Despite the major technological advances of recent times and the general affluence throughout the developed world, the problem of crime seems to increase with each passing year. To make matters worse, violent crime seems to be a particular problem. One might reasonably assume that increasing participation in education would help remove any possible gloss from violence and show it in its true form as the worst possible form of human behaviour. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Crimes which up to a few years ago were rarely, if ever, heard of seem to have become increasingly common. While changes in value systems and the totally unacceptable glorification of violence on television and videos have contributed to those patterns, the trade in and use of illegal drugs is probably the single most important factor influencing the extent and nature of crime in modern society. As I stressed during the debate yesterday evening, we as legislators have a grave responsibility to ensure the necessary supports and structures are put in place to ensure the tide of crime is initially stopped and subsequently reversed.
Neither the quality nor the commitment of our law enforcement agencies is in doubt and, therefore, we are building on a secure and reliable base for the renewed battle against crime. However, such relative security must not result in either a degree of self-satisfaction or complacency. While one might gain a certain degree of comfort from our relatively low level of criminal behaviour compared with that in other countries, such an attitude is extremely dangerous. The fight against crime within any society rarely remains at a fixed level. If the authorities begin to gain the upper hand in terms of high detection rates and the application of appropriate punishment, the crime level drops. Any indication that criminals are on the winning side can only serve to actively encourage those with criminal tendencies.
Everything I have heard during the debate today confirms my belief that to date the Minister has totally failed to come to terms with the problems posed by current weaknesses in our legislation regarding a Bill of this type. It would be a welcome sign of increasing maturity on her behalf if she reconsidered her attitude to the opportunity presented to her by the diligent work of Deputy O'Donoghue. Using his professional legal background he has put together a set of adjustments, which if implemented, would provide a rapid and effective remedy to the major problems being experienced in this area.
The Minister referred to there being almost a doubling of the number of crimes committed by people on bail recently. That position is totally unacceptable. This Bill is put forward in a constructive manner to deal with this problem which is widespread throughout the country and which is of major concern to people at all levels whether in respect of their personal safety, their property and their homes. Businesses in cities and counties are suffering as a result of the increase in violent crimes. This morning a person accused of committing a serious crime in Cork was given free legal aid and was able to secure bail of £5,000. Surely the system is being brought into disrepute when a person who applies for free legal aid can get bail of £5,000 and has no difficulty finding the money.
I referred last night to the crime problem in Cork and paid tribute to the people who were intimidated recently and threatened in respect of doing certain things, such as selling the local paper, the Cork Examiner. Gardaí and their families are being threatened by some of these people. That position cannot be allowed to continue and those are only the cases of which we are aware. I assure those people of my full support and that of all Members of the House. We will not allow any group in society in dictate how we live, how we go about our business, conduct and enjoy ourselves. Unfortunately, recent events in Cork show that some of those people believe they can dictate terms. As a Deputy representing Cork, I will not be muzzled or intimidated by those people. We have read that one of our colleagues received threatening telephone calls because he made a statement the week before last. We have all received threatening telephone calls in the middle of the night from time to time. If we were to allow that type of intimidation to succeed, we would go nowhere. This Bill has been put forward by Deputy O'Donoghue and the Fianna Fáil Party to address a problem that exists in our society and to give reassurance to the many people who are suffering as a result of people committing crime while on bail.
There are examples in Cork where people have applied to have their cases transferred to the Dublin jurisdiction. Their cases are put at the end of the list and it may be 12 or 18 months before their case comes before the courts. During that time people are out on bail and many are committing crime. They know they will receive the same sentence; they may get a 12 month concurrent sentence, but it will not affect them to any great extent. As that practice is bringing the whole system into disrepute, we as legislators have an obligation to come to grips with this problem. Unfortunately, the Minister is not doing that. We know there are constitutional aspects involved in addressing this problem, but the Constitution does not give any member of our society a right to commit crime. We are not guarding against that and that argument must not be put forward. Our people are entitled to the protection of the security forces of the State, but they do not believe they are getting that. The Minister, who is absent, and her colleague, the Minister of State, should accept the Bill introduced by Deputy O'Donoghue. We all agree with its provisions for change which would give the judiciary powers to deal with the people to whom I have referred.
The Minister has not taken this on board nor brought forward the proposals for a referendum. She appears to have no intention of dealing with the problem which is widespread in the community. That is part of her responsibility, but unfortunately she has not dealt with it. We are familiar with the major crimes which receive publicity, but hundreds of crimes are being perpetrated on people who do not report them because they see people committing crimes while on bail, being rearrested and released. That is unsatisfactory. We have an obligation to deal with this problem as quickly as possible.
I strongly appeal to the Minister to ensure that every consideration is given to the Bill put forward by Deputy O'Donoghue. We will all gain by accepting this Bill. It is not the first time an Opposition Bill has been accepted. The previous Government accepted Opposition Bills. The Minister and her colleagues should be big enough to accept Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill which proposes constructive changes to enhance the role of the Judiciary in dealing with this serious problem. It proposes that judges should have discretion to decide whether bail should be given. Judges do not have that discretion at present and examples of the problems that arise in that regard were given by a number of speakers last night. The position is unacceptable. We should listen when the public say we are not doing our job in terms of addressing this problem. The Minister would do a good day's work if she listened to Deputy O'Donoghue. I strongly commend the Bill to the House because it is in all our interests that we deal with the problem as quickly as possible.