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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 25 Jul 1996

Vol. 468 No. 4

Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1996: Second Stage.

I wish to share my time with the Taoiseach.

Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

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

In common with every Member, I am glad that time has been set aside today to deal with legislation which is focused specifically on tackling various aspects of the crime problem. The Bill will make a very sizeable contribution to the fight against crime, not least because a central part of its intention is to reduce the time spent by gardaí in courts and, as a consequence, make more Garda resources available for duty on the streets.

Today the Dáil will deal with five Bills aimed at improving the criminal justice system, but it is right to do more. In particular, it is right that we should ask ourselves the question: where do these measures fit into serious reform? What are our long-term policy and strategy objectives? Can it be said that all the changes we are making today, as well as changes announced in the past two years or so, and before, represent a coherent approach to the problem of crime in our society? I will return to this issue.

I want to deal first with the notion, usually implied but at times expressed, that the problems we are dealing with are of recent origin. No sensible person looking in on this debate believes that the problems in the criminal justice system sprung up in the last year or so. The truth is that the courts have remained unreformed since the foundation of the State, the Garda Síochána have not benefited from the sort of radical review demanded by the passage of time and the prison service has not always been allocated the resources it requires.

No sensible commentator believes, either, that there are quick-fix solutions or that justice measures alone can deal adequately with the crime problem. Everybody knows, or should know, that it is simply nonsense to expect the Garda to round up suspects without evidence. The courts would rightly see to it that people rounded up in this way would be free again within hours.

There is no merit, then, in calling for actions of this kind, but it is practical and understandable to call for other measures: more prison spaces and more probation and welfare officers; more and better deployed gardaí, regionalisation and civilianisation of the force, air support and information technology, a Garda national drugs unit, a Garda national bureau of fraud investigation, improvement of forensic science facilities, including DNA testing, and a fresh look at how to ensure the efficiency of the force; more judges and court sittings and a radically reformed courts system; bail laws which reflect today's needs; practical steps to tackle the drugs problem in our prisons; new measures to tackle drug trafficking and organised crime; and new schemes to divert youths away from crime.

These measures have been or are being implemented by me and the Government. The programme started 18 months ago, soon after I became Minister for Justice, included many of these measures.

Since becoming Minister for Justice, I have been succeeding in the sometimes frustrating and painfully slow process of bringing the criminal justice system up to date. It has been a long haul because, in many respects its development had been allowed to fall well behind what was required long before I became Minister. I have not been diverted from this task, irrespective of events and divergent views as to why, how or who did what. I have insisted on ensuring that the process was accelerated and it has because there is a political will, inside and outside this House, to prioritise the battle against crime.

There are times when ideas and changes gain sufficient support to be implemented. Similar ideas were put forward before but not brought to finality. It may be that the circumstances or the public mood at the time was not right. It may have been lack of determination or conviction to proceed but we are proceeding now.

As we genuinely share the same objectives, the Dáil has the opportunity to distinguish itself by making real progress on four Government Bills and one Bill put forward by the Opposition. Our society cannot afford the "politics of crime" and if we engage in this today we will only distance this House from the people we are here to serve.

Before I deal with the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, there are two specific decisions I want to communicate to the House. First, I have decided, as Deputies may be aware, that we should have a regular, and, if necessary, annual Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. The purpose of this would be to facilitate the speedy introduction of measures which the Garda, legal practitioners and others involved in the working of the law and order system consider necessary to enable them to do their jobs more effectively. I am in the process of setting up, and have already invited particular individuals with appropriate expertise to be members of an advisory group, to provide me with ongoing advice in this regard.

Second, I received a proposal from the new Garda Commissioner earlier this week to have a Garda liaison officer located in Madrid and another in the Hague as part of the ongoing battle against drugs. I am glad to advise the House that I have conveyed my agreement to this proposal and I have indicated to the Commissioner that I would be sympathetic towards any other practical proposals of this kind that may be made to me.

Mention of the Garda Commissioner renders it appropriate and opportune for me to welcome Commissioner Pat Byrne to his new position as head of the Garda Síochána. He takes up this position at a time when much is expected of the force he leads. I am sure the House will join me in wishing the Commissioner well in his arduous task.

I also pay tribute to former Commissioner Paddy Culligan whose services to this State as a member of the Garda Síochána for 39 years was exemplary. His thought provoking statements, particularly in recent times, have helped to broaden the debate on crime, its causes and cures. His emphasis on the need for reason and balance and, in particular, on the need for interagency involvement and co-operation was consistent and was also, given his considerable experience, something we would do well to regard as instructive.

The Miscellaneous Provisions Bill is a critically important part of the very substantial response to the problem of crime during the lifetime of this Government. I mentioned some of the main features of that response earlier. However, I want to put some hard facts and figures on it. The response involves the recruitment of 400 extra gardaí from this month to December 1997, in addition to already planned recruitment this year and next. It also includes the recruitment of 200 extra civilians to take gardaí from behind desks and release them for the duties on the streets for which they have been trained.

In addition to 278 places already approved, there is Government approval for a new remand prison capable of holding at least 400 prisoners at Wheatfield. The Castlerea main prison will provide 125 places and the new women's prison at the Mountjoy complex will accommodate 60 offenders. The response also includes the appointment of 13 additional judges and extra district judicial court posts have been advertised. I am introducing legislation today to allow for the recruitment of three more Circuit Court judges.

While I am on the subject of legislation, I welcome, in particular, two Bills which will be introduced later by my colleague the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, and into which my Department had a significant input. The first is the Disclosure of Certain Information for Taxation and Other Purposes Bill, 1996, one of the central purposes of which is to facilitate a better flow of information between the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda in relation to criminal assets. The second is the Criminal Assets Bureau Bill, 1996, which creates a new body consisting of Garda, Social Welfare and Revenue officials, to be headed by a chief superintendent, with the capacity to mount a sustained, united and focused attack on illegal criminal gains.

The above legislation is based on the report of an interdepartmental working group chaired by an assistant secretary in my Department. The group, established on 5 June, was addressed by the Minister for Finance and myself on 28 June when we stressed the urgency of the task on hands and I am glad to say the group produced its report two weeks later. I compliment the group on its dedication and efficiency in completing this difficult task in what must be record time. Their work was assisted by the fact that the Garda and Revenue had already identified in an earlier report, completed this year, the areas of agreement as a result of my drugs package of July 1995. I myself will, of course, be dealing with other measures later today to tackle criminal assets.

Turning to the main provisions of the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, a number of sections of the Bill have as their objective the reduction of the amount of time spent by gardaí on court and court related duties, and the amount of resources accounted for by these duties. These sections will relieve gardaí as far as possible of non-operational duties in the courts and help to ensure a greater presence of uniformed gardaí in our communities.

Section 5 allows gardaí to give evidence by certificate with the purpose of relieving them from the obligation of attending in person in court to give such evidence orally. In practice, this evidence is only very rarely challenged. Section 2 provides that the Garda may release a person on bail from a Garda station to appear before the District Court at the next sitting or any sitting within 30 days of the next sitting of the court in the court area in which the person was arrested. This will give the Garda more flexibility with regard to court appearances than they have now under the Criminal Procedure Act, 1967.

Section 3 extends from eight to 15 days the existing statutory limit for remanding an accused person in custody on that person's second or subsequent appearance before the District Court. Currently a considerable amount of Garda time is taken up with attendance in court for appearance of accused persons on remand and section 3 is aimed at reducing this.

At present when an accused person is remanded by, for example, the Galway District Court, that person will normally be held in Mountjoy prison, and the next and all subsequent remand appearances of that person will be before the District Court in Galway. The requirement that a remand appearance be in the court having jurisdiction in the case gives rise to a heavy commitment of Garda time and resources on prisoner escorts.

Section 4 will allow the District Court having jurisdiction in a case to remand an accused person in custody to an alternative court in the District Court district where the prison where he or she is being held is located or in an adjoining District Court district.

There are many statutory provisions empowering the courts to issue search warrants to enable the Garda to search premises for various items, including stolen goods, firearms, illicit video recordings and racist material. However, there is no general statutory provision for the issue of search warrants in relation to the commission of serious offences such as murder or rape.

Section 9 removes that very serious impediment to criminal investigation by providing that a judge of the District Court, on the sworn evidence of a Garda inspector, may issue a warrant for the search of any place and any person found at that place where the judge is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that evidence of certain specified serious offences is to be found at that place. This will enable the Garda to search for and seize evidence such as knives in cases involving, for example, murder or an offence involving serious bodily injury, false imprisonment, rape or any offences set out in the Schedule to the Bill. I was very surprised to discover when I went into the Department that this amendment had not been made to our laws long before now.

This Bill, along with the other legislative measures being introduced today, the specific announcements made earlier in my statement and various other initiatives I have also mentioned earlier, can fairly be described as perhaps the most comprehensive set of instruments ever introduced by Government, within a short period to tackle crime. They complement the very extensive range of anti-crime measures which I have piloted through since I became Minister for Justice. I do not need to list all of those measures, but it is important to mention some.

The final amendments to the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill which were agreed earlier, bring to an end a legislative process which has involved detailed scrutiny in both Houses over recent months. It is worth putting on the record that the drug trafficking Bill, which, among other things, allows for detention of up to seven days in drug trafficking cases and restrictions on the right to silence, is one of the strongest pieces of criminal law ever introduced in this House.

The Criminal Law Bill passed Second Stage in the Dáil last month. It provides for more effective powers of arrest and provides a clear, statutory basis for powers of the Garda to enter premises in order to effect an arrest without warrant.

The Proceeds of Crime Bill is scheduled to pass all Stages in this House today and in the Seanad tomorrow. It was extensively amended by Government in Select Committee this week. I apologise for not being there to deal with it — I was at the talks in Northern Ireland.

I am happy to be able to say work is well advanced on new Bills dealing with non-fatal offences against the person, juvenile justice, criminal insanity and fraud. I can assure the House that there will be absolutely no slowing down in the momentum which exists for criminal law reform and that this will be underpinned by the substantial progress which has been made, and continues to be made, on the major programme of criminal law reform which I initiated.

At the beginning of my statement I spoke about the direction of overall crime policy and strategy and I want to return briefly to that subject, because the real quality and value of what we are doing today and what has been done will be judged in ten or 20 years' time by its residual and long-term benefits for today's children and tomorrow's society.

Different people have different ideas as to what our national crime policy and strategy should be. In fact, crime is an area of human affairs on which we find very few people who have no theories. For some, the best solutions are to be found in totally draconian legislation, harsher sentencing and so on, and it is very understandable, especially in the wake of the appalling and tragic crimes which have hit the headlines in the past month or two, that solutions of this kind would find fairly widespread support. There are others, however, who take a different view. They would point to the fact that approaches of this kind have not provided lasting solutions in other jurisdictions. For them, there should be greater emphasis on the need to address the underlying causes, to understand that today's impoverished or neglected child is tomorrow's criminal, to recognise that in many cases alternatives to custody can be as effective as imprisonment and so on. Still others would lay emphasis on the need to maintain balance in the area of fundamental rights and freedoms. They would caution against the risk of introducing, in haste, legislation which removes or modifies long-standing legal protections for suspects, only to find out later — and perhaps too late — that excessive haste has resulted in laws that are not only wrong in principle, but also quite ineffective in practice.

The presence of so many conflicting views leads at times to suggestions that our crime policies are incoherent, badly focused, or, indeed, that there is no policy, in other words, that it is simply a matter of applying strips of sticking plaster here and there and hoping against hope that the law and order system as a whole will somehow hold together. The fact that there are conflicting views, of course, and that different types of measures may be introduced to deal with different problems provides no basis for suggesting that the system simply trundles along devoid of policy direction or cohesive strategy. What the existence of a range of options and approaches does is to strongly underline the case for attempting to set down between two covers an overall statement on crime policy formulation and strategy.

I indicated earlier this year that the Department of Justice is working on such a document. Deputies will understand that it is a difficult and complex task — being undertaken, incidentally, for the first time in our history — but I am glad to say that this work is progressing and that I hope to be in a position to publish a document in the autumn. This document will not attempt to argue that crime policy formulation and strategy now, or at any time in the past, is a model of foresight and cohesion — any more than in any other part of the world — but it will, I hope displace the notion that there is no policy or strategy. An attempt will be made to identify gaps in our strategies and how they may be addressed, and it is my intention that the document as a whole will be published, not as an immutable blueprint but, in the first instance, as an aid to public discussion.

I do not want to go into details of the document at this stage, but I can say that one of its central proposals will be the establishment of a broadly-based crime council on the lines of those which exist in other jurisdictions. The purpose of setting up this council will be to bring together, to the greatest extent manageable, a representative grouping of all elements of our society in order to facilitate broadly-based, well structured and well informed discussion on the whole subject of crime. It will not be just another talking shop. I would see the council as a critically important source of advice to Government on matters relating to crime policy and strategy.

Finally, despite what some commentators might be tempted to suspect or even articulate, I have not today listed the extensive anti-crime measures of the past two years or so for the sake of trumpet-blowing, or to make political capital by striking contrasts with Government action or inaction during other periods in the history of this State. I have done it because it is important to remind ourselves in this House, as well as to say to the people we represent, that Government and legislators can act, that together we can say to those who do not respect our laws, who would destroy our children's lives, who would attempt to bully our citizens on the streets, or who would breach the safety and security of their homes and places of work that enough is enough, that we will never allow criminals to make a misery of the lives of our fellow citizens, that we will respect and value human rights and freedoms, including the rights and freedoms of those who err, but that we will not allow criminals to abuse our respect for human rights.

Those of us who represent the law abiding majority — and it is the vast majority — may not see eye to eye at times as to how precisely we should tackle wrong doing, but when the occasion calls for it we will not allow differences in our points of view as legislators to stand in the way of our fundamental duty to maintain law and order in this State. I commend the Bill to the House.

There is no Member from the Labour Party in the House.

Has the Labour Party left Government?

As the topic is serious, I would be grateful if the Opposition would allow me to make my speech without disorderly disruptions. This is not a suitable topic for this type of intervention.

Let us have an orderly debate. Let us hear the Taoiseach without further interruption.

Today's debate is about more than passing six tough anti-crime Bills in one day. It is the culmination of the most concentrated month's work on one topic — crime — by all arms of Government in recent times. The result of that work will mean that we will have 600 more gardaí on our streets. It will mean hundreds more prison spaces, more criminals being caught and more criminals serving longer sentences. It will mean more judges in our courts, working with better back-up, and less delay in hearing criminal cases. It will mean criminals no longer being able to stash away the proceeds of their crimes for the rainy day, but these ill-gotten assets being pursued, identified and confiscated wherever they are hidden, at home or abroad. It will mean the mobilisation of the best brains from the public and private sectors and from abroad to help modernise our police force, and it will mean an opportunity for people themselves to decide, in a referendum, if they want to restrict the right to bail in our courts. In short, every area of the criminal justice system is being modernised with vigour and determination. We want law enforcement authorities that are so sophisticated technologically, and so focused and motivated organisationally, that they can outmanoeuvre and eliminate the small number of sophisticated criminal gangs operating here with the aid of their international criminal associates.

The problem, however, goes beyond the criminal justice system itself. What sort of Irish society are we trying to build? We want a society in which everyone is willing to play his or her part courageously in the battle against crime. We want people who will give information freely to the gardaí, who will take the witness stand and who will play their part in bringing back pride, beauty and security to neighbourhoods now blighted by graffiti, drug pushing and fear.

We want a public that is honest enough with itself to recognise that there would be no drug pushers, no drug barons and no drug cartels if there were no drug users. The money casually used to buy an "E" tablet, can end up being used to finance a contract killing. We want to change the direction of peer pressure on young people. Instead of their peers urging them to seek oblivion in drug use, we want the peer pressure on Irish young people to work against drugs. Peer pressure, even more than law enforcement and formal education, will turn the tide against the drug barons.

The battle against drugs is a battle for public opinion, and it is a battle that is only beginning today. We must have honesty in the political debate too. Better law enforcement costs money. Every new law requires new staff to implement it. That means less money for tax cuts. Wherever there is a priority, something else must take second place.

Irish society is willing to pay the price for the battle against crime, and I hope we all remember that when we come to discuss public spending, taxation and other matters. These choices cannot be separated from one another. It will cost money to provide better and more constructive outlets for our young people. As a society, as individual families and in our neighbourhoods, we must be willing to provide that money, even if it has to be diverted from something else.

When, some weeks ago, in the aftermath of Veronica Guerin's murder, I proposed this special Dáil session to discuss crime, there were criticisms on two counts. Some said that delaying the holding of the session showed a lack of urgency. Others said that in the short time available nothing of substance could be done today. The schedule for today's session effectively answers both criticisms. The Government's commitment to tackle the problem of organised crime with particular reference to drug trafficking is illustrated by the extent and nature of actions taken, culminating in decisions finalised in the past month. I pay a particular, personal tribute to the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, whose energetic and imaginative approach since she took office has made possible the changes the House is enacting today, changes in areas which previous Ministers had left untouched for many years. The office of Minister for Justice is the most difficult and emotionally harrowing job a Minister can hold. Deputy Owen has held that office under sustained and hurtful attack with courage, serenity and a continued, fixed purpose, as befits the holder of such an office and somebody of her family background.

The legislation for consideration confirms that the timing of today's session was right. We are not meeting simply to debate and discuss. We are meeting to deal with specific legislative proposals which are an integral part of the Government's programme to combat crime. I will summarise the Government's main actions.

Work on the strategic management initiative review of the Garda Síochána has commenced. Mr. Tony Barry, Chairman of CRH, who has already presided over an efficiency audit of the Army, is chairing the review group looking into the Garda Síochána. He is assisted by distinguished and experienced people from the public and private sector including the recently retired Deputy Commissioner of the New York Police Department, Mr. John Timoney. The review will be completed before the end of the year and the Government will take whatever action to reorganise the Garda Síochána arising out of the review. The Garda have served this country well since the foundation of the State and will serve the country as well in the next century.

There are proposals for other action in other areas of the Garda Síochána. On 2 July, the Minister for Justice announced and accelerated additional recruitment of 400 new gardaí. The first intake of 70 of this extra 400 will begin training in Templemore on 29 July, less than four weeks after the Minister's announcement. The Minister for Justice also announced the recruitment of 200 civilians to enable an equivalent number of gardaí to be released from clerical and administrative type duties to fight crime on the streets. In all, over 600 gardaí will be released to fight crime by the decisions the Government has taken in the past month.

Under the direction of Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, a task force has been looking at ways of speeding up the prisons building programme. The latest available information is that 68 additional places will become available in the Curragh in September this year, 25 additional places will become available in Castlerea in October this year and 55 additional places will become available in Limerick in October next year. A total of 125 additional places will become available in Castlerea in December next year. By a greater utilisation of buildings already on this site, that tight deadline should be achieved. Equally important, by using the existing buildings, the cost of the project will be reduced from £20 million to £13 million. Fifty additional places will become available at the women's prison in Mountjoy in October, 1998 and 400 additional places will become available at Wheatfield by the end of 1998. Work will begin there next year. These places are now targeted for completion almost a year earlier than originally announced.

I am grateful to the Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, and his team for the work they have done in fast-tracking the prisons building programme.

Since taking office, the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, has, by legislation, provided for the appointment of 21 extra judges — three to the Supreme Court, three to the High Court, ten to the Circuit Court and five to the District Court. This contrasts with the creation of only ten additional judicial appointments in the previous ten years. That shows the Minister is doing something about the two year delays in hearing vital criminal cases. The Presidents of the High and the Circuit Courts have arranged to hold additional sittings of their courts in September. They have also agreed to a system of prioritisation so that serious crime cases are dealt with quickly rather than left to take their places in an undifferentiated queue.

For some time it has been a source of scandal and concern that persons suspected of involvement in serious crime, including drug trafficking, have been able, without hindrance from the law, to accumulate significant assets. To deal with this problem the Government is establishing a Criminal Assets Bureau to track and target the assets of criminals. The bureau is being set up with immediate effect and will use the provisions of legislation such as the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, and the Disclosure of Certain Information for Taxation and Other Purposes Bill, 1996, before us today. It is proposed to provide a specific statutory basis for the bureau through the Criminal Assets Bureau Bill, 1996 which is introduced on Second Stage today. The operational experience gained in setting up the bureau and the examination of the Bill on Committee Stage will be of benefit in finalising this Bill later in the year.

In addition to the legislative measures with which we are dealing today, the Government is also preparing legislation as follows: to hold a referendum on bail, and if that referendum is carried, to enact an appropriate measure to modify existing law; to strengthen existing bail laws; to deal with certain housing aspects of the drugs problem. The Minister for the Environment announced the broad scope of the legislation and I can confirm that legislation to deal with housing will be available after the summer recess. The measures, all of which I have outlined and referred to here, relate to the supply of drugs and to the reduction or restriction of same.

It is equally important that action is taken to reduce the demand for drugs. As I said, without drug users there would be no drug barons. The task of assisting, so far as officialdom is concerned, in reducing demand for drugs rests primarily with the Departments of Health and Education. In addition, the Government has set up a ministerial task force under the chairmanship of Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, to take an overview of the present arrangements for dealing with all the measures we take through different agencies to help or encourage less or no demand for drugs on our streets. In the light of that review the group chaired by Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, is being asked to report to Cabinet on any additional changes needed to ensure that as a State we do everything we can to encourage people to make what is, certainly in the first instance, a free choice not to use drugs. Decisions will be taken on the report prepared by Minister Rabbitte's group at the end of September and we will be able to report on it to the House when it resumes after the summer.

In summary, the Government's response is carefully thought out, balanced and urgent. It is not simply a law and order approach. It deals with all aspects of the problem — demand as well as supply. If, as time goes on, additional or changed responses are required, these will be forthcoming urgently. I assure the House that I regard the battle against crime and associated drug use as the number one domestic priority of the Government. All resources, material, intellectual or time, will be made available to deal with this problem. As a society we are being put to the test by the pervasive availability of organised supply of illicit drugs. We must pass that test. The Government is determined that as a society we do so and I believe that in so doing, we have the support of the entire House. I believe also that we have shown in our approach to this Dáil sitting that not only have we displayed, as a Government, urgency in preparing our own legislation very quickly but we have also shown a willingness to accept ideas and proposals from the other side of the House. That is as it should be because in a matter of this kind the House must be seen, as it is today, to act in a cohesive way to express and give effect to the wishes of the people.

With your permission and that of the House I wish to share my time with Deputy Bertie Ahern

I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

The Minister for Justice has once again exceeded her own land speed record for political procrastination. The Bill which she introduces today is not, as she would have us believe, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1996. It is, in fact, the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1995, which on 11 May 1995 she announced as being imminent when she stated: "Preparation of a Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill... is at an advanced stage." The Minister progressed from "at an advanced stage" to publication in 14 months. Dare I say that if Michelle Smith moved with the same alacrity as the Minister, she would now be standing at the bus stop in Rathcoole about to commence her journey to Atlanta?

Where has the Deputy's party been for the past eight years?

Let us have the same level of order for the Deputy.

In fairness to the Minister it should be stated that she has afforded the preparation of this Bill the same political priority as she has to other crime prevention legislation. She has, at this stage, promised so many measures that her long finger resembles Pinocchio's nose. Realising that she has become an object of political derision, she now seeks, in a political hop, skip and jump, to transform herself from the Minister who did not introduce any legislation to the Minister who introduced the most legislation on the one day. It is regrettable that in seeking to achieve this transformation she left out the vital element of preparation. This Bill shows all the legislative cohesion of a measure which was stitched together from the contents of the parliamentary draftsman's waste paper bin. It is a curious collection of legislative quilt work held together with staples and string.

This is terrible considering the seriousness of the subject matter.

What is particularly regrettable is that it is presented as an essential ingredient of the Government's anti-crime package. The reality is that this Government does not have a crime policy. It has no anti-crime strategy. What it has is a stampeded mess which it seeks to pass off as concerted effort. Let us not forget that when this Government belatedly realised that action was needed on crime, its preferred option was the establishment of a committee. Committees are established by people who want to be told what to do. The Government wanted to be told what to do because it did not know what to do. It did not know what to do because it has no criminal justice policy.

This shambles is the inevitable result of divisions within the Government. It is not so long ago since the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, was sent out with a borrowed thesaurus and a ticket for the Abbey to proclaim the true view of the rainbow — there is no need for legislation — crime is at an acceptable level — our inaction is justified. The intellectual guru behind this school of jurisprudence is a full-time journalist and a part-time student. His career might progress at a faster pace if he reversed those roles and learned before he speaks. His philosophy was music to the Government's ears. It justified its policy of paralysis. Who on the Government benches now sings that song? What has happened to the ranks of comfortably complacent Ministers who repeatedly voted down legislation now proclaimed to be necessary and urgent? They need only look behind them to see the disspirited ranks of backbenchers who know that they are about to collect their last box of Oireachtas envelopes.

Wishful thinking.

The Deputy should be careful to ensure he does not join that number.

There have been eight years of inaction, eight years of doing nothing.

They need only listen to the direction from which the now politically fashionable criticisms of the Minister for Justice emanates. On the Government backbenches it has become acceptable for Labour Deputies to criticise the Minister for Justice. Hitherto, this was a privilege reserved for their Leader.

Keep it for Listowel Writers' Week.

No further interruption from either side.

What they now do openly, he did furtively.

Where are they?

The pretentious rumblings now trumpeted from meetings of the Labour Parliamentary Party are surpassed only by the weekly yowls which emanate for the timber wolf of the rainbow — Deputy Eric Byrne. He is a man who would hunt in a pack if he could find one. He appears to suffer the political loneliness of a man whose colleagues swish by in sleek cars, indifferent to his protests. Each Sunday night he can be heard barking the shortcomings of the Minister for Justice on 98 FM. Such ferocious political yowling would be more credible if this fearsome wolf were not led, like a perfumed poodle, each and every Wednesday night through the division lobbies to vote down the very legislation which he proclaims necessary. His solo performance is more "halfheart" than "Braveheart"——

The Oscars are not until next year.

——and, as much as entertaining the thought must distress him, this is his Government. The inaction is his inaction.

The Deputy is wasting his words.

Such policies as have been stampeded together are his policies.

As I said, for every credibility gap there is a gullibility fill, but if Deputy Byrne considers that his constituents will be fooled into thinking he is in Opposition he had better think again. He will reap the reward due to supporters of the Government, as will his colleagues in Government. Of course, he is not alone in facing political oblivion and we should not forget those Labour backbenchers who have soared brightly and briefly in the political firmament. They are the people who voted against the constitutional referendum on the issue of bail and against making bailsmen financially responsible for the good conduct of accused persons. They are the people who voted against curfew orders and against imposing a ten year minimum sentence on drug dealers found in possession of drugs with a street value of £10,000 or more.

They are the people who voted against Fianna Fáil.

They are the people who opposed criminal trials taking place within 90 days of arrest and who repeatedly entered the lobbies to vote acceptance of the policy of inaction. This is their Government and Minister.

A Deputy

Where are they?

Theirs is the policy which cancelled the prisons' programme and theirs is the crime package which promised extra prison spaces in headlines and spelled out the deferred commencement date in the footnotes.

Labour backbenchers are behaving like tired children who want to go home. They are being pacified by a continual chant of "nearly there" by a Government and a Minister who are hardly there themselves. Their belief in the Government matches their belief in the lotto — they continue to support it more in hope than expectation. They are the people who will troop through the lobbies in support of this Bill. As they do this their chorus of "too little too late" will speed them to their electoral fate.

The Bill represents yet another monumental ministerial oversight. It is remarkable not for its curious contents but for its extraordinary omissions. During the past month the Minister has had time to examine the criminal justice system which she resolutely ignored in the past.

There was nothing done for eight years.

The actions which result from her examinations are cosmetic rather than substantive. If and when this legislation becomes law the procedures which give rise to unacceptable court delays will still be in place. A person arrested in Dublin today and charged with a serious criminal offence will still have to snake his way through a cumbersome court system before justice can be done. His first appearance in court will result in a remand, most probably on bail. The Bill proposes the deferral of that first appearance for up to 30 days. While the entire Garda force is seeking to get criminals into court, the Minister is working out ways of delaying their inevitable appearance.

That is outrageous.

That is what she said.

In addition to proposing a 30 day delay before the first court appearance the Minister also proposes that the period of subsequent remand be extended from eight to 15 days. So much for speeding up the system.

On his second court appearance the issue of the location of the trial will be dealt with. If, as is likely in respect of a serious criminal offence, the trial will ultimately take place in the Circuit Criminal Court then there will again be a remand, this time for the preparation of a book of evidence. The usual period of such remand is four weeks. It is unusual for books of evidence to be assembled within this time and it is common for a further three or four weeks remand to facilitate the preparation of the book of evidence. Once ready, the book of evidence is served and there is again a remand, usually for a fortnight, to enable the accused and his lawyer to consider its contents. On the next court hearing the accused is entitled, as his absolute right, to require the attendance of all or any prosecution witness to give evidence on deposition.

The delay in finding courts available to take depositions now frequently extends to between eight and ten weeks. Once the depositions are taken the case is again remanded to a date when submissions are made as to whether there is, in the terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1967, a sufficient case to answer. In deciding this the only task a district judge undertakes is to answer the question, "if everything contained in the book of evidence or depositions were accepted by a jury would they be entitled to convict of the offences charged?". A district judge conducting a preliminary examination has no function in assessing or weighing evidence or credibility. If the answer to the question posed is "yes" then the accused is returned for trial to the Circuit Criminal Court. In 1995 this procedure was followed by the Dublin Metropolitan District Court in 673 cases.

And in each year from 1994 back to 1988.

In every year there was a Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice.

Let there be no interruptions.

The Deputy has political amnesia.

The Minister attended a remedial class this morning.


We had impeccable order for the previous speakers, and rightly so in this important debate, and I intend to ensure that that order obtains. Deputy O'Donoghue without further interruption from either side of the House.

It resulted in orders of discharge being granted in seven cases. How can it be contended that this cumbersome and costly procedure serves the interests of justice?

What is alarming is that the Minister for Justice having examined the system, has chosen to leave this procedure in place. In so doing she had, of course, guaranteed continued delays in serious criminal cases. It is self-evident that the same end result could be achieved if, on the first occasion on which a person appeared before a court, there was an inquiry into whether the matter would be dealt with on indictment. If it was to be dealt with on indictment then the matter could be sent directly to the court of trial where a date for trial could be fixed and the prosecution directed to serve the book of evidence within a set time period. This would enable trials to take place within 90 days of arrest.

The Minister has only one answer when it comes to the question of court delays. She repeats parrot-like that judges will be appointed. This has now been done. The eight judges sworn in yesterday are her answer to court delays. Their appointment was announced as a component part of the Government's anti-crime package. What is the position now that the Minister's solution is in place? First, it should be noted that none of the eight new judges will sit on criminal cases in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court during September. The reason for this is that no criminal business will be transacted by that court during September.

That is not true.

Despite the fact that dates for trial are now being fixed for serious criminal trials in February of next year, the Minister has not seen fit to arrange special sittings. The very courts where there is now a six month delay for cases ready for trial will close for nine weeks next Wednesday. How can the Minister justify this lengthy interruption in the conduct of criminal business?

The Deputy should have spent more time listening and less time writing his flowery speech.

The Minister will have an opportunity to reply.

What the Deputy is saying is inaccurate.

For the first time in the history of the State the courts will come back early this year.

I will have no hesitation in bringing the proceedings to a conclusion rather than prevail over this farcical situation in such an important debate. I will suspend the proceedings if I have to, and the Minister can be assured of that.

The reality is that when the crime crisis confronted the Minister for Justice she and the rainbow Coalition Government sought headlines rather than solutions. She was to be seen wearing a hard hat and perambulating around a building site devoid of all but public relations experts and invited journalists. She was also to be seen peering over the shoulder of the new Garda Commissioner in much the same way as bold boys make television debuts. It is no wonder that 14-month delays occur between a Bill being at "an advanced stage" and being introduced. What is a wonder is that the Bill was published at all, given that the Minister seems to spend every waking hour in search of a camera to smile at. If she bothered to inquire about the substance rather than the facade of the criminal justice system she would have realised that, between the Central Criminal Court and the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, there are only five registrars permanently available for the conduct of criminal business.

If, to clear the backlog, the Central Criminal Court is to sit permanently in three divisions, only two registrars will be permanently available for Circuit Criminal Court cases. The net effect of the announced anti-crime package will be to further delay the conduct of serious criminal cases in the Circuit Court. This court deals with all drug dealing and importation cases, as well as all armed robbery cases. It deals with all offences against the person except murder, rape and aggravated sexual assault. This is apparently of no consequence to the Minister who sought political beauty board, with which she could cover up the crumbling shambles of her lack of policies, rather than real solutions.

The same mentality gives us this largely ineffective Bill. The Minister seeks the semblance rather than the substance of action. After eighteen months of studied inactivity she wishes to present herself as a political whirlwind, sweeping all before her in a flurry of activity. However, the reality is that when the dust dies down, the same cumbersome court procedures will still be in place with the same delaying effect.

The Minister for Justice has used this tactic in the past. Her impromptu announcements of bail referenda have become legendary. I congratulate her on getting the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Welfare to grudgingly join in the most recent impromptu announcement. However, the pace of progress is characteristically slow. On 14 March 1995, at column 1192 of the Official Report, the Minister told this House "my Department has been examining the form of wording for a constitutional amendment to be put to the people on this issue". She went on to say that an option she would ask the Government to consider was holding a referendum on bail at the same time as the referendum on divorce. This is yet another proposal which adorns the Minister's long finger. Is it possible that she could have worked at such a dizzy pace to contribute one word per week towards the proposed amendment? If so, it would have been ready many months ago. As of now it remains unpublished and unleaked. If it had gone to Cabinet we would surely have read of the proposed wording in the newspapers. There is certainly no indication that the Minister, Deputy Lowry has been apprised of any such proposal. It remains another area where the Minister's chant of "nearly there" is heard before the journey begins.

The Minister's attitude to crime can be examined specifically in the proposals contained in this Bill. In section 2 she proposes to speed up the criminal justice system by allowing the first date on which an arrested person will appear before the District Court to be delayed by up to 30 days. Section 3 sets about achieving a similar end by the same means. It proposes to speed up procedures by permitting a remand for 15 days rather than eight days. It is a curious logic which seeks to speed up proceedings by delaying cases coming before the courts. In fairness to the Minister for Justice it must be said that it is consistent with her policies to date.

This Bill could have been used as a mechanism to introduce meaningful reforms into the criminal law. Instead, the Minister has introduced a collection of non-consequential amendments dressed up as a Bill to satisfy her quest for publicity. The reason this legislation has not been used to implement meaningful reforms is that the Minister for Justice and the Government cannot think of any. She and her colleagues in Government are clearly bereft of ideas and inspiration. In so far as the public demand for action occasionally overwhelms the Government, as it did with the demand for a bail referendum, it is unable to overcome internal dissension to give direction. The Irish Times was correct in its editorial last summer; the Minister gives the impression of stumbling from crisis to crisis.

I accept that on occasions the Minister has been tripped. The Tánaiste must bear much of the responsibility for this Government's lack of a criminal justice policy. He has consistently opposed a referendum on bail. He spearheaded last summer's Cabinet ambush which resulted in the effective cancellation of the prisons programme. Whoever is to blame the end result is the same. This Government has been a disaster when viewed from the perspective of criminal justice. Even today nobody can tell us what its policies are. We know it is now in favour of policies it voted against last year. At a time when the nation is crying out for reforms and innovation on the legislative front, this Government has singularly failed to accept its primary responsibility to enact laws. It has adopted a laissez-faire attitude to crime and crime has prospered as a result. What message did it think the cancellation of the prison programme would send to criminals? Does it think that message was received? Does it accept responsibility for its consequences?

This Government preaches openness, transparency and accountability, yet when anything goes wrong it refuses to accept responsibility. It now espouses policies against which it voted last year. It is time we had a Government that knows what it wants to do. Who will be accountable for the performance of the Minister for Justice since assuming office? The Minister for Justice and her colleagues in the rainbow coalition Government every now and then come up with the old chestnut that Fianna Fáil was in power for eight years.

Is the Deputy trying to deny that?

In the last 16 years the Labour Party has been in power for longer than any other party in this country. Fianna Fáil introduced the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, which was a real attempt to tackle the drugs problem. Recognising the seriousness of the prison problem, Fianna Fáil proposed to build prisons but they were cancelled in the absence of the Minister for Justice by the Minister for Finance, who comes into the House today to introduce the Criminal Assets Bureau Bill, 1996. Why has the Minister for Finance introduced the Criminal Assets Bureau Bill, 1996, a criminal justice measure? The answer is quite simple and clear. In a frantic attempt to catch up with the pace set by the Fianna Fáil Party on this extremely serious issue the Minister for Finance, the Labour Party adviser, Mr. Finlay, and the Tánaiste have decided they had better take on the Minister for Justice at her own public relations game. I wish them every success in that.

Bad as things are under this Minister for Justice, it would be extremely regrettable were a Labour Party TD to become Minister for Justice. The Minister for Finance who cancelled the prisons projects in the absence of the Minister for Justice ensured, together with his colleagues in the Labour Party and in Democratic Left, that there would not be a referendum on bail. He has a brass neck, to say the very least of it, to come into the House now and try to give a semblance of action when inactivity and frozen indifference have been his hallmark throughout his period as Minister for Finance.

When the Minister for Justice in the future seeks to criticise Fianna Fáil's record on criminal law and practical criminal measures, she would do well to remind herself she is the Minister for Justice, that she has been the Minister for Justice for a long time now and that there have been 12 very serious gangland killings since she came into office. She has done nothing about these killings and as a result this type of violence has started to spill over into civilian life.

The Minister for Justice would do well to remember that Fianna Fáil did not cnacel the prison building programme. Fianna Fáil did not take months to introduce the money laundering provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. Fianna Fáil did not allow natural wastage in the Garda Síochána to outstrip recruitment. Fianna Fáil did not announce and then cancel a bail referendum. Fianna Fáil did not vote down restrictions on the right to bail in this House last year, no more than Fianna Fáil refused to set up a national drugs agency.

Fianna Fáil did not allow a legislative drought to occur in the Department of Justice. Fianna Fáil did not allow the State pathologist's office to run down to its present condition.

One day a week.

It is the duty of the Minister for Justice and the Government to react to society's problems as they evolve. Legislation must keep pace with what is occurring in society, but that has not happened.

Why did the Deputy not think of that when his party was in Government?

If people consider I am politically biased——

Perish the thought.

——they should realise that as Opposition spokesperson on Justice I have a duty to point out deficiencies. To do otherwise would be a dereliction of my duties.

This is the most impartial speech I have heard for a long time.


In criticising the Minister for Justice I have been joined by Deputies Shatter and Deasy, the former Commissioner of the Garda, Mr. Culligan, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, the president of the Garda Representative Association, the State pathologist and judges. The praise lavished on the Minister by the Taoiseach was not merited.

Did it upset the Deputy?

It smacks of self-congratulations for not achieving anything.

The Deputy's speech was full of rhetoric.

I presume I will be allowed the extra time given to the Minister and the Taoiseach

We received copies of one of those Bills last night and of the other this morning. Earlier the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, shook his head as if that were untrue. We will support the legislation today although it was not possible to give it the usual detailed examination. We appreciate the briefings the officials gave yesterday. This is not the proper way to deal with important legislation such as this.

Was the Opposition spokesperson not briefed yesterday?

The Taoiseach stated this morning that the Opposition should be on-side in terms of available resources to combat crime. For the past 18 months we have suggested that resources should be made available for that purpose. The last Book of Estimates I completed in November 1994, in conjunction with the Labour Party, contained proposals for prisons at Castlerea and Mountjoy, additional gardaí and other matters, but this Government dismissed them. The Taoiseach is lecturing to Members on his side of the House, not to Members on this side. I am sure journalists will note the relevant paragraph and reflect on whom he was referring to.

The Deputy's party did not provide the necessary funding.

On behalf of Fianna Fáil, I congratulate the new Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. I hope his tenure of office is successful and, irrespective of our position in parliamentary politics, we will assist him in every way possible.

This week will see the enactment into law of Fianna Fáil legislation which provides for the freezing of assets suspected of resulting from criminal activity. I confidently expect that within days of that statute being enacted the assets of the leading drug barons and gang leaders will be frozen by order of the High Court. I expect the Minister to move on that forthwith. I hope the public will provide the gardaí with the information necessary to turn these people out of their estates and mansions. If necessary, information can be supplied on a confidential basis. Depriving criminals of the proceeds of their crimes will represent a substantial first step in the war against organised and systematic crime. All the legislative measures with which we are dealing today represent only a first step in the battle against crime. The war we are determined to wage against organised crime must continue until the last penny has been taken out of the pockets of criminals and all of them are locked behind bars. We are pleased Government time has been provided to discuss this legislation. As Deputy O'Donoghue said, it is an example of democracy in action.

The action has just started. The legislation which will become law within days is merely the first shot in the war against organised crime. Much remains to be done. Fianna Fáil has a clear view of what needs to be done. During the past 18 months we have sought to advance our vision of what is necessary to reform the criminal justice system through the introduction of a series of detailed Bills. In the week in which the Fianna Fáil Bill to seize criminal assets is due to become law it is worth noting that this Bill is a component part of an overall detailed legislative plan we put forward.

It had to be changed.

I hope the suggested amendments have been made. The first day the legislation was mentioned in this House I stated that the Minister had access to the necessary legal brains and we accepted on the nod the amendments suggested yesterday. About what is the Minister complaining?

The Minister is like a worn out record.

She is like a briar.


When this Government took office we said if it introduced necessary legislation we would support it, but if it failed to do so we would introduce it. We delivered on that promise but, unfortunately, the Government did not accept all the legislation we introduced. It is a sad political fact that legislation, particularly in regard to bail, we introduced and was voted down by the Government has been adopted as Government policy.

Fianna Fáil believes the momentum created by the impending enactment of the legislation on the seizure of assets must be maintained. We must show criminals that we are serious about reform and send out a strong message in that regard. Certain measures are necessary to maintain that momentum. Neither the Minister nor the Taoiseach referred to gardaí on the beat——

The Taoiseach referred to that.

——or the legislation about ridding estates and flat complexes of criminals which the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin, is preparing. Those matters should have been dealt with today.

Matters which must be dealt with during the next Dáil session include the reform of the Criminal Justice Act to guarantee trials within 90 days of arrest and a constitutional referendum to remand accused persons in custody pending trial for up to 90 days, if the High Court is satisfied that the person may commit a further indictable crime while on bail. A witness protection programme must be established and there must be a ten year minimum sentence for people caught in possession of controlled drugs with a street value of £10,000 or more. Arrangements should be made to hold criminal court hearings throughout the year and sufficient court staff should be provided to hold permanent sittings for three divisions of the Central Criminal Court and five divisions of the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

We must also establish a commission on crime and modify the right to silence in respect of all criminal offences so that a person who remains silent when questioned and later seeks to rely on a fact which he could have disclosed at trial may have an adverse inference drawn against him. We must also amend the licensing laws to permit the Circuit Court to immediately suspend the licence of a premises where controlled drugs are being distributed and reform the law relating to criminal insanity to provide for a verdict of guilty by reason of diminished responsibility.

Unacceptable delays will continue to occur until antiquated criminal procedures are modernised. In the 1995 criminal procedure legislation Fianna Fáil propose that the entire system of premliminary examination should be abolished and replaced with a system that would guarantee a trial within 90 days of arrest, unless the High Court ordered a postponement in the interests of justice. Under the system we proposed a person could be brought before the District Court on arrest where an inquiry would take place as to the seriousness of the offence. If the case were ultimately tried by a jury the accused could immediately be sent to the court of trial where a date for trial would be set and the prosecution would be required to serve a book of evidence on the accused within six weeks. This simple reform would reduce the number of court appearances from approximately eight to two, permit trials to take place within three rather than 12 months, save on court time and legal costs and free gardaí from attending unnecessary court appearances.

The Deputy criticised our Bill which makes those proposals.

Why will the Minister not listen?

Will the Minister examine those matters?

The Deputy has exceeded his time by some minutes. The Taoiseach and the Minister also substantially exceeded their time. The Chair is in a predicament in its desire to be fair to all parties and to balance the time allowed. However, because the order of the House deems it necessary for the Minister to be called on to reply at 1.15 p.m. we are eroding the time allowed to the Progressive Democrats. That is the difficulty.

I will finish if the Progressive Democrats allow me a few minutes.

One of the factors which has contributed to the delay in hearing serious criminals cases has been the insufficient number of judges. The Court and Court Officers Act, 1995, provided for the appointment of nine extra Circuit Court judges. The Act became law in December 1995. As the Minister and Taoiseach know, the then Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, had announced that legislation and the extra appointments. Financial provision was made for all those appointments. It is a little hollow to say today that they were not appointed under the last Government.

They were not.

They were all announced in the courts at that time but the legislation had to be enacted and there was a change of Government. The Minister knows that that is what happened. The Government announced the names of the new judges 15 days ago as part of the anti-crime package. It is unprecedented for the swearing in of judges to be delayed for this period — it has never been the normal proactice.

There have been announcements for the past 50 years.

The Minister, in announcing these appointments as an anti-crime measure, seeks to perpetuate the illusion that immediate action is being taken to free the court logjam in serious criminal cases. I will not go over the details of what Deputy O'Donoghue said this morning, but the Minister knows that what he stated is correct, although she refused to accept it.

In regard to the witness protection programme, the main difficulty which has bedevilled the efforts made to obtain convictions against drug barons and organised criminals has been the reluctance of people to come forward and give evidence against them. At least a part of this reluctance is due to the climate of fear which these people perpetuate. If we are to seriously tackle organised crime we must take whatever steps are necessary to protect witnesses. Of necessity, the details of such a programme must remain secret. However, it is clear that a successful witness protection programme is in operation in the United States of America and a similar programme should be introduced here. We have details relating to such programmes if the Minister wished to look at them.

I have given the details of our proposals on minimum sentences in drug cases, court sittings and staff in my prepared text. We think it is necessary to have a commission on crime because our system of criminal justice stretches across many different agencies. It involves the Garda, the Prison Service, the Judiciary, the legal profession and the probation service. Those agencies, in addition to the public, should be allowed to make submissions on which we could get agreement. We could also look at addressing the issue of how far we can move in terms of civil liberties. We could address those issues through such a commission and reach a balance which would be acceptable to society. I have mentioned the right to silence and the licensing laws, which I have dealt with in greater detail in my circulated text.

Thank you, Sir, for giving me extra time. I will speak in greater detail later on the Fianna Fáil Bill. I seriously believe that this Minister and the Government, who have not listened to what we have been saying for the past 18 months, are now shedding crocodile tears. Veronica Guerin was assassinated by murdering drug barons which shocked people into acting. It would be well worth the Government's time to examine the legislation which we have put forward for 18 months — and to take whatever other steps are necessary, which will get our support and constructive criticism — rather than trying to shout down our spokesperson.

Following the murders of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe and Veronica Guerin, debate in Dáil Éireann and outside it has been quite properly dominated by the need for this House to revise its laws and to introduce new ones, driven by political will and fuelled by public outrage, to enable the State to effectively tackle escalating and increasingly organised criminality. It was very obvious after Veronica's murder that our citizens were frustrated by routine condemnation of crime when they came in large numbers to leave flowers outside this House.

They sent a very strong message to us, as legislators, that the time for routine condemnation is over and that they wanted action. They are tired of a creaking criminal justice system which does not serve them or us in this House. Our body of law and procedures is hopelessly out of date and riddled with inefficiencies and contradictions. Our citizens are bamboozled by the arguments on the sides of civil liberties and, at the same time, the compelling logic of the need to have a system of justice which, quite simply, works.

Often, as spokesperson on justice, I write speeches on injustice caused by deficiencies and structural defects within the system which claims to protect the safety of the citizen from crime. It has become a cliché, but also an excuse for inactivity, to point to the fact that crime is a multifaceted problem requiring a multifaceted response. That is the same argument as saying that a difficult decision should not be made because it is difficult.

I agree with comments by the Taoiseach today, whom I had not expected to contribute to the debate, but I am glad he did. He stated "the money used to buy an "E" tablet can end up being used to finance a contract killing". It was very important that he made those comments today. As he said, "the battle against drugs is a battle for public opinion", particularly that of the young. I am glad he made that contribution and I commend his comments.

We have suffered from political paralysis which is why we are urgently debating measures, the need for which has been glaringly obvious for years, but in respect of which all of us — the political establishment — have been incapable of delivering solutions. I have said before that in the politics of criminal justice a clear head and a steady hand on the tiller are required. Of all Departments in any Government, that of Justice requires cohesion in the Cabinet. It is not a Department which prospers from ideological differences within a Cabinet.

It is very difficult, but not impossible, to predict the creativity of the criminal mind. With increasing sophistication and the benefit of an ineffectual criminal justice system, organised crime has prospered. Their activities have demoralised the Garda Síochána and scandalised our citizens. Perhaps because we have had to cope with 25 years of paramilitary subversion and because so much of our resources have been ploughed into confronting that threat to our security, as a direct byproduct organised crime has developed and prospered to the extent it has.

These sophisticated criminals consider themselves to be above our laws. They confront us brazenly with arms and terror when people get in their way, be they fellow criminals or courageous journalists. They care little for the civil liberties of law abiding citizens, yet they claim the protection provided by civil liberties and due process when they are caught or being investigated. They rob banks and then launder the proceeds of that crime through the same institutions. They avail of tax amnesties provided by foolish Governments.

Our criminal justice system has three traditional aims; punishment, deterrence and reform. In the case of the socalled untouchables, it seems we have failed markedly on all three counts. We cannot link them to their crimes. When we catch them we have to give them temporary or early release because we do not have enough prison spaces for them. In the case of hardened criminals who have made crime their life's work, perhaps it is time to acknowledge that reform is rarely a realistic option. Traditional methods have failed. That being the case, we must deploy new ones, particularly in relation to organised crime. If we cannot punish, deter or reform them, we must set a new aim of stopping them from plying their evil trade.

As well as laws to obstruct their operations — and we will later be putting the final touches to the Fianna Fáil Bill to seize and dispose of the assets of criminal activity — we need to restructure our criminal prosecution service, change our bail laws, modernise and speed up criminal court proceedings and bring our laws on sentencing up to date. We also need a prison system that works and a self-confident, expert police force. I join Members who congratulated the new Garda Commissioner. He has an unenviable task and I hope he will set about it with great vigour and with the encouragement of the House today.

Yesterday a murderer escaped from Mountjoy jail on his way to a workshop. I doubt if there will be political or any accountability for that. We can no longer ignore such issues. In February 1996 I tabled a Progressive Democrats' Bill which set a real and genuine agenda to reform the system for prosecution and punishment of criminal offences. It provided for major changes in our laws relating to the prosecution of offences, criminal procedures, the reform of the right to silence, bail law, control and management of the prison system, sentencing and the law relating to remissions and temporary releases. The philosophy of the Bill was integrated and dealt with speeding up trials, modernising criminal procedure and eliminating loopholes not only those discovered by me in 1996, but those known to everybody for the past 20 years. Some of those measures unceremoniously voted down by the Government in February 1996 were adopted in the immediate aftermath of the murder of Veronica Guerin.

This Dáil debate is taking place approximately one month after Veronica's murder. It should be noted that nobody has been questioned about that crime.

That is wrong.

Such is the extent of the problem we face.

Very soon after the murder, a story emerged which has become known in journalistic circles as "the story that dare not speak its name". Paul Williams wrote it last Sunday in the Sunday World. It is that Veronica's murder was linked to two stories she was researching, one a gangland murder and the other an alleged corrupt garda. Nobody in the House has any information as to the veracity of that story, but we ignored matters about which she wrote for years and that is why we are here now. Is that story being investigated? Is it a pack of lies, a total fiction or is there any truth in it? If there is, it should be investigated. It is not sufficient that these matters should be peddled in the newspapers. Our citizens, including gardaí, are reading it. I want a response from the Minister on this matter.

The reality is that none of the measures before the House today would be before us but for the murder of Veronica Guerin. None of the Bills which have been drafted and published and hot off the presses today would have been presented were it not for the message sent to the Oireachtas by those who ordered or organised the murder of Veronica Guerin. She was not even buried before the predictable bleating started of those who want to hold on to the failed status quo and who forecast the wrecking of civil liberties if we introduce radical legislation. There are those who write long articles about crime prevention. There are those who seek to convince us that there is not any escalation in crime. There are those who will say that by legislating and introducing radical legislation we are acting in haste and in a knee-jerk fashion, but I challenge that. Those are the same people who for 20 years opposed a change in our bail laws. We have the most liberal bail laws in the common law world. Nowhere is there a system such as the one we must endure here, where a person has an absolute guarantee of liberty even if it can be shown, as a matter of probability that he or she will commit crimes while on bail. That is an absolute nonsense. It is dangerous and reckless. It fails to vindicate the right of the public to be safe.

There are those who will say that we must look to the root causes of crime; that poverty, social deprivation and alienation must be tackled before we adopt the criminal justice approach to rising criminality. There are good points in that argument, but the two concepts need not be mutually exclusive. One must not be postponed for the other. Both can be tackled because while we earnestly study the root causes of crime, the criminal godfathers are taking full advantage of our distraction.

It must be remembered there is a Supreme Court precedent and licence to us as legislators to be constitutionally adventurous. The Supreme Court said that the potential damage to society from the use and distribution of controlled drugs is so great and constitutes such a pernicious evil that the Legislature has a very wide discretion when reconciling the rights of the common good with individual rights. I believe that. I also believe that this Dáil, representing the people, has the capacity, authority and duty to reconcile and balance the rights of the people to live in safety with the rights of those who threaten them.

On preventative detention, the O'Callaghan Supreme Court judgment, which was described as a liberal bridgehead was a liberal bridgehead too far. It has caused paralysis in much needed reform of our bail laws. I welcome the Government's announcement that it will move to change the bail laws by constitutional referendum and legislation and I have no doubt the people will give their consent to that change. I also welcome the other tax related Bills before the House today.

I support all the measures in this Bill, many of the reforms in it are in accordance with Progressive Democrats' policy including, empowering a judge to remand a person in custody for more than eight days; allowing an accused to be remanded before a court other than the one before which he or she originally appeared; allowing a garda to give evidence of certain routine matters by way of certificate rather than orally; requiring the consent of the DPP to summary disposal of certain offences and the taking into consideration of offences when sentence is being imposed; extending the power of the District Court to issue search warrants in respect of evidence; extending the range of offences in respect of which documentary evidence is admissible.

More importantly, very good measures are being consolidated today imposing express obligations on financial institutions to adopt measures to prevent and detect money laundering offences. The latter proposal in section 10 gives effect to Article 91/308/EEC on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering. I recall the dabate on other provisions of that directive and the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 and, recently, motions on money laundering and drug trafficking were taken in the Dáil.

International co-operation is vital to assist individual States to protect their citizens from organised criminality and subversion. There is a need for morality and the public interest to pervade the professional and commercial world. Organised criminals and terrorists can and do avail of the professions and commercial institutions to launder money and property which derive directly from crime. Professionals here and elsewhere around the world have turned a blind eye to that. Casinos, betting offices, property companies, haulage firms, lawyers, tax accountants and banks must reconcile the public interest with their ethical professional duties to their clients. If there is conflict, the public interest must win out.

We must continually seek to establish how effective these regulations have been to date. Are they being adequately enforced? How many orders have been made under section 32 of the 1994 Act which places an obligation on banks to report suspicious transactions? I welcome the measures being introduced to spread the responsibility to a wider range of designated persons to report suspected criminality in monetary transactions.

We need a single computerised database on criminals in Europe. We need formal co-operation between member states' forensic science laboratories to enable police to track illegal drugs through the EU and to scientifically determine their source. We need agreement among European states on jail sentences for drug trafficking. We must establish adequate co-operation on the protection of our external borders in the union. We need an EU funded Irish coastguard service to police our waters, borders and ports.

Money laundering is a most important front in the battle against organised crime. It is the means by which criminals can legitimately enjoy the proceeds of their crimes. The more successful the criminal is, the more likely the need he has for money laundering. Money launderers use a wide variety of techniques including, currency smuggling, the conversion of cash into negotiable instruments, the creative use of facilities offered by tax and financial havens, the use of shell companies, currency exchanges, brokerage houses and casinos. There is also a very simple procedure of making large cash bets in bookies and insisting on payment by cheque.

The 1994 Act imposes certain obligations on what it describes as designated bodies to report suspicions of money laundering, but betting shops and on-course bookmakers are not designated bodies for the purposes of that Act. I wonder if the Minister has considered bringing in regulations to make the betting industry subject to reporting obligations under the 1994 Act.

The tax amnesty introduced by a previous Administration could not have been better designed for money laundering if it had been done by the criminals themselves.

While welcoming all the above measures which the Government introduced, I would like to point to a couple of issues mentioned by Deputy O'Donoghue which have not been dealt with. The preliminary investigation procedure has been criticised as being anachronistic, time consuming, expensive and irrelevant. It is all of these things and we know it. The present system under the 1967 Act is a revision of the Indictable Offences (Ireland) Act of 1840 and the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act of 1851. It is ridiculous that we still have this onerous, protracted preliminary investigation procedure.

The system of preliminary depositions which has become useless and irrelevant predated those Acts, but prior to them the function of preliminary depositions was to gather information for the court of trial. The aim of this procedure was that a person should not be put on trial on an indictable offence unless a prima facie case was made against him at an early stage. However, since the mid-19th century, many other safeguards have emerged for the citizen. Firstly there is a constitutional guarantee of a fair trial and the introduction of the Director of Public Prosecutions whose decision to prosecute is based on an open-minded assessment of the legal and factual merits of the case and is, in itself, an effective filter for unsatisfactory cases.

A defendant now has criminal legal aid and finally, it must be remembered that in the mid-19th century where the preliminary investigation procedure was the norm, there was no appeal from the verdict of guilty on a trial on indictment except where it involved an exceptional point of law.

In February 1996 when we tried to change this anachronistic procedure in our Prosecutions of Offences and Punishment of Offences Bill, the Minister acknowledged that the matter was in need of consideration. In many cases, the accused waives the right to a preliminary hearing but a procedure has to be provided for him to waive that right. Our proposal allowed the Director of Public Prosecutions a discretion to dispense with the preliminary examination, but it would protect the accused by giving a right to a pre-trial motion in respect of the absence of a preliminary examination.

The overall aim of that and of some of the measures being introduced today, is to speed up the criminal justice process in the interests of the accused and society.

Section 12 of this Bill makes a slight technical change to section 23 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1951, the power of the Minister to remit fines and sentences, but it does not achieve any substantive change. In the recent case of Brennan v. the Minister for Justice, the High Court expressed concern that the power to remit sentences was being exercised as “a parallel or alternative system of justice”. The High Court also warned that the Minister should exercise her power only in very exceptional cases in circumstances where she believed the judge's decision to be wholly insupportable.

However, this Bill does not make any attempt to reform the existing unsatisfactory procedure. In our Prosecution of Offences and Punishment of Crimes Bill, 1996, provision was made for the Minister to fully account for the exercise of the power by informing the relevant court and publishing details in Iris Oifigiúil.

The Government came under ferocious pressure arising from the murders of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe and Veronica Guerin. Because of that pressure, the Minister accepted an amendment to the Drug Trafficking Bill in relation to the right to silence, an amendment, incidentally, which she had voted down ten days earlier. In doing so, the Government accepted one aspect of my amendment to the right to silence but not the other. My amendment dealt with two aspects of the right to silence, (a) the right to remain silent while in police custody without a court drawing an adverse inference from that silence and (b) the right to remain silent while on trial without any adverse inferences being drawn from that silence.

The Minister accepted a change of the law in drug trafficking cases in relation to (a) but not (b). This, of course, is illogical. The Minister is now saying that if, at your trial, you rely on facts which you did not mention when questioned, an inference can be drawn by a jury which corroborates any other evidence of guilt. It makes sense to change the law to allow a guilty inference to be drawn against a person who, at least, makes some defence and participates in the trial and, at the same time, the Government allows no inference to be drawn from a person who sings dumb throughout his or her trial.

An amendment on the right to silence needs to be extended to all serious crimes. We believe that at the end of a prosecution case of a serious crime such as murder, when the State has presented all its evidence against the accused, and unless the accused is entitled to a direction on the grounds of insufficient evidence, the judge has to inquire whether the accused proposes to participate in the trial.

If the accused, having been called upon by the court to give evidence, fails to do so, the court or jury is permitted to draw an adverse inference. For those who say that the right against self-incrimination should be paramount, I say it is time that the right should be curtailed with safeguards such as the videotaping of police interviews. Of course, there is always the safeguard that the procedure is subject to judicial discretion at all times. We do not say that the accused should be forced to give evidence at his trial or held in contempt by failing to participate in the trial, but it is common sense to allow a court and a jury to draw its own conclusions from that failure.

Talking about illogicality, at the same time as partially accepting the amendment to the Drug Trafficking Bill on the right to silence, the Minister voted down an amendment which was vital to go along with the curtailment of the right to silence. That was to provide safeguards by allowing the videotaping of interviews between the person detained and a member or members of the Garda Síochána.

We also proposed that there should be provision of medical treatment for persons detained, particularly if they have a dependence on controlled drugs. An independent audio-visual record of any interview is vital if the absolute right to silence is to be curtailed.

In her reply the Minister said there was a pilot scheme for videotaping interviews. The 1984 Act provides for this measure and yet we are still at the pilot stage.

No debate on the criminal justice system would be complete without mentioning our failed prison system which costs a fortune. It costs twice as much to run as the British prison system and is well out of kilter with international standards. We have more prison officers than prisoners as well as an inexplicable overrun of annual overtime budgets. The mismanagement and maladministration in our prison system was outlined in our policy document earlier this week, and yesterday a murderer escaped from Mountjoy.

I do not wish to take up any of the Minister's time, and I recognise and respect the order of the House. However, I wish to record the fact that because of the restrictions on time no Member of the Labour Party has been in a position to speak, particularly in view of the outrageous comments of Deputy O'Donoghue.

The Deputy had an opportunity to do so on the Bill.

We are not missing much.

I presume the Minister speaks for the Deputy. What is his problem?

Given the seriousness of the situation facing this country with regard to crime, our criminal justice system and some of the appalling recent tragedies, I had hoped this debate would be conducted in a way which would give confidence to the public that we are all combining to ensure that long overdue and necessary reforms of our criminal justice system are put in place. Sadly, the cheap, pathetic political point-scoring by the Opposition spokesman for Fianna Fáil has damaged the debate.

It has sent a message to the public that the purpose of the Fianna Fáil Party is to try to get political brownie points for their speeches in the House. They have no more responsibility, concern or interest in real and effective reform of our criminal justice system than they showed for years in Government when Fianna Fáil Ministers held the Justice portfolio. I hope the public will continue to tell them that their irresponsible attitude is not what they expect from the largest party in this State. Recent opinion polls show that their attempts to personalise, vilify and attribute every fault in our criminal justice system to me and this Government are not gaining public credence. Deputy O'Donoghue's attempt, within the shortest time, to win an award for the greatest number of similes, the best mixed metaphors, the best skills in onomatopoeia and any other linguistic language and methods he used today cut very little ice with the general public who are suffering and demanding action from us as legislators.

The Bills published by the Fianna Fáil Party in the past 18 months would have had more credibility had they been published within the eight long years between 1987 and 1994 when there were three successive Fianna Fáil Ministers for Justice. I had hoped not to have to remind Fianna Fáil today of the £150,000 spent by a former Minister for Justice, Deputy Séan Doherty, on a personal letter he circulated and literature he had published by a private consultancy firm. I had hoped not to have to remind this House of another former Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice, now MEP, Gerard Collins and his expenditure of large resources almost 20 years ago, to fly around the world to examine the possibility of an air support unit for the Garda Síochána.

These are the Minister's words.

I had hoped not to have to remind Fianna Fáil of the appearance of its former Minister for Justice, now European Commissioner Pádraig Flynn, on television when he promised that he, Pádraig the Great, single-handedly would remove every vestige of crime from this country and transform everybody to angels. I had hoped not to have to remind him of that but it is necessary to restore some reality to this debate.

In my speech I endeavoured to demonstrate to the public that this Government, in union with all legislators here, would work to bring about long overdue reforms. I thank Deputy Liz O'Donnell for her more considered approach to this debate and her clear understanding of the objectives of the provisions of this Bill. I am deeply disappointed at Deputy O'Donoghue's clear lack of understanding — perhaps he did not have time to peruse the Bill thoroughly — of its provisions. Perhaps his party leader might consider appointing someone from his backbenches with greater skill in examining and analysing legislative provisions.

As Minister for Justice I will not renege on my responsibilities, rush through or be coerced into introducing legislation that I and my advisers consider to be flawed, that would not achieve the desired objective but conversely perpetrate or implement further mistakes in our criminal justice system. Therefore, I will take on the chin the type of personal vilification in which Deputy O'Donoghue enjoys indulging. Perhaps it goes down well on Kerry Radio or in some of the Kerry papers.

How much did the Minister pay Vincent Browne?

Whenever I have been in a position to do so, I have taken on board any Fianna Fáil or Progressive Democrats Party legislative proposals or changes. I gave a commitment that I would examine all of the points made by Deputies O'Donoghue and O'Donnell about the overall preliminary examinations procedure, the preparation of the book of evidence and the pre-trial disposition of admissibility. These have been under examination by the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure. Were it easy to implement legislative changes by a mere flick of the fingers, would the House not consider that some of my predecessors would have made some? These are serious court practices and precedents requiring examination before being carefully and judiciously altered to match the needs of today's Ireland. As Minister for Justice I have done and will continue to examine court practices and precedents until this Government goes to the people who will recognise that serious efforts have been made to amend or introduce appropriate legislative provision to meet the needs of the day.

To those who ask where is the relevant legislation and so on, I would remind them that in 1967 the Criminal Law Bill was published by the then Fianna Fáil Government. Thirty years later it has fallen to me to publish and introduce a Bill to remove an anomaly with no bearing on today's criminal justice system, thus ensuring that those who commit serious offences cannot hide behind an antiquated and outdated interpretation of a "misdemeanour". That is real, not mere sticking plaster justice reform which appears to be the only thing Fianna Fáil believes will work here.

Within the past 17 years, when almost all Ministers for Justice have been members of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Henchy report on mentally ill and maladjusted persons was published. Yet within my term of office the insanity Bill is being prepared for publication in the Office of the Attorney General. While Fianna Fáil published an insanity Bill, with studious tardiness, it was not introduced in this House. Deputy O'Donoghue knows the reason, because his Bill — the origins of which I will leave others to decide for themselves — is identical to one in the Department of Justice in 1991 which was subsequently altered because of different court decisions. Within 18 months of assuming office I have brought to a head the need for improvement in our laws on insanity. I will not listen to the type of political point scoring Fianna Fáil enjoys. That is not what the public expects of this debate. They expect to hear what has been and is being done.

In the course of this debate Deputy Bertie Ahern referred to the fact that Garda recruitment just about matched natural wastage. It was his party's Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn who, when in Government, proposed that an additional 350 gardaí be recruited annually between the years 1994 and 1997. It was I and this Government who recognised precisely what was the result of that party's policy which is why, at my suggestion, the Government approved the recruitment of an additional 400 gardaí.

Many of the points made in the course of this debate smack of political amnesia. While the previous Government announced the construction of a prison in Castlerea, not one single practical step had been taken before it left office. In addition, that Government announced the erection of a women's prison in Mountjoy; yet, the only practical positive step taken was the establishment of a planning committee, comprised of representatives of women's organisations. This Government's decision to postpone the building of the Castlerea prison for a few months has been the subject of much debate. That postponement enabled me to undertake a serious, in depth analysis of prison places, to ensure additional prison places would be provided this year and more will be provided by the end of 1997. Not one single prison place would be available in Castlerea now had this Government continued the Fianna Fáil proposal, the reason being that patients remain in the hospital in Castlerea. Unless that party intended building a prison around them, its proposal was not feasible since those patients are only now being moved from there. It is better that Members do not attempt to rewrite history but rather adhere to the truth in these matters.

I have already announced the publication of a comprehensive paper on crime, something not undertaken by any previous Government. Utilising the provisions of the drug trafficking Act, I have already amended some laws relating to dancehalls and intend introducing others and I have announced a crime council to be established next autumn.

It is all very well for Deputy O'Donoghue to list delays in court hearings but it would be well for him to remember that they built up during his party's time in office. Indeed I must correct something the Deputy said. The courts will sit an extra three weeks in September during which time every Circuit Court and the Central Criminal Court, will hear cases. It is estimated that an average additional 100 to 120 cases will be dealt with in each of the eight Circuit Courts in those three weeks, the first time ever that the Presidents of the courts have arranged for judges to sit those extra hours. I thank those judges for foregoing some of their otherwise free time.

While mindful that the Progressive Democrats announced a large programme on prisons, the compilation of prison boards and services, it is interesting that within Fianna Fáil's three and a half year term of office there was not a single mention of prisons or a single prison place provided. Even during the Progressive Democrats' time in Government and thereafter there was not a single reference to a prison board or prison service. I welcome the fact that those parties now see the advantage of dealing with these matters.

The Castlerea proposal was abandoned by this Government.

It is important to remember that the message we send today to the people, regardless of whether they are Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour or Progressive Democrats, is that the Dáil is willing to make the changes needed in the criminal justice system. That is what I have been doing since the start of my term of office and will continue to do so without coercion until the end of my term of office.

Question put and agreed to.