Yesterday I outlined two suggestions to the Minister, and I am very pleased that he is here this morning and that he can hear for himself these practical suggestions. In welcoming Minister, many stages of this most important legislation I said yesterday and I say again this morning that, it is to be regretted, you are failing to involve the community in crime prevention. This is perhaps being done inadvertently——
Criminal Justice Bill, 1983: Second Stage (Resumed).
The Chair has been accused of many things but he cannot reasonably be accused of failing to involve the community in anything.
I am sorry?
I am saying that the Deputy should speak in the third person, otherwise he is talking about the Chair.
Everything I say is through the Chair. I think the Minister realises that I am endeavouring——
He is part of the community and the Deputy should be involving him.
I was trying to command the Minister's attention in the best manner I could through the Chair. I make these suggestions to the Minister because he has a golden opportunity now to reach out to the community for the support that they are only too willing to give. My first suggestion yesterday was that the Minister involve a network of community watch groups in Dublin on a pilot basis. I know he has conducted the initial research in this area and that his senior officials have been out in America studying systems there. The time is now right to do something about that. I am making my call directly to him here in the House to set up such systems, one on the north side and one on the south side of the city of Dublin to start. The statistics indicate that there should be a marked reduction in crime if this is produced in the right manner on the system used in America. The Minister is aware that we are twice as heavily policed as America, and that is an alarming statistic; 1.7 per 1,000 in America as against 3.14 per 1,000 in Ireland, a high statistic, yet we have this huge rise in crime. Establishing this network and also establishing some type of educational citizens' support bureau is the second point I made where incentives are given directly to the public. Laudable as it is to produce legislation of this kind and needed as it might be, again it is not bringing in the citizens to give the Minister the support that he needs.
Last night highlighted in very real terms the huge problem facing the country on the drugs issue alone when £1.5 million worth of drugs were found in bales at a perimeter fence at Dublin Airport. That is drifting into almost a South American situation such as exists in Quito, Ecuador, La Paz and Bogota where the stage has been reached where people will just snatch and grab and it is not just handbag snatching. People are so desperate for a fix that they snatch wrist watches, tear jewellery off women's necks and so on. This happens in an everyday situation. Tourists are warned about happenings on the streets of these cities, and I can see it reaching out to the streets of Dublin. People pay enormous sums of money for drugs. The Minister can use, through his good offices, the whole network of residents' associations, youth clubs and so on to involve people in assisting him. I am sorry to be repeating myself here but it is important in his presence to refer again to what I mentioned yesterday. In America people are invited to tour around the cities in squad cars to see crime at first hand for themselves. That is the sort of practical action that is getting to school children, bringing them to police stations to see how the whole network operates. Laws alone, excellent as they are, are not sufficient; there must be an educational process involving tremendous support all the time for the Garda.
I could quote passages from theGarda Review where the guards say that every parent and child in the community must be involved in combatting the horror of drugs and petty crime also. I realise that this legislation contains far-reaching measures pertaining to detention and so on to tackle the problems of subversion etc. but it is a criminal justice Bill. A Superintendent of the Garda referred recently to the drug pusher as worse than a murderer. Such statements are not made without much thought and consideration. This was Assistant Commissioner David Leahy in the crime branch, referring to this problem. What practical measures can be taken? Names and photographs of drug pushers could be published in the daily newspapers to make the public familiar with the problem. My next suggestion might seem a trifle old-fashioned, perhaps going back to the wild west days, but we have a situation that is nearly wild west in Dublin. We could go back to the system of rewards and incentives to the public to encourage them to disclose information to the Garda. Rewards could be given to youth groups, to citizens and so forth to encourage them to come forward. Much can be done in that area.
It is clear that the future of our tourist industry is in serious jeopardy. In fact, in Border regions it has been virtually wiped out not alone by the sterling differential but by the activities of criminals who operate in those areas. I am sure the Ceann Comhairle, who represents a Border constituency, realises this. It was sad to hear on a BBC 2 programme recently Dublin being referred to as the heroin centre of Europe. The ramifications of that well researched and accurate programme are serious. Any people in England watching that programme would be hesitant about coming here on holidays. That is the type of damage crime is causing to this city and country.
Local authorities in their efforts, such as the "I love Dublin" campaign, are swimming against the tide in the face of crime of this type. If the Minister carries out my suggestions he would get practical results. I am not suggesting that he should rush into establishing a community watch programme throughout the city because we do not wish to see such a programme flounder in any way. We want success. In the no-go areas in the city there is a need for stern action. Many people are willing to help the authorities. Last night I met a deputation about this problem and they put forward two practical suggestions. The first suggestion was that parents be made responsible for the crimes of their children until they reach a certain age. Many of these problems prevail in a situation where parents have opted out of their responsibilities. It is possible that they are numbed into a situation where they believe it is not possible to do anything but they should be made accept some responsibility for the crimes of juveniles. If such a provision is introduced I have no doubt there will be a rapid reduction in the number of juvenile crimes. If necessary we should introduce a system of on-the-spot fines instead of jamming up our courts with petty crimes. We have an excellent Garda force which includes many ban-ghardaí and they can be used in a system involving citizens.
The second suggestion made by the deputation dealt with the question of loitering. It is not an offence at present to loiter unless it is done under suspicious circumstances, and it is difficult to prove that. We are all aware that there are areas in the city where gangs converge. I know of instances where gardaí have told residents that they cannot do anything. I accept that the Minister is making provision to enable gardaí to arrest on suspicion but that should be expanded to cover loitering.
I feel disheartened that the provisions of the Bill do not reach out to the community more. It should have included a sector of our society that is being exploited and under seige from criminals, the elderly. I am pleased the Minister is present to hear details of a case that took place in my constituency recently. A 93-year-old lady living alone in Rathmines had her arms broken and was savagely attacked for her paltry savings. How can the Garda protect a person like that? A list should be compiled of all the elderly people living in each area and in these days of high technology that should not be too difficult. Those senior citizens could then be visited on a systematic basis. I accept that the Garda will respond by saying that they do not have enough members but those who have read literature about these problems in the United States are aware that they have dealt with them by involving the community.
I appeal to the Minister that in his efforts to tackle crime, drug abuse, attacks on the elderly and the huge rise in urban crime, he should try to involve the local community. There is not any provision in the Bill for such involvement. I raised this issue some months ago and the Minister undertook to have a look at the situation. I have no doubt that he would get tremendous support for such a proposal in Dublin. We have all heard of the great plans for reviving deprived areas in Dublin and so on but practical action is not being taken. We are simply passing legislation and increasing penalties. Recently a driver got off scot-free for an offence. I am not pointing the finger at the Minister for that but such action leads to angry reaction in a community. People feel they are not being protected. I welcome the greater presence of gardaí on the streets but in spite of that the crime rate is escalating. Recently I drew the Minister's attention to an incident in Milltown where an elderly parish priest was attacked and parish funds taken. I warned the Minister that residents there had told me they intended forming a vigilante group, something nobody wants to see happening, but such groups were formed out of frustration. In my view the Garda should approach such groups and help them establish a watch group in their area to act with them. There are many ways of dealing with crime and vandalism rather than introducing laws and imposing fines. I appeal to the Minister to take cognisance of the points I raised.
I should like to welcome the provisions of the Bill and I congratulate the Minister on bringing it before us. Some Members suggested that perhaps this represents an erosion of citizens' rights in some way, but it must be remembered that the Bill is being introduced out of necessity, by public demand. While one must be careful to have due regard for the constitutional rights of citizens and to ensure that those rights are upheld at all times, regard must also be had for the constitutional rights of the victims of crimes. People may have fears about an erosion of constitutional rights but that has to be balanced against the necessity to bring in legislation to deal with the problems facing us.
Probably some people would suggest that the breakdown in law and order has happened in a matter of months or weeks, but that is not so. It has been a gradual process over a number of years, but it has now got so bad that many citizens are afraid to walk the streets of our cities and towns by night or day. We have to contend with a dangerous and difficult situation. As Deputy Brady mentioned, the Bill which has come before us because of the serious situation can only work if it is enforced, if there is the will in the Department of Justice and among the public to accept the need for it and to ensure it is enforced. For that we need full co-operation with the Garda. We do not want a "them" and "us" situation in our cities and our towns. As the previous speaker mentioned, there must be co-operation between the Department of Justice and the community, even if it means setting up community watch groups. There must be better liaison between the gardaí and the community so that the wrongdoer or the potential wrong-doer knows before he embarks on a crime that there is the real possibility he will be caught and punished. That is where we come to the deterrent.
In the past few years it appears that people about to embark on a crime reckon the odds, and the odds they take into account are the odds of being caught or of getting away with the crime. Very often teenagers start on a course of crime by stealing a car. They get away with it and they do it again. With each theft they become more daring, and they then break and enter, carry out a robbery and perhaps they knock someone down or even kill them. When the gardaí attempt to apprehend them they often ram the Garda car and there is quite a possibility that they will get away with all of this. They know that if they are caught they could perhaps get a jail sentence but because of overcrowding in the prisons there is a good possibility they will get out in a short time and there is also the possibility that they will not get a stiff sentence in the courts. These young people continue committing crimes, their friends become involved, and suddenly it is a huge operation. That is where we have to tackle the problem. We must have realistic deterrents that will make it clear to anybody about to embark on a campaign of lawlessness that there will be a reckoning at the end of the day and that they will have to pay the price.
Deputy Brady mentioned that perhaps parents could be made responsible, and I think we will have to move along those lines. There is no sense in the gardaí being involved and the laws being applied if the parents do not recognise the seriousness of the crime and their responsibility to society. With each crime committed more and more taxpayers' money has to be spent in the long and tedious work of bringing the perpetrators to justice. That problem will have to be considered in the near future.
I mentioned the stealing of cars because it is a crime that is increasing at an alarming rate. In some circles it is not regarded as a serious crime. We must remember the other crimes it can lead to: it can lead to the old-fashioned smash and grab crime, to hit-and-run accidents, and cars can be used to convey drugs. The stolen car can be used for many unlawful purposes and could lead to the loss of life. For that reason the Garda will have to pay more attention to the crime of stealing cars. There must be a crackdown.
Frequently Garda cars are rammed. Some system will have to be devised to prevent this. There should be methods other than car chases to stop criminals or else special Garda cars will have to be built. It is a ridiculous situation that a new patrol car that pursues a group of young people who are not driving their own car and who have no responsibility towards themselves or anyone else can be wrecked totally in dealing with one criminal. It is an aspect that has to be considered carefully.
The other element in the law and order process is the courts. There has been criticism in this House on many occasions in relation to sentences that were given or were not given for specific crimes. The inconsistency of some of the penalties certainly raises some questions. I do not want to go into detail on the matter, but for some fairly serious crimes the perpetrators seem to have got away with suspended sentences or even the Probation Act. On the other hand, there may be a seemingly innocuous type of crime and the person concerned gets a stiff penalty. There is a certain inconsistency in the sentences given, and this matter must be considered. There is no sense in having a Criminal Justice Bill and the courts to mete out the penalties unless such penalties are handed down according to the seriousness of the crime. I am not a legal person and I will not suggest what should be done, but there are people in this House who have considerable experience in the Law Courts and they should be able to come forward with suggestions to deal with the problems.
The prison service is another important element in the system. It is well known that if a person commits a crime there is good possibility that he will not serve the entire sentence because of overcrowding in our prisons. He may in fact serve very little of that sentence. The potential criminal is well aware of this fact. The potential criminal knows before he sets out on his wrongdoing that, if he or she has to serve a sentence at the end of the day, it will not be too bad anyway because he or she will get out after a few weeks or a couple of months. We shall have to tackle this situation. It may mean spending more money and building more prisons but we shall have to tackle it. We must ensure that those who are sentenced must expect to serve those sentences.
In regard to the public attitude to the wrongdoer, we all throw up our hands in horror when a crime is committed. We say it should not have been allowed to happen and so on. We say it is wholly despicable. What happens when the criminal comes to justice? The bleeding hearts start. The holier than though come along and say there are extenuating circumstances and this allegedly unfortunate criminal should be treated with leniency. Perhaps he did not mean to commit the crime. Perhaps there was something on his mind as otherwise he would not have committed it and that should be taken into account. Strings of references are read out in court pleading with the judge to treat the criminal with leniency. Witnesses are called to speak on his behalf. When he is sentenced a certain section of the public become concerned about whether or not the conditions in the prison in which he will serve his sentence measure up to the luxury to which he was accustomed. There are those who regularly complain that conditions in the prisons are not good enough really for the allegedly unfortunate wrongdoer.
We should remember that the victims of these criminals also have rights and, were they asked as to whether or not the criminals who are punished were living in sufficient luxury, they would have a very firm answer. If someone does something unlawful, such as breaking and entering, or a hit and run, or any serious crime, then he must expect not to live in the lap of luxury while serving his sentence. I am not suggesting criminals should be compelled to live in bare cells on bread and water, but they should not expect any kind of luxury should they be unlucky enough to have to serve even a short sentence.
Another element in the system is that of consecutive sentencing in relation to crimes committed while on bail. If sentences had to be served consecutively instead of concurrently, as seems to be the practice now, that would act as a deterrent to a criminal. At the moment criminals take time off from lawlessness, go into court and get bail and, while on bail they proceed with their criminal activities. I heard of one occasion on which a group were due in court to answer for their crimes and they were picked up by the gardaí actually on their way to do another job before they appeared in court.
Speaking as a non-legal person, there are some crimes of such a serious nature that it should be almost impossible for the criminal to get bail. I know legal people will not accept this argument. Where there is danger that the criminal will abscond while on bail we should deal with that situation seriously by ensuring that he does not get bail. If bail is granted it should be granted only at great personal cost. If the crimes involved are lucrative enough there will be no difficulty in getting bail bonds of £20,000 or £30,000 or even more. These should be personal bail bonds. They should be of such magnitude that the person on bail cannot afford to abscond. Should he be in the position that he can afford it then no bail should be granted.
Another aspect of our modern society is the need for better protection. The Bill does not deal with this aspect. All the technological aids now available to police forces throughout the world should be available to the Garda. Remember, these aids are available to the criminal. It is nothing unusual for criminals to use two-way radios and other types of modern communication to assist them in their criminal acts. The Garda have not sufficient technological assistance at their disposal. They should be equipped in such manner as to ensure that a patrol anywhere at any time can be contacted. In my constituency — I am sure Deputy Power will have something to say about this — there are many towns where the population has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. At the same time the number of gardaí has decreased. I know the number has increased overall in the country generally, but the potential criminal is very quick to know the weaknesses in the system.
We will have to do something to increase the number of gardaí in the new urban areas such as those I have mentioned in Kildare, places like Maynooth, Leixlip, Celbridge and the larger towns like Newbridge and Naas — Naas not so much because there is a large Garda station there. Such towns which are very convenient to Dublin and the push that has been put on to beat the criminals in the large cities is forcing them into the rural areas or towns on the periphery of Dublin. They can get back to the city within half an hour having committed their deeds and they have a reasonably good chance of getting away.
A few weeks ago, in Leixlip, there were a group of four or five ladies returning from bingo. A car stopped beside them. Three young men jumped out and grabbed the handbags of three or four of them. Unfortunately, one woman did not readily release her handbag and she was dragged a couple of hundred yards along the road by the fellow, who managed to get into the car, close the door and drag her after him. That woman could have been killed. She was very distressed. That is only one incident.
I mentioned earlier the question of public awareness and preparedness to assist the Garda. Before we were married my wife had an experience in this city. She was stopped at traffic lights at seven o'clock on a summer's evening. There were several people on the street and there was a queue of cars at the traffic lights. Her arm was dragged through the window of the car, causing serious injury and laceration, and her handbag was snatched. Not one person made any attempt to assist. In regard to all the stories I have heard in relation to handbag snatching the same situation has arisen: nobody seems to want to get involved. At one time the lawlessness in the United States and the public attitude to it there used to be condemned. We have that situation here now. Nobody wants to get involved or to help. This is a sad thing. If we are to beat the criminals the public must get involved.
I have mentioned towns where the population has grown very dramatically and where the Garda strength has decreased. I refer again specifically to towns in County Kildare. Take, for instance, the situation where a citizen has a serious problem. Somebody breaks in and enters his house. He rings 999. With luck he may get through. Calls made on the periphery of the Dublin area are taken at the Central Exchange and relayed to the local gardaí. This may take a little bit of time. Suppose, for instance, the person does not have a telephone and decides to go to the local Garda station. He could find a notice on the door to say that the station closes at 6 p.m. What is that person expected to do? The would-be wrongdoer knows the time at which the local Garda station closes. He know that if he embarks on a crime after 6 p.m. the Garda car will have to come a certain distance and he can calculate the time he has to get away. This factor has been used very successfully by criminals in many instances.
It may be expensive to do it, but whether we like it or not we must change that situation. I would appeal through you, Sir, to the Minister of State to take account of the serious situation which exists in these areas of population on the periphery of the Greater Dublin area and where serious crimes are now taking place and from which the criminals get back to the city, in many cases without being detected, simply because there is no Garda station in the town or because the one that is there is not fully manned or may not be opened at the time. That matter needs to be attended to as a matter of urgency.
Leixlip has a population of approximately 12,000 but there is no Garda station there. The gardaí in the station in Lucan have done a good job in trying to combat the problem there but the criminals know that the nearest Garda station is two or three miles away and that they have a reasonable chance of carrying out their misdeeds and having at least a good head start before the gardaí in Lucan are alerted.
I have mentioned the problems besetting the Garda: (1) lack of manpower; (2) the need for greater co-operation from the public; (3) the need for a communications system which is at least equal to that available to the criminals; and (4) they must have public opinion on their side. Public opinion can be very fickle, as those of us in politics know. The Garda may enjoy the support of the public today and tomorrow the situation may be somewhat different. The public must realise that they will get what they deserve. As they wish things to be, that is the way they will be. The public must be more realistic and they must support in every possible way the efforts of the Garda to ensure that the laws of the country are enforced and that the rights of law-abiding citizens are protected.
Reference has been made to the ever-increasing drug problem. I must congratulate the Garda Drug Squad on their success in recent times, particularly taking into account the size of the hauls of drugs that are being brought to attention in recent times. The vast amount of money involved in that racket is very frightening. I have been informed that the black market drugs business is worth about £25 million. There have been recent hauls of drugs to the value of £1 million or perhaps more. The kind of secrecy and influence that a person can control who has access to that kind of finance is incredible. That is a frightening aspect. If there is one problem that we need to get to grips with quickly it is the drugs problem. There has been some success but we need continued effort and greater resources to hold the situation.
Otherwise, in a few years time there will be a problem the like of which could not have been anticipated.
The whole system of bail should be severely tightened in relation to drug pushers. I do not see why a person who has handled £1 million or £2 million worth of drugs which have been peddled to an unsuspecting community to destroy the very fabric of our society, particularly in relation to the young people, should have his or her constitutional rights taken into account when a question of bail arises. The case should be viewed realistically and due attention should be given to what will happen if bail is granted and whether or not he or she will go to the market place to ply their evil trade once more. Because of the vast amount of money they can control it is obvious that if they get bail they will abscond and set up elsewhere. With modern communications it is easy to run a world-wide business. We have to be careful in every instance that when such persons come before the courts the question of bail is carefully considered and that the sentence handed down is mandatory and of a kind that would make such persons sit up and take notice.
The drug problem is beginning to spread into the new urban areas. Again I would ask the Minister of State to convey this to the Minister. Every measure possible must be taken to ensure that drug pushers will not be able to move into bigger populated areas with a high proportion of teenagers. Such people are moving in, in some cases with considerable success.
I referred to the need for more gardaí manning stations. Next in importance is that we should have increased numbers of gardaí on the beat. Some progress has been made in this respect in different areas, particularly in Dublin, and it has been having a good effect. In highly populated areas, particularly approaching Christmas, there will be the annual Christmas rush by the criminal world and I suggest that extra gardaí be put on the beat during that period.
Better education can help, particularly in regard to drugs, but also in the fight against law-breaking in general. Special efforts need to be made to impress on young people the dangers and the consequences of embarking on careers of lawlessness. They should be told clearly what will happen to them if they do that.
The Bill brings criminal legislation up to date. It will tighten our laws generally. It may have the effect of eroding certain constitutional rights, but the rights of 99.9 per cent of our people must be taken into account and given priority. Our people have the right to go about their business without fear of molestation. They have the right to walk the streets by day or night without being mugged, robbed or raped. I congratulate the Minister for having brought the Bill before us because it will do something to meet the requirements of our times.
I doubt if the Bill goes far enough in relation to the laws of bail. Reference was made last night to section 16. I am not a legal person, but reading the section as it is drafted I can imagine it involving long hours of legal hassle in various courts throughout the country with various able legal eagles contesting the interpretation of the section. I can foresee various people wandering through its labyrinth for days, weeks and months and at the end of the day good solicitors will have tied themselves in knots, with neither side able to prove the other wrong.
I suggest that section needs serious consideration here. Some time ago we had a Bill to amend the Constitution and it was discussed very carefully on radio and television. I suggest that section 16 deserves the same wide-ranging debate. However, I think the general public will be fairly confused afterwards.
I hope that as a result of the passage of this Bill we will have greater respect for law and order and that potential criminals will realise before they set out on the road of crime that at the end of the road there will be a reckoning that they will have to pay the price, and the community will be able to live and sleep easier.
It is a measure of the consensus about this Bill that I find myself completely in agreement with Deputy Durkan. I welcome the provisions of the Bill. During the Committee Stage there will be some among us to discuss the nitty-gritty of the legislation.
This subject has taken up the time of various Governments in recent times. I was involved in two such Governments. The Bill is necessary and timely because throughout the country there has been a demand for action. In all probability bread and butter issues, economic matters, taxation are very important issues, but most people admit that their priority is the breakdown of law and order. Our people are being attacked in their homes, it is no longer safe to walk the streets and rape has become commonplace.
In my constituency this topic is discussed widely, particularly in the satellite towns in North Kildare. As criminals find the going tough in metropolitan areas, in the inner city, they have begun to take trips outside where the pickings are comparatively easier. Civilians, business people in Leixlip and Celbridge, have called public meetings, to which the Garda and public representatives have been invited, to see what can be done about it.
Unfortunately, the rate of detection has been disappointing and this has brought about a casual attitude among criminals and a feeling of despair among the citizens who have been crying out for the strengthening of the criminal law which would provide greater aids to the Garda and greater penalties for convicted criminals.
There may be some areas in the country where lawbreaking is not a daily occurrence but I am afraid it is a fact of daily life in others. People who are not constantly reminded of it are lucky. In my constituency premises are being broken into every day. I know one businessman, after break-ins, who put up steel doors but he had a break-in through the roof a fortnight afterwards. So far there has not been an arrest. I suggest that more than 50 per cent of crimes go undetected.
People have been waiting ages to see justice being done and at the same time we hear talk about constitutional rights. However, we see criminals who have no respect for the old, the feeble, the poor: everybody is fair game. So we must pass legislation to curb the criminal scum and in doing so alleviate the unease of our people. The general attitude of this Bill is to go ahead with it, and good luck to the Minister for having brought it before us.
When everybody's liberty is at risk because of the criminals, we cannot afford to be too liberal. The greatest sin we could commit at the moment is if we allow liberals to have their way. It is not the business of lawyers to agree; it is their business to disagree. I am confident that if I met a lawyer and said to him that I wanted him to prove to me that black was white he would say "certainly" and if I met somebody else within a week and said that I made a mistake, that I really meant that white was black, he would say that he would deal with that too. The ordinary people want to give the go-ahead to this Bill. They feel that if people break the law it is our duty to catch them, try them and if they are guilty lock them up, see that life is not too pleasant for them and keep them locked up until they serve their sentences.
There has been a decline in respect for the law in the last 20 years. I suppose as people get on in life every generation say that about the previous generation. As a teacher I am sure I will be forgiven if I say that the emergence of this lawlessness coincides with the emergence 20 years ago of great liberals who got a lot of time from the media in putting their case across. They were very concerned that there should not be any punishment in the schools. Perhaps the Minister of State might not agree with me, but the cane was outlawed then.
I remember in 1979 when there was a P and T strike which lasted for a long time and I asked an official in that Department what the cause of the strike was or what would cure it. He said he did not know what would cure it now but if I wanted to know the cause he said we would want to go back 15 or 20 years ago when the cane was taken out of the teachers' hands in the schools. It also coincided with the lack of parental discipline and control. I know there are many people who suggest that we should bring back the birch but I am not advocating that. I spoke to a member of the Tynwald in the Isle of Man this year about this and he said that even though the law is still on the books nobody has been birched since 1974 but the fact that it is in the law of the Isle of Man is a deterrent.
Parents should be responsible for the actions of their children. If they do not accept their responsibility perhaps it should be inserted into our law. In my constituency there was a meeting recently at which responsible people felt that parents should be made responsible for the actions of their children up to a certain age. I believe juveniles would be disciplined if their parents were forced to pay the penalty for their wrong doings. People did not consider this was necessary 20 years ago.
It is vital that we have a change of attitude. This has been suggested by many people. If we wish to return to a situation where we have law abiding people and where we want people to have respect for private property and authority, I believe that politicians, teachers, gardaí, judges and parents who want to be treated with respect should show that they have earned that respect. We have to show by our actions that we are a responsible people and have earned that respect. I feel in many cases people in authority get the amount of respect they deserve. I would include media people, writers, journalists, broadcasters, playwrights and all those who help to mould public opinion in this. They have a duty also to play a responsible part.
Some of them are inclined to pander to the lowest possible taste. I have in mind one particular person who fantasises in an evening paper. He has gone the full swing of the pendulum in his literary career from the religious to the irresposible. Even half truths and total untruths are trotted out like facts. The most insulting remarks slip from his pen in a very slovenly fashion. We are probably so used to this now that we do not realise it. Recently, when a visiting sportsman and his entourage were subjected to this man's writings they felt that this was the type of journalism that went on here. It must have given him a very biased opinion of Irish newspapers in general.
We all have a duty which we should face up to: to act responsibly and to speak out truthfully when the occasion demands, to try to restore law and order and respect for authority. This should percolate down to clubs who also have a duty to try to curb violence on pitches and during matches as well as rowdyism on the streets afterwards. If youth clubs and community asociations were all involved I believe vandalism would be curbed in the long run. We have only to cantrast vandalism with the wonderful upsurge of interest in our tidy towns and the fact that if you involve people, especially young people, in planting trees and flowers they are much less likely to be vandalised afterwards.
With regard to the legal profession, solicitors, barristers and judges have a part to play and they have to act responsibly. The liberals will continue to criticise this Bill. I notice that the lawyers have come out as a body and said they are worried about the implications of it. They think it might infringe on the rights of individuals. The general public are up in arms about the right of innocent people to live in peace. The legal profession have said that this Bill will not interfere with the hardened criminals but will infringe on the innocent. We should give the Bill a chance and see it working.
I want to refer to the Law Reform Commission who issued their fifth report in 1982. I am not sure if they were given particular terms of reference or told the particular subjects to deal with. The matters which engaged their attention up to now are civil liability for animals, defective premises, report on illigitimacy, the age of majority and the age of marriage. The work they have in progress is family law, evidence and Vagrancy Acts. These are very laudable things, but is this an indication of the priorities which engage people's attention in law reform? I believe that the matters we have before us now — some of this may have appeared in a bit of a hurry, and they are not fleshed out to the extent we would have liked to see done, but this may happen on Committee Stage — are matters which any Law Reform Commission should apply themselves to. Perhaps their terms of reference do not allow them to do this and the matters they are asked to deal with are what they deal with. But when we have judges in the Supreme Court, professors of law, barristers at law, senior counsel and many eminent people giving their time to a Law Reform Commission, I believe they should divert their attention to matters which are of more everyday importance. I know these other matters are important too.
It is good that this Bill increases penalties and allows sentences to run consecutively rather than concurrently and deals with bail and increased sentences. This will act as a deterrent. I spoke recently to a person who lives in Singapore who was appalled at the drug situation here and how it had mushroomed in recent years. One would imagine when one speaks about Singapore, which has a huge population and is at the crossroads of the world in relation to trade and traffic, that it would be an ideal haven for drugs and the dissemination of drugs; but the penalties there are very severe and are rigidly enforced. There is no diplomatic immunity and if there is the slightest trace of drugs they are told to leave the country. That is proof that where the law is strictly enforced and where penalties are severe it will act as a deterrent. If we want further proof of that it can be seen in the decline in drunken driving. This coincided with the use of the breath-alyser in connection with detection, proof and sentencing of drunken drivers. I compliment the Minister on recent trends because the decline in drunken driving has resulted in a decline in fatal accidents.
It is a pity that the system of investigating complaints has not been produced at the same time as this Bill. Complaints against the Garda will be made and to ensure that there is a balance it would be better if the complaints system had been running in tandem with the Bill. I am not accusing the Garda of doing anything wrong because I would say that the general perception by the public of the Garda is that they are good, decent people, guardians of the peace. The public rely on them. In this month'sGarda Review there is mention of awards made for bravery to individual garda. Their actions were heroic. Generally the public are not aware of what is referred to as “heavy gangs” and they do not associate the Garda with them. People usually are glad to see gardaí around and they feel safer in their presence. I know there may be exceptions, there are exceptions among politicians also, on every side of the House.
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, amanta ní bhíonn eolas againn an é tusa nó an Ceann Comhairle a chuireann ar bóthar ár leasa sinn. However, the general public trust and admire the Garda. Of course it is necessary that those who wish to complain should have some method of doing so. Possibly the taping of investigations or the questioning of a person in a Garda station should be documented in some way. They have a very difficult job to do and they work very unsocial hours. They are dealing with people who, in the Minister's own words, would cut your throat and smile. If the Garda show compassion to criminals it is construed as weakness. We need more gardaí, especially on the beat, and we also need more sophisticated equipment, radio communication at least, and greater emphasis on forensic and ballistic help to the Garda. They at least need to be better equipped than the criminals.
It is high time we looked at the reorganisation of our force. We probably went a bit overboard in the closure of rural Garda stations. At that time I was a Member of this House and I heard a previous Minister remark that he was deploying his forces where the need was greatest. However, whole new towns have grown up since then and the structure of the Garda has not kept pace with them. People as old as I am will remember when the geographical list of the towns in Kildare was Naas, Athy, Kildare and Maynooth. There was no mention of Newbridge, which is now our biggest town although it is still a sub-station of Kildare town. There is no Garda station in Leixlip or Celbridge and gardaí are only available there during the day. The structures the Garda have and the type of regions into which they have their force divided need to be revamped.
People in the immediate area of Maynooth find themselves in three or four different Garda districts. This does not lead to any great liaison between them and perhaps these areas could be made into one district. There are repeated robberies in that area where the criminals appear to have free rein and that must be tackled by whatever means are available to us.
Some criticism has been made with regard to the suggestion in the Bill that suspects should be fingerprinted. Some people look on that as an infringement of the right of the individual but I am happy enough about the situation. If the fingerprinting of suspects leads to greater detection of crime it should be done. I am also happy with the provision that when no charge is brought the files and the fingerprints will be destroyed. That is necessary. It is also necessary that the silence of a suspect during questioning would no longer be used as a shield and cognisance will be taken of the fact that somebody when questioned did not account for movements or remained silent during questioning. This affords the Garda greater powers of detection and, if it will convict somebody who deserves to be convicted, it should be used.
Another matter which concerns me is no-go areas. There should be no such place in Ireland as a no-go area for the Garda. It has been accepted that there are places where you dare not go. I am involved with a certain football team and we had to play matches in Parnell Park. We came up on three different Saturdays to play there and each time our supporters' cars had their windows smashed and things taken from the cars. It was reported the first time but it still happened the next two occasions. As the three matches in Parnell Park were drawn we managed to play the fourth match in Newbridge and things worked out better there. Years ago when the Queen's or King's Writ ran in this country, it was confined to the Pale in the beginning and if you ventured outside that it was a no-go area because of the different tribes who were planted in the country. It took years before the Queen's or the King's Writ ran all over the country and it could be said that the country had been properly colonised. It would be wrong to think, after 50 or 60 years of self-government, that we still have no-go areas where the Writ of this House does not run.
There is an epidemic of car stealing and I am glad to see that the Minister has taken note of this and introduced new legislation which I hope will curb it. He also referred particularly to the use of firearms and we should never cease to condemn those who use them. They are cowardly people and I am confident that if there was a genuine call to arms in the morning these people would not answer it.
We have also had instances of kidnapping here recently which should concern us. This is despicable and I should like the penalty to fit the crime and act as a deterrent. Judges should especially listen to this because they are the people designated to impose the penalties. Judges differ in their attitudes and consequently the general perception of the public is not of co-operation, and we need co-operation. Possibly we blame too much the fact that we were colonised for too long and it was accepted that those who gave information to the authorities were informers. That attitude should be changed and we should have community involvement in fighting crime. It is necessary to bring everybody with us if we are to cure this crime epidemic now.
I do not wish to go into the nitty-gritty of many of the provisions because our party are concerned about these and will tease out those that need teasing out on Committee Stage. In our party and perhaps on the other side of the House the degree of emphasis necessary in this legislation will be questioned. The incidence of crime varies from place to place. The Dublin metropolitan area unfortunately has the highest crime rate of 50 to 60 indictable offences per 1,000 population. A map is given in the Garda report on crime for 1982 containing provision for areas where the rate will be over 60 per 1,000 population, these areas to be marked in black on the map. We have no black areas as yet and I hope that we will not have any black spots. I hope also as a result of this legislation that the amount of crime will decrease. In the sparsely populated areas on the west coast, and in Cavan and Monaghan for some reason, the crime rate is less than ten per 1,000. It would be good if the whole country were at that level.
Law and order in Ireland has broken down. The general public think that the situation is grave and needs early attention. That is why I welcome this Bill. The Bill needs the help of everyone inside and outside this House. We in Fianna Fáil will back up Fine Gael and Labour in every reasonable effort they make to stop crime and to lead to its detection. I consider the provisions in this Bill reasonable.
First, I congratulate the Minister on producing the Criminal Justice Bill before this House. Such a Bill is long overdue. Many of the Minister's predecessors gave considerable media mileage on a regular basis both on and off the record advising members of the media, including political correspondents, that they were about to publish such a Bill, but none of them managed either to publish a Bill or bring a Bill before this House. I regard the present Minister as probably the best Minister for Justice we have had for many years. He takes his responsibilities very seriously. The speed with which he has brought this measure before the House after becoming Minister is something for which this House should express gratitude and should regard as an indicator of his commitment to tackling very serious problems affecting the community in the area of crime.
The Minister's speech when introducing this Bill on Second Stage was both concerned and forceful. It was the speech of a Minister clearly aware of the problems that had to be tackled and aware also of the complexity of the legislation now before this House. He is aware of the possible impact of that legislation not merely in the fight to ensure that those who commit offences in the community are brought before the courts, properly tried and convicted, but he has concern about and obvious understanding of the effects this legislation could have in the area of civil liberties and the dramatic effect it will have on criminal law and legal jurisprudence. His speech was that of a Minister who is open to listening to what takes place in this House and to considering amendments in the course of the legislative process and to accepting such amendments if he believes they are desirable and if Members of this House can clearly show the need for them.
That is a credit to the Minister. Far too often Ministers in different governments or different administrations regard criticism of legislation being introduced in this House or proposed amendments not as a constructive contribution to the proposed legislative process but as an attack on ministerial virginity or purity, containing the barbed suggestion that possibly the Minister has not done his job properly. In the short time he has been in office this Minister has not merely done his job properly but he has done it in a manner which is a credit to him. Without disrespect to any of his predecessors, the manner in which he has done it affords to him a stature well above that of any of them.
We have heard much about the increase in the number of offences committed and there is little doubt about that particularly in areas such as Dublin Indeed, my constituency of Dublin South has been the subject of a very high increase in the number of criminal offences, particularly indictable offences of a serious nature. Also in Cork and Limerick there has been a serious increase in crime which has not been met by a similar increase in the detection rate on the part of the Garda or in the conviction rate. In some areas where an increase in crime has been recorded statistically, the conviction rate statistically is declining. Many people fear to walk the streets particularly in certain areas of Dublin. People's cars have been stolen. People have been the subject of vicious and violent assaults. Few of us during the past five years or so who live in Dublin have not had the experience of at least one burglary at home, and I include myself in that category.
Therefore, we are all aware of the problems posed by the increase in crime. We are all aware of the fears and worries of ordinary people in the street. We are aware also that the law has failed to keep pace with the problem and has failed to reform itself in a way that ensures that those who should be convicted are properly brought before the courts and convicted. Moreover, it has failed to provide the general public with the protection to which they are entitled.
Many of the reforms proposed in this legislation are non-controversial, desirable and long overdue and it is an indictment of previous administrations that they were not tackled in earlier legislation. I have no doubt that other reforms proposed by this legislation are right in principle but the manner in which the legislation deals with them, the provisions in the legislation with which we as legislators must be concerned, give rise to a genuine worry on the part of some people and we in this House must take that worry into account. A minority of the proposals contained in this Bill which are completely understandable in the context of the enormous increase in crime to which I have already referred — muggings, burglary, the terrible problem of drug abuse and the violent crime that this community has been subjected to in the past decade of a nature that had not been experienced for many decades previously—nevertheless are the cause of considerable anxiety. It is very easy for a member of any party to come into the House reeling off crime statistics and expressing a genuine concern, which we all share in all parties, for the fears of ordinary people and simply endorse a legislative measure which is seen, in effect, to make it easier to lock up those who commit crimes. It must also be our concern to ensure that those who are not guilty of such offences are not locked up or are not detained in Garda stations for lengthy periods without any justification or protection against possible Garda abuse.
I shall deal first with those aspects of this legislation which are welcome and will have the support of all Members of the House. The provisions which provide for consecutive sentences for those who commit offences while on bail are long overdue. It has always been illogical that somebody charged with an offence when let out on bail can go on a crime jamboree without the possibility of any greater sentence than would originally have been imposed. No doubt everyone in the community will welcome that section and I look forward to its coming into operation.
It has also always been illogical that if a person fails to answer a bail bond the person who has gone bail for him or her may be required to pay over the sum of money for which he or she has gone bail — which is correct — but the person who skips bail is not charged with any additional criminal offence for failing to keep his or her commitment to the court and attend before it for the purpose of being criminally charged. This new provision of making it an offence in itself to fail to appear before the court when released on bail is welcome and long overdue. The Minister is to be praised for making it.
The increase in penalties for firearms offences is also welcome. Indeed, one must question why it was not introduced many years ago in the light of the difficulties experienced in this country over approximately 15 years. The sooner this comes into operation the better. The increase in penalties in the area of road traffic offences is also welcome. We have an enormous problem with car thefts and larcenies and with the carnage taking place on our roads and streets because of young people stealing cars, driving them at irrational speeds and mowing people down. This has happened in my own constituency and in various places throughout the country. The increased sentences for such offences are also welcome, as is the announcement by the Minister for the Environment that there will be an increase in the sentences imposed for drunken driving.
The provision in the Bill which recites the need for an accused to give notice of an alibi so that he cannot suddenly produce a rabbit out of a hat in the middle of a court proceedings, not affording the prosecution an opportunity to investigate and check on it and provide evidence of a counter nature where it exists, is also desirable and to be welcomed.
The legislation also provides for the abolition of the unsworn statement. This is an anachronistic anomaly contained in our criminal law permitting people to make unsworn statements and dates back to the time when people prosecuted for offences were not allowed into the witness box to give an explanation of their behaviour. Why that was not abolished many years ago is difficult to understand. In that context, there is one matter which should be brought to the attention of the Minister. In abolishing the possibility of making an unsworn statement, the Bill does not provide for the possibility of somebody making a statement by way of affirmation. A person without a religion who goes into the witness box may not wish, before giving evidence, for conscientious reasons, to swear before Almighty God that what he is saying is true. Nevertheless, he may wish to swear an oath of a type which is not the conventional one sworn by people who have an adherence to a particular church or religion. It is important that we make sure that the desirable abolition, of the unsworn statement does not also prevent an accused of no religion from affirming in the witness box that what he is going to say is true and then going on to give evidence in the ordinary way.
The provision for majority verdicts is also welcome. It has been introduced in other jurisdictions. It is illogical that one juror, who because possibly of some peculiar analysis of what happened in the case forms the view that he is not in favour of reaching a decision while the 11 other jurors are unanimous in their view on what decision should be reached, can render a trial in these circumstances at present ultimately abortive and cause a new trial.
However, as the unanimity of juries is something which has always been required up to now under our criminal justice system, we should be jealous in trying to retain that system where at all possible. The legislation provides that no decision should be made by way of majority verdict by a jury unless that jury have been sitting for at least two hours in deliberating on what decision they should bring in. Some may accuse me of nitpicking by suggesting a somewhat longer period than two hours before the majority verdict is obtained. That would not in any way impede the criminal justice system or prevent bringing to justice those who commit serious offences. We should have a bias to try to bring in verdicts by way of unanimity unless that proves impossible. I would double the time allowable from two to four hours. If that provision were amended, it would not create difficulties.
There are many aspects of this Bill which are welcome and which will significantly assist the Garda in their fight against crime and assist the courts in ensuring that those who are prosecuted are properly brought to justice. I have referred to provisions which may be correct in principle but about which, due to the manner in which the Bill is drafted, there is very real and genuine concern and I turn now to these. In doing so, I wish to deal in a general way with the provisions of the Bill laid down under section 3 and further expanded on in sections 4 and 5, which concern the provisions to enable the Garda to detain people in Garda stations for a period of time. This introduces a new principle into our criminal justice code — and if we are to have it and I express worries about this although I understand it in the context of the increase in crime and the problems in bringing persons guilty of offences before the court — it must be ensured that it is not open to abuse, that while assisting the Garda in the proper investigation of crime it does not infringe on our civil liberties in a way which is unacceptable.
It is not traditional in this House to examine the sections in great detail now and I am not going to do so.
I hope the Deputy will not do so.
That is something to be left for Committee Stage. Section 3, however, introduces many new principles which must be referred to. Paraphrasing section 3, which runs to over a page in the Bill, the Garda, if they have reasonable cause for suspecting a person of having attempted to commit or having committed an offence for which he may receive a five-year sentence, may bring that person to a Garda station, if the garda has reasonable grounds for believing his detention is necessary for the proper investigation of an offence. That is at the kernel of the philosophy surrounding section 3, and adjacent sections: that a person could be brought to a station if the garda believes it is necessary for the proper investigation of an offence.
In his speech the Minister outlined the difficulties experienced by the Garda by existing limitations on their powers and explained the reason for section 3. The Minister's explanation is persuasive but I would not be complying with my duty as a legislator and a lawyer if I did not express my concern of a general nature about the section in the hope that the Minister will look at it so that on Committee Stage we will have an informed and understanding debate of the serious problems it raises and its possible consequences. The difficulty with the section in a general way is that despite what the Minister says — he laid emphasis on the need to operate the section for the proper investigation of an offence — the section could in effect change the whole emphasis within our criminal law in the context of the functions of the Garda by changing the role of the Garda when a crime is committed from one of investigation to interrogation.
A version of this section is desirable and, while it is acceptable to hold somebody in a Garda station for a period of time to ensure that an investigation of an offence is not impeded, to ensure that possible evidence is not destroyed or that witnesses are not intimidated — indeed, that witnesses are not injured, maimed or killed — and while it may be acceptable pending the charging of somebody with an offence to detain them if there is a genuine belief that if they were not so detained they would leave the jurisdiction, there are worries that should be sounded and debated here. Those worries relate to the effects of the section in other areas. I make that statement in the context that neither I nor any other Member, or any member of the general public, has any sympathy for the hardened criminal brought to a Garda station and detained there pending being served with criminal proceedings and brought before a court. I do not have any sympathy for the hardened criminal. I accept the need to provide for the genuine situation where the Garda need to bring such a person to a station to ensure their investigation is not impeded and that the person to be charged is available to be brought before the court.
However, the problem with the section is the general nature of the power conferred on the Garda. While no doubt they can bring hardened criminals to the station under the section there is not anything to prevent them bringing many innocent people to stations and holding them for the periods of time stipulated in the legislation for the purpose of an investigation. The problem is that this concept of the Garda holding people for the purpose of an investigation is not defined in the legislation. It is not spelled out what limitations the Garda have of a general nature. The Bill makes specific provisions for conferring powers on the Garda to do specific things, but it does not say in the context of holding a person in a station what type of questioning they can be subjected to. If interrogation is permitted are there limitations to be imposed on the nature of the interrogation that takes place?
In other jurisdictions, in particular in the UK, aspects of whose legislation have been discussed — there has been an ongoing debate there about this type of legislation, a debate of a nature we have not yet had here — where it is proposed that the police should be able to hold people for a period of detention, albeit a much longer period than under our legislation, it has been accepted by the Home Office that there should be something called a code of questioning. It is my understanding that in the context of debating similar legislation in the Westminster Parliament there have been three different varieties of codes of questioning produced, each code being amended in the light of discussions that take place. Those codes laid down the parameters of the type of questioning the police can engage in when a person is detained in a police station.
It is important to realise that under this section people can be held for up to 20 hours. The initial holding period is six hours, but if the holding period strays into the time between midnight and 8 a.m. the Garda may cease questioning and the person can continue to be held in the station. There is then power to hold the person for a further six hours. In theory at least — I have no doubt that in practice it will be the case — people can be held for up to 20 hours. It is important in the context of the behaviour of the Garda during that period, not simply in the interest of those brought to Garda stations but in the interest of the Garda not being open to false charges of abusing their authority in future court proceedings thereby jeopardising the success of such proceedings, that there should be a specific code of questioning as to the manner in which the Garda should conduct themselves during a period when a person is detained in a station.
It appears that when somebody is detained under the legislation before us no specific Garda is responsible for that person. Is it not specified under the legislation that a person can be called in evidence as an independent person, or as a garda not directly involved in investigating the offence, if false allegations of violence are made against the Garda? Nobody can be called to establish that the Garda behaved properly. I am looking to the English legislation, not that I believe we should cog it. In fact, the Minister should be praised in that many aspects of similar legislation before the Westminster Parliament have not been included in our legislation. Our legislation has many innovative and different ways of dealing with problems. The English legislation provides for a person known as the custodian, a policeman who is appointed in each station and has a duty to ensure that if somebody is brought to a station the code of questioning as will exist in England is properly followed and to ensure that at all stages the person is advised of his rights and entitlements. This legislation confers specific rights and entitlements on persons brought to Garda stations.
The Ó Briain Report, which looked at our criminal justice legislation recommended that if the Garda have extended to them powers to detain people, such as is provided in the legislation, powers that the report recognised as being desirable, the person arrested and brought to the station should have assigned to him on arrival in the station a member of the force not connected with the investigation or other police action which led to the arrest. The Ó Briain Report went on to say that the garda should be referred to as the "custodial guardian". It stated that it should be the duty of the custodial guardian to ensure that the person was treated humanely and in strict accordance with Garda regulations while held in custody. That recommendation has a great deal of merit. I believe that some of the worries of people about the power of detention under this section would disappear if this recommendation were followed. In addition, it would provide the Garda with protection against false allegations of Garda abuse. It is very much in the interest of the Garda Síochána that a recommendation of this nature be included in the legislation by way of amendment.
Such a custodial garda should be placed under a specific duty to keep a written record of what transpires during the course of any detention under section 3. Upon his release, without any criminal charges being brought against him or with criminal charges subsequently being brought against him, the person should be entitled to receive a copy of that written record within a reasonable time after the termination of detention. One could put a timescale on that reasonable time: possibly a period of seven days would be sufficient because if the garda himself was under an obligation to prepare a report there would not be any great difficulty in making it available for record purposes to the person detained. Such a record would be a protection against a possible arbitrary use of the power to detain and it would at least provide evidence that would be of great help in resolving any subsequent dispute that might arise as to the correctness of Garda behaviour when someone is detained.
I do not wish to be misinterpreted in what I say. I do not believe that the vast majority of the gardaí will abuse their power. Most members of the Garda Síochána perform their duty very well and many perform acts that are well beyond the call of duty. Many lay their lives open to serious risk and danger in protecting the community and, without public acknowledgement, many of them bring a great deal of credit on the force. They provide citizens with assistance and protection when called upon to do so. However, it would be dishonest and unrealistic not to acknowledge that within such a large force there is a small number of individuals who may abuse their authority. I would not like that comment to be taken as an attack on the Garda Síochána. There is a small number who come within that category and by their behaviour they remove the gloss and diminish the public acclaim that exists for the general members of the force. All of us in our experience of life have come across a garda whose behaviour has been less than desirable. Perhaps a garda has been unnecessarily vicious or has treated an individual in a manner that was not warranted in the circumstances. It is essential to ensure that the general public have protection against such behaviour by having this section qualified with the proper protection. The vast majority of the gardaí exercise their powers in a proper way and it would never occur to them to abuse those powers. It is essential that they be given protection in the legislation against the small number of men in the force who might abuse their powers and thus bring their colleagues under public suspicion of a nature that is unwarranted.
It appears the intent of section 3 is that when a person is taken to a Garda station he must be kept there. I should like to ensure that there is no ambiguity about that. There was a case recently that gained a great deal of notoriety and caused a degree of public concern where someone who was prosecuted in our courts alleged that Garda behaviour towards them had not been proper. Part of the facts of the case was that the person detained had been shifted from station to station during the course of an interrogation. This legislation should ensure quite specifically that when someone is detained he will be detained in a specific station and not moved around. It appears to me that is the intent of the Bill but I am anxious to ensure that there will not be any ambiguity about the matter.
It is also important that each Garda station be given a specific duty to keep a record of the number of people detained under this legislation, the subsequent charges brought as a result of such detention and the conviction rate. That would give a clear statistical indicator as to whether the section is being properly observed and used and would provide Members of this House with the means of monitoring the effectiveness of the section and its use in real terms. I should like to see such a provision being included in the Bill.
In my view the absence of a code of questioning is a fundamental defect. In the absence of such a code, when people admit offences and are held pursuant to the section or when they are subsequently charged under the section, it can be alleged by them that statements made by them were not voluntary, that they were subject to duress, that they were frightened by being held in a Garda station. Even if no allegations of misbehaviour are made against the Garda, they may claim that the very fact of being held in the Garda station created a pressure resulting in their making statements that were untrue. It is a cardinal principle of our criminal justice system that involuntary statements or admissions made by those charged with criminal offences cannot be produced before the court as evidence because they are not regarded as freely and voluntarily made and, therefore, are suspect.
I think there is need for this Bill to clarify the exact status of responses, admissions, replies and statements made by people held in detention prior to criminal charges being brought. This section does not do that and there is a possibility that, rather than assisting the gardaí in the prosecution of offences, because of its very ambiguity the section when it comes to judicial interpretation may prove a greater impediment to a successful prosecution than exists in our criminal justice system at the moment. That will be the result because whenever somebody is detained he will be in a position to allege that what he said was said under pressure and should, therefore, be inadmissible. I would ask the Minister to seriously consider that aspect.
The worries in this area will not be cured by the introduction of an independent tribunal to deal with complaints against the gardaí. That is a separate item. I hope these criticisms will be accepted in the spirit in which I make them. They are not offered as destructive criticisms. They are not seeking in any way to be personally critical of the Minister. I am making a constructive contribution to the legislative process in the context of this Bill which is designed to bring about very fundamental changes in criminal jurisprudence.
Sections 4 and 5 are companion provisions to section 3. Dealing with them in a general way, rather than in the concept of a Committee Stage, section 4 effectively provides that the person who is detained is entitled to consult his solicitor and have his detention notified to another person. It expressly provides in the context of those detained under 17 years of age that detention should be notified to the parents or guardian. Again that section is ambiguous. It does not clarify matters which, if not clarified, will result in endless litigation before the Central Criminal Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal and the Supreme Court trying to tease out what is meant by this provision. It does not say how long a person may be detained. It does not say whether, prior to the Garda conducting an interrogation, some reasonable time must elapse after the request to see a solicitor to afford the person an opportunity to discuss his position.
Perhaps the Deputy might go into all that on the Committee Stage. On this Stage we are dealing with the principles.
I am trying to deal with the principles and I propose to deal with the specifics. Indeed if I were to deal with the chronology of this section that would take a good deal more time than I intend to spend on it. It is important that we tease out the principles in the context of this Bill. That is the difficulty. How long will it be before a detainee will be allowed to consult his solicitor? The Bill does not say. May the solicitor remain with the detainee during the course of his interrogation? Must the solicitor remain silent or may he comment? Will he be thrown out if he misbehaves in the eyes of the interrogator? Can the third party who must be notified come along to the station and ask to remain with the detainee? If the detainee is 14, 15 or 16 years of age and the parents are notified will the father or the mother be allowed to remain with the detainee? We all acknowledge that lack of parental control is one of the major causes of crime. When a teenager is detained for six hours, or up to 20 hours, would it not be desirable that the parents be admitted to the station with the child during that period of detention? I believe it would be desirable that the parent should be required to remain. The Bill merely says the parent would be notified. It does not say whether or not he or she may remain in the Garda station. This Bill does not spell out these issues and the result of that could be endless litigation.
I do not want to interrupt the Deputy, but the Deputy is really going into the section in a way which would be more appropriate on Committee Stage. The Deputy is quite entitled to state his views on the principles, but teasing out sections in detail would be more appropriate on Committee Stage.
I listened to Deputy Andrews and I am adopting a similar approach to put the Minister on notice. The Minister should be given an opportunity between now and the Committee Stage to consider certain matters.
On a point of order, will this Bill come before the House on Committee Stage or will it go before the Committee on Legislation?
That is not a matter for the Ceann Comhairle, but I imagine, even if it does, it will come back here. I do not make the decision. We are now on Second Stage.
The final matter I want to mention by way of putting the Minister on notice — that is a threatening sort of phrase and one I would really prefer not to use — is a particular problem. I was picked up at 9 o'clock at night, taken to a Garda station, kept there until 12 o'clock at night, served with a notice telling me I could sleep until 8 o'clock in the morning, kept there for a further period and, at the end of all this, I was released. I was never charged with anything. I was never brought before the court at any stage accused of any criminal offence. What rights under this Bill will people have when they seek damages for wrongful arrest? That is something that needs to be clarified.
The issues I raise are valid issues. They are valid from the point of view of the need for reform of the criminal law to assist the gardaí in their work. I have long advocated the need to modernise our criminal law and bring it up-to-date in the context of the realities of life by seeking to ensure that the gardaí properly investigate offences. The worries I express are worries that result not from an academic discourse on criminal jurisprudence, not from a desire to create difficulties or, indeed, from a desire, as so often happens in the case of politicians, to seek publicity. We have in recent years very real difficulties arising as a result of people being subjected to detention. Two recent examples are worth putting on the record because they underline the need for amending this Bill. We had a horrific example reported less than two weeks ago in our papers which related to the prosecution of a garda as the result of a death.
I must intervene. That case was widely publicised. It has been only partially disposed of. It will come before the courts again and, as far as one can gather from the newspapers, that case would appear to be far from over.
I fully acknowledge that, and I have no intention of making any comment as to what future action should or should not be taken in the context of that case, but——
I do not want to appear to be obstructing the Deputy, but I have a duty to perform and I must perform it, and I think that any remarks or views that a Deputy might have of what was involved in that case would not be proper at this stage.
What I suggest, with every respect, is that it would not be out of order or improper for me to do nothing other than to put on the record of the House without making any comment of any nature whatsoever the relevant newspaper report of what took place in that court case. I am not going to comment on it. I have no intention of doing so. I think it is quite proper for somebody in this House to make reference to a newspaper report by way of quoting it verbatim, stating the date of the report, the origin of the report and what paper, and making no further reference to it of any nature, and that would be my intention.
I would respectfully disagree, because the newsaper reported on the case when it was current and before a jury brought in a verdict. A jury had brought in a partial verdict, as is generally known, and that leaves the case wide open, and I think it would be preferable if the Deputy were to keep away from that case and find some other way of emphasising or illustrating his point.
Very well. A Cheann Comhairle, I respect your views and I will not refer to the report inThe Irish Times of 3 November 1983 of the result of that case. I would refer to another case which has concluded and in respect of which there was a report in The Irish Times on 14 June 1983, which was the subject of a Dáil question that I tabled to the Minister. The question I tabled as a result of this case last June is still on the Order Paper. This is a case which relates to a charge against a woman of 21 years of age by the name of Amanda MacShane. It was a case reported in the papers in which it was recited that a young County Dublin woman was accused of being linked to a robbery involving the removal of £98,000 from a post office, and in the prosecution——
I do not want to interrupt and I will not. I leave it to the Deputy's judgment, and the Deputy knows at least as well as I do, and perhaps far better, what issub judice and what is not sub judice. I do not know anything about the case he is dealing with now, but if it is sub judice I would ask the Deputy not to deal with it.
I can assure you, A Cheann Comhairle, that it is notsub judice. In this particular case a prosecution took place and the proceedings arose in the High Court before Mr. Justice Hamilton and the case was sent to the Central Criminal Court by Mr. Justice Hamilton. In prosecuting this person there was produced what was described by the defence counsel in that case as a highly irregular document purporting to implicate the lady concerned in the robbery found in the interview room of Crumlin Garda Station before she had made any admissions. This document which was submitted to the court in evidence turned out and was admitted in these proceedings to be a document prepared by a particular guard, apparently containing an admission by this person that she had committed this offence, a document containing an admission that she had never made, a document that this person had never seen which, by accident, was found by this person lying around the Garda station. As a result, in these proceedings, which were concluded, what was described as a nolle prosequi was entered against this person and the prosecution was terminated.
In effect, what happened in that instance — and the court accepted it and indeed it was accepted in evidence — was that a statement that was not made by this woman was prepared for her signature.
There is a problem. The problem is to ensure that when people are detained in Garda stations they are not put under pressure to sign statements they have not made or where statements are made and are signed that the gardaí are not open to false allegations of pressure, and that case gives rise for a real worry. It must be accepted that in a situation where crime is on the increase and where gardaí are under pressure to produce results — and rightly under pressure to produce results — there will be a very, very, very — I emphasise that — small minority of guards who might use this power of detention to produce similar statements signed by individuals to be charged with offences, and indeed we know there have been cases — I am speaking of a general nature — in our courts in which it has been alleged that people have been physically assaulted by gardaí in Garda stations and it is essential to ensure that there is proper protection afforded against such behaviour.
In seeking to provide protection the Bill provides for the recording by electronic or other means of interviews that take place when people are detained. This is a new power, and it is welcome that this type of provision is being introduced, but it cannot be introduced until there is a ministerial code bringing it into force and, indeed, the other arrangements required, such as physical arrangements for the provision of the recording material are made pursuant to this section.
There are a number of general concerns about this. I must say I would much prefer, at a time when we may bring in this power of detention, hopefully modified in some of the manner I have described, to see it co-ordinated with the introduction of automatic recording. That would indeed provide protection against abuse to a great extent, but I accept that technologically it may not be possible, but I would like to see certain things of a general nature about the provisions relating to tape recordings changed. I have no doubt that this Minister will introduce this type of system. I have absolute and complete faith in the Minister's commitment in this area and in everything he said both in this House and on the record of this House and outside, but I would like to ensure that any person who may be his successor at some future date will also provide and ensure that there is provided this type of protection. It seems to me that the section as phrased at the moment provides a Minister with discretion to provide a tape recording system but does not confer a duty on any individual Minister to do so and to that extent the section should be changed.
It should also provide — possibly the phraseology of the section already provides, this has been mentioned by other Members of the House — for the possibility of not simply recording but of a video system to cover and record what takes place at interviews. I accept that that may not be possible in the short term. I accept that there is a very real cost factor here that may render it impossible and, indeed, a technological problem that may make that impossible within a short period of time, but there should be capacity within the section to video interviews or interrogations, and this already exists in many States in the United States.
The section provides that if after a recording system has been introduced someone fails to provide for the recording of an interview or something goes wrong with it, that should not render what is said by someone charged with an offence inadmissible in the event of court proceedings taking place. That is right. If there is an electricity failure or something suddenly goes wrong with the tape-recorder or the video system it should not render inadmissible things said during the course of an interview, but it must also be assured that systems do not fail from reasons other than accidents. Whereas I believe statements made unrecorded should be admissible, nevertheless there should be an onus placed on the garda who conducted the interview or interrogation during the period of detention to explain why the recording system did not work and in appropriate cases, depending on the manner in which the explanation is given and the jury's or judge's view of it, in reaching final decisions a court may or may not take an inference as to what occurred on the occasion in question.
It would also be essential that this legislation should provide for an automatic timing system to be built into the recording system. It seems that it may do this, but I am anxious to ensure that it does, so that it cannot be suggested by any person who admits an offence while in detention that he or she was dealt with in a way that was not proper and that was not recorded on the tape-recorder as the recording system was switched off. If there is an automatic time recording device, that allegation would be got over.
The general power to detain creates certain other difficulties. In referring to them I repeat that I accept that in many instances this power is desirable — I am not saying that we should not have it. I preface my remarks by saying that it is desirable, in the case of somebody who is believed to have committed an offence, who might destroy evidence, intimidate witnesses, possibly kill or maim or inflict serious injury on individuals who might be required to give evidence or assist the police in their inquiries, or when a person might simply abscond, to have that power in such circumstances. It is desirable in so far as it would enable members of the Garda quite properly to fingerprint in order to see if there is a criminal record. It is desirable in such circumstances to photograph and to carry out any inquiries the Garda might wish to carry out while a person is being detained. The Garda already have the power to demand that a person gives his name and address.
All of these powers are desirable, but a particular concern arises about this section. It appears that when somebody is detained the Garda will be conferred expressly with the specific power to search the person so detained. Implicitly in this legislation, a power is conferred on gardaí who have brought somebody properly to a Garda station not merely to search but to strip a person down to the underwear. In two specific instances the section confers the power on the Garda to strip the person entirely, particularly in relation to possible possession of firearms or when a person is seized and detained in relation to a drug offence.
I fully accept that when the gardaí bring somebody to a Garda station and they genuinely believe that that person may have a firearm in his possession, or another implement such as a knife with which the person could cause mayhem or physical injury to a garda or himself, the gardaí must have the power to search, but only when there is reasonable and proper suspicion that a firearm or other implement exists.
What I am concerned about is that it appears, as the legislation exists, that there are no limitations in the stipulation as to the type of garda who can conduct such a search. It is open to a young male garda to bring a young woman into the Garda station, express a reasonable suspicion that that person is involved in a drug offence and strip her. There is no provision to say that when a male person is brought to a Garda station he must be searched or stripped in the presence of only male gardaí.
I believe that if we are to allow this power to strip search there should be a specific provision to provide that a female can be searched only by a ban-gharda with no person of a different sex present in the course of such search; and that a man can be searched only by a male member of the Garda with no person of a different sex present during the course of such a search. It is clear that under this provision it is open to the Garda to conduct internal physiological examination if it is believed they should do so. That creates the problem that it is open to a male member of the Garda to conduct internal examination of any woman brought to a Garda station, and, I emphasise, properly brought there under this section.
I do not believe that is appropriate or necessary in the fight against crime. I believe it is not only open to abuse but it is open to false allegations of abuse when search is necessary in the proper investigation of an offence, or when search is necessary when there is a genuine belief that somebody is in possession of a firearm or other implement that might give rise to a real danger to the gardaí or the person concerned.
Therefore, I should like to see this provision amended specifically. I hope the true impact and the importance of what I am saying will be appreciated. This matter has given rise to great controversy in other jurisdictions where this power of search has been suggested. It is a matter of which there has not been any public discussion in this jurisdiction because there is an overwhelming desire in regard to all of us politicians to be seen, properly and constructively, to be engaged in the fight against crime, and there is a worry that if we express any reservations about this legislation, of any nature whatsoever, that we are laying ourselves open to suggestions that we are soft on crime, that we are flabby, liberal, legal academics engaging in academic arguments that will never have any reality.
These are very real problems, and this legislation should be specifically amended in regard to searches by members of the Garda when somebody is brought to a Garda station and when there are grounds for believing that an internal physiological examination or search is required of a man or a woman that would involve the gardaí in touching or examining parts of the person's anatomy. I do not believe that is a power that should be properly exercised by the gardaí; it should be done only by a member of the medical profession who would be asked to attend at a Garda station to carry out such an examination.
I hope the Minister will look at this section not merely in regard to the other matters to which I have referred but particularly in this respect. I believe that many gardaí would not want this power in the way it is conferred on them. I do not believe many of them would wish to conduct the type of search that they would be allowed to conduct under this section. When the consequences and implications of this are realised, I believe this is going somewhere beyond what is necessary in the fight against crime.
In his speech the Minister states that there is no prohibition on strip searches under existing law. I never heard of any abuses of this power.
I take a view somewhat different from that of the Minister, that there is no specific power at present conferred on the Garda to engage in strip searching or to engage in searching that can involve internal examination of a person brought to a Garda station. If that power remains in the Bill — yesterday Deputy Andrews referred to constitutional rights — it will be open to constitutional challenge on the ground that it violates the constitutional right to bodily integrity. As a house of the legislature we have a duty to enact legislation, in so far as we can adjudge in accordance with the Constitution, in such a manner that an inherent defect in a Bill would be recognised and tackled at Committee Stage in a constructive and sensible way.
The only other point I wish to make in regard to the general pattern of sections 3, 4 and 5, relates to fingerprinting. I fully support the provision that enables the Garda to fingerprint, and, providing that a charge is not brought against a person after a reasonable period, the records must be destroyed. The same is true in regard to photographs. There is one difficulty in regard to general Garda records. In the section regarding somebody being dealt with under the Probation of Offenders Act by a court there is not a provision for the destroying of fingerprints. A person can be dealt with by the courts under the Probation of Offenders Act in a manner in which the person commits an offence but due to the circumstances surrounding it, no matter what the nature of the charge is, the court regards it as something considerably less than serious. The court takes the view that the person should be afforded an opportunity as a member of society of having a last chance. In real terms the charges are said to be dismissed under the Probation of Offenders Act and the person is not convicted. In those circumstances the crime the person has effectively been found to have committed does not result in a conviction being recorded against him.
I am concerned that the effect of the Probation of Offenders Act, which goes back to legislation enacted in 1907 and amended in 1940 is being watered down. I feel that where charges are dismissed against an individual, pursuant to the Probation of Offenders Act, the provisions under this legislation which require that photographing and fingerprinting be not retained, or destroyed, should apply. If they do not apply in those circumstances in the same way as they have applied to people who find that charges against them are simply dismissed or not brought, the time within which such records can be kept should be delimited. If somebody aged 16 or 17 is charged with an offence and never again comes into contact with the law and the charge is dismissed against that person under the Probation of Offenders Act, if inquiries are made as to whether that person has a criminal record 15 or 20 years later I believe it is not in the interests of society or the people concerned that the fingerprints or photographing be retained for that period of time. It would effectively wipe out the effect of the Probation of Offenders Act, which in a sense says to a person that he has done something wrong, he is being given a last chance, a conviction will not be recorded against him, he can go out into the world, make his way in the world and he will not be prejudiced by this one indiscretion. The retaining of records after that type of approach from the courts could be very prejudicial and is unnecessary.
I very much support the view that the gardaí, where people are convicted of offences, should retain comprehensive records of long duration as to fingerprinting and photographing so that, in the event of other offences arising, the gardaí have an opportunity of identifying who the culprits are and whether they have previously committed offences. I support the keeping of coherent and comprehensive records, but there should be a time by which such records need no longer be kept. I am putting this suggestion to the Minister. If somebody commits a serious offence and serves a sentence for it and then goes back out into society it must be questioned if it is necessary for the next 25, 30 or 40 years to still maintain a record if that person never again comes into contact with the law for breaking the criminal law. I will not express a view as to whether there is an appropriate period of years after which we might no longer keep such records. I merely ask the Minister to look at this and to consider this as a particular issue.
There are many other difficulties with this Bill in the areas I have specifically referred to. Many others are drafting matters to be dealt with in the context of Committee Stage and are not of a general nature so it would not be in order to go into them in the discussion taking place. I would like to deal briefly with the sections which Deputy David Andrews spent a great deal of time on and spoke on very eloquently yesterday in the House. I refer specifically to sections 16, 17 and 18. I feel it is unnecessary for me to again cover the detail which Deputy Andrews did in relation to the problems he saw with these sections. My view of them is not mirrored by the same type of opposition expressed by Deputy Andrews. However, I am very concerned about them. Deputy Andrews very properly listed 12 specific problems which he saw with section 16 and I support his views on that. I do not believe there is any need to go into the specifics of those views in any great detail.
The concerns he expressed, as a lawyer, were correct. The difficulty in this House is that people can come in on debates of this nature and say that the lawyers always take this view and they are not really in touch with what people on the ground think. I am very much in touch with what my constituents think and I am very much in touch with the fears and worries people have about the increase in crime. We must not forget that at the end of the day when prosecutions are brought they must be successfully brought through the courts and the people who are guilty of having committed the offences must be found guilty by the courts. The concerns of a technical nature which may be expressed by lawyers in a Chamber such as this are concerns which are designed to ensure that those who have committed offences are found guilty and to ensure that the people who are brought before our courts who are innocent and who have not committed offences are found to be innocent. That must be the concern of everybody in this House.
I believe that section 16 is very loose in language. I do not know what some of the phrases used mean. There are phrases used which we may all think we know what they mean but which I have no doubt will be the subject of many hours of discussion and litigation in court proceedings and will remain uncertain and will not be understood until litigated through many cases in our courts. The section seems to recognise that it is a somewhat difficult section because it says in the context of the provisions in it that there is a duty on the gardaí to tell people in ordinary language what it is all about I am not sure what ordinary language means in this context. We all use different types of language. It creates a particular problem, which was very well described in a book by Franz Kafka calledThe Trial. It was the problem of the person who found himself effectively on trial without knowing the offence he was being charged with and who was required to provide a defence for the court to his alleged behaviour without knowing what behaviour was alleged against him. To some extent this section does this.
Deputy Andrews referred to this section as a fundamental change in our criminal jurisprudence. I believe it is. I would not oppose it because of that, because we need a number of fundamental changes in our criminal jurisprudence. This section creates the extraordinary position whereby an inference may be taken against a person by a court. I do not know what that means. I do not know what inference means the way it is phrased here. The court may make an inference against a person — presumably it can be favourable or unfavourable, as the section does not explain that — if he produces a defence in court proceedings that he did not properly explain to a member of the Garda Síochána investigating the committing of an offence when that person did not even know what the exact nature of the offence was or what he could be charged with. It seems to require an individual to provide the Garda with all information they could use in respect of defending the charge against him without knowing the charge. I seriously suggest to Members of this House — although I am not pretending to be a literary expert — that Franz Kafka inThe Trial clearly, in very illustrative terms, described the difficulties any individual could find themselves in in those circumstances.
There is a good deal to be said, from the point of view of ordinary commonsense, that an individual who was found standing outside a bank where people have been shot with a bag containing £50,000 in their hand, who has no firearm in front of him and who has left no fingerprints behind him in the bank, should be expected to provide some reasonable explanation as to what the hell he was doing there. Indeed, it is quite reasonable for a court to assume, having heard evidence of that nature, that that individual was partaking in the offence. If, when asked by a garda, that individual replies "Well, I just had a win on the horses and I am collecting my takings from the bookmaker", it is quite reasonable that inferences unfavourable to him be drawn. If he produces that not as an explanation to the garda but as a rabbit out of a hat during the course of a trial, this section is not required to ensure that members of the Judiciary or juries will draw appropriate inferences. This section is very wide and seems to transgress a very important principle in our criminal jurisprudence.
It suggests that an inference should be drawn against people in circumstances in which the Garda may not be able to prove that in fact they have engaged in an offence and, presumably, the inference is supposed to be unfavourable. It seems to switch the emphasis — I am paraphrasing what Deputy Andrews expressed as his concern — in certain instances of the presumption that somebody is innocent until they are proved guilty to raising an inference that they may be guilty until such time as they can prove they are innocent. That is a fundamental change in our criminal jurisprudence.
It could very well be that certain aspects of section 16 in particular circumstances are desirable but there are great difficulties as it is phrased at present in working out the circumstances, in understanding its impact, in understanding what is meant by inference; and, to some extent, the section favours the hardened criminal rather than the person who might be innocently picked up or questioned by a garda, because hardened criminals may think and know of when questioned a very specific and useful legal defence or explanation to give as to why they are in a particular place at a particular time or as to what they were doing at a particular time knowing, having had experience in court previously, that certain types of defences work in court. Somebody who has not been engaged in criminal activities and who finds himself questioned under this section may not realise that something he has been doing or some place he has been would, in real terms, provide an explanation for his predicament and a defence to a criminal charge but, without legal assistance and expertise, may not have either the understanding or the presence of mind to provide the full explanation this section requires to seek from him. When people are stopped by a garda and questioned or if they are brought to Garda stations, even if they have never committed a criminal offence, they can often act in a distressed, emotional way which does not necessarily result in rational thought. Whereas in principle I accept that section 3 is right if the amendments I am seeking are enacted, linking this section with section 3, I believe, creates a very genuine worry due to the possible consequences that could emerge. In real terms it could place innocent people in jeopardy of conviction. That is something we need to refer to.
Section 17, dealing with it in a general way, also creates a problem. I can see the reason for that section. My problem is, looking at what happens in our courts, there are aspects in it of a general nature that give cause for worry. If something is found on somebody's clothes leading to something relating to an offence, they must provide a proper explanation as to how it got there. Generally, there is nothing unexceptional in that. If I am walking down the street and I have a firearm in my pocket and two minutes earlier there was a bank holdup the Garda are entitled to ask me where I was, what I had been doing and what that firearm was used for.
If drugs are found in my clothing the rational deduction is that I have been engaged in a criminal offence in dealing with drugs or taking them. An area I am concerned about, something which occasionally arises and has been seen to happen, not just in this jurisdiction but in other countries on rare occasions, is what does this section provide in the context of the individual who might, for example, have an illegal substance planted on him by somebody who wants to set him up or, again, in a very small minority of cases, planted on him by a member of the Garda Síochána? How in the name of heaven can somebody provide an explanation as to how they had something on their person if they did not know it was there and had no part in putting it there until a member of the Garda Síochána found it? If that happens and I cannot provide an explanation as to how it got there, an inference can be raised against me which might result in my conviction. I am saying this in the context of understanding the general principles laid down in this provision and what the Minister intends. By and large, I have great sympathy with the Garda and support them, but I am anxious that there should be some protection in these areas. This section, like section 18 in some instances, seems to require the individual to prove his innocence rather than the Garda to prove guilt.
Much of what is contained in this Bill is good, desirable and long overdue and the Minister deserves fulsome praise from the House for it. I support other aspects of the Bill in principle but they should be hedged in by a good deal more protection which will not inhibit the Garda but will simply protect them from untrue allegations and protect the civil liberties which each of us seeks to enjoy in a constitutional democracy.
I am very concerned about the difficulties which I have explained in relation to section 3 and the possible way section 16 could operate. It is understandable why the section is there but very worrying as to whether we should enact it. Deputy Andrews very eloquently yesterday described his worries about that section. In the context of the criminal justice system, we must encourage the Garda in the investigation of crime and in bringing to justice those who commit minor and serious crimes. The investigative technique and its success in properly bringing before the courts people who have committed offences and having them found guilty and sentenced by our courts is something we must encourage, and also provide the Garda with support. I am concerned in a general way that the provisions to which I referred and criticised will result in the emphasis moving away from investigative techniques to interrogation techniques. It is vital that that does not happen. In this context, I would very much like to see far more comprehensive training provided to members of the Garda Síochána than they get at present in the area of investigative techniques and the "catching" of those who have committed offences.
We put our gardaí on the streets with one hand tied behind their backs not because of legislation but because of inadequate training, for which they are not responsible. The time in which a garda is trained before he is assigned to a Garda station or put on the street is unacceptable in a modern technological society. In that time gardaí cannot develop the expertise that many of them wish to develop. This House has a duty to look at that area in great detail. Too often gardaí are criticised for their failures and are not sufficiently praised for their successes. In the course of the last six months there have been notable successes in areas with which we are all familiar and with offences which have occurred that I cannot comment on because many of them aresub judice, and the Garda should be praised for their successes in that regard. We have a duty to provide them with proper training and we are not providing them with a comprehensive training which is desirable and which many of them wish to have. Many of them learn their trade on the job, and that is unfair to them and to the general public.
This House held a debate some time ago in the context of a criminal charge to which I do not wish to refer, where judges were criticised for lack of uniformity in sentencing. The proper working of the criminal process is not merely about bringing people before the courts and having those who commit offences found guilty but ensuring that proper penalties are imposed on those people. We appoint lawyers as members of the Judiciary, to the District Court where the greatest volume of criminal offences are dealt with and to the higher courts, and they are appointed for no reason other than that they are lawyers who may or may not have expertise in individual areas of law or a general knowledge of law. Many of the judges appointed have, through no fault of their own, no expertise in many individual areas of law upon which they have to adjudicate, and criminal law can be included in that; and they have no particular expertise or training in the area of sentencing. Judges, certainly those newly appointed, learn their trade while sitting on the bench, and that does not lend itself to a coherent and uniform approach to the criminal justice system or to uniformity in sentencing. Whereas I, like every Member of this House, would protect to its ultimate the independence of the Judiciary, a most important bastion in our democratic system, we must accept that simply because somebody is a lawyer he is not automatically a good judge or capable of sentencing or adjudicating on matters in the area of criminal law or making decisions in other areas. We should look to reforming our system where we seek to appoint people as members of the Judiciary. We should provide special training for such appointees prior to their sitting on the bench in the District Court or the higher courts to ensure that they have available to them all the basic information they require not merely in the context of criminal law itself but in the context of sentencing, knowing the options available and preaching the need for uniformity of approach.
We should not criticise members of the Judiciary for lack of uniformity when in practice a lawyer can be a conveyancing solicitor for 20 years, suddenly receive the ministerial or governmentalimprimatur of approval, be placed on a court bench as a district justice appointed almost overnight, and find himself two or three days after he has closed his last conveyancing office adjudicating on a series of criminal offences and sentencing people for them while he might in his practice as a lawyer never have practiced in the area of criminal law, never have set foot in a court for a criminal prosecution or talked with anybody who was charged with a criminal offence and certainly never have represented someone so charged.
Regarding sentencing, for many offences committed at present the fines that can be imposed have long since become irrelevant and out of date and no longer are regarded as serious penalties or as a deterrent to those charged with criminal offences. Whereas the Minister has during his brief term in office completed work of a mammoth nature that far excels that done by many of his colleagues and produced legislation that many of his colleagues ruminated over for too long, I hope that when we complete the passage of this Bill through the House the Minister will look at that vast general area of criminal law reform and general updating of penalties.
I would like to refer to another area in the context of criminal justice which might seem out of step with all the matters discussed so far in this Bill. We are dealing with reform of criminal law and introducing new offences, to some extent amending existing offences and changing sentencing. Many offences in our criminal justice system have long since fallen into disuse or in a modern social environment are unacceptable. Many of them rarely get any hearing in this House. I would like to take this opportunity to refer to something which could be included in this Bill. Although the Bill is in effect about evidence and police powers it is also about other things. It is about sanctions, as we have seen in the context of increased penalties. We have within our criminal justice system something that has been long abolished in many countries and which is totally inappropriate in a modern, caring, humane and understanding society.
In this country to attempt to commit suicide is still a criminal offence that can be the subject of prosecution. Incidentally, it is also a criminal offence to commit suicide but presumably if you commit it nothing much can be done about it. Attempted suicide as an offence was abolished many years ago in many other common law jurisdictions. In reply to a Dáil question to the Minister on 19 October I was informed that in the 20 years up to and including 1982 criminal prosecutions for attempted suicide were instituted in 15 cases, five of which resulted in convictions. In two cases the charge was found proved and an order made without conviction, and three cases were adjourned. Informations were refused in one case and charges were withdrawn in four cases. Therefore, in 20 years 15 people have been brought before our courts for attempted suicide and five have been convicted. As we know from statistics from the Department of Health, far more people than that attempt suicide, and probably the statistics do not reflect accurately this very real social problem. This problem has no function in being dealt with in criminal law. Someone who attempts to commit suicide is normally very seriously mentally disturbed and requires psychiatric treatment. It is inappropriate that even one person has been prosecuted before our courts for attempted suicide in the last 20 years, never mind 15 persons. If gardaí are informed of the threat or possibility of such a prosecution many of them will look away from it, will not report it and the DPP will not know about it, because those gardai believe it inappropriate that the prosecution should take place in such circumstances. If the DPP is informed he has an obligation and duty to prosecute. I see no reason for attempted suicide being retained as a possible criminal offence. The very threat of prosecution against a person who has attempted suicide and failed and as a result has received medical intervention or treatment can bring on pressures that might result in a further attempt that could succeed. This is one dark area in our criminal jurisprudence which has long been ignored. I ask the Minister, in the context of this excellent Bill — with the vast majority of which I am wholeheartedly in agreement, with the reservations I have mentioned — to introduce a very simple section abolishing as a criminal offence attempted suicide.
I hope the Minister will be in a position to advise as to when it is intended that the community service orders legislation will come into force and effectively provide for the making of community service orders. That legislation has passed through this House but I know that time is required to carry out the administrative changes needed to bring it into operation. That legislation is most important in the fight against crime and, in particular, in ensuring that young people who are committing many offences have brought to bear upon them the impact of what they are doing to the community and what is required of them to meet and repay in a responsible way the damage being done to the community. Many of those offences which young people are at present committing, and for which they are receiving brief sentences of detention or are sent to residential institutions, would be more properly and greatly more effectively dealt with by the coming into operation of the community service orders system.
I repeat a plea which I have made to every Minister for Justice since I became a Member of this House. As we know from statistics, the vast majority of crimes are disproportionately engaged in by persons who are 17 years of age and younger. We have never yet properly dealt with the juvenile liaison officer scheme which is still a Cinderella within the Garda force. It has great potential, but has of yet no statutory basis and should more often be brought into play than it is. In the context of my worries concerning section 3 of this Bill and of persons under 17 being brought into Garda stations and detained, one can see a very real role for the juvenile liaison officer attached to the Garda station by his presence during the course of a questioning or an interrogation session, or while the youngster is the subject of an interview.
The juvenile liaison officer and community service orders schemes are very important in dealing with young people who come into conflict with the law, in providing others with a deterrent and is protecting the community. There is a need for custodial sentences, of that I have no doubt. Juvenile liaison officers must be given greater powers than at present and their numbers increased.
When the debate on this Bill is completed and when, it is hoped, the Bill is amended to deal with some of the matters raised, it will result in a good deal more success on the part of the Garda in the detection of crime. Part and parcel of that is reforming and considerably improving the training which a garda receives. The detection rate, and indeed, the conviction rate in the context of the increase in crime, are appalling. This legislation has an important role to play but, by itself, will not solve the problem. In my own constituency in which there has been a very great increase in crime in recent years there is an imbalance which I simply do not understand but which is, no doubt, partially due to the increase in population but must be in some way due to approach.
In a constituency of 100,000 people we have four Garda stations concerned with the investigation of crime — two being Blackrock and Dundrum Garda Stations within whose areas in 1982 the number of indictable offences committed decreased. The two other Garda stations, Rathfarnham and Tallaght, serve the Rathfarnham-Firhouse areas in my constituency and Tallaght, which is virtually a town, and last year the rise in crime continued at a considerable rate but the detection and conviction rate continued to fall in proportion.
More people are committing criminal offences in Rathfarnham and Firhouse than in Dundrum and Stillorgan, but there must be some reason for that. There must be some reason why in very similar residential areas there is a very different statistical view of what is happening with regard to offences committed. Until 1982, the number of offences being committed was increasing in all areas in Dublin South.
I would hope that when the areas I have mentioned are properly tackled we will see a decrease in the number of offences being committed and a renewed confidence in the ability of the Garda, with community policing and new procedures, to successfully prosecute and bring the guilty before our courts.
When I asked Deputy Shatter how long he would be, he said that he would be an hour. I must remind myself never to ask him the distance from one place to another.
I was only an hour and a half.
Only an hour and three quarters, and I welcomed the Deputy's contribution.
I should commence by repeating what the Minister said at the conclusion of his speech — that laws on their own will not solve crime. We in this House are all very much aware of that. Most people who are aware of my anxiety about the breakdown of law and order will know that I rank very much in the forefront of those who are very happy to see this Bill brought before the House. It will not prevent many of the crimes being committed, which will be with us for quite some while.
This is the most important legislation to come before the House in a great many years. We listen continuously to statements about the rights of the minority in our society, but rarely do we hear about the rights of the majority. This Bill will make it easier to obtain convictions and provides for increased punishment. The main cause of crime in Dublin at the moment is drug addiction. I listened with interest to an interview in which a doctor who addressed a conference in Kilkenny suggested not that medical practitioners might not prescribe drugs, but that a register of drug addicts might be made. At the moment drug addicts resort to mugging and robbing to get a fix. I do not think we will solve the problems that face drug addicts simply by increasing jail sentences or locking up such people. I am referring to the heroin drug addicts who may have been two or three years on the drug and are held to be beyond cure. We are all aware that very few of those people can be cured. The Minister should discuss this matter with the Minister for Health.
This suggestion was put forward at a recent medical conference in Kilkenny and the doctor concerned suggested that it should be debated by the conference. I am enamoured at the suggestion. In wars young people tragically are killed and I look upon those who are now uncurably addicted to heroin as victims in a war in which they cannot survive. They inflict injury on the public at large to maintain their habits. Those hardened addicts for which medical science has no cure should be sent to a special centre and given their fix, if necessary, because if they do not get the fix they will injure people and damage property to get it.
We have been told that there are 1,500 drug addicts in Dublin and that is frightening. The more drug addicts we have fighting, as one would say in commercial terms, for a smaller market the more homes that will be broken into and people injured or murdered as occurs in parts of America. We have a real war on our hands in regard to that. The approach suggested by the doctor in Kilkenny should be examined because I believe it would reduce substantially the amount of crime that takes place. The doctor who put forward the suggestion is deserving of praise. It is the first positive suggestion I have heard in regard to that problem. If a number of doctors decide that because of a person's addiction to heroin a cure is not possible it should be possible for that person to be given heroin, or a substitute, on a medical prescription so that he does not resort to mugging.
I should like to pay tribute to the Garda who have been fighting a tremendous up-hill battle because of the inadequacies of our laws to deal with the problems besetting our society. They are up against what I call the smart lawyers who tell their clients not to say or commit themselves to anything. I welcome the provisions in the Bill not because, as some people may think, I am extreme or right wing.
What is wrong with that?
The extreme liberal element tends to look upon one as a fascist if one believes that law and order should be enforced. I can recall reading in a book a quotation to the effect: "If liberals had feathers what a hunter I would be". I suggest to the civil liberties group who are opposed to all the measures in the Bill that they have a wonderful opportunity to put their views to the test if they put up a candidate in the bye-election in Dublin Central. Closing date for nominations is not until the end of the week. They would then be in a position to judge the amount of support there is for their views.
All the lawyers would vote for such a candidate.
We represent the people in this House. I am satisfied with the safeguards built into the legislation. There has been a certain amount of misgiving about the inferences that can be drawn from a decision by a person not to say anything and it is right, as the Minister has stated, that a judge should draw the jury's attention to this and advise them if they should take any inference from it. At the moment that cannot be done. I do not have any hang-ups about section 3. I should like to compliment the Minister, and his predecessors, who devoted a lot of time to the preparation of this legislation.
I have no doubt that I was the first Member to suggest consecutive sentences for crimes committed by people while on bail and I am delighted to see such a provision in the Bill because this has been a great problem for the Garda. We have all read of people caught while committing a crime returning to the scene after being released on bail to complete the job. Sentences in such cases were always concurrent. The provision to deal with this is an excellent one. In order to deal with the problem of over-crowding in our courts the Minister should consider having motoring offences dealt with at night courts. I am not referring to the serious motoring offences such as cases where people are murdered by drunk drivers but to tax and insurance cases. It would not be any harm to inconvenience such people in that way.
Tonight I will be going to the removal of the remains of a 34-year-old man who was killed in a hit-and-run accident two nights ago in the Tallaght area and leaves a widow and two boys, aged 11 and 13 years. That prompts me to ask the Minister to take into account the tremendous public demand there is for him to take a harsher view of drunk drivers who kill people. I am sure the Minister read of the case recently of a man being given a suspended sentence of two years and disqualified for 15 years. That man should have been sent to jail. To my mind it is murder if a person drinks too much and, while driving under the influence, kills somebody. That person should be made serve a term in jail. They could be brought to jail on Friday nights and released on Monday mornings. There is room in prisons at weekends because some offenders who are of good behaviour are allowed home. We must take a stronger line when dealing with people who behave irresponsibly in this manner. I have had many narrow misses myself. I drive about 400 miles a week and probably a country Deputy drives 1,000 miles per week. We take our lives in our hands when we get into our cars. I was in one accident where in spite of driving up on the pavement to avoid a car the driver still came after me head on and hit my car. Luckily I had time to see there was no one on the footpath before I drove onto it. It was a narrow road but a container truck was able to pass on the other side of the road. The driver of the car that crashed into my car was drunk out of his mind but unfortunately the Garda did not have the breathalyser equipment to breathalyse him. Subsequently he was charged with careless driving. That happened two days before Christmas, and my children would have had a very unhappy Christmas without their father. We should deal with motoring offences in a stricter way. I am glad to see that fines for stealing cars will be increased substantially. I wonder if this will apply also to cars taken for joy-riding? I am glad to see the Minister nodding his head in assent. That is much needed and will be most welcome.
I have made representations to various Ministers that an effective way of reducing crime among young people would be to hold the parents responsible in law. I suggested that parents of children say up to 17 years should be fined when the children commit acts of vandalism and that ten per cent should be deducted from their wages or, if unemployed, deducted from social welfare benefits. One of the Minister's predecessors passed me a note from an official in his Department stating this might be unconstitutional, that it is not possible to hold someone responsible for another person's crime. However, a dog-owner whose dog bites someone on two occasions is liable for the actions of his dog. I say parents should be able to communicate with their children much easier than with their dog. I should like the Minister to examine the situation to see if parents of young thugs and hooligans could be made responsible for the actions of their children. When I have mentioned this at public meetings it has been met with a round of applause. People are in favour of a measure of this kind. If parents had to pay for the actions of their children who may have burned a car or vandalised a telephone booth, that would be a considerable deterrent. The tragedy is that most of the young people come from families who have also been involved in this kind of criminal behaviour and the cycle repeats itself.
Some 70 per cent of houses in the Crumlin area have been broken into, many of them three or four times. I have spoken on many occasions to the victims of crime. I have often said that public representatives should have three qualities, namely, a feeling for people, a sense of humour and the ability to take punishment. I was hurt very deeply when one woman told me she wished my place was broken into so that I would know the feeling of people whose house is vandalised. When I heard that I nearly cried. I told her that it did not have to happen to me for me to know how a person would feel. Senseless, mindless, hoodlums do not mind causing misery to people. If the parents could be held responsible in some way for the actions of their children it would be a considerable help.
The Minister should consider preparing some place for the more hardened young criminals. Loughan House has been closed and the detention centre at Lusk is under the aegis of the Department of Education. I think we need a secure detention centre for a hard core of young criminals. I would not have it too luxurious: if I had any criticism of Loughan House it was that it was far too luxurious and it cost the taxpayers a fortune. However, we were still saving money because the young people were not committing crimes. Also, while they were there they were not on drugs and drink. It was like a holiday home for some of them. I consider there is a need for a detention centre for youngsters between the ages of 15 and 18 years. I would have it rather like an army camp. I have often mentioned preparing Spike Island for that purpose, where the people detained could live a little rough. They could get up early in the morning and be kept on a rigorous regime, with no television. That would give them a taste of discipline they never experienced before. I am talking about the vicious psychopathic young criminal who has not compassion for his victims.
I think lawyers always see things in black and white. I heard my colleague, Deputy Andrews, mention the number of times his car has been stolen. Does his car have to be stolen before he recognises the pain caused to people who are victims of crimes? I do not think so. Does he have to be mugged or does his wife have to be mugged and his children beaten before he recognises there is a problem? The job of a lawyer when defending a person is to use everything in the law to get that person off. I was recently in a debate with the President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Finlay. As a non-lawyer I was a little overawed, but in the debate I said the law should serve justice. His reply was that justice must always serve the law. I suppose both of us were right. Lawyers can only operate within the laws provided by the legislators. It comes back to us. We are giving them some laws now but some lawyers will not want them. They will use every loophole that exists.
With regard to the questioning of witnesses in a Garda station, concern was expressed about the manner in which confessions could be extracted. The suggestion was put forward that possibly a clerk of the court might be present when a person is being interrogated. Whether that is a fact I do not know but I do know many gardaí have lost their lives and many gardaí have been badly beaten up. There are some who find it very difficult to go into so-called "no-go" areas. No democratic country likes to admit it has such areas but there was one in my own constituency. In St. Teresa's Gardens, which has been in the news recently, a committee was set up there and I am told some of those involved might be considered a little bit dubious but the committee are now telling people who can live there and who cannot. Because of the apparent inadequacy of the law the people took the law into their own hands. As a democracy this represents a failure on our part because people should not be forced into that sort of situation. I have built up a position of trust in a number of areas and constituents now call me up because they do not want to be identified for fear of reprisals. I get on to the drug squad even at 4 o'clock in the morning or 4 o'clock in the afternoon and pass on the information that drugs are being dispensed in the area. Public representatives should encourage constituents to approach them in situations like that. My experience is that the drug squad are very quick to respond. Where drugs are concerned I make no apology for saying I would fully support capital punishment for the drug pusher or a minimum mandatory sentence of at least 50 years.
Someone wrote to me recently and asked why I was not as outspoken about the para-military groups as I was about the drug pusher. In reply I said that while I deplored the activities of the para-military groups and hated the crimes they committed, they were people who were acting from misguided motives and committing murder in the name of some cause. I said that lower down in the scale of human depravity was the drug pusher who was doing it for his own financial benefit and in the process destroying youth, responsible for at least 1,600 lives lost just as if these same youths had been killed on the battlefield. The unfortunate part is that young people are in turn forced to become drug pushers. We should throw everything we can at the drug pusher and make that known. Any Minister for Justice will have the support of the people if he does that.
I look at this from a personal point of view. I asked myself what would I do if my 15 year old son were a heroin drug addict and I decided — this is a shocking thing for a law maker to say — that I would put a bullet through his head rather than see him ultimately robbing and killing other people. If I did not take action it would be a failure on my part. In not taking action I would actually be doing him an unkindness. That is a shocking thing to say about one's own child. The problem for the families of drug addicts must be a terrible one indeed. What is happening is frightening.
I believe we have had and still have too much law and not enough justice. I am not in favour of rough justice but this Bill does restore some kind of balance. We must keep a balance in favour of the lawmaker and not in favour of the law breaker. The changes proposed in this Bill have the backing of 99 per cent of the population. The longer we talk on it the more we delay its passing but it is important that we address ourselves to the issues involved. May I ask the Minister, will this Bill go before the Special Committee or will it be debated in the House on Committee Stage?
,Limerick East): Before the House.
Good. Those of us who are not on that committee would like to have an opportunity of teasing out the sections on Committee Stage. Reference was made by Deputy Shatter to strip-searching and the Minister said it is already part and parcel of the law. I know that women are always strip-searched by ban-ghardaí. I also know that women have a choice of doctor, either a woman doctor or a male doctor. Our function is to ensure that the criminal is brought to book. I believe that most people not involved in crime who are stripped and searched by the gardaí have no objection to that. I certainly have not. I believe most innocent people have no objection. If people resent it then there is something sadly wrong.
I am glad sentences for carrying firearms are being increased. That should have a deterrent effect. Some time ago I asked the Minister by way of question to impose a minimum of five years. Again, there is the problem of the intimidation of witnesses. Those who try to intimidate witnesses should get a very severe prison sentence. Within the last few months a woman told me she was terrified to give evidence because she was warned that, if she did, she would "get it". She wanted the Director of Public Prosecutions to bring the case before the Special Criminal Court under the Offences Against the State Act. I rang the DPP's office and was told that it did not fall within that category. Where people are found guilty of intimidation the sentence for that offence should be mandatory. It is shocking that families can threaten witnesses.
The introduction of a majority verdict is very welcome for the reason that juries cannot be got at so easily. It might be possible to have it 9 : 3 or 10 : 2. We are living in very bad times.
There is a very mean sort of crime prevalent although it may be slightly out of place in this debate to refer to it. One finds a large dent in one's car which will cost £30 to £40 to have repaired. Every day people see cars banging into other cars and driving off. If citizens could be encouraged to take the number of the car that dents another car and to give the number to the gardaí, it might have a deterrent effect. I have two matching dents on my car on both rear wings. Somebody seeing them identical might think it was part of the design. This type of thing is happening with increasing frequency.
A Bill of this kind takes a long time to prepare, and it will be a long time before another such Bill is prepared. Therefore, one tries to raise as many issues as possible on the Second Reading.
An interesting point was raised by Deputy Shatter in relation to unsworn statements. The Deputy suggested that an atheist can hardly be made to swear. Perhaps the Minister will tell us when he is replying to the debate how that problem will be dealt with. If a person says he does not believe in God, does he swear on his own integrity? It is an interesting query.
I am pleased to see a change being introduced in relation to alibis, and I do not see anything unfair in the provision. As the Minister has stated, the book of evidence has to be presented to the defence by the prosecution and there is no reason why that should not be balanced by disallowing alibis introduced for the first time on the day of the hearing of the case, giving the prosecution no time to check. I welcome that, as do most people on this side of the House.
I should like to pay tribute to the JLO service which is a very important service. There are many young women of 15 to 17 years of age who are actively engaged in youth work. A natural progression for many of these would be to go into juvenile liaison work for the Garda.
Reference has been made to the question of uniformity of sentencing by courts. We have no function in that matter, but there is a bad feeling amongst many people that judges give different sentences for the same sort of crime, a lot depending on the mood the judge is in on the occasion.
The Minister must seriously consider ways of making the job of district justice worthwhile for successful legal people. The Minister has a big problem on his hands in obtaining sufficient numbers of persons who want this onerous job. It is a very difficult job and a very thankless one. I do not know how district justices can carry out that work day after day. It is very soul destroying work. I have been in court many times listening to the kind of things they have to deal with day after day. They would need some recompense for that. The job of district justice should be made a great deal more attractive than it is in order to attract people into the service.
There is a lot of resentment about the cost of free legal aid, which is invariably in favour of the accused and never of the victim. Vast sums of money are being spent on this service. A person is accused in court and the justice asks him if he is employed. When he says he is not he is asked if he wants legal aid and he says he does and then he names the person that he wants. Then, because of that, the case is adjourned for two weeks.
I had not intended to start on this note, but having heard Deputy Briscoe's very moving description of the misery that hundreds of young persons are experiencing from being the victims of drug addiction I should like to support what he has said. It is tragic that this problem has crept into Irish society. It is a relatively new problem, but it is looming very large as a very serious problem of the future and one which will have to be met head on. I would support completely Deputy Briscoe's suggestion that heroin pushers should be dealt with in the most severe way, and that is by capital punishment. That is an extremist view, but one that is fully justified and one which will be endorsed by the ordinary people, perhaps not by the legal profession but certainly by the average man in the street. The crime of pushing drugs, particularly heroin, is sufficient to merit such extreme punishment. By implementing that punishment we will meet this desperate situation head on. Desperate situations require desperate remedies.
I am sure my request will not be listened to and will not be implemented. The matter in all probability will be referred to committees of inquiry and files will be compiled. The tragic situation involved in drug pushing will escalate out of control in the next 10 to 20 years unless drastic measures are introduced now, and the situation will be appalling at the end of the century. That is why the Minister for Justice should seriously consider this problem now when it is in its infancy. Fifteen persons died in this country last year. They were murdered — murdered by persons selling heroin and other forms of drugs. That is the way in which it should be viewed, that they were murdered. The probability is that the graph will rise. More people will die next year as a result of this foul traffic in drugs. The position, particularly in Dublin, is out of control. As yet it has not manifested itself to any great extent in country towns but we do not want it to appear in country towns. We want it to be dealt with here. It originated here. Strong measures must be implemented now.
You refused to allow me and other Deputies on two occasions to raise a Private Notice Question. I ask to be allowed to have this matter debated on the Adjournment.
I will communicate with the Deputy as soon as possible.