We try to keep the Minister right. We would wish him in all seriousness to confine himself, and the legislature to confine themselves, to paragraphs (3), (4), (5), (6) and (7) of section 19, which give this power to the Garda Síochána alone. I do not have to elaborate on the history of our country and all the sensitivities involved in regard to the offences envisaged by the Minister. I am only talking in the abstract because I regard this measure as completely nugatory.
On the basis that this becomes an effective instrument of law and having regard to the circumstances that exist in the country and in regard to the offences to which this section relates, which are offences committed in Northern Ireland under section 2, surely it is total common sense to confine the power of arrest to the Garda Síochána who are the legitimately appointed force in this country. The Minister could do without subsections (1) and (2) and could do well with, if he wants an enforceable Act, subsections (3), (4), (5), (6) and (7). These are related to arrests carried out by members of the Garda Síochána, without a warrant, on suspicion.
I would trust a member of the Garda Síochána to carry out such an arrest, on suspicion, without warrant. I would have no qualms whatever— representing the main political party in this State which have always stood by the Garda Síochána and representing people who are concerned about having the enforcement of law and order within the State on a reasonable basis—about allowing the Garda Síochána, on reasonable cause, to arrest without warrant anybody whom they may suspect of being guilty of an offence under section 2 (1) or (3).
I have a real objection, in the sensitive context of the relations that exist in this country, to giving that right to any person outside the legitimate recognised police force of the State, having regard to the para-military situation, the IRA situation, the UDA situation, right across the board—there are all sorts of labels attaching to them. New labels are attached every day to the extremist organisations of the left and the right, extreme orangism or extreme greenism. I have no time for any of them. I wish to make that quite clear in case there is any misrepresentation of this aspect.
I want to ensure that legislation is passed here that makes it quite clear that we do not dabble in any form of private investigation or private informing in regard to these particular people: that if those people are arrested without warrant on suspicion, it will be done by the legitimate police force in this State. I feel very strongly about that. It is a fundamental principle in the context of this Bill and having regard to the sensitivities involved here in regard to the offences that will be pursued under this Bill.
It is no answer for the Minister to say that there is a traditional common law power of arrest. That exists in regard to harmless offences. It has become an academic sort of power over the years. It happened in the old days when only a minimum police force existed in these two islands where the common law operates, and it had a certain legitimacy. It has not been administered very often. Why have a right that has rapidly receded in the common law environment and which was largely exercised 50 or 100 years ago, to be exercised now in regard to a major offence scheduled in this Bill where para-military forces of all shades and kinds, of red and green and orange, rampage around the country to the detriment and destruction of property and the endangerment of life and limb? The right of private arrest only arises in the context of this section in the south of Ireland.
The right to arrest without warrant on suspicion people will be given to people outside the police force in the South in respect of an offence in the North of Ireland. It does not require any imaginative person to elaborate on the sort of area into which we are going now. I suggest to the Minister that he is doing harm to the objectives he has in the Bill by including these two subsections. He would do far greater good as far as the intention he has in mind goes by limiting these particular powers to the Garda Síochána.
I feel this Government could be brought to the European Convention on Human Rights on many issues involved in this Bill. I have mentioned a number of other issues on which, in my view, the Government can be chargeable before the European Commission on Human Rights. These two subsections are ones that very obviously bring the Minister into danger in that area. Article 5 (c) of the European Convention on Human Rights refers to:
The lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so——
There must be a lawful arrest or detention of a person for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence.
That is the wording of the Article. I am not referring at all to the subsections in section 19 which deal with arrest by a member of our Garda Síochána. They are the legitimately appointed police force, but read these subsections in conjunction with the subsections we seek to delete here. Subsection (1):
Any person may arrest without warrant anyone who is or whom he, with reasonable cause, suspects to be in act of committing an offence under section 2 (1).
This offence is an offence under section 2 which has been committed in a different jurisdiction. So any person may arrest without warrant anyone who is or whom he, with reasonable cause, suspects to be in the act of committing an offence in a different jurisdiction. This, in effect, is an extension of, or ridiculous ploy on, the existing common law right which was never designed to deal with this type of situation.
The common law right that is written into statute here was designed to deal with a situation where people had local knowledge and understood a local situation. Here we are talking about an offence committed in another jurisdiction, Northern Ireland. If John A in any of our 26 counties feels he has reason to suspect B, his neighbour, of committing an offence in the Six-County area, he may arrest that individual. That is what it means. I know the saver of "with reasonable cause" is included, but I would say that that sort of saver is best attached to people in uniform who are ascribable and subscribable to the organs of authority within our jurisdiction, people whom we appoint from this Parliament or who are under the control and management of the legitimately appointed Government of this State. I suggest that they are the right people to arrest on suspicion without warrant in this type of situation.
That is why we suggest that the subsections that deal with the Garda Síochána acting in this manner, subsections (3), (4), (5), (6) and (7), should remain. That is why we suggest that subsections (1) and (2) should be deleted. I do not think that that type of arrest without warrant on suspicion as embodied in subsections (1) and (2), which we seek to delete, would be in accordance with, to use the words of the European Convention on Human Rights, "the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonable to prevent him committing an offence or fleeing after having done so."—"lawful arrest or detention".
I want to refer to lawful arrest or detention. What we are suggesting here in subsections (1) or (2) amounts to prairie law, jungle law, banana republic law in the context of the situation I am talking about. I realise that there is a traditional common law right of arrest residing in every citizen. That is in regard to petty offences or local offences that are totally outside the ambit of the type of offence——