Criminal Justice Bill 2011: Second Stage

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

The programme for Government is unambiguous in its commitment to the principle that the white collar criminal must be made amenable for his or her crime. As Minster for Justice and Equality, my top priority is to restore the faith of the Irish people that this principle will be as vigorously applied to white collar crime as it is to all other crime. Justice delayed is justice denied.

This Bill is an important step in delivering on the Government's strong commitment to tackle white collar crime. It was our intention to publish this Bill within the first 100 days of Government. We achieved that aim when the Bill was published last Friday. Our next step in delivering on our commitment is to have this Bill enacted and on the Statute Book as a matter of priority. I hope the Opposition Deputies will co-operate to facilitate its enactment before the summer recess. In this respect, I am grateful for the co-operation I have been afforded here in allowing me to bring this Bill before the House today.

A fundamental principle of criminal justice is that the person who commits a crime should be brought before the courts and made accountable. The faith of the Irish people in that principle as applied to financial wrongdoing has been severely tested in recent times. There is widespread concern that the investigation and prosecution of white collar crime in this country is taking too long. There is no doubt that the complexities of financial crime create a high challenge for investigators and for prosecutors. However, we must find ways to ensure that no matter how complex the crime, no matter how important, wealthy or influential the wrongdoer may be, he or she must be brought before the courts. I have one simple and straight forward message. There will be no impunity for those who engage in white collar crime.

The main purpose of the Criminal Justice Bill 2011 is to address delays in the prosecution and investigation of complex crime by improving certain important procedural matters and strengthening Garda investigative powers. The proposals in the Bill are based on the experiences of those involved in investigations and prosecutions of white collar crime, and in particular on the experiences of those involved in current investigations into bank fraud and financial irregularities. My intention is to ensure that the new procedures and powers set out in the Bill will speed up future investigations and prosecutions. However, it is also my intention that the provisions of the Bill will be available to investigators to speed up major investigations currently underway.

The Bill is being targeted at specified serious and complex offences attracting a penalty of at least five years imprisonment, including offences in the areas of banking and finance, company law, money laundering, fraud, corruption, competition, consumer protection and cybercrime. Before I turn to the details of the Bill's provisions I would like to briefly outline its main proposals.

The Bill provides for a new system to make more effective use of detention periods. This will allow persons arrested and detained for questioning by the Garda Síochána to be released and their detention suspended so that further investigations can be conducted during the suspension period. A central provision of the Bill is the new power for the Garda Síochána to apply to court for an order to require any person with relevant information to produce documents, answer questions and provide information for the purposes of the investigation of relevant offences. Failure to comply with such an order will be an offence. Also provided for are measures relating to how documents are to be produced to the Garda. These measures are aimed at reducing the delays associated with the production of large volumes of poorly ordered and uncategorised documents to the Garda in the course of its investigations.

The Bill also contains measures to prevent unnecessary delays in investigations arising from claims of legal privilege. In addition, it provides for presumptions in respect of documents which will streamline the admission of evidence. It also provides for the creation of a number of new offences, including an offence similar to the former misprision of felony offence, which relates to the failure to report information to the Garda. This particular offence is of major importance, as its creation in the Bill will ensure that those who become aware of persons engaging in white collar crime are under an obligation to bring what they know to the attention of the Garda Síochána.

I am also taking the opportunity presented by the Bill to clarify two issues relating to the investigation of crime more generally. The issues relate to the right of suspects in Garda custody to access legal advice prior to questioning and the circumstances in which questioning may be conducted between midnight and 8 a.m.

I now turn to the detail of the main provisions of the Bill. The Bill is being targeted at certain complex white collar crime. Section 3 provides for the scope of the Bill. Its provisions, other than the provisions relating to the investigation of crime generally, will apply to offences referred to as "relevant offences". A "relevant offence" means an arrestable offence specified in the Schedule, or as the Minister may specify by order. An arrestable offence is an offence punishable by imprisonment for five years or more. The offences in the Schedule include theft, fraud and corruption offences, as well as company law, banking and other financial offences. The offences which may be specified by order of the Minister are offences relating to banking, investment of funds and other financial activities, company law, money laundering and financing terrorism, theft and fraud, bribery and corruption, competition and consumer protection, crime relating to electronic communications networks and information systems and the raising and collection of taxes and duties.

The Minister must consider that the powers under the Bill are, by reason of the nature of the arrestable offence concerned and the prolonged period of time that may be required for the investigation of such offences as a result of the complexity of such investigations, necessary for the investigation of that offence. The Minister must consult with any other relevant Minister before making such an order.

The proposals in Part 2 include a new system to make more effective use of detention periods. The complexity of recent investigations and the volumes of documents involved have shown that it is not always possible to complete questioning and check facts in one period of detention. The suspension of detention provisions, provided for in section7, are being applied to the 24 hour maximum detention period permitted under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984. The amendments will allow the period of detention under section 4 of the 1984 Act to be suspended and the person released during the period of suspension. The purpose of these provisions is to allow the Garda to follow up on information obtained during questioning and conduct further investigations during the suspension period.

Section 7(a) inserts six new subsections into section 4 of the 1984 Act. The new subsection (3A) allows the Garda to suspend the detention of a person being detained in respect of a relevant offence, where there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is necessary for the purpose of permitting enquiries or investigations to be made for the further and proper investigation of that offence. Subsection (3B) provides that a person’s detention may be suspended on no more than two occasions. The total time for which a person’s detention may be suspended must not exceed four months from the date of the first suspension. The person must return to the Garda station at the date and time specified in the notice given to him or her under subsection (3C) or at such other date and time or Garda station, as may be notified under Subsection (3D).

Subsection (3C) provides that the person concerned must be given notice in writing that his or her detention is being suspended, of the Garda station and of the date and time on which he or she must return for the continuation of the detention, and of the consequences of failing to return. The effect of the notice must be explained to the person orally by a Garda. Subsection (3D) provides for the issuing by a Garda inspector of a notice changing the return date and time or Garda station to which the person must return.

Subsection (3E) provides for the continuation of a person's detention on his or her return to the Garda station. It also provides for the person's release where the member in charge of the Garda station concerned no longer has, at the time of the person's return, reasonable grounds for believing that the person's continued detention is necessary. Subsection (3F) clarifies how suspension of detention will operate in cases where the person is detained for another offence or the detention is continued of subsection (5 A) of section 4 of the 1984 Act in respect of another offence.

Section 8 follows up on the provisions of section 7 and mainly deals with the consequences for a person who fails to return to a Garda station after the period of suspension has expired. Section 8 inserts new sections 4A, 4B and 4C into the Criminal Justice Act 1984. Section 4A provides that a person who fails to return to a Garda station for the continuation of a period of detention which was suspended may be arrested without warrant and returned to that station. The period of time commencing on the person's arrest and ending on his or her arrival to the Garda station concerned will be excluded in reckoning a period of detention permitted under section 4 of the 1984 Act. Section 4B provides for an offence of failing to return to the Garda station concerned. Section 4C provides for a regulation-making power for the procedures to apply to the suspension of detention.

I now would like to turn to the questioning of persons in Garda custody between midnight and 8 a.m. If I may, I will refer back to paragraph (c) of section 7. The provisions in section 7 which I outlined introduced a new procedure on suspended detention and they are limited to relevant offences. On the other hand, paragraph (c) of section 7 relates to existing detention procedures under section 4 of the 1984 Act and to the investigation of crime more generally. It will apply to all persons detained under section 4 irrespective of the offence concerned. It amends section 4(6) of the 1984 Act in order to clarify the circumstances in which such persons may be questioned between midnight and 8 a.m. As a consequence of this amendment, the norm will be that no questioning will take place between these hours other than where the detained person objects to the suspension of questioning in which case questioning will continue or the member in charge of the station authorises questioning for exceptional reasons relating to the particular circumstances of the case. The circumstances required to justify the giving of such an authorisation are specified and include a reasonable belief on the part of the member that to delay questioning until the following morning would involve a risk of injury to other persons, serious damage to property or interference with evidence. A possible scenario that comes to mind is where a person is detained in connection with a kidnapping that is still in progress and where there is concern for the safety of the victim.

Any period that is suspended will be excluded from the calculation of the detention period. This is already the case under the 1984 Act and I am continuing this approach as to do otherwise would greatly reduce the amount of time available to the Garda to question a person detained under section 4. Deputies will recall that the maximum period of detention permitted under that section is 24 hours.

I will now address the right of detained person to access legal advice. Section 9 contains further amendments to the 1984 Act which are of general application to persons detained under section 4. The amendments concern the well-established right of a person in Garda custody to access legal advice and are aimed at clarifying the circumstances in which questioning may proceed notwithstanding that the suspect has not yet had an opportunity to consult with a solicitor. It is, of course, generally Garda practice to delay questioning to facilitate such consultations. However, recent jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights emphasises the importance of detained persons having, as a rule, access to legal advice in advance of questioning. Exceptions are permitted but they must be based on compelling reasons arising from the circumstance of the particular case. In order to ensure that laws are fully compliant with our obligations under the convention and have the degree of certainty required it is necessary to clarify this matter in legislation.

Section 9, paragraph (a) inserts two new sections in the Act — sections 5A and 5B. Section 5A contains the general rule that questioning of detained persons is not to proceed pending access to legal advice. Two exceptions are permitted: where the person waives his or her right to consult or where the member in charge authorises questioning. Deputies will note that the test that must be met before such an authorisation can be given is identical to that which will apply to the questioning of persons between midnight and 8 a.m. to which I have already referred. Again, the member must have reasonable grounds for believing that to delay would involve a risk of one of a specified list of circumstances arising. The list includes injury to other persons, serious damage to property, interference with evidence, etc.

I am providing for the detention clock to stop subject to a maximum period pending a solicitor making him or herself available for a consultation. This provision is necessary to deal with the difficulties encountered by the Garda in contacting available solicitors, for example, in rural districts, or at weekends. I am satisfied that the maximum periods proposed, three hours for the most part but up to six hours in some circumstances between midnight and 8 a.m., strike a reasonable balance between the rights of the detained person and the needs of the investigation of crime. As is already the case, a consultation may be in person or by telephone. In either event, it must take place in private although this may be in the sight of but out of the hearing of the Garda for security reasons.

Section 5B provides for ministerial regulations on procedural matters concerning access to solicitors. The proposed regulations will assist the Garda authorities in implementing arrangements to facilitate the right of detained persons to access legal advice. These amendments refer to persons detained under section 4 of the 1984 Act. It is, of course, important that they also apply to persons detained under our other statutory powers, such as section 30 of the Offences against the State Act and section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act 1996. This is achieved by paragraph (b) of this section and by sections 13 and 14 of this Bill.

In conclusion on the matter of access to legal advice, I would draw to the attention of Deputies the amendments in paragraphs (c), (d) and (e) of section 9 and in sections 10, 11 and 12. These amendments concern the various provisions on the Statute Book which allow inferences adverse to an accused to be drawn in criminal proceedings from his or her failure or refusal, for example, to answer certain questions asked by the Garda during an investigation. The amendments make it clear that in order for an inference to be drawn in proceedings the accused must have had access to legal advice, other than where he or she waived that right.

I now want to turn to provision of documents and information to the Garda. Returning to the issue of white collar crime, experience with recent investigations has shown that investigations can be hampered by the reluctance of some potential witnesses to make statements or otherwise provide information to the Garda Síochána. Part 3 contains new powers to compel witnesses to provide documents and information to the Garda to assist in the investigation and prosecution of complex crimes.

Section 15 provides that a garda may apply to the District Court for an order for the making available by a person of particular documents or the provision of particular information, whether by answering specified questions or making a statement setting out the answers to those questions. The District Court judge must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the document or information is relevant to the investigation of the relevant offence concerned, there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that it may constitute evidence of or relating to the commission of that offence and, finally, that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the document or information should be provided, having regard to the likely benefit to the investigation and any other relevant circumstances.

Where the judge orders the production of documents, he or she may order the person to identify and categorise them in a particular manner. This provision should help to reduce the delays associated with the disclosure of large volumes of poorly ordered and uncategorised documents to the Garda in the course of its investigations.

An order providing for access to documents in a specified place may require a Garda to be allowed to enter the place to obtain access to the documents. Provision is made for access to passwords where the documents concerned are in non-legible form, for example, electronic documents on a computer. It should be noted that the order does not confer any right to production of, or access to, any document subject to legal professional privilege. However, the order has effect notwithstanding any other obligation as to secrecy or other restriction on disclosure of information.

Provision is made for the retention by, or return to, a person of documents where the documents are required for the purposes of a person's business or other legitimate purpose. The person must undertake in writing to keep the documents safely and securely and when requested, to furnish them to the Garda in connection with any criminal proceedings for which they are required. Documents taken away by a garda under section 15 may be retained for use as evidence in any criminal proceedings.

These provisions are targeted at witnesses, not suspects. Accordingly, to preserve the right against self incrimination, a statement or admission made by a person pursuant to an order under section 15 is not admissible as evidence in proceedings against the person for an offence, other than an offence under the section itself.

A person who fails or refuses to comply with an order under section 15 is guilty of an offence. Provision is also made for an offence of providing false or misleading information or statements. A person who fails to comply with an undertaking given by him or her under this section is guilty of an offence. The offences will be punishable by unlimited fines and up to two years imprisonment or both.

Access to documents by the Garda Síochána can be severely delayed by claims of legal privilege which give rise to applications to the High Court. Section 16 contains provisions aimed at reducing such delays by making provision for determining legal professional privilege issues which arise in District Court orders under section 15 requiring the disclosure of documents to the Garda.

Under the new provisions, where a person refuses to disclose a document or give access to it pursuant to a court order under section 15 on the grounds that it is privileged legal material, the Garda or the person concerned may apply to a District Court judge for a determination as to whether the document is privileged legal material. Pending the determination of the application, the person concerned is obliged to preserve the document and keep it in a safe and secure place. The District Court judge may also give interim or interlocutory directions, including, in a case involving a substantial volume of documents, the appointment of an experienced, independent person with legal qualifications to examine the documents and prepare a report for the judge with a view to facilitating the court's determination as to the documents. Rules of court may make provision for the expeditious hearing of applications and appeals under section 16.

Section 17 provides for an offence relating to the falsification, concealment or destruction of documents relevant to a Garda investigation into a relevant offence. The offence is punishable by an unlimited fine and imprisonment for up to five years or both.

Section 18 provides for certain evidential presumptions to arise where documents are admitted as evidence in proceedings for a relevant offence. It provides for presumptions on the creation, ownership, receipt and other matters relating to documents. These presumptions may be rebutted by the defendant. This provision is important to streamline the way in which requirements in relation to evidence can be met concerning documents submitted in complex white collar crime cases.

Section 19 provides for a new offence, similar to the former misprision of felony offence, which relates to the failure to report information to the Garda. The offence will apply to a person who has information which he or she knows or believes might be of material assistance in preventing the commission of a relevant offence or in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person for such an offence. A person who fails without reasonable excuse to disclose such information as soon as practicable to the Garda Síochána will be guilty of an offence. The offence is punishable by an unlimited fine and imprisonment for up to five years or both. A similar offence is contained in section 9 of the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 but in that Act it is limited to certain serious offences.

Section 20 is a standard provision regarding offences by bodies corporate.

The Schedule sets out the offences which will be "relevant offences" for the purposes of the Bill. A number of additional offences are being further examined in consultation with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation and the Department of Finance to assess whether they meet the criteria for inclusion in the Schedule to the Bill. If it is subsequently decided that they meet the criteria, I propose to add them to the Schedule by way of Committee Stage amendment, if time permits. An alternative approach is, of course, to add any qualifying offences to the Schedule by way of order made under the Bill after it is enacted. I described at an earlier point the capacity of the Minister to make such orders.

I am introducing this Bill quickly to deal with issues that are currently causing problems and delaying or potentially delaying the investigation and prosecution of white collar crime. It is an important step in ensuring that the white collar criminal will be vigorously pursued by the authorities of the State.

The Government is of course committed to addressing all aspects of white collar crime and my proposals go beyond the measures to be contained in the Criminal Justice Bill. The programme for Government contains a commitment to enact legislation to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau on the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime. The Criminal Assets Bureau now has 15 years practical experience in the operation of the proceeds of crime legislation. That experience will inform the work of an expert group, comprising representatives from the bureau, my Department and the Office of the Attorney General, which is reviewing the operation of the legislation with a view to identifying measures that would further strengthen the law in this area.

The subject of white collar crime has also been a key component in the White Paper on crime process under way in my Department. It was addressed specifically in a consultation seminar held late last year along with a discussion document and a call for written submissions. A wide range of detailed submissions were received and these have provided important insights into this complex issue. A report on the submissions received has been published recently and many of the issues raised are being targeted in this piece of legislation. More generally, the input received will feed into the deliberations leading to the White Paper itself.

The ultimate objective of the White Paper process is to provide a comprehensive framework for future crime policy, in the form of a national anti-crime strategy. If this framework is to have credibility and protect society in the broadest sense, it is vitally important that it addresses white collar crime as well as so called "street crime".

We must put an end to any hint of a culture that suggests that the white collar criminal is a protected species. In this Bill, I am proposing to give the Garda and the prosecutors the powers, and to provide for the procedures, that they have told me are necessary to help them to investigate white collar crime and to bring prosecutions more efficiently. I am committed to removing any sense that the white collar criminal can act with impunity. In that respect, today I make a promise to the Irish people that if more is needed, more will be done.

I have absolutely no doubt that everyone in the State wants to ensure that where there is criminality, in particular in the context of white collar crime, investigations are facilitated to be undertaken with speed and as comprehensively as possible and that, where required, prosecutions are initiated at an early stage. I am aware of substantial public concern at the length of time being taken in completing some of the very important investigations that are currently under way. Enactment of this Bill would provide additional assistance following its enactment to gardaí conducting any investigation that is current at the date of this Bill coming into force. It is for that particular reason that it is of crucial importance that the Bill is fully considered by the House, and for that reason it is being prioritised by the Government.

As I stated at an earlier point, I hope for and look forward to the assistance and co-operation of Deputies opposite in the processing of this measure through both Second and Committee Stages. I will state publicly on the record of the House what I stated privately to the Opposition spokespeople on justice, which is that when it comes to Committee Stage, in so far as constructive amendments are proposed that could improve the workings of the Bill and which can be accommodated within it, we will give very serious consideration to amendments proposed by Deputies opposite on Committee Stage.

I wish to share time with Deputy Niall Collins.

Fianna Fáil welcomes the fact that the Government has prioritised the Criminal Justice Bill 2011, particularly given the amount of work done by the previous Minister, Dermot Ahern, and I want to acknowledge that in the House today. I want to acknowledge the Minister's own efforts in ensuring early publication of the Bill in the lifetime of the new Dáil and the future plans in this area which he outlined. We will support the Bill. We may submit amendments and I want to acknowledge that since his appointment, the Minister has been very co-operative with this party and others.

The Minister is correct to state the damage caused by white collar crime is immense. Over the years, there has been a tendency to judge it differently from other crimes, but we see the damage caused in this country in recent years by difficulties in this area. The characteristics of white collar crime include deceit, the violation of trust and, above all, a pursuit through dishonest means of personal or business advantage.

Let us be very clear that white collar crime is every bit as much a crime as any other and those who engage in it deserve that the full force of the law be applied. The Bill considerably strengthens the armoury of the State with regard to this. However, we must be realistic, and in considering this issue I cannot but refer to the remarks of Mr. Justice Peter Kelly in connection with the pace of the ongoing investigations by various organisations in the country. Mr. Justice Kelly commented, "An apparent failure to investigate thoroughly yet efficiently and expeditiously possible criminal wrongdoing in the commercial/corporate sectors does nothing to instil confidence in the criminal justice system." This is a damning indictment on many people, not only in this House. It is fair to state we have produced much legislation but Mr. Justice Kelly is putting it up to us to ensure that legislation is properly implemented.

Mr. Justice Kelly also highlighted comments made by another senior Commercial Court judge, Mr. Justice Frank Clarke, in a judgment delivered in April in a case where full admissions were made about engaging in practices which were unlawful under many headings. Mr. Justice Clarke was made to comment that no further action had been seen to be taken in that instance either.

In his concluding remarks, the Minister referred to the concerns of the general public about the slowness of these investigations. In the context of us strengthening the powers available to those who investigate these crimes, we must also challenge them to use the powers they already have more efficiently and to be conscious of the great expectation of the people of the country, looking for answers to so many issues that have happened in recent years, that is on the shoulders of these investigators.

The comments quoted were not made by politicians courting publicity or votes but by the judges of this State who we have entrusted with deciding on the laws enacted by the Oireachtas. It is time those in charge of pursuing those cases get their act together and brought them to a satisfactory conclusion. I welcome the fact Mr. Justice Peter Kelly has put that challenge to them.

The notion of national recovery cannot be limited to a financial one. The national recovery of self-confidence is as important and it will depend on successful outcomes under the various headings of this Bill. In this regard I welcome the fact the Minister has gone out of his way to emphasise that provisions in this Bill can be used in current investigations. That is why there is an urgency to progress the Bill through the House as quickly as possible.

I would like to ensure that before we complete the debate in both Houses, the Bill is as legally robust as possible in light of the resources available to those who may challenge it. It is also important to ensure the Bill is accompanied by sufficient resources in order to tackle the authorities and to retrain their staff to use new powers being made available to them. I refer in particular to the powers being made available in information technology.

The legislation is a culmination of efforts undertaken by the previous Minister, Dermot Ahern. This time last year the former Minister formally requested the Garda Commissioner to bring forward proposals for change in the criminal law in this area. Last October, he launched the public consultation document referred to by the Minister, Organised and White Collar Crime, and in December, he announced approval for the drafting of this Bill. Following this, at the beginning of the last Dáil session, Fianna Fáil made it clear it would prioritise the publication and enactment a Bill and on 1 February, we announced that we had approved the text of such a Bill. However, it could not be published following the dissolution of the Dáil.

The Minister outlined the key provisions. The detention for questioning provisions ensure changes to the existing law. The provision whereby a person may be detained for questioning by the Garda for a specified period will be amended to allow the period of detention to be broken into segments and the person released in the intervening periods. The Garda will be able to detain and question an individual for part of the period, release that person while it makes further inquiries into what was said and then require the individual to return to the Garda station at a later stage for the continuation of the detention. This is necessary given the extent and depth of data.

The complex nature of recent investigations has shown that it is not always possible to complete questioning and check facts in one period of detention. The provision applies to this Bill only and it is welcome. The Minister is committed to publishing detailed regulations in this regard and I ask that they are published on Committee Stage or Report Stage to ensure we have a comprehensive debate on them and their potential impact on citizens of this State.

The requirement to make a statement provision is also welcome. In order to delay, or for other reasons, there has been a reluctance on the part of potential witnesses to make statements to assist the Garda in current and previous investigations. The Bill provides a mechanism whereby an obligation can be imposed on witnesses as well as companies to provide information, answer questions and make statements in regard to investigations into relevant offences.

The Bill provides for applications to the District Court by the Garda for orders requiring the production of material or the provision of information by answering questions or making a statement containing the information for the purposes of the investigation of a relevant offence. The fact that this has been reduced to the District Court is welcome and should expedite the process. A person who fails to comply with the order will be guilty of an offence and provision is also being made for the offence of providing false or misleading information or statements. This is a particularly welcome provision given the danger that false or misleading can be provided in order to delay an investigation.

Recent and ongoing investigations have seen large numbers of documents being provided to the Garda without any effort to index material or to certify the material in a manner that would allow its admissibility in court as evidence without the need for witnesses to prove them. The sheer volume and complex nature of documentation has been a source of much delay. Section 15 provides that where the District Court orders the production of material under that section it may order the person to identify and categorise the material in a particular manner. It is assumed that regulations will be published in this regard. If the Minister could publish them on Committee Stage or Report Stage it would make for easier passage of the Bill and for a more informed discussion.

This Bill specifically examines the issue of withholding information and it provides for a new offence similar to the former misprision of felony offence which relates to the failure to report information to the Garda. A person who has information which he or she knows or believes might be of material assistance in preventing the commission by another person of a relevant offence or in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person for such an offence and who fails without reasonable excuse to disclose such information as soon as practicable to the Garda will be guilty of an offence.

However, we should use this debate to reiterate the fact that we should not necessarily need the threat of an offence or a fine or imprisonment. People who have information which may assist an investigation should come forward immediately. Everybody shares the frustrations in regard to the delays and if people have information which may assist investigations, they should come forward.

The Minister outlined changes to the period of questioning, in particular between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m. He also committed to introducing regulations in this area. I reiterate my remarks on the need to publish those regulations on Committee Stage.

The Bill provides that no questioning of a detained person may take place until he or she has had access to legal advice. This is subject to two exceptions, namely, where he or she has waived the right to consult or the garda in charge has authorised questioning on the grounds that to delay would involve a risk of injury to an other persons, serious damage to property or loss of or interference with evidence, accomplices evading, etc. Member of the Garda Síochána have always adopted this approach in an informal manner and they should be praised for doing so. However, it is now necessary in this litigious environment to place this on a legal footing. Again, I hope the regulations in this area will not be framed in such a way as to choke the ability of the Garda to source information or to manage its affairs in a way which has been successful to date. I hope the Minister will consult the Garda in regard to this area.

The Bill also provides for the detention clock to stop, subject to a maximum period, pending a solicitor making himself or herself available for a consultation. I hope that maximum period will not be too generous because it is not unknown for people to delay their arrival at a Garda station in order to prevent questioning or prevent an investigation.

We welcome the fact the Minister has introduced the Bill quickly. However, in his response to this debate I would like him to comment on the remarks made by Mr. Justice Peter Kelly in regard to the Anglo Irish Bank investigation. When the Minister was on this side of the House he was justifiably critical of the slow pace of that investigation. It has not quickened as a result of his move to the other side of the House.

This legislation should have been enacted a year ago.

The Minister would have to accept that a considerable amount of legislation was put in place.

Mr. Justice Peter Kelly made it very clear that there is legislation in place but his remarks were particularly directed at the day-to-day management. Before we conclude Second Stage, I hope the Minister will update the House on the progress of that investigation and on whether he has taken any action following Mr. Justice Kelly's remarks. For a senior law officer of the State to slap across the head rather than the hand a regulatory investigator of this State is unprecedented. I look forward to the Minister updating the House on that investigation.

My party will support this Bill, much of which was prepared by the former Minister, Dermot Ahern. We will table amendments on Committee Stage but I hope the Minister will publish the necessary regulations during the course of the debate on this Bill.

We speak of the rapid implementation of this Bill, which would be assisted if a committee was set up some time before Christmas.

I understand the Minister's party has been asked to signify its committee choices but that has not been communicated to the Whips. It is important that we get the committee up and running in order to consider this legislation. There will be no delay from the Fianna Fáil Party in arriving at the Minister's deadline of the end of the session.

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this Bill and to stand opposite the new Minister for Justice and Equality. I have changed capacity since I last stood before him. I wish him well in his job. We saw him ably representing us with the Queen this week and carrying out his functions as Minister for Justice and Equality.

I welcome the publication of this Bill and many of the elements in it are badly needed. We must take every opportunity to equip An Garda Síochána with the necessary tools to do its job as effectively as possible in the shortest possible time. The Anglo Irish Bank investigation is hugely frustrating as people consider the length of time it has taken. It is a matter of public concern. When my party was on the other side of the House, we expressed views and the then Opposition expressed its views. We all have a common purpose.

Most criminal justice legislation passes with little division. Much of it has the broad support of most Members, as is right and proper. Much debate about An Garda Síochána concerns financial resources and personnel and this has detracted from the focus on the legislation available to the Garda Síochána. The last Dáil passed much legislation that improved the powers on gangland investigation, prosecution and criminal activities. The focus now is on white collar crime, which has been under the radar for many years. The people involved in these activities dealt in complex operations, which are now costing the State much money and costing all of us dearly.

We must keep in mind the other prosecution agencies, such as the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. I take on board the previous comments of my colleague, Deputy Dara Calleary, and the recent comments of the judge. We must question whether such agencies are well resourced to do their job. When I was a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, the Garda Commissioner appeared before us and he was always asked if he had enough resources to do his job. He always said he had enough resources and manpower. I would like to hear if the Director of Corporate Enforcement has enough resources to do his job. A public statement from him would be welcome and it would inform us why he is taking so long. We should not place too much emphasis on trying to rush him. The result is what is important. Some of the provisions in the Bill are demanding in terms of the requirements to make a statement. This provision is quite necessary. We have seen a reluctance to make statements over the years and it has frustrated the investigation process. I refer to the provisions concerning legal privilege, documentary evidence and questioning people between midnight and 8 a.m. These measures are warranted and necessary.

We must have a degree of balance in terms of the protection of people's reputation. We have issues from time to time where we must strive to protect people's reputation. If people are questioned and associated with an investigation and that information is put into the public domain, it can be greatly damaging to people's reputation if they are obviously innocent and proven to be so. We must ensure there are safeguards from that point of view.

I call Deputy Jonathan O'Brien. Is Deputy O'Brien sharing time?

I am not aware of it but if I am, I will not complain.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien has 30 minutes in that case.

Great. The introduction of legislation in an attempt to deal with the growing plague of white collar crime has long been called for by Members on all sides in this House as well as wider society outside this Chamber. The recent collapse of the global economy has kick-started that conversation on white collar crime and how it is sometimes portrayed as a victimless crime.

We can consider recent scandals at an international level or closer to home, such as the failure of the Irish banking system and the revelations from tribunals contained in the Moriarty report. This has caused great anguish among wider society and it has pushed the need for stiffer legislation to deal with white collar crime to the top of the political agenda.

The term white collar crime is often described as a generic term for non-violent crimes, motivated primarily by personal gain, and committed by businesspeople or public officials. While there is no fixed definition of what constitutes a white collar crime, the Department of Justice and Equality defines white collar crime as offences classified as non-violent illegal activities which principally involve traditional notions of deceit, deception, concealment, manipulation, breach of trust or illegal circumvention. People outside the Chamber hear these phrases but to the ordinary person on the street this means fraud, tax evasion, bribery, kickbacks, brown envelopes and political favours to name just a few. The term white collar crime was first coined by Edwin Sutherland to describe the criminal behaviour of an elite class of people. There is a myth that white collar crime is a victimless one, but nothing could be further from the truth. A single act of white collar crime has the potential to destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of euro or even all three, as in the Enron case.

By its nature, white collar crime can be difficult to investigate and therefore to prove. This Bill proposes to introduce measures whose aim is to assist the Garda Síochána in the investigation and prosecution of this complex area. The introduction of legislation that will once and for all deal comprehensively with white collar crime is essential if this establishment is to restore confidence and credibility in our judicial and political systems. Justice is meant to be blind but if one was to look at the number of people in Irish jails today and study what they are in there for, one could be forgiven for thinking white collar crime is a myth. There is a justifiable, widespread public perception that not enough has been done in the past to tackle white collar crime. That is a view shared by all sides in this House.

This has led to a lack of confidence in our judicial system to deal adequately with white collar crime. Recent comments by Mr. Justice Peter Kelly support this assertion.

He stated: "An apparent failure to investigate thoroughly, yet efficiently, possible criminal wrongdoing in the commercial corporate sectors does nothing to instil confidence in the criminal justice system." I understand the urgency behind the motives of the Minister to introduce this legislation but we must also be careful that people outside the House do not view it as this Chamber rushing to introduce legislation. After all, rushed legislation very often turns out to be poor. This Bill was only published last Friday and we are already discussing it, although only on Second Stage. We must still be very careful to study the Bill and I hope it will not become the norm that we get copies of legislation on Friday and discuss it two or three days later. Nevertheless, I understand the urgency behind the issue.

I commit myself and my party to working with the Minister to ensure the passage of any useful legislation concerning white collar crime in as quick a manner as is possible. I also put on record my personal appreciation of the Minister's comments about possible amendments and I hope we can work together on potential amendments to ensure they are taken on board. We need from the Government a timetable for key white collar crime prevention measures and real legislation to deal with corporate fraud in the State. We need a comprehensive and clear corporate liability for corruption offences and an immunity and leniency programme for certain witnesses who are also accomplices to offences, as this is a necessary weapon against white collar crime.

Mr. Shane Murphy SC recently indicated that we have the weapons for prosecution but we are choosing not to use them, and the Director of Public Prosecutions is reluctant to engage in a general programme that would grant full or partial immunity to informants who expose wrongdoing at banks and financial institutions. The reality is that cases are being built against individuals and not necessarily against companies, even if the company has a case to answer. The OECD working group on bribery recently recommended that Ireland should codify and clarify the liability of legal persons for bribery offences. The identification doctrine whereby the acts of the persons controlling a company can constitute acts of the company is currently insufficient, and in Britain there has been an expansion of the criteria for what constitutes a legal person for the purposes of bribery legislation.

The prosecution of legal as well as natural persons for corruption-related offences will serve as a powerful deterrent against corporate complicity in bribery and corruption. We also need a firm commitment that there will be adequate resourcing for the Garda in order to investigate and detect offences. Clear sentencing guidelines for corruption-related offences must be introduced and a timetable for the ratification of international conventions against corruption should be announced. Every time we speak in the Chamber I go on about sentencing guidelines because they are crucial in all areas of criminal justice. Companies in the dock must prove that anti-bribery measures employed are taken into account.

Arguments made that non-custodial offences for white collar crimes are preferably based on the notion of restitution alone reinforce the perception that offenders of lower social status are less likely to be treated fairly in comparison to those in higher income brackets and of professional standing. There is a saying that I do not like but which argues that those in suits are treated more fairly than those in tracksuits. It is nonetheless apt. Sentencing guidelines and education for the Judiciary on the obvious workings of fraud and white collar crime must be put in place. We are all living with the results of such crime. Sentencing guidelines that draw attention to the socioeconomic impact of white collar crime and corruption would assist in ensuring consistency and fairness in sentencing. They would also help underscore the intended deterrent effect of sanctions contained in existing legislation.

There must be consequences for those involved in such acts so they do not happen again and we can break the cycle of acceptability of corporate crime and fraud. This would involve a multidimensional approach to punishing corrupt or fraudulent behaviour, which includes custodial sentences proportionate to the impact of the crime, together with a system of financial compensation for the victims of corruption-related offences, which would be consistent with Article 9 of the Council of Europe Civil Law Convention on Corruption.

Such a system could be effectively informed by the use of socioeconomic victim impact statements and even community impact statements. One can consider the recent revelations from Anglo Irish Bank and the damage these caused; not one person in the State would be unwilling to write a victim impact statement on these consequences. The programme for Government not only commits to legislation dealing with white collar crime but also the introduction of legislation dealing with whistleblowers. We must create a position where people are given all the protection necessary to facilitate them to report corporate misconduct. This will not only increase the amount of white collar crime prosecutions and introduce a greater level of accountability within companies but could help create an ethos where corruption is no longer tolerated. We need that as soon as possible, and we need all the tools necessary to bring about a culture change in corporate Ireland.

Legislation in this area has been overly complex and allows certain categories of persons to report very specific offences. Some will argue that introducing this Bill, which attempts to deal with white collar crime before introducing legislation regarding whistleblowers, could be seen as putting the cart before the horse. The promised legislation on whistleblowers must be published at the earliest possible opportunity and I ask that the Minister take that on board.

In the absence of such legislation I commend Transparency International for launching a new helpline, which will go live on Thursday, 26 May, entitled Speak Up. That is a free information helpline offering support for people with ethical dilemmas or who have concerns about possible wrongdoing within the workplace. It is one of the first of its kind in western Europe and is partially funded by the European Union.

There is already a wide range of legislation and regulatory measures in place to deal with white collar crime but it is very often sectoral and specific and does not cover the whole sphere of white collar crime. The current use of enforcement measures has been highlighted by some commentators as a greater impediment to the prosecution of white collar crime rather than a lack of suitable legislation. At the recent Irish Criminal Bar Association conference on white collar crime, Dominic McGinn SC stated:

It is clear from the breadth and scope of the regulatory scheme which has been in place since 2004 and from the myriad criminal provisions which have a potential bearing on this sector that the banking crisis of 2008 was not caused through want of a regulatory scheme or criminal sanctions. Rather, it appears that the enforcement measures, which were available to properly regulate the banking industry, were not employed to their full potential, if at all.

Further investment in the enforcement of laws and regulations preventing economic crime is imperative. Any fines or settlements arising from prosecutions of white collar criminals and corporations should therefore be allocated to a ring-fenced central fund which could be used for future investigations and prevention measures. Likewise, any embargoes on recruitment to positions providing essential investigation services in law enforcement agencies should be removed. There have been the statements from the AGSI that there are insufficient officers in the Garda bureau of fraud investigations to tackle white collar crime and that must be addressed.

The area of corporate manslaughter is one which also needs attention. If an individual within a company, namely a company director, engages in white collar crime and this leads to the death of an employee, that person must be held accountable for his or her actions. This can arise when the company director breaches safety or environmental regulations in order to make personal financial gain.

The Bill includes a number of principal themes, the first of which is the suspension of detention. Since 1984, detention has become the norm and detention periods have been extended considerably. A detention period, or clock as it is more commonly known, runs from the time a person is brought to a Garda station until the detention time permitted under the particular legislation covering the arrest has elapsed. The clock may stop or be suspended during detention in limited circumstances, for example, current law allows for the suspension of questioning between midnight and 8 a.m. where the Garda in charge of the station is of the opinion that questioning should be postponed in order to allow the suspect to rest. Currently the suspect must consent in writing to the suspension but this Bill will introduce the suspension of questioning between midnight and 8 a.m. generally and the suspension will not depend on the opinion of the member in charge. However, questioning will not be suspended where the detained person objects to the suspension or the member in charge of the station authorises continued questioning on the grounds that to delay would involve a risk of injury to other persons, serious damage to property or interference with accomplices. The Minister outlined one such scenario in respect of kidnapping cases. Currently, the clock may also be stopped if a person is taken from a Garda station to a hospital or other suitable place for medical attention. The Bill does not change these provisions.

The Bill does however propose two major changes in respect of the suspension of the detention clock. Section 7 of the Bill proposes to allow detention periods for relevant offences to be broken into segments where there are reasonable grounds for doing so. A person could, for example, be detained for two hours initially and the remainder of the detention resumed at a later date following further investigation. We are told that the rationale behind this change is that white collar crime is often complex and involves large amounts of data. The Bill proposes that detention periods may only be suspended on two occasions and the entirety of the detention must take place within a four month period. While I agree that the investigation of white collar crime is a complex process a number of questions remain to be answered. What happens during the period of suspension? Does the suspect have to surrender his or her passport and will he or she be allowed to carry on working? What recourse is available if his or her employers suspend him or her pending the outcome of the investigation? It is possible that an individual could be detained, released and detained for questioning again over a period of as long as four months. We must take care that the Bill does not infringe the most basic principle of our judicial system, that is, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. If somebody is brought in for questioning and the detention period is suspended, the case will be hanging over that individual's head and people will always presume there is no smoke without fire. This aspect of the Bill warrants further discussion and explanation as it progresses through the House.

Section 9 of the Bill allows for the detention clock to be stopped while a suspect waits to consult with his or her solicitor in person or over the telephone. This will prolong the period of detention for many suspects depending on how long it takes for a solicitor to arrive or become available to consult by telephone. The Bill provides that the period will not exceed three hours or any such shorter period as the Minister may prescribe by regulation. The clock may be stopped for six hours where a person detained pursuant to section 4 of the 1984 Act objects to the suspension of questioning between midnight and 8 a.m. In effect this will allow for the establishment of two separate clocks, a detention clock and an investigation clock.

The Bill suggests that a failure on the part of a member of the Garda Síochána to observe a provision of the regulations on a suspect accessing a lawyer shall not affect the lawfulness of the custody of the detained person or the admissibility in evidence of any statement made by him or her. However, any breach of these regulations may render a Garda liable to disciplinary action. I ask for clarification on this issue because it raises the question of how evidence obtained during a period when a member of the Garda breaches regulations can be considered lawful.

One of the more frustrating issues facing those who prosecute white collar crime has been the slow pace of the investigations. Failure to compel suspects to co-operate with an investigation, produce documentation in a speedy manner or provide information relating to passwords for personal computers can stop an investigation in its tracks. Section 15 addresses this frustration by giving the Garda the power to apply to the District Court for orders to compel witnesses to answer questions or provide statements and to produce documents. The documents must refer to relevant offences and any information provided must have been obtained in the ordinary course of business. The questions to be answered must be set out in the application to the District Court. Before making an order under section 15, the court must be satisfied there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that a person has control or possession of particular documents, that the documents are relevant to the investigation, that the documents may constitute evidence of or relating to the commission of that offence and that the documents should be produced or access granted because of the benefit likely to accrue to the investigation and other relevant circumstances. Some advocacy groups have expressed concern about forcing witnesses to answer questions but, while I share those concerns, radical steps are necessary if we are to deal with white collar crime once and for all.

Section 15 also contains an important power in regard to the presentation of evidence. When a court makes an order to produce documents under section 15 it can also specify how the documents should be identified and categorised. That will help because the section also requires the production of a certificate or statement of evidence identifying and indexing the relevant documentation allowing its admissibility, thereby avoiding hearsay evidence rules.

The Bill also deals with the issue of privilege. Section 16(3) allows a person who refuses to produce or give access to the document ordered under section 15 to apply to the District Court for a determination as to whether the document in question is privileged. The Garda may also apply to the District Court for a determination as to privilege where a person refuses to produce or allow access to a document. Where there is a substantial number of documents to be examined a judge of the District Court has the option to appoint an experienced and independent person with suitable legal qualifications to examine the documents and make conclusions.

Section 19 proposes to create a new offence of withholding information in respect of relevant offences, to be punishable by up to a maximum of five years imprisonment and-or an unlimited fine. Section 19 states that a person will be guilty of an offence if he or she has information which he or she knows to be or believes may be of material assistance in preventing the commission by any other person of a relevant offence or securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any other person for said offence. This places a much heavier onus than heretofore on witnesses to report potential or actual crimes. This again points to the importance of the introduction of the promised whistleblowers legislation, and I urge the Minister to bring it forward. There is no date for its publication but it should go hand in hand with the legislation we are discussing.

I commend the Minister on acting in such a speedy manner in bringing forward this Bill. White collar crime affects everybody and I look forward to debating the detail of the Bill as it progresses through the House and to examining the regulations the Minister has promised. I reiterate that he will have every co-operation from this side of the House in regard to any legislation which will, once and for all, nail the issue of white collar crime.

I propose to share time with Deputies Pringle, Mattie McGrath and Clare Daly.

Given the personal impact on almost every household in the country of the economic crash it is understandable that there should be a demand for those who caused the problem to be punished. The question is whether this Bill will help to achieve that end.

I watched part of RTE's "Prime Time" programme last night which featured two key figures in the national downfall, namely, Seán Dunne, who owes €350 million to NAMA and is reconstructing his life and that of his family in the United States, and David Drumm, who took over from Seán FitzPatrick at Anglo Irish Bank, the bank that sucked tens of billions of taxpayers' money and contributed to our national downfall. While tens of thousands of people are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and almost 450,000 are unemployed, the guys who were at the heart of the crash are living in leafy suburbs in the United States rebuilding their lives in a way that is not possible for the vast majority of people in this State. They have helped to bankrupt our country and appear to have walked away largely unscathed.

The final insult was the revelation in last night's programme that the Revenue Commissioners have paid Mr. Drumm a rebate of €11,000. That is truly galling. It seems both men's greatest asset is their wives to whom they have transferred assets. The outrage felt by the public in the face of these revelations is building rather than diminishing. There is a growing demand that these people face, and are seen to face, consequences for their actions, and that these should include, where appropriate, prison sentences.

I thank the Oireachtas Library service for its briefing document and the explanatory memorandum which accompanies the Bill. While I generally support the Bill, there are several issues about which I have concerns. First is the provision regarding the stopping of the detention clock. Hopefully there will be an opportunity to tease this out on Committee Stage and I note what the Minister said earlier. I am concerned that this may impinge on certain constitutional rights and would thus be open to challenge. We are dealing with people who have the financial means to issue such a challenge.

There is little point enacting new legislation if the problem originates with poor regulation and inadequate resources. When I was previously a member of the Dáil between 2005 and 2007 there were several occasions when the Director of Corporate Enforcement sought additional staff resources, but these requests were denied by the then Fianna Fáil Government. The director complained at that time of a heavy workload and voiced concerns about his office's ability to do its job as effectively as he wished. The reality is that enforcement costs money. Without adequate resources we cannot hope to change the culture that exists and will merely expose ourselves to a repeat of the problems we are currently encountering.

The document from the Oireachtas Library includes a statement by Dominic McGinn, senior counsel, at a recent Irish Criminal Bar Association conference on white collar crime:

If lessons are to be learnt from the 2008 crash, they must surely be not to jump to introduce new legislation, not to create new criminal offences specifically targeted at bankers and not to undertake a radical overhaul of the financial regulatory system. Instead the logical steps would be to trawl through the existing Statute Book where there are more than enough well drafted provisions with which to punish wrongdoers and, more importantly, to dust off the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority Act 2003 and actually use the carefully crafted structure contained therein to regulate the system proactively.

There is little evidence that this has been done, but it must be done.

Clearly there are some new measures in this Bill that are required, including the provisions relating to legal privilege. Mr. Justice Peter Kelly was not heeded when he urged Anglo Irish Bank to reconsider some of its claims to legal professional privilege. We all remember the controversy about the passwords in the case of that institution. There is little point in having laws if they are not adequately enforced. With a public service recruitment embargo in place and the economy in crisis this is an issue that requires careful consideration. There must be an assessment of need within our regulatory and enforcement services. Where there are undue delays because of inadequate resources, employing additional staff may pay considerable dividends in terms of restoring confidence that our systems can work and that the guilty will be punished in a timely way. That is the benchmark against which the Government will be measured — not necessarily the amount of legislation that is enacted but how effective our laws are.

Earlier this month Mr. Justice Peter Kelly expressed dissatisfaction with the time it was taking to conclude the investigation into Anglo Irish Bank. While I appreciate that it is a complex investigation, a timeframe of two and a half years is not acceptable, as I am sure the Minister will agree. The vast majority of citizens consider it outrageous.

Another issue of concern to me relates to the timing of the promised generic whistleblower legislation, which is included in the C list in the legislative programme. There is an issue of natural justice here particularly given that a new obligation is being introduced in the legislation we are discussing which requires an employee to disclose information he or she believes may be of material assistance in preventing the commission of an offence. It is simply wrong not to enact the whistleblowers legislation in parallel. In a situation where someone wishes to return to work following a court appearance, for example, such a return is not viable without that type of protection.

We all know there has been huge reputational damage done to Ireland in recent years, largely as a result of actions by persons in the banking sector. However, the programme last night again highlighted the same culture of developers ignoring the laws in the US. Other cultures need to be changed here.

While the Bill primarily deals with white collar crime, is there scope to deal with other matters such as those raised in the television programme on taxis on Monday night? It was clear people with serious criminal convictions were working in the industry and members of the public were at risk. If appropriate, provisions should be included in the Bill to address that issue.

The Bill aims to make it easier for the Garda to investigate white collar crime and complex crime cases. It deals with a range of offences relating to banking, investment funds and financial services activities and its provisions will also have benefits in wider criminal investigations.

There is a great deal of frustration and anger in the country about the lack of movement on the prosecution of fraudulent activity in the banks. Why it took more than 13 months for anyone to be arrested and questioned about the goings on in Anglo Irish Bank is a source of huge anger in our communities. We have also heard that the former chief executive officer of Irish Nationwide Building Society has still not repaid his €1 million retirement bonus, despite everything that had gone on in that institution. Too often in Ireland we have been good at bringing in regulation and very weak at enforcing it. This is at its most obvious in the banks and the banking fiasco that we have suffered through over the past three years and will pay for for many years to come.

In the words of the song, "an outlaw robs you with a gun and a banker with a fountain pen" but the bankers walk away with golden handshakes and massive bonuses. We need to change drastically the view among the establishment in Ireland that the only criminals are those who deal in drugs or those involved in violent crime or robbery. White collar crime is just as poisonous in society and has to be treated as such.

Transparency International's 2009 country study states:

Financial regulations, where they have applied to Ireland's financial sector, appear to have been enforced sporadically. Irish businesses have also lagged behind other countries in terms of their commitment to fraud and corruption risk management.

If this legislation contributes to changing these attitudes, then it will be welcome. However, the study also states, "legislation, new anti-corruption bodies and increased resources will not effect change on their own" and what needs to change is the "ambivalence that appears to be shared by many in positions of authority".

The Bill attempts to make it easier for the Garda to investigate white collar crime by ensuring information is provided in a timely, organised fashion and it also creates a new offence of not reporting a crime by individuals who may be aware of it. It also provides for the suspension of detention in certain circumstances, most notably between 12 midnight and 8 a.m. This provision is also welcome because we have to remember that any person being questioned should be subject to the presumption of innocence and we need to keep that in mind at all times. I understand this provision will apply for all suspects, except murder suspects, in Garda custody. Too often in the past, suspects have admitted crimes under duress that could have been caused by lack of sleep and exhaustion that have led to high profile miscarriages of justice. A miscarriage of justice in white collar crime is just as serious as any miscarriage of justice and should not be tolerated.

There is no shortage of legislation or regulation to prosecute white collar crime. As an eminent senior counsel stated at a recent Irish Criminal Bar Association conference, "the prosecutorial weapons are there, we are just choosing not to use them". This could be because of the sectoral aspects of the crimes under the various Acts that govern white collar crime such as the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud) Act 2010, the Companies Acts 1963, Central Bank Acts and financial services authorities Act. This results in a complex system for the Garda and the DPP to trawl through.

The other weakness in the system is the lack of comprehensive whistleblowers legislation. This is provided for in the programme for Government but, as has been stated, it has been placed on the C list in the legislative programme. This Bill will not be as effective as hoped without adequate protection for whistleblowers. Such protection is provided in some legislation but again it is sectoral in effect. This Bill needs to be promoted on the list to ensure the fight against white collar crime can be effective. Simple legislation could cover the public and private sectors and ensure people who highlight crime in the public interest do not suffer for that.

I hope the legislation makes the investigation process easier but we also need to change the attitudes to white collar crime that exist within the community and the establishment.

Ba mhaith liom mo chomhgairdeachas a dhéanamh leis an Aire. I congratulate the Minister and wish him all the best in his portfolio.

I welcome this overdue Bill relating to white collar crime. Recent episodes, particularly the inquiry into the operations of Anglo Irish Bank, have highlighted the need to amend the law on white collar crime. I compliment RTE and the journalists working on "Prime Time Investigates" for highlighting and exposing many of these issues but they are worrying and disconcerting for ordinary taxpayers who are trying to raise their families. The perception is there is one law for the rich and one law for the poor, which is unacceptable. That is a bad message to send out but I do not wish to shoot the messenger. Journalists do a good job in their investigations.

However, recent episodes have been compounded and ordinary people are left shaking their heads with a sense of helplessness and disbelief that people in high profile positions in Anglo Irish Bank, which never had a branch on the high street, are not being prosecuted. We are paying the price for the near ruination of the country for which the bank is responsible and the other banks followed. People see these bankers can leave for foreign shores, live the high life and remain in business — some of them have claimed in recent times to be living on a frugal income. That causes huge anguish and trauma and it is a worrying trend in our society, especially for young people who have attended school and college and cannot get work when they graduate and provide for themselves. It leads to other forms of crime.

A detailed investigation of requirements in this area was conducted by the previous Government. We must complete the passage of Bill, if at all possible, before the summer recess to avoid problems and delays in the investigation and prosecution of white collar crime. Fraud and corruption is being exposed at many levels and the latest scandal relating to the NCT is another example. I do not blame anybody because everybody is innocent until proven guilty but we have to restore people's faith in all our systems and, in particular, in our legal system.

Recently the Master of the High Court, Mr. Edmund Honohan, commented on cases coming before the courts and the extent to which ordinary business people were being pursued by financial institutions and State institutions such as the Revenue. They are being driven to distraction and, in some cases, sadly to such a state of despair that they have ended their own lives and their problems are left for their families. This has affected my constituents. I read newspaper reports of Mr. Honohan's statement last weekend. He is in an interesting position and he was honest, open and frank in his comments. People may be aware of what he is talking about but it is not being picked up. I understand that if a person is entitled to a rebate from Revenue, but when there are question marks over individuals, there must be some way to withhold rebates. Withholding of tax by the Revenue comes into play for the self-employed if one's C2 is not in order. One has to wait a long time to get it back — until all one's accounts are in order. Surely it is not beyond the powers that be to withhold rebates to people who have question marks having over them.

White collar crime is as damaging, if not more damaging, to our society and indeed our economic security and survival as the more conventional crime. We must try to make it easier for the authorities, especially An Garda Síochána, to deal with it. They need to be equipped with the necessary tools because such crime is highly sophisticated. It must be treated as such. There is a moral and social obligation on us not to allow such reckless and criminal behaviour to be perceived as acceptable by future generations of business leaders. We must send a clear signal that the type of practices that have brought us close to ruination cannot be repeated. That requires all of us to consider our values but also it requires strict legal parameters around unscrupulous business activities, so that there can be no ambiguity about right and wrong.

The previous Financial Regulator utterly failed to do his duty. The duties of his office were completely neglected. He went off into the sunset with his pay-off and pension. I am aware of contracts from my business experience. If one enters into a contract it is a two-way street. Both parties are obliged to fulfil the contract. If one does not, one does not get paid. That is what ordinary people are putting up with. All Oireachtas Members have received communications from people working for a company in this country who currently have problems getting paid. If one completes a contract one expects to get paid, but if one is in breach of it one does not expect to get paid. Ordinary people are bewildered as to how that can happen and how it did happen. It is just not good enough.

The message we need to send out at every possible opportunity is that Ireland is open for business in an honest, open and straightforward fashion. Enacting and implementing the legislation will go some way towards restoring business confidence in the county and will be another step in our recovery. Small and medium sized business is overwhelmed by the amount of regulation and red tape. Up to 99% of people in that sector do not have time to even contemplate white collar crime. That is my honest belief. I hope that once we emerge from the recession, we will have stronger systems, that are fit for purpose in the modern business world and will involve penalties that will make people think twice before they consider any crime of that nature.

In the US, it took four months to investigate Madoff and the collapse of his €85 billion Ponzi scheme, a probe that involved 140 interviews and trawling through 3.7 million e-mails and documents. Less than three months after the investigation ended, Madoff was in jail. This country's approach to investigating allegations of white-collar and financial crime has been pathetic. I do not say that lightly. I accept everyone is innocent until proven guilty but this spectacle is sending out all the wrong messages to the young, especially, but to all law-abiding people and to those abroad who observe us.

Mr. Paul Appleby's Office of the Director Enforcement, ODCE, is charged with cleaning up corporate Ireland but his office lacks any legal backup — it has no teeth. Most fraud investigations are by their nature, highly complex, and involve the examination of large amounts of documentation requiring input from forensic accountants and the obtaining of legal advice. They are also very expensive. We must ensure that the necessary resources are provided and that the law behind it is strong and that cases once made are watertight. Small business has to contend with NERA, the RSA, HSA and HIQA to mention but a few.

Specified serious and complex offences will attract a penalty of at least five years imprisonment, in such areas as banking and finance, company law, money laundering, fraud, corruption and cyber crime. Once it is enacted, the legislation can be used in current investigations in respect of which no prosecution has as yet begun. That is very important. Perhaps we could speed up the legislation to ensure it could be used in such cases. The complexity of the investigations have shown that it is not always possible to complete questioning and check facts in one period of 24 hour detention. It is welcome that detention times can be split up and offer a second or third bite of the cherry. Given that my time is up I thank the Acting Chairman for her forbearance. I hope the Minister will proceed with the Bill as soon as possible.

Obviously one will not meet anyone anywhere who will say that he or she is not in favour of white collar crime being tackled, but I do not accept that the legislation will in any way fundamentally alter the situation. I do not believe it will even scratch the surface to deal with the issue and the affront to taxpayers of us and future generations being burdened with the crimes of those who operated in our banks and many of the developers among others. If we really wish to deal with the issue then a radically different approach is required than has been adopted to date and a real prioritisation of the issues in terms of the political will to deal with it and the provision of the necessary resources. Even since the election of the new Government we have been given a graphic example of different approaches or a two-tier country in which we have different approaches to fraud.

The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, has already indicated she will wage war, all guns blazing on the 780,000 claimants of social welfare. She intends to review all of those cases on the basis of their lifestyle and display of wealth to see whether they may be guilty of fraud. When one wants to talk about lifestyle and display of wealth one should really be talking about the individuals to whom Deputy Catherine Murphy alluded, those highlighted in "Primetime" last night, the likes of Drumm, Dunne and all of the others who are being supported by their wives who never had an independent income prior to what they received from their husbands — serious fraud issues that have been ongoing in this country for decades in many cases and have been proven in many tribunals. Nothing has been done to address them. All of the main parties have been in power when the crimes were perpetrated and the tribunals took place, probably starting with the Goodman tribunal investigating the carousel of cattle being moved back and fro across the Border to avail of EU funds. It was proven to be fraud but, again, nothing was done about it. Mr. Goodman is wealthier now than he was then, although we are told that the practice has ceased, allegedly. I do not accept that the legislation will make a difference at all. We need a different approach.

A very good example to highlight the inadequacies of the situation in this country was seen inThe Irish Times during the week involving two separate cases. On the one hand there was the case of Raj Rajaratnam, the US hedge fund billionaire, who was found guilty last week of insider trading, of making $63 million on the back of access to secrets. He faces a sentence of 19 and a half years in jail. The same newspaper dealt with a case in this country of DCC, which was lauding its increased profitability. The company was found guilty by the Supreme Court of insider trading on Fyffes shares and a judgment was awarded against it. An investigation was carried out by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and a file was sent to the DPP. The response that was sent back contained two words, “No Prosecution”.

If we really want to deal with white collar crime then let us examine the role of the DPP. What happened in that case is not good enough. Only recently a pilot scheme has been implemented whereby the DPP will justify his decision to families of people where deaths have occurred. That is unacceptable. The DPP must say why cases are not being prosecuted; in particular when white collar crime is involved, given the impact on society. In all cases the DPP must explain his decisions. There must be more transparency and accountability.

The legislation is a joke unless the intentions are backed up with resources. It is not just a case of money or numbers. Fundamentally, it is a case of the State forces having access to the necessary expertise to deal with the issues, because unless they do then they are always going to be in an unequal relationship. The conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors was held last month. Many speakers repeatedly referred to the fact that the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is, in their own words, "stretched to the limit". We simply do not have the time to give white collar crime the priority it deserves. We do not have half enough resources. Other people referred to the fact that fraud investigation is non-existent as a result of the shortage of manpower, technology and training.

If one compares that with the mobilisation of Garda forces to protect the Queen, it gives a certain indication of where priorities lie. If we are serious about tackling white collar crime, a similar investment must accompany any measures taken in this regard.

Deputy Murphy referred to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, which is similarly understaffed. A staff of 50 is a pathetic number to deal with all the issues facing the office, particularly when a third of that number is tied up with the Anglo Irish Bank investigation. This shows the difficulties faced by the office. It is not just a question of numbers, but also a question of the skills the staff of the office have or do not have. I do not say this to be disrespectful. However, one of the key issues is the mismatch the State has in terms of expert accounting, financial and legal information versus these big corporations which can employ people perfectly skilled at dragging out the process. It is not an equal relationship and the State is always playing catch-up. This legislation does not tip that balance adequately although it may tip it minutely.

Take, for example, the order compelling the supplier of material to identify and categorise documentation rather than dump all the information — as happens currently — snowing the investigators under with the volume of information. This order leaves the onus on the supplier of information, whose professional people can find many creative ways to deal with the issues — resources, ordering, time or whatever — to continue to stall the process. One of the issues we need to look at is the role of the professional organisations — the paid experts — be they legal or financial, who have backed up much of what has gone on in this area, the people who like to give advice about semi-State workers' wages and so on. We saw the Andersen accountancy firm fold as a result of the Enron crisis. We have big accountancy firms here behind much of what is going on, but there is no investigation or regulation of many of the complaints in that regard.

There is a difference in approach to different types of fraud in Irish society. Last year, there were 254 prosecutions for social welfare fraud. Some 165 of those people were fined and eight of them ended up in jail. Some 6,681 people in this country went to jail last year for non payment of fines, but nobody served a jail sentence for white collar crime. If we are serious about dealing with these issues, this is the type of issue we must get to grips with.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Tom Barry.

The Irish people and Mr. Justice Peter Kelly are united in asking why the investigations under way have taken so long and why have we not reached a point where the State has been successfully able to bring a case to court and deliver a prosecution. That is the reason many of the elements of the Bill must be welcomed. Despite the fair points made by Deputy Daly, we must recognise that many of the measures proposed in the Bill will make a difference in moving forward an investigation. The measures are clearly based on the difficulties faced by people investigating some of our organisations, such as Anglo Irish Bank. This Bill is a substantive attempt to recognise those difficulties and deal with them. Some of the proposals and actions prescribed in the Bill, for example, with regard to suspending detention, orders to produce documents or information, documentary evidence and a new clause of withholding information, are important measures which will make a difference towards leading to a successful prosecution of crimes laid out.

There is no Member of the Opposition in the Chamber at the moment. For all the apparent concern the Opposition has with regard to the prosecution of crime and the crimes laid out in the Bill, it is noticeable that not a single Opposition Member is present in the House and that Government Members are addressing each other on the matter. For an issue that is of such gigantic public concern, the absence of the Opposition is a telling point. This absence is worth observing because there is little doubt that an essential part of rebuilding our national solidarity as a State will be the successful prosecution of the crimes laid out under this Bill, which have played a role in almost collapsing our banking system and which have placed such a huge burden on the shoulders of taxpayers.

The Bill focuses on white collar crime. Until recently, this area has been distinguishable by three particular characteristics. First, it is a crime that is tended to be seen as victimless. Second, it is a crime that tends to be highly complicated and third, it is a crime that, until recently, was perpetrated by people who were seen as people of good character. The State has paid a heavy price in learning that these definitions and characteristics of white collar crime can have a decisive effect on the fortunes of our country. We have learned that these crimes are anything but victimless crimes. We know who the victims are. They are the taxpayers who must now deal with the cost of our banking system catastrophe. We have learned they are highly complicated crimes. This characteristic of white collar crime has been reaffirmed by our experience. We have also learned that the people who have committed these crimes have not been people of good character. A mistake that has been made is that we have allowed the deviation and a difference to develop between what is legal and what is moral. Clearly, for too many people, meeting the bare minimum legal requirements was not consistent with acting in a moral fashion. We have learned the great cost of that over the past three years.

I wish to make four further points with regard to the Bill. First, I would like to compare the acceleration of legislation in financial regulation as opposed to the Bills that are laid down here which deal with the more judicial aspects of white collar crime. As someone who was involved with some of this legislation in the Seanad, I am struck by the fact that, for example, the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 lays out some strong powers the State has with regard to people performing what is described as "controlled functions" within our banking system, whereby the State will have new power to dismiss and take rapid action against people performing these functions. The Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill 2010 laid out clearly a definition of "systemic risk" with regard to the banking system and created a new role of a "special manager" and granted that individual huge power with regard to banks or financial institutions that were seen as posing a systemic risk to the health of our country. The question I would ask is whether there is a mismatch between the legislation that is being delivered from the financial regulation point of view and the legislation that issues in the judicial area. For example, within the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill there is a clear definition of systemic risk. Is there a case to be made that even greater powers be granted to people who are trying to deal quickly with cases relating to systemic risk? I would like to hear a response from the Minister on this.

The second point relates to areas of the Bill I particularly welcome. I welcome section 15 of the Bill, which relates to documentary evidence. We should recall that when the famous raid was made in February 2009 on Anglo Irish Bank headquarters, some 3.7 million documents were acquired in the process of the raid and the subsequent investigation. The provisions in this Bill with regard to the indexation of documents and how they are provided is clearly a result of the lesson that has been learned from the Anglo Irish Bank investigation. That is particularly welcome. I also strongly welcome section 19 of the Bill, which lays out the details with regard to the withholding of information and why this now becomes a crime. If somebody who is involved in or aware of an investigation taking place does not bring forward information of which he or she is aware, which impedes or slows down the investigation of the Bill, that itself is then prescribed as a crime. While I strongly welcome the overall Bill, sections 15 and 19 appear to make very strong progress in expediting these investigations.

The third area I want to emphasise relates to the resourcing of the agencies involved. I know this is an area about which the Minister, Deputy Shatter, is very concerned and one which he questioned in his first days as Minister for Justice and Equality. As we are questioning whether the resources are there, it is worth having the figures for the resources we have. The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement spent €3.7 million on corporate enforcement activities covering 425,000 companies, which is expenditure of €9 or €10 per company per year. We have a duty to question that. The British Financial Services Authority has a budget of £538 million and is increasing its staff to 3,700 this year. The British Serious Fraud Office has a budget of £51 million. I know our authorities and the Government are committed to do all they can to ensure these agencies are well resourced. This is a question we need to ask continually.

I will conclude on the powers available to these agencies. The Competition Authority made an excellent submission to the consultative paper on white collar crime the Department of Justice and Law Reform published last year. It questioned whether it would be possible to extend the investigative powers available to other agencies to give them more teeth. Apparently one of the reasons for the delay in the investigation into Anglo Irish Bank has been the unwillingness of one individual for nine months to comply with the investigation agencies, one of which is the ODCE. We need to question again whether the powers are there. I look forward to the Minister's response. I strongly welcome the Bill. I know the Government is completely committed to dealing with the matter and strengthening the solidarity we have in this area. I note again with huge regret that despite what Opposition Members may say in this area their absence from the benches today tells its own story.

I welcome the introduction of the Bill, which coming 60 days into the new Government shows its priorities and honours the commitment in the programme for Government. I agree with the previous speaker that it is unbelievable that the Opposition benches are empty and that only Government Members are speaking. It shows that our priority is to tackle white-collar crime. It should be remembered that Fine Gael-led Governments have a good track record in this area. In 1996 under the stewardship of the then Minister for Justice, Nora Owen, the Criminal Assets Bureau was formed, which has proved to be a major success.

It is evident that the Bill has been prepared sadly on the basis of experience. What we have seen in recent years with regards to white-collar crime is despicable. Many people in the banking profession acted with impunity and they seem to have absolutely no fear. The only fear these people may have is the fear of losing their personal freedom. The loss of money, while it might be an inconvenience to many of them, is temporary because money for many of them opened all doors — it even opened political doors. There was a certain acceptance of this loose behaviour with light-touch regulation — in fact one could argue no regulation at all. In some instances a celebrity-type status was conferred on these people. These were rogues and fraudsters who were being treated as if they were celebrities, which was unbelievable. Their behaviour did not seem to hurt anybody directly or impinge on the citizens as no grievous bodily harm was inflicted. However, unfortunately the consequences of their callous greed are now blatantly obvious in every household and business in the country. It is not a victimless crime. The victims are my generation and the next. It has more victims than we could possibly name and has absolutely destroyed the country. What was enough for these people? When did they have enough? Some people would say they had enough if they had three solid meals a day and a roof over their head, could rear their family and educate them decently, but for these people money was their god and they just never had enough — €1 million or €10 million, one could keep throwing it on but it was just not enough to satisfy their voracious appetite. However, time is up.

It is no wonder that the people are disillusioned with what has happened. They feel there has been a lack of accountability and a failure to address these demigods, a failure in accountability and a failure to get these people behind bars. People feel it has taken too long and while this is going on they look at their bank accounts and their circumstances and feel they do not have enough on which to live. Every person has been affected by this. However, the Bill sets things straight and is a move in the right direction.

Section 7 deals with suspended detention, which is a great idea. It allows those carrying out the investigation to pause and consider. They can go back and check it out, and bring on the investigation. It is obvious that they have been hitting a brick wall up to now and this is a major help to them. Section 3 lists the offences specified by order of the Minister namely:

(a) banking, investment of funds and other financial activities,

(b) company law,

(c) money laundering and financing terrorism,

(d) theft and fraud,

(e) bribery and corruption,

(f) competition and consumer protection,

(g) criminal acts involving the use of electronic communication networks and information systems or against such networks or systems or both, or

(h) the raising and collection of taxes and duties.

I have some concerns about the mention of competition and consumer protection. While it is vital to pursue vigorously white collar crime, there may be an overlap with competition law and this is a delicate area. The Schedule refers to: "19. An offence under Regulation 5 or 6 of the Market Abuse (Directive 2003/6/EC) Regulations 2005 (S.I. No. 342 of 2005)" and "29. An offence under section 65 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007." It is somewhat delicate because I am holding in my hand a copy of a search warrant for the Irish Farmers Association that was used a few days ago with regard to the price fixing of liquid milk in groceries.

It is the IFA's job to represent farmers and it is their right to look for a fair and honest price. Parties will always fight for what they believe is right. We must be cautious and ensure the legislation does not impinge on the right to represent.

Section 15(5) sends out a clear message on the withholding of information. It does even more in that it asks that information be presented in a clear, concise fashion. Presenting volumes of material on banking in such a way that makes it almost impossible to organise in a legible and orderly fashion puts the onus on the accused to sort out the documents.

Consider the famous electronic passwords. How many Irish people were aghast when passwords were not being released by certain bankers? It beggars belief that people could actually refuse to allow investigators access to passwords but the legislation will deal with this. The legislation specifies that information cannot be encrypted and must be in a readable format. Obviously investigators were given all sorts of mucked-up information to slow them down. The Bill needs to be tied in with the whistleblowers Bill to ensure people who give information honestly are protected and encouraged.

Section 16 deals with privileged legal material. The concept of privilege has been used to slow down and frustrate investigations. This is now being dealt with in a proper fashion because experienced people are to be allowed to assist district court judges. A case can be taken in the District Court rather quickly. If it is appealed to the Circuit Court, it will be dealt with within two to four weeks. The legislation will expedite cases rather quickly, which is a blessing in itself.

Evidential presumption comprised another method to slow down investigations. This has been addressed.

This Bill is tackling white-collar crime in a serious way. I look forward to the remaining contributions.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo. Bhí go leor oibre ar bun ag mo chomhghleacaí, Mr. Dermot Ahern, nuair a bhí sé mar Aire, maidir leis an gceist seo. Tá go leor dúshláin ag baint leis an gceist. Cé go bhfáiltím roimh an méid atá sa Bhille seo, nílim cinnte go réiteoidh sé an fhadhb. Go minic, bíonn an dream a bhíonn in aghaidh Bille i gcásanna mar seo eolasach. Bíonn acmhainní acu agus troidfidh siad ina aghaidh go dtí an líne.

I welcome the Bill, which is very timely. Work was taking place for some considerable time in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform under the predecessor of the current Minister to determine what could be done to tackle this issue. In welcoming the provisions of the Bill, I still do not believe it will be very easy to secure convictions. This presents a challenge. At meetings all over the country in recent years, people have asked me why we did not lock up the wrongdoers. We need to ensure wrongdoers end up in prison and that this is achieved within the law. I used to try to explain patiently to people that certain rules could not be broken. The first rule is that there must be a judicial process and that one cannot put people in prison unless there is a conviction. One cannot deem somebody guilty because the Government says so.

It is important, notwithstanding the frustration that arises from the patient, proper application of the law, that there be a proper process. The many people who have called for a less-than-proper process are making a mistake that will have long-term consequences. The integrity of the legal system is important.

The second rule is perfectly clear but many ordinary people do not grasp it fully. It is that the Government has no role in prosecution. It is in a corrupt state that politicians have an influence in deciding who is convicted of crime and who goes to prison. It is very important that we maintain the separation of powers, which is so central.

White-collar crime is very serious and I appreciate that the legal and illegal actions of people — including grossly negligent actions, be they legal or otherwise — have cost people very dearly in the past five to ten years. They have caused great grief, sorrow and difficulties for people. I remember saying that a perfect example of the system getting its person on foot of the commission of a heinous crime is the Guildford and Coventry bombings and what happened subsequently. The authorities getting their men by taking shortcuts with the legal system and the release of those whom they put in prison are the events that are now remembered. It is often forgotten that many people died in those horrendous events and that the perpetrators have never been brought to justice properly. There was no proper conviction. It is important when following a legal process that it be robust and proper and that a proper decision be made at the end that can withstand any subsequent test.

There are very good suggestions in the Bill as to how we can address serious abuses. Deputy Barry outlined these very well. He referred to how one can reduce the number of ways in which one can frustrate the system. He referred to passwords. It is absolutely scandalous that they were withheld but it was done nevertheless. With regard to making paperwork very difficult, I understand that in some cases there can be up to 150,000 e-mails. If one does not trawl through them all before trying to secure a prosecution in court, the defence will refer to one that one has not seen in order to try contradict one. The provision of evidence in a usable way and the suspension of detention procedures all make sense.

I hope the legislation works. It will make the system better but I do not know whether it will address the need of the public for relatively quick prosecution in cases where it is felt there is a very clearprima facie case. Mr. Justice Kelly spoke about having a clear prima facie case that one cannot get into court. I hope the legislation delivers in this regard. It would be very good if it did. People are totally frustrated but I do not underestimate what the Government is up against. Given the nature of the crimes in question and the types of people one is fighting, we must accept that these steps, welcome as they are, might not resolve all our difficulties.

Let us consider the nature of white-collar crime. The nature of a violent crime is very visible. If somebody hits another individual and there are witnesses, it is relatively easy to identify who got hit, who did the hitting and that hitting somebody is a crime. In the case of white-collar crime, the first step is to prove the action was illegal. There were many actions in the past five or ten years that were grossly negligent but the question of whether they were illegal is a different issue. It is not illegal to have a company that goes bust as long as one has not traded illegally or recklessly. Therefore, the first step is to establish the legality, or otherwise, of the action. Even if this can be done very simply, one must determine whether one can obtain evidence to prove it in a court of law.

It might be commonly perceived or "known" that a thing happened, but one of the huge challenges is whether one can get the evidence to prove it in a court of law. It is not only a case of proving an illegal action took place but my understanding is that sometimes the problem is who knew what, which person it was and if it was the person who is arraigned before the court who was knowingly and willingly guilty of the illegal action.

The final issue, and this is probably indicative of the eternal unfairness of life, is that one is fighting people who will hire the best legal experts in the country and will spare no time or expense in fighting the case. One of the interesting and difficult challenges facing a government and state is the fact that in these high-powered cases involving very influential and powerful people one often finds that the resources they can muster to fight the state are much greater than those the state can muster to fight them. The Director of Public Prosecutions or the Director of Corporate Enforcement is trying to deal with many cases at the same time.

I heard the Minister discussing this Bill on the radio following its publication. He was asked the obvious question, one which we asked many times of our colleagues when we were in government, as to whether the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Garda Síochána fraud squad had sufficient resources to do the job. The Minister gave the same answer that we had given many times, which is that they do have the resources and they have been told that if they believe they do not have the resources and that the logjam is due to a lack of resources, those resources will be made available. I am glad this Government is following the same policy we followed, although it was probably not recognised as our policy at the time, that resources should not be an impediment to dealing with this issue. No doubt, however, these various offices would also argue that resources is not just a question of bodies but that they need people who know what they are doing, who understand the work being done and who can follow it through to bring the matter to a conclusion. Therefore, we face huge challenges.

A point I have strongly made for some time is that unless we keep working on this issue, society will be seen to be unfair by those who are least well off. They know that if they are caught shoplifting, they are likely to get a custodial sentence following summary judgment in the District Court. It might be somebody who did not get a chance in life or somebody with an addiction issue. They then see the State forever chasing people who are considered by the public, and obviously I cannot prejudge a situation ahead of court proceedings, to be responsible for serious wrongdoing and illegality. The State appears to be incapable of getting such people into court. As long as that injustice exists, there will be people who believe that the law is less than equal. It might be equal in theory but the reality is that those who have knowledge, background and commit certain types of crime have a much better chance of getting away with it than the perhaps more innocent people who get convictions in our courts.

Another matter I feel strongly about, have fought with previous colleagues about and on which I spoke in the context of another Bill before the Dáil is our tendency to think that prison should always be the solution for people who are caught for certain types of crime. A statistic I recall from the time I had responsibility for the RAPID programme has stayed in my mind. It is that half of the prisoners in the jails in Dublin came from six parishes in Dublin. I do not believe that the people in those six parishes were born worse people than anybody else. I do not believe people are intrinsically good or bad by virtue of the parish in which they are born. In examining this issue we must deal with achieving a much greater balance in the perception of the law by the people of this country.

I have always believed, particularly in the case of young people, that putting people into prison is as good as putting them into an academy of crime. I welcomed the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Bill. Putting people into community service is a far more practical way of helping them in a positive way than thinking that punishing them by locking them up will solve the problem. This week there was a meeting of the joint policing committee in Galway during which the issue of graffiti was raised. The Garda Síochána told us that it cannot get enough people from the probation service to remove all the graffiti. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, is dealing with overcrowded prisons every day. At the meeting I made the case for opening the doors of the prisons, removing everybody who is there for less than a year and has only six months to serve and making them paint over the graffiti every day. They would be better off, society would be better off and we would be moving in the right direction.

One of the big problems one faces in government is what I call "the memo". Government is very sectionalised, as I am sure the members of the new Government are discovering. When one is outside government one tends to look at matters in a connected way and one tries to have a holistic policy. However, what happens in Government Departments is that one gets a series of memos; they seem to come on a conveyor belt. It many cases the memo has a very narrow focus, which is fine in itself but does not connect to a holistic view of how one solves problems. Therefore, each Department fights its own corner perfectly, and the Department of Justice and Equality, for example, does not want to give up money by letting prisoners out on probation, as it will not have as much money next year. The holistic approach to government is sometimes lacking. I do not blame a particular Government for that, as it has long been the way, but that does not mean I do not believe we should tackle this problem.

Céim mhór chun cinn atá sa Bhille seo agus tá go leor inti gur féidir a mholadh. Mar a dúirt mé ar ball, bhí obair ar bun ar an mBille seo i bhfad sular tháinig an tAire Shatter isteach sa Roinn. Guím chuile rath ar an mBille agus tá súil agam go gcuirfear i bhfeidhm é. Níl aon amhras ach go bhfuil ceisteanna beaga go gcaithfear a scrúdú agus ba cheart iad a scrúdú, ach is Bille é atá práinneach. Mura réiteoidh an Bille seo an fhadhb, tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go bhféachaimid an bhfuil aon rud eile gur féidir linn a dhéanamh le déanamh cinnte gur féidir daoine a dhéanann coireanna den chineál seo a thabhairt os comhair na cúirte chomh sciobtha agus is féidir daoine eile a thabhairt os comhair na cúirte agus nach bhfeicfear go bhfuil deighilt sa phobal idir iad siúd a bhfuil acmhainní acu agus atá ag plé leis an gcineál seo coireanna agus iad siúd nach bhfuil chomh maith as agus a dhéanann rud ar bith atá níos feiceáilí agus níos eásca a dhaoradh sa chúirt.

Braitheann gnáth phobal na tíre seo go bhfuil éagóir déanta ag na daoine seo. Braitheann siad go bhfuil éagóir fíor-thromchúiseach déanta orthu ag caimiléireacht na daoine mór le rá. Tá siad ag cur na ceiste chuile lá faoi cén fáth nach bhfuil na daoine seo tugtha os comhair na cúirte. Tuigim dóibh agus tuigim an frustrachas a bhaineann, ó thaobh an phobail de, leis an gceist seo.

Mar sin, tá súil agam, nuair a bheidh sé seo ina Acht, go dtiocfaidh sé cuid den bhealach leis an fhadhb seo a réiteach. Tá faitíos an tsaoil orm nach réiteoidh sé an fhadhb uilig de bharr scála na faidhbe, ach fiú más céad chéim é leis na fadbhanna atá ann daoine a chionntú as coireanna den chineál seo, fiú muna bhfuil ann ach an chéad chéim, cuirim fáilte roimhe. Tá súil agam, muna n-éireoidh leis seo na torthaí ar mhaith linn a bhaint amach, go dtiocfaimid ar ais agus go dtógfaimid tuilleadh céimeanna le déanamh cinnte go dtabharfar na daoine atá ciontach as coireanna, na bónaí bána mar a thugtar orthu — is sean téarma é "white collar" agus ní chaitheann mórán daoine white collars inniu, ach caitheann mise iad — os comhair na cúirte. Tá sé tábhachtach go bhfeicfear gurb é an córas dlí céanna atá i bhfeidhm dóibh siúd agus atá i gceist do chuile duine eile den phobal.

The next speaker is Deputy Anne Ferris, who I believe is sharing time with two other Deputies.

That is correct.

I welcome the Bill. The Criminal Justice Bill 2011 shows that this Government will stand firm against misconduct by the financial industry. Like the jobs initiative launched only last week, this Bill delivers on another promised priority by the Government to be delivered in the first 100 days of office. I must also welcome the cross-party support it has received, though in the case of Fianna Fáil, its welcome support for the Government's Bill is a little after the fact. Had Fianna Fáil enacted this Bill in any of the past 14 years in which it was in power, perhaps some of the recklessness of the banks could have been avoided.

Let us be clear. The recklessness of the previous Government and the banks with whom they were in bed has seriously hurt this economy. The reverberations of their failed economic policies and the damage they have done are still being felt on a day to day basis by people around the country. The negative effect the bank guarantee had on the state finances cannot be underestimated. The bank guarantee, which only the Labour Party opposed, has cost the country dearly. There are now thousands of people unemployed, many hundreds of businesses are struggling and many more people at risk of losing their homes. How is that possible when we are supposed to live in a Republic?

Billions of euro have had to be poured into a faulty banking system and not enough of those responsible have been held to account. It is certainly something I hope to see remedied in the future. After all, why should the ordinary Irish person take the financial remedies, which are now necessary, when faintly dim, rugby playing bank executives get off scot free? One of these executives in particular, Seán FitzPatrick, a constituent of mine in County Wicklow — I doubt he voted for me — owes a massive and sincere apology to the taxpayers of this country. From what I understand, while he may be bankrupt, that he has transferred property to family members and attempted to put assets beyond the reach of the State is a major cause of concern. It is for these reasons I welcome the provisions of this Criminal Justice Bill, because the proposed legislation provides the ammunition to tackle these complex financial irregularities.

Legislation for white collar crime should have been introduced many years ago. The victims of these crimes are not always readily identifiable as immediately as those who suffer physical injury, but victims they certainly are. It is clear today that the entire State has been subjected to this type of crime. The Bill before the House allows for investigations on banking, financial and company irregularities to be conducted in a manner that allows for greater flexibility and power. The speed of investigations will be also potentially increased significantly by the ability provided by the Bill to tackling the swamping of investigators with documentation.

Not only do I welcome a Bill that ends the perception of impunity for the white collar criminal, but I also welcome recent plans by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to move the bankers in Bank of Ireland from their cosy home in College Green. It is a damning indictment of society that a bank has physical ownership of an Irish Parliament that was originally built to serve the people. When the House of a Parliament becomes the boardroom of a bank, we should know our society is in trouble. It is galling that when many people are losing or on the verge of losing their homes, that the Bank of Ireland should look to keep its home. This institution thrived on selling people fantastic mortgages and encouraged others to leverage everything they had against uncertain assets. It amazes me, therefore, that it would be allowed keep its comfy home. Many of these bankers actively lied to their shareholders and to their customers.

This Bill is important. Those who are involved in financial impropriety ought to be punished and not let off because they feel they occupy some privileged position. On February 25, the people spoke with a voice that toppled a tired and wasted Government, and through this Bill today, one of its lasting legacies of financial corruption properly will be addressed. I commend this Bill to the House because this is a people's, not a bankers', republic.

I welcome this Bill, which is part of the programme for Government and which we have delivered within the first 100 days, as promised. White collar crime in some quarters is seen as victimless crime. However, I completely disagree with that because there is always a victim at some stage. While the victim might not be immediately associated with the crime, people will suffer somewhere along the way.

While most comments have been associated with the recent economic crash and the effect certain bankers have had on the economy and on our people, there are many other forms of white collar crime, such as insurance fraud, social welfare fraud and so on. In the "Great Crash" of 1929, it was many years before the people whose white collar crimes brought about the crash were prosecuted. One of the major players from the crash was eventually prosecuted in 1938. That is why I am delighted the Minister has indicated that, once enacted, the legislation can be availed of to assist with current investigations as well as future investigations.

The key parts of the Bill address the problem of investigators from the Garda Síochána being snowed under with masses of documentation. We can all remember the boxes of files that were taken from Anglo Irish Bank headquarters a couple of years ago. Some files were not released on demand at the time, but this Bill will address that problem. The Bill also allows for investigators to work in a more efficient manner. The smart economy is about dealing with things much more efficiently. The Bill also takes into account the experiences of investigators in their efforts to pursue white collar crime. Practical experience gets practical results. I welcome the fact that the Minister took the time, in his relatively short period in office, to listen to the investigators who are being hindered in their pursuit of white collar criminals.

To assist in the implementation of this Bill, it is necessary that we bring forward some whistleblower legislation. This will encourage people to bring forward information on their own companies, so that those who are participating in white collar crime can be quickly brought to court. Those who saw the "Prime Time Investigates" programme on Monday night identified readily with people who could not identify themselves but who gave information to the reporter. As a result of that, we saw that certain individuals in the National Car Testing Service have been let go from their position. These whistleblowers were safeguarded in the programme, which is vitally important. Whistleblower legislation should be enacted to complement the Bill before us.

I welcome the Bill tonight and I look forward to supporting it when the time comes.

I thank Deputy Ferris for sharing time with me.

I welcome the Criminal Justice Bill 2011. One of its main introductory tenets is that justice delayed is justice denied and that people who carried out wrongdoing are amenable for that wrongdoing.

In the past number of days and weeks we have had reminders of how unfair has been the treatment of various persons and parts of society. I recall reading a case in the courts about a year ago of a mother of a couple of children who was not well — she was depressed and on medication, and attending hospital — which was reported by Ms Mary Carolan inThe Irish Times. The woman had come before the courts because she had taken out a credit card with a credit card company and had very quickly, because she was unwell with depression, run up her full credit limit. After some legal letters for collection of the amount outstanding, which was under €1,500, which she had ignored because she was not well, she was brought before the courts and convicted, and she was incarcerated in prison. There was at least another solicitor who was not involved in the case who had observed what had happened and knew that a grave injustice had occurred, and who brought an appeal against the sentence. The second judge, in the rehearing of the case, saw that what had happened was absurd. The credit card company had carried out no checks whatsoever on the documentation, which, incidentally, had been filled out by this lady in hospital without proper preparation or regard to any of her circumstances. That improper documentation had led to the uncollectible credit balance, and the non-payment of it. Despite some reminders over a period of months, she ended up in prison and that was wrong. That was a case of the procedures of a credit card company just being used in a mechanistic, irresponsible and negligent way.

That sort of negligence travelled up and down through financial institutions over the past number of years, right up to board level and the people who should have been forming professional judgment on the accounts of banks and insurance companies who ignored the principles of prudential accounting. While both sides of balance sheets may have added up and there were no technical arithmetic errors, and neurotic internal rules might have been applied in overview terms, there is a strong case that professional negligence had occurred and by any measure, the result of that negligence has led to the financial pain and destruction being felt by families throughout the economy. The remarks last week of the Master of the High Court, Mr. Edmund Honohan SC, and the remarks of Mr. Justice Peter Kelly about the delays in processing cases in the courts, show that while there is not grievous bodily harm victims or visible destruction of property, for example, by means of fire, there is significant damage in our society.

The Bill contains elements that are particularly valuable in this regard. Section 19 brings the responsibility to everybody in financial institutions and in business, and for that matter anywhere, that if there is to his or her knowledge something amiss, something wrong, something that could be criminal, it is his or her duty and responsibility to refer it to the authorities and to ensure that the authorities do something about it, and only reasonable excuses would be allowed in that case. The penalty for ignoring one's responsibility could be five years in jail or limitless fines. That is good. That is a wake-up call for everybody.

There were some other cases in the past few years the results of which were breathtaking, for instance, the insider trading case of DCC, where the Supreme Court on the appeal hearing, after the High Court saw that there was no insider trading, unanimously decided that there was an insider trading case. In delivering the Supreme Court decision, Mr. Justice Fennelly stated, to make it easy for everybody to understand, that insider trading is a fraud on the market. Nobody had any excuse for not understanding what was determined in that case. The Director of Corporate Enforcement, Mr. Appleby, was impelled on that decision to have conducted an investigation on the company to see if there were grounds for a criminal prosecution or to determine exactly what had occurred and Mr. Bill Shipsey SC produced a report, which took about a year and cost approximately €1.4 million. That report was limp and it merely concluded that there was no further case to be made which is staggering when one considers that the Supreme Court's unanimous decision had been that aprima facie insider trading case had taken place and that that was a fraud on the market. No wonder the public is bewildered by these sort of outcomes. I, therefore, again, welcome the Criminal Justice Bill because it tightens up the sort of areas where fog and vagueness had reigned.

I return to one point on which I touched. Where there has been negligence — no doubt there was because the collapse of the financial system was so considerable that it could only have occurred with wilful negligence and contributory negligence — it begs the question as to what we need to do to address professional poor conduct. That is another area that can be brought in under the microscope or viewfinder because we do not want the law courts to be where one gets lots of law and no justice. They are the called the courts of justice, they are also called the law courts, and in recent times we have a lot more law and very little justice. I would ask all Members of the House on both sides to think about these matters when we are examining the nuts and bolts and technical construction of the legislation in these areas.

One point that arose this morning in our discussion took my breath away. There was a question asked as to whether AIB had sought the Government's views on the request possibly to consider salaries or remuneration to top management at the bank that might breach the €500,000 per annum ceiling.

Debate adjourned.