1. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when she will review the powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3202/16]
Vol. 904 No. 2
1. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when she will review the powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3202/16]
I have tabled this question in light of the recent issues which have arisen in the media relating to the accessing by GSOC of the phone records of journalists and, by extension, the phone records of people who were in contact with them. The issues surrounding the independence of the broadcasting and journalistic communities which have surfaced have been well aired and these communities, in turn, are seeking to protect their sources and uphold their independence.
As the Deputy is aware, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, was established as a statutory independent body under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to provide independent oversight of complaints made against members of the Garda Síochána. There is widespread support to have such a body. The Garda Síochána Act stipulates that GSOC is independent in the exercise of its functions, which is an important point as Members in this Chamber refer continually to the need for independent bodies. GSOC has been given extensive powers under the 2005 Act. The Garda Síochána (Amendment) Act 2015 amended the 2005 Act to expand GSOC's remit and powers. Deputy Collins may recall that at the time, a number of Deputies sought the granting of further powers to GSOC.
I assume the Deputy's question relates, as he has stated, to concerns that have been expressed widely in the media recently concerning access by GSOC to the telephone records of journalists. I understand this arose in the context of a criminal investigation being carried out by GSOC. It was misreported in recent days that access to telephone records by GSOC was made possible under the amended powers given to it last year but this is not correct. The relevant legislation, which was introduced by the former Minister, Dermot Ahern, is the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011. In the course of the debate at that time, there was discussion of the various balances and public interests that must be served under this legislation.
I have absolutely no role in the process of requesting or authorising access to telephone records under current legislation and nor do I receive information relating to specific requests made in the course of investigations. That would not be appropriate, given the point I have made about the commission being an independent body. However, issues of genuine concern have been raised as to the balance in the law between the important freedom of journalists to pursue legitimate matters of public interest and the basic rights of persons not to have their personal information improperly disclosed. Bodies investigating crime must have the proper appropriate statutory powers available to carry out their duties. However, it is necessary to examine the balance in respect of entirely legitimate journalistic activity being carried out in the public interest. As the Deputy is aware, the Government agreed with my recommendation to establish an independent review carried out by the former Chief Justice, Mr. Justice John Murray, who was a former member of the European Court of Justice. He will carry out the review, which already has commenced and he already has had initial discussions with officials of my Department.
Apart from what was revealed regarding the access of journalists' telephone records, there also was much public disquiet about the quantity of other people's telephone records that also appear to be accessed. In respect of GSOC, as I have stated throughout my commentary on this issue, it is important to state that no one is above the law and no journalist is above the law either. Everyone must be subject to scrutiny and investigation where that is merited or warranted. The issue here is there does not appear to be transparency regarding the test GSOC applies to ascertain whether it will access the records of a journalist, as well as the fact that the journalist or person in question is not put on notice that he or she is having his or her telephone records accessed. This is why, as the Minister is aware, Fianna Fáil has published a Bill in this regard. The Minister has opted for a review but I believe there should be a High Court process in which an application is made to the High Court. This would be similar to other processes that happen in investigations by An Garda Síochána when, for example, it places telephone taps or listening devices. As part of that process, the journalist in question at least would be allowed to make a submission to the court in this regard.
By way of a supplementary question, the Minister has indicated she has asked Mr. Justice John Murray to conduct a review. She has outlined his qualifications and I could not agree with her more. In that regard, has the Minister asked him to make recommendations on the point that agencies accessing data do not publish details on how many applications they make in the course of a year?
Thank you. I will come back to the Deputy.
In other words, I refer to getting a handle on the quantity of telephone records assessments right across the spectrum each year.
As the Deputy is aware, I recently have put various figures into the public arena on the question he has asked. The review's terms of reference are to consider international best practice and the legislative framework. It is the case in respect of all the Acts in this area that judicial reviews are carried out, which is important. The Deputy rightly raises the question as to whether, perhaps with regard to particular categories, there should be access in the first instance to a judge. This is one question I imagine Mr. Justice Murray intends to examine because the question of best practice and, as the Deputy is aware, the European Court of Human Rights issue regarding the protection of journalistic sources have received particular attention. One must make the point immediately that in the case of the investigation of serious crime, it is important that the Garda, GSOC and other bodies are able to take whatever actions they need but obviously having safeguards in place is important. At present, there are reports by judges, as well as a complaints process. I make the point that to date, no complaint has been upheld regarding the use of this tool.
I will come back to the Minister and call Deputy Niall Collins. I ask all Members to please observe the clock.
That is fine.
2. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the commentary in the Garda Inspectorate's report, Changing Policing in Ireland, that there has been a repeated failure by An Garda Síochána to implement recommendations for change from its previous reports and from other reviews and inquiries; and the actions she is taking to ensure the recommendations in the Changing Policing in Ireland report and previous Garda Síochána Inspectorate reports will be implemented. [3053/16]
My question pertains to the Garda Inspectorate report, Changing Policing in Ireland. It seeks to get a sense from the Minister as to how she intends to implement the recommendations considering the highly worrying commentary by the Garda Inspectorate that many recommendations it has put forward in previous reports and from other investigations and inquiries simply have not been implemented. It seeks to establish what the Minister's plan is at this time to make sure the recommendations from this and previous reports are implemented.
In the first instance, as the Deputy has asked, I will put on record some information regarding previous reports. To date, there have been 11 reports and as Members are aware, the job of the Garda Inspectorate is to promote efficiency and effectiveness within An Garda Síochána, which is an objective shared by all Members. The inspectorate undertakes comprehensive analysis of policies and procedures in the Garda Síochána and benchmarks them against the best practices and standards of comparable police services. The most recent of the aforementioned 11 reports were the 2014 reports on crime investigation and the 2015 report. Members have discussed the 2014 reports in this Chamber a number of times. The most recent report was published on 9 December and is under active consideration.
As for the first nine reports, I have asked for detailed information and am advised by the Commissioner that of the 280 recommendations, which is a lot of recommendations, 204 have been implemented and a further 73 have been accepted with a view to implementation. Obviously, work is ongoing in respect of the crime investigation report and quite a number of changes have already been made. I will recap some changes that were recommended in those reports because it is important not to lose sight of initiatives and changes that have already happened in response to the report, although there is more work to do. In this regard, I note the establishment of a victim support office in every local Garda division and there is further work to do on developing this victim support service. In addition, a review of crime counting rules by the Central Statistics Office has been discussed in this Chamber and will have far-reaching implications for the accuracy and reliability of the compilation of statistics. Moreover, a data quality team has been established in An Garda Síochána. As has been discussed in this House, there has been significant reorganisation of Garda units with regard to various criminal activities. A criminal justice steering group now has been established to provide greater co-ordination between all bodies in the criminal justice system. In this context, I note a highly successful conference was held in Croke Park just one week ago between all the justice agencies, which again followed through on the recommendation on the need for greater co-ordination and exchange of information between the various criminal justice areas.
Thank you. I will come back to the Minister.
I also refer to the working group on information and communications technology, ICT, which was an absolutely critical part of the aforementioned crime investigation report. Initiatives already have taken place in order that, for example, investigations now are recorded on the PULSE system, which was not the case previously. These initiatives and actions have been taken to implement some of the major recommendations. However, I note these are comprehensive reports with huge numbers of recommendations and obviously, the process is ongoing.
The Garda Inspectorate's press release on the official launch of the Changing Policing in Ireland report states:
A large number of them have not yet been fully implemented and therefore the envisaged outcomes have not been realised. The Inspectorate is of the opinion that many of the policing issues that resulted in inquiries, tribunals and government reports could have been minimised or avoided; if these recommendations had been implemented and some fundamental changes made.
Clearly, it profoundly disagrees with what the Minister has been given. Will the Minister supply the Opposition with a copy of the summary of implementation of recommendations suggested by the Garda Commissioner? We would like to see the recommendations and the actions taken to address them because we are seriously concerned. The Garda Inspectorate appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. It was agreed on an all-party basis that the report was excellent and that we wanted to see it implemented so the Opposition needs to see a detailed report from the Minister outlining the recommendations from all these reports going back ten or 15 years so we can see what actions were taken to implement them. We can then properly assess what is happening here.
That is a reasonable request and I am happy to respond to it. Many of the Garda Inspectorate's reports have been implemented. I draw the Deputy's attention to what is actually on the inspectorate's website in respect of implementation. When we discuss these reports, it is important to contextualise the recommendations. There is no question that many of them arise from historical underfunding. I know the Deputy is very familiar with the report on crime, including the most recent one. We have sought to rectify the critical ICT infrastructure by providing an additional €205 million. The Deputy can see that many recommendations arise in respect of that critical underfunding, which has so many implications in terms of the deployment of gardaí in local areas and rosters. If we want to use people efficiently, we need a human resources roster online, for example. We have corrected that and due to the funding that has been made available, quite a number of the recommendations will correct some of the very serious issues that have been outlined. Clearly, other changes are also necessary.
Without a doubt, one of the key issues is under-investment. This Government has not invested in the past five years. Hopefully, that will change in the next period. There are also massive structural issues in An Garda Síochána. Many of the challenges we face - "challenge" has been a kind word in recent years - are down to mismanagement and our front-line gardaí being failed by a management system that is not delivering for them. This and previous reports from the Garda Inspectorate, particularly the past two reports, are tremendous pieces of work. I do not like the term "police force". I see it as a police service. If the reports were implemented, we would have the police service we deserve. The Garda Inspectorate has earned respect due to the way it has produced these reports in recent years. It is not confrontational. Robert Olson is very diplomatic and reasonable in his tone. When somebody like him and his team say that they are exasperated because their recommendations are not being implemented, we need to listen. I appeal to the Minister to supply the Opposition with a report on what actions have been taken following the recommendations. It would be excellent if she could do this.
It is very reasonable to say that when one has reports, one needs ongoing evaluation and monitoring of them. It is very important and my Department is involved in that. In addition, the new police authority will also have a role in this and we will have public meetings relating to what is happening. It is very clear that in terms of monitoring and evaluating the kind of response to the reports, the police authority will play a key role. It will have its first meeting this week.
As manager of the force, the Garda Commissioner has a particular responsibility, as do people working with her, to ensure management issues are dealt with. Senior gardaí throughout the force also have this responsibility. In that regard, the publication by the Garda Commissioner of her own five-year strategic transformation programme, which will take place shortly, will be an important part of the points made by the Deputy in respect of the ongoing monitoring. Obviously, in that report, she will address the recommendations that have arisen in the various reports, including the most recent report. That will also be a good guide to evaluating how many of the inspectorate's reports have been implemented.
3. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the legislation regulating State surveillance measures, such as data retention, interception of communications and the use of surveillance and tracking devices, is sufficient to protect the privacy rights of Irish citizens; if she intends to strengthen this legislation in favour of citizens; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3182/16]
Last week in the Dáil, Deputy Clare Daly and I addressed the absurdity of the Minister instigating a review into the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011 regarding information on journalists without also conducting a review of the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009, the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 and the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011, all of which give draconian powers to State agencies to abuse the privacy of Irish citizens. The Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 allows gardaí, the Defence Forces and Revenue with the say of a superior officer, not a judge, to secretly record an individual with audio and video devices, break into their home, install video cameras and recording equipment, secretly put a tracking device on their vehicle and follow their movements. A report with no details or statistics is produced at the end of the year just to cover this area. We are led to believe there are almost 40 applications of this nature per day. It seems very strange that it is not tackled.
I think the Deputy is confusing the statistics under the various pieces of legislation if he is quoting that figure. Those who would seek to commit serious offences or threaten the security of this State have not been slow to embrace the opportunities offered by modern technology at a national and international level. It is, therefore, to be entirely expected that if we want An Garda Síochána and other relevant agencies to be in a position to effectively combat serious crime and terrorism, we must provide them with the necessary and appropriate powers to do so. This is absolutely clear. Such powers, which are available to law enforcement agencies in one form or another the world over, are important tools for police forces in Ireland and around the world. There is no question about that. Recent events highlight the need for that, and we see it here in respect of a variety of cases.
Looking in detail at the various pieces of legislation, the data available under the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011 relates to subscriber, traffic and location data, not the content of communications, and it may only be accessed by the relevant bodies empowered to do so for the purposes prescribed and under the terms set out in the Act.
The Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 provides that an authorisation for interception may only be granted by ministerial warrant on application from the Garda Commissioner, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces or the chairperson of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
The Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 provides for authorisations for intrusive surveillance measures to be granted by a judge of the District Court on application by a senior officer of An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Defence Forces or the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission for the purposes prescribed and under the terms set out in the Act and only in accordance with the respective statutory duties of the bodies involved. One must go to a judge to get agreement for anything in the area provided for under the 2009 Act. An independent complaints referee also operates. There is independent judicial oversight and a report produced every year in respect of all of these Acts. There is also the possibility of a complaint.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In general terms, these targeted powers are only available in the context of investigating serious crime, that is to say, offences that carry a penalty of five or more years in prison, or for safeguarding the security of the State by the Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces. They do not provide for indiscriminate surveillance of members of the public. I am sure the Deputy would agree that the bodies charged with investigating crime and combating terrorism need to have the appropriate statutory powers available to them to carry out their duties in protecting society.
Genuine concerns have been raised as to the balance in our law between the important freedom of journalists to pursue legitimate matters of public interest and the basic rights of persons not to have their personal information improperly disclosed. I decided to have an independent examination of the law carried out in respect of access by statutory bodies to the communications data of journalists held by communications service providers taking into account, the principle of protection of journalistic sources, the need for statutory bodies with investigative and-or prosecution powers to have access to data in order to prevent and detect serious crime and current best international practice in this area. The former Chief Justice, Mr. Justice John Murray, has agreed to carry out the review and he will bring recommendations to me. The outcome of the review will be referred to the relevant Oireachtas committee.
One page or one day reports at the end of the year do not represent oversight. Section 7 of Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 allows any garda above the rank of superintendent to approve internally covert surveillance by another garda. Although section 7 is intended to apply only in exceptional and urgent situations, it clearly allows gardaí to bypass the District Court judge and to approve internally surveillance by each other. There is no requirement for retrospective authorisation by a judge. This idea that a judge looks at it at the end of the year and signs off on it is rubbish. I have a one-page report here. There is no methodology, detail or oversight. We are getting no information back from it. Section 8 sets out provisions for the fixing and use of tracking devices such as GPS on a vehicle and never requires judicial authorisation. It is always internally approved by another garda. Literally and legally, gardaí are a law unto themselves.
The Minister quotes the different pieces of legislation. Digital Rights Ireland has forced the point home many times and it has been picked up by the Europeans. We do not have proper scrutiny of it. When a State interferes with a citizen's right to privacy, particularly when it is done through covert police surveillance, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly held that this intrusion must be balanced by the provision of adequate safeguards and remedies to the citizen along with strong external monitoring and oversight of policy and practice. That is not what we are getting.
We do have judicial oversight. Judicial oversight is very important. This particular area is not one in respect of which, for obvious reasons, we would have a huge amount of detail, but the seriousness with which judges take their role in terms of the oversight they must have in place should not be underestimated. There is no question, as the Deputy appeared to be implying in his remarks, of widespread or unsupervised mass surveillance on members of the public by the State. The Deputy should be very clear about that. That would not be lawful and it does not happen. To suggest it does is to misrepresent the legal powers available to the relevant statutory bodies, which use those powers in only very specific circumstances.
In regard to the point about journalists, the Deputy will be aware that I have initiated a review in this area, to include a review of international best practice. If there is need for further supervision then, of course, that should be considered.
Despite media reports to the contrary, prior to today I had raised issues around surveillance 11 times during the lifetime of this Dáil. When I raised with the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, the question of whether GCHQ had tapped into a fibre optic cable off the coast of Wales, giving total access to Irish phone lines, I was met with blankness. There was no confirmation as to whether permission had been given for that to be done, whether there was any awareness of it or if anything had been done about it. There does not appear to be any interest in tackling this issue.
There is an onus on the State to provide the citizen with legal clarity and foreseeability. We do not get that. There must also be accessibility to any covert surveillance rules or policies in use. We are also not getting that. There is a requirement for real judicial supervision in this area. That the Minister believes that an annual one-day survey of this area is real judicial supervision does not stand up to scrutiny. It is not a rational argument. I do not know how the Minister can say that. We need a complete overhaul of supervision in this area. The privacy rights of citizens in Ireland are being interfered with in an unfair manner without proper scrutiny and oversight. That needs to change.
The Deputy is making statements in respect of which there is no evidence. In regard to his statement that the public is being subject to surveillance, there is no evidence that-----
There is; Snowden produced it.
-----the public is being subject to widespread or unsupervised mass surveillance. We have laws in this regard in place and which were discussed in and by this Oireachtas. For example, if the Deputy reads the 2011 records, he will see that the then Minister, former Deputy Dermot Ahern, at that time discussed in detail the important issue of balancing rights. While he was concerned about the privacy rights of Irish citizens, he believed it was important to have that legislation in place. I am sure the Deputy will agree that particular crimes need to be investigated.
Access to telephone records can be an important tool. There is no question of that. The Deputy will be well aware of what is happening internationally. The internal systems within, for example, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, in terms of the methodology used for access to records, require the consent of the Garda Commissioner. The same applies to An Garda Síochána and its internal processes. To suggest there is a casual attitude within these bodies to these powers would be incorrect.
4. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the action she will take further to the recent Garda Inspectorate's report on policing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3203/16]
What further action does the Minister propose to take in light of the recent report of the Garda Inspectorate? The Minister will be aware that members of the inspectorate recently appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. It is fair to say that they were hugely frustrated yet very professional and charitable in their language and presentation on the lack of implementation of many of the key recommendations in their report. Perhaps the Minister would address that point.
As the Deputy will have heard my earlier response on this issue, I do not propose to repeat what has been already implemented. In regard to investment in An Garda Síochána, including new supports for information and communications technology, which, as the Deputy rightly said, are long-standing problems owing to the change in our economic circumstances, we are now in a position to invest and support the developments that are needed. Reform is needed in certain aspects, as outlined in the report. I believe there is a need for ongoing monitoring in this area. The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality has an important role to play in this regard.
As I said earlier, the police authority will be very cognisant of these reports and I have no doubt they will be a priority in terms of analysing how the recommendations and change programme is being managed. Changing an organisation as large as An Garda Síochána requires action on the part of many different players. However, it is primarily the responsibility of management within An Garda Síochána to respond to these reports. I believe this is being done. It is a broad-ranging task. The Garda Commissioner will publish her report and no doubt that will be considered by future justice committees. I have put in place a process through which the views are being sought of the Garda Commissioner and of other bodies to whom recommendations are directed relating to the most recent report. The timeframe for conclusion of this process is three months. That consultation process will be completed in March. I believe it will provide further guidelines to the Department of Justice and Equality and the Dáil committees in the monitoring and implementation of recommendations.
I agree that the inspectorate has done very wide-ranging work. It is now time for focus on implementation.
Those who attended the meeting of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and heard the presentation by the inspectorate got the sense that management of An Garda Síochána is resistant to change. I would welcome a comment by the Minister on this point.
Has the Minister specifically spoken to or had a meeting with the Garda Commissioner on the inspectorate's most recent report? Following on from that and the Minister's recent appointment of the new board of the police authority, has the Minister formally met the new board and has it agreed a programme of work? What was its reaction to the inspectorate's report?
The Minister will be aware that community garda numbers form a huge issue and that many areas do not have dedicated community gardaí because such gardaí have been sucked into other policing activities by virtue of demand and reduced Garda numbers owing to the recruitment moratorium over many years. One of the recommendations of the recent report is that 1,500 gardaí be relieved of administrative duty. How realistic is that recommendation? People are saying to me that that target is not realistic because particular administrative duties, such as the taking of sworn evidence, can only be undertaken by gardaí.
I will try to respond to all of the Deputy's questions. First, I have had discussions with the Garda Commissioner on the most recent report. I also arranged for the Garda Commissioner, the chairperson of the police authority and members of the Garda Inspectorate to appear before the Cabinet sub-committee on justice three weeks ago for a frank and detailed discussion on the recommendations with members of that committee, including the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, and other Ministers. During that meeting we discussed implementation of the recommendations of the report, in respect of which we heard the views of the key players. It was a very useful exercise, which shows the importance of having a Cabinet sub-committee on justice, which we now have for the first time.
Second, on the police authority, the Deputy will be aware - there has been some misreporting in this regard - that members of the board of the police authority were selected through the Public Appointments Service and recommendations were made to Government. The selection process was in the first instance carried out by the Public Appointments Service.
I will meet the police authority this week and it will hold its first meeting on Friday. I will be interested to hear from the Garda Commissioner whether she agrees with the figure of 1,500 gardaí. I already heard her make some comments on it that would suggest she would like to respond on whether there are, effectively, 1,500 gardaí who could be freed up at this moment.
Will the Minister confirm whether the first meeting of the police authority next Friday will be in public or private? Will she also comment on resistance to change from the management of An Garda Síochána?
Any decisions about when the authority holds public meetings will be in the first instance a matter for Josephine Feehily, who is the chair of the police authority. I have no doubt there will be a public element to the meeting on Friday in terms of communicating with the public about the work. The work programme is entirely a matter for the authority.
In regard to resistance to change, it can be difficult for any large organisation when change is discussed. Resistance is a very strong word to use and it is often thrown about in regard to An Garda Síochána. My experience of meeting members of An Garda Síochána throughout the country is that they are very pleased to get the extra resources they have and for there to be recruitment taking place in order that they can respond to the crime issues of the day. They will welcome many of the changes that are being recommended if they help them to do their job more effectively.
5. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality to strengthen the performance of the criminal justice system in tackling white collar crime. [3044/16]
I am revisiting an issue I first raised with the Minister in June 2014 and again in February 2015. I wish to get a sense of the Minister's plan to strengthen the performance of the criminal justice system to tackle white collar crime. Citizens have been disillusioned in recent years because they see people going to prison for not paying small fines while those who are responsible for bankrupting the State seem to be getting away scot free. There seems to be a difference of emphasis. What is the Minister going to do about it?
Early in its term of office the Government enacted new legislation in the Criminal Justice Act 2011 which was an important step forward in our response to this form of criminality. Its main purpose is to address delays in the prosecution and investigation of complex white collar crime, about which there was much concern, by improving certain important procedural matters and strengthening Garda investigative powers. Another recent provision is Part 5 of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 which allows for the selection of additional jurors for longer trials, such as those involving complex financial matters where jurors might become unavailable due to the length of the proceedings. That is an important change.
Forthcoming legislation, which is close to being finalised, is the criminal justice (corruption) Bill. The Bill is also intended to enhance the ability of the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, to bring prosecutions relating to corruption. I am advised that An Garda Síochána continues to develop strategies aimed at targeting, dismantling and disrupting criminal networks, utilising advanced analytical and intelligence methodology. The use of the powers in the Criminal Justice Act 2011, as well as proceeds of crime legislation and the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau, are very important in this context. I published a report of their work three weeks ago which shows how many white collar criminal enterprises are being tackled by the Criminal Assets Bureau. Other countries are now copying that initiative which was undertaken some years ago. The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, GBFI, works closely with the Criminal Assets Bureau.
The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, ODCE, the Competition Authority and the GBFI all work together. The major banking investigations which have been undertaken in recent years illustrate the close working relationship between An Garda Síochána and the ODCE across multiple strands of very complex investigations. People are frustrated at the length of time criminal trials can take, but a number of new legislative initiatives are targeted at trying to ensure there are no undue delays.
I am mindful that what the recent Garda Inspectorate report said about the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is very worrying. It said the GBFI was struggling to cope with the scale of the number of cases brought before it and recommended change in respect of the bureau.
In 2014, Remy Farrell, SC, heavily criticised the lack of resources available to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Those offices faced significant cuts. The response of the State, which was literally bankrupt because of the reckless behaviour of white collar criminals and which was facilitated by poor regulation among other issues, was to cut funding to the very agencies tasked with ensuring that did not happen again. Substantial cuts in funding were made to all those bodies. Will the Minister outline the investment that has been made in those bodies considering that, as we speak, the Garda Inspectorate report indicated they are struggling to cope?
Deputy Mac Lochlainn will appreciate that the allocation of resources to particular investigations or specialist units such as the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation mentioned by him is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. The truth is there has been underinvestment - there is no doubt about that - because the country was bankrupt. We are now in a different situation and we must continue to invest in An Garda Síochána. I have no doubt further investment will be needed in the areas highlighted by the Deputy in the question. Having just returned from the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting that I attended on Monday, I am also in no doubt that we will require further and ongoing investment in security and the issues that arise in terms of border control because of the two significant issues with which Europe is currently grappling, namely, the terrorist threat and the increase in migration and the number of refugees crossing Europe. The Deputy will have seen the reports on the threat to Europe from ISIS. The two issues should not be confused but there are some connections.
I cannot think of any other state in the world that was literally bankrupted by the behaviour of white collar corruption and criminality, where the people were so outraged, and where funding was subsequently cut to the very bodies which are at the front line and supposed to be tackling that. In 2014, three years into the Government's term of office, Remy Farrell, one of the most eminent senior counsel in terms of tackling such criminality in the State, said there was never a better time to be a white collar criminal.
One of the proposals put to the Minister in 2014 and 2015 was from the columnist and respected commentator, Elaine Byrne. She proposed having an independent audit of the capacity of the oversight agencies to do their job, namely, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the ODCE, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigations, the Central Bank, the Revenue Commissioners, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, NBCI, and the Competition Authority. She suggested overarching oversight of all those bodies would best be provided by An Garda Síochána to ensure they acted in a joined-up manner. Has the Minister taken on board Elaine Byrne's recommendation and what will she do to address two issues, namely, the capacity of those bodies to do their job, which would be established by means of an independent audit, and the way they are resourced? I raise the matter because I do not believe the issue has been addressed. It has been the biggest issue in the criminal justice system and has been the biggest failure of the Government. I raise the matter in the last days of this Dáil to see whether the Minister can give an assurance that the situation will improve in the future.
I do not accept what Deputy Mac Lochlainn said. In fact, it is clear the Government has put more resources into the more efficient management and ability of An Garda Síochána to tackle criminal activity than other Governments in recent years. At the height of the Celtic tiger, we did not have the kind of investment in ICT that was clearly needed and, as I have said, it was outlined in those reports from the Garda Inspectorate.
The Government has set about supporting An Garda Síochána and has not just spoken about, but has actually made the investment so that all the important issues the Deputy has raised can be managed more effectively.
The enormous complexity for regulators and enforcement agencies internationally in addressing the multifaceted nature of the crimes the Deputy mentioned is widely acknowledged. There is developing experience here. The Law Reform Commission's work on regulatory enforcement and corporate offences, which is an important initiative, will guide future legislation. There is considerable engagement between the specialist bureaux and the other bodies, including the Criminal Assets Bureau, as the Deputy mentioned, and the Office of Corporate Enforcement. The success of that co-operation is evident from recent convictions for breaches of the Companies Act.