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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Jun 2022

Vol. 1023 No. 5

Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2022: Committee and Remaining Stages

Section 1 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, line 17, after “member” where it secondly occurs to insert “not below the rank of Sergeant”.

The amendment ensures that the person who would be a court presenter would not be below the rank of sergeant. This is the standard case throughout the country anyway and has been for many years. In fact, in most courts, an inspector would carry out these duties. In that context, it is important that this happens. I also consulted with many gardaí locally who have knowledge of the situation and they informed me that a sergeant has always carried out these duties. It is someone who has experience in dealing with the matters of the court and is au fait with the legislation going through the District Court at any time.

I understand that "any other such member" does not rule out a sergeant or anyone above the rank of sergeant. However, this wording would leave it open and in some case, somewhere in the country in the future, a rank-and-file garda could take up the position of court presenter. The garda may not have the necessary experience and may make a mistake about which a judge takes a dim view and a negative precedent is set. In that context, it is important to ensure that the person who carries out this work be a garda of sergeant rank or above. I ask the Minister to consider that amendment in the spirit in which it is intended. It is not to try to negate the importance of the legislation. The amendment is to make sure that the legislation is tight in that respect and recognises that expertise is vital and to ensure that it is a garda of sergeant rank or above that will carry out these duties.

There is merit in the amendment. When we saw the judgment of the High Court, there was a need to move speedily to resolve that issue. The Minister's actions are to be commended in that regard, but it gives us the opportunity to see who is actually presenting cases. Many summary decisions are being made in a court of first instance but experience is important in presenting a case. I had the pleasure of visiting the Garda Training College in Templemore and I know there are specific training modules for presenting a case. It seems, however, that like everything else, there is a knack and a specialty to presenting cases. It would probably require a specialist approach, rather than a more haphazard approach. Whether confining it to a particular rank will meet that requirement, I do not know. It seems it is probably not a job for somebody who is newly minted as a garda, but for someone who has some experience of the courts operate in order that prosecution cases are properly presented, even at this level. There is merit in the amendment being put forward.

I thank Deputy Kenny for putting this amendment forward. I note the concerns of the Deputies. The primary objective, as Deputy Howlin has said, in bringing this legislation forward is to restore the system as it currently is. I know the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, acknowledged yesterday the speed at which the legislation has come through. I very much appreciate Deputies' support and assistance in making sure that happens. There has probably been insufficient time to look at amendments, as is suggested, but I will point to a way in which we can look at this at a later date. We have the general scheme of the policing security and community safety Bill, which has been published. That Bill, when enacted, will repeal the Garda Síochána Act 2005. Today, we are trying to keep that Act in place, but there is a report of a high-level group on the role of An Garda Síochána in the public prosecution system and that will be considered overall in the proposed Bill. It will be a matter of weeks when I get that report and we will be able to reflect on that. Members will be able to reflect on it and we will come back to the points the Deputies have made. They could then be reflected in the wider Bill, which we hope to have moving after the summer. It is more a matter of timing. It is about getting this Bill through quickly and keeping the Act as it currently stands based on the 2005 law, but there will be an opportunity to come back to this and focus on the points Deputy Kenny has addressed and rightly raised.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 2 agreed to.
Section 3 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed