I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am very pleased to present this Bill to the House. I am also pleased to report that it received general support on its recent passage through the Seanad. I do not wish to tempt fate or anticipate the approval of Deputies but I hope it might receive a similar amount of broad support here. There is a pressing need for this legislation to be enacted.
This Bill will give effect to the provisions of EU Council Framework Decision 2009/829/JHA on the application, between member states of the European Union, of the principle of mutual recognition to decisions on supervision measures as an alternative to provisional detention.
Ireland is obliged to give effect to this framework decision. The deadline for implementation was 1 December 2012. Any further delay on our part is likely to result in referral to the European Court of Justice. The Bill will fully implement the provisions of the framework decision into Irish law and will meet our obligations in this regard under EU law.
The Bill is overdue and has been a long time coming. Drafting of the Bill has been particularly complex due to the interaction with existing law in this area, much of which is non-statutory. While the Bill is important, the number of people to whom it will apply will be small.
The Bill is detailed and technical, but is a straightforward and faithful transposition of the framework decision. The text closely reflects the provisions of the framework decision. The framework decision provides for cross-border recognition of supervision decisions and monitoring of the conditions attached to such supervision. The framework decision is one of a suite of measures designed to ensure that the courts have the same options open to them for dealing with non-residents as they have for residents. The framework decision is also founded on the principles of the right to liberty and of the presumption of innocence, but it carefully balances these against the protection and security of the general public.
Although this Bill is quite a technical piece of legislation, its intention is simple. It aims to implement the provisions of the framework decision by creating a legal framework to facilitate an EU citizen subject to a supervision decision to return to his or her home country while ensuring that the necessary supervision measures continue to function and that the legal consequences for failing to comply with that supervision can be enforced, if needs must. This ensures that the necessary protections for the public are in place.
Under the provisions of this Bill, that person could have his or her supervision transferred to Ireland. He or she could return to the State, carry on working and living with family and have his or her supervision monitored by An Garda Síochána. The Bill will ensure that a person who is charged with an offence in another member state will not suffer a disproportionate interference in his or her life before facing trial on any charges. If he or she should fail to comply with the supervision measures, the Garda could enforce the order endorsing the supervision decision through the Irish courts, so the protection of the public is very much ensured.
The Bill also provides for the reverse scenario, that is, supervision decisions imposed by the Irish courts on individuals who are not habitually resident in the State can be transferred back to that person's home state if he or she wishes to return. The Bill cannot be used to remove someone from one state to another without his or her consent. Such an arrangement has obvious benefits and is likely to encourage compliance with the supervision decision. Ultimately, the public is safer when supervision is successful.
I want to turn to the provisions of the legislation and outline what is proposed in some detail. The Bill consists of 38 sections and is highly prescriptive. It sets out in great detail the step-by-step procedures by which transfers of supervision measures can take place.
Part 1 comprises sections 1 to 7, inclusive, of the Bill and covers a number of general provisions, including provisions on commencement, interpretation, the application of the Act, expenses and the power to make regulations. Section 5 specifies that the Minister for Justice and Equality will be designated as the central authority in the State for the purposes of this Bill and also states that the functions of the central authority can be delegated by order.
Part 2 comprises sections 8 to 22, inclusive, which set out the rules and procedures that will apply where Ireland is the issuing state, meaning that it is an Irish court making a decision on supervision measures, in other words a decision to grant bail, subject to conditions, to a resident of another member state, the executing state. These procedures include obligations and provisions such as obliging the Irish central authority to consult with the executing state in regard to various aspect of the supervisions decision. This can include if the supervised person commits a serious breach of the decision.
Section 10 also compels the central authority to bring to the attention of the court any risk to the public, giving the court the power, in section 11, to make a supervision decision in certain circumstances. The section does not impede the court's power to refuse the accused person bail on any existing ground. Sections 12 to 18, inclusive, detail the various procedures and processes that the issuing state and the executing state must adhere to or can rely on, such as outlining, as it does in section 12, the application process for a supervision decision for a person who has already been granted bail in the state and wishes to return to another member state pending trial.
Section 15 provides for the potential responses from the executing state to a forwarded supervision decision, for example rejecting the supervision measures, delaying the decision-making process or adapting a supervision measure. Sections 19 to 21, inclusive, give powers to the court to make decisions on revoking and renewing supervision decisions and issuing arrest warrants where the supervision measures have been breached. Section 22 makes provision for the supervised person in the other member state to appear before the court at certain hearings via live television or video link.
Part 3 of the Bill comprises sections 23 to 38, inclusive, and sets out the rules and procedures that will pertain where Ireland is the executing State, in other words, where a decision on supervision measures is issued in another member state and forwarded to Ireland to be recognised here. This includes consultation with the issuing state on various issues around the supervision decision, as per sections 25, 28 and 29, obligations on reporting regarding supervision measures and their conditions, in section 27, as well as outlining the definitions of what constitutes an offence under Irish law, in sections 26 and 30.
Sections 31 to 34, inclusive, and 37 to 38, inclusive, set out the Irish courts' and central authority's obligations and powers regarding supervision decisions made by member states. Sections 35 and 36 state that the other member states will retain competence to renew, modify or revoke the supervision decision and provide for the extension of the monitoring of the supervision decision if necessary and requested by the other member state.
We will of course have the opportunity to discuss all sections of the Bill in more detail on Committee Stage. However, as I have already stated, the Bill is somewhat overdue. The European Commission is currently reviewing the implementation of the Council framework decision and failure to enact the necessary legislative provisions would likely result in referral to the Court of Justice. Therefore, I ask Deputies to support the passage of the Bill through the House.
As Deputies can see, the Bill is detailed, technical and prescriptive, but its aims are straightforward. It fully and faithfully implements the provisions of the framework decision by establishing a system and setting out step-by-step the procedures for returning non-resident persons, subject to supervision measures, to their home country. It does this in order to prevent an unreasonable interference in the life of the accused before trial and it guarantees that the necessary enforcement options are available to national authorities to safeguard the public.
Although the number of people who may wish to transfer their supervision under this measure is likely to be minimal, for those individuals who find themselves abroad, away from family and community supports, it will undoubtedly prove a valuable instrument with the ultimate goal of ensuring safer societies. I commend this Bill to the House and hope it will garner the support of Deputies.