I want to say a few words on this very important and far reaching Bill. Contrary to what the last speaker feels I do not believe it will go down as one of the greatest Bills ever enacted here. I am a firm believer that any Criminal Justice Bill would of necessity be a diminution of our civil rights in one way or another. The very name of the Bill suggests that. In a perfect society there would not be any need for a Criminal Justice Bill. Society requires that we order our lives, but that is not to say that we should give such great welcome to any measure which limits what are the most basic and fundamental rights we have, our civil rights.
We must state quite clearly that this Bill goes down that road too far in some particular aspects of it. I believe, when it comes to the Committee Stage, that it will be a long and tortuous job before it finally reaches the Statute Book. This should happen if only to satisfy the general public that every single aspect of the Bill is teased out to its finality so that everybody is very clear that we are not putting something on the Statute Book which might very well work against our civil rights in the future. It is to be expected that we must limit our civil rights in the future. It is to be expected that we must limit our civil rights in times of great stress. It is interesting that the justification being made for this Bill is that the level of crime is now at an unacceptable level. That is agreed by all, and it is accepted that some measures must be taken to deal with this for the common good. The climate is right for this Bill.
I believe this Bill goes above politics in many ways. Any Minister for Justice who promoted legislation like this some years ago would have got very short shift and it would not have got an easy passage. When this Bill was first introduced I was quite taken back that a lot of the legal people and those one would normally expect to respond immediately did not do so. It is only very late in the debate that some inherent dangers in the Bill have been reflected on. It is only when they are reflected on that they recognise that this might not be the best vehicle which can be used in support of the Garda in dealing with what is now the unacceptable level of crime in the State. If the climate is right this should not lead us in any way to a false sense of security, in accepting legislative measures which would not in normal circumstances be accepted by the people. That climate should not be used to further a legislative programme that would interfere to quite a considerable degree with what we have come to recognise are our fundamental rights.
It would be preferable if all other avenues were tried repeatedly and proved to have failed before we resort to taking away any right no matter what form that might be. I believe there are measures which could have been contemplated before this Bill in its entirety was brought in. There are some aspects of the Bill which are long overdue, and they will have universal acceptance, but there are aspects of it which need to be questioned. It is no harm to mention some of them now. I may have an inate fear of this Bill which is ill-founded, and I would be glad to have that disposed of by the Minister.
I would like, before dealing with those matters, to deal with some of the measures which could have been taken and more recognition given to them before this Bill was brought before the House. The first and more essential thing, as far as the Garda are concerned, is that they must have the respect and co-operation of the public at large. It is easy for me to say that in the kind of constituency which I represent where the gardaí are very closely knit into the community. They usually hold very responsible positions outside their duties. They are respected and are very active in all aspects of community life, so we do not have the same crime problem in my constituency as the people have in other constituencies. At the same time it is just as important in the west of Ireland as it is in west Dublin or any other part of Dublin that we have the right kind of policing arrangements.
There is nothing new in saying that the most effective policing one can have is that they can be seen readily by the general public. There is some talk that more can be done in that area and that there would be a better response even in the cities if the gardaí could be better integrated into the society in which they work. If that involves extra gardaí, if it involves the development of gardaí from other areas, if it involves fewer gardaí in mobile units and more gardaí on foot patrols so be it. It is important that I should reflect the attitude of the people who sent me here. They would like the Minister to take the initiative in having more people put on foot patrol. It is not generally recognised that there is a close integration with community affairs by foot patrols in the large urban areas which they serve. I believe, until that formula has been experienced to its ultimate, we will not get the reduction in the type of crimes which take up most of the court time.
I believe another look should be taken at the question of police training. I do not believe that in this age of technological know-how that the short period which a Garda recruit spends in Templemore is sufficient to train him in all aspects of police work to deal with the modern criminal. Sufficient time is not given to training to enable him to do the job effectively. The Garda have not been provided with enough plant and equipment or enough training in new technology to enable them to do the job as well as they could do it with the manpower they have under their control. These areas should have been examined and improved upon before some of the things in this Bill were brought into this House. Provision of money for plant and improving the technology attached to Garda operations would be welcomed and it would not be resisted in this House. It would be granted in the sure knowledge that whatever money would be expended would be repaid not just in the relief of the mental and physical distress brought about by crime but in the amount of property that would be salvaged. The benefits from plant and equipment such as is made available to other police forces would be enormous. The training facilities for use of this equipment should be provided. It is not possible to do that in our limited training school situation, and in the time element involved the individual garda has not the capacity to assimilate that training. Whatever in-service training there is could very easily be improved upon. Other professions provide in-service training on a regular basis, not just once or twice in a lifetime but often once a year. The Garda should have an integrated programme for all ranks to do in-service training here and selected members of the force to do it abroad. The we would have an internationally integrated police force to deal with the crime situation that we have so often referred to in this House and outside.
We might not be getting the results that we demand from our detention centres, our jails. The arrangements are referred to very loosely by the general public as a bit of a laugh. Offenders go into prison for what some of them may have come to regard as a short holiday. The social stigma attached to a jail sentence has diminished considerably. It is sad that such should be the case, but it is so, and the recession may be one reason for it. Matters come to public notice about short circuits being taken by people who would never have dreamed of doing so formerly. Jail sentences are not viewed in the way they used to be viewed, and this factor will become more apparent as the years go by. When a judge after listening to a case passes a sentence in accordance with the law of three months or whatever it is the general public, the taxpayers, expect that the person will serve that sentence taking account of the normal remission for good behaviour. They expect us to make the arrangements necessary to enable sentences to be served. What percentage of crime committed by young people represents a repeat performance because there is not now the recognition that crime will be punished by the full penalty imposed by the law? Statistics relating to offences show that more than 50 per cent of offences are committed by people under 21 years of age. That shows disrespect for authority, but it shows something else.
A certain type of crime now is regarded as justifiable and will continue to be so perhaps because of a whole range of social problems. At the same time there are ways of dealing with it. If it could be established absolutely that a penalty given or a sentence passed by a court must be honoured and the debt to society paid in full except for remission, that would go a long way towards cutting out some of the second offences and would reduce the level of minor and juvenile crime. This is not being said flippantly. Doing a stretch in Mountjoy Prison, whether for a couple of hours, a day, the weekend or whatever, does not seem to have the desired deterrent effect on many young criminals. Maybe it is because the system there does not seem to impose the kind of rigours the general public expect from a detention system. If a centre was located in some other area and a proper work schedule was attached to the sentence, and if the in and out system that seems to exist in some of the biggest centres of detention did not operate, many young criminals might not be too happy to go back for a second trip. I am not talking about rough-neck tactics by the prison officers or anything like that. I am talking about the work patterns in some detention centres and it being mandatory on certain individuals to do a certain amount of physical work in a location not half a mile down the road from their native environment with all the to-ing and for-ing. It might very well reduce the number of people anxious to go back to cutting turf for a further three months.
More attention might be paid to the receivers of stolen goods who are known as fences. To take one offence, 80,000 or so burglaries took place last year. At that rate over a six year-period half a million houses would be affected. I have suffered from this. My home has been burgled six times in the last six months. They have got to the stage of not inflicting the same physical damage as they did before. Perhaps it is because the equipment I have there is no longer worth taking. The matter has come to that. Perhaps I do not take the necessary precautions with regard to expensive locks and alarm systems. It seems to me the same places have been robbed on several occasions. That has been proved in certain areas of the city, and now some people have decided to sell their detached private residences and live in apartments where they will have security all the time. It should not be so. We have reached the stage where the old person cannot feel he has a safe and secure home and the worker living in the suburbs cannot leave his or her home in the full knowledge that it will be in the same condition when he or she returns.
The question arises where is all the stuff going. It is fenced at a fraction of its value and it is moved on to be sold in other locations. I accept that much of the high value low-weight stuff may find its way out of our jurisdiction, but many items are obviously being sold in this jurisdiction. However, we do not hear on a continuing basis about people being brought before our courts, at least not often enough. Burglars cannot operate effectively unless they have some way of cashing in their spoils. Any reduction in the number of burglaries would be of enormous benefit. We have been told that many of the burglaries have been carried out by people who are in need of quick money to feed another habit. They are not concerned about going to another jurisdiction to sell the goods. They do not want to keep them on hands for long. They have to convert them into money quickly. They are carrying out the burglaries on the understanding that somebody is standing by who can off-load the material for them or they are acting under instructions of another kind. This aspect could be considered and it might lead to a reduction in the number of burglaries.
Some aspects of this Bill cause me concern. I dislike the principle of being detained without warrant on suspicion. I do not think I am saying any more than the Minister would say. This Bill is being forced on us and we should say that to the public. We have to accept it but surely we should at least write a timescale into it. If we could have avoided it we would not have this legislation. I do not like the permanent nature of some of the things being asked of us. It would have been to our advantage if some timescale had been written in so that we could consider the matter at another time when we would have mastered some of our present difficulties. Would it not be magnificent if, instead of having to bring in Bills dealing with criminal justice, we had a Bill restoring some of the things that have been taken from us? It is unfortunate that we are moving always in the one way. We should have a chance to restate the need for this legislation on a periodic basis.
It is said that detention can only become effective when the garda or the member in charge of the Garda station has reasonable grounds for believing an offence has been committed which is punishable by imprisonment of five years. I would have been much happier if the section stated that the member in charge of a Garda station had to have a senior rank rather than have a situation where, in smaller stations, it could be the most junior man just out of Templemore. I accept that that young officer will have had a certain amount of training and experience. I want it to be clearly recorded that anything I say is in no way reflecting on the gardaí. I want them to do the job for us so that we can say we do not need a Bill like this any more. I do not want it to work against the gardaí in subsequent cases taken against them under the complaints procedure the Minister is bringing forward. If the most junior man is in charge of the station at that time and a senior officer brings in a person who is being detained on suspicion, I do not see that junior officer telling the senior man that he does not see it as justifiable to detain the person concerned. The section should be amended in order to establish that a member of some seniority has to be present to confirm the detention in the first instance.
The Bill states that the detention will be for a period not exceeding six hours. I can see a reason for the six hours but I am not sure I can see a reason for an extension of a further six hours, even disregarding the rest period. As I understand it, in another jurisdiction on the other side of the water, over 90 per cent of confessions obtained in interrogation were got within four hours. If the necessary information cannot be got in six hours, I do not think it can be got at all. It leaves in my mind the uneasy suspicion that if the period were extended the resistance of the person being questioned might fade somewhat and, consequently, a confession might be got after a longer period but not for the right reason. If the statistic is accurate — I have got the relevant reference to put on the record of the House — that over 90 per cent of interrogations or questionings achieved the desired result one way or another within a shorter period, I should think it is asking too much to extend it for a further six hours. With eight hours in between as a rest period we are talking about 20 hours. That is too long.
While it is stated here that a rest period exists from 12 midnight until 8 a.m., there is provision for questioning to take place during that period. That is reasonable if reason prevails at all times on the part of persons involved in the questioning. There is no statement in this legislation that says that the questioning during the rest period, the instruction of the authorising officer having been received, cannot proceed for the full eight hours. There is a loophole here in that if the six hours elapsed at midnight and the necessary authorisation had been received, questioning could carry on for a further eight hours during the most difficult period in a day, twelve midnight to 8 a.m. I should be happy to hear that there is a formula whereby that cannot happen. I should like to be satisfied that the length of the interrogation in the rest period is very closely governed by some regulation in this legislation.
A person must be charged as soon as there is enough evidence to do so. It is normal to expect that that would be the case, but it might very well not be the practice. If a garda felt that carrying on the interrogation or questioning beyond the period where they could be normally expected to say that they had enough evidence to charge, the temptation to continue must be very strong, particularly if there is a considerable portion of the first six hour period left. It would be very difficult to implement a restraining influence. It would be natural to go on. I can see myself as a police officer in hot pursuit of information, having got the man to accept responsibility for a particular action and knowing that there was other information which might be extracted which could be of enormous benefit in that or subsequent issues, carrying on to the end of the six hour period. That will have to be very carefully monitored.
While we always expect the people will not be detained without good cause, what about the person who is brought in but against whom no charge is preferred? How soon after you let him out can he be retaken in for questioning? There is no provision here when it is decided, after questioning, that a case does not exist, that one hour later, perhaps when he is going out the door, he can be brought back in to start another six hour period of questioning. The Minister is shaking his head in the negative, and that pleases me greatly, because these are the questions which people are asking and it is very important——