters pertaining to the courts' functions.

However, with a view to involving the community in the operation of the scheme here, I am considering the feasibility of establishing a committee to monitor the operation of the scheme and to advise on any problems which may arise in that regard. They would also advise on possible improvements to the scheme. The committee, if established, will be representative of the various interests involved, for example, the voluntary and official social aid groups, Judiciary, the trade unions, employers, and so on. Indeed, I am happy to say that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have already indicated to my Department their general approval of this scheme. In the course of implementing the scheme I expect it will be necessary for the Probation and Welfare Service to have further consultations with the trade union movement particularly at local level.

An important aim of the Bill is to try to ensure that compliance with the community service order does not jeopardise the offender's employment or his availability for employment or unduly disrupt his family life. The Bill, therefore, provides that directions as to the times at which an offender may be required to do the work shall, so far as practicable, avoid any interference with times the offender normally works or attends school, and the Bill is framed on the basis that the work will be carried out in the District Court district where the offender resides. If he fails to comply with the order, proceedings may be taken against him for failing to comply with the order without reasonable excuse and he may be fined up to £300 without prejudice to the continuance of the order.

There is the alternative method, of course, of dealing with the offender for failure to comply with a community service order: he can be returned to the court which made the order and dealt with there for the original offence. The court to which he is returned may revoke the order. This might be appropriate where the offender had almost completed the order but for good reasons could not complete it. On the other hand, if the offender refused to do his community service the court could revoke the order and deal with him for the original offence as if the community service order had not been made in the first instance.

The Bill also provides that if the offender moves from one part of the country to another — for example, in the course of his employment — the community service order may be amended to allow him to do his community service, as I have already stated, in the area to which he has moved.

The Bill provides for a review of the community service order where circumstances have changed since the order was made and the interests of justice dictate that it ought to be reviewed. The review will be carried out by the District Court in the area where the offender resides. An example of where an order might be reviewed in the interests of justice could be where the offender, because of deterioration of his health or for family reasons, was unable to continue with the work.

Before I finish, there are perhaps a couple of provisions of the Bill which I should specifically mention because they seem to draw most reaction from those consulted on the proposals.

It is a requirement of the Bill that the offender must have consented to the making of an order. It has been suggested to me that, that being the case, few orders are likely to be made. Let me explain why this requirement has been included in the Bill. First, it would be highly unlikely that an offender would comply with the order unless he accepted it in the first instance. Secondly, it is important that we do not breach even the spirit of International Conventions dealing with forced labour to which we have subscribed. I believe offenders will consent to the making of community service orders: after all, the alternative is imprisonment or detention. I believe offenders will see the positive aspect of community service as against a custodial sentence.

It is also a requirement of the Bill that the maximum and minimum periods of work under community service orders shall be 240 hours and 40 hours respectively. These might be thought to be arbitrary figures. When the British sub-committee considered this particular aspect of community service they recommended a minimum of 40 hours and a maximum of 120 hours. However, in the course of the passage of the Bill through Parliament there the upper limit was raised to 240 hours.

It is the view of many observers and, indeed, of practitioners involved with community service there that offenders put on very long hours tend to break down and end up in prison anyway. An order requiring very long hours could influence an offender as to whether he should continue to comply with the order. Furthermore, supervising officers tend to make unjustifiable allowance for offenders who just cannot complete their long number of hours. Some offenders would, no doubt, prefer a short sentence of imprisonment to a community service order which would require them to work all their spare time over a long period. However, these time limits are not sacrosanct and there is, as far as I can discover, no real scientific basis for them. I am, therefore, prepared to consider any constructive suggestions in regard to them.

Finally, the Bill provides that it shall come into operation on such day as the Minister for Justice by order appoints. The selection and necessary training of staff for this new scheme and the making of necessary rules and regulations will take some time but I can assure the House that there will be no unnecessary delay in bringing the Bill into operation.

On this basis, I commend this Bill to the House.

: Quite naturally we welcome the Bill as a useful measure as we introduced it and we were in favour of this kind of action. On Committee Stage we will deal with it in greater depth but our questions at present relate not only to the detail in the Bill but to the general matter of law and order and the effect this Bill may have on the problems facing the community. When the Minister came to office there was on his desk a draft of a more major Criminal Justice Bill and presumably he is still examining that. That Bill would have a major effect on the state of law and order. It is somewhat disappointing it has taken the Minister so long to bring in what is a relatively simple Bill, one that we consider could have been brought in during the first month in office of the new Government.

We must recognise that people outside are extremely agitated, frustrated and anxious about the whole security question. The country is facing a breakdown in law and order of unprecedented proportions. Mugging, housebreaking, car stealing, assault and drug abuse are commonplace, particularly in the major cities and the urban areas, but are also widespread throughout the country generally. I was struck by comments made recently at a youth conference that the problems which we have come to associate with the major urban conurbations are becoming commonplace in rural areas. One person said that people were mugged when they went into the streets and thus it was dangerous to be in the streets but if they stayed at home their houses were broken into and he asked where were people supposed to go. We are quite familiar with that situation in the cities but I was surprised to see that it existed in country areas. It rings a warning bell that the problem is widespread and action will have to be taken to deal with it on that basis.

What people want is urgent action from the Minister and the Government. I say this in all sincerity. People are genuinely frustrated at the inability of the total system to handle the situation. They are looking for urgent action. They want resources committed to solve a rapidly-growing problem. They want legislative and administrative action, and they want it in a hurry. There is no great reason why such action cannot be taken. I can assure the Minister he will have our full co-operation in passing this Bill quickly or in passing any other Bill relating to this problem. He will have our support in taking any action relevant to dealing with law and order in our society. Within the administrative area there are a considerable number of actions which the Minister could take.

I am a little disappointed at the approach of the Government in recent times. Deputy Gregory raised a question this morning about a new Cabinet committee to deal with heroin. As far as the public are concerned this is good news and they are delighted to see something being done. Recently the newspapers published a story dealing with this problem but when I read it through I found that all it meant was that two sections will co-operate to a greater degree in the hope that better results may be obtained. However, that kind of action is not adequate in the present circumstances. As a Government we took definite administrative action to deal with the drugs question. Before we left office we introduced a new chief superintendent with the specific purpose of bringing the power and intelligence of the serious crime detection section to deal with the problem of drugs. We tried to upgrade the whole approach and we provided additional staff for the Drug Squad. It may be that more staff is needed here but any administrative action in this area will be supported by us.

Urgent action is required at this stage. One of my concerns is that the man in the street is becoming increasingly frustrated about the present state of affairs. At public meetings and elsewhere I find it difficult to explain that this Bill is an important facet of the total approach. The man in the street cannot see it doing anything urgently and he wishes for more vigorous action. In view of all the discussion and concern about this matter I am afraid that the citizen may consider we are bringing forward a very minor measure. I hope the Government have not expended all their energy on this Bill because it is only a small part of the total problem.

People no longer feel secure and safe in their community or in their homes. They see thieves and vandals flouting and laughing at the law and those who have to enforce it. They see vigilante committees set up to defend themselves and punishment squads carrying out their own forms of rough justice. It is an extremely serious situation. This kind of action is taking place in my area and also in the centre city areas. I have been involved in late night sessions with vigilante groups where they were literally physically protecting themselves and their homes. I have had to try to defuse situations that were becoming very nasty because, I believe, if vigilante committees continue in the way in which some of them started it will lead to serious problems. It is important to realise the urgency of the situation, not to complain about these people doing what they have done to try to defend themselves but to support the people in the community and have a situation where they will not need to act in the way they have been acting. I will come back to that matter later.

What we need urgently is an emergency programme to combat crime, but it must be comprehensive. It is only on that basis that I would fault the Minister's move here today: I would not fault it in itself as a move. He has taken an important and valuable step but if it is not accompanied by an emergency programme to combat crime we will not succeed and we will be faced with serious problems.

Unless we look at the matter comprehensively we will not realise the reality and extent of the problem. I have difficulties in talking to people about this matter because they are so upset about it. Many people have had the privacy of their homes invaded, they have been mugged and their cars have been stolen or vandalised. Schools have also been vandalised. Because of all this, the reaction of many people is one of bitter frustration and they are not inclined to look at the nature and the causes of the problem. They want immediate action and suggest various types of action which are fairly widely publicised.

As regards the components in the programme, one must face the reality that if employment and involvement are not created for young people we will not overcome problems regarding crime, certainly not in the short term. When I say that to people at meetings or otherwise, they tell me that in the past if you had not a job you did not steal or rob cars. However, there is no point in talking about the past because many circumstances have changed over the years. I do not broadcast this because I want rather to help the communities than broadcast their problems in the media, but I am very familiar with the situation in the small hours of the morning, my own area having one of the highest crime rates in the country. On checking the position, over 90 per cent of those involved in crime who have been apprehended are unemployed. This gives an indication and a very serious warning of the underlying problem. We can theorise as much as we like that we personally would not steal, rob or vandalise because we had no job. The reality of the present economic situation is that if we do not provide jobs or give employment, we will find ourselves in difficulties.

In one area with which I am familiar, 26 per cent of those between the ages of 16 and 25 are unemployed. That is one of the reasons for my being concerned about the overall action of this Government. As is evident from the budget, budget debates and discussions, the Government are not providing an atmosphere of hope in relation to job creation or the provision of funds to provide the necessary jobs for our present particular and peculiar circumstances. One element is the question of the whole atmosphere and environment being provided. Another element very directly related and relevant is that of sports and recreational facilities. Most of the youth involved generally in sports or in clubs of one sort or another do not become involved in crime. Those who do become involved in a very minor fashion and have help in sorting themselves out very quickly. It is evident that involvement in sports and recreational facilities has a major part to play in relation to youth, but the present economic thinking has led to cutbacks in the national programme for their provision. This is a wrong policy, particularly in relation to youth crime prevention.

A third element about which one might not think a lot but which is particularly important in dealing with crime on the streets is the community infrastructure, which we have not needed to examine previously. There are two small points which are extremely important. One is money being made available to close up laneways for security reasons. We have closed off a lot of laneways with tremendous benefit to the population generally and a lessening of attack on parked cars and so on. This must be done and generally speaking the community are very anxious to see it done, but the problem is getting the necessary funds. The Minister might consider this for his community service orders, if the money is not being made available elsewhere. There is little cost involved. Another question in that infrastructure area is that of lighting generally. Dark patches and the delay in repairing lighting create serious problems in communities around Dublin. People are frightened because of the lack of attention to these matters.

Leaving aside these general underlying problems, we come to the question of crime prevention and detection. We believe very firmly that gardaí on the beat are a major bulwark against crime and its development. They are the most important deterrent and preventive measure and it is particularly important that gardaí be available in the community and on the beat. In our period of office, we increased the number of gardaí by 2,000, some of whom are still being put through their training. It is an on-going programme. That was regarded as a very dramatic measure. I was present at the meeting at which that decision was taken and it was a decisive administrative action taken because of the reality of the position on the streets. Obviously, it was expensive but at an earlier stage in the development of this country there were far greater numbers of gardaí, without going back to the days of the RIC, when the numbers were very much larger again.

: The Chair wonders if full discussion on detection is in order on Second Stage of the Bill. The Long Title says that it is an Act to make further provision for dealing with persons convicted of certain offences. Of course, there may be a passing reference and perhaps a little more than that, but I do not think that an in-depth discussion——

: I do not intend to make more than a passing comment.

: ——would be in order.

: It is relevant to say that we have provided extra police. It has been an expensive measure but it must be recognised that we may have to go even a good deal further in providing members of the service. These members may well be in the probation service which is relevant to this Bill.

: I do not want to interrupt the Deputy or encroach on his speech, but the Chair is conscious that we are dealing with convicted persons. We have reached the stage where they are convicted.

: These people must go back into the community. The Minister has stressed that if staff are not available in the community these people will not be able to do so, in any event, which means that additional members must be provided in these services. If they return to the community they will be under these orders and we are concerned with these orders. The Bill is the Criminal Justice Bill, a subsection of which we are dealing with.

: It is. I have been going on the Long Title of the Bill.

: Staff must be made available and I am concerned as to whether this will be so. An examination of the moneys provided this year shows that Garda overtime has been reduced by £3 million and I am told that there are now very few people training. The Minister might confirm this in his reply.

(Limerick East): That is not true, Deputy.

: I accept that to be the case. Perhaps the Minister would give more detail in his reply. It has been suggested that there are much fewer people in training in Templemore.

(Limerick East): That is not so.

: It is also being suggested that the task force throughout the country, which was very effective as another kind of measure in reducing the crime rate, is being reduced.

: I must tell the Deputy that he has been speaking for quite a while and has not yet come to the Bill.

: Well, if one tries to treat this situation in isolation I believe one will find that one will not be successful. In dealing with criminals involved here it must be remembered that they are at present subjected to a system which involves prison sentences, apprehension by police and being dealt with by probation officers. I must say I see the relevance of the prison system to this Bill.

: It would be quite in order to compare the prison system with the system proposed here — that is quite in order — but to date the Deputy has been dealing almost exclusively with the detection of crime.

: If you will allow me, a Cheann Comhairle, to proceed I shall do my best to deal with the problem. But I must make it clear that I am conscious that here today we are putting a very small part of the Criminal Justice Bill outside this House on to the streets. People are extremely frustrated. If the Minister does not indicate to them very clearly that this constitutes a small part only of a major attack he plans making on this area, then there will be additional frustration. That is basically the point I am endeavouring to make.

I mentioned the question of vigilantes in crime prevention. In this respect we must look urgently at the provision of crime prevention committees within the community and community relations gardaí. I believe such provision could offset the effects of what has been happening, could provide the kind of relationship within which the measures proposed here today could be effected satisfactorily.

I raised already the question of the Minister bringing forward the major Criminal Justice Bill. This is urgently needed and I hope he will come forward with this Bill very quickly. The public want to know what the Minister is going to do about such matters as giving more power to the gardaí to question and arrest suspects in regard to serious crime. They want to know if he will introduce mandatory minimum sentences for mugging elderly people, for house-breaking, robbery with violence and assault. They want to know if he will crack down with penal servitude and perhaps have mandatory sentences for the unlawful possession of firearms and explosives. They want to know if he will tighten up on the conditions of bail and provide for consecutive sentences. At present the public see too many crimes being committed by people out on bail or some other form of release and they are concerned that this situation be tightened up urgently. The public also want to see a crackdown on loitering, particularly in groups. More parents are claiming that parents generally should be held responsible for the vandalism and crimes committed by their children. For instance, in many cases cars are stolen around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. at which time naturally parents should know where their children are.

In that sense the community want to see that the punishment fits the crime and is seen to fit the crime. At present they see too many criminals getting off too lightly, too many being released too soon with no room in our prisons to contain those people who should be contained there. The Minister made reference to this. Indeed he said this Bill would not ease that situation all that much. Obviously it will remove from the prison system some of the people who should not really be going into prison at present. I am familiar particularly with many of these young people who require a form of corrective action which is not imprisonment. At least the provisions of this Bill will provide one or a number of these forms of action.

When we look at what is happening to our prison service we see the need for some action such as is proposed in this Bill. I was concerned at the statements of the Minister in this respect. He said there would be some easement of the position within prisons as a result of some completions expected, one in Cork. Then he continued to say:

However, I would hope that the accommodation problem will ease soon. Loughan House will shortly be reverting to usage within the prison system and the second wing of Cork Prison will also be coming into use fairly soon. Apart from this extra accommodation, community service should help ease the problem.

I examined the capital situation to ascertain what the Minister is doing more generally. Here I found the position somewhat frightening. For example, on capital services I ascertained that the 1982 outturn was £16.5 million. The estimate we were planning to provide for this year in that respect was £18 million. I find then that the Coalition's estimate is down to £11 million.

: Surely that is a matter for the Estimate, Deputy.

: It is a question of the provision for the prisons here. I really think you are being excessively restrictive on me, a Cheann Comhairle. The Minister has talked about the prisons, about prison availability and the order relates to people who are at present either in prison or who will come out of prison.

: I think 90 per cent of the Minister's speech was on the Bill. The Deputy has been speaking now for almost over half an hour and, in my opinion, he has not come to the Bill as yet.

: I respect your opinion, a Cheann Comhairle. But I am at present talking about the prison service to which this Bill certainly relates. I cannot see how it does not relate to prison services.

: On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, I have a few things to say on this Bill also. May I ask a question — otherwise I shall be wasting my time sitting here waiting if I cannot refer to the success of the Bill which is dependent on the role of the Garda, the courts and the prison system. If we cannot discuss these things——

: Certainly, as long as it is related to the Bill.

: Relating then to the places at present being provided and in respect of which the Minister says the Bill will ease the position, the reduction in the capital programme for prison building is £6 million and the reduction in respect of welfare and recreational facilities is £1 million. Therefore there is there an overall reduction of £7 million.

: That would be in order on the Estimate; it would be in order on the budget debate but certainly is not in order here.

: Sir, the fact that this means that the new high security prison in Portlaoise is not going ahead, that it means a new women's prison in Clondalkin is not going ahead——

: A passing reference is all right.

: I fail to see the point you are making.

: The point I am making Deputy — and I hope I am clear and fair — is that we cannot turn a Second Reading debate on a Bill to deal with convicted persons into a budget debate or a Department of Justice Estimate debate.

: But convicted persons are either going to go into prison or are going to go out on community service orders. If the Minister is not providing the money for the prisons at least I must be entitled to make that point here. Otherwise, on this occasion——

: The Deputy can make it as long as he does not go on to compare one thing with another and spend considerable time on budgetary or Estimate matters.

: I have merely mentioned a couple of figures which I think are highly relevant. I know they may be embarrassing to the Minister — the fact that the Fianna Fáil provision of £18 million has gone down to £11 million——

: The Chair is not concerned with embarrassment, the Chair is concerned with relevance.

: I am endeavouring to keep to the question. The present reality is that the Minister is not providing the places in which to confine people who need to be confined. The prison system is in a state of chaos at present. We need places for criminals because the punishment, whatever it is — in this case we are talking about a new form of punishment — must be in accordance with the different categories of people who have to be confined. For instance, we have the psychopaths, long-term criminals, subversives, medium-term criminals and those involved in petty crime. We must have institutions and methods to cater for such people. The Bill provides for alternative sanctions, to perform work to benefit the community.

The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that suitable offenders carry out unpaid work for the benefit of the community instead of another sentence if required to do so by court order. The Minister made clear the way that will operate. I welcome the fact that the sanctions will take into account the position of offenders so that their education or employment is not disrupted. It is important to have flexibility. Gaoling is expensive and in some cases unsuitable. It is important also that offenders are seen to repay the community. The Minister dealt with the situation in the UK where such measures were introduced in 1973. I recall when in Finland in 1964 seeing a local bank manager painting railings at the airport for an offence. Obviously this type of measure has been in operation there for some time. I do not know if the Minister has that type of measure in mind or if we will see that here. I do not know if consent would be forthcoming in that case. The Minister mentioned that the ICTU have generally approved the scheme. We are all aware that work is scarce and that the Minister for the Environment did away with 370 environmental works jobs under Dublin Corporation. Obviously this will all lead to difficulties because on the one hand the Government cannot be seen to be cutting down on badly needed environmental works and at the same time introducing works suggested by the Minister for Justice. It must be remembered that many young people were usefully employed in the environmental schemes.

There is little indication of the type of work that will be involved and it is obvious that the Minister will have to depend on the probation service, in conjunction with the committees he proposes establishing, to arrange the work schemes. That is satisfactory provided the Minister recruits adequate staff in the probation service to supervise the work. Those involved in that service are under considerable pressure at present. I should like to know if the Minister for Finance is agreeable to providing adequate staff for this. Does the scheme represent the view of the Department of Justice only or has it been adopted by the Government? If the staff are not provided the scheme will not work. Has the Minister for Finance agreed to recruit extra staff? Has the Minister for the Environment agreed on the type of work that will be involved?

There is no great need for us to go through the Bill in detail because it was prepared and introduced by Fianna Fáil. We welcome the flexibility which the Bill will provide. It is important that the Minister indicates, in conjunction with this measure, that he intends introducing a comprehensive emergency programme to deal with the crime situation. The Government have a duty to support the Minister in his attack on crime. We will be demanding action on the Criminal Justice Bill during this session. There is no reason why that Bill cannot be brought before the House because the draft was in the Minister's possession in December. While I appreciate that the Minister, and the Cabinet, may want to include other matters nevertheless it should be possible to bring the Bill before the Dáil soon.

The Minister should have another look at the question of finance for our prisons, particularly the probation service. The Minister has told us that the terms of the legislation will come into operation when he introduces an order and I hope that will not be delayed by financial considerations. He hopes there will not be any unnecessary delay but I am concerned about the question of staff and whether the necessary finance will be provided. Very often business people tell us that cutbacks are necessary in the social area and that there is need for investment in economic development but privately those people emphasise the need to protect homes and look after law and order. The community in general will support the allocation of resources for this because there is a realisation that we need to root out the godfathers of crime who have developed in our community, those who operate protection rackets and control the pushing and supplying of drugs. We will give our support to the Minister in his efforts in that regard and we hope the Government will provide him with the necessary resources. It is important that we support those who stand up to the criminals.

The situation in our prison system is bad. Some of the Juvenile workshops in St. Patrick's have been closed. I understand that inmates have been sent to look at videos for longer times during the day and that sort of thing. Early releases are being forced which are not related to the offenders' readiness for release. Holiday breaks of up to 14 days have been introduced for a person on a one-year or two-year sentence. This is a good measure provided it is used for the right reason.

In the course of his speech the Minister stated:

Unlike prisoners in many other countries in Western Europe, most of our prisoners enjoy the relative comfort of a cell each. It may not be possible to allow this situation to continue.

That is an indication of the pressure in this area. About 50 people each week are committed to Mountjoy and St. Patrick's Institution and the complement is a little over 600. Obviously it is not possible to keep people there for the right length of time and they will be released for the wrong reasons. A rough calculation shows the average stay to be about 12 weeks, although some will be there for much longer periods and others for much shorter periods. I believe that Loughan House is now empty and I am glad the Minister has confirmed that it will continue to be available and may ease some accommodation problems.

There is much talk about tax offences and the need for imprisonment but I would suggest that community service orders might be more appropriate in some of these cases, although in some instances committal to prison may be the only proper measure.

I welcome the Bill, although I do so with some trepidation. I have talked about these measures at many meetings in the community but people become entirely frustrated and want to deal with the immediate problems. The Minister must devise a more comprehensive programme. However, he will have our full support in putting this measure through the House.

: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I believe it to be essentially a good measure. There is an obligation on all of us to ensure that the proposal before us, which has been nudged along by a number of Ministers for Justice, should not be misinterpreted or in any way politically abused. It is clear that this measure is a part of a necessary progressive programme to deal with crime and the manner in which people in custody must be treated.

There are few greater scourges than that of lawlessness. I would strongly assert that this Bill is in no way to be interpreted as a less than fulsome response to that problem. There is a very great need for a determined attempt by the Government and all in positions of authority and influence to see whether we can turn back this enormous tide which threatens to engulf us. In my constituency I am mindful daily of the increasing tragedy of a society in which people are unable to live in any kind of security. I am convinced that any Government would be concerned to do something about this problem and I am assured that fundamental consideration is being given to this need.

One should not damn this Bill and there was a hint of condemnation in the remarks of the previous speaker when he implied that this was the Government's answer to the problem of crime. That is not so, but it underlines the courage and the vision of the Government and the Minister in seeking to introduce a measure which is reforming and progressive in nature at a time when if we were to play to the gallery much more repressive, superficial and emotive measures might be introduced. Certainly tough measures will have to be taken but I would hope they would be part of a measured and thought-out policy rather than an emotive response to the problems of our society.

This measure is undoubtedly very timely and will afford us an opportunity of focussing on some areas of the criminal justice system which until now have received scant attention. The answer to crime is rarely as simplistic as it might appear. It is not merely a question of bigger doors and locks and more prisons. If this were the case the problem would have been solved long ago when people were hanged for stealing sheep. It is not that kind of problem. Our efforts must be channelled into the preventive area and dealing with the catchment areas of crime, tackling the real causes of crime which in many cases are social and economic. That is the real challenge but it is not an area which is likely to pay immediate dividends. It is not seen to be politically attractive and on occasions is seen to be politically risky in terms of the public perception that a person who advocates that line is somehow "soft" on crime. That is a risk which people who believe in a principle must run.

There is no mystery about crime. I could today put into an envelope and hand to the bank manager painting the railings in Finland, to whom Deputy Woods referred, to be locked in the vault if he is back in his job, the names of people not yet out of primary school who will one day be in prison. It is as predictable as that unless we intervene at a fundamental level.

I congratulate the Minister and his predecessors on bringing this Bill before the House. It is clear that the courts system and the prison system need more flexibility, more capacity to respond to the specific case and the needs of the individual. It will allow us for once to focus if not on the victim at least on the community to whom injury has been done. No matter how repressive the legislation, no matter how tough the measures or how long the sentences, none has done or will do one iota to make reparation to the broken bodies or the robbed communities who have been injured by crime. I am often struck by the fact that so little consideration, analysis or investigation is given to what happens to the victims of crime. I know people who take it as the normal part and parcel of daily life to be robbed or mugged. I have constituents who were robbed on six occasions in one week. I can point to a shopkeeper whose shop was broken into on six occasions in one week. I can point to people much closer to my home who have been robbed four times in one week, occasionally with violence and — this is a reflection on all of us — who have given up hope that any of us will do anything about it and in some cases do not even bother reporting these crimes any more.

I believe that the Community Service Bill may afford us an opportunity of insisting on reparation and restitution being made to such people because it is a Bill which allows us the opportunity of meeting two needs, neither of which has been dealt with as well as it might have been up to now. One of those is the undoubted need to try to ensure that we can, if possible, convert people whose lives are pointing towards a life of crime into useful members of the community. That can only be done by a sensitive, humane, and, where possible, individualistic type of approach to the people involved. Secondly, this Bill will enable us to do justice to the people on whom the crimes have been committed. Up to now we have had a relatively inflexible prison system and no consideration whatever given to the victim. Obviously, in those circumstances neither the needs of the criminal nor the community are being met. It is not surprising that the prison system at the present time is failing us and has been doing so for some time not merely for those reasons alone.

Surely, it is not too much for us to ask to what extent we should see convicted people as a potentially useful resource? The great platitudes in this area about rehabilitation are that people have an essential goodness, that we should seek it out and should develop it so that the incipient crime orientation will be overcome and that those people will once again become useful members of the community. There was an article in a magazine calledContemporary Review of January 1976 by Martin Wright, who spoke at the fifth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Treatment of Offenders in Geneva. He said that every day some ten million humans are imprisoned. He also said that in this statistical age we do not even know the actual number. He asserts that prisoners are commonly either exploited or under-employed and in the latter case the slack institutional tempo incapacitates them and by the time they are released for normal work, which the prison stigma makes still harder to obtain, they find it even more difficult to adjust to the normal day to day routine. That is an essential difficulty for somebody involved in an attempt at prison rehabilitation.

How does one reconcile the concept of trying to train or develop people for life in a normal community while that training has to be done, quite naturally and understandably, almost completely in a closed institution? If we can think in terms of convicted people as a resource, as people who are part of the latent potential which the country has to offer, and even though that resource has to be handled with great delicacy and sensitivity and in most cases in institutions of one kind or another, surely it is wrong for us to assume that no good can come from such a resource? This Bill puts the foot in the door of opening to us access to that resource so that we can help the people in prisons to rediscover what the essence of rehabilitation is, the discovery of meaning in their lives. There is no point whatever in us assuming that some form of chemistry takes place within the four walls of a prison cell and that by some extraordinary process people discover this kind of meaning in their lives and are turned into good citizens. It does not happen like that. It is only if people are afforded the opportunity of meaningful or useful work or educational access or some way in which their lives once again rediscover dignity and status that they will get off the treadmill of crime.

I do not want to overstate the potential in the Bill but the Community Service Bill points us towards a situation where the criminal may become decriminalised by the process of dignified and useful contact or work in or with the community and will also restore some of what has been stolen from the community. I am mindful of the fact that there are always difficulties in any such proposal but it strikes me as being an opportunity not just for the Department of Justice but for the trade union movement to become very much involved. There can be no doubt but that ample work needs to be done which will not be done in the normal productive sector, which will not be done in the semi-State sector and which will not cause difficulty for trade unions who are obviously concerned at the moment about the unemployment effect on their members. I would like to ask the Minister to consider involving the trade union movement in co-operation with the Department in seeking out appropriate avenues which could be explored for the purposes of this Bill. From that type of approach we are likely to get much more satisfactory results.

It is well that we have an opportunity to learn from the experiences of other countries. It happens that we have in this House regularly, and in some cases almost inevitably, to adopt what happens in Britain. Once again this is reflected in this Bill but that does not in any way make it essentially regrettable or bad. We should look a little beyond that offshore island off the coast of Europe to continental countries where similar schemes were instituted many years ago. If we do that we will see that we can learn from the lessons learnt, for example, in Sweden or even in Germany. They have instituted such alternatives to imprisonment with success and yet have managed to convince the electorate and the public, because the political consideration must not be obscured either, that this is a true answer to crime, not some kind of soft option which can be interpreted as being soft on criminals but the way to deal with the human problem which, in the immediate and long term, is the right form of investment for many people in our prison system.

In an interesting article in theNew Statesman of 19 September 1980 the Governor of Winson Green Prison in Birmingham gave his views, which are appropriate. He did a computer analysis of 4,093 people who had passed through his prison between the beginning of July 1979 and the end of June 1980. The Governor, Mr. Roger Attrill, said that of these 2,071 people, that is 50.6 per cent, were in his eyes as a governor of long experience unsuitable for that type of imprisonment. From my experience as a member of a prison visiting committee and having had a long time interest in this area that profile of unsuitable prisoners is mirrored by the situation here.

The governor gave figures to illustrate the sentences given to these people. Of the 2,000 plus people I referred to, 360 were serving sentences of a week or less; 275 people were serving one to two weeks; 90 were serving two to three weeks; 392 people were serving three weeks to 30 days; 348 people served one to two months; 276 served two to three months and 319 served three to six months. In many of these cases there were few and sometimes no previous convictions. The nature of the crime for which these people were imprisoned was not such as would put the public at risk in any serious way. I do not want to make light of the crime involved but as the governor said:

It is absolute economic nonsense to put a man inside for fourteen days for not paying a £50 fine when it costs £240 a week to keep him there. This is compounded by the fact that shortage of resources and work facilities mean he is fed, clothed, locked up for 14 days and probably spends them lying in the cell doing nothing. If it is not possible for him to work off his fine by community work then we should be told why.

That is the experience of an English prison governor. I have spoken to governors here and know they share the same view. The difficulty for politicians is to convince the public.

What we are attempting to do in the Bill should not be misinterpreted as being something else. It is clear that the wastage of resources in having a large prison population locked up in some cases for 23 out of 24 hours a day, is an admission of defeat by us all and particularly by the Department of Justice. I am glad an attempt is being made to try to redress that situation. However, I would enter many notes of caution. There is no point in welcoming this measure unless we also accept that the greater flexibility involved and the "out of institution" situation which will apply to people assigned work under the Bill will involve some mistakes. I recall occasions on which we were asked in the wake of people who absconded while on parole whether parole should be done away with. It is clear that it should not be and that there is a great deal of good in having such a system which goes unsung. Just because people abscond—in most cases they are caught or come back voluntarily—does not mean we should overturn the whole system.

In his speech the Minister said there would be close supervision and selection of prisoners so I am hopeful that there will be few if any errors. However, there will be some and we must accept that as the price of progress. If the selection and supervision process is done correctly those assigned such work will not put the public at any significant risk. We should pay tribute to people who have done work in this area already. I know that in the Kilmainham District Court years ago District Justice James O'Sullivan was able to sentence two teenagers to repair a roof they damaged at Drimnagh CBS. I know other judges have used their discretion and sentenced people to do work of a similar nature. The Minister referred to that when he spoke about prisoners presently released under the control and guidance of prison officers who do work for the community which would not otherwise be done. He gave examples of where prisoners have constructed a scout hall in the Dublin area and have refurbished a centre in Dún Laoghaire for the treatment of people with alcohol and alcohol-related problems. The natural instinct of judges—who have given outstanding service to the country in the difficult demanding job of full-time contact with people who are unfortunately the epitome of unhappy aspects of society—has been to do something better than lock people up.

The Bill the Minister introduced formalises that and will give power to the courts to propose alternative sanctions. It will have to be monitored very carefully but it is essentially an enlightened measure. I hope at an early stage the Department of Justice, in conjunction with other Ministers, will deal with the fundamental areas which give rise to criminality among young people. These are urban deprivation, jobs and lack of education. Most of the prison population are virtually illiterate and that is not a coincidence. I hope this Bill will be part of a series of measures brought before the House.

We can learn from the experience of other countries. In Sweden the national Swedish council for crime prevention have produced numerous reports to see whether the traditional prison system— locking someone up for a definite period and then releasing him—can be improved on. A prison sentence is usually the last thing to be resorted to by any judge. No-one wants to put a person behind bars if there is an alternative. The Probation Act, which is well-intentioned, is often applied misguidedly. If a person was dealt with firmly but compassionately on the first occasion he erred that might solve the problem. The truth is that our natural reluctance to put someone behind bars means quite often that people involved in criminal acts come into contact with the guards and the courts on a number of occasions before they are ultimately given a sentence. At no stage was the error of their ways brought home to those people. We must develop the prison system as a more flexible weapon in social engineering. There is no reason why people who commit certain offences should not serve very brief sentences in prison. One of the disadvantages of the prison system is that a prison sentence ruins people. It effectively destroys them and there is scant hope, except for the most courageous and resourceful, of rebuilding their lives after a prison sentence. In many cases it is a sentence of death in terms of the person's development, fulfilment, career and family.

On the question of drunken driving, I see no reason why there should not be a mandatory jail sentence, made up of one or two weekends in prison, and in certain types of vandalism this approach could also be adopted. There is a very interesting experiment being carried out at present in Germany where young people are being dealt with in this fashion and the indications are that it is successful. The short, brief sentence gives the offender a clear indication of what the loss of liberty is. It is a very short, sharp, traumatic and effective deterrent because it will not happen again. It also avoids the present excessive loss for a first time offender, who in most cases loses his job and in many cases his wife and friends and public esteem. There is no reason why anybody should know, except the person involved, about such a sentence. I am convinced that that is an option open to us which should be used in relation to dealing with vandalism, using the prison as a much more flexible, innovative and sensitive instrument than the blunt one of being sent down for three months, which inevitably has the repercussions to which I referred earlier.

I hope that the State will take on its full responsibility with regard to finding employment for people who have been in prison and playing their full part in schemes such as this. I mentioned earlier on that somebody who is convicted of an offence loses their job in the State service. There was a case recently where a chap who was convicted of assault, involving a fist fight, automatically lost his job in the Army. The fact that he was told by his solicitor to plead guilty is neither here nor there, but it is another interesting comment on what is happening at present. Over the years I have asked in this House how many people who had been convicted of an offence are at present employed in the vast and burgeoning State service. I would like the Minister to tell me whether there are any such people, because the best information I could get from his predecessor was that there was none. I do not want to know who they are or where they are employed. I am not interested in ferreting out such information but I am interested in the State playing its full part in this kind of scheme and not throwing the responsibility on to the private sector. It is wrong that somebody should automatically lose their job in the public sector because they are guilty of an offence of this nature. I can understand how a young man could lose his job in the Army if he was convicted of an arms offence or a breach of security, but for a young lad to get drunk, have a fist fight, be convicted and thereby lose a promising career is quite wrong. There is no point in the community at large, presumably the private sector, being expected to afford work opportunities under this Bill or other measures if the State does not carry out its responsibility too.

Very good and sensitive work is already being done in this area. The juvenile liaison officer scheme and the heartening report of the probation and welfare service shows that this kind of flexible, sensitive approach to crime is going to pay dividends. Obviously, it will not help in relation to the professional criminal, the godfather of crime or the group of families who are at present campaigning strongly in the Dublin city area and possibly around the country to subvert our young people by injecting drugs into people as young as 11 years old. The Bill was never meant to deal with such people; other types of measures, which will leave them in no doubt as to where we all stand, will have to be introduced to cope with these gentlemen who at present seem to be able to waltz through the law, either on technicalities or for other reasons. However, the Garda are to be congratulated on their efforts in the drugs area.

It will be noted from the 1981 report on the probation and welfare service that the total number of new cases that the service dealt with was 1,909 compared with 1,712 in 1980 and that that increase is reflected also in statistics under the aegis of the juvenile liaison officer scheme, the purpose of which is to deal with young people prior to the courts dealing with them.

This Bill should be widely welcomed because there have been demands for such measures over the years from a variety of bodies. I have in front of me, for example, a memo from the Irish Association of Social Workers who were campaigning for such a measure. They put forward a comprehensive document in relation to the needs here also and the Minister has met many of them.

This House is faced with a very great challenge in trying to deal with the problems of crime. I wonder whether we should make some attempt to work structurally on an all-party basis to deal with the problem in some respects because there is a temptation for politicians to exact the last political ounce out of any opportunity that might present itself. I was struck by what Deputy Woods said earlier on. He is not here now but I thought he left himself a little open to criticism. He referred to spending long evenings with vigilantes. I gathered from what he said that he was trying to dissuade them from actions they were going to take. Two other Deputies on the far side of the House have recently become embroiled in that area also and I thought Deputy Ahern was unjustly dealt with in the interpretation of his remarks. I heard the interview and I felt that the interpretation of his remarks was that he favoured vigilante groups. Perhaps Deputy O'Dea should explain further his reported remarks of the weekend but, apart from that, I know of nobody else in this House who would give any comfort, encouragement or succour to vigilantes of any shape, form or kind. The mentality of the vigilante is that of incipient criminality because it is to take unto oneself the obligation and the right to enact justice. That is not to say that one does not understand frustration but we must clearly distance ourselves from any such proposal or thought. However, we cannot merely do that. There will, inevitably, be much greater recourse to such illegal measures unless the Garda and those of us engaged right through the system in dealing with crime are more successful. The challenge is fundamental and I know that the Garda are very frustrated at present at the way they have to carry out their work but, despite the difficulties and the growing lawlessness on the streets, the response to that must be a formal, legal response, not an arbitrary, vigilante type response. We have enough incitement and inducement to law-breaking relating to fiscal matters at present from people who should know better, without taking guns, knives and other weapons into our hands to deal with crime on our streets. That cannot be tolerated and it is incumbent on all Deputies to say clearly that they have no interest whatever by implication or otherwise in giving such support.

Another reason why the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill is right and proper and will work relates to the present policies on fines. It is fundamentally unjust that the present sentencing policy inevitably means that either one pays a fine of a specified amount or goes to jail for a period if one cannot or will not pay the fine. The inevitable result is that the poor person has a far greater likelihood of ending up in prison. As I have said, it is only the poor who are in prison, relatively speaking. The number of people in other walks of society who end up in jail is very small and if by some mischief they slip through the mesh they will not stay there very long. Therefore, if a person genuinely cannot pay a fine — and last week at one of these infamous clinics which politicians are forced to hold a young woman came to see me and her husband had the previous day started 12 months in jail because he could not pay a £750 fine, he had not got the money——

: What had he done?

: He had assaulted a barman.

: What happened to the barman? Was he badly injured?

: I do not know but I cannot see how it is relevant to the point I am making.

: It is very relevant.

: If the Deputy listens to me he will know that it is not relevant to the point I am making. I am not trying to indicate in any way that the man should be let off but if he was the son of a wealthy man he would not be in jail. That is the point. He should be punished certainly but he should not be punished also because he is poor. The reason he is in jail is not that he committed the offence, it is because he committed the offence and could not pay the fine. How could he pay? Legions of people cannot pay and will never be able to pay unless we change the basic economic system here. I oppose a system which does not take into account inability to pay. A fine of £50 to one person is a fortune and to somebody else it is meaningless. That is injustice, and what can we expect from an unjust system but further injustice? Also, such fines should be index-linked because the fines limit we set in these Bills are meant to be just in the social and economic context of the day, week or month in which they are set. By the nature of this House and the nature of our legislation it will be very many years before we come back to them and therefore in regard to some crimes there is a positive incitement to go on breaking the law. Last night I was reading inManagement magazine about fines in relation to——

: I will not go on with this at any length but I want to make the point——

: The Deputy is getting away from the Bill.

: I accept that, but earlier here Deputy Woods spoke on every wavelength but the Bill. I submit that 90 per cent of my remarks are on the Bill. I want to make the point that fining policy should be just and relevant. A man who comes before a court, is given a sentence and cannot in the normal course of events pay a fine is now afforded the opportunity of giving that which he has, his time and talent however limited they may be. At least that means we are dealing in some small way with this other compounding injustice of prison sentencing affecting adversely particularly the poor class. Obviously in those circumstances that would not be an argument. The gentleman who is at present doing 12 months for the £750 is doing a term of imprisonment which is of no benefit to him — the social service must look after his wife and two children — and it is of no benefit to the barman. It is a negative response and we can do much better than that.

In the way this Bill is being worked out I would not like merely to have a concept of people being given a sentence of rebuilding GAA clubs or scout halls. That is good work, but there are other possible permutations. We should explore ways of marrying where possible the crime with the response. I am impressed by work which has been carried out in Germany where people who, for example, were caught for drunken driving were assigned to work in centres dealing with alcoholics or in extreme cases to work as junior orderlies in the wards where their victims were being treated. That must be very traumatic, and surely difficult to structure and administer, but other countries have succeeded in doing it. If somebody commits an act of vandalism on a school there is no reason why that person should not be given the job of repairing that vandalism. It may not be possible to do a great deal of this but we should consider trying to marry the sentence with the type of crime. Some work has been done on that and it is a very salutory way of bringing home to people the error of their wrongdoing.

In summary then — other people want to get in on this and I have gone on longer than I had intended and I am sorry for that — this measure is enlightened. Some people may be tempted somehow to blacken it as a measure which is not adequate to deal with the problems of crime in our community. Of course it is not because it was never intended to do that. It is intended simply and essentially to afford another alternative to dealing with people who are convicted, an alternative which takes into consideration for the first time in this country the victim of the crime and the community which is robbed because it allows an opportunity for good to be done and for reparation to be made. In that process it will do good for the person who has been convicted also and will point the way towards certain kinds of reform and rehabilitation for such criminals. I do not think it can be applied to extreme, serious crime or to people who are of a fundamentally criminal nature after many acts of crime or a lifetime of crime. It must be handled very carefully and sensitively.

I congratulate the Minister on introducing the measure particularly in these difficult days when such measures are hard to introduce and, when they come in, difficult to sustain. James Joyce said that when ideas take flight in Ireland nets are thrown at them to keep them from flight. I hope that we will not throw too many nets at this. It is essentially a good idea if we do not expect more from it than it is intended to achieve. I wish it well.

: It was indicated to me that I would get an opportunity to get in after the previous speaker.

: You are listed here and you will be called.

: I asked the Ceann Comhairle this morning if I could come in on the debate and he indicated I could. I asked him when I would be able to get in.

: I have indicated that you will be getting in on the Bill and that you are listed.

: I would like to make a point. I offered to speak at the same time as the previous speaker and the Ceann Comhairle indicated I would be called next. At that time Deputy Briscoe was not in the Chamber.

: It is not my place to intervene, but on a point of order, I know Deputy De Rossa was here before Deputy Briscoe, if that is any help.

: It is a matter for the person in the Chair. Deputy De Rossa is listed and I will call him in due course.

: I appreciate that view——

: Deputy De Rossa what you are doing is protesting——

: I must protest because every time you are in the Chair you continually pass me over.

: You will have to withdraw that remark. That is a reflection on the Chair. I can assure you that I have always been, and will continue to be, impartial. I ask you to withdraw that remark.

: I did not regard it as a reflection——

: You were wrong to cast a reflection on the Chair. If you——

: I withdraw it on that basis——

: ——are not prepared to withdraw it I will have to call the Ceann Comhairle.

: I must protest that you are——

: I am asking you to withdraw that remark and allow the debate to continue. I assure you that I have always been, and will continue to be, impartial. I resent the remark you passed about my lack of impartiality.

: I must make this point.

: You have made one point, and if you allow the debate to continue——

: I was given to understand that I would be called to speak next.

: In order to help the Deputy, the Ceann Comhairle said it was entirely a matter for the person in the Chair. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is now in the Chair and it is for him to decide who speaks next.

: Deputy De Rossa, I resent your remark about my lack of impartiality.

: I offered to speak over an hour ago.

: You are listed to speak and I will call you——

: I understood I would be called after the previous speaker. At that time Deputy Briscoe was not in the Chamber.

: Deputy De Rossa, it is a matter for the person in the Chair and I have indicated that you are listed and will be called in due course. I am calling Deputy Briscoe.

: I consider this to be grossly unfair.

: You are completely out of order and I object to your attitude. I have always been impartial.

: You are very unfair.

: I would like to give a hearty welcome to this Bill but I am very frustrated that at a time when our cities and towns are going through a very difficult time we are introducing a measure which will apply only to minor young criminals, if one can use the term, and not the hard-core offender, the type of young criminal of whom there are about 150 to 200 in Dublin. Senior Garda officers told me that if those people were off the streets there would be no problem of vandalism. I listened to Deputy Keating's speech with a sense of frustration. He represents a centre city constituency but he would not make that speech to his constituents. This measure will have as much effect as a thimble full of water used to put out a blaze.

There is another Bill which I understand will be introduced soon, but it should have been introduced first. We urgently need legislation to allow the gardaí to carry out their functions. They are as frustrated as the public because our laws need to be changed quickly. The law attaching to bail is covered in the new Bill. People committing crimes while out on bail will have to serve consecutive sentences. Society is being undermined because the police do not have the authority they need under the law. We must make many changes in ralation to our Judiciary and sentencing. We hear a lot about wrongdoers but we seldom hear about the victims.

I have a reputation among part of the media as being a hard-liner, a law and order man, but I am not. I am a compassionate man, but every day I see the victims. I am sick and tired of not being able to do anything for them. What can I say? Will I tell them we are introducing legislation to try to make changes? I have been calling for changes for many years so that parents of children up to 18 years of age would be responsible in law for the damage done by their children. They should have to pay fines. The former Minister for Justice, Deputy Doherty, told me that one of the objections to fining parents was that under the Constitution one person could not be held responsible for somebody else's crimes. Yet, if I own a dog and it bites somebody, when that happens a second time I am responsible in law. I cannot communicate with my dog but I can communicate with my children. I appeal to the Minister to include in the next Bill a section which will make parents responsible for the crimes of their children. If they burn a car the money should be deducted from the parent's wages. Parents should know where their children are at night. I am talking about children of 10, 11, 12 and 13 years of age. Their parents should be compelled to take responsibility for them and pay for any damage they cause. If my child broke a neighbour's window I would apoligise and pay to have the window repaired. Most of us pay if our children do damage. I blame parents if their children are in trouble.

: I appreciate your concern Deputy, but please stay with the Bill.

: I take this opportunity to ask the Minister and his officials to make the appropriate changes in the next Bill. I suggest that they get in touch with the principal officer of the community and environment department of Dublin Corporation where they will hear many suggestions of how these young people can help. There are suggestions that these offenders should help the disabled and do community work. There is plenty of work to be done in Dublin city and this scheme is well worth while.

At present the Government are paying out vast amounts of money to meet malicious damages claims because cars are burned, shops are broken into or burned down and so on. Under a scheme like this if young people are willing to sign an order saying they want to be saved — the hard-core offenders will not be interested in signing such an order — by way of a book transaction, these young offenders should be paid a wage which in turn would be given to the victim. In other words, if a car is set on fire and the cost of replacement is £2,000 or more, the offender will be paid for community work and that money will be paid to the victim. The victim would be given the money back from the State under a malicious damage scheme. That is worth pursuing. That youngster who had set a car on fire would know it will cost him so much per week for so many hours. The idea that he is not just doing a job instead of going to prison but that out of his own labour he will be repaying the person would mean more to some of those young people who go in for this mindless vandalism.

I see Deputy Gay Mitchell sitting on the other side. We attend meetings of our constituents regularly and he will agree there is not much in this Bill that would satisfy some of the people we have had to listen to complaining about what they have been going through and the haemorrhaging of the State by the cost of crime.

Recently statistics were published indicating that this country is comparable with many parts of America in the matter of crime and vandalism. However, in America they can take into account in New York and Chicago the ethnic pressures and the consequent tremendous stresses which we do not have here. When matters of discrimination against ethnic groups, blacks, Poles, Jews, Puerto Ricans, in the US, are taken into account and that we do not have these pressures here it will quickly be realised that we have a very serious problem on our hands. We talk about it but we are doing very little to cure it.

I have said before that the first obligation on any Government is to protect the rights of the citizens, their right to walk through the streets of our cities and towns. We are not doing that. We are failing as legislators. Deputy Keating condemned the action of vigilantes. Of course I condemn them. Ten years ago in the House I predicted that if we did not do something people would take the law into their hands. Once that begins to happen there is very little we will be able to do about it. People are going along now to subversive groups who are dealing with young criminal elements. Those subversive elements will come along at election time and say to the people: "We helped you when you were in trouble. Now it is your turn".

If we do not recognise the signs we had better do so very quickly. Of course I condemn vigilantes, but their emergence reflects our failure and our lack of understanding of what people are going through. It is about time we got that message loud and clear because we are the people who make the laws. The sad part is that there is nothing in the Bill that will persuade vigilantes to stop, because this Bill does not apply to the people who are doing all the depredations.

Deputy Keating spoke about drunken driving and putting offenders into jail at weekends. He said it could be done discreetly so that no one would know, the deterrent element being that such people would not like to lose their freedom. The whole object of sentencing a person is so that other people in the community would realise that the same thing might happen to them; when the names of people being sentenced for drunken driving are published others would think twice. I know the father of a victim of a hit-and-run driver and very little action was taken against that person.

We have throughout the community blackguardism of the worst kind and I ask the Minister of State now in the House to convey to the Minister for Justice that we must have another Bill soon. Before the Easter recess I asked when the other Bill would be ready and I was told it would be introduced in this session. I hope the Minister did not mean this Bill, which will not solve the problem of vandalism, the muggings, the terrorising of our citizens. Our old people living alone are wondering when somebody will come through the roof. People are waking up seeing people in their rooms. People have seen in the courts criminals being sent to prison for three months but being released a week later. That is crazy. We all know of that recent disgrace to the judicial profession when those people were set free after committing murder in Fairview. I suppose that unfortunate judge does not realise that his name is synonomous with miscarriage of justice, just as Boycott's name is synonomous——

: The Deputy will have to keep to the Bill. He cannot reflect on a judge.

: I feel I have to say this. I did not name him.

: You mentioned the judge and that is out of order. We all know the judge's name.

: When the Judiciary make mistakes it reflects on them. When we make mistakes it reflects on all of us. I will conclude because there are others who have strong feelings on this question of law and order. If we do not do something in this year to protect our citizens this place will not be in existence five or six years from now. We will have been taken over by some sort of revolution because once this vigilante thing gets rooted it will not be easy to stop. It is the beginning of what many people in this House have spoken of for years, the beginning of the revolution. People have been pushed as far as they will go and we have got to act urgently. We want laws which will allow the Garda to come to grips with those criminals. We have many good laws ready. Let us get them in here quickly. If there were something in this Bill which allowed a district justice to impose fines on parents, that would be helpful. As I said, it deals with minor offenders. I hope it will be a success. I do not want to be misunderstood. The Bill will be very effective for those whom it will touch. It will be an excellent addition to what is already there, but it will not deal with the fire which is blazing all around us. That regretfully is the case. I hope the other Bill will be ready soon and that the Minister will consider fines for parents of children up to 18 years being incorporated somewhere in the Bill.

: Deputy Mervyn Taylor.

: This is the third time I have offered to speak.

: One speaker from each side of the House, Deputy.

: On a point of order, on which side of the House is Deputy De Rossa that he should be called before a Government speaker? I am sick of sitting in this House while Deputies from The Workers' Party are called.

: The Deputy is making matters worse. I have made a ruling. Deputy De Rossa will be called after Deputy Taylor and that is an impartial decision. I have made my decision. Deputy Taylor will speak next.

: I intend to make a submission on this matter.

: That is your right.

: In the debate on this Bill one is tempted to get into the area of the appalling crime rate figures with which we are faced, of vandalism and a breakdown in law and order. That would be beyond the scope of this Bill which deals with people who have been convicted and how they should be dealt with by the courts. If one were to get into a debate on that line of country one would be talking about the effects of unemployment, hardship and a reduction in the standards of living of ordinary people. In the context of this Bill people will be ordered by the courts, albeit with their consent, to do unpaid work, and the thought comes inescapably that it would be a far more attractive proposition to have paid work made available to many young people before they find themselves before the courts. That matter will have to be debated by the House at great length, but it is beyond the scope of this Bill.

The Bill is concerned primarily with providing an additional option in the field of sentencing to judges. I want to say a few words about the nature of the options which are already there, and the extent to which they are used, or not used as I will be submitting. It has to be said that in many cases, unfortunately, when judges are appointed, and even after they are appointed, they have not got a sufficient degree of expertise in dealing with criminal law and the imposition of punishments. Many of the judges and justices who are appointed have had little or no experience of criminal law during their time as barristers or solicitors. Yet they are given the serious and very important role of administering the criminal law side of the legal system and imposing sentences.

For new appointees to the bench at all levels briefings and seminars should be held, and there should be a procedure to bring them up to date with developments in criminal law policies of which they would not have had experience from practising on the civil law side of the courts. By the same token, it would be very helpful, not only for new appointees but for all judges and justices, to have a system under which they could be brought together from time to time, perhaps under the auspices of the Chief Justice, and have seminars and briefings to enable them to discuss among themselves recent developments in the field of sociology and the types of punishments appropriate for certain kinds of criminals and people who have been convicted of crimes. In some countries that kind of going back to school, as it were, is undertaken but I am not aware of it here.

In any trade or profession new ideas are developing all the time. New concepts emerge from various organisations, from academics in the universities and from people who specialise in the science of penology, criminology and sociology. Many people in our universities specialise in those fields and could have a very major input into the administration of criminal law, particularly in the field of sentencing, if they were given an opportunity on a regular basis to have an inter-play with the key people concerned, mainly the judges and justices. This would probably be welcomed by the Judiciary. Perhaps the Minister could consult with the Chief Justice or the President of the High Court to discover whether such an arrangement might be welcomed by the bench and by the academics concerned.

It is very important that judges and justices should be apprised of the new thinking. The criminal law gives very wide powers and discretions to judges and justices as to the type and length of sentence which may be imposed. All too often it appears to members of the public that this discretion is not exercised all that wisely. It is important that discretion should be exercised responsibly and uniformly, and that there should be a measure of uniformity in sentences visible to the public eye for comparable crimes committed under comparable circumstances. It goes hard on the public eye and tends to bring the law into disrepute when it is seen that, for a relatively trivial offence, what appears to be a substantial penalty is imposed, whereas in other cases where a quite serious crime was committed a relatively trivial penalty or no penalty was imposed. Uniformity must be seen to operate. Briefing sessions to discuss different categories of crimes and the level of penalties that would be appropriate could be held, where the judges and district justices were brought together to discuss with academics and sociologists the kind of criteria and considerations that should apply in nominating penalties for certain types of crime. That idea was recognised by a famous American judge when he said, "If in the district in which a judge sits his fellow-judges have established and insist on following a pattern for dealing with offences of a particular type, it is his responsibility either to get them to change or for him to come close to their standards".

Quite apart from the new options in this Bill, existing options that have been open to judges charged with administering criminal law have not been used as widely as they might have been. There is one option already open to judges which has been badly neglected, namely, the option of adjourning the case, that after a person has been convicted of a crime the judge would put back the case for three or six months to see how the convicted person would get on during that period. The convicted person would know that the conviction and the charge were still standing over his head and could be dealt with at the expiration of the adjourned period. That is done in some cases but not widely enough. It is a very effective way of putting a convicted person on probation without actually disposing of the case by applying the Probation Act, in the knowledge that that person will conduct himself properly in that period bearing in mind that the conviction still stands over his head and that no penalty has yet been fixed. The idea is that if all goes well during the probationary period it might be extended or the convicted person perhaps might be discharged.

The question arises whether the width of discretion left to the Judiciary is too wide: I am talking of the discretion judges have under the existing options now open to them and the options proposed in this Bill. Some recent decisions would lead one inevitably to the conclusion that it is too wide. In the case of serious offences, particularly those involving unprovoked serious physical attack on people causing them injury, the level of discretion at present open to the Judiciary may have to be reconsidered.

The Minister said that the only crime excluded from the purported operation of the community service procedure is that of murder. I am somewhat concerned about that. I think some other crimes of a serious nature, other than murder, should be excluded from the operation of the community service order procedure. With regard to crimes involving unprovoked serious personal attack on other people, on old people and on children, the question of excluding such crimes from the operation of this procedure will have to be examined with some care.

The judges must be responsive to the feelings of the public in the administration of this branch of the law. That is essential if respect for the law by the public is to be preserved. I do not suggest that judges should respond to public hysteria in whatever form that takes place but if respect for the law is to be upheld the judges must look at that aspect. The matter was summed up by an English judge as follows: "Criminal law must represent a remarkably high average of the population's views with regard to penalties and the law-abiding citizen must feel that the law is effective in protecting him from infractions of his liberty by wrongdoers."

The proposal for the community service orders has a proviso as mentioned in the Minister's speech. He said it would be a matter for the probation and welfare service to satisfy the court that arrangements could be made for the offender to perform work under a community service order. The implication there is that there would be a situation where on some occasions it would be possible for arrangements to be made and on other occasions it would not be possible for arrangements to be made. That would be a very unsatisfactory situation because it could lead to cases where people charged and convicted of similar offences on some occasions may find themselves able to avail of the community service order procedure and not able to do so in other cases and, as a result, compelled to serve a prison sentence. That would be entirely wrong. If it is accepted that certain types of convicted persons are appropriate to pay the penalty by means of community service on the lines outlined in this Bill, that availability must be open to all. It would be entirely wrong if a person was prepared to do community service but because it was not availabe was compelled to serve a prison sentence whereas another person in identical circumstances could pay the penalty by means of community service. If the scheme were to be brought in arrangements would have to be made in advance to ensure that in any cases where that procedure would be appropriate the work would be available for the convicted person if he agreed to do it within the terms of the Bill.

The people who will have the major responsibility of administering the scheme are the probation and welfare officers. At this juncture I should like to pay a sincere tribute to the court probation officers, particularly in the District Courts, who, with very limited and inadequate resources do a fine and difficult job. They work under the most difficult circumstances and they are too few in number but having worked with many of them for many years I know they are dedicated people. They fulfil an essential and valuable function in the administration of the criminal system. If they are to be called upon to operate the scheme, I hope the service will be widely expanded and that full and necessary facilities will be made available to the probation and welfare officers to carry out their tasks under the Bill in the manner that they would wish — the most efficient manner. The Bill is to be welcomed, broadly speaking, because it provides an option which was not heretofore open to judges in dealing with convicted people. To that extent it is to be welcomed, but at the same time it must be approached with caution. Great care must be taken to ensure that the scheme is not used in such a way that people would be released on the community who could be a danger and could cause injury to the community, thereby taking way from the intent behind the scheme which would be limited to being of benefit to the community and to the convicted people themselves.

: As all the previous speakers have indicated, the Bill is to be welcomed as progressive legislation. I cannot, however, help expressing the suspicion that part of the reason for its introduction at this stage is to relieve the overcrowding in our prisons. That suspicion is strengthened to some degree by a number of remarks of the Minister in his opening speech. It is unfortunate that it would appear to be anad hoc response to the problem of prison overcrowding. It is also unfortunate that possibly it is one of the reforms least needed in terms of the other necessary reforms to the criminal code.

I express the frustration of many Deputies at the slow preparation and introduction of legislation in the Dáil. When it comes into the Dáil it is reasonably speedily processed, but the length of time for acknowledged reforms to be brought into this House is very frustrating. It is frustrating not only for the Members of the Dáil but for the public at large, who see many worthwhile reforms which practically all the parties agree to be necessary about which nothing seems to be done.

The sentencing of people convicted of offences comes at the end of a chain of events, of services provided by the State — if one can call them that. The Garda Síochána are responsible for apprehending those whom they consider to be guilty of an offence; the courts decide whether or not those persons are, in fact, guilty and the prisons provide retribution, in a sense, for society. I wonder if the whole question of the effectiveness of imprisonment should not be taken into account when this Bill is being discussed. I welcome the Bill as a progressive reform mainly because it is an attempt to move away from the idea that the response to crimes, whether large or small, should be imprisonment. The general response is that imprisonment is a form of revenge, but I do not accept that. The Dáil should try to correct that approach to crime.

The moving of this Bill this week could be seen as a response to growing unease among the general public at the rise in crime. In discussing crime it is important to differentiate between the serious organised crime which is taking place in our society and petty crime and vandalism which bear most heavily upon communities and up against which people come directly. It is the response to petty crime that must be tackled by this Dáil.

Opinion polls in relation to the crime level have recently been discussed and in some areas the response has been vigilante groups, with the inherent danger that such vigilante groups might become involved with paramilitaries and so forth. It must be said clearly by everybody in this House that vigilante groups are opposed in whatever form, whether organised on paramilitary lines or simply the frustrated reaction of communities to what they see as a failure of the forces of law and order.

My criticism on the media of a Member of this House was not that he supported vigilantes—because I know that he does not — but that he indicated that it appeared that these vigilante groups were effective. There is no evidence whatsoever that vigilantes or paramilitary groups are in any way effective. The only result for a community of such vigilante groups is the swapping of one kind of terror for another kind, and that is completely unacceptable. The response of those who feel this frustration should be to exert that frustration on public representatives to order society, to have the correct legislation on the books and to ensure its implementation. It is essential that this frustration be made quite clear to their elected representatives and that this House respond effectively and speedily to that type of representation from the electorate. Otherwise, the vigilante type of activity will grow.

I expect that the response of the people in the street to this progressive legislation will be a cynical shrug of the shoulders. They will see it simply as a formalising of the system of allowing offenders out of prison before completing their sentences. I am not convinced that imprisonment is the answer in 95 per cent of the cases which come before the courts although it certainly is necessary in very serious cases. Unless we tackle the social and economic problems which give rise to most of the petty crime and vandalism which beset society, we are failing. In discussing that area the whole question of drug abuse and alcohol must be brought into the equation.

We are told also that the response to crime and vandalism must be one of better policing. Better policing can come about only if the resources are made available to the Garda to provide the men and women on the beat and if the training is given to these gardaí to deal with the type of society we have at present. I am not at all satisfied that gardaí receive anything but the most basic training at present before being put out on the streets of this and other cities. There has been a welcome development in my constituency where additional Gardaí have been provided. They are out on the beat there and doing a very good job given their restrictive resources. However, I think they would do much better were they subjected to intensive training on how to relate to people in the areas in which they will work. For example, it is entirely unreasonable to expect a young chap who may only recently have left secondary school and who joins the Garda from a rural area — who is moved after a few months training to a working-class area in say, Dublin, Cork, Limerick or another city, certainly into an urban environment, and more than likely a poor, working class environment — to relate to the problems being experienced by people in those areas.

I consider that 95 per cent of the offenders who come before our courts do not warrant imprisonment. Also most of the people who come before our courts are young persons, again most from working-class backgrounds. While as far as I am aware no study has ever been undertaken here of the background of people who come before our courts, to endeavour to establish what motivates them primarily to become involved in crime, we all know there are many elements involved in the perpetration of various types of crimes associated with, say, drugs and alcoholism. We know also that young people without jobs feel frustrated. There is at least one person whose job it is to deal with young people coming before our courts who has said that in his experience the vast majority of them are functionally illiterate, have had a very poor education and that while not in all cases, by and large, they come from families dependent on social welfare.

If one takes all of these elements into account, relating them back to what this House is doing in regard to the organisation of society, the economy or whatever, in my view one sees a contradiction between introducing a progressive Bill — such as one requiring young people who are convicted to undertake community work — while at the same time making very little effort to solve the problems which brought those people into conflict with the law or before the courts in the first place.

I might refer again — and I make no apology for having referred to this a number of times previously — to Government policy in relation to education. For example, the educational cutbacks will directly hit schools in working-class areas, as will the number of remedial teachers they are allowed to have and the number of guidance counsellors they are entitled to have. If those kinds of service are not provided in schools in working-class areas there is nothing surer but that there will be a greater number of young people on our streets involved in vandalism and petty crime. There is very little evidence of a global approach to the solution of these problems.

If this Bill is to be successful in itself the Government must be prepared to provide the necessary back-up in terms of finance and personnel. Otherwise it will be merely another meaningless gesture. In my view the existing probation service is grossly overworked. Indeed the report referred to by Deputy Keating indicates that at the end of 1981 there were 57 probation and welfare officers assigned to probation and related duties in various District Courts and that during that year also a total of 1,465 cases were referred to them. Another point is that it is left totally to the discretion of the judge as to whether he asks for a report from a probation officer. Under the provisions of this Bill I understand a report has to be requested before a community service order can be made. We believe it should be obligatory on the court to get probation officers' reports in certain other cases also. Obviously this would entail an increased workload and personnel. I believe the increased workload for provisions of the Bill will require additional staff anyway. I should like the Minister to indicate when replying, whether those additional staff will be provided.

I welcome the Bill but I have a number of reservations about it. For example, there should be no question of community service orders being used as a source of cheap labour, thus denying people legitimate job opportunities, leading perhaps to further unemployment. Experience in other areas, such as the work experience programme, has shown that in certain instances people in full-time permanent employment have been made redundant in order to make way for people on work experience programmes. That kind of anomaly must be guarded against in implementing the provisions of this Bill. On the other hand, there is no point in giving offenders meaningless tasks such as digging holes and filling them in, or cleaning up graveyards, as happens in certain circumstances under the Youth Employment Agency. The Bill gives no indication of what types of tasks the Minister has in mind although in his introductory remarks he did mention community services by way of assisting voluntary organisations. The Bill gives him power to make regulations in this regard. The Minister should spell out clearly what he has in mind here.

The provisions of the Bill leave it totally to the discretion of the court as to whether it should apply custodial sentence or utilise the provisions of the Bill.

In my view it is unfortunate that some of the justices who grace our courts adopt attitudes, which they have expressed, and which in turn have been reported by the media, which would be more appropriate to the last century than to present-day Ireland. For that reason I should like to see a provision in this Bill that certain offences would be required to be deal with by way of community service orders. Probably it is worth looking at the system obtaining in Scotland from which we could learn much.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.