Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, 1993: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Like the two previous speakers I welcome the Bill before us. It gives us an opportunity to address not only the specific issues contained in the Bill but the whole crisis of crime in society. This crisis relates to freedom, a concept often talked about in public life and which has many meanings. Throughout history concepts of political freedom have mobilised great political movements, evoked heroic sacrifices and caused war and suffering in many lands. Today the slaughter in Bosnia, Somalia and even in Northern Ireland is justified by reference to some definition of freedom. Our friends in the press sometimes defend even the cruellest invasions of personal privacy of their subjects by their understanding of freedom of the press. People working in higher education claim academic freedom, business people want freedom in the marketplace and when the Thatcher revolution began in Britain the first achievement of its ideologues was to hijack the term "freedom".

These are all the grand freedoms that occupy the columns of newspapers and attentions of intellectuals who in the next couple of months will frequent the leisurely atmosphere of summer schools. However, there are more basic, simple freedoms which day in, day out are being denied to those who will never get anywhere near a summer school. These are freedom from fear and freedom from injury. Maslow in his theory of the hierarchy of human needs puts the need for security and safety as second only to the basic physiological need for food and water.

In addressing the Criminal Justice Bill we are no doubt tempted to approach it in the negative way—how to tackle crime and what to do with the criminals. We must start with the human need for safety, security and freedom from fear and injury. Unfortunately, many people in society do not enjoy these simple basic freedoms. Women are not free to walk in their neighbourhoods, their streets, their towns or cities at night; children are not free to explore in freedom by being able to travel unaccompanied and the elderly are not free even in their own homes. It is time the question of freedom was again put at the centre of politics, not the grandiose concept of freedom which responds to flags, symbols and martial airs but the simple human freedom to live and let live and to move about without fear.

Growing crime is not just an issue for criminalogist, a problem of policing or a matter solely for criminal law or the Minister for Justice. The battle against crime is a fight for freedom for the citizen who wants to get on with normal living. It is, therefore, something which goes to the heart of society, the way we relate to each other and the values which we uphold and reject. There is no doubt that there are social and economic circumstances which encourage crime. One does not need to be a sociologist to recognise the correlation between the increase in crime and the rise in unemployment and poverty. It is surely no longer challengeable that for crime to be successfully tackled we need more than a simplistic law and order approach. We need to deal with the economic soil in which it grows.

I will refer to Deputy Harney's observations about Workfare. The term "Workfare" has a connotation associated with the idea of punishing those who are unemployed by forcing them to go out to work. The idea of a society which is working needs to be examined much more thoroughly. People should work. It is unheathy for the individual, for the local community and for society in general if large numbers of people are doing nothing. That creates a climate which will give rise to crime and other social problems. It does not make any sense economically, socially or in any other way to have, for example, nurses and ancillary staff run off their feet while a few hundred yards down the road unemployed nurses sign on at the labour exchange. It does not makes any sense to have grass growing from the footpaths in our towns and cities while large numbers of people are out of work. It does not make any sense to have overcrowded classrooms while people who could work as teachers or teachers' assistants on a part-time or full-time basis are unemployed. It does not make any sense for this Government to tackle the problem of voluntary work schemes by imposing them on students who are pursuing courses in colleges by refusing to pay the dole unless they participate in the work scheme. The concept advanced by my party some time ago of community job schemes should be reconsidered. At the time I recall Deputy Harney considering this a left wing approach.

I recall the Deputy's radio interview during which she was asked to explain the difference between the Progressive Democrats policy and ours.

The Deputy was extending the public service.

The Deputy was talking about it being an explosion in employment in the public service. We need to examine this area without looking at it from a blinkered ideological viewpoint.

The relationship between crime and social and economic conditions was the subject of an interesting study recently by Sergeant Eamon Lynch of the Crime Task Force in Cork which was reported by Mr. Padraig Yeates in The Irish Times of 28 June last. Sergeant Lynch makes a number of very interesting points, the principal one that the rise and drop in crime is directly correlated to the levels of consumption and economic growth. He makes the point, for example, that between 1985 and 1989 crime was fairly static while consumption rose by an average of 3.9 per cent. In 1990, however, consumption rose by only 0.4 per cent and the crime rate jumped by 7 per cent. He makes a similar point in relation to the 1980s. He states that in 1982 spending power dropped by 7.1 per cent, the largest drop in recent Irish economic history, and that the number of crimes shot up by 8,000. He went on to state that five of the six highest crime increases have been associated with minus or zero growth rates. He related that to the whole area of economic conditions and stated that while there was no direct correlation between unemployment and overall crime figures there is a strong correlation between income distribution and crime. He said:

I would argue that the extent of crime is crucially dependent on the extent of relative poverty in the community, the size of the gap between the have-a-lots and the have-a-lot-lesses and the interplay of expectations, frustrations, perceptions and misconceptions that offenders have of that gap, and particularly whether they consider that it is narrowing, widening or remaining constant.

One could take that latter point made by Sergeant Lynch who has 28 years' experience in the Garda Síochána and ask what conclusion could be drawn from the business of the Oireachtas this week where in this House we are dealing with the problem of crime in society, correctly addressing many areas of crime, updating the law, increasing penalties and so on and in the other Chamber the famous tax amnesty is being introduced, where people who have broken the law in another way, albeit in perhaps a higher class white collar way are being indemnified and given immunity and protection by way of confidentiality. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot say we are serious about tackling crime while arguing that a different form of crime can have amnesties attached to it.

Unemployment and poverty may explain some crime but it can never excuse it. The vast majority of people who are poor or unemployed will never be involved in crime and they—or their communities—are often the first to suffer from it. In an area in my constituency which I will not identify, for obvious reasons, where there is 80 per cent unemployment I regularly get reports from people living in the area about being kept awake at night by parties and the trading of drug dealers. I get reports of people who cannot allow their children out to play because of the fear of being beaten up or intimidated. I get reports that when people hang out their clothes on the line they are stolen or in some cases burnt and excreta daubed on the doors. These people are often terrified to do anything about it, to even report it to the gardaí because they fear recriminations. It is no wonder that crime is now a major issue among the public. It must be tackled in a number of ways, first by updating the law.

I welcome the fact that we are making a start to update the outdated 19th century laws with which we have saddled the Garda Síochána for far too long in tackling the crime problem. It must also be tackled by consistent, fair and effective enforcement by the Garda Síochána and the rehabilition of offenders. The question of non-custodial sentencing and restitution must be addressed and the principle of restitution incorporated in our criminal code so that those who offend will be required to make restitution and be seen to do so.

We must also make an assault on the social and economic circumstances, such as unemployment and housing, in which crime breeds. We must support the development of community activity, in particular voluntary organisations, which do so much work to prevent crime. Money spent, from the national lottery for example, in funding voluntary organisations, such as sports and youth clubs, is well spent. This will save the State money because people will be kept away from a life of crime in the first instance.

We must also address the question of values. During the past decade and a half the dominant ideology in society has been one that promoted the concept of individualism, but this has undermined the understanding in society that people have a responsibility to look after each other. I am not denying that there is an element of individual responsibility; indeed I strongly believe in it, it must be encouraged so that people are taught from an early age that there is a difference between right and wrong. Therefore, we must be tough in tackling crime and its causes.

Street violence, vandalism and petty crime are among the most ugly features of modern society; they are making life a misery for an increasing number of innocent people. I am sure every public representative will confirm there is a demand from the public for action to deal with the problem.

The relatively small number of attacks on tourists in Dublin has received widespread publicity and, apart from the suffering and loss to the victims, the potential damage to our tourism industry is enormous but the ordinary citizens are bearing the brunt of the problem; 55.5 per cent of all reported crime occurs in Dublin, where one third of the population lives. The crime rate in Dublin is six times the level in some rural Garda divisions. What is of more concern is the low detection rate in Dublin. In the Dublin South Central Division it is 26.3 per cent while in the Dublin Eastern Division it is 26.9 per cent. This compares with a level of over 50 per cent in some rural divisions. It means that if one lives in Dublin one is more likely to be a victim of crime and that the criminal is less likely to be brought to justice. To a large extent this is due to under-policing in Dublin.

Recently the Minister indicated that there is one garda for every 260 members of the population in the Dublin Metropolitan Area as against one per 320 nationally. This may appear to be a small gap but one must take into account the range of special duties which the Garda Síochána undertake in the Dublin area. For example, in my constituency these special duties include protecting VIPs and members of the Judiciary. In addition, if there is a match in Croke Park or a concert at the Point Depot members of the Garda Síochána must be in attendance. It is quite clear that the Dublin area is under-policed.

While I appreciate that there are geographical considerations which must be taken into account only 56 Garda stations out of a total of over 700 are located in the Dublin Metropolitan Area. This represents a figure of less than 7 per cent in an area where one third of the population lives, where over half of all reported crime occurs and where the detection rate is less than 30 per cent. The conclusions are obvious.

The reality is that the quality of life is diminishing significantly. Once people could stroll at their ease through the main streets of our city but now, especially at night, they hurry by for fear of attack. Entire communities have become virtual prisoners in their own homes. The key in the door, the door on the latch and the open door, once common sights in working class Dublin, have largely disappeared as people have been forced to retreat behind locks, grilles and burglar alarms. Some of the new provisions in this Bill will help to deal with these problems but it is by no means a complete response or solution. Indeed, many of the new provisions will be of limited value unless the authorities withdraw the recent circular instructing gardaí that charges should not be preferred until an investigation is completed, that suspected offenders are to be released without bail or charged and summonsed instead to appear in court at a later date.

This matter to which Deputy Harney referred needs to be addressed urgently. Even when an offender is caught redhanded by the Garda Síochána it can still take some time to complete the investigation as witnesses may have to be interviewed, fingerprints taken or forensic tests carried out. Offenders caught in the act are now being released without charge pending the completion of this lengthy process.

Democratic Left believes in the principle that persons charged with offences should have reasonable access to bail, particularly as it can take so long for the matter to come to trial. At least when bail is set a person has to put up their own bail in minor cases or more usually find somebody who will put up independent bail. The bail set can be substantial and, therefore, there is a financial incentive for the offender to turn up. What will happen now? Do we really expect an offender caught in the act but released without bail or being charged who knows he is guilty and faces conviction to await the completion of the file and the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions? The offender is more likely to move to a new address or out of the country altogether. The new procedure sends the wrong message to the criminals and victims, a message that crime is not regarded seriously by society.

There are many problems with the bail system but it does provide some restraint and discouragement. For instance, under the Criminal Justice Act, 1984, failure to surrender to bail is in itself an offence punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 or a prison sentence of up to 12 months or both. Certain offences committed while on bail can qualify for consecutive sentences. If the Minister is serious about combating crime I appeal to her to reconsider this matter, to withdraw the circular and revert to the old procedure whereby suspects were charged and brought to court as soon as possible. If she does this some of the provisions in this Bill will be of help.

The introduction of the provision under section 18 to deal with racketeering is a welcome and long overdue reform. The maximum sentence of 14 years rightly indicates the seriousness of the offences of blackmail, extortion and demanding money with menaces.

Most of the new sections dealing with the issues of crowd control are in line with the recommendations of the Committee on Public Safety and Crowd Control. The closure of the gap in the law should help to ensure the safety of those attending such events. We are aware of the appalling dangers when large numbers of people congregate, especially if there is disorder. Those who watched the television coverage of the Heysel Stadium disaster for example would not doubt the need for proper crowd control powers. I hope, however, that these powers will be used by the Garda Síochána with a degree of sensitivity and common sense.

I am concerned about a number of provisions in the Bill. A delicate balance has to be struck between the need to protect society from violent or thuggish behaviour, on the one hand, and the need to respect the democratic rights and civil liberties of individuals on the other. Some of the sections will require careful consideration on Committee Stage to ensure that the correct balance is struck.

I am particularly concerned about sections 6 to 8 which could be used to suppress legitimate, if unpopular, social and political views. For instance, section 7 states that it will be an offence to distribute or display any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening, abusive, insulting or obscene whereby a breach of the peace may be occasioned. The problem is that one person's expression of an opinion can be regarded by another person as threatening, abusive or insulting.

A placard outside a coursing meeting stating that coursing is cruel and brutal may be regarded as abusive and insulting by coursing enthusiasts, but it is an expression of a legitimate view. Will this now be an offence punishable by up to six months in jail? "Abortion is murder" is not a view I hold but I have no doubt that a placard carried along O'Connell Street stating this would be regarded as abusive and insulting by many onlookers. Will this now be regarded as an offence punishable by up to six months in jail? Will it be an offence for a striking worker to carry a placard referring to a strike breaker as a scab? Such a placard is insulting and is probably intended to be insulting. Under this section a person does not even have to intend to cause a breach of the peace to be guilty of an offence.

There are similar problems in regard to section 8 which makes it an offence to act in a disorderly manner at a public meeting for the purposes of preventing the transaction of the business of the meeting or inciting another person to so act. I suppose we should be glad that sittings of the Dáil do not come within the definition of such a meeting. The Minister explained the intent of this section to some extent. However, it needs to be looked at much more closely. Questions arise as to whether it will outlaw heckling at a public meeting. If, for example, during the next election the Minister decides to hold a meeting outside the church in Oughterard or at a comharcumann in Cornamona——

That would be more likely.

——and someone starts hecking her, will a breach of the law occur and will the heckler be liable to six months' imprisonment? These sections seem to address a problem which does not exist.

We have to look back into history to see from where these sections come. Most people in this House may have forgotten or, like me, may be too young to remember the notorious criminal justice Bill introduced by one of the Minister's predecessors, the late Michéal Ó Móraín, in 1967. This Bill was correctly regarded at the time as one of the most serious attempts in the history of the State to diminish people's civil liberties. It was the subject of a massive campaign of opposition by civil liberty groups, lawyers, trade unions and political parties. The level of opposition and public reaction was unprecedented and the Minister and Government of the day were forced to drop the Bill. I dug out an old copy of the Bill, section 58 of which is virtually word for word sections 6 and 7 of the Bill before us. Section 58 (1) of the 1967 Bill states:

Where a person in a public place—

(a) uses or engages in any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or

(b) distributes or displays any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting ...

The section goes on to define this as an offence and sets out the penalties attached to it. Section 33 (1) of the same Bill states:

Any person who at a lawful public meeting acts in a disorderly manner for the purpose of preventing the transaction of the business of the meeting shall be guilty of an offence.

This is virtually word for word the provision in section 8 of this Bill.

It seems that the provisions of the Ó Móráin Bill of 1967 have been lying in a bottom drawer somewhere in the Department of Justice, somebody has managed to dig them out and they have found their way, quite inappropriately, into legislation which was intended to deal with the kind of street crime and violence which is known to us all. The only aspect of the Ó Móráin Bill which the Minister seems to have updated is the time people go to sleep. Section 58 (2) of the Ó Móráin Bill which deals with shouting, singing or boisterous behaviour, states:

Where a person in a public place, between the hours of 10 p.m. on any day and 7 a.m. on the next day ...

The Minister has updated this provision to the hours of 12 midnight and 7 a.m. The only difference between the Ó Móráin Bill and the Bill before us, as far as these sections are concerned, is that it was considered people went to bed earlier during the 1960s than they do today. We need to look at these sections in more detail on Committee Stage as they address a non-existent problem. This Bill, which is intended to address the overall problem of crime on our streets, is diminished by the inclusion of those provisions from the outdated and disregarded 1967 Bill.

I agree with the point made by Deputy Harney about the commencement date of the legislation. I do not see the need to allow for a lead-in of three months after its enactment. There is an urgency about this legislation — it has been called for not only by Members of this House but also by the Garda and members of the public. The sooner this legislation is enacted the better.

We need to look at the penalties proposed in some sections as they are perhaps a litle lenient. Many of the penalties are for fines of £500 and £1,000 while others do not refer to imprisonment. Given that those are the maximum penalties proposed in the legislation and the remarks about inconsistency in sentencing, there is a case for looking at the seriousness with which we are taking these offences. For example, section 10, which deals with wilful obstruction, proposes a maximum penalty of £200. I would expect this provision to be used to deal with the kind of common complaint regularly made to me by people who are intimidated as they go about their normal business by a gang of youths in a laneway or on a street. The maximum penalty of £200 fo such an offence needs to be reexamined.

I am concerned that section 21 will remove the automatic entitlement of somebody to opt for a trial by jury. Admittedly this relates only to offences under section 20 which deals with assault or obstruction of a peace officer. The principle of jury trials has been debated at some length. I do not have time to deal with this issue except to say that we will have to look at it in more detail on Committe Stage.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Jacob.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. There can be no doubt that there is an urgent need for this very welcome Bill. This was brought home to me very forcibly this week on reading two newspaper reports. In one case in Cork city a young father of two was set upon by a teenage gang and kicked unconscious. This young man had to receive 28 stitches and the gang subsequently set upon an old man who came to his assistance. It transpired that the residents in this area had been concerned about the activities of those youths for some time. In the second case in Dublin city, a man who attempted to help the couple living next door to him was stabbed in the eye, chest and stomach and was beaten about the head and body with a pickaxe handle. That was an act of brutal savagery. Yesterday I read about an 88 year old man who was savagely assaulted by thugs, leaving him crippled and unable to recognise his own children. No one has ever been caught for that monstrous crime. I do not give these examples for the purpose of shocking Members but to illustrate the true nature of crime. It is important to know what we are up against and it is vital to be aware of the human costs of crime. We should reserve our concerns for the victims of crime not the perpetrators.

I am referring not only to those who suffer directly at the hands of criminals but to their friends and families who have to pick up the pieces, particularly after crimes of violence or sexual assaults. Bearing in mind this sensitivity I commend the Minister for the recent legislation to allow for the effects of crime on a victim to be taken into account at the time of the trial. This was a most forward-looking measure and I hope it marks the beginning of a process of greater awareness of the needs of the victim in our legal and judicial system.

Ideally our streets should belong to all of us but, regrettably, this is not always the case. Parts of our towns and cities have become "no go" areas, particularly in the hours of darkness. Muggings, robbery, assault and rape have become disturbingly common. This is a distressing development in that the criminals are taking our streets from us, in doing so they impoverish us and limit our freedoms. We must resist this development as future generations will not thank us if we fail to grasp the nettle of crime prevention. Thankfully there is every indication that this is being done as the Minister has embarked on a major process of criminal reform. I wish her the best in this ambitious task, difficult though it may be.

Some people may not consider loitering a crime in the true sense of the word. However, this underestimates the true effects of loitering to those it affects. Loitering has the effect of threatening ordinary people, particularly the old, who may then be afraid to use their local shops because of the gang of youths hanging around the shops. This may damage the shopowner's business. Member should be in no doubt that loitering is a real threat to neighbourhoods. It hangs over communities like a cloud, at the very least it creates a sense of unease or, worse, acts as a catalyst for far more serious crime such as robbery and assault. The effects of alcohol have a lethal potential to induce loiterers to commit more serious crime so we must tackle it in a serious manner. The Bill addresses this need and introduces fines up £500 and— or a prison sentence of up to six months for persons who refuse to move after being requested by gardaí to do so. I look forward to the strict implementation of this provision so that people can feel safe in their neighbourhood.

I am happy that the Bill introduces provisions to deal with intoxication, disorderly conduct and threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour in a public place. Our legislation is inadequate to deal with the increase in threatening behaviour on our streets. Most Members acknowledge that there has been a gradual coarsening of life on our streets. In recent years this has manifested itself in a noticeable increase in public drunkeness and disorderly conduct in our towns and cities. This is not amiable drunkeness but the loud aggressive drunkeness that threatens passers-by and can spill over into crimes of violence. This behaviour is particularly disturbing when it involves a group of individuals, all intoxicated, lurching up a street and frightening those who cross their path. Old people, in particular, find this very threatening. They deserve a comfortable and safe retirement and this entails ensuring they have the right to walk the streets without fear. This Bill will allow the gardaí to apply greater sanctions. I welcome the provision that an intoxicated person whose behaviour in a public place gives rise to reasonable apprehension that they might endanger themselves or someone else is now liable to a maximum fine of £500. I hope the Minister will keep this provision under review, with a view to introducing stiffer fines. Loud and boisterous behaviour can interfere with people's right to a peaceful atmosphere. This is particularly so in residential areas with old people and children. I know of neighbourhoods where the quality of life has been eroded by such boisterous behaviour, particularly by gangs of youths. While innocent in its intent, this behaviour can have distressing effects on other members of the community. I am glad the Bill provides for fines for such activity.

More serious than boisterous behaviour is the threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour of some people in public places. Anyone who has been subject to such behaviour will know how disturbing it is. Even if it does not lead to violence, it is an act of violence and intimidation in itself. This type of crime is much more common than we would like to admit. It must be tackled in a hard-hitting manner, otherwise intimidation will flourish. I am glad that this Bill allows for fines and imprisonment for this crime. I wish the gardaí well in tackling this crime, particularly now that they are bolstered by the provisions of this Bill.

Racketeering is a serious blight on society, the godfathers who practise it do so through violence, intimidation, blackmail and extortion. They do not deserve one iota of our concern, but the full weight of the law. Individuals who make a lucrative living from this crime do so on the backs of ordinary law-abiding citizens. They must face the full rigours of the law and this Bill allows for unlimited fines and a maximum jail sentence of 14 years. I look forward to convictions for this ruthless form of crime as this blight must be eradicated from our towns and cities. I hope those people will be behind bars for a very long time.

I take this opportunity to thank the Garda for their trojan work in increasingly difficult circumstances. We as legislators have a duty to help them in this task. This Bill and the Minister's programme of criminal law reform will go a long way to helping the Garda in this very difficult task. It must go out loud and clear that everybody, irrespective of political opinion, is determined that people in our cities and towns will get the assurance they need to walk our streets and live in their communities, the behaviour of thugs who have made life a misery for them will not be allowed to continue.

I am very conscious of the problems in housing estates and in the community generally. However, threatening behaviour or intimidating conduct will not continue when this legislation is in place.

I thank my colleague, Deputy Dan Wallace, for sharing time with me. It is almost a formality for those on this side of the House to welcome the introduction of Bills but in this case I emphasise my genuine and heartfelt welcome for this Bill. Indeed, it was very gratifying to hear the main Opposition spokespersons, Deputies Gay Mitchell, Harney and Gilmore, welcome this Bill. The Minister indicated her willingness to consider amendments which may be put forward by Deputies on this legislation. That is not just lip service; she is a listening Minister as evidenced in the House this morning in that she is arranging to provide for the issue raised by Deputies Harney and Michael McDowell last week in regard to advertising brothels. On that occasion the Minister was not able to cater for the suggestion but in the interim she has found a way to include it in legislation, simply because she considered their suggestion meritorious. That is highly commendable.

In her contribution Deputy Harney said something to the effect that law and order has completely broken down, this is certainly the perception of a large percentage of people. As a rural Deputy, I emphasise that any perception that this is confined to our large urban areas is inaccurate. Throughout our towns and villages in rural areas lawlessness prevails and, unfortunately, the graph is moving in the wrong direction.

I do not make a habit of bringing deputations to meet Ministers. As a public representative it is not part of my modus operandi. Generally officials are very helpful and I find other ways to help people in my constituency. However, in regard to the disorder with which I have been confronted I had to depart from the practice of not bringing deputations to meet Ministers. I asked the Minister for Justice to meet constituents to try to bring some consolation to those who were suffering mentally because of widespread fear and terror. Two deputations met the Minister, one from my own town of Rathdrum, a typical Irish town; perhaps “town” is too grandiose a term as it is really a village. We had a period of lawlessness and public disorder which commenced with youths gathering and pestering people on the street. That graduated to petty lawlessness, car theft and burglaries and culminated in the killing of a priest. At that point the national press homed in on it. Lawlessness is a gradual process and an atmosphere is created of disregard for the law and those who are trying to implement it. In another case I brought in a deputation representing a broader cross-section of the constituency consisting of groups from Greystones, in the northern part of the county; Blessington, in the western part and Arklow in the south so that the Minister of the day would be au fait with the concerns of the county, which also mirrored the concerns of the country. The northern part of west Wicklow and the northern part of the east coast of Wicklow are on the immediate periphery of Dublin city. It is easy for thugs to steal a car, drive to Wicklow and carry out acts of lawlessness. From that point of view it is a very grave disadvantage to be located so near a large city.

It is worth indicating the problem that existed in Arklow as the Minister has addressed it in this legislation. We had the problem of late night revelry and boisterous conduct on the streets of Arklow and the residents of the town were being pestered. Following functions in an excellent hotel in the town people had to make their way to other areas of the town. Between the ending of the function and going home residents had a genuine reason to protest because they were being grossly interfered with. What does one do in a case like that? Do you close down the hotel and remove the reason for the gathering of young people? Of course not, because it is like a miniindustry in a town already ravaged by unemployment. Instead you tackle the problem as the Minister has done by means of this Bill. Heretofore the Garda were virtually powerless. Public representatives and local residents had exhorted them to do something and they tried to rectify the situation but heretofore they did not have the backing of the law. The Minister has stitched into the legislation a provision which will help to rectify the problem. I am enamoured of the provision whereby the Garda can take possession of alcohol from youths, it already existed in regard to taking possession of alcohol from minors. Young people do not congregate in age categories up to 16 or 18. We all know about the exuberance of youth and I certainly would not claim to have been an angel in my teens. However, at that time there was perhaps a respect for law and order that has waned.

The creation of an atmosphere of awareness and respect for the law is one of the objectives of this Bill. I wish it a speedy passage and I wish this reforming Minister well with other reforming legislation she will introduce.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo mar sílim go mba chóir go mbeadh cead agus saoirse ag chuile dhuine, mar a bhíodh na blianta ó shin, siúl ar na sráideanna gan eagla a bheith orthu go gcuirfidh éinne isteach orthú. Fadó bhí an tsaoirse sin againn agus mar a dúirt Comhalta, ní raibh na doirse faoi ghlas, fiú amháin. Ní mar sin atá scéal faoi láthair agus tá súil agam go gcabhróidh an Bille seo le feabhas a chur ar an scéal.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Austin Deasy.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): The Minister has made my day because I got great pleasure in hearing her say that in this Bill there is room for the banning of brothel advertising.

Deputy Deasy will not be very happy about that.

The Minister should face up to her responsibilities.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): There was a great deal of debate in this House recently about whether including prostitution in a Bill dealing with homosexuality was in order, but it appears that while prostitutes might be nomadic in real life, they certainly move from one Bill to another where legal matters are concerned.

The Minister will not change the age limit.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Deputy Harney is vulnerable today and, therefore, she should remain silent. The Minister should have been honest. She should not have told us that, for technical reasons, she could not accept the proposal on the last occasion. She told us that it was to the advantage of the Garda not to ban the advertising of brothels and that was unacceptable to many Members.

I listened to the points raised and I am changing the law in this Bill.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): The Minister is a very intelligent person. It was as clear as day to me that there was no logic in banning brothels while at the same time refusing to make the advertising of such premises illegal. On that occasion, Deputy Harney withdrew a worthwhile amendment for a short-lived political advantage. Having not pressed her amendment, Deputy Harney now discovers that the Minister agrees with her proposal. Nobody gained on that occasion.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): I am sure The Irish Times will carry big headlines tomorrow about Ministers doing somersaults, members of the Progressive Democrats Party being embarrassed and so on. I hope that is the case because it is the reality.

I welcome in particular section 5 of the Bill which deals with behaviour in public places. Life in Ireland can be disturbed by people who believe that when they are out enjoying themselves they can disregard everyone else. This is especially true in the case of elderly people who frequently are not good sleepers and are disturbed by people in a drunken state who get fun out of kicking an empty tin can around the streets at 1 a.m. The sooner those people realise that type of conduct will no longer be tolerated the better for everyone. People frequently gather around chip vans after pub closing time and because they are in a happy mood they shout and roar while people in the vicinity are trying to sleep.

The Minister failed to legislate for noise from private houses in the Bill. I am sure noise from ghetto blasters will be covered in the section dealing with loud music, but young people frequently play very loud music in their homes much to the annoyance of their neighbours. People should not be disturbed by excessive noise. One person's idea of music is another person's idea of noise and if it is too loud it is offensive to some people. Does the legislation only cover loud noise in public places? Under the legislation people playing a ghetto blaster at an inordinately high volume in the centre of a town are guilty of a crime, but if they are sitting in their kitchen at home with the window open playing a ghetto blaster at the same high pitch they are not guilty of a crime. Are people free to make as much noise as they like in their homes? I will be teasing out that matter on Committee Stage.

Crime in our cities is a major problem. Many tourists are being robbed while on holiday here. The Dublin Chamber of Commerce stated that there are approximately 50 juvenile offenders who are the ringleaders of crime in this city and if they were controlled much of the city crime might cease. My colleague, Deputy Gay Mitchell, correctly stated that it is not a question of throwing people into prison. We must deal with juvenile offenders in a caring way, educate them and make them realise that there is a better way of life. I wish to pay tribute to the many people who voluntarily organise various sporting activities for juveniles, frequently at their own expense. I appeal to the Minister to encourage people to contribute money to such voluntary organisations because that would be a much cheaper way of dealing with crime than providing detention places, reformatory schools and other facilities for young offenders. When young people are occupied in sporting activities their energy is used up in a proper manner and they are unlikely to go around in gangs deciding on what mischief they should get up to next.

Section 7 deals with the distribution or display of threatening, abusives insulting or obscene material. Those matters are in the eyes or the ears of the beholder and some examples of them have been given. Who will decide whether such behaviour is offensive? For example, a person walking up the street with a placard stating that this Government is a disgrace could be considered to be acting offensively towards members of certain parties.

That would not be an offence, it would be the truth. A public health warning would be much better.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Others might be offended by a person displaying a placard stating that this Government must stay. What is offensive to one person could be the truth for another.

Like a sign stating "Durkan should go".

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Would it not be worse if the sign stated “the Minister must go”? A sign stating, “the Minister must stay” could also be considered offensive. That matter must be dealt with on Committee Stage.

Section 12 deals with trespassing. It is regrettable that the Minister did not accept the Protection of Occupiers of Land Bill. I welcome the provision in the Bill making it illegal to trespass, but if people do trespass, they should not have a legal claim to damages if they are injured while doing so.

Deputy Harney correctly referred to the intimidation of people in their homes. The quality of life for many elderly, and not so elderly, people has been destroyed by thugs who feel free to intimidate others. Parents should take control in this regard. I accept that in some cases, no matter what parents do, their children may end up in trouble. However, many parents do not take their responsibilities seriously and, as a result, young people are on the streets when they should be in bed. There are rules and regulations about bullying in schools and the same should apply outside school hours.

I hope the provisions of this Bill are enforced. There would be nothing worse than passing legislation which endeavours to improve the quality of life for our people, to punish the wrongdoers and show that crime does not pay and then not have its provisions enforced. If the Garda and the courts do not enforce its provisions we are simply fooling everybody. We must strike a balance. Gardaí cannot move into a crowd of young people and suspect they are all up to mischief, but I am sure the Garda will handle such incidents in a proper manner.

I thank Deputy Browne for allowing me ten minutes of his time. In common with the other speakers, I welcome this Bill which is a step in the right direction. However, if its provisions are not enforced, we will be back where we started.

There has been a breakdown of law and order. Indeed society itself has broken down. We are not a Third World country; we are supposed to be in the front rank, but the behaviour of some people, particularly some young people, is totally unacceptable. This must be curtailed and it is up to the Minister for Justice to see that the agencies under her control implement this legislation. It is her job to co-ordinate the Garda, the Judiciary, the legal profession and the prison service. What is happening at the moment would not be accepted in any other civilized country. When one goes abroad to heavily populated countries in western Europe, countries in which there are 50 or 60 million people, one sees that the younger generation are perfectly behaved except on the very odd occasion. However, in this sparsely populated country, we see obscene behaviour week in and week out, not just in Dublin city on O'Connell Street but in every other city, town and even village. It suggests that we should be looking at the overall situation rather than at one area. I have made that point several times in this House.

Our society and the laws governing it are organised in a way that promotes disorder. Yesterday in the debate on drink driving I said that the licencing laws were totally out of date and should be liberalised, if not eliminated. Most of the problems relate to the exodus from pubs and discos at closing time. In an average town of 7,000 or 8,000 people when a disco closes down at 2 o'clock in the morning there may be hundreds of youngsters on the street and only four or five gardaí trying to cope with the unacceptable behaviour of a sizeable number. We should have the power to withdraw the licence of pubs and particularly discos if the standard of behaviour in them is not acceptable, there are numerous cases of unacceptable behaviour in many towns and villages. Let us grasp the nettle and deal with this rather than introducing little bits of legislation which deal only with one area.

This legislation would be very welcome if we could be sure that, when enacted, it would be enforced. I am not sure that can be done. Perhaps the Minister would do a study into the reasons for the breakdown of law and order and the lewd behaviour of some young people —"lewd" is the only word I can use to describe the vulgarity. A girl or a woman walking along the street now is quite likely to be insulted and called obscene names. The standard of behaviour on the streets of our towns and villages is totally out of control. Thousands of good-living, decent citizens would say the same.

Let me point to some of the better achievements in the system in recent years. The standard of district judges has improved. There is a new breed of judges who are doing their best, the Minister for Justice should ensure that more of these judges are appointed and that the penalties fit the crimes. We should clamp down on anti-social behaviour every bit as much as on drunken driving or any other criminal activity. If we do not we will undermine the whole fabric of society. An irate shopkeeper in my home town last week pointed out a youth who, the previous week, had been sentenced to six months' imprisonment for breaking the windows of shops in the town in one of these late night orgies of violence and bad conduct. He had been released from prison within seven days and was strutting around like a folk hero. That is typical of what is happening. Is it due to the incapacity of our prisons to hold these people? Are they regarded as minor offenders? Why are people released within a matter of days when they have committed serious crimes? There is a woman with a placard outside Leinster House today indicating that a person who was sent to prison for the manslaughter of her child as a result of dangerous driving was released after one day. How can we expect the morale of the law enforcement agencies to be high when these people can come out of gaol within a matter of days and virtually spit in their faces? What we are enduring will have to stop and this legislation will have to be enforced. People will have to serve their sentences to the full. They will have to learn that such behaviour does not pay.

I am particularly disturbed that, to date, nothing has been done about the vulgarity and lewd behaviour of a significant number of young people. Some of them cannot open their mouths without uttering vulgarities, and it is directed primarily against females, girls and women of every age. Our society is deteriorating daily. Yesterday I read that a 30 year-old woman has been raped in broad daylight, that is not an isolated incident. How can we consider ourselves a civilized society? Yesterday I saw a violent fistfight in one of the main thoroughfares of this city and, of course, when one man went down the other went in with the boot. It is horrifying and is happening all the time. A Donegal GAA supporter was kicked to death in O'Connell Street on the night of last year's All-Ireland final while he was minding his own business and celebrating with his friends. Tourists have been robbed and murdered in our city.

The legislation is piecemeal. Our licensing laws need to be changed because the Garda cannot cope with hundreds or thousands of people at one time. The Garda give up hope of maintaining law and order when they see villains walk free from courts because people are afraid to give evidence against them. The Garda are incensed when people walk free from prison having spent only a day or a week of a six or 12 month sentence. This cannot be allowed continue. I fully support this Bill as I am sure all Deputies do. I particularly support section 7 which outlaws the distribution or display of threatening, abusive or obscene material. The Minister is in charge and all Deputies agree that she should introduce legislation which will back up the Garda and the Judiciary as the legislation in place at present does not support those two authorities.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Derek McDowell. All legislation must be discussed carefully, logically and calmly. The legislation before us relates to public order, legislators, who represent the people, must not become hysterical about matters but discuss them in a cool and reasonable fashion. There is a danger that law and order can become draconian if we over-react to problems in society.

Nobody will deny that this is radical legislation. There have been enormous changes in society in recent years. Much public order legislation relates to society in the last century. Ireland is now in the post industrial age and we are now evolving as an urban society which has left behind many of the traditions of our rural background and new problems of social behaviour must be addressed in that context. I am pleased the Minister stated that the provisions in this legislation are not written in tablets of stone and that she is willing to consider amendments on Committee Stage.

I welcome the opportunity to table a number of amendments on various sections of the legislation. The background problems which have given rise to this legislation are well known to all Deputies. There have been horror stories about child sexual abuse, rape, deaths on our streets, tourists being molested and robbed, joy-riding and drug abuse. Many local authority representatives will be aware of intimidation and harassment of tenants in housing estates. These are criminal matters which impact inordinately on people in society and we have a duty to introduce appropriate legislation to ensure their rights are protected.

Dublin has many problems. It is a rapidly growing city in which a third of the population live and approximately a quarter of that population is unemployed. There is an increasing number of problems in the Dublin area as unemployment is endemic. Throughout the country one million people are employed, one million people are involved in education and 1.5 million are either unemployed or dependent on various welfare contributions.

Approximately 50 per cent of our population is under 25, disproportionate to that of other European countries. Having such a high youth population brings problems. Family structures are changing dramatically, the nuclear family is no longer the norm. Moral values have come under threat.

The Beef Tribunal is inquiring into the affairs of the wealthy and the powerful. There are many concerns in regard to the manner in which the tax amnesty has been introduced which provides that people can bring hot money into the country without having to pay the full tax.

That is a Government proposal.

All these matters raise questions regarding moral values.

They certainly do.

There has been bad housing planning in the past leading to the development of ghettos. All those matters provide the background problems which have given rise to this legislation.

The Bill has wide-ranging powers. Enormous discretion is being given to the Garda. I understand it is proposed that the implementation of the legislation will be selective. It is blanket legislation rather than legislation targeting specific areas. It refers almost exclusively to young people and, therefore, they will be on the receiving end of these provisions. The question of constitutionality arises in the context of a right to assembly and protest. Such matters should be considered carefully.

The answer to social problems in society and crime are dealt with largely through ensuring that there are sufficient gardaí on the beat. This legislation, like much criminal legislation coming before the House, provides dual sanctions of providing a fine or a term of imprisonment for criminal offences. The drafters of our legislation should indicate to the judges that there are other sanctions which may be applied against offenders. A number of such sanctions operate at present but a variety of alternative sanctions could be inserted to guide our judges, such as suspended sentences, community service orders and restitution.

I am concerned about section 4 which provides that people could be arrested for posing a danger to themselves. I know the national association for the homeless is concerned about this issue. It is also concerned about section 14 which relates to somebody being found on the premises in the curtilage of buildings which may be derelict. Perhaps the Minister might contact that organisation regarding its concerns in relation to those sections.

Section 5 relates to singing and boisterous conduct which may cause an annoyance to people. On the night of an all-Ireland final or when Jack's army returns from a successful foray abroad their supporters could be imprisoned under the terms of this section. I will table an amendment to this section on Committee Stage.

Regarding disorderly conduct at public meetings, I attended the launch of the National Economic and Social Forum and proceedings were interrupted by an unemployed person. He was taken out and treated sympathetically by the gardaí but if this legislation had been in place, he could have been arrested and prosecuted.

The provisions in the Bill regarding riot, violent behaviour and affray seem to have been taken directly from the Progressive Democrats' Bill. It states that if two or more people are gathered together, the presumption will be that they are gathered to commit wrongful deeds. There should not be a presumption of guilt where two or more people are gathered in an area. It is questionable if that is constitutional. It represents a dangerous point of departure in radical legislation.

The partnership Government might come under that heading.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill, the primary purpose of which is to provide for the maintenance of public order. Of necessity it provides also for the enforcement of public order by the gardaí and the courts. The Bill does more than that because it radically re-defines the relationship between the legal system and the gardaí on the one hand, and the citizen on the other. I am not suggesting there is a polarity of interest between the citizen and the legal system, in most cases the two are complementary. However, we must strike a balance in such legislation between individual civil rights and the right of society to protect itself. It is clear that those who drafted this Bill, whom I compliment, were conscious of the need to strike that balance but some sections fall on the wrong side of that balance.

The Bill covers a number of new offences and updates the penalties for many existing ones. It is absurd that we are relying on Victorian laws for much of our public order legislation. The fines are absurdly low and leave the courts to choose between imposing a single figure fine or, alternatively, sending a person to prison. It is the type of choice I would not wish to make as a district justice. The current legislation is unworkable and must be updated.

I welcome some sections, in particular section 4, which allows gardaí to confiscate liquor which is being consumed in public places by people who are, or could be, a danger to themselves or to others. That makes sense and goes some distance to removing the reason persons are a danger to themselves or to others. I welcome also sections 22, 23 and 24 which confer powers on the Garda to control access to certain public events. There is a question as to whether the Garda have the powers to erect road blocks and confiscate liquor which people entering public events intend to consume. It is helpful that there is confirmation in the Bill that gardaí will explicitly have those powers. I welcome also the section concerning racketeering. The Minister rightly pointed out that there are problems with existing legislation. This section will help resolve some of them in so far as that can be done by law, and to that extent it is welcome.

Much of the discussion this morning concerned crime in general. Deputy Deasy gave us a typically passionate and lengthy description of how crime affects society. We have all had similar experiences. The crimes described by Deputies Deasy and Costello are dealt with in our criminal law. These include assault, malicious damage, rape and so on. The Bill seeks to create new offences and, to some extent, update existing ones. I am concerned about some of those which I wish to highlight.

Section 5 creates the offence of disorderly conduct in a public place and states that, "It shall be an offence for any person in a public place to engage in any shouting, singing or boisterous conduct". It is currently an offence to behave in a disorderly fashion which may lead to or constitute a breach of the peace. What is proposed in this section is to make it an offence to shout, sing or engage in boisterous conduct between midnight and 7 a.m. in such a way as to cause annoyance to any person. Annoyance is very subjective. What I might thoroughly enjoy could be annoying to somebody else. Teenagers listen to the radio and ghetto blasters to enjoy the music and not necessarily to intimidate or annoy others. We must be very careful about eliminating the element of intent from the legislation and I hope the Minister will examine this on Committee Stage.

The Bill deals also with the relationship between citizens and the Garda. This aspect must be considered carefully. The relationship between Irish citizens and the Garda over the past decades has been very good. Community relations with the gardaí have been very positive. Gardaí have gone out of their way, certainly in my constituency, to maintain those good relations by appointing community gardaí and so on. This is not the case in other countries. Like other Members I witnessed confrontations between young people and the police in Paris, for example, where clearly the relationship between anybody under the age of 25 and the local gendarmerie is less than positive. I recently read, in a guide book to Spain, a clear warning to avoid some elements of the local Guardia Seville. We do not want to reach that stage here but, unfortunately, there is a danger that if we give unrestricted powers to the gardaí, those powers will be pushed to the limit and, perhaps, beyond by some members — undoubtedly a minority — of the gardaí.

It is a tradition in our democracy that people are entitled not just to the protection of the gardaí but of the law. I am concerned that the extensive powers of arrest conferred on the gardaí in this Bill may cause some difficulty in maintaining the good relationship which exists generally between the gardaí and ordinary citizens. That relationship is under threat in some districts of Dublin where social deprivation exists.

Deputy Gilmore referred to section 10 which deals with wilful obstruction. My view of that section is not the same as that of Deputy Gilmore. Under the section it is an offence for anybody to wilfully prevent or interrupt the free passage of any person or vehicle. That is satisfactory on the face of it but is there any reason that section could not be used to prevent demonstrations in public places or demonstrations, for the sake of argument, outside this House? Perhaps it is not an appropriate step for someone to block traffic outside Leinster House but nonetheless people have certain rights, not all of which are provided for in law, to exercise free speech and free political expression.

I am a little concerned about section 8 which deals with public meetings. Under that section it will be an offence for any person to act in a disorderly manner at a public meeting for the purposes of preventing the transaction of the business of the meeting.

It does not include meetings of the Labour Party.

I have seen that section infringed by the Opposition virtually every morning on the Order of Business when they seek to prevent the transaction of the business of the House. This is far too broad a provision and it must be restricted in some way. If there is a breach of the peace, an assault or an offence of that nature at a public meeting, it is and should be an offence. To broaden the offence to the extent that is proposed in section 8 would be excessive.

Deputy Gilmore expressed reservations concerning section 7 which deals with the distribution of literature.

I am concerned that it might infringe the right of people to distribute literature which articulates their views on political issues, even if those views do not represent those of the majority in our society.

Section 21 eliminates the possibility of a jury trial for people charged with offences under section 20. I am concerned about this because it refers specifically to section 20 which updates the offence of assaulting a garda. I do not believe that offence should be exempted from a jury trial. In my experience it is the practice to request a jury trial in those cases because — we should be frank about this — some district judges are reluctant to do anything other than that requested by a garda. I appreciate that those who drafted this legislation were conscious of the need to strike a balance between civil human individual rights and the rights of society. I compliment them on attenmpting to strike that balance. I hope we can tease out that aspect further on Committee Stage.

The Bill deals with most aspects of crime, with the possible exception of protection of the public from the Government. A similar warning to the public health warning that accompanies cigarettes and tobacco products should also apply to the Government given the various measures it has inflicted on the people in the past six months. Perhaps, in future consideration of amendments to this and other legislation, the Minister will consider incorporating some such protection of the public.

The Deputy should stick to the Bill.

I am referring to the Bill and if I am provoked I might encompass other matters also. Society has changed considerably in the last 30 or 40 years. I do not accept Deputy McDowell's comment that unlike the position in other countries, there is great co-operation with the Garda here. Given some of the things that have happened, particularly in this city, in the last few years one clearly gets the impression that there is little support, certainly among some sectors of the population, for the Garda. The same is the case in regard to other services. For example, how many times have we heard of instances of the fire or ambulance services being called out in an emergency, only to be stoned by members of the public? How many times have gardaí had to withdraw from areas of this city because they were being attacked by members of the public? Society has improved in some areas and deteriorated in others. However, respect for law and order and authority has not improved in the last 20 years.

My colleague, Deputy Deasy, outlined the frustration and annoyance of the law abiding public at what goes on around them, over which they seem to have no control or influence — that also applies to the Garda and to legislators. I will refer to matters that are seen as part and parcel of a liberal society but which are not so. For some unknown reason petty crime in areas of social deprivation is condoned on the basis of deprivation. Bullying which starts in schools is the first sign that the person involved will commit crime in later life. There has been an increase in mugging throughout this city and it also beginning to emerge in other towns and cities.

What kind of image are we, this so-called island of saints and scholars, the island of hospitality, the island of friendship and welcomes, portraying to the outside world? What image must people get when they come here and are victims of crime? What are we doing about this matter? We throw up our arms and shake our heads saying that it is awful, but we do not deal with the problem. Despite the merits of some aspects of this legislation I am not sure whether it will deal with the problem.

Defenceless people sitting in their cars at traffic lights are targets for thugs who break their windows and take their handbags. The chances of these criminals being caught are very slim because the Garda do not have the time or resources to deal with them and make an example of them. It should be clear that there is a good chance that people who indulge in that activity will be caught, brought to justice, serve a sentence or pay a heavy fine. However, the chances of that happening at present are slim. People involved in crime start off in a small way and in time evolve to the stage where they commit more serious crime such as rape, armed robbery and car theft. If people get the clear message that if they commit petty crime there is a good chance they will get away or that if they are brought to court and sentenced to a term of imprisonment they will get out in a few days, the battle is lost when these people start committing serious crime.

I will not repeat the points made by other speakers, but it must be evident to everybody in this House, that serious as well as petty crime is increasing at an alarming rate, indeed it is out of control. Much crime is not even recorded for the simple reason that many victims do not bother to report it because they know it is a waste of time. I recently witnessed a handbag snatch at traffic lights in this city and reported it. The Garda did not have the resources to assist at the time and I can understand that, but when I followed up the matter I was told the crime had not been reported. Obviously the victim saw no benefit in reporting the crime. There is a message in that and I am not sure this legislation will deal with the matter.

I will refer briefly to the legislation discussed in this House yesterday in relation to drink driving — to which we are all opposed. The effects of that legislation will be to tie the hands of the gardaí in dealing with the regulars who go to the local pub every Friday or Saturday night. While the gardaí are dealing with these people the serious criminal will be going about his or her business unimpeded and serious crime will continue. I am not saying we should bring our laws into line with those of other European cities, but the resources must be provided to implement them. There is no sense in passing legislation if the resources are not provided to follow it through and if a sufficient number of gardaí are not on the streets and in the stations to deal with the problem. We saw the introduction of the "green man" in country Garda stations. If there is an emergency in a particular area a Garda car may have to travel 40 or 50 miles to respond to the call. It is impossible to ensure a positive response to crime when the necessary resources are not available.

For most criminals sentenced to a term of imprisonment there is a good chance that he or she — in most cases crimes are committed by men — will get out in a short time. We tear our hair out and beat our breasts if these people do not receive good treatment in prison, if they do not have state-of-the-art acoustics and televisions and good accommodation. There is a determination to ensure that people are very comfortable in prison. Despite the horrendous nature of the crimes these people may have perpetrated and despite the fact that they may have seriously interfered with the lives of other people, there is greater concern for the needs of the convicted criminal when serving their just sentences than for the victims of crime.

In regard to the car thief, as was pointed out in the legislation we discussed yesterday, any car can be stolen. When this legislation is passed a car could be stolen in the centre of the city and impounded if the car thief is interrupted in the course of his activity. That is the odd thing about it. How many times have we condemned the activities of the car thief? How many families have been deprived of members and how many lives have been interrupted by the kind of thuggery that started off with the illegal opening of cars which graduated to the more serious crime of car theft and unlawful driving? When serious action is contemplated against such thieves some people will say that it represents an anti-liberal stance, but it is not. There is nothing anti-liberal about applying the laws and about ensuring that law abiding citizens can go about their business unimpeded. It is time that we recognised that in this House and stopped equivocating about the needs of some of these thugs behind bars.

If we are talking about the underprivileged, the tendency to crime and so on, what message was given to poor people by the recent amnesty being discussed today? We have had many lectures from the Government side of the House over the past number of months about what attitude we should adopt. The message that went out was quite clear. A number of people who illegally took money out of the country in suitcases or brown paper sacks have got a special concession in that they do not have to pay the normal rate of income tax. Why should they abide by the law in the future? That question must be answered in this House because this House will pass the legislation. The Government parties will have to be very careful about the message from this assembly because it can have serious consequences in the future.

To know what must be done we need to identify the extent of the problem and the facilities required to deal with it. All crime should be reported and the means for reporting it should be readily available to the general public. I have asked the Minister this question on a number of occasions without getting an answer and I do not expect to get one today. If I ask the Minister about the required number of prison places on any given day I will get an answer. I will get a broadly based theoretical reply which constitutes a response without giving an answer. Incidentally, that is a characteristic of the Government. With the exception of one or two Departments they do not give straight answers. We do not know the total number of prison places required at any given time. We know that the prisons are overcrowded and that the revolving door system applies. If we know all that why can we not go a bit further and quantify the position? There is no point in saying that we do not have the resources to deal with this problem. If we do not have the resources to deal with the problem, we do not have the resoures to allow citizens to live in peace. We need to identify the problems in terms of reporting crime and in terms of continuing right down the line to the provision of the necessary incarceration facilities for those convicted.

I am wary of handing out statutory sentences on conviction but there should be some reasonable level of sentence, some reasonable affinity between the sentence and the crime committed. I know that the legal people will say that it is not simple and I accept that. Application of the law depends on resources. If the law is to be applied the resources must be applied to make sure that justice is done and seen to be done. If the law is to be respected there can be no short cuts.

With regard to respect for the law, from how many housing estates do we get requests for traffic "calming" measures? There are still potholes, but in the estates where the potholes are not conveniently located, we now have to provide ramps to encourage motorists who are supposed to be law abiding citizens and civilised human beings, to slow down so that they do not kill children. It should be simple to get a message like that across to motorists, but apparently it does not work. With regard to respect for the law, how many times have we seen road signs turned around to point in the wrong direction? That is supposed to be clever and macho in the world of the modern thug. It is nothing more than a sick joke.

In all my dealings with residents' associations, the most common complaint relates to outlandish behaviour in public places usually up to 1 a.m., 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. This usually occurs in open spaces between two housing estates. I cannot refer to cider drinking, because the cider federation will write to me and object, but certainly the behaviour revolves around drinking. The alcohol is usually bought in a supermarket or in an off-licence in fairly large quantities to circumvent the licensing laws, with the resultant thuggery. I am glad to say that problem has been addressed in the Bill. I hope the Garda Síochána will use this legislation in such a way that it will not be brought into disrepute but at the same time indicate to the potential thug that his days are numbered.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Nolan.

Carlow-Kilkenny): Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am delighted Deputy Durkan endorsed my view that the provisions of the Bill are to be welcomed. However, I do not share his view that they will not be implemented due to the lack of resources.

I welcome the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this debate. The Minister is to be commended on bringing forward the Bill after such a short period in office. I am convinced that the provisions of the Bill will be greeted with a huge sigh of relief by many families in this city, particularly in my constituency who have been waiting anxiously for help. For some time they have been under siege and have almost been abandoned to the thugs, bullies, marauding gangs and loiterers.

The Garda Síochána, who have been diligent, have been frustrated and hampered in their efforts to deal effectively with the waves of vandalism, intimidation and abusive, threatening and insulting behaviour. They, too, will welcome these provisions because they will be able to respond in a more effective and meaningful way when incidents of public disorder, which have plagued and cast a blight on many urban communities, occur.

While I accept that these phenomena are not confined exclusively to urban areas I can say with conviction that they occur in the main in those areas. The question of public disorder has been on the agenda for almost every public meeting I attended in my constituency during the past eight or nine years. Indeed, at many meetings the discussion was confined to this one issue and there were demands that politicians and members of the Garda Síochána restore public order. At last these people can now see the first bright ray of hope that peace and order will be restored for law abiding citizens.

Before I comment on sections of the Bill I would like to deal with the issue of parental responsibility. The role of parents in the life of a child is paramount and the lack of parental control is a contributory factor to juvenile crime and delinquency in our communities. It is difficult to deal with this issue in legislation. For example, the report on juvenile crime presented by the Oireachtas committee of which I was a member cautioned that we should not simply penalise parents who are unable to cope. It stated that penalties would only add to the stress and pressure. While this may be true in some cases I am convinced that if we are to make an impact on juvenile crime parents will have to be held accountable for the behaviour of their children.

Some parents do not know where their children go once they leave the house, who they are with and when they are likely to return home; they do not seem to care. In such circumstances children are at serious risk of being lured into crime. Some quickly find themselves involved in delinquent or criminal behaviour. At this vital stage parents should be held accountable in law and obliged to show that they are making every reasonable effort to control their delinquent children. I welcome the news that the Minister intends to publish a juvenile justice Bill in the autumn and I hope she will take what I said into account.

In recent years loitering gangs have been the greatest scourge of law abiding citizens in housing estates, particularly in my constituency. There is safety in numbers for the coward who wants to be a hero in the eyes of his pals. In such circumstances many a coward has bullied, harassed, threatened and intimidated families without provocation just to show off. Ordinary decent people complain that the Garda Síochána have no power to deal with these loitering gangs. I warmly welcome the sections that deal with many aspects of this problem. I am delighted that the fines are pitched at a level that will make offenders and their parents, take stock of the position in which they find themselves.

Section 5 deals with disorderly conduct in public. I am delighted that under this section the Garda Síochána will have the power to order culprits to desist at any time of the day or night in circumstances where they have reasonable cause to believe that such conduct is likely to cause annoyance to others. I am thinking here of those unruly gangs who engage in grossly unacceptable disorderly behaviour in laneways and dark street corners well before midnight on dark winter evenings. It is important that we stress that this is addressed adequately in the Bill.

Section 9 is most welcome. I am delighted it is being spelled out clearly that the Garda Síochána will have the power to direct loiterers acting in a manner contrary to the provisions of sections 4, 5 or 6 to move on. These two simple words will be music to the ears of so many people who have been afraid for so long to leave their homes at night, to call the Garda Síochána for fear of retaliation, and to speak out in support of their right to peace and quiet in their community. Two words that should be repeated often are, "move on".

Section 10 may not receive much attention but it is important nonetheless. I have come across many examples where loitering gangs obstructed the free passage of others in laneways and other public places. I am delighted the Minister has decided to increase the fine to £200 and I encourage her to increase it further.

Section 15 updates the law in relation to riot. In my constituency certain communities found themselves under siege on a regular basis and I will be happy to tell them that the gangs, which can number up to 200, can on conviction be liable to an unlimited fine or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding ten years or both. I suggest that the minimum fine should be £500 and the minimum jail term should be a few years. That would be a dose of reality to the individuals concerned and their families.

Section 25 will be of importance in facilitating the effective implementation of many of the earlier sections. Powers of arrest without warrant in circumstances of unacceptable public disorder are essential. Under this section a member of the Garda Síochána will have the power to demand the name and address of suspects at the scene of a crime and the power to arrest without warrant where the suspect refuses to do so. I have come across many examples of members of the Garda Síochána being derided, abused and insulted by young offenders.

When I read section 21 I was delighted the Minister had responded in a positive way to the pleas I made that she remove the right of suspected offenders to opt for trial by judge and jury thereby prolonging the delay in having the case heard. The Minister should extend the section to include burglars who may commit up to 100 burglaries and opt for trial by judge and jury.

This enables them to repeat the offence, often in the same community, while waiting for the case to be heard. In some instances the suspects have been apprehended at the scene of the crime or identified on camera. In such circumstances there is little doubt that they are guilty. The bail laws should be tightened and the provisions of section 21 applied. This is the minimum required if we are to restore confidence in our system of law and order.

I salute the Minister for introducing the Bill as ordinary, decent law abiding citizens who have been battered and bruised for so long by violent and unruly gangs can now see the first ray of hope. When this Bill is passed and its provisions are put into force I am confident the Minister will be remembered fondly in the homes of families enjoying peace and quite in their communities for the first time in many years.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Callely.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome this legislation which seeks to update the law on public order offences. This Bill is long-overdue. It proposes to deal with the problem of racketeering. While some people may think that racketeering is confined to larger urban areas such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, this problem has spread and evidence of racketeering in some rural areas has surfaced during the past few months. The Bill proposes to protect the vast majority of our people who wish to go about their business free from the threat of intimidation. I welcome the Minister's statement that she will introduce further legislation in this area during the autumn.

Unfortunately, the Garda feel that their hands are tied to some extent in dealing with racketeering and unruly gangs. This has become increasingly evident to the public in recent times. For example, a number of Dublin supporters who had attended a Dublin-Wexford match in Wexford went completely out of control on the train back to Dublin. The Garda felt constrained in terms of the way in which they could deal with this mob. It is disgraceful that the majority of genuine supporters who follow their teams around the country every weekend should feel threatened by these unruly gangs. Although the Garda did a great job in controlling that mob such incidents have serious knock-on effects. Genuine GAA supporters should not have to endure this sort of intimidation. Many families now travel by train to football and hurling matches. The parents of young children will think twice about taking their children to matches if they will be subjected to this type of unruly behaviour by a small number of supporters. The Garda authorities must welcome this legislation.

I ask the Minister to give consideration to the powers of judges under future legislation. At present there is a problem with judges handing down decisions which are not uniform. The Judiciary need guidance on sentencing.

Consideration needs to be given to the lack of jails and places in prisons. Prisoners should serve their full sentences in prison. There is a perception that we have a revolving door prison system whereby prisoners are released one or two days after they have been sent to prison. This does nothing to help the genuine civic minded person and the Garda authorities who go to a lot of trouble in ensuring that criminals are brought to court and sentenced. This is not good enough. Courts should have the power to confiscate the proceeds of crime. For far too long criminals have opted to pursue a life of crime in the knowledge that they might get a suspended sentence with a relatively small fine or a short sentence and they can live off the proceeds of their crimes at a later stage.

The Minister confirmed that she will bring forward a juvenile justice Bill in which she will deal with the issue of parental control and responsibility. Parents have a major role to play in ensuring that their children abide by the law, and this responsibility must be taken seriously by them.

I wish to refer to special detention centres for juvenile offenders. It is not good enough to send young juvenile offenders to Mountjoy Prison which has basically become a third level institution for criminals. The Minister must give serious consideration to the provision of special places for these young offenders. In some cases criminals who are brought before our courts are granted bail much too easily. All too often we read about criminals who committed serious offences while on bail. I ask the Minister to look at these issues in the context of future legislation. The rise in the level of crime-related to some extent to the problem of unemployment, something which will not change. I welcome this Bill and am glad the Minister will introduce more legislation in this area in the autumn.

I, to, welcome this long overdue Bill. I do not have time to deal with the various provisions in the Bill — I will deal with them on Committee Stage. I have been quite outspoken about the area of public order for some time. There are many different ways of dealing with this issue. From time to time successive Ministers for Justice said that they would carry out reviews and issue reports. On occasion we have had to ask when certain issues will be tackled.

I am pleased that this Bill will finally deal with the area of public order. To ensure that the provisions of the Bill are properly implemented, the Garda will have to be given adequate powers and proper penalties will have to be imposed. Is the Minister satisfied that sufficient places are available in detention centres for all offenders? I am dissatisfied with the responses I have received from the Minister to questions I put down on prisons. As recently as 10 June, I put down a question to the Minister asking the total number of prisoners who had been released from prison early. Unfortunately, to my disappointment, I was told that this information was not readily available. On 2 June I put down a question asking the number of prison places required if all the prisoners convicted in 1992 served their full sentences. I was given a similar reply to this question —"The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available".

I have put down various questions to the Minister for Justice during the last year, one of which related to Garda divisional areas and the way in which garda are allocated on a divisional basis. I thought that this would be decided on the basis of population and I asked the Minister the population figures for each area. Again I was told that the population figures were not available on a divisional basis.

I welcome the way in which the Bill proposes to deal with public order. I have contacted the Minister's office to indicate that I will be putting down an amendment to section 5 (1) (a). Will the Minister look closely at that paragraph with a view to deleting it? On checking with the Garda stations in my own area, it has been confirmed to me they receive calls about disorderly conduct in public places at all hours of the day but that these normally start after tea-time. It varies with the time of the year but it starts earlier during the summer holidays.

I would like to develop this point further, but I am restricted by time.

On behalf of the Progressive Democrats' Party I welcome this Bill. As Members may be aware, the first Private Members' Bill our party introduced this year related to public order. It is generally accepted that there is need to strengthen the powers of the Garda to deal with breaches of public order. Bail laws and the criteria used for releasing prisoners from prison are also areas in need of reform. I will deal with these matters later.

The predominant concern in major urban areas is that crime is escalating out of control. Many citizens have approached their public representatives to express their genuine and legitimate fear about the breakdown of law and order in large urban centres. While we need to introduce legislation, such as the Bill before us, to give powers to the Garda Síochána and the law enforcement agencies, we as a legislative assembly need to take an integrated approach to such problems. An urban affairs policy is badly needed and my party is working on such a policy which will look at law enforcement, social services and other areas associated with social exclusion. Our problems all come from the social phenomenon of high unemployment. The combination of alcohol abuse, high unemployment, particularly among young people, and a growing social exclusion is a deadly cocktail, but if we do not see the interplay of these factors, we miss the point. Those three factors together constitute a deadly cocktail which leads directly to violent crime, particularly in the cities. I welcome the fact that the long-awaited juvenile justice Bill will be presented in the autumn.

The traditional family structure is breaking down. That is the way life is and we have to take account that the standard family unit is no longer based on marriage. If that is the case, we need to change our policies to accommodate it. That will mean putting family support services in place which will intervene and support families under stress. Across the broad social spectrum many families, for a range of social and economic reasons find they cannot cope with the stresses they are under. The introduction of child care legislation and the implementation of sections of the Child Care Act will make a marked contribution to family support services. Many child and young offenders are from dysfunctional families and are growing up in a culture of crime. Drug abuse is a major cause of crime and we are not putting in place sufficient supports for those sectors of the community who are surrounded by young drug abusers. We need also to put supports in place to help them out of their dependency and to deal with their need for so much money to feed their addiction.

Social workers in the Eastern Health Board are engaged in a legitimate industrial dispute. They feel they do not have the back-up resources to deal with the type of work in which they are engaged. Six social workers might have only one secretary and no clerical or administrative back up supports. This dispute directly affects services for all children, including homeless children between the ages of 16 and 18 years. Many of these children are sent to bed and breakfast accommodation but are roaming the streets by day as there is no follow up care for them. They are involved in petty crime on the Dublin streets during the day. Generally speaking, we do not have adequate supports for children who are just out of the care of the State. Children under 16 years are the direct responsibility of the Eastern Health Board but when they reach 16 years they are in a twilight zone and are not entitled to anything. They may get food but there is a feeling that nobody is responsible for them. At present, they are roaming around begging and intimidating people in Dublin. However, locking them up is not the answer.

I have been alerted to the growing problem of child prostitution involving boys and girls. Many of these children were in State care when they were young, but on reaching 16 years they can no longer be held compulsorily by the authorities and they leave care. Many go back to their families but because the situation from which they were taken has not improved they end up homeless and are left to wander the streets. This is an escalating problem and many of the social workers in the field are very concerned but do not have the clerical or administrative resources to meet the demands.

And the money?

We have been promised that £8 million will be provided this year and a further £35 million over a three year period to phase in the provisions of the Child Care Act. When will those resources be put in place? I am a bit impatient and I am particularly concerned about the 16-18 year old group.

Members have drawn attention to the fact that Garda manning levels are not sufficient. I have had representations from my constituents in Dublin South on the escalating incidence of petty crime and break-ins in suburban areas, particularly in Rathfarnham. They are concerned that there are not enough community liaison gardaí available in their communities. Many people have given up reporting petty crimes because they feel there is no point in doing so. However, I have raised already with the Minister for Justice the need to deploy more community liaison gardaí in the suburbs.

Attacks on tourists are very common, perhaps because of the amount of media attention such attacks receive. It is a very worrying trend. Just as joyriding was popular a few years ago, attacks on tourists have become the crime of the moment. A month following my election as a member of Dublin City Council a young German tourist was murdered in the Phoenix Park. He and his friend were in a tent when they were set upon by several men. Such incidents were uncommon but since then there have been many attacks on tourists. We had also the case of the Donegal supporter who was killed in Dublin city last year. They are all examples of the breakdown of law and order in our city streets. I realise the Minister has been very active in trying to address this problem. Indeed, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Deputy Gay Mitchell, in an effort to address the problem of city crime established a commission headed by circuit court judge, Michael Moriarty. Practitioners who are familiar with the circumstances of the offenders are the right people to be members of such a commission. I look forward to reading the report of that body.

There have been many calls for more prison places and I have no doubt there is a need for them. Locking up people without an adequate rehabilitation programme is a waste of time. Criminology studies throughout the world support this view. We will never decrease the incidence of re-offending, which is so prevalent among Irish offenders, if we do not introduce a realistic rehabilitation programme in all of our jails. We have to look also at the very high suicide rate among our young offenders.

As an experiment a friend of mine, who is very interested in transcendental mediation, visited Mountjoy and worked with women offenders on a voluntary basis for several months. He found that the women derived great benefit from meditation. It is an off-beat idea but it has been used all over the world and is the subject of some interesting research. In Senegal the State authorities introduced a compulsory programme of transcendental meditation in their prisons with remarkable results. We have to be receptive to a new way of dealing with our prisoners. It is not sufficient to lock up people as that only gets them off the streets and is storing up problems for later. When those people come out they re-offend and are no better; in fact they are sometimes worse because their selfesteem has been destroyed by the prison system. We have to look also at the huge cost of keeping people in jail.

People who commit violent crime should complete their sentences. We must look at the criteria used by the prison authorities for the release of certain prisoners. It is legitimate to release some prisoners after a certain amount of time, particularly if there has been no element of violent crime involved in their offence. There is great public concern about the rise in the level of crime. For different reasons we in the Dublin Transportation Initiative surveyed, in a public consultation programme, a number of people to ascertain how they felt about their public transport needs. One of the questions posed in a leaflet to all areas of the city was the issue that most concerned them. We expected to hear about the lack of public transport because that was the idea of the survey but the answers that came back were crime and that people were afraid to leave their homes.

No matter what type of public consultation programme one engages in, rising crime rates are the main concern of people, particularly in the greater Dublin area. It is not a matter of the contented or the wealthy worrying about their possessions or break-ins to their nice homes. The response to the survey from all parts of the city was the same. It is worth noting that people in deprived districts of the city experience just as much fear as those in more affluent areas. For people who have no insurance cover and whose video or television is robbed or whose homes are broken into it is much worse. The matter of public order and increasing crime levels is one of general concern not just among the contented.

I welcome sections 4 and 5 which give more powers to the Garda to deal with people who are intoxicated in public places and are guilty of disorderly conduct. I am concerned about section 7 which deals with the distribution of material which may occasion a breach of the peace. There are dangers inherent in this section. It is too restrictive and could be unconstitutional in the manner in which it infringes on the right of free speech and lawful assembly. We need to be careful about it. I expect amendments to it will be tabled on the Committee Stage by all sides of the House. For example, during the past few days people were protesting about hare coursing outside this House. There was great polarisation: some were pro coursing and others were against it. The emotive banners and placards displayed could be construed as distributing material which could lead to a breach of the peace. The intent to cause a breach of the peace would be the vital ingredient. Any such distribution of material which might lead to an occasional breach of the peace would not be sufficient to warrant an offence.

Section 8, which deals with disorderly conduct at a public meeting is too restrictive. Heckling would become an offence and that would be undemocratic. Section 9 is good in that it gives more powers to the Garda to move on people who are involved in offences under sections 4 and 5, namely intoxication in public places and disorderly conduct. I am concerned about a general power to interfere or arrest people for loitering. The offence of loitering could be selectively used. For example, one or two young people gathered in, say, Foxrock at a street corner may not be asked to move on while one, two or three boys loitering in a disadvantaged area of the city would be asked to move on. We need to tighten up that section in regard to the discretion of the Garda.

Presumably, Foxrock youths are not threatening.

I do not know about that. Why should three boys standing in an area which has a high crime rate be treated differantly? My party will be tabling amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage. I welcome the Bill.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Broughan.

An Leas-Ceann Comhairle

Is that agreed? Agreed.

It is obvious that there is a major difference between life in Deputy O'Donnell's constituency and mine.

And in mine.

That is true. If Deputy O'Donnell had made her speech in my constituency she would be hooted and howled out of it because of the utter despair felt by the people there in regard to law and order. Deputy O'Donnell objected to the provisions of section 8 because a disorderly person might be prevented from having freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is one of the most valuable rights we possess, but equally valuable is the freedom of people to hear what another person has to say. Freedom works both ways. A famous painting by Norman Rockwell portrays the concept of freedom of speech. It portrays a person addressing an audience and the ears of those in the audience are a little larger than they should be in order to emphasise the right of people to hear what another has to say.

The Minister is fully conscious of the utter frustration felt by people in regard to public order. I am delighted this Bill has been introduced and I hope it will not be long before it is enacted and becomes law. I agree with the points made by Deputy Callely about the hours between 12 midnight and 7 a.m. in the morning. Section 5 states that it shall be an offence for any person in a public place to engage in any shouting, singing or boisterous conduct between the hours of 12 midnight and 7 a.m. Many people in the hotel business and other places work at night and when they go home in the morning they are entitled to a peaceful sleep. Disorder is disorder regardless of what time of day or night it occurs. Many elderly people are intimidated by shouting, singing or boisterous conduct during the day as well as at night.

The main complaint from my constituents relates to youths drinking alcohol in public places and being abusive to others. It is important that the gardaí have the power to move such people. If such people do not move, can they be arrested and locked up overnight? I accept it will not be easy for the gardaí to exercise their powers, I hope we will not have a situation where people can complain about Garda brutality and that gardaí end up in the dock instead of the people concerned. I attended a meeting of the Kimmage Residents' Association last Wednesday night and the main item on its agenda related to the bowsies who gather in the vicinity. Life is intolerable for many people. I am told that in the Crumlin area alone 40 youths are responsible for 70 per cent of the crime. Would it not be simple to put those people away? I have always held the view that such people do not have to be put in prison. A section of the Curragh Camp could be opened to detain them and the Minister should also examine the possibility of former sergeant majors operating a military type regime for such offenders — healthy exercise, boxing facilities, a gymnasium and so on — under an army discipline. I am talking about young offenders of 12, 13 and 14 years old. Stress is causing people here to die much younger than they should and as Deputy Mitchell stated earlier, people are imprisoned in their own homes.

The media are much more generous in giving headlines to attacks on tourists than to attacks on our citizens. As Lord Mayor, I received letters from people in Australia, New Zealand and Canada who were mugged here but who stated that otherwise Ireland was a beautiful place. Judge Hogan made a wonderful decision when he decided to remand such offenders in custody, have a quick trial and ensure that they do not get back on to the streets to attack more people. He is well aware that they will attack others if they are let back on to the streets. We must protect our people. Recently, the Minister met a wonderful lady, a judge of the Supreme Court of Illinois, who was mugged coming out of her hotel. She hoped the money which the person took from her would be used to further his education— he must have taken a good few dollars from her. It is a dreadful experience to be mugged while on holiday, an experience a person will never forget. Spike Island was used as a detention centre for young offenders and there is no reason it could not be used again. If people are incarcerated and escape they should start their prison sentence all over again. In other words, their term of imprisonment should start again from the first day they are apprehended. We must deter people from committing crime.

I do not like repeating myself, but I am on record as stating that the hooligans of the 1970s would be the gunmen of the 1980s. Regrettably, I was correct in my prediction. Every day of the week we hear of armed robberies and victims of armed robberies have told me of the terror of lying on the ground while gunmen curse them and threaten to blow their heads off. Those gunmen are frequently nervous and unintentionally could pull the trigger and shoot the person on the ground.

The Minister has shown the political will to do something about this problem. This is not a crime wave, it is constant crime. The chief superintendent in my constituency is doing great work. He regularly meets members of residents' associations and people in the community. The liaison officers are also doing great work setting up community watch schemes and so on, but without the backing of legislation such as this their work would be pointless. I hope the Minister introduces more of this type of legislation in the future.

Again, I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter of boisterous conduct between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. That provision should apply on a 24 hour basis and I am sure Members from all parties would support that. People can be abusive at any time of the day or night.

The funding which the Minister provided for gardaí in the Neilstown area to send young people on holidays and so on has proved worthwhile. I ask her to consider extending that to other areas, particularly to areas in my constituency where it could be put to good use. It would be a positive contribution towards stopping young people going on a crime rampage in a few years time.

It is only about six weeks since I led a delegation to the Minister from Dublin City Council. We were very impressed with her grasp of the large scale crime problem which Dublin city has endured. It is heartening that both the Minister for Justice and her colleague, the Minister for the Environment, have introduced key pieces of legislation which could, over the next few months, dramatically change the lives of people in working and lower middle class estates, particularly in the Dublin area. I would like to congratulate the Minister on this.

Some of my colleagues expressed reservations about the extent of the powers being given to the Garda Síochána, but it has been obvious that lack of power in significant areas made it impossible for them to take action on some of the horrors happening to large populations in urban areas. Section 39 of the Road Traffic Bill, relating to company cars, complements the legislation we have here today.

We must strike a balance in regard to the powers given to the Garda, and many Dublin Deputies feel that the balance was tipped against the Garda in recent years. Last year the chief welfare officer of our city council produced a major report on harassment and intimidation of families in the Dublin region. It makes fairly horrific reading. There are literally hundreds of cases each year of families whose ordinary lives are turned into an absolute hell because of constant intimidation and harassment by gangs of youths. I am glad we have listened to the fears of these people and that there is an attempt to respond to it.

Global figures show that in the past few years the Garda Síochána have been increasingly successful in that the number of indicatable crimes has fallen. However, the overall concentration of crime in certain areas is detrimental to the lives of the people in those areas. I find Deputy O'Donnell's constant requests for more resources quite amusing in the light of how her party behaved at budget time. When the moment came to provide that more resources be directed towards young people, the Progressive Democrats was the very party to oppose the move. Deputy Deasy spoke about the problems of the present generation of Irish youths. There are areas which demand a major response. I have indicated to my colleague, the Minister for Education, that the extent of civic training in Irish schools is almost non-existent. Economic deprivation with unemployment rates of 85 per cent in some districts of my constituency are also major factors in the sense of alienation felt by, in particular, young men. I hope the Government will respond to this problem, with or without the £8.6 billion of structural funding, so as to make some real impact and especially to encourage everybody under the age of 17 to remain at school having regard to the link between leaving school early, particularly under the age of 15, and involvement in intimidation, harassment and other juvenile crime. In that context I welcome the general trend of sections 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 15, 16 and 17 and the attempt to extend the powers of the Garda in that regard.

There are some other areas that I would like the Minister to look at in the coming months, particularly in relation to alcohol. In Dublin, as well as in all other areas of the country, there is a young male initiation rite involving the consumption of alcohol at open air venues. Each of us went through that stage. However, in recent times it seems to have become more of a problem. The alcohol industry, if I can call it that, and the pattern of Irish drinking is something we should look at. There is such a tiny number of licensees. In Dublin, for example, it is only 700 for one million people and there is a culture of people dashing into the pub fairly late at night, becoming seriously inebriated and then, perhaps, causing criminal damage later. The whole alcohol industry has never been called to account in this House for the depredations their product causes in society. That is something we should be prepared to look at to see if there is any way in which alcohol companies like, for example, our most famous one, Guinness, can make retribution to society. I know they will claim that they already pay one-third of the price of drinks in taxation but the damage that the misuse and bad culture of alcohol in this country causes far outweighs the cost benefit of the tax yield. Would it not be possible to look at the licensing laws in the context of opening hours, the size of pubs etc. to try to bring about the type of civilised culture that exists in so many continental cities where it is possible to consume food, have a nice drink and listen to music rather than what I would regard as a bad Irish drink culture.

Other Deputies referred to the problem of drugs. I agree with the point that has been made repeatedly in this House that there are still areas of this city which are "no go" areas, where it is possible to trade openly in drugs. Those areas are not in affluent or middle class areas but in predominantly working class areas. Why is that so? Why is it that people in Northern Ireland seem to be aware of a tiny district in my constituency where it is alleged drug dealing takes place? Why do we not do something about that?

In regard to Garda numbers, a matter to which some of my colleagues referred today, I too, feel very strongly. I have asked the Minister a number of questions on the issue. In my constituency of 85,000 people we have only 160 gardaí, far fewer than a city with an equivalent population in the west. I wonder what can be done about that. Our community gardaí are doing a brilliant job, but in my constituency there are only 25 of them and, with normal shifts, it is quite impossible for them to cover the terrain. Would it be possible to examine the possibility of establishing an auxilary police force, perhaps on the lines of the English Police Reserve, which could give us the numbers to take care of run-of-the-mill policing duties which do not require the third level education of the modern police cadets? I would not, of course, be asking for a police force in which conditions would be different; the conditions would have to be pro rata. People in an auxiliary force of maybe 2,000 or 3,000, concentrated in the cities, could receive the same education as the normal police cadets. That is an idea I would also like the Minister to look at.

I welcome the attempt to deal, at long last, with the Mafiosa in our society and the sections which make racketeering and extortion a very serious crime. I agree totally with Deputy Briscoe that there seems to have been an ambivalent attitude on the part of the media to these Mafiosa. People now realise how dangerous they are and that something has to be done about them.

Some Deputies had reservations about the extra powers being given to the Garda Síochána. I asked the Minister a question last week to do with illegal or wrong behaviour on the part of a garda. What are we to do about the one bad apple, the .01 per cent of gardaí who will use excessive force and who may well abuse the great trust that this House and the State is now putting in them?

I ask the Minister to consider establishing an appeals procedure through the Garda Complaints Board whereby when a complaint is made a citizen could appeal to that board without having to go through the courts. Having regard to that caveat and trusting that the gardaí will enforce the laws enacted by this House I congratulate the Minister on this Bill.

I am pleased to speak on this Bill. I broadly welcome its provisions, particularly the creation of new offences in relation to public order, which I have sought for some time. I share the concerns expressed by my colleagues in regard to the creation of many new offences and the lack of prison places, or custodial places in cases where prison places are not required. The back-up systems are not in place to provide child care and child support. There are not sufficient detention places, places of care or other types of care or supervision interventions that would be desirable in the case of some families. That is a separate and important issue, I am sure the Minister will not be let off the hook in regard to the inadequate provision of such places and how that undermines our laws. The Minister will encounter this problem every time she introduces legislation in new areas.

The provisions in Part II go a long way towards meeting huge gaps in our criminal legislation which have developed in recent years. Traditionally it was perceived that the Garda had a great deal of power and I grew up with that perception. They had the power to stop people engaging in what is commonly known as loitering and, it was generally accepted, to intervene in disorderly activity. In recent years communications with community gardaí have revealed how inadequate their power had become. Laws appropriate to another period have been undermined in various ways.

I represent some of the large suburbs created in the late 1940s and early 1950s and there are many elderly people in my constituency. Most of those people, including my parents, are elderly and live on their own. However, new local authorities have been created and have developed new housing estates. New private housing estates have also been developed. Young people gather near local facilities, in shops and laneways which can cause elderly people great aggravation, worry and sometimes intimidation as they may not feel free to use those facilities. My most common request has been to ask the gardaí to deal with these gangs. The gardaí have told me they will talk to those young people, but that unless they are engaging in criminal activity they have no powers to move them on. The gardaí risk breaking the law in taking action — which they do on occasion — by asking them to come down to the station to talk to them and deal with the problem. With the best will in the world even the most assiduous garda cannot act without sufficient powers.

Drinking alcohol in public places and the associated offensive activities arising therefrom is another area of major concern and the second most common cause of anxiety and fear of elderly people living on their own in the areas I represent. It occurs particularly during the summer months. Drinking alcohol in public places is a real and continuous problem. I welcome the provisions in relation to these offences proposed in this legislation.

I understand this Bill will be passed to one of the select committees and I am pleased it will not suffer the fate of some of the legislation passed earlier this week which has been rushed through the House without adequate debate. This is an important Bill and will give significant extra powers to the Garda whose duty it is to protect the public. There should be a serious examination to ensure the correct balance between the protection of individual and public rights.

There was a tragic incident when a young 17 year old, Daniel Kavanagh, died following an altercation between him and his friends and a gang who had been in the village for a number of hours. I raised this matter with the Minister's predecessor and made the point that if the Garda had had the power to move a potentially threatening gang, there might not have been this awful tragedy. I made that point to underline the urgency of this legislation. On the Order of Business, I repeatedly requested the introduction of this legislation and, therefore, I welcome it.

I particularly welcome section 2, the provision for new offences, such as consuming intoxicating liquor in public places, which will give the Garda substantial additional powers to deal with the most common causes of disturbance and nuisance in built up urban areas. I believe in the carrot and stick approach. I have talked to young people in my constituency about consuming alcohol in public places and they have said there is nothing else to do. I do not accept that because I know many other young people in my constituency who find plenty of other things to do. They are involved in clubs and other activities. However, there is a need to provide Outreach and preventative programmes for young people at risk. In particular there is a need for a broad ranging programme in the educational and placement area to ensure that alternatives are offered to young people so that they do not believe — however unjustified I might consider it is — that drinking alcohol in public places is all life has to offer them and that it is one of their main sources of pleasure and recreation. Provisions in regard to disorderly conduct in public places and, more particularly, threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour in public places will allow the Garda to act to defuse many situations on behalf of people who feel insecure in their own homes and neighbourhoods at certain times. To date those people have had no recourse to Garda assistance despite the best will and intentions of the Garda Síochána. Those provisions are extremely welcome.

The Bill also provides for penalties for racketeering, a marginal issue in my constituency but very significant in other parts of Dublin. I am aware that colleagues who represent areas where this is a major problem will have referred in detail to those sections and will have welcomed the provisions. I welcome the provisions in relation to crowd control. There have been great tragedies across the water in this regard. It is important to learn from their experience and improve our laws so that we can avoid such tragedies and disasters.

I welcome the legislation. However, if it is to achieve its objectives we must provide proper places of detention, adequate community service facilities and child care facilities. We must have also a broad range of alternative recreational activities for young people to prevent them becoming involved in criminal activity in their community. There must be a broad based approach to the problem of youth crime. Our legislation must permit gardaí to intervene where necessary. This legislation is long overdue and I welcome it.

Mr. Ryan

I wish to join other Deputies in welcoming this Bill. The Minister in her speech said:

measures contained in the Bill are necessary to help and protect the vast majority of our people who want to be free to go about their business unencumbered by those who behave in a way — by harassment, intimidation or otherwise — that has no regard for the basic rights of others.

That summarises the problem which, unfortunately, is common in many urban areas. The Minister has shown that she has the political will to address the problems in her Department and this Bill is another example of that.

A number of Deputies expressed reservations about this Bill in that it might encroach on peoples civil liberties. No Member would support a Bill which would have that effect. I would like to raise the issue of the civil liberties of people, particularly the elderly, who cannot walk in the streets where they live, who cannot go outside their flat complex because of intimidation and harassment by gangs of youths and who cannot go to the shops or visit their friends. I do not exaggerate the position when I say that in many parts of my constituency people are practically prisoners in their own homes. That is particlarly so at this time of the year. People are concerned about this problem which is widespread. Dublin Corporation set up a crime committee to deal with this problem. This Bill will go a long way towards resolving it.

I received a phone call this morning from a constituent who had to call the gardaí to her home during the night because people outside were drunk, disorderly, fighting and causing, as one garda described it to me, a riot. That occurred in a flat complex in the inner city. That was outrageous behaviour. The women's children had to be moved to her parents' flat for protection. That is the type of problem we are facing. A garda told me he cannot wait for this Bill to become law so that the gardaí can confront these people about their behaviour. It is incredible that the problem has been allowed continue for so long. I welcome the Minister's action.

Many of the people engaging in this type of behaviour, particularly younger people, believe that they can get away with their crimes, and often they do. The gardaí are frustrated and demoralised because of this. When they confront gangs of youths engaging in this behaviour they are met with the retort, "you cannot make us move on; we are not doing anything". They may not be doing anything wrong while the gardaí are present but when they leave the scene elderly people passing are jeered and intimidated. Many elderly people have told me they are terrified of these gangs of youths.

I agree with the Deputies who called for an increase in the number of community gardaí. These gardaí, certainly in my constituency do a great job. They put a great effort into their work, above and beyond the call of duty. They work long hours for which many of them do not receive compensation. They become close to a family who have problems. It is vital that the Minister target additional resources at this area because the return would be enormous.

An official in Dublin Corporation, Mr. Michael Kelly, produced an excellent report on intimidation in Dublin Corporation flat complexes. That report made frightening reading. If I were not a member of Dublin Corporation, I would not have believed what was in the report. However, I have first hand knowledge of what is taking place. I suggest that this report be read by all Members with an interest in this Bill because it gives a clear indication of what is taking place in many parts of our city.

I carried out a survey on crime in my constituency and questioned approximately 2,000 households. The survey questionnaire was completed by approximately 600 householders which I gather, from those involved in such research was a high return. One of the main concerns of those who completed the questionnaire was that parents were not aware of what their children were doing outside the home and did not care. I was amazed at how strongly people felt about that. I realise there is high unemployment and a lack of proper facilities in certain areas but in parts of my constituency there is no high unemployment, proper facilities exist but there is the problem of crime. I am not sure of the reason. It may be that groups get together to engage in activities which they are told do not break the law but the situation gets out of hand thus leading to complaints being made to Members of this House and the Garda. In many districts in my constituency crime is the result of high unemployment levels, drug abuse and the lack of proper recreational facilities. If we want to eliminate crime we must target resources at those areas. The provisions of this Bill will help in the short-term but we must provide adequate facilities for our young people in the long-term in order to give them the opportunities that are available to other children and help them break out of the cycle.

Another problem we face is that our jails and detention centres are overcrowded. I know the Minister is concerned about this. The revolving door syndrome which results in people being released within days of being sentenced is demoralising for the gardaí who apprehend those people. It worries the victims who have been terrorised by those gangs to see them back on the streets again. People can become cynical about the whole legal system when that happens. I realise it would require huge resources to address this problem but it would be money well spent. Unless these people see there is a deterrent they will continue with their criminal activities. A very good example of this was given to me by an official in Dublin Corporation. He informed me that when joyriding was a major problem some years ago, those convicted of this crime were jailed and joyriding ended. If we treat those engaged in intimidation and other forms of crime in a similar fashion we can eliminate the problem in the inner city and protect the families who are subjected to this harassment. This happens all the time in both poor and wealthy areas. Resources must be made available to build proper prisons and other detention centres where these young people can be rehabilitated and shown that it does not pay to commit crime.

I welcome the Minister's promise to propose an amendment in regard to the advertising of brothels. This matter was raised under the last Bill she introduced in the House and an amendment was put down on the matter in the names of Deputies McDowell and Harney. It is very difficult to legislate in this area because people advertise these services in a personalised way rather than by way of massage parlour advertisements. The vast majority of brothels are probably to be found in my constituency and that presents a major problem. I welcome the measure and hope it will go some way towards solving the problem. I congratulate the Minister on bringing in this Bill which I hope will deal with the huge problem of crime in our cities.

I welcome this Bill. The increased activity of the Department of Justice in recent times is a welcome change. I support many of the measures in the Bill. I echo what Deputy Ryan said in that there is a growing belief among many people, particularly the elderly, in Dublin suburbs that they have no protection from violent and disorderly conduct. Many people are afraid to go out at night and elderly people in particular are afraid to pass through areas where disorderly mobs hang out. I accept that as a community we are not doing enough to provide alternative activities for young people but that is no consolation to people who are prisoners in their own houses and who feel under siege in their community. I have personal experience of the psychological effects of such isolation and hopelessness. In some inner city areas people who are colloquially called "little old ladies" live in fear of knocks on their door. They dare not go out at night. They are effectively locked in their houses and will not answer the door. Their fear is evident to politicians when canvassing at election time in that people answer their doors only on ascertaining who is there and after removing a number of chains and obstacles from the door — doubtless some of them get a shock when they see who is there. As a community we must care for the weak and vulnerable.

As Deputy Harney said on a previous occasion, there are many suburbs in Dublin where young people dare not walk for fear of being bullied or set on by crowds of rough contemporaries. These people take trains or taxis and use underways and pedestrian bridges over roads to avoid certain areas.

I welcome the provisions in the Bill dealing with riot, violent disorder and affray, which are similar to those in English laws. I am glad the Minister reconsidered this matter because when Deputy Harney and I spoke in favour of such measures a few weeks ago the view was expressed that these were Thatcherite measures brought in to deal with mine workers and so on. That is not the case. They are an attempt to codify the law, to update it and put it on a clear statutory basis.

I am disappointed with the section dealing with blackmail, extortion and demanding with menace in that it does not go far enough. It is sometimes very difficult to prove cases of demands for protection money from shopowners, even when the people involved are known to the shopowner. We could go further in this regard and provide some of the measures suggested by Deputy Harney and myself. For example, we should provide for powers of arrest and prosecution in cases of loitering and besetting behaviour which gives rise to the inference that it is carried out for the purpose of extortion.

I welcome the increased powers for the Garda in relation to public events. The proposal we tendered to the House to allow local authorities to make by-laws for their areas was an imaginative one. If accepted; it would have enabled local authorities to make provision for problems in their areas and would have given the Garda additional powers to deal with such problems. Another matter which our Bill provided for and which is not provided for under this legislation is the use, particularly in inner city and builtup areas, of video cameras as a means of law enforcement. I have no objection to mounting cameras in busy areas such as Grafton Street and Temple Bar. The Garda could have recourse to these videos in finding out who was in an area at the time a crime was committed. There would be no civil liberty implications in the provision of video cameras and they could not be regarded as an intrusion on people's rights or privacy. Centre city areas such as Henry Street, Grafton Street, Temple Bar and so on are so thronged with people that the opportunity arises for miscreants to conduct needless assaults, particularly on tourists. Any reasonable aid to the police in detecting these offences and any disincentive to commit crime in well populated pedestrian streets in particular would be welcome.

I will have to be very careful as to how I phrase my comments on section 20 which relates to the new provision dealing with assaults on police officers, especially members of the Garda Síochána. I do not object to the 1861 Act being updated but I have a clear concern about the combined effect of sections 20 and 21. I do not want to be misrepresented in this important point, so I will be careful how I put it. At the moment under section 38 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861 a person charged with assaulting a policeman is entitled as of right to have a trial by jury. The person risks more serious penalties if he or she is convicted having opted for a trial by jury, but that option is taken on many occasions in good faith in order that a genuine grievance between an individual and a policeman will not be decided by a district judge. I am not denigrating the members of the District Court bench when I say that this is an important safeguard because almost universally the District Court Judiciary come into contact with police much more often than most of the people who appear before them and there is a natural tendency which is perceived by everybody who practices law not to disbelieve a policeman in his account of an altercation with a civilian. I have a good deal of experience of this.

After many years on the bench dealing with local gardaí on a day-to-day basis, the judges are incapable of being sufficiently objective to conduct a trial where people they know, with whom they have regular dealings, are swearing the details of a violent incident with an ordinary member of the public. Any member of the public should have the right to have the public determine the rights and wrongs of any altercation between himself and the policeman. Without rancour, and based on my long experience in this matter, I am saying that the District Court Judiciary are not the most appropriate people to deal with most of those cases. Where the accused person wants to have a jury trial he should be entitled to it. That is not to cast doubts on the bona fides of members of the District Court bench. It is just a fact of life that "judge only" tribunals tend to believe the police.

Perhaps gardaí ought to be believed much more than civilians, but there are occasions, especially when dealing with cases of violence as between members of the police and members of the public when it is absolutely essential that a trial be conducted by somebody who is disposed to be absolutely fair and not have the habit of accepting police evidence or the familiarity which District Court judges have with the police.

Lest anyone think I am being prissy or am raising an unnecessary concern, I recently witnessed a Supreme Court decision here where a member of the District Court was conducting a case involving an assault on a policeman. A young person was brought in as a State witness and swore that a member of the Garda had struck the accused with his baton knocking him to the ground. When this happened, and all of this is recorded as fact by the Supreme Court in its judgment on the matter, the District Court judge in question said he was going to rise to examine the original statement of the witness and compare it with his oral evidence and that if he found that the witness had lied or that his evidence was different from his original statement, he would jail him. The District Judge retired and, on returning to the bench some minutes later said, "you have lied" and gave the person seven days in prison for lying on oath.

In the same trial a doctor who was called to give evidence of the injuries sustained by the accused, who claimed that he had been batoned to the ground by a member of the Garda, had his evidence disallowed because he had with him a photocopy only of his original report. The Supreme Court decided that both of those things were completely out of order. I know that one swallow does not make a summer, but it shows that when it comes to holding the scales of justice evenly between the Garda and the public it is very difficult for somebody who has daily dealings, especially in smaller communities, with members of the Garda, to uphold the version of somebody who is accused of violent behaviour towards the police and to find that the police in question were guilty of an offence, assault on a member of the public is a very serious charge against a policeman.

It is very difficult, if one wants to keep the well of justice pure and the scales evenly balanced, to ask members of the Judiciary who have daily dealings with one set of witnesses to disbelieve them or to express a reasonable doubt about their evidence and uphold the rights of the accused. I do not intend any offence to the great majority of district judges who conscientiously carry out their duties but it is very difficult in these circumstances for a member of the public to feel confident that the scales of justice will be balanced fairly in a case of violence where a person is accused of assaulting a garda in the due execution of his duty.

The great majority of gardaí and members of the District Court bench behave impeccably but sometimes there are bad apples, and we have seen them. It is much harder for a District Court judge than for a jury to acquit in these cases. Where accused persons in the past sought to rely on their right to a jury trial they were well advised to do so in many cases. I will not put it further than that.

I regret any effort to take away the right to trial by jury even in cases where there are not major injuries. It is not just a question of the magnitude of the offence. It is a question of the objectivity and impartiality of the tribunal deciding it. Centuries have shown us that as between the forces of law and order and the ordinary civilian, juries are more objective than "judge only" tribunals. This would be denied by many of the Judiciary with whom I have spoken about this issue. They would say they are just as fair and objective as are juries but that is not the case. Anybody experienced in this area who watches a trial before a "judge only" tribunal will always feel that the jury comes to it with a more open mind than a judge who is dealing with the police. I know other people disagree with me profoundly on this matter but my point is worth putting. If this House is for any purpose it is here so that different points of view can be put. I hope the Minister accepts I have not been offensive to the District Court Judiciary. The right to trial by jury for offences involving violence against the police is an important safeguard and prevents abuses which have occurred from time to time.

I look forward to the debate on Committee Stage. The text of the Bill could be improved and I am sure the Minister will be open to constructive suggestions on how this can be done. I welcome the Bill and I hope it will be considered carefully. Section 5, which deals with boisterous behaviour, will be more trouble than it is worth. What one garda and a few young men consider to be boisterous or criminal behaviour on the street at 3 a.m. will often differ.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Bhamjee and Flood.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I will be brief. I support the Bill and welcome most of the opinions expressed throughout the day. I agree that, in many respects, our laws are out-of-date and need to be updated. While the Bill will not solve all our problems, it will tilt the balance in our favour. The Minister has a long list of other legislation that she intends to introduce in this regard. This Bill is welcome because in parts of Dublin life has become intolerable. Indeed, the anti-social behaviour is indescribable.

There has been much talk lately about the fact that in the agricultural sector land is being set aside but many of our problems can be traced back to the fact that 300,000 people have been set aside, namely, the unemployed. The problem is particularly acute in those parts of the city which are considered to be deprived and where there is a high rate of unemployment. We can introduce all the laws we like but they will not make any difference, as all the problems are interrelated.

I am in favour of more detention centres being provided and they need not be the top of the range type, such as Wheatfield. In respect of minor offences, offenders could be sent to open detention centres. In addition, the community work schemes could be extended and a curfew inposed to punish the wrongdoer. We cannot introduce laws in isolation as this is not the answer. In those parts of the city where crime is a major problem the provision of a few hundred or a few thousand pounds to a football club, for example, could prove to be of tremendous value. We seem to spend a fortune after the event.

Unlike the previous speaker, I am not familiar with the courts, but on the few occasions I attended them I was struck by the number of gardaí in attendance and they were not all ordinary members of the force, they included many officers. I hope the Minister will broaden her agenda and tackle many of these issues as there must be an easier way to dispense justice.

On the question of racketeering, it is easy to condemn those who fall prey to the racketeers. Each of us likes to have car insurance and so on but insurance companies will not touch people living in certain parts of the city. Very often the only person from whom they can get insurance cover is the racketeer. In addition to introducing laws pressure should be brought to bear on insurance companies to offer insurance cover. Business people would like to take out insurance with an established company but if no company is prepared to offer them insurance cover their options are limited and therefore they cannot be blamed for dealing with the racketeers.

Like other speakers, I wish to congratulate the Minister for Justice on introducing this important legislation. Those of us who have an interest in this topic are aware that for quite some time there has been a demand for such legislation. Indeed, it has been promised for a long time.

Each of us, as public representatives, has come across cases where legislation such as this would have been of tremendous help. Frequently we are invited to attend public meetings in our constituencies organised by communities out of frustration at their inability to obtain the support of local gardaí in order to discuss various issues, many of which are touched on in this legislation. How many times have we heard members of the Garda Síochána explain clearly, in relation to matters covered in this legislation, that their hands were tied and they had no powers to deal with certain issues? It is for that reason that I welcome this legislation. As the Minister is aware, it is only one Bill on a long list of legislation which is required. I should mention in particular the juvenile justice Bill for one cannot succeed without the other. The Minister has given a commitment to bring forward that legislation as soon as possible.

I suggest to the Minister that if this legislation is to be truly successful the support of communities for the Garda Síochána is required. The aim in appointing community gardaí, particularly in urban areas, is to ensure greater contact between members of the Garda Síochána and the communities they are expected to serve. Nevertheless, the Minister will have to find another way to bring members of the Garda Síochána closer to the community. The strong support of local communities will be required in implementing legislation such as this. At this time a mechanism must be found to link the Garda Síochána with local communities so that they can harness the good will of those communities as there is no definite way in which members of the Garda Síochána can make contact.

At the drop of a hat many superintendents will meet the representatives of local communities and local public representatives but only where he is willing to co-operate and show good will. Perhaps it has not been made clear that there is tremendous support for the Garda Síochána and that we could tap into this if there was a mechanism to allow local communities to maintain regular contact with the local gardaí. This would be of tremendous advantage both to the local community concerned and to the Garda.

I am delighted that provisions dealing with boisterous behaviour have been included in the Bill. It is a source of great sadness that I receive telephone calls particularly from senior citizens who feel intimidated and threatened in their own homes by gangs who gather in the vicinity. It is possible that those groups may not cause difficulties for elderly people or those living alone but it is still the case that these people are afraid and feel intimidated. If the legislation can deal with that type of situation then it is to be welcomed. This legislation will be of tremendous benefit to the Garda and local communities. I wish the Minister well in implementing the provisions of the Bill and look forward to participating in the Committee Stage debate.

I thank the Deputies for giving me some of their time. I welcome this Bill which has been introduced at a time when major changes are taking place in our society. I congratulate the Minister on the Bills she has introduced, and will introduce, in the criminal justice area. Her Department has become revolutionary in introducing reforming legislation which is needed in a modern society. Laws relate to the society in which we live and our society is changing all the time. I hope other Ministers will introduce similar revolutionary Bills which will be relevant to our society today.

On the penalties proposed in the Bill, account has to be taken of a person's ability to pay a fine. Imprisonment is not merely about punishment; it should also be used to encourage people to change their way of life. Consideration needs to be given to measures which will encourage people to give up their life of crime.

Most Deputies referred to crimes in urban areas. It should be pointed out that similar crimes are committed in rural areas. The level of policing in rural areas has been diminished by the closure of some Garda stations. As a result, many elderly people are living in fear of being attacked, even in their own homes. I hope that the people of Clare will behave themselves after they beat Tipperary in the Munster final on Sunday — hopefully they will play Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.

I wish to refer to the provisions in regard to riots. It is proposed that a mob of 12 will constitute a riot. I do not understand how that number was arrived at.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): The 12 apostles.

Twelve people would not constitute a football team; six or seven people can also cause a riot. It should be remembered that a riot does not merely entail physical violence, it can also entail verbal violence.

I wish to refer to the availability of threatening material. Depending on the Government in office, the law can be used in different ways. This needs to be borne in mind when drawing-up legislation. There was some confusion this week about whether a person holding Nazi views should be allowed into the country. Are we to allow people who have racist views into the country? It is possible to obtain Nazi material in Dublin city. Consideration has to be given to whether this material should be banned. Graffiti can either be productive or destructive. Reference was made to the problem of men urinating in public places at night. I do not know if this matter is dealt with in the Bill. I am in a unique position in that I used to compile reports on both the victim and aggressor and I now compile reports as a politician. I am interested in this aspect of the Bill.

I thank the Deputies who participated in the debate. For a House which is being constantly criticised by the media for the non-attendance of its Members, it is significant that, excluding me, 22 Deputies contributed to this debate on a Friday which, with the exception of Dublin Deputies, is an inconvenient time for them. I pay tribute to those Deputies.

I thank the Deputies for the many constructive contributions they have made. This debate has reflected the widespread public concern that our laws do not give the Garda sufficient powers in the area of public order offences.

As I said at the outset of the debate, I will consider fully and with an open mind the suggestions which have been put forward today. I would hope to be in a position to address many of these suggestions either on Committee Stage or in the context of the other criminal justice legislation which I will bring forward in the autumn.

I suppose it was inevitable that during the course of the debate many matters were raised which, as well as being relevant to the overall context in which the legislation has been brought forward, impinge also on general matters relating to the administration of our criminal justice system.

Understandably much emphasis has been placed on the problem of crime in Dublin city, but I should stress that while obviously the provisions of the Bill are clearly relevant in this regard the proposals are designed to deal with problems of disorder which can arise in any part of the country, urban or rural. That said, I am, of course, concerned at the level of crime in the Dublin metropolitan area and I have outlined for the House on other occasions the stretegies which have been put in place to deal with this situation. I will first mention briefly some aspects of that strategy.

The Garda authorities are intensifying their use of closely co-ordinated foot and mobile patrols and checkpoints. Plainclothes surveillance units are being increased and there is now a greater targeting of Garda resources to meet specific anti-crime needs in particular areas. Continued emphasis is being placed on ensuring that there is adequate resource deployment in the five Garda stations in the proximity of O'Connell Street and the area is being patrolled on a 24-hour basis by both uniformed and plainclothes gardaí. Particular attention is being paid to the area during the late night and early morning period.

It is clear from today's debate that Members generally accept that these administrative measures, while clearly desirable of themselves, cannot be fully effective if we do not ensure that the Garda have adequate powers to deal with the type of problems which they must confront. It is that deficiency which this Bill is designed to address, and I am happy with the general welcome which has been given to its provisions by both the public generally and Members.

It is important to see today's Bill in the context of the major programme of reform of the criminal law which I have under way at present. Already this year we have had the Criminal Justice Act which, among other things, allows a right of appeal against unduly lenient sentences and, for the first time, makes it incumbent on a court to have full regard to the effect of crime on victims before passing sentence. The House recently dealt with the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill which I am happy to say also passed all Stages in the Seanad on Wednesday.

I hope to be in a position in the autumn to bring forward four Bills in the criminal justice area. One Bill will empower the courts to confiscate the proceeds of crime while another will contain a series of miscellaneous provisions designed to improve the administration of our criminal justice system, with particular emphasis on reducing the amount of time which gardaí have to spend attending court. Many Deputies referred to this point. Legislation will be introduced to provide a procedure to deal with miscarriages of justice. I expect to be in a position to publish this legislation very shortly. Finally, a Bill is being prepared to update the law in relation to the defence of insanity.

There was a reference to the indexation of fines. It is my intention to introduce legislation to provide for the indexation of fines. It will not be possible to introduce the legislation this year because, as I outlined, I have decided on the legislation in the criminal area to which I am giving priority this year.

Deputy Mitchell indicated his party's general support for the Bill, but expressed concern that certain problems were not being tackled in it. While, of course, I will be happy to consider any amendments he cares to table, the reality is that this Bill is only one of a series of measures which I will be bringing forward.

With regard to the Deputy's comments on our prisons, it would be a pity if the impression gained currency that no efforts are made to rehabilitate offenders. This would be unfair on prison management and staff and the various support services such as education, welfare, psychology and schooling. But it is the case the world over that offenders cannot be compelled to rehabilitate. We have to be realistic about what can be achieved. I have informed the House that at present a comprehensive review is under way with a view to updating the overall aims and objectives of the prison system.

That review will also take into account the need for extra prison accommodation, one of the points raised by almost all the Deputies who spoke. However, there is no point in pretending that there is not severe pressure on prison accommodation. It should be borne in mind that our prison population is at an all time high and every day more than 2,000 offenders are being held in custody. It is simply not correct to say that in general people who receive lengthy sentences only serve a short part of the sentence. The impression has been given by a number of Deputies — I am sure it is unintentional — that Spike Island is not in use as a prison when, in fact it is operating at full capacity as a prison.

Deputy Mitchell had a number of suggestions on possible amendments to the Bill. These can, of course, be dealt with by the select committee but I will consider further what he and others had to say about problems in public parks. In the main these problems were adverted to by Dublin Deputies. Some of my officials will meet with the Dublin Corporation crime committee to discuss public order when they can consider this issue further. I suspect there are sufficient powers in the Bill to deal with this, assuming, of course, that some form of disorderly activity is, in fact, taking place. I will look at this again. For reasons which I explained we considered but rejected the creation of a new loitering offence because of possible constitutional difficulties. What we are doing, however, is giving powers to the Garda Síochána to move people on when there is reasonable cause to suspect, in effect, that an offence is likely to be committed. In relation to the definition of peace officer, a traffic warden has been included because their work is part of the law enforcement process.

I thank Deputy Harney for the welcome she gave the Bill. In bringing forward proposals in this area I did, of course, pay particular attention to the proposals contained in her Private Members' Bill and the points that were raised during the debate on it. Many speakers referred to the three months gap provided before the provisions of the Act take effect and I undertake to look at this again. We are providing for major changes in our criminal law and the Garda and the courts will need to be familiar with and make necessary administrative arrangements in relation to them. That said, it may prove possible to shorten the timetable. I will consider this further and, if practical, I will bring forward a suitable amendment on Committee Stage. In relation to parental responsibility to which Deputy Harney and others referred, this is a matter which I am looking at in the context of the juvenile justice Bill which is being prepared in my Department.

Deputy Harney made two other points which I will consider. First, I will pursue her suggestion about a facility for victim support counsellors at one of the city centre Garda stations for tourists who fall victim to criminal activities. Second, I will have further examined her suggestion, supported by other Members, in relation to the automatic forfeiture of bail. I am favourably disposed towards this and my proposed Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in the autumn may be a suitable vehicle in which to bring forward this proposal, in the event that detailed examination of the proposal is not completed before this Bill leaves the Oireachtas.

The circular issued in November 1992 by the Garda Commissioner concerning the procedures to be followed by the gardaí when charges are being brought for serious offences was raised by a number of speakers. I wish to make it clear once again that this circular was not issued by the Department of Justice. It is a day-to-day operational matter and, therefore, this circular was issued by the Garda Commissioner in November 1992. There has been some confusion about the change. As Deputy Browne and I who live in country areas know, this is the kind of procedure that has operated always outside the Dublin area. Because of the confusion about the change I recently indicated to the House that while respecting the independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda Commissioner I was concerned about the controversy which had arisen. I am happy to tell the House that Deputy Commissioner O'Reilly recently met chief superintendents in the Dublin area to clarify any misunderstandings which may have arisen in the interpretation of the circular in question. I can assure the House that the matter is being kept under review by Deputy Commissioner O'Reilly and he in turn will keep me posted. Deputies Dan Wallace, Jacob, Derek McDowell, John Browne and Flood were among those who reflected the widespread public concern about crime and I am very grateful for the support they and many other Deputies have given to my proposals.

A number of Deputies referred to the delicate balance which we have to strive for in this area and I am confident that the type of proposals which the Bill contains achieves the right balance. I emphasise that I will approach the question of amendments openly and I will take account of the various concerns that have been raised today. It is intended to refer the Bill to the Select Committee on Legislation and Security and it is my understanding that the Order referring the Bill will be made in the House next week.

Question put and agreed to.

The Minister has clarified how it is proposed to deal with the Committee Stage debate.

The Dáil adjourned at 4 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 6 July 1993.