Written Answers. - Proposed Legislation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

77 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence his proposals to amend the Defence Acts 1954-1993. [4560/02]

The opportunity to amend the Defence Acts is availed of when legislation sponsored by other Departments and which has a bearing on the Defence Forces is being formulated. This is particularly so in the area of amendments to civil and criminal law relating to the provisions prescribing the punishment for certain civil offences which are also offences against military law as prescribed in the Defence Acts. Generally speaking, the punishments for offences against military law, whether awarded by court martial or otherwise, are in line with punishments prescribed under civil law for similar civil offences.

For example, civil legislation was amended recently to remove sentences of penal servitude and death from the statute and, at the same time, the Defence Acts were amended under that amending legislation which was sponsored by my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to provide for the deletion of sentences of penal servitude and death from the Defence Acts. The most recent amendment of the Defence Act, 1954, which was sponsored by my Department was in 1998. The Defence (Amendment) Act, 1998, provided for the re-organisation of the headquarters of the Defence Forces and for the appointments of deputy chief of staff, operations, and deputy chief of staff, support, and related matters. The Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Bill, 2002, which was published last month and which is sponsored by my Department, contains a proposal to amend section 114 of the Defence Act in relation to redress of wrongs complaints submitted by serving members of the Defence Forces.

In the circumstances, the Deputy will appreciate that amending the Defence Acts is a continuous and ongoing process in endeavouring to keep them up to date as far as is possible. My Department has prepared a draft restatement of the Defence Acts, 1954-98, which includes the Courts Martial Appeals Act, 1983, and this draft is currently with the Office of the Attorney General. It will not be possible, however, for the Attorney General to certify the restatement until the Statute Law (Restatement) Bill is enacted later this year.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 50.