As Deputy Mac Lochlainn, who was in possession is not in the Chamber, I will move on to the next speaker, Deputy Halligan. I understand he proposes to share time with Deputies Finian McGrath and Wallace, with each having ten minutes. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed)
First, this Bill has the potential to be of invaluable benefit to criminal investigations and I believe it to be worthy of support in its current form. We should have begun the recording of the DNA of violent and repeat offenders a long time ago. It also is welcome that it will assist in the identification of missing and unknown persons, including unidentified human remains. Provided that appropriate privacy safeguards are included, DNA databases are indispensable crime-fighting weapons. The appropriate use of profiles obtained from DNA samples can enable law enforcement officials to more rapidly eliminate innocent people from their inquiries. There also is a theory that taking criminals' DNA samples actually will lower crime rates because such DNA samples will work as a deterrent by increasing the likelihood that a criminal will be convicted if he or she is caught.
However, I have some concerns the Minister should address and I hope the Bill will not be open to abuse. For example, it is critical that this proposed legislation has the necessary safeguards and procedures for destruction. At present, approximately 30,000 DNA samples are being added to the United Kingdom's database each month. Recently, the Supreme Court in the United States passed down a ruling stating it is legal to take DNA swabs from arrestees without a warrant on the grounds that a DNA check swab is similar to other common jailhouse procedures such as fingerprinting. Some states in the United States have passed legislation requiring the collection of DNA samples from people convicted of some low-level crimes including shoplifting and drug possession. I hope we do not reach a similar stage here in Ireland. For instance, in the future will there be an extension of this Bill's provisions beyond its current inception? I have no doubt but that the temptation may be there to expand the use of DNA databases. I note, for instance, that over a ten-year period in the United States, law enforcement officials went from collecting DNA from convicted sex offenders to now doing so from people who have been arrested but have not been convicted of a crime. This is the reason that while I consider the Bill to be worthy of support and I intend to support it, the civil liberties of individuals must be protected.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has raised some valid points regarding the Bill and I ask the Minister to consider them. I refer in particular to the extent to which samples and DNA profiles generated from DNA samples may be transmitted to other states, including some outside the European Union. While I missed the Minister's earlier comments in this regard, he might tell Members again whether samples will be transmitted to other states and if so, under what circumstances and whether they may be sent outside the European Union to, for instance, the United States. I do not oppose the sending of samples under certain circumstances. I refer to the example of a serious criminal on the run who may be known to be in a particular state but who cannot be found or, even if such an individual was arrested, there may not be sufficient evidence, whereas such evidence may exist in Ireland, perhaps through DNA testing of a crime he committed here.
I would not have a problem with it then being sent to that state but I would have a serious problem if it were sent to states where human rights abuses are prevalent, and they are prevalent in many states. There could be abuse in that respect in such an instance. The Minister might clarify that area.
The Minister may have done this already but I ask that he consider referring the Bill for review to the Irish Human Rights Commission under section 8(b) of the Human Rights Commission Act 2000. Provided they include appropriate privacy safegrounds, DNA databases are indispensable crime fighting weapons.
I would not have a problem supporting the Bill once I had the Minister's assurance on the destruction over a period of time of the DNA that is collected and that the DNA samples would not be sent to inappropriate countries which have a very poor record in terms of human rights.
I welcome the opportunity to speak to this Bill. This is an important debate and we all need to seriously examine the proposals in the legislation. We also need to be radical and to examine new methods of fighting crime in our society, but at all times we must have a system that is fair, transparent and accountable to the citizens of this State. Our criminal justice system must have the confidence and respect of all our people because many have felt let down by the system in the past. That is the reason we need urgent change, reform and modernisation to tackle crime and look after victims. Their voices must be heard and forensic samples are very much part of that process. I urge the Minister and the Government to listen more to our people, particularly those hurt or damaged by crime, especially serious crime. There is always a good deal of talk inside and outside this House about crime and its effects and consequences, but we also need to talk more about the causes and prevention of crime and learn from the serious mistakes of the past. Those considerations are relevant to this debate. However, talk is not enough, we need action, professionalism and accountability. We all need a justice system that works in the Ireland of 2013, and this where we begin.
We have seen the horrific murders, gangland killings, rapes and assaults, and at times it is easy to throw our hands up and say: "What can we all do?" That is not good enough. This Bill presents an opportunity to deal comprehensively with the issue. I hope it will deter and prevent crime and above all save lives in the future.
There are 163 pages in the Bill and surely they will have a positive impact on this society that is crying out for help, and I emphasise "crying". People are at their wits end and it is up to us as legislators to act and reach our to our communities. Overall, that is the reason, despite some minor concerns, I welcome the publication of this legislation and I will be supporting it.
The legislation provides for the establishment and operation of a DNA database to assist the Garda in the investigation of crime and finding and identifying missing or unknown persons. It updates the legal framework generally for the taking of forensic samples. This is part of the modernisation of our justice system and of policing in this country. That is a crucial part of this debate. In addition, the Bill will also allow the State to meet its obligations under the EU Prüm Council decision and related EU and international instruments which provide a framework for the automated comparison for criminal investigation purposes of the DNA and fingerprint databases operated by member states. That is an important part of the debate because we must get serious about dealing with crime in our modern society.
Regarding the DNA database, the Bill provides for the taking of samples such as mouth swabs from the following for the purpose of generating a DNA profile in regard to the person for entry in the DNA database: most suspects, other than children under 14 years of age and vulnerable persons, detailed by the gardaí in connection with serious offences - generally offences subject to a sentence of five years or more; offenders entered on the sex offenders register on, or after, commencement of the legislation; offenders subject to a sentence of imprisonment in regard to serious offences on, or after, commencement, whether they are in prison, on temporary release or otherwise; and some former offenders who are no longer subject to sentence. That is what the DNA database is all about.
I will zoom in on the section that deals with vulnerable persons. While vulnerable suspects, persons who do not have the capacity by reason of a mental or physical disability to understand the general nature or effect of the taking of a sample or who cannot indicate their consent to the taking of a sample, and suspects under 14 years of age may not be sampled for the database, they may, however, be sampled where this is necessary to prove or disprove their involvement in a particular offence, that is, for evidential purposes. There is an age threshold of 12 in regard to child suspects for the taking of evidential samples. I welcome this section because it is important to zoom in on the protection of people with an intellectual disability and other vulnerable people in our society. We have seen in recent months, in this city and elsewhere in the country, the attacks on people with an intellectual disability. This is crime that is often forgotten about.
Another issue, one from the past, is the sexual abuse of children with an intellectual disability, which has not been dealt with in this State. We have dealt with many cases of child sexual abuse, but there are many hidden cases because of the intellectual capacity of young adults with an intellectual disability whose voices have not been heard. It is important when we come to deal with this section that we ensure the protection of vulnerable persons with a physical or intellectual disability or other persons who do not have the capacity to deal with these complicated issues and that we deal with this in a professional and objective manner. This is an important section of the legislation and I welcome this provision.
Our justice system needs reform. We have had a debate on reform of the Seanad and the Dáil for the past few weeks but the justice system is in need of urgent reform. I will accept this legislation. If a Deputy, whether a member of a Government party or an Opposition party, puts forward a proposal, I, as an Independent Deputy, will support it if it deals specifically with a common-sense issue and provides for the modernisation of our judicial and justice systems. We must also be vigilant because of our history and cases such as the Fr. Niall Molloy case or the James Sheehan case and the great work done by Gemma O'Doherty in regard to some of these cases. We must also be cautious and concerned about abuses that have taken place. I urge the Minister to be open to taking account of these issues and to the experience in other jurisdictions where major blunders have been made in regard to databases. We must be cautious, as my colleague Deputy Halligan said, of the experience in the US, particularly in regard to low level crimes. This legislation is a strong tool to deal with serious crimes such as sexual assault, sexual abuse or violent crimes.
Other concerns have been raised, including the issue of samples being transmitted to other states. We must be cautious about that. I am not saying that we should not co-operate but we must ensure, if we are giving information, that it is not given to rogue states or to people who would use it for another agenda. That is an important point.
There are people in our society who have been let down. I dealt with a case recently concerning Patrick J. Corrigan from Drumderglin, Carrigallen, County Leitrim, regarding an issue of allegations of white collar crime in respect of this old man in County Leitrim. I urge the Minister and the Garda authorities to ensure this complaint is investigated and I have already raised this case with the Minister for Justice and Equality.
The database will have two divisions, an investigation division and an identification division, reflecting their functions. The investigation division will comprise a crime scene index, including profiles lifted from scenes prior to the enactment of the legislation, a reference index and elimination indexes.
The reference index will contain profiles developed from samples taken from suspects, offenders and any person who volunteers to have his or her profile entered on the index. The elimination indexes will contain the profiles of persons whose work brings them into contact with crime scenes or items taken therefrom. Examples in this regard include members of the Garda Síochána and staff of the Forensic Science Laboratory and I take this opportunity to commend both on the job they do. The legislation will provide the professionals to whom I refer with another tool to assist them in their work. The Bill also includes extensive safeguards in respect of the taking of samples, particularly from children and other vulnerable persons, and in the context of the operation of the DNA database in order to ensure the integrity of the system.
The Bill will repeal the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Act 1990 and it will also end the common law regime relating to the taking of samples from suspects for evidential purposes which has operated in parallel to the 1990 Act in an unregulated manner. The Bill will replace these parallel regimes with an updated statute-only regime. This is a very positive aspect of the legislation.
The Bill also deals with the destruction of samples and it is important that we engage in a close examination of this aspect. The Bill provides for the destruction of samples taken from suspects, prisoners etc. for the purpose of generating DNA profiles for the DNA database, as soon as the profile has been generated or in any case within six months. The destruction of these samples will have no effect on the usefulness of the database because it is only the profile that is required for the database. In the context of a presumption in favour of removal from the database of the DNA profiles of suspects who are not convicted and subject to the Garda Commissioner having the power to authorise retention on the database where he is satisfied that this is necessary, a statutory test will be established whereby the Commissioner will make his decision. His decision will be open to appeal. The retention periods allowed will be six years in the case of adults and three years in the case of children. Given that senior gardaí are often obliged to act in the national interest and in the interests of the justice system, the relevant section of the Bill is, therefore, extremely important. I welcome the fact the Commissioner's decision will be open to appeal if serious issues of concern arise.
Revised arrangements for the retention of samples taken for evidential purposes include a presumption in favour of destruction of the samples relating to suspects who are not convicted subject to the Garda Commissioner having the power to authorise retention for 12 months, which will be renewable, where he is satisfied this is necessary. A statutory test will be set out and it will be by means of this that the Garda Commissioner will make his decision. Again, that decision will be open to appeal. The Commissioner will also have the option of applying to the District Court to retain profiles on the database beyond the periods to which I refer in circumstances where he has good reason to do so. This is an important aspect of the Bill and I welcome it. The DNA profiles of persons convicted of serious offences will be held on the database indefinitely. The emphasis in this regard must be on serious offences rather than low-level crimes.
I like the idea of the oversight committee. In order to ensure the integrity of the DNA database and the information it will generate, the Bill provides for its management and operation to be overseen by an independent committee which will be chaired by a judge or former judge of the High Court or the Circuit Court. The membership of the committee will include a person nominated by of the Data Protection Commissioner, which is vital.
The Bill also provides for the Forensic Science Laboratory of the Department of Justice and Equality to host and manage the database. This is a massive responsibility. Pending the enactment of the legislation, the laboratory has undertaken a substantial amount of preparatory work including putting in place the software on which the database will sit. Apart from the preparatory work relating to the physical establishment of the database, other work will also be required in respect of the commencement of the legislation. I refer here to the preparation of regulations and codes of practice relating to the taking of samples by members of the Garda Síochána, prisoner officers, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission etc. It is envisaged that this work will proceed in tandem with the enactment of the legislation in order to ensure there will be no undue delay in the database becoming operational. The groundwork relating to the establishment of the DNA database has already been done. I welcome this because it is important to be prepared and professional when it comes to fighting crime.
I welcome the broad thrust of the legislation. However, I ask the Minister to consider the concerns which I and a number of my colleagues have raised. What is being done here represents a positive step forward and, as a result, I will be supporting the Bill.
As I mentioned in the recent debate on the freedom of information legislation, our society is at a critical juncture. With the advent of new technologies that are having a massive impact on how societies are informed, monitored and organised, an extensive international discussion is taking place in respect of the role of government in people's lives and how it relates to the privacy of the state's citizens and, ultimately, how government would appear in a genuinely democratic state. Only a week after the debate to which I refer, it is ironic that we have been presented with a Bill in which it is proposed that technology be used to infringe on the civil liberties and privacy of the people of this country.
Although the introduction of DNA evidence into criminal justice systems has largely been a success - it has been used to convict the guilty and free the innocent on countless occasions - new developments in DNA science and the expansion of DNA collection by states must give us pause for thought and create the opportunity for a wider debate on the role biological technologies should play in our lives. Article 40.3.1o of the Constitution states "The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen", while Article 40.5 states "The dwelling of every citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered save in accordance with law."
US courts have consistently found that the collection and analysis of one's DNA constitutes a search for two reasons. First, bodily - or at least tissue - intrusion is necessary for DNA extraction. Second, is the substantial and uniquely personalised nature of the information contained in DNA. At the same time, the US courts have upheld the operation of convicted-offender DNA databases, including the forcible extraction and banking of DNA, for two reasons, namely, because the government's interest is one of special needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement or as a result of the fact that convicted criminals have a diminished expectation of privacy as balanced against society's need to promote law and order. Arguably, the role of DNA databases for convicted criminals is for precise identification and for helping police solve recidivist crimes. However, the position is changing fast in states across the US. Since June of this year, US authorities have been given blanket justification in the context of collecting and using DNA evidence without limits.
I have read the Bill and it appears the Minister wants to follow the example of our friends across the Atlantic, even though it would be wise to look more sceptically at, rather than ape, a justice system which manages to lock up one quarter of the world's prisoners in a country which is home to only 5% of the world's population. It is clear from section 9 that the Minister proposes to give An Garda Síochána the right to take DNA samples by force, if necessary, from any person, unless he or she is a child or has been classified insane, who has the misfortune to be detained by gardaí. It appears the Minister wants to build up the DNA database as quickly as possible, with scant regard for whether citizens whose information will be placed on it have committed crimes.
While the prevailing notion with respect to DNA databases is "the bigger the better", it is worth noting that the ability to use DNA in solving crime is limited by the ability to collect uncontaminated and undegraded DNA at crime scenes and not by the number of names in the database. As databases are expanded to include people convicted of minor offences or who were merely arrested, the chances that any given profile in the database will help resolve future crimes apparently diminish. In the UK, the enactment of arrestee testing in 2004 corresponded with the number of profiles on the UK database increasing from 2 million to 3 million, including those of more than 125,000 people never charged with any crime, in a three-year period. This, in turn, has corresponded with a slight decrease in the number of matches with crime scene evidence.
I draw the Minister's attention to a recent report in The Guardian which revealed that the DNA of thousands of innocent children in Britain is being taken by police and stored on a national database. Police have taken the DNA of 120,000 children in the past two years. According to the figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform, a total of 4,000 children under the age of 13 had their DNA taken in 2011. Police can take DNA from anyone arrested and store it on a database even if he or she is not charged or convicted of a criminal offence. The Howard League for Penal Reform states that a child's DNA is being taken by the police in Britain once every ten minutes.
A number of civil liberty issues arise. The first and most obvious is the subject of individual privacy. The taking of a DNA sample from an innocent person can be seen as the equivalent of an unwarranted search thus violating his or her personal rights, according to our Constitution. It is also important to note that DNA collection is not the same, in principle, as the widely accepted practice of collecting and databanking fingerprints. A recent report by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy clearly outlined the differences and potential dangers of expansive DNA collection as opposed to fingerprinting. It stated:
By contrast, DNA, which must be extracted from a tissue sample and mined for data, contains exactly the kind of information that raises privacy and other civil liberties concerns. Research conducted to expand our knowledge of what can be revealed by examining a person's DNA continues; as of this writing, samples of DNA can provide insights into familial connections, physical attributes, genetic mutations, ancestry and disease predisposition. As science advances, the phenotypic information available from human DNA will necessarily grow. Genetic information could be used in discriminatory ways and may include information that the person whose DNA it is does not wish to know. Repeated claims that human behaviors such as aggression, substance addiction, criminal tendency, and sexual orientation can be explained by genetics render law enforcement's collection, use and retention of DNA potentially prone to abuse.
A second problem with the proposed Bill and its intent to take DNA from innocent citizens is that it marks a fundamental shift in the function and intended purpose of what has been termed "criminal databanks". The routine trawling of these databases by gardaí makes the people whose personal data are included into suspects for all future crimes even though there is no method, reason or actual substantial police work which would make them suspects under any other circumstances. This process was clearly put in the wider context by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy when it stated:
Requiring persons convicted of a crime to forfeit certain rights of bodily integrity and privacy while under authority of the penal system has been ruled defensible. However, subjecting those who have never been suspected of a crime, let alone convicted of one, to this treatment potentially undermines the presumption of innocence. Adding the DNA data from millions of innocent persons to these databanks alters their purpose from one of criminal investigation to population surveillance, subverting our deepest notions of a free and autonomous citizenry.
Part 10 of the Bill goes into some detail in regard to the retention and destruction of DNA samples and DNA profiles. It seems to be the case that the Commissioner may, under certain circumstances, extend the period of retention for up to six years in the case of a sample that is taken from an innocent person. This is obviously a worst case scenario but reading between the lines of the Bill, this possibility exists. Also, in certain cases, there seems to be an emphasis on the responsibility of the owners of the DNA to make requests that the DNA sample or profile be destroyed.
Ultimately, given the general lack of transparency, which the Government intends to enshrine in the provisions contained in the new freedom of information legislation, and of accountability surrounding An Garda Síochána, it is fair to be sceptical about what will happen to our DNA samples once they are in the hands of the State.
I re-emphasise the point that this treatment potentially undermines the presumption of innocence. Adding the DNA data of millions of innocent persons to these databanks alters its purpose from one of criminal investigation to population surveillance. There was a time when states kept people who they had genuine reason to be suspicious of as being engaged in illegal activities under surveillance. We have seen from many of the revelations from WikiLeaks and, more recently, from Edward Snowden that the days of keeping tabs on those suspected of illegal activity seems to be diminishing. Now we seem more content to keep data on just about everybody, about which I have concerns.
The Bill seeks to provide for the establishment, management and oversight of a DNA database system, which will be used in criminal investigations and also to assist in finding missing persons and identifying unknown persons. The Bill provides for the taking of samples for the purpose of the DNA database system. It also seeks to replace the existing statutory and common law arrangements for the taking of samples for forensic testing and for use as evidence in criminal investigations and proceedings with an updated statute only regime.
The Bill provides for the taking of samples, mouth swabs and hair follicles from the following for the purpose of generating a DNA profile in regard to the person for entry into the DNA database: most suspects, other than children under 14 years of age and vulnerable persons, detained by gardaí in connection with serious offences - generally offences subject to a sentence of five years or more; offenders entered on the sex offenders register on or after the commencement of the legislation; offenders subject to a sentence of imprisonment in regard to serious offences on or after commencement, whether they are in prison, on temporary release or otherwise; and some former offenders who are no longer subject to sentence.
The difference between a DNA sample and profile is pivotal. A DNA sample contains an individual genome - the brain of the cell - which contains an individual's entire genetic information. However, a DNA profile consists of taking points from particular points in an individual's DNA sample. Therefore, the retention of a DNA profile does not raise the same ethical consideration as the retention of a DNA sample.
In regard to the retention of data, the Bill sets out retention periods for both DNA samples and profiles. Where certain circumstances arise, a sample must, if not previously destroyed, be destroyed before the expiry of three months from the date on which the specified circumstances first applied. In certain circumstances, the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána may authorise the extension of the period by a further 12 months. In regard to samples taken from suspects, offenders and former offenders for the purpose of generating a profile for the entry into the DNA database system, such samples must, if not previously destroyed, be destroyed as soon as a DNA profile is generated from the sample or within six months of the taking of the sample whichever is the later.
In regard to the DNA profile, where a suspect is not proceeded against or convicted, the Garda Commissioner has the power to authorise retention of a profile on the database, where he has determined this is necessary, up to a maximum of six years in the case of an adult and three years in the case of a child. A decision to extend the retention period may be appealed to the District Court. The Garda Commissioner can apply to the District Court to retain profiles beyond the above mentioned periods where there is a good reason to do so.
Some of the positive implications of the establishment of a DNA database, as envisaged by the Bill, include the potential to investigate and solve crime and the establishment of the innocence of those wrongly convicted. The discovery of DNA profiling has had an enormous impact on modern policing and is commonly referred to as the gold standard for identification. In light of the increasing use of the technique in police practice, on 5 February 2003, the then Attorney General, Rory Brady SC, requested the Law Reform Commission to consider the establishment of a DNA databank. As part of the consideration, the commission was requested to consider the constitutional human rights issues that may raise as well as formulating proposals for reform.
In order to ensure the integrity of the DNA database and information it generates, the Bill provides for the management and operation of the database to be overseen by an independent committee that will be chaired by a judge or former judge of the High Court or Circuit Court. Its membership will include a nominee of the Data Protection Commissioner.
Harnessing scientific developments for the good of society is a key element of scientific advancement. This Bill seeks to do that by providing for the compilation of a database that will become a key tool in the fight against serious crime. As criminals are keeping abreast of developments in science and technology, police forces and justice enforcement systems must do likewise. Ireland is not alone in facing the questions posed by scientific advancement. This Bill will allow the State to meet its obligations under the EU Prüm Council decision which allows for comparisons to be made between databases compiled by various member states for the purposes of criminal investigation. In an increasingly globalised world, we have to take account of the ability of criminals to move from one jurisdiction to another. The compilation of a database of key individual signifiers, such as DNA and fingerprints, is just one crucial tool in the fight against national and international crime.
Under the Bill, most subjects detained by the Garda in connection with serious crime will have a DNA swab sample taken. Offenders on the sex offenders register will also have samples taken but only from the time the legislation takes effect. Children under the age of 14 and vulnerable people are excluded from the requirement to have samples taken, but this is not the case where such a sample would prove or disprove the person's involvement in a crime. This is a sensible measure. It is interesting to note that the database will also include profiles taken from scenes prior to the enactment of the legislation. An elimination index will includes samples from people whose work brings them into contact with crime scenes, which means that gardaí and staff of the Forensic Science Laboratory will have samples taken as part of this database.
The development of this databank also introduces the possibility of establishing the innocence of people who have been wrongly convicted. Where possible, profiles relating to missing persons will be compiled by using profiles from their relatives. Ill people who are unable to identify themselves will also have samples taken. On a number of occasions in recent years, the bodies of Irish people who died in the Irish Sea have turned up in Wales or England. It is to be hoped that this database will greatly reduce the extremely stressful time that families of missing people endure while waiting to find out if the deceased person is their missing loved one. While samples taken for the database will be destroyed within six months, each profile will be retained on the database. I welcome the fact that suspects who are not convicted can have their DNA profiles removed from the database after six years. This provision is subject to the agreement of the Garda Commissioner.
Of course, the creation of a database of this nature raises many questions. For that reason, I welcome the significant oversight that is provided for in the Bill, including the establishment of an oversight committee to be chaired by a judge or former judge of the High Court or Circuit Court. Such a proviso is necessary to ensure proper oversight of this important database. Ten years have passed since the Attorney General asked the Law Reform Commission to consider the establishment of a DNA databank. The intervening decade has seen many advancements in the area of DNA identification and a number of high-profile cases in Ireland. The passing of that decade gave Irish legislators an opportunity to benefit from test cases taken against such databases in Europe. I refer in particular to a case in which the European Court of Human Rights found that the retention by the authorities in England and Wales of the profiles of people who were subsequently acquitted violated their rights. Such decisions were taken into account in the drafting of the Irish legislation.
Much consideration has been given to the human rights of the suspects from whom samples are taken. This is right and proper. The real benefit of this database is that it will allow for the detection of the criminals responsible for undetected crimes. Historically in Ireland, many rapists have got away with their crimes because there was no evidence to link them to their victims. Many grievous assaults were never properly punished because no individual link was found between the perpetrator and the victim. I hope this Bill will result in the detection of many more crimes. Perhaps it will serve as a deterrent in some cases if criminals believe there is an increased likelihood of being apprehended for crimes. The incorporation into Irish law of this Bill, which is at least a decade in the making, will represent a significant step forward in the fight against crime in Ireland.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important Bill. Approximately a month after I was elected to the Dáil, I was approached by a Garda superintendent from the north west of Cork city who is one of Ireland's finest gardaí. He suggested that if we could do anything at all in government to assist the work of the gardaí in preventing and solving crimes, we should facilitate the development of a DNA database. Following that conversation, I wrote to the Minister, Deputy Shatter, who has been a reforming and hard-working Minister by any yardstick. Deputies do not need to be reminded of the amount of legislation he has put through. I was informed that additional funding would be required by the Forensic Science Laboratory before any legislation could be proceeded with. I am glad to see that has happened. As a result, we are debating this Bill on Second Stage. The superintendent I mentioned told me that the resources being used by the Garda to investigate new crimes - I refer to the collection of evidence such as DNA samples - was placing an enormous strain on the force. He said that the time lost while gardaí investigated evidence that could be kept on a database not only represented a waste of Garda resources and time, but also placed Irish citizens at risk because it gave rise to the potential for other crimes to be committed while these investigations continued.
I would like to mention another meeting I had with a constituent on this issue. A man who came into my office told me he was accused ten years ago of committing a sexual offence, but was not charged or tried. Contrary to the suggestion that no database is available, this man has told me that every time an incident takes place within a certain geographical area, he is contacted by gardaí and required to provide DNA evidence once again. As he is keen to ensure he can be eliminated from Garda inquiries at an early stage, he has suggested that his DNA could be permanently stored on a database. He protests his innocence of the original crime and any subsequent crime. Of course I have no way of knowing whether he is guilty. The presumption of innocence that applies to every person should be protected. While I accept that some civil liberties arguments can be made in this respect, in most cases the need to prevent crime and support and protect the victims of crime has to trump any other concerns we might have. I consider myself a strong supporter of civil liberties, but I do not accept the argument that DNA profiling, which is one of the modern benefits of science, is significantly different from fingerprinting. We must use the scientific tools that are available to us.
I would like to consider the potential for this database to be broadened, for example in the cases of people who are prepared to make voluntary submissions, although I am happy to bow to the Minister's superior knowledge in this regard. It is clear that the area of intellectual difficulties is an extremely sensitive one. It is important to remember that such difficulties can and should be taken into account during court cases and when it comes to sentencing. I am not persuaded that this argument should apply fully when one is talking about means of taking evidence that are not particularly invasive, particularly if they may result in ruling somebody out of a crime. If a person with intellectual difficulties has committed a crime, I suggest those difficulties should be taken account of during the court case rather than in the collection of evidence.
I will be interested to see how the six-year rule and the provision relating to the Commissioner will work out over time. Anybody who has not committed a crime and does not intend to commit a crime should not be afraid of his or her DNA profile being available on a database for five years to be assessed in cases of serious crime. When I listened to Deputies speaking about the use of the DNA database to establish the identities of people who are found at sea, it struck me that the only circumstances in which this will happen under the current legislation will be if the person in question had been suspected of committing a serious crime. Of course the vast majority of people who are found in such circumstances will not be on such a database. My good friend who works for the Garda in the north west of Cork city - I will not name him - told me he wanted a database of this nature to be established to help him to do his job as a policeman better. I am glad that legislation to that effect is being introduced. I compliment the Minister on bringing it to this stage.
I welcome the opportunity to add my voice in support of the introduction of the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2013.
The Bill is yet another piece in the agenda to reform our justice system that the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter is pursuing and, with that reform agenda in mind, I take the opportunity to congratulate the Minister on his successful steering of the Court of Appeal referendum. It marks a significant leap forward in the use of modern science and how forensic information can be used with confidence as a tool in crime prevention, criminal investigation and, crucially, the identification of individuals and in assisting missing persons investigations.
Like Deputy Murphy, I accept that people may have legitimate civil liberty concerns. However, to sit in this Chamber and hear Members make comparisons with or link the Bill to WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden and the likes is a step too far. At a time when criminals are using technology and science to their advantage, for the criminal justice system and the Garda Síochána not to use it to the advantage of the common good would seem absurd.
I appreciate people's legitimate questions, so I am pleased that the Minister has effectively addressed many of those concerns in the Bill. The measures on the destruction of samples and the removal of profiles from the DNA database in particular should alleviate many such concerns. The creation of the oversight committee with responsibility for ensuring the integrity of the database and its information, and the fact that the committee would be chaired by a member of the Judiciary and, indeed, be linked to the Data Protection Commissioner, is welcome. That gets the balance correct between the civil liberties concerns and the absolute importance of using every possible tool that we can to protect the people, and to bring those who commit crimes to justice, to support the families of missing persons and in trying to bring successful conclusions to those investigations.
The Bill updates the legal framework on which forensic samples are taken and lays out a clear platform of action in which individuals would be subject to the provision of forensic material, and specifically those who are suspected of crimes with a sentence in excess of five years and offenders on the sex offenders register. We are concerned here with serious crimes.
I am also pleased to see that provisions are included to ensure that vulnerable and young people would not be automatically subjected to the register. I welcome that protection measure - it fully reflects the decisions made by the people on child protection, as evidenced by previous referenda and legislation. The extensive safeguards contained in the Bill should reassure those who have legitimate concerns about data integrity or privacy, while rubbishing those who intend to engage in hyperbole and other such statements. The Bill, which is designed to significantly improve the use of forensic information, is clearly needed. As Deputy Connaughton alluded to, it is a Bill we have been looking for and in need of for more than a decade.
The Bill is also welcome because of the positive impact it will have in assisting in the investigations of missing persons. The fact there is a planned division between both the investigation and the identification divisions of the database will provide assurance that identification of missing persons and their safe return is considered seriously. It will greatly support the Garda and give assurances to the families of missing persons that we are doing everything that we possibly can in the legislation to use all tools available to bring their missing persons home or, at the least, to bring a conclusion to any sad tragedy that visits those families.
We have waited an extended period - more than a decade - for this comprehensive and effective Bill that would provide a DNA database while providing private citizens with protection on data and sensitive information. The Bill will make a substantial and beneficial change to the efforts to identify criminals, to bring people to justice, to tackle serious crime and to help find missing persons. I commend the Minister and his officials, whom I know have been working on the legislation for a long time. I commend the Bill to the House.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Healy-Rae.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I am glad to have the opportunity to say a few words on the Bill. The Bill is not before its time - this is the third attempt to bring a Bill like this to fruition. It is important and necessary legislation and will be an invaluable tool in the fight against crime and in establishing the innocence of individuals and the identity of missing persons. It is sensitive legislation. Like all legislation in this area, it may well be prone to abuse and it is incumbent on us as legislators to ensure that strong safeguards are included regarding privacy, civil liberties and self-incrimination. On a first reading, it would appear that is the case. I would hope that during the course of the Bill's progress through the House those matters will be clarified and we will be satisfied to put into place legislation that, on the one hand, strikes a balance between the rights of the individual to privacy, bodily integrity and privilege against self-incrimination and, on the other, the wider interests of society in both the prevention and solving of crime.
A number of issues have been raised about the Bill, some of which need to be looked at and clarified further. DNA profiling is commonly referred to as the gold standard for identification and we hope this turns out to be case and that the legislation is a success. I welcome the statement by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre: "We believe that not only will the DNA database help apprehend more perpetrators of sexual crimes in particular, but we hope that it will also act as a deterrent for potential perpetrators." Professor David McConnell, Professor of Genetics at Trinity College Dublin also said: "While some may see it as a danger, I believe it will actually add to our civil liberties because it will make it easier to identify culprits and exclude innocent suspects... It also greatly accelerates the administration of justice." I hope that will also turns out to be the case.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has raised the issue of international exchange and co-operation, and there are concerns in this area. I ask the Minister to clarify the situation on Committee Stage. The possibility of our DNA database being available, for example, to rogue states is not something that we would want to facilitate. Mass screening also needs to be looked at. I am not sure that the Garda is the appropriate authority to initiate mass screening, although the Law Reform Commission has said that would be appropriate.
I wish to refer more generally to the question of crime prevention. While this Bill will, hopefully, be an invaluable tool and a deterrent in the prevention of crime, we should never forget the real measures that will prevent crime are social ones - job creation, the elimination of poverty and proper education and health services and community facilities.
These are the real areas that need to be tackled to ensure crime is prevented because prevention is obviously better than cure and is also far less costly.
Unfortunately, community policing has taken on a lower profile in recent years. This area needs to be strengthened and resourced properly. I know that on the ground, community policing and community gardaí have lost individuals who have not been replaced. There is not the same involvement with local communities as there has been in the past. The local community garda on the beat dealing daily with young people, youth clubs and community organisations is invaluable. Community gardaí prevent a significant amount of crime taking place and effectively save the State a significant amount of money. Unfortunately, it is quite clear that in recent years, with the lack of recruitment to An Garda Síochána and the loss of posts in this area, it is now being done on a part-time, on-call basis where gardaí have other responsibilities that are seen as a priority. The same effort and connection with local communities and young people and identifying local young people likely to become involved in anti-social behaviour are not being developed. I ask the Minister to look seriously at this area again to ensure it is strengthened and that resources are put into it because prevention is better than cure. It is far less costly than the cure. I hope the Minister will engage directly in the area of community gardaí and policing.
I welcome the Bill and hope it will be an invaluable tool in the fight against crime and in the establishment of the innocence of people and the identity of missing persons. I hope there will be a balance between that and the necessary safeguards for the privacy and civil liberties of individuals.
I thank Deputy Healy and the Technical Group for giving me some of their speaking time to speak on this very important Bill. Despite the fact that he is not listening, I take this opportunity to acknowledge the Minister's work in this regard and thank him and his officials for the excellent work they have done in producing this Bill. It is wanted and needed and will be beneficial to the Garda. The positive implications of it include the establishment of a DNA database and the potential to investigate and solve crimes and establish the innocence of those who are wrongly accused of crimes. It is a very worthwhile Bill. I have studied it and appreciate every bit of it. I believe that in times to come, people will look back on the Minister and the people who worked with him and say that this was a very worthwhile document and piece of work.
When we are dealing with a Bill such at this, and I know the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will appreciate this, we must look at everything in conjunction and tie it all up. What we are doing here is solving crimes. We are trying to establish guilt and innocence where they obtain. To do all of this, one needs a knowledge of policing and what An Garda Síochána does every day, be it at superintendent, detective, Garda sergeant or rank and file Garda level. From a garda who might be on patrol in Dublin or some part of rural west Cork or south Kerry, one must encompass the whole thing and look at it as a collective picture of trying to fight crime. Unfortunately, this Minister, perhaps more than many others, is faced with the terribly difficult task of dealing with criminals who are highly resourced and imaginative and who have every facility at their disposal. That is why now more than ever before, An Garda Síochána has a really tough and difficult time.
I am very sorry, Minister, but it is like talking to a wall. It is a very difficult thing to talk to a Minister when he is on his mobile telephone, which he was when my colleagues were speaking previously. It is very hard to talk to a person who is not listening.
The Deputy should be assured that I have heard every single word he has uttered, including his observation that I was not listening.
That clears up matters.
The Deputy might resist the temptation occasionally to give me a kick, even when he is praising me.
The funny thing is that I am praising the Minister but it is nice to hear that he is listening to me, even though he might not give that impression. What I am trying to say is that I appreciate the work that has been done on this Bill but we must look at the bigger picture. It is all about solving crime and taking on criminals. These criminals are highly resourced, so the institutions of our State face a massive fight in taking on these thugs, murderers, thieves and extremely undesirable people. I commend the Minister on the effort he has put into his role. We may disagree on many occasions about other aspects of his understanding of policing. As the Minister knows, I was the person who came into this Chamber and proved that the closure of rural Garda stations has cost the State more. It is costing more to keep Garda stations closed than it would to keep them open.
The Deputy has not noticed that crime is down by 20,000.
Sorry Minister, I was brought up to have manners.
Deputy Healy-Rae should speak on the Bill.
I think I have better manners than the Deputy. I do not stand up and abuse people on a regular basis.
If the Minister thinks he is going to interrupt me, he should try and come down off the high horse.
I am just correcting the Deputy's factual inaccuracies. He is addicted to factual inaccuracies. Occasionally, it is a good idea we correct them.
Do I have the floor? I will sit down.
We will have order, please. Deputy Healy-Rae should proceed as he has the floor. He has four and a half minutes remaining.
I would not interrupt the Minister.
That is provocation; get on with it.
Did I draw the Minister of State into it? I could say things but I will not because I have manners.
You are a nasty piece of work.
Have I the floor?
With regard to the closure of Garda stations -----
I do not think that is in the Bill.
I am speaking about connectivity. The closure of Garda stations has led to a lack of connectivity between senior gardaí and gardaí on the beat, particularly in regard to rural crime. We were told that Garda vans would be made available to our communities. We welcomed that in a limited way because we thought it might compensate for the loss of rural Garda stations. Recently, however, the Minister stated in a reply to a parliamentary question that the proposal had been scrapped. I did not believe it would ever happen and unfortunately I was proven correct.
It is now being suggested that members of An Garda Síochána might make use of rural post offices. I would thank the Minister if this initiative is implemented, as would the people of Ireland. The excellent Bill before us would work in conjunction with such an initiative to solve crime. At the end of the day it is all about the massive fight of right against wrong. I will support the Minister in any initiative he might take on these people but I will not pussy-foot about if I think he is doing something wrong. Nobody will take his work ethic away from him. Everybody knows about his work ethic. I like people who genuinely work and I will fully support him because he is giving it 120% and more.
It is important that the Garda co-operates with police forces in other jurisdictions given what can happen in regard to the abduction of children when relationships break down. Such problems arise in Ireland on a monthly basis. It is important that the Bill is implemented as a matter of urgency because it might help to solve these problems. A number of people have disappeared over the past several years and their families live with the constant torture of not knowing what happened to them. It is awful to think of a person being killed but at least one knows that has happened. However, if a person disappears without account it creates a horror and anguish that haunts relatives every day of the week. Anything in this Bill that might help in cases of disappeared persons must be welcomed.
I thank the Minister and his officials for their work. I might be critical at times but my criticism is measured. In regard to the issues we fought over in the past, unfortunately I have been proved right and the Minister wrong.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this Bill, which is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before this House during the term of this Government. The consequences of having a DNA database will be felt acutely in the area of solving serious crime. I cannot understand why legislation of this nature was not enacted during the time of plenty of the Celtic tiger era.
A strand of DNA contains the essence of life. Each living thing has its own distinguishing brand of DNA and, therefore, it can be used as a tool to identify each of us by our own unique code. This is why it is used by police forces across the world to fight serious crime. The largest database in the world is in the US and since 1994 that database has been used on over 200,000 occasions to assist in 192,000 investigations. In a specific case study in the city of Denver, it was found that of all the cases taken for the single crime of burglary, 76% would not have been taken to court by the district attorney but for DNA evidence. It has since emerged that where DNA testing is done in cases of crimes against property, such as burglary, twice as many cases have been accepted for prosecution. Using DNA, as opposed to simply fingerprinting, is five times more likely to allow investigators to identify a suspect. DNA is a bit like a fingerprint in that we all have a different set-up but the DNA we all carry can never be changed.
One of the key innovations in this Bill is the establishment of a database to assist the Garda in tackling crime. When the database is operational it will have the capacity to link crimes and identify suspects in unsolved crimes. It will enable the Garda to be more efficient in investigations and make better use of resources. It will also give a new impetus to the investigation of crimes which may have occurred some time ago. Several years ago a forward thinking garda kept some forensic samples from a murder case on record. His actions led to the conviction of the murderer several years later. The Bill allows for samples taken from a crime scene, such as a strand of hair, tiny pieces of skin or drops of blood, to be sampled, identified and entered into a database that allows investigators to compare the information and match it to anything they may have on the system, thereby potentially establishing someone's presence at a crime scene.
The database can also allow the Garda to link with international police forces and their databases to determine whether samples taken here match those of anyone who has committed a crime in other jurisdictions. Similarly, if a crime is committed in the UK or further abroad, samples can be matched to the Irish database.
The proposed database will contain the genetic profiles of most people convicted of serious offences which attract prison sentences of five years or more and will include those found guilty of rape and most other sexual offences. Children under the age of 14 years will not be included. The database will also include individuals listed in the sex offenders register on or after the commencement of the legislation, as well as certain former offenders who are no longer in prison. The Bill provides for the removal of profiles and the destruction of samples taken from people who have not been convicted of any prescribed crime. This is an aspect that some people might overlook. The database can not only establish an individual's participation in a crime, but can also prove his or her innocence.
I have long campaigned for the establishment of a DNA database. Last year, I asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, to retain blood samples and other medical evidence taken from newborn babies for use in finding out more about diseases. These samples could also provide the basis for a DNA database. I am glad that the Minister of State agreed to my request because the samples provided invaluable information.
I am glad to contribute on this Bill. Legislation that governs issues surrounding DNA and crime is a sensitive issue, one that involves balancing the need to conduct effective criminal investigations with the need to protect human rights and civil liberties. The enactment of this legislation is a key commitment in the programme for Government. When up and running, the database will have the capacity to link crimes and identify suspects in unsolved crimes. This will enable the Garda to conduct better investigations and make better use of resources. In addition, making use of such database technology in the forensics field has the added benefit of facilitating the searching, subject to strict conditions, of other national DNA databases.
In introducing this legislation, the Minister stated that it would fully respect human rights. I believe that this will be done. The Bill provides for the taking, subject to appropriate safeguards, of biological samples in the form of mouth swabs or hair follicles from suspects and convicted persons, including sex offenders, from which their DNA profiles will be generated for entry in the database. Crime scene profiles from unsolved crimes, whether occurring before or after the new legislation becomes law, will also be entered in the database.
The actual data will be held on purpose-built software already in use by agencies around the world. This software is used in more than 40 countries, including 18 EU member states. It was installed in the Forensic Science Laboratory in 2012.
The level of intelligence that will be generated by a DNA database will be invaluable to the Garda in identifying offenders involved in crimes such as burglary. It will also have a major impact in terms of serious offences against the person, such as homicides and sexual offences. It will contribute to the move towards more effective, targeted and smarter policing operations and will also facilitate co-operation with other police forces across the world.
In addition to benefiting criminal investigations, the database will be of benefit in identifying missing and unknown persons, for example, unidentified human remains or the victims of natural or man-made disasters. It is also important to point out that the database will be of benefit in establishing the innocence of persons suspected or wrongly convicted of offences and will help in preventing miscarriages of justice. These important points should be clearly stated.
The Bill published today has been substantially amended in many respects to address issues that gave rise to genuine concerns, for example, the sensitive question of the retention of samples and DNA profiles of persons who are not subsequently convicted, in order to ensure that any interference with privacy rights is justified by the public interest in the investigation of crime and is proportionate.
Clear terms govern the level of information that is to be given to a person before a sample is taken in the case of compulsory samples and before consent is sought in the case of voluntary samples. The types of samples that may be taken from persons for the purpose of the database are restricted to the least intrusive samples – mouth swabs or plucked head hair. Draft codes of practice for the purpose of giving practical guidance on the procedures for the taking of samples under the Bill are to be drawn up by An Garda Síochána, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, the Irish Prison Service and the Irish Youth Justice Service, IYJS, for approval by the Minister. These codes will be published.
A high offence threshold for the taking of samples from suspects and offenders applies. Generally, samples may only be taken for the purpose of the database or for evidential purposes in respect of offences having a penalty of five years imprisonment or more. Where reasonable force may be used to take a sample, it requires prior authorisation of an officer of at least superintendent rank and its use must also be observed by a senior person who has responsibility for determining how many officers are required. It must be electronically recorded.
There are special safeguards for protected persons and children who are suspects. Protected persons will not be subject to sampling for the purposes of the database, but evidential samples may be taken where required. Children under 14 years of age will not be subject to sampling for the purposes of the database, but evidential samples may be taken where required. The position with regard to children aged 14 years and older is to be reviewed within six years. Reasonable force may not be used to take a database sample from a child suspect.
Information is to be given in a language and manner appropriate to the protected person and is to be age appropriate. Provision is made for a person other than a member of the Garda to be present when a sample is being taken from a protected person or child. This person may be a parent, guardian, adult relative or a person nominated by the member in charge. Such persons are also to be given the information that is required to be given to the protected person or child. Special provision is made in respect of the giving of consent on behalf of protected persons or children for the taking of intimate samples where required for evidential purpose. In certain circumstances, a District Court order may be sought to authorise the taking of an intimate sample.
In general, the consequence of refusing to consent to the taking of an intimate sample is that an adverse inference may be drawn in subsequent proceedings. This consequence does not arise in the case of protected persons or, for the most part, in the case of children.
The Bill contains safeguards around the DNA database itself. The purposes of the database are set out clearly in the Bill in order to counter any possibility of "function creep". I am strongly in favour of this position. The searches that may be conducted between different categories of profiles entered in the database are to be specified to ensure that a profile is only used for the purpose for which it was taken.
The management and operation of the database is to be subject to independent oversight by a statutory committee for the purpose of ensuring its integrity and security. This committee is to be chaired by a judge or former judge of the Circuit Court or High Court and will include a representative of the Data Protection Commissioner. The committee may also make recommendations to the director of Forensic Science Ireland, FSI, or the Minister as regards the management and operation of the database. The committee may, of its own volition, conduct reviews of any aspect of the management and operation of the database and the Minister can instruct it to review any matter relating to the database.
The committee's reports are to be submitted the Minister, laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and published, subject to certain restrictions in the interests of national security, the security of the database and criminal investigations and to avoid infringing the constitutional rights of any individual. Disclosure of information relating to biological samples or information on the database is a criminal offence triable summarily or on indictment.
Regarding persons who are not proceeded against or convicted, the Bill includes a presumption in favour of the removal from the database of the DNA profiles of such persons subject to the Garda Commissioner having the power to authorise retention on the database where he or she is satisfied that this is necessary. A statutory test is set out by which the Garda Commissioner will make this decision. This decision can be appealed. The retention periods allowed will be six years in the case of adults and three years in the case of children. The DNA profiles of persons convicted of serious offences will continue to be held on the database indefinitely. I commend the Bill to the House.
I welcome the Bill. Legislation on the collection and management of DNA evidence is long overdue. This is an example of our laws playing catch-up with modern medical science. It has taken a while to get this right, but it seems that the Bill is a responsible balance between the use of modern science for the public good and maintaining the legal rights of the accused in criminal proceedings.
The use of DNA evidence in our courtrooms is not new. During the past two decades, some of the most high-profile cases involving the murders, and often rapes, of women were prosecuted using DNA evidence. The cases of Rose Farrelly, Imelda Riney, Marilyn Rynne, Phyllis Murphy and Rachel Kiely all relied on the ability to use DNA evidence in court. We must wonder how many unsolved cases could be solved and how many families of victims could be granted closure if Ireland kept a record of the DNA profiles of convicted criminals. We regularly read of cases in the US and UK involving serious crimes that were solved many years later due to the matching of DNA from unrelated crimes.
One story that has stayed in my mind is the tragic 1981 murder of the 14 year old schoolgirl Marion Crofts in Aldershot, England. Her case was solved 21 years later as a result of a DNA swab taken at a police station from a man who had been arrested and charged with a domestic violence crime.
Without a DNA database, her family might still not know the identity of her killer.
We also have to wonder how many serious crimes might actually be prevented by this legislation. If criminals were aware that their DNA was already on file from a prior crime, might that knowledge alone not be enough to prevent at least some of them from re-offending? If even one murder was avoided owing to this legislation, it would have more than earned its place on our Statute Book.
There is no doubt in my mind that these proposed new laws could greatly assist gardaí when tracing missing persons. The legislation before us provides for family members of missing people to volunteer DNA for analysis to assist gardaí in their tracing operations. Volunteer evidence is not treated in the same manner as DNA samples taken from criminals and can be removed from the file on request by the donor.
This Bill is also an acknowledgement of the international nature of many crimes and the value of being able to share DNA records with police forces in other jurisdictions, for example, when dealing with suspects or victims who may have left the State or perhaps are living here after committing crimes in other countries.
I welcome the protections in the legislation that are given to suspects who are not charged with any crime or, indeed, to people who are found innocent of a crime. In these cases, the DNA record can be removed from the database. In this regard, it should also be noted that DNA databases have been used in other countries to prove the innocence of suspects and exonerate wrongly convicted persons.
The proposed legislation also recognises the efforts that are being made by the justice system to divert children and teens from crime. In most cases, it provides for the removal of the child's evidence from the database after a period of four years if they have not re-offended. I welcome this aspect of the legislation as it is in keeping with the aims of the early intervention and restorative justice programmes that are being discussed at present.
I support this Bill and look forward to examining it further on Committee Stage.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. In general, everybody would welcome the introduction of this legislation and the establishment of a DNA database, which will assist in detecting and solving serious crimes. The legislation has major benefits for solving crimes by identifying perpetrators. That is vitally important when one sees serious crimes, particularly of a sexual nature, where DNA evidence could be critical in identifying those responsible.
The legislation will have a deterrent effect on those at risk of committing crimes as they will be aware of the database's existence and the potential for samples to be taken from suspects and used in detecting crime. The consequent likelihood of detection will have a certain deterrent effect. A DNA database could also be important in proving the innocence of those who are wrongly convicted. In other jurisdictions, there have been high-profile cases where the existence of a DNA database has allowed for the testing of suspects, thus identifying the perpetrators of various crimes. In such cases, innocent people who were wrongly convicted have been exonerated. That would be a welcome outcome of the database here.
The European Court of Human Rights has identified problems with the operation of DNA databases in other jurisdictions, however, so we need to take those matters into account. Those problems cannot be understated and we should be aware of them. The Minister has taken on board some of the concerns of civil rights groups as regards the potential misuse of a DNA database. If DNA profiling is made available to other states for the detection of crimes in other jurisdictions, how will such profiles be treated in other countries and how can such data be protected? We should at least demand that the same data protection provisions will apply as in this State so that DNA profiles cannot be wrongly used.
The legislation provides for a mass screening to be initiated but I can foresee problems arising as a result. In order to initiate a mass screening, gardaí should be obliged to obtain court approval. That would be important in terms of oversight. If such a mass screening is envisaged, gardaí should present their reasons when applying for a court order to authorise that action. That would give a measure of protection under the Bill.
If a person who is asked to participate in a mass screening refuses to provide a DNA sample, how will that affect the presumption of innocence? We should consider whether protections need to be put in place for such an eventuality. In addition, those who are asked to participate in a mass screening should be afforded the opportunity to take legal advice. They should be given enough time to seek such advice so that they can act in the full knowledge of what are their rights.
The legislation provides that in mass screenings profiles will not be added to the database but, with the best will in the world, they could be added inadvertently. Those kind of problems can arise, so people need to be aware of them. Safeguards should be put in place to ensure that does not happen.
Problems have arisen in other jurisdictions with what is termed "function creep" whereby databases can be used for other reasons, including the involvement of family members or relatives of the person who supplied the original DNA sample. It cannot be presumed, nor should it, that the family or relatives of someone convicted of a crime, and who is on the database, would necessarily follow the criminal path. In operating the legislation, we must take into account the issue of data protection for innocent people.
The Bill will establish an oversight committee to review the operation of the database. The committee will be required to report to the Dáil annually on the operation of the legislation. In the past, we have seen the problems encountered by the Garda Ombudsman in obtaining information and getting a response from the Garda Síochána. Such difficulties could potentially affect the oversight committee also. We must ensure that the Bill, when enacted, is operated properly so that information is gathered and used as intended. We should closely monitor the right to apply for an extension for the retention of profiles, over the six-year period, for people who have not been convicted of offences.
The legislation is welcome and will play an important role in detecting crime and protecting citizens. In addition, the existence of a database will act as a deterrent to crime. Nonetheless, we will have to monitor closely the operation of the legislation following its enactment to ensure that it does what is intended. The potential for misuse must be minimised within the legislation so we can have full confidence in the operation of a database and the system generally.
It should be under continual review by the Minister. I acknowledge provision is made for a review by the oversight committee within six years of it coming into operation. It is important it is closely monitored following enactment of this legislation.
The next speaking slot is being shared by Deputies Eamonn Maloney, Michael Conaghan and Seán Kyne.
I commend the Minister, Deputy Shatter, on the introduction of this Bill, which I support. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, referred to legislation of this nature in either his first or second speech following the election of this Government to office in March 2011. As stated by previous speakers, it is complex legislation which seeks to address the need for a DNA system and the issue of civil liberties and so on.
It could be argued that the introduction now of this legislation dealing with DNA is a bit late in the day. Nevertheless, we are, as the saying goes, where we are. The Americans established a DNA database in the 1990s. People have differing views on the issue of DNA. The following sums up the views of many people in regard to the introduction of this Bill. In 1996, a young woman aged 21 years, named Juli Busken, was abducted from a parking lot in America, raped, murdered and dumped in a lake. Seven years later, thanks to DNA, a man was arrested and subsequently found guilty of her murder. Following the trial, her father said that for him there are only two types of people who do not want to have their DNA taken, namely, the person who has done something wrong and the person who intends to do something that is wrong, which sums how most lay people feel about DNA. Many of us would share the common sense view that a DNA database should be available to police in all jurisdictions to assist them in the apprehension of people involved in serious crime. As legislators, we must ensure those who enforce the law in Ireland are facilitated in every way. This is being done through the introduction of this legislation.
As I said earlier, a DNA database was established in the USA in the 1990s. The UK DNA database was developed a little later. Based on evidence of the UK system, there are substantial benefits in having a DNA database in place, in terms particularly of the investigation of serious crimes. Such databases have proven very successful in relation to unsolved cases and missing persons. It is hoped that this legislation when enacted will prove good for society but not for criminals. I read the rape crisis network report this morning, which did not make for pleasant reading. While much of the focus around DNA is on its use in murder cases, it is equally important in solving cases of a sexual nature, including rape and so on.
There is an obligation on us to introduce this type of legislation which will not only assist in solving crimes of a sexual nature but will, it is hoped, as in other jurisdictions, act as a deterrent to those who believe they can commit crimes and get away with them. This is one of the sharpest instruments of law in terms of the prevention of crimes such as rape and murder. I again commend the Minister and his Department on the introduction of this Bill.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, to the House. I would like first to focus on the value of forensic work in combatting crime. In regard to local crime such as burglary, when word gets around in a local area that gardaí are engaged in forensic work there is generally a fall off in this type of activity. Burglars know that forensic evidence at the scene of local crimes may lead to a court case and conviction. The fear of being caught and convicted is a real deterrent. In this context, the use of forensics is a valuable tool.
I would like now to speak about forensic work on a national level. During the past 20 years, the context and character of crime in Ireland has changed fundamentally. Gun use, pipe bombs and kidnappings were largely introduced and perfected by the IRA in Northern Ireland. These practices have spilled over across the Border and are now, regrettably, common place here. In this evolving and frightening scenario, all legitimate resources must be provided for the Garda. It is in this context that I particularly welcome the Minister's initiative to establish a DNA database. I believe it will prove invaluable in the fight against serious crime, particularly those categories of crimes that have evolved here over the past 15 to 20 years.
I welcome the Minister's guarantees in relation to the management, supervision and safeguarding of this proposed new resource. I welcome also his guarantees in regard to the safeguarding of individual rights and dignity. I wish the Minister well with this particular initiative.
With this and many other initiatives, he has proved himself an innovative Minister.
It goes without saying that forensic science has transformed crime detection and investigation and enabled police forces to solve crimes that would have remained unsolved in earlier times. We are all aware of forensic science through entertainment and the media, with a plethora of books, films and television programmes on the topic. It is an area that has both influenced and been influenced by artistic content. I recall reading a work which traced the link between the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes and the real life experience of the writer, Arthur Conan Doyle, with one of the earliest forensic scientists. Such works entertained the public and inspired greater research and examination of forensic science.
Another development which has greatly increased the effectiveness and usefulness of forensic science has been the substantial advances in information technology. I am reminded of a particularly disturbing case in the United Kingdom which occurred when information technology and genetics-based forensic science were still very much in their infancy. The case involved serial killer, Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper, who was responsible for the murders of 13 women and the attempted murders of several others. A 2006 report into the handling of the case detailed how the police had interviewed Sutcliffe on several occasions but released him, thereby enabling him to continue his heinous crimes. The lack of an information technology system and absence of a forensic evidence database led to shocking oversights and the further loss of life. Such cases demonstrate how crucial it is to have proper use of information technology and other scientific tools such as a DNA database to combat crime successfully.
I welcome this Bill as a vital innovation which will help the Garda Síochána to combat crime. I note it was first recommended by the Law Reform Commission a decade ago. It is regrettable that such a lengthy period elapsed before the introduction of this legislation.
I note also the ethical considerations at the heart of the Bill. We pride ourselves in Ireland on a criminal legal system rooted in the presumption of innocence. The collection and retention of DNA evidence during an investigation is understandable and reasonable. However, it is the retention of such information in the event of an acquittal or a decision not to prosecute which has been the source of controversy. There is a great need to strike the right balance between a person's individual rights to privacy and bodily integrity and the interests of wider society, which include ensuring the safety of citizens when detecting and preventing crime.
Examining practice in other jurisdictions is always a useful exercise, and even more so when procedures have been in place for several years or decades, as this can bring to light problems, issues or mistakes. One such issue is what is known as "function creep". The experience of the United States is a clear example of the original purpose of a DNA database extending far beyond what was envisaged, to the extent that samples are now taken and retained for the most minor of crimes. Furthermore, individual US states are only obliged to destroy profiles of persons acquitted when such persons actually make an application for destruction. I harbour concerns of such a practice emerging here. A person, particularly one who has volunteered a sample, should not have to apply to have samples and profiles removed. They should be destroyed automatically and without undue delay.
The position in the United Kingdom should serve as a lesson for all legislators that personal rights must be balanced with the requirements of a functioning law enforcement agency. The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 effectively removed the original safeguard that DNA samples and profiles be removed and destroyed following acquittal or where criminal charges have been dropped. This clear abuse of power was only remedied when the parties concerned took legal action via the European Court of Human Rights. We have had recent experience of the effect of decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights, of which every Deputy will be aware. The court has been the subject of some very negative commentary, the majority of which has been uncalled for, and I am encouraged that, in drafting this legislation, the Minister has been mindful of the relevant decisions of the court and provisions of our Constitution, respectively.
It is too easy in the intense heat of a moment, often in the aftermath of a particularly heinous crime, to rush through legislation which has not been afforded proper consideration and reflection. While no legislation can be said to be watertight, I welcome the provisions of the Bill in introducing a statute only approach to the collection of samples. This brings an end to common law practices and will, I am certain, provide a surer footing and promote standardised practices. I congratulate the Minister on introducing this important legislation.
I thank everyone who has contributed to the debate on this very important legislation. This is an important discussion because this is a complex Bill on which substantial work has been undertaken to ensure we provide an appropriate balance between assisting the Garda Síochána in the very important work it does by enabling the use of the best modern scientific techniques to identify the perpetrators of crime and address issues relating to missing persons, and protection for individual privacy and human rights.
This is an area of law that should have been addressed many years ago. Ireland is an outlier in Europe in not yet having a DNA database, and similar legislation is in place in at least 15 other European Union countries. My officials will correct me if I am wrong but I understand a DNA database has been in place in the United Kingdom since 1995. We have, therefore, taken a long time to reach this point.
The Garda Síochána, with the assistance of the Forensic Science Laboratory, has been using DNA in the context of identifying perpetrators of crime. However, it is time to change our legislation and establish the database that is so badly required. The restrictive nature of the current statutory framework, which limits the taking of samples for evidential purposes in connection with particular offences, does not facilitate the establishment of a DNA database as an intelligence resource for the Garda. It is vital the Garda has such an intelligence resource.
The databases in place in other European Union countries are used to store DNA profiles taken from known individuals and unknown DNA profiles developed from crime scene stains. They facilitate speculative comparisons between different sets of profiles. In this way, matches can be produced which generate investigative leads for the police. This legislation provides for the establishment of such a quality intelligence tool for the Garda Síochána. As some speakers correctly noted, the Garda Síochána has for some time sought the assistance of a DNA database in the work it does.
I propose to address some specific issues of direct relevance to the legislation before the House, before discussing some of the comments made by Deputies. I recognise and thank Deputy Niall Collins of the Fianna Fáil Party for his support for the legislation. The Deputy asked about the provision of resources to the Forensic Science Laboratory, which is an issue I addressed in my earlier contribution. I am keen to ensure the database will be ready for use as rapidly as possible after the legislation has been enacted. Particular steps must be taken after enactment to bring the legislation into force.
As I stated, the Forensic Science Laboratory has undertaken a substantial amount of preparatory work, including the installation last year of the purpose-built software on which the database will sit. Known as CODIS, this software is used in more than 40 countries, including 18 EU member states. The software installation allows for the storage of profiles in distinct files and has a rapid search capability. It has also been configured to allow mutual searching of European databases, as required by the Prüm Council decision to which I referred.
It is to be expected that there will be a significant increase in the number of samples being submitted to the Forensic Science Laboratory after the legislation has been enacted. The laboratory has been resourced to deal with this increase and is ready to accept increased demands on its services.
Considerable investment in robotic instrumentation has also taken place to ensure the Forensic Science Laboratory is ready to deal with the demands the new database will bring. All forensic samples are processed using robotic instruments, including for sample transfers. This, in combination with a bar code system, acts to ensure the integrity of the sample throughout the process.
The investment in robotic equipment in advance of the database has enabled Forensic Science Ireland to validate its use and introduce it into its routine work. This has already increased output in terms of case numbers and turnaround times. Without being unduly critical, when my predecessor in the Department published a Bill in this area in 2010, the Forensic Science Laboratory had not been resourced, the necessary work had not been undertaken and the necessary equipment had not been put in place.
A sophisticated information management system, the installation of which is proceeding, will facilitate the tracking of all cases and samples from log in through examination to disposal and completion of the process. It will underpin the recording of all processes in the laboratory and will also contain a record of all the personnel who interacted with the system at any stage of analysis and examination. The general thrust of these new installations is to enable a high throughput of samples both from persons and from crime scenes with automated processes and tracking of these samples throughout the entire process from receipt to report. At a time of financial restrictions across the board, as Minister, I have ensured the laboratory could continue to prepare for the enactment of this legislation as it goes through the legislative process in the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Deputy Collins also raised the issue of the Military Police. As Minister for Defence, I am acutely aware of the work of the Military Police and the need to equip it with the resources it needs to do its work both here in Ireland and in troubled spots around the globe. In the context of criminal matters, the Military Police will on occasion liaise with the Garda as the civil authority. The Garda may have a role when particular incidents occur. Department of Justice and Equality officials have met Department of Defence officials and members of the Defence Forces on this issue, including as recently as yesterday.
The Bill is directed at crime generally and at the population as a whole. The Military Police is obviously involved in the detection and prosecution of crime in very limited circumstances - that is, when the suspect is a member of the Defence Forces. This is an important issue and I have asked my officials in the Department of Defence to address this area in the context of defence matters. I have had a conversation about whether during its passage through Parliament provisions in the Bill might be extended to the Military Police or if it would be beneficial to do so in a separate defence Bill. That matter is under active consideration and as we head into Committee and Report Stages I will advise Members of the House on progress being made in those deliberations. In addressing that issue it is important we do not delay the passage of the legislation before the House so that as soon as possible it is available to be of assistance to members of An Garda Síochána in the very important work they do.
Deputies Collins and Mac Lochlainn repeated the concerns of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties over the transmission of DNA information to other EU member states and to countries outside the EU. Predictably Deputy Wallace raised his usual anti-United States phobias. The Bill provides for the transmission of DNA information between EU member states to the extent required by the governing European Union decision and other international instruments. It is beneficial that we so engage with our EU colleagues, with the United States and with other states.
I will give the blindingly obvious example of those who are sexual predators and prey on children - paedophiles - or those who have engaged in sexual offences and have targeted women in doing so. There are no borders to prevent them travelling from one part of the world to another. No borders prevent them from travelling across Europe. No borders restrict, for example, someone who might commit a sexual offence in the United States also doing so as a visitor to this State. There is an interest in ensuring we provide our citizens with the maximum protection. There is an interest in ensuring the maximum co-operation between police forces. Given that we will continue to have those who perpetrate crime on this island and elsewhere, it is in the interest of victims that the maximum scientific technical information is available to identify serial perpetrators of events.
That also applies to a number of other areas. It applies to homicide and to other types of international crime. It may well be that those engaged internationally in the drugs trade may leave a DNA sample on product that readily identifies someone who has imported into Ireland as a resident of the Netherlands or Spain. We cannot have the Garda Síochána fighting international crime with one hand tied behind its back and without the facility of using the most modern scientific techniques available to identify the perpetrators of crime.
In the context of EU law, we have no choice but to provide for the integration of our database. The flip side of this is that the Garda will have access to databases throughout Europe and in any third countries with which we enter into arrangements. The interrogation of databases is anonymous and where there is a hit, as I said in my opening remarks earlier today, any further activity on the case must take place under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008. The transmission of DNA samples and profiles is already provided for in that Act and this Bill simply strengthens those provisions to ensure samples and profiles can only be transmitted to countries with safeguards equivalent to ours. Deputies raised that issue, which is one of understandable genuine concern. In dealing with this area, it is important not only to ensure the efficiency of policing and the maximum co-operation in the area of policing, but also that there are similar protections for people's privacy and human rights given that information that is held on database systems can be accessed internationally.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn asked about former offenders who qualified for release under the Good Friday Agreement. The provisions on ex-offenders are quite circumscribed. In particular, no former offender can be forced to provide a DNA sample. A rigorous procedure covers the requesting of a sample. Furthermore the circumstances in which the Garda may seek to have a sample taken are limited. In addition, there is a ten-year watershed after expiry of a sentence after which a person cannot be requested to provide a sample. All told, I believe these provisions are balanced, but I am prepared to consider any further submissions Deputy Mac Lochlainn may wish to make in this regard.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn and others asked why this Bill was not referred to the Irish Human Rights Commission. The commission provided extensive comment on the 2010 Bill. In its preparation, this Bill has taken account of the views expressed by the Irish Human Rights Commission on issues that arose under the 2010 Bill. it is important that we do so. The provisions I detailed earlier today, which are very different in this Bill with regard to the retention and destruction of samples, are examples of issues that would have been addressed by the Irish Human Rights Commission.
Deputy Halligan asked about the destruction of samples and removing profiles from databases. Some other Deputies also adverted to that issue. As Deputies Seán Kyne, Finian McGrath and others noted, the legislation contains very extensive provisions addressing that area.
They are extensive and important in the context of human rights and privacy issues. There is no question, as has been suggested by one Deputy, that under the Bill there is some presumption of guilt on the part of individuals. The presumption of innocence is a central tenet of our legal system and it is not impacted by the legislation. In any event, the legislation is of substantial importance and many Deputies acknowledged as much in their speeches. In fairness, I acknowledge that Deputy Mac Lochlainn and Sinn Féin are supportive of the Bill. Quite rightly, Deputy Mac Lochlainn raised issues as he is entitled to do.
I am keen to thank various Deputies although I realise now I am at risk of leaving someone out. Even in the case of Deputies who spoke when I was not here, I am aware of their contributions. I thank Deputies Peter Fitzpatrick, Paul Connaughton, Dara Murphy, Simon Harris, Seamus Healy, Ann Phelan, Anne Ferris, Seán Kenny, Thomas Pringle, Eamonn Maloney, Michael Conaghan and Seán Kyne for their supportive comments. I hope I have addressed some of the issues that were raised during the course of their comments.
Deputy Dara Murphy made an important point that is worth coming back to and I will mention it briefly. He noted that this is landmark legislation which will not only assist the Garda in the work that it does, but will provide the force with assistance for decades to come and that it is remarkably important legislation for victims of crime. If a person is a victim of a serious crime, it can stay with him or her for many years and have a lasting impact on his or her capacity to enter into relationships; it can impact on his or her coping capacity or his or her sense of freedom to go about their daily lives unhindered. For too many people there is a fear that they could become victims again. For every victim of serious crime, one of the questions that remain with them is whether An Garda Síochána can bring to justice the perpetrator of the crime. For many, it proves to be the case, but for others it does not prove to be the case. Many are concerned in cases where they have been a victim that they may be revisited by the same criminal or that whatever they suffered may be inflicted on others. This legislation will not only assist An Garda Síochána in the work it does, but it will give many more victims of crime peace of mind in future because of the capacity it has in the establishment of the DNA database to assist the Garda to identify serial offenders with speed.
Some individuals can literally go on a crime binge and terrorise communities. Recently, I was made aware of a case in a local community where they had suffered nine burglaries in the space of a few weeks. The Garda was trying to identify the perpetrator. Eventually, the perpetrator was caught exiting from a home that they visited a second time. When the necessary work was done, it was established that the individual was the person responsible for the nine offences that occurred. I have no wish to say anything more about it than that because I do not want to identify the location or the individual or do anything that could prejudice the prosecution. However, if this individual was a previous offender, if the Garda had a DNA profile or database and if, when the first crime was committed, there was some DNA samples left - it might have been as simple as a hair follicle at the scene of the crime - then it may well have been that the identity of the perpetrator would have been known earlier and that the further crimes they committed could have been readily prevented. That is a simple example of the benefits of this legislation to victims of crime and in crime prevention and that is why I maintain this is landmark legislation of great importance to the public and of great assistance to An Garda Síochána. Again, it establishes us as having the same scientific systems as our EU counterparts and brings us to where we can connect with them in the context of the exchange of information.
I have been trying to resist the temptation to reference Deputy Wallace's extraordinary contribution on the Bill. He was the only Deputy who spoke who is opposed to the legislation. It was not entirely clear exactly what he would do should there be a vote on it. I have no idea when I sit down whether he will appear in the House to oppose it or whether he simply delivered a speech in opposition to it. Anyway, I have noted with great interest Deputy Wallace's contributions on matters relating to assisting the Garda, protecting victims of crime, preventing crime and bringing offenders to justice. I have compiled a list of the exotic contributions of Deputy Wallace in several debates in recent times. If I were to sum up his very interesting perspective on the law, protecting our citizens and protecting people in the communities he represents in this House, it would be along the following lines. First, the Garda should not have the facility of a DNA database. That seems evident from his contribution. Second, based on a contribution he made a week or ten days ago, no one should ever be fined by the courts for the various reasons he offered. His view was that it does not matter what a person does and it does not matter how wealthy a person is, the courts should never impose a fine. Further, no one should ever have a fixed ticket charge cancelled even when it is wrongly issued to the wrong person. Fines are out but fixed ticket charges are compulsory even if a person receives such a charge and it turns out a mistake has been made about the registration number of the car.
The view that people are entitled to selectively break the law also seems to be a philosophy of Deputy Wallace in the context of various tranches of legislation enacted in the House. Another principle that he adheres to with great consistency is that at every opportunity the integrity of the Garda Síochána should be attacked and undermined. He has another principle relating to certain countries, although in the case of one of the countries to which that principle applied it seems to have been changing its approach since the recent presidential election there. The approach of Deputy Wallace with regard to the United States could be summed up by saying that America is the great Satan.
Finally, it seems to be his approach that DNA data should never be used to identify perpetrators of homicide, rapes or sexual offences or to establish the identity of an individual who has gone missing, nor should it ever be used to establish the innocence of an individual where there is an alleged miscarriage of justice. That is an interesting and exotic perspective of what is in the interests of his constituents. It is completely inconsistent with the views of every other Member with regard to the use of DNA and the importance of a DNA database.
I will conclude by saying something I said at the start of my speech, although I realise my officials occasionally find this embarrassing. I thank the officials in the Department of Justice and Equality and the Attorney General's office. They have done an extraordinary job in producing comprehensive legislation which I have long sought to have enacted in the House.
Unfortunately, I have been so long in the House that I can remember persecuting a former Minister for Justice many years ago to enact the legislation we are repealing in this Bill. There was a time when DNA databases did not exist but other neighbouring countries were using DNA in the investigation of crime when we were not and we lacked any facility to use it. I am going back to a time when I would have piloted legislation into this House to provide for the use of the DNA to identify the parentage of children where there was a dispute about that.
It was a time when I was putting under pressure a former Minister for Justice to enact the legislation to which I referred earlier, which originally provided for the use of DNA in the fight against crime.
I thank Members for their supportive comments. As Minister for Justice and Equality, it is a privilege to be in a position to be able to pilot this legislation through the House. An enormous amount of work has been done on this Bill and I hope and believe that all the issues raised in respect of the 2010 Bill, some of which I raised myself as a criticism, have been addressed. On Committee Stage, however, were Deputies to table constructive amendments to improve the Bill, I would be very happy to take them on board. I already have mentioned that in dealing with one or two areas, including data protection, I intend to bring forward some amendments myself on Committee Stage. I will conclude by commending the Bill to the House.