I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am delighted to introduce the Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018 to the House today on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, following its passage through the Seanad last month. The Bill is the last legislative action required to enable Ireland to ratify the Istanbul Convention on combatting violence against women and domestic violence, and as such received cross-party support in the Upper House. The main aim of the convention is to protect women against all forms of violence and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence. The convention also aims to ensure the design of a comprehensive framework of policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of such violence. The Bill will create extraterritorial jurisdiction over violent offences committed by Irish citizens or residents abroad.
Deputies will agree that violence against women and domestic violence should not be tolerated in a modern society. However, in a pan-European Eurobarometer survey on perceptions, attitudes and awareness of gender-based violence published in November 2016, 77% of the Irish sample regarded domestic violence against women as either "fairly" or "very" common in Ireland. This is an issue that needs to be tackled on all fronts through awareness-raising, education and tough criminal penalties where appropriate. This is why the Istanbul Convention is important. It is a significant legal instrument in the fight against domestic and sexual violence. The Government agreed at the time of the signing of the Istanbul Convention to an action plan that contained outstanding legislative and administrative actions identified as necessary to enable Ireland’s ratification of the convention. Those actions were incorporated into the second national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, which was published in January 2016. Significant work has been done on those actions to date. The Domestic Violence Act 2018, enacted on 8 May, addresses all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation in a manner that provides protection to victims. That Act was fully commenced on 2 January this year. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 was enacted on 22 February 2017 and introduced a statutory definition of consent to a sexual act. It also addressed a number of evidential issues to protect child and adult victims of sexual assault from any additional trauma arising from the criminal process. Finally the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 was enacted on 5 November 2017, providing for a wide range of measures to protect and inform victims during the progress of their case through the criminal justice system.
Under the Istanbul Convention, Ireland is required to make provision for extraterritorial jurisdiction over convention offences. While there are already some provisions on the Statute Book with respect to murder, manslaughter and some sexual offences, this Bill is necessary to fully extend extraterritorial jurisdiction to all convention offences. This short Bill is a priority piece of legislation for the Government. It complements other recently enacted laws I have already mentioned, which have also given effect to our obligations under the Istanbul Convention. Deputies should note that the provisions of the Bill do not just apply to situations where the victim of a crime is a woman or a victim of domestic violence. While the primary aim of the convention is to tackle violence in these circumstances, this Bill does not limit the scope of extraterritorial jurisdiction in this manner. For equality reasons, the offences under this Bill will apply equally to women and men.
Turning now to the detail of the Bill, I would like to outline its key provisions. Section 1 defines the key terms used in the Bill, the most notable being the term "relevant offence", which is used in the offences created under section 3. A relevant offence under the Bill is defined as assault causing harm, assault causing serious harm, threats to kill or cause serious harm, coercion and harassment under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997; sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault under the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990; rape; or rape under section 4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990. Another key definition is “Convention State”, which is defined as a state other than Ireland that is a party to the Istanbul Convention. Only acts committed in another convention state are covered by the Bill, with the exception of murder and manslaughter, which already have limited worldwide jurisdiction.
Section 2 is a technical section, aimed at excluding the provisions of the Bill where section 3 of the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976 applies. This Act deals with certain offences committed in Northern Ireland. The provision is necessary to avoid confusion as to the basis for claiming jurisdiction over an offence committed in Northern Ireland.
Section 3 sets out the offences under the Bill and various provisions relating to double jeopardy and proof of citizenship or residency, as the case may be. Subsection (1) provides that it is an offence for any person to commit a relevant offence on board an Irish ship or on an aircraft registered in the State. Subsection (2) provides that it is an offence for any person to aid, abet, counsel or procure another person to commit a relevant offence on board an Irish ship, on an aircraft registered in the State or in a convention state. The aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring must take place in the State, on board an Irish ship or on an aircraft registered in the State. Subsection (3) provides that it is an offence for an Irish citizen or resident to commit a relevant offence in a convention state, with a requirement that the offence must also be an offence in the place it occurs. Subsection (4) provides that it is an offence for an Irish citizen or resident to aid, abet, counsel or procure another person to commit a relevant offence in a convention state. The aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring must take place in a convention state, with a requirement that it must also be an offence in the place it occurs. Subsection (5) provides that it is an offence for a person who is ordinarily resident in the State to commit murder or manslaughter in any place outside the State. Murder and manslaughter committed by Irish citizens outside the State is covered already by section 9 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Subsection (6) provides that it is an offence for a person to aid, abet, counsel or procure another person to commit murder or manslaughter in a place outside the State. The aiding, abetting counselling or procuring must take place in the State, on board an Irish ship or on an aircraft registered in the State. Where the person who aids, abets, counsels or procures another to commit murder is an Irish citizen or resident, the aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring can take place outside the State. Subsections (7) to (12), inclusive, relate to procedural and evidential matters such as the place that proceedings may be brought, evidence relating to proof of citizenship or residency and double jeopardy.
Section 4 amends the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 to ensure that the provisions of that Act are applicable to the Istanbul Convention. Section 5 provides for the Short Title and commencement of the Bill.
This Bill will provide increased powers in the context of investigating and prosecuting crimes committed abroad by Irish citizens and residents. More importantly, it will also enable us to ratify the Istanbul convention as soon as possible. The Minister is committed to doing just that. As already stated, there was wide support for the Bill and for the swift ratification of the convention in the Seanad. I hope Deputies can echo that support and get this important Bill enacted as quickly as possible.
I look forward to the debate and I commend the Bill to the House.