I want to raise with the Tánaiste some comments by the outgoing Financial Regulator which I believe have not got the attention they deserve so far. During a recent appearance before the Committee of Public Accounts, Matthew Elderfield called for a review of Ireland's regime for dealing with white collar crime. I fully support that call. To be clear, I am not looking for a response on any specific investigation. I am highlighting the need to improve our system. Mr. Elderfield said he believes our system for dealing with white collar crime in Ireland is not working sufficiently well and he advocated that a review would be carried out by someone such as a retired judge, a former Attorney General or perhaps by the Committee of Public Accounts. This is an important intervention from someone who is respected and who has seen at close quarters the inadequacies of our existing system here.
There is a sense that if one is an ordinary Joe in Ireland and one transgresses the law by not paying the television licence or the property tax, or by engaging in petty theft, the wheels of justice move fairly efficiently and there is a good chance one will be caught and punished. However, if one is involved in white collar crime the wheels of justice move extremely slowly and very often come to a grinding halt. Official figures from the Central Statistics Office back that up in that recorded white collar offences are increasing but conviction rates are plummeting.
As in the case of a burglary or an assault, there are real victims in the case of white collar crime too. In many cases victims of such crimes have had their lives destroyed, especially financially, not to mention the damage done to our economy and to this country's reputation as a place to do business.
A comprehensive review of the way we deal with white collar crime in this country is needed now. It would need to examine, for example, the effectiveness of existing laws, the way we investigate white collar crime, the powers and expertise available to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the issue of penalties and possibly the issue of specialist juries also.
I believe that all the justifiable anger about recent revelations must be converted into something positive. Will the Government consider appointing a qualified and experienced person to carry out a review of our regime dealing with white collar crime to see how it can be improved?