Private Members' Business. - Victim Support Bill 1995: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill attempts to provide minimal assistance for the victims of crime. It is not perfect; it contains a number of technical errors some of which I may not have detected. I freely acknowledge that. There are also what might on the surface appear to be two serious omissions in the Bill. It does not provide for a better system of compensation for victims; neither does it provide a sanction for non-observance of the statutory rights which we are attempting to give to victims. There are reasons for these omissions with which I will deal. I would, however, ask the Minister not to waste the time of the House tonight by indulging in a long discourse about technical flaws the Civil Service managed to find in it. My intention in drafting the Bill is to attempt to persuade the Government to accept it in principle, allow it to pass Second Stage, and have it sent to the Select Committee on Legislation and Security where we can work together to iron out technical difficulties and discuss changes which will improve it. This side of the House will be amenable to accepting amendments from the Government side which will strengthen and improve this necessary and long-overdue legislation.

I deplore the attempts of Ministers in successive Governments to justify their non-acceptance of Private Member's Bills by reliance on drafting difficulties. Drafting difficulties are inevitable in Private Members' Bills, especially given that the Attorney General admitted last week when questioned before the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs that it takes at least eight years to produce a fully-fledged parliamentary draftsman. The Government has a number of these rare creatures at its disposal; even they sometimes get it wrong. I recall that on one occasion when I had to reply to a debate on a Private Members' Bill which we were not accepting I excised a large chunk of my speech dealing with technical drafting difficulties. I did so because I consider it rank hypocrisy for any Minister to seek to justify a refusal to accept a Private Members' Bill on the grounds of technical error, particularly a Bill which is designed to assist a large and growing proportion of our citizens. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy Currie, will resist the temptation to act like a political woodpecker picking technical holes in this Bill.

Our country has had a troubled and violent history. This largely relates to our struggle for independence. However, we are learning that 75 years after Independence, the level of violence in Irish society is arguably greater than it has ever been. Recent Garda statistics show that robberies have increased by two thirds in the past six years. Aggravated burglaries increased by 85 per cent in the same period. Crimes categorised as offences against property with violence increased by more than 70 per cent in the past 12 years. Last year's crime statistics show that for the first time in the history of this State the number of reported indictable, crimes exceeded 100,000 or almost 300 serious crimes a day.

I deliberately adverted to the fact that this is the level of crime being reported. A large and growing proportion of even indictable crime is not being reported. Estimates for non-reported indictable crimes naturally vary, but, even taking the lowest intelligible estimate which I have, it would appear that it is quite possible, even probable, that about 120,000 indictable crimes were committed last year. On the other hand, the detection rate of reported crime has fallen to below one in three. Therefore, only about one in four indictable crimes were detected last year. It must also be borne in mind that the perpetrators of detected crimes often walk away from court unpunished because the prosecution cannot prove its case. In a criminal case guilt must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, a difficult burden to discharge. It is, therefore, valid to ask how much indictable crime went unpunished last year. The answer is certainly more than three out of four. It may be at least four out of five, or possibly seven out of eight, and that is a startling statistic.

For every crime there is a victim and it is axiomatic that there is no such thing as victimless crime. Many crimes generally categorised as white collar crimes are committed against financial institutions such as insurance companies and banks. Today we also have to face the growing phenomenon of computer-related crime, or the use of technology to perpetrate fraud. The customers of such institutions are the public who suffer for these crimes, albeit indirectly. What I am seeking to address in this Bill, however, is the plight of individuals, particularly the young, the elderly, the vulnerable, and not just those who, through no fault of their own, become victims of crime. Under our criminal justice system it is not left to an individual crime victim to vindicate his or her rights. The State does so on their behalf. As the burden of vindicating the rights of the victim falls upon the State the victim is entitled to expect that the State will do so efficiently and sympathetically. If it fails to do that the victim becomes disillusioned with the system, and this disillusionment is not confined to the victim alone. It spreads like a virus and infects all who become aware of how the victim was treated by those charged with vindicating his or her rights. I refer to the victim's family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances and all who, for whatever reason, become aware of the circumstances.

If the system operates in such a way as to cause these ripples of disillusionment, obviously it follows that the greater the number of victims, the greater will be the number of people in society who are disillusioned with the entire system of criminal justice. Widespread disillusionment with a system of criminal justice can have potentially devastating consequences in a democracy. The Irish Association for Victim Support demands that the victims of crime be treated with sympathy and respect and here the victims are shown neither sympathy nor respect. Precisely the opposite is almost invariably the case. In the interests of fairness and balance I wish to say I am not blaming the Minister for that. This did not arise as a result of a conscious decision by any politician or Government; it evolved.

We inherited our legal system from the British. Up to the early part of the 19th century in Britain the responsibility for prosecuting offenders lay generally with the person who had been harmed by the offence. The victim usually had to assemble the evidence or pay a lawyer or other official to take a case for him or her and was responsible for the presentation of the case in court and for the costs if the case failed. This burden of responsibility must have weighed very heavily, particularly on inexperienced citizens who had no legal education and, most especially, on those with slender financial resources. It resulted in the undesirable situation whereby many cases which should have been prosecuted in the public interest never saw the light of day.

There was a further problem related to the imbalance of power which lay at the heart of such a system. A victim with power or financial resources could exact disproportionate revenge against a weak or impecunious offender. On the other hand, a powerful offender could obviously intimidate a vulnerable victim. The gradual introduction of local police services during the 19th century provided an opportunity to redress this imbalance and a situation gradually evolved whereby the State took responsibility and interposed itself between the victim and the offender. However, acceptance of this responsibility by the State introduced a new imbalance of power and the accused invariably became the weaker and more vulnerable party faced with defending himself against the power, might and majesty of the State.

In order to restore that balance and protect the alleged offender a series of rights were evolved to enable defendants to properly present their cases and to protect themselves from unfair prosecution and punishment. For example, strict rules were developed on the way in which evidence could be brought. Owing to the severity of the punishment in the 19th century it was said it was better to acquit 99 guilty people than to convict one who was innocent. The victim then became regarded as an ordinary citizen with a responsibility to assist the police by providing evidence and to act as a witness when the evidence was needed as part of a prosecution case in court. No special status was granted to the victim in respect of his or her special interest in the case. In cases where evidence was not required it was not considered necessary even to provide information to the victim about, for example, the arrest of the offender or the intention to prosecute or not to prosecute as the case may be.

In attempting to protect the victim from unwanted responsibility the State, therefore, pushed him to the margins of the system where he became practically irrelevant to the procedures in the eyes of the professionals who operated the system on behalf of the State. Evidence of this first began to emerge from research studies in the early 1980s. For example, a survey of buggery victims carried out in 1982 by the Oxford Centre for Criminological Research showed that 25 per cent of victims interviewed were dissatisfied with the response they received from the police after reporting a crime. The main problems cited by those victims included a lack of contact with the police, a lack of information and a general feeling that they were regarded as unimportant. A follow-up survey carried out in 1985 in relation to victims of violent crime who had passed through the criminal justice system showed a dissatisfaction rate of 38 per cent. Many of these victims again stated that they would not even report a crime in the future. Once again, the complaints related to a lack of information and a general feeling of being accorded low status by the authorities.

It has to be said that there was no evidence in either study that victims wished to resume responsibility for decision-making in the criminal justice process. However, these and some subsequent studies showed clearly that what the victims mainly wanted was recognition of their experience and the effect it had on their lives. They concluded that the State's concern to deal with the offender while at the same time protecting his or her human rights needed to be matched by a similar concern for the victim. There should be a separate relationship between the State and the individual victim who has been harmed given that a crime has been perpetrated against him or her. The victim should not be seen as ancillary to the criminal justice process.

In the present criminal justice system the victim is largely a pawn in the contest between the prosecution and defence. He is a weapon to be used if necessary by the prosecution if and when it suits its purpose to do so. He is then peremptorily discarded. For the vast majority of victims the experience of being a State witness — usually the principal one — in a criminal trial will be entirely new. However, during the period leading up to the trial his contact with the police will be at best perfunctory. He will have no occasion to meet the State lawyers who will have the task of vindicating his rights and the State will make no effort to provide him with any advice about trial procedures or his duties or responsibilities as a witness. He will find the court room atmosphere as strange as Gulliver found the land of Lilliput when he was cast ashore there.

The reality of courtroom facilities is such that on the morning of a trial—I have witnessed this —the victim will often find himself waiting cheek by jowl with the person accused of battering, maiming or sexually assaulting him or her. He will often be subjected to searing cross-examination by the defence which will involve questioning his character, motives, bona fides and details of his recollection of the event in question and often incidents from his past life. The fact that he is still severely traumatised from his experience will count for nothing. When the ordeal is over he is told he may leave. He is not entitled to even one penny in compensation for the pain, suffering and trauma he has endured. He will have no subsequent contact with the State except perhaps through his solicitor who will be engaged in the long and rather undignified process of trying to extract the minimal compensation payable from the criminal injuries compensation tribunal. The victim will receive no counselling, sympathy or support except perhaps from the Victims Support Group, a voluntary organisation struggling financially to survive. This is not hyperbole or exaggeration. These are the facts and the Minister and every Member of the House knows this. Facts do not cease to exist simply because they are ignored.

I have omitted including in the Bill a provision to allow for the payment of compensation to victims of crime for pain and suffering. I have done so because I was not entitled to impose a charge on the Exchequer in a Private Members Bill. I had included this provision in the Bill as originally drafted but the officials in the Bills Office informed me, as is their duty, that it would have to be deleted on the basis that it was out of order. However, this should not be taken to mean that I do not support the principle of the restoration of compensation for pain and suffering. On the contrary, the absence of such compensation is a blight not only on the entire criminal justice system but on our value system as a society. That is why I strongly urge the Minister to prevail upon his colleagues to restore compensation to the victims of crime for pain and suffering. The opportunity to do this exists as the Estimates for expenditure in 1996 are now being discussed. I ask the Minister to refer specifically to this point in his reply.

The present law relating to compensation for the victims of crime challenges our claim to be a Christian society. Regardless of the atrocity perpetrated on him, all a victim who is lucky enough to be working and, therefore, not in receipt of a medical card will be entitled to is a loss of wages, less social welfare payment and more medical expenses. Even in the calculation of medical expenses the State has shown itself to be a veritable scrooge.

Until last year the plight of victims was compounded by unjustifiable and unconscionable delay in payment. The unfortunate victim had to wait for years to be paid even the paltry provision the system had made for him. He was, in effect, forced to act as an unwilling lender to the Exchequer. This was brought to the attention of the then Minister for Justice, Deputy Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, who provided the resources to substantially reduce these delays and for that she deserves our gratitude.

If the victim is unlucky enough to be one of the large and growing army of the unemployed and consequently has a medical card then the compensation to which he is entitled from the State, regardless of his injuries, is zero. He would, of course, have a right to take a civil action against the perpetrator of the crime but we need not waste much time on that as we know what it is worth. On the other hand if somebody is injured in a road traffic accident or an industrial accident or simply falls into a pothole he will be entitled to thousands of pounds in damages for pain and suffering. I recall the case of a young man of 23 whose leg was cut by falling glass at his place of work. It left a scar which was almost invisible some months later but much to my surprise — I did not know as much then as I know now — we managed to do a deal with the insurance company and he received £4,000 net for pain and suffering.

He should have given it back.

Another young man of 21 who was unemployed and had a medical card was violently assaulted and as a result he is now confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. I will quote from a copy of the Garda report:

This patient was admitted to the Limerick Regional Hospital at 2.10 a.m. on 21.12.'93 following an assault. On admission he was shocked and had multiple stab wounds to his chest wall with deep lacerations on the left and right arm with amputation of his right index finger.

He describes his injuries in his own words:

I suffered the following injuries, multiple stab wounds to the head, stabbed in the left eye, stab wounds on the left arm, the front portion of my right underfinger severed from the second joint, stab wounds to the other three fingers of my right hand. Stab wounds under right wrist, stab wound to left abdomen, multiple stab wounds to the upper and lower back.

The stab wounds to my lower back have resulted in paralysis from the chest down and this condition is permanent. I also have stab wounds to my chin, lower lip and forehead and also on my neck.

That young man was assaulted by members of the criminal fraternity who lived all their lives on social welfare. They have since been convicted. His right to take a civil action against them is not worth very much and he is not entitled to one penny from the State, never mind that his life has been destroyed and his employment prospects have been obliterated. In all sincerity is this justice? The Minister knows it is not Christian. In fact it is the anthititis of Christianity, fairness and justice. We like to decry the Godless unchristian society of the United Kingdom but their system is better. I will not go into detail on it but suffice to say that last May the Home Secretary introduced legislation in the House of Commons to replace the system of compensation for the victims of crime by a tariff system, which sets a definite amount for each category of injury. There are 25 categories of injuries. In addition the victim will be paid for loss of wages, medical expenses and there is provision for the relatives of deceased victims. The tariffs ranged from £1,000 at the lower end of the scale to £500,000 at the upper end. That is a disimprovement on what preceded it because the financial memorandum to the Bill states that the objective of the change is to reduce the projected payments from an estimated £500 million to £260 million at the turn of the century. Even in its reduced form the scheme is infinitely better than what operates in this so-called Christian country. I look forward to the Minister's reply on the question of compensation for pain and suffering.

The system in other Commonwealth countries is outlined succinctly in a report called "Financial Provisions for the Victim of Crime — A Comparative Study in Five Commonwealth Jurisdictions". It was produced by the Commonwealth Legal Advisory Service in January 1990. In each country mentioned needless to say the provision for victims is infinitely more generous than it is here.

This Bill provides the minimum necessary to meet the legitimate demands that victims of crime be treated sympathetically and with respect. I have studied the report of the European Forum for Victims Services which represents victim service organisations in 15 European countries. I have noted what they say but I have not gone nearly as far as they would have wished me to go. I feared that because of our long record of totally ignoring the victim, the radical changes suggested by that forum would be too great a shock to the system if introduced all at once. Therefore, I have provided the minimum necessary to compel this State to show the sympathy and respect which the victim legitimately demands and deserves. The report of the European forum is based on the United Nations Declaration on the Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and the European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes. It takes into account the reports and recommendations of the Council of Europe on the Position of the Victim in the Framework of Criminal Law and Procedure and on Assistance to Victims and Prevention of Victimisation. The forum document states:

Professional experience in victims' services and recent research has demonstrated beyond doubt that crime can have long-term and detrimental consequences for victims and their families, not only for their physical, financial and emotional well-being, but also for their attitudes towards society as a whole, and to the criminal justice authorities in particular. Uninformed or insensitive treatment by the criminal justice process, or by individual professionals within that process, is likely to increase or prolong these negative effects. By contrast, victims who are given proper recognition and respect are more able to make a healthy and informed adjustment to their experience of crime, to understand the crime in its proper context, and to be reassured by the experience of solidarity within their community.

It is against that benchmark that the forum makes its recommendations. It seeks to define the essential prerequisites which must be in place before a criminal justice system can claim that it is treating its crime victims with sympathy and respect. It goes on to say:

Victims have a right to be recognised and acknowledged as having legitimate interests which must be taken into account at all stages of criminal justice proceedings.

All victims when reporting a crime, should have the right to `opt in' to procedures for being kept informed of all developments relating to their case — e.g. the arrest of the offender, the decision to prosecute, dates of hearings, bail, final decisions and any release from a custodial sentence.

This Bill seeks to meet some of those criteria although admittedly in a limited and conservative way.

Section 1 defines the term "victim of crime" and is based on the suggested definition from the Irish Association for Victim Support and if we have missed anything we will be amenable to amendments to improve the definition. Section 2 (a) gives the victim the right to be consulted by the prosecution in relation to any pre-trial procedures. This is in line not only with the recommendations of the Irish Association for Victim Support but also the combined European associations as can be seen from the forum report which I have just quoted. Section 2 (b) allows the victims of crime the right to legal advice in certain situations. That right will be extended to a victim only where he or she is a witness and where the offence for which the accused is charged is indictable, involving violence or the threat of it, as a result of which the victim suffers either physical or psychological injury. On page four of the European Forum report it is stated that legal advice should be available to all victims regardless of their means, and section 2 (b) provides accordingly.

As I stated earlier, being a witness for the State in a criminal trial will be a new experience for most victims. It is a travesty to expect victims, especially a victim still traumatised by the experience, to face such an ordeal without knowledge of trial procedures or his or her duties or responsibilities as a witness. Nobody is suggesting that witnesses should be coached in the evidence they must give, but surely the minimum to which they are decently entitled is some knowledge of the system in which they are expected to play a central role.

Section 2 (c) states that the victim will be entitled to counselling, but this entitlement will not be open-ended. Victims will be entitled to counselling only for the psyschological effects of a crime which involves violence or the threat of violence, as a result of which the victim suffers mental or physical injury. The procedure for applying for counselling, and the mechanism for providing it, will be the subject of regulations which the Minister will be given six months to draft, more than adequate time.

Section 2 (d) deals with victim impact reports which a judge will be obliged to consider in respect of each victim before imposing sentence. Section 3 contains a number of provisions concerning information that a victim should be entitled to obtain from the gardaí on written request. The gardaí will be obliged to provide the information only when a written request is submitted and received. As I do not wish to impose too great a burden on the gardaí, whose primary responsibility is to investigate crime and bring perpetrators to justice, I have not gone as far as victim support organisations would like. However, the information I am obliging gardaí to provide on written request is the minimum to which a victim should be decently entitled. For example, victims are surely entitled to know the name and station of the investigating member of the Garda Síochána as well as a telephone number at which he or she can be contacted. Nobody can dispute that the victim is entitled to know whether a person has been charged following the Garda investigation of the crime. Neither can anyone quibble with the obligation placed on the gardaí to tell the victim whether a person is charged and, if so, whether he or she is in custody or out on bail and the date on which the case is expected to commence. Surely the victim is also entitled to know at the earliest possible stage whether he or she will be required to give evidence.

Section 3 (i) requires the authorities to inform the victim of the impending release of the offender. I know victims who were severly traumatised by meeting people on the street who had committed a violent crime against them, often having served only a fraction of their sentence. Many unfortunate victims only discover their offenders are back on the street when they meet them. Common justice demands that the victim should be warned about the offender's release before it takes place.

It is probably true that the victim of a sexual offence has a right to bring a civil action for trespass to the person against the perpetrator of that offence. However, as far as I am aware, the matter has not been decided by a court. although various out of court settlements have been made in that regard. Section 4 puts in statutory form a right which probably already exists in common law but it puts the matter beyond doubt and nobody could argue rationally against that.

I do not have time to deal with the details of section 4 (2), suffice it to say that it gives the same right or an extended period of limitations to a victim of sexual assault as to a plaintiff in an ordinary negligence action. Common justice demands that and nobody could quibble with it. I changed the wording somewhat from that contained in the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 1991 but, unfortunately, I do not have time to explain the technical reasons.

The Government stated in its programme for Government that it intends publishing a charter for victims of crime. It is now 12 months since that programme was published and I have not yet seen the charter. I urge the Minister to abandon the notion of a charter for the victims of crime, they deserve to have whatever remedies are introduced to alleviate their plight placed on a statutory basis.

Some years ago the Department of Health introduced a charter for hospital patients. It has proved to be like Sam Goldwyn's description of a verbal contract, not worth the paper on which it is written. It is worthless. A headline on page 4 ofThe Irish Times of 17 November states that “Coroner criticises hospital admission policy. Inquest told injured man was left on trolley for hours”. So much for the charter of rights for hospital patients. As it is not grounded in legislation it does not give them any legal rights and, for that reason, it has been strongly criticised in the Irish Medical Times, the Irish Medical News and elsewhere.

The Revenue Commissioners also published a charter of taxpayers' rights. As one who works in this field I can testify that it has not had effect in practice. I have experience of cases where the official conducting an audit commences by reading out the charter of taxpayers' rights, sometimes in a loud intimidating fashion and sometimes mantra like. The Revenue Commissioners make it clear that they regard this as nothing but jargon imposed on them by meddlesome politicians which they must read out.

In 1987 the Government published what could be called a charter and the Minister of State knows a good deal about this. It is a series of voluntary guidelines directed at organisations coming into contact with children. I need not waste the House's time explaining how that has not worked in practice. A charter of rights for crime victims in the UK has also been criticised on the grounds that it has not been placed in statute. For example, in an article at page 843 of the 1995 Criminal Law Review, Helen Fenwick, a lecturer in criminal law at Durham University, stated that as the crime victims' charter in the UK did not have a statutory basis it had no legal status. She also stated that criminal justice agencies are under no legal duty to ensure that victims have access to services under charter rights.

I do not have time to explain why I am not including a sanction. It will not be necessary because in most cases it will be a matter of internal Garda discipline and would also serve to prejudice a trial if victims do not get the rights attributed to them by statute.

I ask the Minister to accept the Bill and allow it to go to the Select Committee on Legislation and Security. Last week the Minister for Justice accepted a Bill proposed by Fianna Fáil dealing with paedophiles who carry out their nefarious activities abroad, usually as part of an organised scheme. If, as a result of that enlightened legislation, a person is brought before the courts in six weeks or six months' time, convicted and rightly punished, the media will hardly waste time singing hymns of praise to the Bill's originators, Deputies Ryan and O'Donoghue. The names of those responsible for that Bill will probably not even be remembered,sic transit gloria.

In asking the Government to accept the Bill I am not seeking personal glory. I doubt whether, if this Bill becomes law, every victim entitled to information from the Garda about when a trial will commence or when a person will be charged will say a silent prayer of thanks for me or Fianna Fáil, not that we do not need prayers. In a few weeks time nobody will remember who proposed the Bill, nor do I wish them to. Neither is my party seeking party political advantage from it. The rights of victims are surely above party politics. Graham Greene once stated that any victim demands allegiance. The growing army of crime victims surely demands the allegiance, sympathy, respect and support of the Government.

The Government must act now to assist the victims of crime. It must do so not only because of the allegiance it owes to the victims but because of the wider consideration of a growing lack of respect for the criminal justice system which has potentially devastating consequences in a democracy. The Government must act immediately to restore faith in our creaking and crumbling system of criminal justice and acceptance of the Bill would be an excellent place to start. I commend the Bill to the House.

On behalf of the Minister for Justice, Deputy Nora Owen, who is engaged on other urgent business, I would like to commend Deputy O'Dea for his efforts in producing and publishing this Bill. The Government appreciates the arguments he has made for it which I know are motivated by a concern to advance the rights of the victims of crime. I am afraid, however, for reasons I shall explain to the House, that the Government cannot accept the Bill.

Before I outline in detail why the Government believes it must oppose the Bill. I think it would be appropriate to deal with a matter we all agree upon, that is the need for us to demonstrate in a practical way our real and genuine sympathy and support for the victims of crime. We all know how important the issue of crime is to the public and the anger they feel at those who commit crime, especially crimes involving violence or crimes directed at particularly vulnerable sections of our society. Increasingly, there has been a recognition that the focus should be more on the victims of crime and that the effect crime has on victims should be a central consideration in criminal proceedings. As Deputies will be aware, a significant amount of work has been undertaken in that area and a great deal has been achieved in terms of bringing our law and the criminal justice system into line with the deep public concern which is felt on this issue.

One of the most significant developments has undoubtedly been the establishment of the criminal injuries compensation tribunal in the 1970s. Since then, a total of around £45 million has been paid to compensate victims of crime. While long delays in the payment of accepted awards did build up over time, these have now been virtually eliminated. In addition, the tribunal has recently made significant progress in reducing delays in hearing appeals and is currently planning further measures to improve efficiency. I have no doubt that all Deputies will welcome these operational improvements as being not just important in themselves but also as providing valuable food for thought in the review of the scheme of compensation for personal injuries criminally inflicted which is currently being carried out in the Department of Justice in accordance with a committment in the Government of Renewal policy agreement.

Another, more recent improvement in the position of crime victims has been the expansion of services provided by the Irish Association for Victim Support. The association, which is an entirely voluntary group, has seen its public funding rise from £18,000 in 1993 to £130,000 this year. The services offered by the association range from the support of listening to crime victims talk about their experiences to practical advice on compensation, legal aid, court procedure, home security, insurance, health service entitlements and so on. In addition, of course, the association fulfils an invaluable role in articulating the viewpoint of victims of crime in the media and in national debate.

As I have mentioned, members of the Irish Association for Victim Support receive no payment. They give freely and generously of their time and much more to assist persons who have been the victims of crime. As Deputies may be aware, many association members have themselves suffered very seriously at the hands of criminals. I know I speak for all the Members of this House when I say that the association and all involved in it deserve our special thanks and praise.

Alongside the development of support services for victims of crime, there have been corresponding improvements in the law. A number of potential obstacles to the fair treatment of victims of crime have now been removed. For example, it used to be the case that in trials of sexual offences the judge was required to warn the jury about the danger of convicting the defendant on the uncorroborated evidence of the complainant. That clear danger of unfair prejudice to a victim of a sexual offence was removed by the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act, 1990, which abolished this requirement.

The 1990 Act also contains specific measures to prevent a defendant seeking to undermine the testimony of a rape victim by inquiring into the previous sexual history of the complainant. In addition, the rape Acts now provide for the anonymity of a rape victim. Similar provision was made in relation to the victims of incest in the Criminal Law (Incest Proceedings) Act, which was enacted earlier this year.

Deputies may also recall that certain further aspects of the law of evidence were regarded as unsatisfactory when it came to securing justice for victims. In particular, I refer to the rules governing children's testimony. Under the legal rules which operated here since the foundation of the State, children were not allowed to give evidence, however clear and truthful it might be, unless they could understand the nature of an oath or affirmation. That was changed by the Criminal Evidence Act, 1992, which enables children to give evidence in a criminal trial without having to take an oath, provided the court is satisfied that they can give an intelligible account. The 1992 Act also abolished the rule of law which required the unsworn evidence of a child to be corroborated.

One of the most important features of the 1992 Criminal Evidence Act is that it has made it much easier for young persons and other vulnerable witnesses, such as those with a mental handicap, to give evidence in cases involving violence or sexual abuse. Giving evidence in a courtroom, especially in the presence of the accused and with all the formality involved in a criminal trial, is difficult for most people but it can be truly traumatic for witnesses in these cases and can result in prosecutions not being taken in the first place or else failing because a witness is unable to give his or her evidence to the court.

This problem has been dealt with by making provision in the 1992 Act for evidence to be given by live television link. The procedure is that the witness is located in a separate room outside the court and communication is undertaken by way of special television monitors. The witness only sees the person who is speaking to him or her — the judge or one of the legal representatives — and there is no contact, either direct or indirect, with the accused.

Furthermore, the Act provides that where evidence is being given via a television link and the witness is under 17 years of age, wigs and gowns, which could frighten a child, will not normally be worn by the judge or the barristers or solicitors involved. Questions to a witness may be conveyed through a competent person appointed by the court. In addition, where the evidence of such a witness for a preliminary examination has been video recorded, he or she may not have to give evidence at the trial. In addition, a video recording of statements made during interviews with a garda or other competent person by victims under 14 years of age of physical or sexual abuse may be admitted in evidence.

In addition to the specific and important developments I have already referred to, a number of major advances in improving the situation of victims in the criminal process were made by the Criminal Justice Act, 1993. This is significant legislation and it will be familiar to many Members of this House, especially Deputy O'Dea, who was involved in piloting it through the Oireachtas.

The 1993 Act ensures that our criminal justice system is victim-orientated in three main ways. First, it enables the Director of Public Prosecutions, in a case where there is a conviction on indictment, to appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal against an unduly lenient sentence, with the court having the power to quash the original sentence and substitute a more appropriate sentence.

Second, the 1993 Act has extended the powers of criminal courts to award compensation to all cases where the victim has been caused personal injury or loss. Previously that power was only available in a small number of cases. In addition, a court is empowered to order compensation to be paid to the dependants of a person whose death resulted from an offence. Such compensation includes provision for funeral expenses and distress. Furthermore, the Act allows a court to give preference to making a compensation order rather than imposing a fine where it considers that the means of an offender are insufficient to pay what the court would consider to be an appropriate fine and appropriate compensation. The making of a compensation order does not prevent a victim from seeking compensation from the offender in the civil courts but the amount of the order must be deducted from any civil award made to the victim.

Third, the Act enumerates the important principle that when imposing a sentence for an offence involving violence or the threat of violence against a person a court must take into account the effect, including any long-term effect, of an offence on the victim. For that purpose, courts have been empowered to receive evidence or submissions such as victim impact statements. They are also required to hear evidence offered by the victim of a sexual or violent offence as to its effect on him or her.

In this summary of recent developments, we should not overlook improvements in Garda procedures which are designed to assist victims. All members of the Garda Síochána now follow a victim support code of practice whereby a crime victim is always given the name and number of a member who can be contacted for information. Under that code of practice, a victim is contacted regularly in the course of an investigation in order to be reassured on progress and is informed about key information, such as when a suspect has been charged, the date and the outcome of court proceedings or, indeed, if a decision is taken not to prosecute.

In considering the proposals in the Bill it is important to bear in mind all the legislative and other developments I have outlined. I appreciate the difficulties Deputies face in preparing Private Members' Bills. Legislation is always a complex matter and it is obviously more difficult to draft a Bill outside of Government without the legal and administrative support available to Ministers. With that in mind, I will discuss the provisions of the Bill without dwelling on minor drafting points.

Section 1 defines what is meant by a victim of crime for the purposes of the Bill. This appears to be quite straightforward but it raises a major question in terms of the scope of the Bill. The section states that a victim of crime includes, "where appropriate, the immediate family or dependants of such persons". But what is meant by "where appropriate" and who is to decide? This is not simply a drafting quibble but a basic question concerning the intention behind the Bill. Nor does the rest of the Bill provide an answer as it seems to apply only to direct victims of crime and not their dependants.

Section 2 is one of the main sections of the Bill and sets out what are expressed to be the legal entitlements of victims of crime. It is worth spending a little while trying to tease out the principles the Bill seeks to establish with this section.

I am not sure what the phrase "as a matter of law" adds to the statement that a crime victim shall be entitled to certain things. If a statute provides for an entitlement then presumably that means the entitlement has been conferred as a matter of law. Perhaps the phrase is meant merely to add emphasis to the absolute requirements of the section and in order to make it clear that they can never be departed from under any circumstances. If that is the case, the question arises as to what would happen if the requirements, or any of them, were not met in a particular case. For example, would a victim whose entitlements were not made available to him or her have a legal remedy to enforce his or her entitlement or to seek compensation from the State? How would such compensation be assessed or by what court? These are crucial issues on which the Bill is silent.

The Minister for Justice would be opposed to the imposition of the legal burdens provided for in the Bill on the grounds that they could have very serious implications for trials. As the Bill is drafted it is not specified whether, in the event that the section were breached, the relevant court procedures would be invalid. I am sure that is not the Deputy's intention but it is a consequence that can be implied from his Bill. If, however, that is his intention the result would be, for example, that where a victim could not be contacted, perhaps because he or she was out of the country on holiday, the court could not deal with the matters in question. Such a situation could not be tolerated and would inevitably mean that prosecutions would be abandoned.

As regards the right to be consulted by the prosecution in relation to pre-trial procedures, I can see the argument for a victim being kept generally informed of progress in the preparation of a case for trial. The difficulty is that the Bill prescribes an absolute requirement in a way that is more rigid and less flexible than seems wise. The requirement for consultation applies to "any pre-trial procedure". There are many purely technical pre-trial procedures which would be of no real interest to a victim and where an absolute obligation to consult would bring about no real benefit to any party and could actually delay progress in the hearing of a criminal case by imposing excessive demands on the prosecution. Furthermore, the provision in the Bill has clearly failed to take account of where an urgent application has to be made to a court because of some development that was not foreseen and in such circumstances it simply would not be practicable to "consult" or even contact a victim.

I use the word "consultation" in this context because that is the word used in section 2. This is a word that requires some consideration. Consultation would appear to mean something more than providing information and, in its ordinary meaning at least, implies the possibility that a victim could have an input into procedures undertaken by the prosecution, in other words that he or she could in some way become directly involved in the conduct or taking of criminal prosecutions. Such a course would be completely unrealistic.

Section 2 also seeks to entitle a victim of crime involving violence or the threat of violence to free legal advice in relation to the trial. As Deputies will recall, the current Civil Legal Aid Bill provides for legal assistance for a person who has been the victim of rape and certain other offences. In that respect, the Deputy's proposal might be said to be an extension of the provisions in that Bill but it goes much further in every respect.

The provision in the Deputy's Bill is completely silent on the extent of the assistance or how it would operate in practice. These are matters that are specifically covered by the Civil Legal Aid Bill. In particular, the question arises as to whether there would be any limit to the amount of assistance a crime victim could seek. Would such assistance be made available through solicitors in private practice and would there be any restriction on the employment of barristers? None of these issues is addressed in the Bill and Members will appreciate that the Government, and in particular the Minister for Finance, could not accept that a blank cheque of the kind that the Deputy has proposed should be enshrined in legislation.

Furthermore, there is an additional matter that I am not sure the Deputy has considered. I note that the relevant portion of the Bill refers to indictable offences. On the face of it, Deputies might assume that what would be involved were cases dealt with before a judge and jury. That would not be the case as the overwhelming majority of indictable offences are disposed of in summary proceedings in the District Court.

Section 2 (c) is unusual for a Private Members' Bill in that it seeks the establishment of a new service, psychological counselling, free of charge, with all of the resource implications which that involves. I have already outlined the excellent work done in this area by the Irish Association for Victim Support, and the significant increase in its funding which has enabled it to expand its services, including the provision of counselling.

I appreciate that the Deputy has attempted to make more specific provision for counselling than he has for legal assistance and has stated that regulations must be made by the Minister in that regard. However, no guidance is offered as to what those regulations should contain. The overall result is that the points I have already made in relation to the provision of legal advice as proposed under the Bill apply equally in the case of the subparagraph on counselling. There is quite simply no way in which any Government could agree to such open-ended proposals with the very significant financial burdens that would be involved.

Section 2 also provides for victim-impact reports and for the effect of a crime on a victim to be taken into account in deciding the appropriate sentence. This essentially builds on what is already provided for in the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, as I mentioned.

Section 3 sets out the information which must be given by the Garda Síochána to victims of crime. The Minister has no difficulty with, indeed she fully supports, the idea that victims of crime should be kept informed of important developments in their cases, but the Minister is not convinced that this section goes the right way about it. In some ways it seems to go too far in that it imposes inflexible requirements on the Garda Síochána, and in other ways it seems not to go far enough, in that the obligation on the gardaí to give information arises only when a victim of crime submits a written request. Indeed, this could be seen as a step backwards from the existing Garda procedures which I outlined.

Section 4 deals with the right of a victim of a sexual offence to bring a civil action for damages against the perpetrator of the crime. Of course, that right already exists, but what is at issue here, if I understand the proposal correctly, is the time limit within which such an action may be brought and the degree to which this may be extended by the discovery of damage which subsequently comes to light.

It has long been accepted that there should be some time limit on civil actions so as to provide some degree of certainty in the law and to avoid any injustice associated with long delays in hearing actions. The difficulty has been to balance the right to take an action with the need for fairness. The law on this has been changed as recently as 1991, when provision was made for extension of time where damage is not immediately apparent. Section 4 raises complex issues in this regard which would need the most careful consideration, particularly as we are talking about incidents going back over many years and even decades. It is the Minister's view that important changes of this kind to the civil law should be considered in a civil law context and not in a criminal justice Bill.

Sections 5 and 6 have broadly similar purposes. Esentially these sections are concerned with ensuring that funds realised from offenders will be made available to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. Section 5 provides, in effect, that when an offender is being fined in respect of an offence which results in physical injury to a victim the judge will deduct a sum to be paid to the State in connection with the administration of justice and order the balance to be paid over to the Criminal Injuries Tribunal. Section 6 requires that any funds or assets seized by the State under the 1994 Criminal Justice Act shall be passed to the tribunal.

The funding of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal is an issue that has given rise to difficulties for successive Governments since its establishment. As Deputies may be aware, a special Supplementary Estimate of £3 million was introduced last year to enable the arrears of awards that had built up in the tribunal to be cleared. This is a project that was initiated by the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, and I am happy to acknowledge the contribution she has made in that area. The granting of the Supplementary Estimate has enabled the tribunal to pay out all the awards that have been accepted. In addition, the 1995 allocation has been fixed at £4 million which is the total of the funds provided in 1994. A sum of well over £2 million has been paid in awards to date in 1995 and as matters stand all the indications are that the tribunal will have paid a further £1 million in awards before the end of the year. Obviously that is a vast improvement on the situation which pertained and I am sure it will be welcomed by all Members of this House.

On sections 5 and 6, most Deputies would accept that serious difficulties can arise in practice for organisations where there is no certainty about the funding arrangements. If there is a case to be made for a State body to be funded for a particular purpose then it would seem to be appropriate that this should be done by the Exchequer rather than relying on some sort of other arrangement where the income would not be known from one year to another. From an administrative point of view, it would be extremely difficult to make plans on the basis of estimates of receipts that could be unpredictable and could fluctuate significantly.

I should also mention that in sections 5 and 6 the Deputy has failed to address what would happen if the funds paid over to the tribunal in a year were not fully spent. Furthermore, at what point, if any, could surplus funds be released to the Exchequer? On the other hand, however, the Deputy may have assumed that the arrangements he has proposed would be sufficient to meet all the claims payable by the tribunal.

I did not.

To my mind, that would be a very dangerous assumption and I am glad he is not assuming that. It also raises the question of whether specific provision would have to be made to top up the `income' the tribunal would receive under the sections. All in all, the Minister does not believe the Deputy's proposals would improve the operation of the tribunal and she would be concerned that in fact the reverse would be the case.

Section 7 purports to amend paragraph 21 of the criminal injuries compensation scheme. I am sure on reflection the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate that a non-statutory text such as the scheme should be the subject of a specific statutory amendment. Paragraph 21 of the scheme provides that applications for compensation shall be made not later than three months after the event giving rise to the injury. In addition, however, the scheme allows claims to be considered out of time "in circumstances determined by the Tribunal to justify exceptional treatment". I understand that the tribunal has been prepared to interpret its power to extend the time within which a claim should be made in a flexible manner and I understand that paragraph 21 has not in practice given rise to difficulties for claimants.

Given that position, the Minister has no specific proposals to alter paragraph 21 of the criminal injuries scheme along the lines suggested by the Deputy. That being said, however, she is prepared to have the matter examined in the context of the review of the operation of the scheme that is currently under way.

The Minister has been as constructive as possible in her approach, but despite the good intention behind it, the Bill would not deliver on what it promises. What is needed is a package of measures which will help victims of crime and that is what the Government is committed to in its preparation of a charter for victims of crime. Work on the charter, which is promised in the Government's policy document, is under way and involves a comprehensive examination of existing services for victims of crime together with the formulation of proposals for development of those services. This detailed work is necessary to lay the foundation for the kind of improvements in services we all would like to see, and I can assure the House that it is a priority for the Minister for Justice and the Government.

For the past 12 months.

For the reasons I have outlined, the Government is not in a position to accept this Bill and I cannot, therefore, commend it to the House.

May I share my time with Deputy Haughey?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I congratulate Deputy O'Dea, our spokesman on law reform, for bringing forward this important caring legislation. I commend him on his initiative. This Bill demands that we as legislators face up to one of the gravest injustices of our time — I regret this was not adverted to by the Minister — the manner in which the State has treated the tens of thousands of victims of crime in recent years. The nature and quality of such treatment by successive Governments can best be described as abysmal, insensitive, uncaring and, in some respects, downright irresponsible.

Since 1986 there has been no provision in Irish law for compensation for pain and suffering for the victims of crime. The only financial provisions for such circumstances are for out of pocket medical and other expenses. Every country in Europe which I checked, even the UK, has some provision for damages for pain and suffering. The UK looks after victims, but sadly we do not.

With the frightening increase in the level and viciousness of many crimes, our failure as law makers to take a significant legal step in favour of victims is unpardonable. Such a failure has played a part in undermining public confidence in our system of justice. As the people and victims of crime witness the numerous debates about law and order and the important essential changes in the laws on crime, they are bewildered and let down by our failure to focus on the victims and their rights. It is our duty to ensure that those rights are clearly and unambiguously vindicated in our laws. This Bill effectively addresses that matter. It will be a source of profound regret to victims to learn of the Government's shameful response to it. The Minister of State referred to the commitment in the programme for Government to a charter of rights. Legal advice is that a charter of rights would simply contain a detailed catalogue of highfalutin' aspirations. In that context the response of the Government to the genuine need for justice is not only inadequate but shameful.

I wish to pay tribute to the Irish Association for Victim Support, a voluntary, community-based organisation founded about ten years ago by Mr. Derek Nally. Its workers, who are dedicated to the service of all victims of crime, express sympathy on behalf of the community and offer emotional and practical support to those affected by crime. As a non-statutory body it provides a very valuable service throughout the country. It plays a very important role in increasing awareness among the Legislature and Judiciary of the needs of victims of crime and the issues affecting them. As one of the pioneers in this area it is entitled to credit for the recent development in our courts where members of the Judiciary seek victim impact statements prior to sentencing. The Minister of State said that happens in almost all cases. The impression I got from his statement was that it is mandatory, but my information is that victim impact statements are not sought in all cases. I would like clarification on whether there is a mandatory or legislative obligation on the Judiciary to take full account of a victim impact statement before passing sentence.

This Bill provides a welcome opportunity for legislators immediately to redress injustice and show care for victims of crime. In many cases the witness for the prosecution, who is the victim, may never have been in court before, may not be properly prepared for the case, may not meet the prosecution lawyer before the case and, contrary to what the Minister said, may have had contact with the Garda on only one or two occasions. The person who is already traumatised from the crime suffers further trauma as a result of the strange court surroundings and cross-examination by defence counsel. He is totally unfamiliar with the court and is devastated. His family is affected, as is his work and social life, but our legal system provides no compensation for him. A person who suffers a broken leg in a car accident may receive £15,000 to £20,000 but a person battered almost to death by a criminal and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life receives no compensation. Is that justice? How can people who find themselves in such circumstances have confidence in our justice system?

Sections 2 and 3 provide legal entitlements for victims of crime and define in law the information and support to be provided by the Garda Síochána. Those provisions are imperative. Section 2 provides that a victim impact report must be produced and makes it mandatory on the judge in deciding the appropriate penalty to take into account all the effects on the victim. It is widely believed by those who have carried out research on this matter that the introduction of a victim impact statement by all trial judges would be of great psychological benefit to victims. It would provide an opportunity for victims to participate in their own case, which would help them better understand the proceedings and feel more satisfied with the outcome. It would also help restore the victim's self esteem and sense of control, which are often the first casualties following serious crime. Studies carried out in other jurisdictions clearly indicate that victims excluded from participation in their own case take longer to recover from the effects of their experience.

The Law Reform Commission, when referring to victim impact statements in their document on sentencing, stated that studies of victims show that contrary to the fears of the opponents of victim participation, they are not always motivated by vengeance. It states that it is likely there will be a wide variety of victim responses but as the courts become more familiar with individual variations they become more adept at judging the weight to attribute to the victim's response and at discriminating between the probative and prejudicial elements in the evidence. What we are talking about here is minimalist involvement in the criminal justice process, merely a tempering of the defendant-orientated process nurtured and encouraged over the years, thereby showing concern for the economic loss and psychological trauma suffered by victims. It is widely believed by those who have researched this matter that victim impact statements go a long way to restore victim confidence in themselves and the criminal justice system.

One of the cornerstones of a caring democracy must be protection of children from abuse. The recent flood of revelations of child abuse, many of them going back years and even decades, presents an enormous challenge to our limited civil law and the ability of the judicial system to administer justice fairly in such circumstances. It poses a number of fundamental questions which I do not have time to deal with now but which I hope to take up in another forum.

There is a growing public perception that the criminal justice system favours the criminal at the expense of the victim. A correct balance needs to be restored. This Bill is an attempt to do that and I congratulate Deputy O'Dea on bringing it forward. All victims of crime suffer trauma, but it can be just as traumatic to appear as witness in a court of law. Gardaí, barristers, solicitors, judges and, at times, even defendants fully understand the court procedures, but that may not be the case for the victim who may find the whole procedure intimidating and frightening. They perceive that the system of justice has forgotten them, and on occasion they may be right. They may be overlooked by all concerned in enforcing the law. This Bill is welcome in that it proposes practical measures to improve that position.

I wish to pay tribute to the Irish Association for Victim Support, a voluntary organisation that offers emotional support and practical help to crime victims and their families. Listening to the Minister's response tonight it seems he is prepared to rely on voluntary organisation and non-legislative codes of practice to alleviate difficulties for victims.

I wish to draw attention to a submission by the Irish Association for Victim Support received in the Department of Justice on 6 November 1995 concerning identification parade procedures. Present arrangements for identification parades are unacceptable in that they require a witness to physically touch an alleged offender by way of identification. The Irish Association for Victim Support suggests that this is wrong and that identification should be by way of numbers. This matter is being reviewed by the Garda Síochána and the Minister. However, it must be obvious that it is a daunting task for a witness to physically touch the person they know to be the criminal. It is an archaic system and must go. I support the Irish Association for Victim Support in that regard. Perhaps that submission could be dealt with by amendment on Committee Stage.

I welcome section 4 which deals with the right of victims in sexual offences cases and clarifies the situation regarding civil actions for damages. Child sexual abuse is a despicable act. As a society, by doing nothing in the past, we have tolerated these hideous crimes. That is no longer the case; the carpet has been lifted. More and more victims are coming to terms with what has happened to them and are brave enough to come forward. This provision allows them to sue some years later by amending the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 1991. Unfortunately, recent scandals have highlighted the need for this amendment. When the social history of Ireland in the 20th century is written, the hidden crimes of domestic violence and child sexual abuse will be clearly evident. I hope we can now put this painful episode behind us given the welcome new openness in our society.

Violent crime against women is on the increase. It is unacceptable in a modern society that more and more limits are being placed on a woman's right to move freely. Rape is now a common crime and women are afraid to travel alone late at night. This is a challenge for legislators and law enforcers. It is something we should address at a later date in a serious way.

The Second Commission on the Status of Women suggested that the victim of rape should have separate legal representation. However, it believed that such an approach would not work in an adversarial legal system. Nevertheless, the Rape Crisis Centre argues strongly in favour of separate legal representation for rape victims. Surely the victim has a right to put forward his or her case and interests if he or she wishes. Perhaps the Minister would give his views on that matter. Many of the provisions of this Bill will help to alleviate the fears and anxieties of rape victims in particular who are to be called as witnesses. That is most welcome.

The Minister outlined the Garda Síochána victim support code of practice whereby a victim of crime is always given the name and number of a member who can be contacted for information. Under that code of practice a victim is contacted regularly in the course of an investigation in order to be reassured on progress and is informed about key information such as when a suspect has been charged, the date and the outcome of court proceedings or if a decision is taken not to prosecute. However, as Deputy O'Dea pointed out, that is merely a code of practice. In my experience, it is not happening. The victim is often completely forgotten, probably due to pressure of work as the gardaí get on with their inquiries. We need something more definite than a code of practice, legislative measures are required.

I regret the Minister's response to the Bill. He has attacked it and ruled out many of its provisions purely on technical grounds despite his assurance not to do that. I welcome the Bill's provisions in relation to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. The delays taking place in that regard are unacceptable. It is important that there be guarantees about annual funding for the tribunal. This Bill attempts to deal with that situation and if there were any other ways in which we could do that we would be prepared to consider them.

Many speakers have paid tribute to the Irish Association for Victim Support. It is a voluntary organisation. although it is funded by Government. It has filled a vacuum by providing a first class service for victims of crime. One of the organisation's leaflets quotes a number of comments made by people who were victims of crime: "I was bitter and uptight. I wanted to scream, shout and cry out." The victim continued: "The full impact didn't hit me until the first night I was on my own. I began to get bitter about the person who burgled my nice home and then at the police for not having phoned to see how I was. Friends and family tried to help out but they got tired of me going on and on about it. They wanted to change the subject or said "it's time you pulled yourself together". One can see vividly the trauma experienced by the victim of a house burglary even though no physical violence was involved. The victim can become completely traumatised.

This association is vitally important and it now needs statutory support. It provides a helpline, advice and counselling. Many people are left distraught following a crime. This organisation has made a start in helping them; it has identified the needs of the victim in the criminal process. Now it is up to the Government and the Oireachtas to bring forward practical measures to help this organisation in its work. This Bill is an attempt to do that. It outlines a number of practical suggestions to help the victim and show him or her that he or she is the most important person in the process.

I regret that the Minister has ruled out many of the Bill's provisions. He has said that it is well intentioned. However, many of these practical suggestions could be implemented; there is certainly public demand for them. The criminal justice system is perceived to not favour the victim and there is a real sense of unhappiness in the community as crime figures spiral and more people become victims of crime. Given that the Minister has said he will not accept the Bill. I hope many of its provisions can be introduced in a Government Bill.

An additional provision should deal with the question of identification parades. The Irish Association for Victim Support has launched a national campaign which involves community and voluntary organisations throughout the country to lobby to have that situation changed. The Minister should deal with that issue and this side of the House will help him in that regard.