Criminal Justice Bill, 1983 — Seanad Amendments: Report (Resumed).

Seanad Amendment 1.
In page 3, between lines 11 and 12, the following inserted:
"(2) An order shall not be made under subsection (1) in respect of any of the following sections namely, sections 4 to 6, 8 to 10, 15, 16, 18 and 19 until provisions relating to the investigation and adjudication of complaints by the public against members of the Garda Síochána not above the rank of chief superintendent have been enacted by the Oireachtas and have come into operation and until regulations under section 7 have been made."
Amendment made by Committee of the whole Dáil to Seanad Amendment 1:
In the third line all words after "investigation" deleted and the following substituted therefor:
"of complaints from the public against members of the Garda Síochána not above the rank of chief superintendent and the adjudication by a body other than the Garda Síochána of such complaints have been enacted by the Oireachtas and have come into operation and until regulations under section 7 have been made".
Debate resumed on the following amendment:
To delete all words after "provisions" and substitute the following:
"have been enacted by the Oireachtas for the investigation and adjudication of complaints from the public against members of the Garda Síochána by or under the direction of an independent Complaints Commission, and until regulations providing for adequate safeguards under section 7, have been approved by the Oireachtas and made by the Minister".
—(Deputy Woods.)

Before the adjournment I was commenting on the differences between the amendments put down by Deputy Woods and the amendment passed by the House, having been moved by the Minister. There were differences in three or four areas. Deputy Woods has suggested that all ranks of Garda Síochána should be investigated up to and including that of the Commissioner whereas at the moment it is limited to ranks up to that of chief superintendent. At the moment the provision is that the investigation should be carried out by or under the direction of an independent complaints tribunal. The Minister is in favour of a body other than the Garda Síochána and the amendment proposes that regulations providing for adequate safeguards under section 7 be approved. The suggestion is that these regulations be approved by the Oireachtas and made by the Minister.

There are slight differences because the Minister's amendment earlier provided merely that the regulations be made. In relation to the first of these amendments proposing that all ranks should be subject to the independent complaints tribunal the Minister gave some reasons why he thought it would not be desirable to have it applied above the rank of chief superintendent. Perhaps the Minister envisaged that it would be proper to have a representative of the Commissioner on that body because he is the chief disciplinary officer and therefore it would not be right that he should be investigated, or any member above the rank of chief superintentent.

In other words, the Minister is saying that the Garda would be investigated and therefore it is not appropriate that those above the rank of chief superintendent should be within the ambit of this complaints procedure. If that were not so it seems to me that we should have a totally independent complaints commission.

I will refer briefly to the Minister's comments the last day. He gave some indications as to what he was thinking about and what he had in mind when discussing a complaints procedure. He gave a number of examples which I do not propose to discuss in any depth. For example, he suggested that a seven man board should be acceptable to the House if there was a chief executive on it. The Minister's examples are significant.

During the course of the debate in the past year comments have been made in the newspapers and by members of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and others in relation to that board. If that is the kind of board envisaged it would not seem to me to be an independent board and I would be concerned that that is what we might end up with and that pressures will be applied in the future to have a board with members of the Garda on it. It is stated in the official report, Volume 353, No. 7, columns 13 to 15, that the Minister referred to a seven man board with a chief executive officer. He said that investigations should be carried out by Garda officers in the normal course of events under the supervision of the board and that the board should be able to give investigating officers such directions as would appear necessary in relation to each individual investigation.

The Minister expressed satisfaction at the amendment of Deputy Woods that such investigations should be under the control of the board. That does not appeal to me. Even though the board would be set up and have representatives of the Commissioner it would be up to the Garda to make the investigation. That would not be satisfactory, given their history to data. He concedes that there would be occasions when it would be in the public interest for people other than members of the Garda Síochána to investigate a case. He said that he could envisage a situation, and hoped the House would accept it, where the chief executive officer would have the power on the direction of the board to investigate a complaint or cause it to be investigated by appointing an appropriate person to do so. He also suggested that the chief executive officer or the board could investigate a complaint and discuss minor complaints which, with the consent of the complainant need not go through a long rigmarole if it could be informally sorted out. He differentiated between criminal charges and those leading to disciplinary procedures within the Garda. He maintained that it was proper to have a representative of the Commissioner on that board. He acknowledged Deputy Taylor's appeals procedure.

If that is what is in the Minister's mind it is a long way from an independent complaints tribunal. There would be a lot of trouble ahead for us if we were to accept such a tribunal. This amendment is vital, even at this stage of the Bill, to make it clear that we have not conceded that it should be a less than independent complaints tribunal after all that was said about the protection necessary for detainees and for the Garda. In the last few weeks the Garda have commented publicly on their legitimate concerns. All these matters must be taken into consideration. The Minister said we were talking about the Commissioner, a couple of Deputy Commissioners and six or seven Assistant Commissioners. If his suggestion was carried through there would be a difficulty if there was Garda involvement in the adjudicating process. The Commissioner is the chief disciplinary officer of the force. The Minister thinks it would be inappropriate to investigate those senior ranks. I do not think he means that because they are of senior rank they cannot be investigated by the board. He suggested that it was a matter for the Government to investigate complaints against senior members of the Garda. I do not know if that would be satisfactory, given the history of allegations of political interference made in this House and elsewhere.

Recent statements have caused the Garda to worry about the direction in which this Bill and the amendments are carrying them. That is a legitimate worry and there is good reason for expressing it.

The occasions on which it is in the public interest to have investigations carried out by people who are not members of the Garda Síochána are not rare. That is the problem. This would be the norm rather than the exception. That is why I do not think the provision is a good one. Judging by the comments made by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, the articles published inThe Irish Times some months ago about the format of the complaints tribunal and the comments made by the Minister they would seem to indicate that that is what is proposed. It is a disappointment to the Members of the House and for those who have taken an interest in the debate and also for those who have appealed for an independent tribunal. I hope we do not lose track of an independent complaints tribunal. There will be a lot of pressure brought to bear on the Minister and on us all to have a strong Garda involvement in any complaints procedure that will come about in the future. With the Bill slotted away somewhere it will be hard to resist that. I hope that is not the reason the Minister did not bring in the complaints procedure before the Bill was passed.

Reference was made in the last issue of theGarda Review to that matter. In the October issue of the Garda News it states:

What is now important is to ensure that the Regulations to be introduced allow the Bill to work effectively and do not militate against the interests or welfare of the members concerned. The same goes for the new complaints system.

It refers also to negotiations going on between the Garda conciliation and arbitration body and the Department of Justice. It states that the problem is that:

Even if agreement on a new system can be obtained ... as a result of its subsequent passage through the Oireachtas as a Bill, the eventual outcome might well be quite different to what the gardaí had peviously agreed to... key amendments might also be incorporated into the complaints Bill. If this were to be the case it would place the gardaí in a most invidious position...

The Minister is now faced with the unenviable task of balancing the legitimate rights both of the gardaí and the legislature with regard to both of these important matters. In so doing he has the close and constant ear of the legislators. He may not therefore be aware of the strength of feeling that is building up on these issues within the Garda Síochána ...

The same restraint cannot be expected on the complaints Bill. This is a matter of immediate vital interest to each and every member of the force and it is encumbent upon their representatives to ensure that any new system does not unduly militate against those interests.

That puts the onus on us to ensure that it does not militate either against detainees or people in custody or detention. The approach which the representatives of the Garda body and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors have taken during the last few weeks has been very progressive, mature and responsible. It is in their best interests and they have been perfectly right.

Sergeant Michael Murray, a representative of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, said a couple of weeks ago that they did not want the sections of the Bill to come into law until facilities were available to the Garda to carry them out properly and until facilities were there to protect their members from any accusations or abuses which might occur because of not having proper technology and facilities at their disposal. The same member was quoted in last night'sEvening Herald as saying that it is time that Garda management did their job properly. Although the paper mentioned a broadside against Commissioner Wren, I do not think any accusation was levelled against him. Sergeant Murray mentioned the management and the Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner and chief superintendents. He said that the gardaí on the street were suffering because of the failure of top management to face up to their responsibilities. Where did this responsible response and awakening come from? I think the response came from very small beginnings in this House and the Garda see themselves in a very awkward position now because they could be the scapegoats as a result of the manner in which this is being tackled. Obviously they have given deep thought to what has been happening and other Members and I, who had been accused in the early part of this campaign, now seem to be vindicated because we showed balance and tried to get the thing right.

From the comments the Minister made last week, I wonder if he really does want an independent complaints tribunal because it has been discussed with the Garda associations by the Department of Justice. The Garda are talking about a very heavy involvement and say they must participate in any complaints tribunal. They say it will be resisted and they talk about the strength of feeling and that the same restraint cannot be expected in the complaints Bill. When the complaints Bill is isolated, will we be able to protect and safeguard the honest citizen? That is what I am concerned about and the wording in the amendment providing for adequate safeguards is important and necessary phraseology to incorporate in the Bill and I hope it will be taken in the spirit in which it is proffered.

I will resist the temptation to go into any depth on the individual examples which the Minister gave. I will reserve it until the complaints Bill comes before the House but I will make a brief comment on some of them. In the example he gave that investigations should be carried out by Garda officers in the normal course of events, it is the normal course of events which have given rise to complaints. Going about one's business in the normal way is an everyday occurence and that is what Garda activity is all about. Perhaps we will have time to go into that in more depth so that we can come up with a better balance.

Will the body be laying down further regulations in regard to investigations to be carried out? In other words, if there is a body other than the Garda Síochána instructing members of the Garda Síochána to carry out an investigation, are they going to lay down regulations, instructions or guidance for the Garda to carry out those investigations? How much credence can the public give to those instructions and how can one ensure they are followed? The body is weakened by being set up in that way and it will not work. I think it was Deputy O'Dea who said it would fail and I agree with him. I know the Minister was only throwing out suggestions but because of the close attention we have paid to the passage of this Bill over the last few months——

We are debating the amendment.

Yes, but because of the close attention we have paid, the number of times that the Minister talked about the complaints tribunal mentioned in the amendment over the past year and because of the negotiations going on and confirmed in theGarda News which have been mentioned publicly by representatives of the Garda, we know that this will be the format.

We have had to trust the Minister's promises about the complaints tribunal and, for that reason, it is a little unfair that we could not be entrusted with the same amount of information and guidelines which the Garda have been entrusted with. As in the case of the Bill we will get them secondhand or even older. They warn us they are going to have another crack at it to ensure that the same thing does not happen with regard to the complaints tribunal as happened in the Bill, that there will not be an opportunity for amendments because they were unhappy with the amendments made in the Bill. Of course we reserve the right to discuss them in here and they do not deny us that right. With regard to discipline within the force, the Commissioner can always receive the report of the independent body and if he wishes to carry out any disciplinary measures he can do so based on the report. That is not a solid enough reason to have a representative of the Garda Síochána on the tribunal. It is significant that the Garda Síochána themselves have now become aware of the implications for them of passing through this legislation without looking at other things, for example, at the management of the Garda Síochána and the internal structures of the force.

The Deputy is widening the scope of the debate. I ask him to stay with the amendments.

I am referring to the complaints procedure. It is significant that the Garda have suddenly become worried about the implications the tribunal may have for their members in respect of their careers and even their freedom because in certain instances if there are criminal implications the matter can be passed to the DPP. It is very important that the other structures should be right in the first instance. Only then can we talk about balance. They are highlighting in a way we failed to do the need for proper research before new measures such as the complaints procedure are introduced. There is the following comment in theGarda News I wish to quote:

It is in the interests of all concerned to ensure that the greatest possible degree of consultation and agreement is obtained prior to the publication of any proposed new legislation.

A statement like that did not come from that publication when the Bill was introduced but now they are worried about the complaints tribunal and they have thrown out that warning. They are quite right but it is a pity they did not do this when the Bill was introduced. TheGarda News also stated:

This is a key moment in the history of the Garda Síochána and the criminal justice system in Ireland.

The key moment has passed but this is a key moment for the Garda Síochána. There is also a warning to the Minister——

I give a warning to the Deputy that he is moving away from the amendments. We are not discussing all the facets of the complaints tribunal until the legal presentation is put by the Minister. I appeal to the Deputy to confine his remarks to the amendments.

The amendments provide for adequate safeguards under section 7. The comments in theGarda News are about ensuring that the Garda get safeguards and I am talking about the same thing.

Section 7 is not under discussion.

There is the amendment put down by Deputy Woods.

I would be grateful if the Deputy would confine himself to the amendments before the House.

The amendment put down by Deputy Woods talks about regulations providing for adequate safeguards. May I comment on that? The publication from which I quoted states that the Minister will need tact, diplomacy and courage to bring this chapter in modern Irish history to a reasonable conclusion. We did not have that kind of encouragement when we were discussing the Bill but I am glad that the Garda have awakened to that fact. However, it applies not only to the management of the Garda Síochána but also the Department of Justice. The Garda force is under the aegis of the Department of Justice as are the prisons. Until those two institutions are sorted out satisfactorily and until the management structures work effectively, the Garda should be very wary of undertaking the responsibility they will have to undertake under this Bill. The penny has dropped and they have approached this matter in a responsible way. From small beginnings we have gone this far and I am glad of that. We have succeeded in highlighting the major problems after a very shaky beginning because we never addressed the causes of crime when discussing the Bill. Now the Garda are wondering what they have let themselves in for. Their attitude is that if they are to be responsible for people in custody and if they are going to be subject to complaints and even to the criminal law they had better make sure everyone is doing their job, that they have proper structures, training, facilities, technology and procedures and that people in a position of authority will also be in a position of responsibility. The amendment in the name of Deputy Woods provides that members of the Garda Síochána of all ranks should be responsible to the complaints tribunal. Why should the Garda take the rap? Why should the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors take the rap? Why should a sergeant in charge of a Garda station be exposed to this measure? Look at who is saying all of this — the person who is not supposed to be on their side. I will be very pleased if the Garda Síochána pursue this line. If the representatives pursue this line and insist that management manage, in order to protect them further they must ensure also something that we never look at and that we sweep under the carpet all the time. They must ensure that the prison system is correct.

An Leas-Comhairle


This is a passing reference.

You are passing so many references it is very hard to keep a tag on you. The prison system is not involved in this amendment and you are only too well aware of that.

I have thought very carefully about it and I am doing my best to stay with the amendment, but it is not very funny——

I do not consider it funny either, Deputy.

——for anyone who has looked inside the doors of our prisons to see what is going on. I am saying this for the benefit of the Garda.

Deputy Skelly, I have already indicated that the prison system is not in order in the debate on this amendment.

I am discussing it——

You are not entitled to discuss it on this debate.

I am mentioning it——

Mention it once and then pass on to the amendment, please.

All right, I will mention it once. They should also be aware of the prisoners. If they are not controlled they will be back on the streets and the pressure is on the Garda again who will be moving targets for them. The prisons run entirely on the goodwill of the prisoners at the moment. The structures are in a state of collapse. The structure and organisation of the Garda have not changed.

If the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and the Garda have any sense at all they will delay, as they said they would, until they consider their position carefully and realise that they could be the fall guys as a result of the passing of this legislation. I think they are beginning to realise that. It is not their fault. The fault lies in the way this legislation was brought into this House and it is only fair that they should be warned about it. We will do everything in our power to help and protect them from becoming fall guys or scapegoats of this inadequate legislation which was passed through without one look at the causes of crime.

However, I am gratified that the Minister said that there is no question of the amendment excluding the right of the House to extend this procedure to any rank in the Garda Síochána. Therefore, it is open for discussion, but unfortunately we will always come up against this unfortunate Whip which should be used more sparingly in cases such as this; then we might get better legislation. I appeal that we have a totally independent complaints tribunal and that the thinking of the Minister should include other people's opinions. Let us throw this out to the public, the experts, the researchers, the penologists and the criminologists and try to get this right. Let us look around the world if necessary, as the Minister remarked has been done.

It is necessary for us to provide safeguards bearing in mind the battle of words and the persuasion that will take place in the next few months between the Department, the Minister, the Garda, ourselves and the public. Those safeguards must be incorporated into whatever the complaints procedures are, this from the point of view of the innocent party complaining. In other words, I do not want to see the Bill weighted on the side of the Garda because that would make this whole exercise futile. The fight that has taken place here and in the Seanad to have these amendments incorporated in the Bill which was resisted for eight months in this House and was finally conceded in the other House would be rendered futile also. For reasons I will not go into now it is here before us, it is important——

The amendment is before us, not the Bill.

I am talking about the amendment which was accepted and not accepted previously. There is a small safeguard about which I have not heard the Minister speak. I hope he has taken into consideration the fact that we received these only this morning just before the debate. He was not happy the last time about the wording of Deputy Woods's amendment in relation to the regulations and now he has incorporated both the phrases "approved by the Oireachtas" and "made by the Minister". Therefore, it will not be just approved by the Oireachtas and lie there. The Minister could accept that and I do not see any objection to it.

Again I compliment Deputy Woods on the tremendous detail he has gone into in this Bill and the unselfish way he has tackled it and the way even at this stage he can squeeze another measure of protection for everybody into this amendment by putting in the phrase "providing for adequate safeguards". I hope they will be accepted by the Minister. I disagree with the phrase "by or under the direction of an independent commission" because I believe that gives the right to the commission to allow the Garda to investigate complaints. Deputy Ger Connolly's impassioned plea for independence is ignored. I am very sorry to see old stalwarts like Deputies David Andrews, De Rossa and Barnes cannot win and that we cannot make it totally independent. I suspect that all along the intention has been not to have an independent complaints tribunal. All during the year I noted the change in phraseology. First there was an independent complaints tribunal; then it developed into a strongly independent complaints tribunal, and I was glad to see the crack on the last day where the Minister gave nine examples, and with the help of Deputy Taylor I was able to add another which the Minister accepted, that is an appeals procedure. He gave nine examples of what was in his mind. Although he is a man of great intellectual ability, he was able to trot out these nine or ten examples one after the other. When you string them together you find that they are not in isolation but they hold well together, as if someone had given great thought to the working out of the type of complaints tribunal that was in his mind and that we would see incorporated in the Bill in the near future.

The Minister promised us that he would get it into the House as quickly as he could, but even though we were promised it all of last year, my advice now is to take it easy, do not push it now, let us think about it. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors have said that they do not want it now, hold on, do not let us have this section until we get other things right. I am saying the same. Let us think about this. I am not in any hurry and I do not think that the country is in any hurry to get these sections in. The Assistant Commissioner, John Paul McMahon, seems to think there is a drop in the number of drug related crimes. There is other evidence around of a drop in the crime rate and we should not rush into this. Let us take this a little easy and get it right.

I agree totally with the statement issued in recent weeks by Garda representatives, particularly the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors. Their statement was very cautious and gave the impression that they might well be the scapegoats for all of this. If these sections are approved, and the complaints tribunal is approved and pushed through the House — the Whip is on and as a result it will go through — I am sure that it will not be to their benefit. It is important for us to get this right now because if it will not be to their benefit it will not be to the benefit of the public. The amendment, in essence, incorporates the amendment that was accepted on the last occasion. It tightens it up and provides another safeguard. I recommend that the Minister accept it.

It may seem to some Members who are not involved in the debate that we are flogging a dead horse. In fact, it may seem to some of us who are deeply involved in it that we are flogging a dead horse. Certainly, it is very near the post but we will have to flog it a little longer. I am no great advocate of longwinded debates but the effect the long debate has had on the character of the Bill has shown the usefulness of Members getting involved and having a long debate. Of course, it would not have been possible without the willingness of the Minister to listen to the debate. Having said that, I must state that I am sticking rigidly to my attitude to the Bill which is that it is unnecessary. As the debate goes on I am more and more confirmed in that view. A report in this morning's issue ofThe Irish Press confirms me even stronger in that view. In that issue the secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, Mr. Murray, commenting on Monday night's series of ramming incidents when a number of gardaí were brutally attacked by individuals in cars said when referring to the top management in the Garda:

They have no plans for dealing with the crime wave and do not seem to have an idea in their heads how it should be dealt with.

He went on to say:

There was no co-ordinated plan for dealing with crime throughout the country but especially in the city areas, and no indication that the Commissioner, his assistants and the other top management people in headquarters were going to produce any such plan.

Gardaí are using the same methods and the same antiquated systems of dealing with crime that have been used for decades, he said.

Garda management has the responsibility for tackling these present day problems and it is time they started doing the job they are paid to do, Mr. Murray added.

That is an indication of the type of thinking among Garda representative bodies in relation to crime and yet we have been told time and again in this House that the reason crime is so bad is that we do not have laws strong enough to deal with it. I have just given a clear indication from a man who has many long years of Garda experience that a large portion of the problem is the management and planning within the Garda structure.

There have been demands, and Deputy Tunney referred to them, in virtually every urban constituency — I do not know what the position is in rural constituencies but Garda crime statistics indicate that rural constituencies have fairly low levels of crime — to do something about crime. To translate that into legislation that proposes to bring in detention and the other proposals in the Bill is a very simplistic approach.

I should like to remind the Deputy that we cannot have a general debate on the Bill.

I am aware of that and I do not propose to go over all the Bill but I want to paint a picture. What we are talking about today, and what we referred to on Committee Stage of this amendment, are safeguards for persons in custody. The amendment is being introduced on the basis that the provisions of the Bill are so far-reaching that there is a need to ensure the safety of those who may be brought into custody. I will take that a little further and say that it is also necessary in order to protect the integrity of the Garda whose job it will be to implement the provisions of the Bill. I understand the urgings of Deputy Skelly that the tribunal should not be rushed but it should be kept in mind that the need for the tribunal, or an independent complaints commission, or regulations concerning persons in custody or the surveillance of those in custody, pre-dated the existence of the Bill. That is shown graphically in an article inThe Sunday Tribune of 28 October 1984 by Fintan O'Toole, a journalist with that newspaper, who went to the trouble of interviewing the three people who made up the Ó Briain Committee which came into existence not as a result of demands to deal with crime levels but as a result of demands for an investigation into allegations of misconduct by gardaí. Dealing with safeguards for people in Garda custody that report states:

Mr. Justice Barra Ó Briain, who chaired the committee, said that he stood over the report and that he regarded the recommendation that there should be a "custodial guardian" to oversee the treatment of all arrested persons as the only effective safeguard.

Ex-Commissioner Malone toldThe Sunday Tribune that “a police force is ineffective without the support and esteem of the public and the recommendations we made were made with that in mind”. He knew from 45 years of police work that the force was of a high calibre generally, but that “a force is only part of the society from which it is drawn and it will reflect all the attributes of that society, good and bad. I do not believe that the society which the force reflects is a healthy society.

Clearly he was implying that if the society is not a healthy one the Garda force cannot in all respects be regarded as healthy either. That article continued:

Increasing crime rates put pressure on individual gardaí to secure convictions and there was a temptation to resort to improper methods, the former Garda Commissioner noted. "It was to prevent that sort of thing from happening that we made the recommendations that we did".

That report pre-dated the Criminal Justice Bill which we are talking about amending today. Obviously there is a clear need for safeguards for people held in custody. Every Member who has contributed to this debate has been at pains to contend that those safeguards are as important for the Garda themselves as for persons in detention.

Deputy Tunney spoke about people outside the House and of Garda brutality. The implication was that that was going overboard. I would put this to Deputy Tunney for consideration: if he were informed that a man, an individual had attacked a young girl eight months pregnant, kicking her in the stomach, would he regard that as a brutal attack? I have no doubt but that he would agree that it does constitute a brutal attack. I have already explained to the House that that is a complaint I received in relation to a member of the Garda Síochána who attacked a private citizen in front of witnesses which complaint is at present being investigated. That was a brutal attack; there is no other way of describing it. Therefore, we must not wear rose-tinted glasses when discussing the Garda. Certainly a fairly large percentage of the Garda force are decent men and women who go about their task to the best of their ability, but it is a brutalising profession. They come into contact with all sorts of brutality in the course of their work which is bound to have an effect on elements within the force. It would be foolish for us to assume that merely because an individual passed some kind of test entering the Garda force, during the 17 or 18 weeks training or whatever it is, that automatically for the remainder of their working lives they will be paragons of virtue and will not need to be controlled, disciplined or have imposed on them various methods of checking out their conduct or behaviour.

In regard to this Bill and the amendments, I might point out that individual gardaí themselves, new recruits and longstanding members of the force interviewed about two weeks ago in an article inThe Irish Times saw gross inefficiencies and mismanagement within the force and were concerned about where the force was headed.

As people involved in the introduction and passage of legislation in this House we must be concerned about the total reality outside, not merely with the demands that something be done. We must interpret those demands and look searchingly at what means are available to us to deal with crime.

I have referred already to the neighbourhood watch and the fact that it appears to have been successful, to some degree at any rate, in the Finglas area, a development we wholeheartedly supported. We have also wholeheartedly supported the provisions of the Bill which enabled community work to form part of a sentence on offenders as a means of dealing with relatively minor offences. These are positive, progressive developments. To go overboard on the view that a tightening up of the law, of itself, in any severe way constitutes an answer would be to make a mistake and should be resisted at all costs.

Has the Minister available to him information as to what extent the existing complaints procedure operated by the Garda themselves has been used by the public at large? What level of complaints are received by the Garda and to what extent are such complaints pursued? Furthermore, what is the outcome of such complaints? It would be useful to have such information in deciding on what we should do in the future.

It is important to emphasise the absolute necessity to ensure that any complaints procedure or tribunal ultimately passed by this house be seen by the public to be fully independent, both in their investigation of complaints and in their adjudication of them. I happened to see a television programme last evening on Channel 4 concerning the complaints procedure in the United Kingdom, where there is in existence a lay complaints procedure. But apparently the police in the United Kingdom themselves investigate complaints. There were a number of people interviewed in the course of that programme who deal with complaints, for example, citizens advice bureau spokespersons, representatives of the Council for Civil Liberties in the United Kingdom and so on, who indicated quite clearly that, even though there was in existence a lay complaints board, because the police themselves investigated such complaints there was no real credibility with regard to their effectiveness and that the people who lodged complaints were not convinced that their complaints would be adequately investigated or dealt with. That was simply because the police themselves investigate such complaints although ultimately they would not have the final say in whether or not there would be an outcome. Therefore it is fairly clear from experience in the United Kingdom, and indeed here, that it is essential that there be established an independent investigation or complaints procedure.

As Deputy Woods's amendment seeks, it is also essential that the regulations to be introduced by the Minister under section 7 provide adequate safeguards. We are being asked to pass an amendment of this Bill without having seen such regulations. The Minister should consider very carefully and deeply the implications of allowing the provisions of this Bill to be implemented — even with the complaints procedure and even with the regulations to be introduced under section 7 — unless he also introduces the regulations proposed in section 27 providing for electronic recording of questioning and so on. In the interests of persons held in detention, in the interests of the Garda themselves, the provisions of the detention section should not be implemented without there having been fully implemented also the provisions of section 27.

This Bill has been before the House for some time and has caused and evoked much comment and unease. I believe there is an absolute necessity, indeed an onus on us as legislators to ensure that there are adequate laws to protect our citizens. Furthermore, there should be a clear and proper system under which people who commit crimes of all types are both apprehended and ultimately brought to justice. We have a duty to protect our people. We have a similar duty to protect the guardians of our people under the civil law, the Garda Síochána. We have all been proud of our Garda force. We recognise the difficult conditions and constraints within which they work. Recently two serious incidents in different parts of the country aroused, first, consternation and, second, unease and unrest among citizens and within the Garda force itself. For those reasons this proposed amendment is of vital, primary importance in ensuring that both our people and police force have balanced protection within the confines of our law.

I cannot see much balance or logic in Deputy Skelly's approach to the provisions of this Bill. He has castigated the Minister, ridiculed the Bill—

This is the first time the Deputy has been here to contribute.

I have been here on many occasions and listened to Deputy Skelly's contributions.

Where was Deputy Treacy when the Committee Stage was being debated? I congratulate him. He is the first rural Deputy to contribute.

As far as I am concerned, Deputy Skelly appeared to be totally in support of Deputy Woods's amendment. We all have a duty to promote community and patriotic responsibility. As leaders of our people and elected legislators we have a duty to ensure that the root causes and the symptoms of crime and violence are diminished. However we must be logical and practical. We must realise that, human nature being what it is, there is a necessity for law and order. We as legislators are charged with the responsibility of providing adequate legislation. The Government of the day in particular and the Minister for Justice in this instance must recognise that the evolution and development of human nature creates difficulties and we must ensure that our laws are updated to protect our people. Deputy Skelly has failed to recognise these facts. As I said, he is totally in support of the amendment. He spoke about the terrible Whip, which he tried to use as an excuse to hide behind, because he cannot give his support in a practical way. If he is sincere in what he says, he has a duty to vote for this amendment. Otherwise what he has said will be construed as both erroneous and hypocritical.

A childish argument.

The Bill affects all citizens from 12 years of age and upwards. This is a very varied group and their composition, intelligence and abilities are as varied as the people themselves. It is natural that some of these people when in Garda custody would react with a natural fear and perhaps create an impression of guilt through their natural reaction, but we must protect these people. Mentally and physically handicapped people might find themselves in difficulty. They might not be able to speak for themselves or to communicate their problems and we must protect these people too. We must also protect police officers who interrogate, investigate or deal with these people. That is why this amendment is so important.

The importance of protecting our police force and ensuring that they are efficient, independent and professional in their approach is of vital importance not alone to the force but to the people. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the independent complaints commission will be totally independent of the Garda Síochána to ensure the protection of the force, that it will be totally independent of the Minister of the day to ensure at no time will it be accused of being political or otherwise. For the professional implementation of the law and to ensure that there is a balance of protection for the police force and for the people, I appeal to the Minister to accept this very important amendment.

The Minister indicated earlier in the proceedings that the complaints commission was to be the subject of a separate measure to be debated in full before the Oireachtas. That being so, I would have thought that the House would have been better served in reserving a large measure of the contributions until we knew exactly what the specific measures to be proposed would be. To talk about an independent commission leaves open a myriad of interpretations. Frankly, in my view, it is impossible to say whether the commission would be independent until we know exactly the composition of the complaints commission. It could happen that the members of the complaints commission hearing a case would appear to be independent but there could be some unseen connection with a member of the Garda Síochána one of the members could be the Garda Commissioner's cousin. Would that be an independent commission? It is impossible to say if the commission is independent until we know exactly how it is made up.

Has consideration been given to the number of likely complaints to be made to this commission? Will there be five, ten, 100 or even more complaints each year? Will the commission be in regular session or will it be called into session as and when required? I reckon that the number of actual cases referred to it would be very few and there would not be regular and constant sittings. I may be wrong, but I hope I am right. The idea of having a new permanent structure set up with executive officers, administrative officers, administrative officers and an additional board with Civil Service staffs would be a quite an unnecessary additional expense on the already hard pressed taxpayers. We have enough, and many would say more than enough, boards, executive officers, administrative officers and all the panoply that goes with them. In my view there are enough existing staff who could be used when required at least in the initial stages to deal with matters that would be put to the complaints commission.

My view is that a commission made up of two or three members would be perfectly adequate. A possible composition of such a tribunal might be a district justice or a retired district justice of the District Court and a judge or retired judge of the Circuit Court together with an ombudsman. At present we have the Ombudsman, but there is no reason why there should not be a further ombudsman attached to the main Ombudsman's office who would be seconded when required to the Garda complaints commission. I can see no great objection, but I can see an advantage to having a senior Garda officer seconded to that commission, not as a member — I would object to that — but as an assessor to assist those conducting the inquiry with inside detailed knowledge of the workings of the Garda Síochána. That could only add to the benefit and efficiency of the complaints commission and that would not derogate from the independence of the commission. The officer concerned would not have voting rights nor would he participate in the actual decision making, but he would assist in the inquiries the tribunal would have to make.

It is interesting to note that in all three amendments the word "adjudication" is used. That connotes certain things. It connotes that the tribunal will have the role of a court that would hear evidence and make judicial findings. That would mean that there would have to be witnesses called for the complainant, that there would be witnesses, if required, for the respondent, the garda against whom the complaint was made, and that a judicial decision would have to be made. We are given no indication as yet. Presumably that will come in the course of the next Bill to be before the House on the subject. I am sure that will also involve a prolonged debate. Will the commission deal with such matters as, for instance, the awarding of damages to an aggrieved person, a person who has suffered at the hands of gardaí while being detained? Will the commission merely prepare findings as to what happened? Will they have a punitive role where the Garda are concerned? Will they be empowered to impose punishments — suspensions, dismissals and so on — against members of the Garda? These are some of the questions that the House will need answers to. They are matters that will have to be debated when we are aware of what the proposals are.

There will have to be investigations. I would not consider it proper that the tribunal should be involved in inquiries and investigations. They should exercise only judicial functions by way of determining the facts but there will have to be a team of investigators who will conduct inquiries, interview witnesses and so on but the question is who should be the appropriate people to conduct those inquiries? Should they be members of the Garda and, if so, would that position affect the independent nature of the proceedings? These will be investigators and inquirers rather than those who will be reaching decisions. If justice is to be seen to be done, these investigators must be entirely independent of the Garda force. There are already an adequate number of people well qualified for that purpose within the ranks of the Civil Service. One thinks of the Department of Social Welfare and of the Revenue Commissioners who have adequate teams of people well trained in the field of investigations. I would urge that the services of the appropriate officials in the State service should be used for these duties instead of our setting up a whole new structure which is unnecessary.

As Deputy De Rossa has said, this is the last hurdle in a long debate. As he has said, we may be flogging a dead horse. One hopes that it is not a Trojan horse in the sense that at the outset the Bill was regarded by many as a gift. Let us hope that the Bill will not be our downfall.

The amendment is designed to cope with what might be abuses or excesses, as distinct from the psychological pressures brought on by detention. We must never lose sight of the fact that this is what the whole focus of our debate is about. Therefore, it is extremely important that we pay attention to that part of the amendment which proposes the provision of adequate safeguards. I shall not repeat what has been said by other Members but I would merely draw attention, in the context of adequate safeguards, to the need for adequate personnel. I am talking about those safeguards that would not only ensure protection for both the Garda and the public but which would ensure also the effective and efficient working of decisions and the defining of management. One of the areas I would have in mind in this respect would be the need for ban-ghardaí at Garda stations throughout the country.

A fear that has been expressed throughout this debate is that in bringing in the independent tribunal and the safeguards after the event, the House will not be under undue pressure to vote perhaps for regulations that they would not regard as adequate as those we are asking for now. I trust that the Minister will respond to the fears that have been expressed on all sides of the House in regard to the tribunal being totally independent in terms of investigative powers. In saying that, I join with Deputy De Rossa in expressing the hope that the tribunal will be debated here as a matter of right and that it will be introduced without even the detention section of the Criminal Justice Bill. I see this as something that is long overdue.

We must ensure that there are the greatest safeguards possible. We must be constantly vigilant lest there be any erosion of civil rights, regardless of any pressure that might come from outside for an easy solution to problems that are much more complex and fundamental than one Act can cope with.

I described Members of the House as leaders of our people. There have been times when I wished I could have felt adequate in that role. As leaders of our people I do not think we should ever assume the role of eroding civil rights or putting at risk the most vulnerable sections of our people. Particularly in regard to this Bill we legislators should remember that very often by sowing the wind we reap the whirlwind and that legislation which we introduce because we think it is addressed to sections of our society whom we do not greatly worry about may produce a backlash against us. Therefore, we carry great responsibility.

The debate has been on many issues, particularly on the role of the Garda. What I hope we will get at from this constructive debate are the real causes of crime, of our social ills. I hope that as we monitor this Bill we will find in a short time that we can repeal the contentious and unacceptable parts of it. I hope that the real causes of crime will be taken seriously by leaders of society so that something more wide-ranging and radical will be done to cope with it rather than the introduction of this Bill.

The Minister cannot believe it is coming to an end.

Limerick East): I am not concluding — Deputy Woods will do that. It is nice to see a full House again. The crowds had been falling off for a long time. I did not intervene earlier in the debate because I was waiting for such a big audience. I intend to go quickly through points that were made and then to deal with Deputy Woods's amendment.

Debate adjourned.