Criminal Justice (No. 3) Bill, 1993: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am sure Members of the House will be able to agree that this is clearly a major Bill which forms a vital part of the comprehensive programme for criminal law reform which I have under way at present. I am pleased that Second Stage is being taken in this House so quickly after its deliberations on another major part of that programme — the Public Order Bill — and I am grateful for having been facilitated in this regard. I believe there is widespread public support for the measures contained in the present Bill and that it proposes some of the most powerful weapons against major criminals ever to come before this House.

Briefly, the Bill has three main objectives: first, it will enable the courts to order the seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of drug trafficking and other serious offences; second, it will create a specific offence of money laundering and will require financial institutions to assist in the prevention and detection of money laundering; and third, it will enable this country to co-operate with other states in the criminal field and to become a party to a number of international conventions which deal with drug trafficking, money laundering and mutual assistance in criminal matters.

I would like to set out some of the general background to this measure and then set out in some detail some of its more important provisions. All the available evidence strongly suggests that large scale crime is becoming more sophisticated in its scope with increasing international dimensions. It has also come to be recognised that where large amounts of criminal proceeds are involved, it is by no means sufficient that the perpetrators of crime should be dealt with simply by way of imprisonment and fines. Other measures are called for. In particular, I am referring to measures, such as confiscation of criminal assets. This is required to target those who reap substantial rewards from crime at the expense of others and society as a whole.

Nowhere is there a greater need for these additional measures than in the area of drug trafficking. We all know of the tremendous profits that can be made from drugs and that this obnoxious trade is being carried on by those evil parasites who prey on others — especially young people — for the sole purpose of financial gain. I have no doubt that Members of this House will share the abhorrence and concerns expressed in the other House about the activities of such people.

I do not believe it is an exaggeration to say it is hard to imagine a greater threat to the quality of life in this and in many other countries than that posed by the activities of those whose business is the supply of drugs. The reality of what happens is all too simple and there is a pattern about it that is all too familiar to us in our role as public representatives. The drugs godfathers set about creating the market for their products among young — often very young — people. Very soon those whom they have successfully targeted are addicts. Addicts then tend to live for nothing but their next fix. The obsession with feeding their addiction is such that over time virtually all social values go. Typically, members of the addict's immediate family will be the first to be deceived and defrauded.

Shortly after that the addict is likely to start committing crime in the community beginning with petty theft and in many cases moving on to much more serious crimes. At some point along the way the heroin drug abuser is likely to acquire the HIV virus and perhaps spread it further into the community. Many addicts will likely end up serving increasingly longer sentences in prison as part of, in many cases, their greatly shortened lifespans. The addicts themselves are just the immediate victims. There is also the agony suffered by their families and friends. Then there is the misery suffered by the community generally because of the level and serious nature of crimes committed by many of those who become addicted. Of course none of this is of the slightest concern to drug traffickers once they continue to reap substantial profits from their handiwork.

This Bill, however, will provide us with the opportunity to strike at the very heart of drug trafficking and other serious crime. By enabling criminals to be deprived of their ill gotten gains we will help remove, to a significant extent, the incentive which draws people into this type of crime. In addition, we will ensure that money which might otherwise have been used for criminal purposes is no longer available for such purposes.

Broadly speaking, under the terms of the Bill, where a person is convicted on indictment of a non-drug trafficking offence the court will be able to make a confiscation order against the offender up to the amount of the benefit the court is satisfied was obtained as a result of the offence in question. However, where a drug trafficking conviction is involved the amount of the confiscation order will not be limited to the benefit the trafficker has derived from a particular offence but will extend to all the profits that person has made from drug trafficking.

Money-laundering is another important feature of serious crime which is addressed in the Bill. Laundering itself is not new as criminals have always sought to cover up the illegal origins of what is frequently called dirty money. However, the growing trend towards the removal of restrictions on the movement of persons and capital between countries has made it much more difficult for law enforcement authorities to keep up with criminals who have become increasingly mobile and ingenious in their attempts to conceal and disguise their criminal proceeds.

Our present law does not contain effective measures to deal with the modern reality in this area. The Bill fills this gap by making money laundering a specific offence with very heavy penalties. In addition, the Bill contains provisions which are designed to prevent and detect money laundering in line with the EC Directive 91/308/EEC on prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering. For example, obligations are being imposed on banks and other financial institutions to carry out identity checks on customers and to report suspicious transactions to the Garda Síochána.

The third significant feature of the Bill is that it will provide a legislative basis for this country to enter into arrangements with other countries whereby we will be able to obtain and to provide assistance in criminal matters. This will significantly ease the task of foreign investigation and prosecution agencies in cases where crucial evidence or witnesses may be in this country. Equally, we will benefit by being able to make requests for similar assistance from countries party to the relevant international conventions.

Mutual assistance arrangements between states are the subject of a number of international conventions and a measure of the comprehensiveness of the approach which we are taking is that the Bill will enable this country to become party to the most important of those conventions, namely, the Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, 1959; the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988; and the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds of Crime, 1990.

It might be helpful at this stage if I was to outline briefly the nature of these conventions. The 1959 mutual assistance convention applies to a wide range of measures, such as the taking of evidence for foreign courts, the service of summonses and carrying out searches for evidence required in connection with foreign investigations or prosecutions. The UN Convention, which is generally referred to as the Vienna Convention, requires states to co-operate in the fight against drug trafficking, in particular in relation to the confiscation of the proceeds of trafficking. The general thrust of the 1990 Council of Europe convention on money laundering and related matters is similar to the Vienna Convention but its scope is much broader in that it is not limited to the proceeds of drug trafficking.

Turning now to specific provisions of the Bill, Senators will appreciate that in view of its size and technical nature it would not be practical for me to go through all the Bill in detail at this stage. Obviously, this is something we will do on Committee Stage. What I propose, therefore, is to concentrate on the main provisions.

Part I of the Bill deals with the Short Title, Commencement and Interpretation providing extensive definitions in relation to terms used later in the Bill.

Part II, which includes sections 4 to 14, is concerned with the confiscation of criminal proceeds and is at the heart of the Bill. Section 4 confers powers on a court to make a confiscation order, on the application of the Director of Public Prosecutions, against a person who has been convicted on indictment of a drug trafficking offence. For this purpose a drug trafficking offence is widely defined and the definition is contained in section 3 in Part I of the Bill. Where a court determines that the offender has benefited from trafficking it will make a confiscation order for the amount of the benefit he or she has received from all drug trafficking and not merely from the specific offence in respect of which he or she has been convicted.

The section also provides that in determining whether a person has benefited from drug trafficking or the amount of that benefit the court will apply the civil standard of proof. In this regard, I would like to emphasise that there is no question of reducing the burden of proof that the prosecution must discharge in order to obtain a conviction in relation to a particular offence. That burden will remain on the prosecution in the usual way to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the offence with which he or she is charged. However, to insist that the same burden be discharged in relation to confiscation proceedings would an intolerable task on the Director of Public Prosecutions. It would inevitably mean that many convicted traffickers would be able to retain a large portion of their illegal gains.

Section 5 makes provision for the assessment of a defendant's proceeds of drug trafficking in connection with the making of a confiscation order under section 4. The main feature of the section is that the court will be required to assume that all property in the hands of the defendant at the time of conviction and all income or other assets received by him or her in the previous six years were part of the proceeds of drug trafficking. It will be a matter for the defendant to show that particular assets or property were not derived from trafficking and I believe it is appropriate that this type of burden should be placed on the defendant given the nature of drug trafficking and that the type of information involved will be within his or her knowledge.

The court will also be in a position not to apply the assumptions if it is satisfied that there would be a serious risk of injustice if they were to be applied in a particular case. I should emphasise that where a court is satisfied that proceeds of drug trafficking arose prior to six years before the conviction arose, these too can be confiscated; the difference would be that the same evidential assumptions would not apply.

The situation where the defendant's assets are less than the amount the court assesses to be his or her proceeds of drug trafficking is covered in section 6. If that proves to be the case the confiscation order will be made for the amount of the defendant's actual assets.

The making of confiscation orders where a person is convicted on indictment of non drug trafficking offences is provided for in section 7. The procedure will be similar to that in drug trafficking cases but the maximum amount of the confiscation order will be restricted to the value of the defendant's benefit from the specific offence involved and the type of assumptions which are provided for in section 5 will not apply.

Sections 8 and 9 are concerned with the provision of information by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the defendant in confiscation proceedings. Section 10 includes a provision, inter alia, that before making a confiscation order a court can take account of a civil action that may be instituted against the defendant in respect of his or her crime and any other order that involves any payment to another person, for example, a compensation order made under the Criminal Justice Act, 1993.

The effect of section 11, which has to be read with section 12, is to allow confiscation orders to be made against persons who have died or absconded. These will apply where a person has been convicted of an offence on indictment but subsequently dies or absconds and also where a person against whom proceedings have been instituted absconds.

Part III of the Bill is concerned with the enforcement of confiscation orders. Perhaps the most important point in this regard is that under section 15 such orders will be enforceable by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the same way as a civil debt to the State for the amount involved. In this way the DPP will be able to rely on the whole range of civil remedies available in respect of civil debts in order to realise and collect money due under a confiscation order. In addition, specific provision is made to enable the court to appoint a receiver in respect of the defendant's property.

The section also makes provision for the enforcement of a confiscation order by the committal to prison of a defendant who does not comply with such an order. The period of imprisonment to be served will be related to the amount to be paid or which is outstanding under the order and will be determined in accordance with a table at the end of the section. Where a defendant serves a term of imprisonment under section 15 this will not affect the power of the DPP to take other action to enforce the confiscation order, in other words, imprisonment will not be in substitution for compliance with a confiscation order.

Part III also provides in sections 19 and 20 for the making of restraint orders by the High Court. The purpose of these sections is to ensure that confiscation orders will not be frustrated by the transfer by criminals of their assets to other parties. The effect of a restraint order will be to prevent any person dealing with the property covered by the order without the permission of the High Court.

The operation of sections 19 and 20 is not restricted to the situation where a confiscation order has actually been made and, subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions, they allow the DPP to obtain a restraint order against a person who has not yet been charged with a criminal offence in respect of which a confiscation order might be made. To avoid alerting criminals that their property may be restrained, provision has been made to enable a restraint order to be sought without notice to the defendant. It will be open to a defendant in restraint proceedings, or another person whose property has been affected, to seek the discharge or variation of a restraint order.

Part IV of the Bill is concerned with money laundering. Section 27 creates a new offence of money laundering. It is wide in scope and will apply whether a person has laundered their own criminal proceeds or proceeds from crimes committed by others. The maximum penalties for the offence will be imprisonment for up to 14 years and/or an unlimited fine. This reflects the seriousness of the offence. In addition, it should be noted that an offence will be committed where laundering is carried out in respect of criminal proceeds derived from crimes committed before section 27 comes into operation or from offences abroad.

Section 28 obliges banks and other financial bodies whose services are likely to be used to conceal criminal proceeds to adopt measures to prevent and assist in the detection of money laundering. In particular the section requires that customers be identified and records relating to identification and to transactions be retained in case they may be needed for money laundering investigations. These requirements are provided for in the EU Directive on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering.

Part V of the Bill is concerned with drug offences at sea. The purpose of this Part is to give effect to certain provisions of the UN drugs convention. Sections 29 and 30 extend the scope of our criminal law to deal with drug trafficking on Irish and other ships. Sections 31 and 32 make provision for prosecution and enforcement matters arising out of sections 29 and 30.

Part VI of the Bill makes provision for international co-operation with other countries in criminal matters. I have already referred to various international conventions operating in this field and it is our intention to ratify those conventions as quickly as possible after the Bill has been enacted. The overall effect will be to enable this country to play a full part at international level in the fight against drug trafficking and other serious crime.

I do not consider it necessary at this stage to go into great detail on Part VI of the Bill. However, in order to illustrate the broad nature of the provisions I believe it appropriate to list the forms of assistance covered — the enforcement of confiscation and forfeiture orders; the service of summonses and other judicial documents; the taking of evidence for criminal proceedings; the transfer of prisoners to give evidence or assist criminal investigations; and searches for material required for foreign investigations.

Part VII is in effect the miscellaneous part of the Bill. I will refer briefly to a number of its provisions. Section 44 supplements the earlier money laundering provisions by requiring the disclosure by banks and other financial bodies of suspicious transactions to the Garda Síochána. In addition, section 45 makes it an offence for a person to prejudice an investigation that may be under way following a disclosure made under section 44.

Section 48 allows a court to make a forfeiture order in respect of property which was used or intended to be used in the commission of an offence. Section 50 empowers a court, under specified conditions, to order a person to disclose to the Garda Síochána material which is required for the purpose of investigating serious crime or in connection with confiscation proceedings. Additional provision is made in section 51 for the issue of search warrants to allow the Garda to obtain access to information where the disclosure procedure under section 50 has proved unsuccessful or where it would not be practicable or appropriate. Sections 52, 53 and 54 provide for the payment of compensation in connection with the operation of the confiscation and related provisions of the Bill.

I have set out an outline of the main provisions of the Bill and I am confident that it will be found acceptable in principle by all sides of the House. I assure Senators that I will consider fully the points they make today and during later Stages. In that context, it may be helpful for me to mention that I hope to be in a position on Committee Stage to bring forward a number of amendments arising mainly from the debate in the other House and representations which have been made to me by interested bodies on the detail of specific provisions of the Bill.

Given the provisions I have outlined, the importance of this Bill in terms of tackling the activities of major criminals and drug traffickers in particular will be self-evident. I am determined, and I am sure I will have the support of every Member of this House, that this country should adopt the strongest possible measures to ensure that we do not allow a situation where criminals can live off their ill-gotten gains. Equally, we must not allow this country to become a soft target for international crime. This Bill sends out a clear message that we are prepared to take whatever measures necessary to make sure that does not happen. I commend the Bill to the House.

Before I resume my seat, a Chathaoirligh, may I explain to Members that it will be necessary for me to leave the House in about ten minutes to make my concluding remarks, which I already started, to the Second Stage of the Extradition Bill in the Dáil.

I welcome the Minister for Justice to the House and I also welcome the Bill. I am pleased she has indicated that she will use this House to facilitate amendments she has identified. She has requested the Opposition to put forward amendments, and we will, of course, do so.

For some years, Fine Gael has advocated in this House that legislation, similar to that before us, should be introduced. In fact, the party's first motion in this Seanad, which was placed on the Order Paper on 25 February 1993, called for the courts to be given greater powers to confiscate assets derived from the proceeds of crime. In this context, I welcome the Bill.

In 1990, I introduced an Adjournment Matter expressing my concern with the policing implications of open borders in Europe post-1992. I expressly voiced concern regarding the implications for drug trafficking. In the Official Report, 28 March 1990, Vol. 124, col. 1178, I stated:

In the light of the massive scale of international criminal activity, drug trading, terrorist activities and so on, it is important that the police forces of Europe integrate into a cohesive unit which will have adequate resources to carry out detailed research into the problem, formulate laws and strategies to combat it.

I quoted a 1986 committee of inquiry which stated:

Urgent action is needed to improve co-ordination and efficiency of all law enforcement agencies involved with drug trafficking across the Community. The trafficker operates on a multinational basis which knows no boundaries and the war against organised drug organisations will be lost unless we co-ordinate our forces in a similar way. Therefore, we urgently recommend that a European Community Drug Task Force be set up, to be modelled on the existing United States Task Force Programme, and adapted for Community use with all possible improvements. The relevant department of Interpol should be expanded, reorganised on the basis of a number of principles and recommendations suggested in this report and given financial backing.

During the debate in 1990, I pointed out that only between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of drugs are recovered by international security forces each year and that open borders would facilitate even further the distribution of drugs throughout the EU member states. Unfortunately, since 1992 there has been a dramatic increase in drag trafficking. This Bill attempts to tackle that problem.

I welcome the fact that this Bill will enable this country to co-operate with other states in the criminal field and to become a party to a number of international conventions which will deal with drug trafficking, money laundering and mutual assistance in criminal matters.

In the debate in the House in 1990 I referred to money laundering and the international banking situation being an unwitting facilitator of depositing proceeds of criminal activity. In the Official Report, 28 March 1990, Vol. 124, cols. 1179-11801 stated:

International banking legislation and conventions of secrecy at present facilitate the safe disposal and concealment of the vast profits made from criminal activity. While I accept that confidentiality of legitimate financial transactions must be maintained [by banks,]... progress [must be] made to devise means of detecting quantities of funds from criminal activities within the legitimate banking system.

Until the enactment of this Bill, money laundering is not an offence in law. This Bill is welcome for making money laundering a specific offence with heavy penalties. I also welcome the provisions in the Bill to prevent money laundering in line with the relevant EU Directive.

The provisions of this Bill will fail unless we have the courage and determination to pursue drug barons to their source, to the countries which export illegal drugs. Some countries export more illegal drugs in terms of their gross national product than the combined total of their legitimate products.

There is a huge problem in Ireland with drugs which are sold openly on our streets. These drugs are brought into the EU, warehoused in Rotterdam, distributed throughout the EU, go directly to the UK and change routes without any macro plan to tackle the problem. It is important that the EU, through the Trevi Group or the Council of Ministers, place the control of illegal drug trafficking at the top of their agendas.

Money laundering from these illegal sources is corrupting all kinds of people. The money launderer is competing with the legitimate business community in a further distortion of society. This problem must be tackled at EU level. A drug control enforcement agency must be established in line with the DEA in the United States of America.

Over the past 12 months, millions of pounds worth of drugs have been captured along the south-west coast of Ireland. Assistance should be obtained from the EU to eliminate this drug trafficking. As a step in controlling drug trafficking along our coastline I ask the Minister to consider the introduction of helicopter units for the Garda Síochána.

Airborne law enforcement is a practical cost effective weapon in the fight against crime and has proved to be a statistical success in other jurisdictions. Studies illustrate that the use of helicopters can help suppress crime. The helicopter can see at least six times as much detail as any ground vehicle in the same time span. It can search a 25 mile area in the same time that a ground vehicle can search a one mile area. It can increase the level convictions by providing aerial photographs or videos of criminal activities. This could extend, not only to drug trafficking, but other types of criminal activity. The presence of a helicopter could distract suspects and make them feel surrounded psychologically.

Helicopter units are a deterrent to crime. In five minutes one dozen people might see a patrol car while one thousand people might see a helicopter. Helicopters have been successful in dramatic operations, such as high speed pursuits, and in fighting mundane crimes. Vandalism in Lakewood, California, was cut by 75 per cent in the first year of helicopter control.

In the Irish context, crime is increasing in two areas where the use of police helicopters could be successfully applied. I already referred to one, the huge increase in the amount of drugs being smuggled into this country. The second area is where bands of armed criminals steal high powered cars in urban areas to travel to rural areas to commit crimes. They are miles away before the gardaí may effectively respond. Patrolling Ireland's coastline is a task to which the helicopter is suited. It could be successfully applied to the area of drug smuggling. Within minutes of a crime being committed, a helicopter could be airborne and headed for that area. Identifying a speeding car from a helicopter is not difficult at night. A helicopter could give chase while coordinating ground units to intercept the criminal.

A fully equipped police helicopter could be purchased for approximately $1.2 million and maintenance could be contracted out to the airforce. In Los Angeles the cost a two man patrol car searching an area of one square mile was $54, while the cost of surveillance by a two man helicopter of one square mile was $8.5. There is an economic reason for introducing such an approach and the Minister should look at this.

Money laundering from drug trafficking and other criminal offences is corrupting many people. I call for an Irish DEA to work in conjunction with a European DEA which is required to tackle the drug problem internationally. This should be done by giving incentives to or by imposing economic sanctions against countries which continue to export these drugs. I ask the Minister if the Government is in favour of setting up a DEA? If so, what are its plans?

How are the proceeds of crime used? In many cases, they are used to purchase commercial property. We constantly hear rumours of property empires being built by ill-gotten gains. These people are in a position to purchase the best advice available to cover their tracks. Will resources be made available by the Department of Justice to pursue these people? Will expertise be available in the Department to pursue them? There is no point introducing this legislation if there are not resources to implement its provisions.

I would like to use this opportunity to refer to bail. Those involved in large scale drug trafficking, moneylending or money laundering are adept at using bail laws. Would the Government consider using the opportunity provided by the European elections to alter the Constitution to facilitate a change in bail laws? The Government must not refuse to do so on the basis that an amendment to the Constitution is required to stop people charged with crimes who compound the situation by committing further serious crimes because they know they will be punished in any event and, therefore, commit those crimes while on bail. The Minister should use the opportunity provided by the European elections to amend the Constitution on the basis of cost because people will be voting anyway. The courts should not have to free people who are likely to commit further serious crimes.

Our bail laws are the most lax in Europe. In 1991 — there are probably more up to date figures available — the number of crimes committed by those on bail totalled 2,690. The problem is bail cannot be refused by the courts on the grounds that the accused is likely to commit further offences. A constitutional amendment is necessary to restore discretion to the courts. For many years, notorious organised criminals had little difficulty getting bail and abusing it. For serious offences, such as rape and bank robbery, there is little ground in Irish law for objecting to bail even if prosecutors know the accused is likely to commit these crimes again.

The provision for consecutive sentencing in the 1984 Criminal Justice Act has been a deterrent to petty crime but it has had little or no impact on organised and serious crime. Organised criminals who know they will go to jail for one serious offence have no compunction committing other serious crimes because they know they will serve only a fixed period in an over-crowded prison. The Government should use this opportunity to ask the people to change the Constitution so criminals who insist on committing crimes may be remanded in custody if it is likely they may commit further crimes while on bail.

An article in The Irish Independent last year documented eight criminals who continued to commit crime while on bail. Consecutive sentencing is a deterrent if a petty criminal is caught but those who commit serious crimes know they will be given a substantial sentence, but will get time off. The State must ensure those who commit serious crimes face a high risk of being detected and will not have the opportunity to commit further crimes while on bail. Such people must serve full sentences with time off only for good behaviour. During this time they must not be able to influence criminal activity outside the jail.

While I welcome the introduction of more legislation in the criminal justice area, further pressure is being put on the prison system. There is an urgent need to deal with this issue which is vital to public confidence. In the custodial system, hardened criminals, drug traffickers, bank robbers and perpetrators of serious crime must serve full sentences. Resources must be given to the Garda and the custodial system to ensure that expertise, manpower and technology are available to implement the provisions in the Bill.

I welcome the Bill and am delighted to speak on behalf of my party. I congratulate the Minister for taking this issue seriously. Every Member has recognised that this country should adopt the strongest measures to deprive drug barons of the fruits of exploitation. The Bill is timely. This week cannabis worth £10 million, destined for the Irish market, was seized by customs officers at Dublin port and Manchester. This consignment arrived by ferry from Antwerp. Last week-end a ton of cannabis was found in the south inner city of Dublin. We must congratulate our customs officials and the Garda. There is no doubt but that we have a huge drugs problem and now is the time to bring in draconian measures to deal with it. These events clearly indicate how vulnerable Ireland is to drug barons and how exposed our coastline is. They highlight the need for new legislative measures and powers of enforcement to ensure we are equipped to combat the menace of drugs in the most effective manner possible.

People who believe drugs are not available on the streets of our cities and towns are kidding themselves. I refer not to the so-called soft drugs but to hard drugs which now affect every walk of life and are readily available. Drug dealers tout their wares on the streets of our inner cities. A great deal of crime is drug related because addicts steal and commit assaults to feed their habit. We only have to look at the drug ravaged hearts of American inner cities to know the threat drugs pose to Irish society. This legislation is a clear manifestation of the Government's determination to ensure that such a situation never arises here.

I know from my work on the north side of the city the trauma and pain drugs cause. I counsel people who take drugs. My work has made me all too aware of the effects of drugs not only on takers but on families. It may a cliché but it cannot be said often enough that drugs destroy lives; they eat at the fabric of our community. Most disturbing of all is the sheer power of the international drugs trade and it demands an equally powerful response at international, national and community level. We all know young people now smoke hash and that they can get it very easily at street corners and in public places. The Garda are aware of this. However, we do not seem to be able to get to the source of the problem.

Profit is the root motivation of the international drug trade. In confiscating the assets of such criminals, the Minister is striking drug barons where it hurts them most. While a prison sentence is a major deterrent, the confiscation of assets will prevent them from resuming, or subsequently benefiting from, their crimes. Confiscation is an invaluable weapon in the war against drugs and I look forward to its swift and ruthless application. We must pursue the drug barons and confer on the courts the power to confiscate their assets and impose other strict penalties. In the past we saw drug barons use the profits from their crime to keep them and their families in the lap of luxury. They receive social welfare payments and live in local authority houses but they have bank accounts and go on lovely holidays. All this is financed by the exploitation of our young. They lead comfortable lives far removed from the misery of their victims. This display of opulence was often gained through brutality and criminality.

I am aware from experience of many young people who are vulnerable and unemployed, who see their opportunity to make money quickly and are roped in. I want to help them out of their drug ghetto. I commend the Minister for the sections dealing with confiscation of assets and penalties. These measures are draconian but necessary. The Minister is doing a super job in tackling crime in every walk of life and introducing penalties.

I was disappointed to read in a newspaper a reference to the petitions procedure and the Minister's power to reduce fines. There was criticism of this and suggestions that this power should be changed and taken away from the Minister. The Minister should have this power. After being fined in court for a minor offence, a constituent approached me and said they did not have the resources to pay the fine. In such a case it is my duty to ask the Minister to reduce the fine or to extend the period by which it must be paid. I reject suggestions that this power should be changed and believe the Minister should be able to look at each case involving fines and use his or her discretion. The issue may be confidential and it may not be possible to speak about it in court but the Minister may be able to adopt a more sympathetic approach. I have strong objections to suggestions in the media that this power should be taken from the Minister.

The Bill deals with money laundering. This is a process whereby the international drug trade processes its ill gotten gains. It is right that financial institutions are prevented from assisting, and forced to help detect, money laundering. They have a serious responsibility in this area and must play their part to the fullest extent. I welcome the obligation on banks and other financial institutions to identify customers and retain the records of any proceeds of which they are suspicious. Money laundering is a very complex operation as can be seen from reading literature on it. However, it would take too long to go into all the details now. We all have a responsibility to detect people we believe have obtained money through ill gotten means. This part of the Bill is good and I welcome it.

The drug dealer is not a shabby dresser; he often wears expensive clothes and has a mobile phone. He looks like any other prosperous businessman.

Or woman; gender equality please. We must not be sexist.

We must not only root out and punish the foot soldiers on the streets of our inner cities but we must deal with the problem. The drug business casts its net across international boundaries. I am very conscious of the need for international co-operation and a coordinated plan to fight the drug barons. There is no point tackling the problem on the ground if we do not deal with the source.

The crunch is that the opening up of frontiers and the free movement of goods and services in the wake of the Maastricht treaty makes this co-operation between European countries more difficult. Having said that, the Council of Ministers and all the justice Ministers of the EU should be able to get together to determine how best to stop this problem at source. Drugs are getting through the frontiers into England and our open coastline is difficult to defend, as we saw along the Cork coastline last year.

I congratulate the Garda and the custom officials on their efforts to monitor this area but perhaps the Naval Service could also be involved. We should not leave it all to the Garda. They are to be complimented on their role in the confiscation of drugs but should we leave it all up to them? We as parents, teachers, junior liaison officers, social workers and medical practitioners all have a role to play. We can only win it if we all work together. People on the street know what is happening. At my work last week a parent told me her son told her he can get drugs any night of the week. When young people are going to discos they can pool their money and buy drugs. I wonder if parents are aware of what is happening.

We can all help to get rid of this problem. We can reach out to the people who need our help but we must do it together. The Minister spoke about international co-operation but I wonder if we could do more in terms of national co-operation. I do not see any mention of this in the Bill but maybe it is there and will be teased out on Committee Stage.

The Garda and customs officials are doing a super job. However, we have an open coastline and each of us must co-operate to stop the drug barons. I am using this Chamber to reach out to the man on the street. The drug barons are listening to me over the airwaves. If we do not stop them Dublin will be like one of the South American cities where it is heart-rending to see young people being exploited. Our high levels of unemployment make our young people targets. When they are caught they receive short prison sentences and the drug barons are waiting for them when they are released. It is easy money and once they get hooked, that is the beginning of the end.

I commend this Bill to the House. It is much needed legislation which I hope is but the first in a series of such measures from this reforming Minister.

I will not be using all my time because I do not have a great deal more to add. I live on the north side of Dublin and am aware of the increase in crime throughout the inner city, both north and south. In recent days a serious drug problem in the Meath Street area was highlighted. I have been told that up to 40 people are openly dispensing drugs.

However, one needs to be sensitised to the situation to be able to detect it. I am told it goes on all the time in my area but I have yet to be aware that I am witnessing such activity. Although having recently been told how it happens, I have become suspicious of groups of youths congregating in certain areas, little packages being passed and so on. However, I am also aware that in one of the local public houses recently a young man was found passed out with a syringe in his arm, which had not happened for a number of years.

It is, as we all agree, a very serious problem which affects the health and wellbeing of a vulnerable section of the population. If one analyses the figures, it is clear that although there are drug addicts in all sectors of society, by far the most vulnerable group is those at the margins of society as a result of deprivation, unemployment, poor housing, low income levels, and so on. Faced with very difficult prospects in life, drugs at least represent some kind of pleasurable escape from confronting realities. It is clear that cynical people manipulate this situation to their own financial advantage.

This is the year of the family of which much play is made, some of it extremely offensive. It is being used to attack certain liberal advances and to attempt to roll them back. However, at heart we all feel that children are one of the great assets of the nation and that they are vulnerable and require protection. Unscrupulous persons regard young people as an easy mark. They can be introduced free of charge to the drug habit so that when they consequently become addicted they will act as cat's paws for the godfathers of crime.

Essentially, what is happening is a kind of Fagin style operation in which people no longer have to expose themselves to risk. They have an army of automatons, reduced to that state by the drug habit, who will batter old women for the sake of a few bob, grab handbags, break into houses and commit every crime up to and including murder because they are driven by the need to supply this habit. It is a physical addiction caused by people who use these drones or pawns at one remove to commit crimes of burglary, theft and violence. They are manipulating them by remote control.

It is a serious problem which I have no doubt lies, at least in part, behind the significant increase in crimes of violence. When I was a young man — which is not as long ago as some people might suppose from looking at me — there was no violence to speak of in this country. I remember when an elderly woman and her sister who ran a small sweet shop off St. Stephen's Green were threatened with an iron bar. It made front page headlines in the evening newspapers. It would not be mentioned or receive the least notice now. Reports of murders are often buried in a paragraph. That has a lot to do with the drug problem.

Our response to violence has been desensitised by the activities of the Provisional IRA. It is my firm conviction that our so-called republican heroes were not too far away from the drug problem at various stages of its development. I recall, in particular, one slaying at Cumberland Street post office where various elements of disaffected ex-republicans machine gunned each other in pursuit of the profits of drug trafficking.

I think the Minister is correct in addressing the problem on a financial basis by seeking to distrain the proceeds of crime. This is the sophisticated approach that is most likely to work, shades of the way in which Al Capone was brought down in the United States of America. When every other direct frontal attack on his empire failed, the FBI had the brainwave of attacking Al Capone through the tax laws. They eventually got him through financial vulnerability.

Perhaps the Minister is correct in introducing this Bill as a short term measure, but — and this is the principal burden of what I want to say — it is nothing other than a short term measure because it will not ultimately be successful. In the same way that the attack on Al Capone's alcohol based empire was not only unsuccessful but there had to be a repeal of the prohibition laws, my conviction is that the basis of the entire problem, as the Minister has rightly deduced, is financial, but one will only deal with this if it is on a global basis, which means removing the financial incentive entirely. In order to do this, we must make drugs available. I have no doubt — and I know it is controversial to say this — that the drug problem will continue until the ultimate mechanism which makes it profitable for those people to sell drugs on a global basis is undermined and removed. The basis for the Medellin and other cartels is purely financial. As long as the demand is there there will be the supply; as long as there is an enormous financial mark up in terms of making drugs available on the street, we will have these multinational organisations dedicated to introducing drugs throughout the world. I do not see any way to stop this other than making drugs available on prescription, removing the criminal penalty and stop driving it underground. That is clearly the message from the prohibition experience.

There was a recent debate on AIDS in this House, and this is a related subject. I remember being surprised and interested listening to Dr. John O'Connell, who subsequently became Minister for Health. He made this contribution before he became Minister for Health, although by then he had held a number of political positions. If the Minister cares to check the record of the Seanad during that debate on AIDS — it was the first debate to take place on that issue in either House of the Oireachtas — Dr. O'Connell said that from his experience as a politician and as a medical doctor, the only way to clearly fight the drugs and AIDS problems was to contemplate not only free needle exchanges but also the legalisation of drugs, including hard drugs.

The Minister will be aware that this view is increasingly gaining currency among international police sources, the last place one would expect to find it. I recognise that what I say may be misconstrued and it may be suggested that I am approaching this from a liberal point of view and that I wish half the countryside to be as high as kites but this is far from the situation. It is a most unpleasant prospect to witness people on drugs. In my view, it may be better than continuing a situation where people are driven by the high price, the fluctuating accessibility and purity of these drugs, to addiction. Heroin is often cut with different substances, some of them toxic. Deaths may arise either from the agents introduced into the drugs or because the heroin is too pure when it is injected.

The Minister talks about imprisonment. This is not an answer. The proof of that was clear last week when a Greek heroin addict was placed in Mountjoy Prison. He had been detoxified but seven months into the programme, he managed, inside a secure prison, to acquire for himself a hypodermic needle and a supply of heroin that was so pure it killed him instantly. Imprisonment and the criminalisation of drug taking is not the answer. The distraining of profits from those who make money from this offensive and horrible manipulation of other human beings is part of the answer, but until we bite the bullet and address the problem, which is to destroy the capacity to make profit out of drugs, we will only be tinkering at the edges.

Various people have spoken about the situation with regard to the coastline in County Cork. We do not have the manpower or the resources — and I doubt that we ever will — to turn ourselves into a complete fortress island. There is no doubt in my mind that drugs will continue to be imported. I doubt if there is a satisfactory answer to this problem in terms of a military or naval option. The coastline is too jagged and lengthy and our resources in terms of personnel and gunboats are far too limited. We are fooling ourselves if we think this kind of sophisticated international operation can be stopped in this way. It is not possible.

While I commend this legislation as a partial measure, and it is the kind of appropriate measure we can do as a country on our own, we can only stem the increase in drug taking and the spin-off effects of crime by, with our partners in Europe and the rest of the world, addressing the problem honestly and realistically and by destroying the financial base of this trade.

In this legislation there is the question of the confiscation orders. I assume that this has been tested for constitutionality because, regrettably, property often seems to be given stronger guarantees under our Constitution than personal rights. I am aware that the common good is another of the constitutional tests, but I have noticed in the past that Governments have been reluctant to balance this against the rights of property. I presume this has been tested for constitutionality. I also notice that it says that it will be a matter for the defendant to show that his assets or property were not derived from trafficking. I would again like to sound a slight note of caution. Although I detest the godfathers of crime in this area — I regard them as a disease, a cancer on the body of this country — this seems to reverse a long established principle, which is the assumption of innocence and the requirement of a court to demonstrate guilt. I again have some hesitation about this and the way in which it will be operated by the courts.

I am glad to see that it will be possible to take out confiscation orders against persons who have absconded or have died. I am also glad that the Minister is taking measures to prevent the frustration of confiscation orders by the transfer of property to relatives or other individuals. This is highly appropriate.

I particularly welcome the section on money laundering and hope this is effective. I am sure money is being laundered in Ireland. I am sure the Minister will remember, as I do, the difficulties the previous Government encountered when it attempted to seize money being laundered by the IRA. I do not know whether this money derived from drugs, it may have been proceeds of bank robberies, but I remember being astonished to find how difficult it was for the Government to seize this money. Anything that addresses that problem would certainly be welcome.

The problem does not just arise from foreign interests or individuals and groups who derive their income from drugs laundering money in this country. I am aware of people in the inner cities who are laundering money abroad. It is not just drug money. There is at least one case in which £25,000 worth of hot money a week is exiting this city as the untaxed proceeds of a Rachman operation. The Minister will recall what Mr. Rachman was up to in London in the 1960s where he exploited tenement dwellers and extracted exorbitant rents from them upon which no tax revenue accrued to the State. There is a serious problem with money laundering not only in the drugs field but in a number of other areas.

I said I was not going to use all my time so I had better make good that promise. I commend the Bill. It is a good piece of work. I hope it has been tested for constitutionality but I am sure it will do some good. I have every sympathy for the plight of persons who take drugs, but I have none for the pushers and the godfathers. This Bill is only the first step. As one nation in Europe, we can act on our own but until the world grows up and learns to face the fact that unless we deregulate the drugs industry and remove the ultimate basis of profit, there will always be enormous cartels and we will never stop the situation.

I, too, do not intend to use my time allocation because this is a Bill with which we all agree in essence. I will not repeat what has been said by previous speakers with whom I agree. I am delighted that this Bill has been introduced. I hope it will address criminal matters which were not previously dealt with in legislation and in that sense it is long overdue. Nobody could object to what the Bill seeks to achieve. Aside from the specific wording of certain sections, this Bill is badly needed and long overdue.

This morning as I was driving down to Dublin, I was listening to "The Gay Byrne Show" which, I might add, is not a habit of mine. The governor of Mountjoy Prison was discussing crime and prison life. The discussion followed on from previous programmes which dealt with crime and the victims of crime. The prison governor was explaining how the prison system works and how prisoners are treated. The general discussion was informative and interesting.

In the course of discussion the governor referred several times to the destructive nature of drugs and mentioned that in a recent survey of Mountjoy Prison it was found that on any one day over 60 per cent of the prisoners were either drug addicts, had psychiatric problems or had attempted suicide at some stage. That statistic frightened me. It highlights the need to tackle the causes of crime and not just treat the symptoms by putting people in prison.

While imprisonment keeps the problem at bay, our system fails to rehabilitate the individual prisoner and address the causes of crime. Statistics show that these people come from disadvantaged areas and backgrounds. I am not making excuses for them but if there is a direct link between the background against which they are struggling and crime, we will witness an increasing crime rate until we address the problems caused by disadvantaged backgrounds.

The number of drug addicts in prison needs to be highlighted. It is obvious that drug addicts needing money for a fix will automatically resort to crime and the number of them in prison reflects that fact. Where are the drug pushers, traffickers and barons who are making their fortune from the appalling problems which result in crime? They laugh at our judicial system and our gardaí as they head to the bank with their money. The victim may land in prison but the drug barons do not. This Bill is essential to assist our gardaí and the court system to confront these unscrupulous people.

If one examines any part of our society, especially those sections which are disadvantaged and poverty stricken, one will realise how easy it is to operate a drug supply system. The pushers are planted and encourage innocent young teenagers to try drugs by giving free samples and actively encouraging them to become addicts. Peer pressure is a major problem for young people. Once hooked the addict is helpless and drugs take over his or her life. Life's only purpose then is to get the next fix at all costs.

We should not blame the addicts because they suffer most. They are inflicting more damage on themselves than on anybody else. Drug addiction makes robots of them and their aim is to get money to buy drugs to feed their addiction. The suffering caused to many families as a result of drug abuse is unmeasured. We do not fully appreciate the agony those people go through or that experienced by the victims of the crime which results directly from drug abuse.

Statistics show that increases in crime are a direct result of the drug problem. These people need money and will stop at nothing; they are oblivious to everything else. The need for speed has directly resulted in an increase in crime. Until we address the drug problem we will unfortunately suffer crimes, muggings, burglaries and so on. It is the root cause of a lot of damage. I hate to see the profits these people make from the agonies they have inflicted on what are now addicts and helpless people.

The people who benefit from the crime — the drug barons as they are now called — are known to the gardaí but they manage to avoid the rigours of the law in their usual crafty fashion. This is why I welcome the provisions of this Bill. I believe wholeheartedly in showing mercy. I have talked on previous occasions about the rights of the individual and how our prison system fails to deal adequately with the disadvantages suffered by prisoners. However, I have no mercy for those who profit from drugs. They are a menace to society and no stone should be left unturned in rooting them out, isolating them and punishing them.

The Bill aims to deprive these people of the profits gained from drug trafficking. It could not go far enough. The godfathers of crime need to be stripped of all such gains. This Bill also addresses international drug trafficking. As Senator Norris said, it is an international problem and we are only a small part of the overall jigsaw. Our ports and coastline have been abused in recent years and drug barons have exploited our coastline in order to inflict more damage on people who are already suffering from this appalling situation. We cannot do enough to tackle the people who are importing drugs.

This abuse of our shores has gone on for too long and in this Bill attempts to deal in a very practical way with incorporating and facilitating international co-operation in the investigation of crimes and the investigation and following up of international drug barons. It will also facilitate the giving of evidence and help the Garda in other practical ways which are badly needed. We cannot go far enough in facilitating the international tackling of drug racketeering and trafficking. I am pleased that this Bill takes that on board in a practical way.

We definitely need co-operation. We need to realise at an international level the problem we face as a direct result of drugs in modern society. Until we share that information and co-operate in every way possible, we will have problems because these people are shrewd operators. They do not need to be told how to get drugs into this country. I have noticed that the debate so far has focused directly on drugs and I do not blame Senators for doing so because it is a root problem in society.

This is a comprehensive Bill. Money laundering has become an increasing problem. This is a direct result of technological advances and needs to be tackled because it allows criminals to benefit from crime. If there were no gain, why would criminals be involved? Profit from crime must be a primary concern of this Government. I am pleased this Bill tackles money laundering, racketeering, etc., and helps our courts and the gardaí to deal with them. They do not have to go through the present procedure of trying to provide evidence against the people they know to be involved in racketeering but they cannot prove it. In providing specific offences in these cases the Bill facilitates the bringing of these people before our courts to answer for all they have done.

The Bill deals with the confiscation of profits from drugs and other offences and enables these profits to be collected under the civil law system. It provides for restraint orders and the proof required for conviction. It seems to be an overall programme that will help to tackle the root of crime. This Government is doing all it can to deal with the motivator of crime, and the motivator is profit, there can be no doubt about that. We have to deprive these godfathers of their profits. We must strip them of their assets. Drugs can be bought in every village in Ireland.

The addicts need help but that is a problem for another day, a problem which needs to be addressed. However, it will not be addressed by the Minister for Justice as it is not within her brief, but she can and will deal with the godfathers who benefit from crime of this sort here today. No stone should be left unturned in doing that. A question was raised regarding the confiscation of property and whether it is constitutional. It did not occur to me on reading the Bill, but if there is a problem regarding the property rights of drug barons, I would hate to see them invoking the provisions and protection of our Constitution to benefit from crime. To let them get away with that would be an abuse of our Constitution. What about the rights of the victims of crime? What happens to the drug addicts? They are all victims. Who is going to protect them? In this case property rights should not be paramount. The provisions in this Bill are required if they are to strip the drug barons of their gains. That is my opinion and I have stated it here today for the record. In this case we cannot go far enough. Profit is the motive for crime and until we take away the profit we can never hope to reduce the problem created by drugs and other offences. I wholeheartedly welcome this Bill.

On behalf of the Progressive Democrats I warmly welcome this Bill which my party supports. It is radical legislation but we all accept that it is badly needed. The Law Reform Commission carried out a review of the law in this area in 1987 and examined the possibility of confiscating the proceeds of crime. For as long as there has been crime and criminal activity there has been concern to ensure that we confront the situation that crime does pay and that criminals are laughing all the way to the bank. It is for this reason that I welcome this legislation. The Minister and her Department must be congratulated for the excellent work they have done in comprehensively covering all these issues in this area.

The Law Reform Commission was asked to examine the matter because of the need to comply with international obligations in relation to drug trafficking and money laundering. There is very good cause for all of us to be concerned about the increasing proliferation of drugs, particularly hard drugs among young people. There is a general belief that the drug problem is confined to the big cities but no town has escaped it. As most Senators have said, the real problem is the drug barons, the people who are making money. The addicts, the victims of the drug problem, are the people who end up in prison.

Senator Gallagher spoke about hearing the governor of Mountjoy on the "Gay Byrne Show" this morning. I, too, was listening to him. He talked about the proceeds of crime and criminals benefiting from their activities. He said he did not believe that anybody in Mountjoy Prison was wealthy, so the barons of crime and the people who are benefiting from these activities do not seem to be the ones getting caught. That is a big difficulty. I have never visited the male prison in Mountjoy but as a member of the Commission on the Status of Women I visited the women's prison. Almost 75 per cent of the women in prison were heroin addicts. The great sadness is that they were introduced to drugs when they were very young, they were preyed upon by the drug barons and their lives from there on were completely destroyed. The governor of the prison talked about whole families he knew, families of young people who had been in Mountjoy, who were drug addicts and who had since died of the HIV virus. He talked about grandparents being left to rear the children of these people.

Any legislation we can bring forward to prevent these drug barons — I cannot even think of a word bad enough to call them - from benefiting from the proceeds of their crime should be enacted, but my main concern is to catch these people. That seems to be the difficulty. If they are not in prison they are roaming the streets and committing heinous crimes against young people. These people are sophisticated and intelligent and the need for international co-operation is paramount. This legislation must be welcomed because it enables us to take part in international conventions and comply with international regulations.

The Bill gives the State powers to seize the proceeds of crime by allowing the Director of Public Prosecutions to freeze assets before a criminal trial takes place or an accused person is charged. This is welcome because if one cannot do this before a criminal trial takes place, or before someone finds out they will be charged, the accused will be able to dispose of their assets, to transfer them out of the jurisdiction or to transfer them into someone else's name.

I also welcome the fact that money laundering is being seriously tackled in this legislation. The Bill provides for 14 years' imprisonment and/or confiscation for such an offence. This penalty will be welcomed by most people because it relates to crimes other than drug trafficking — for example, white collar crime which, to date, has not been adequately dealt with. The obligations placed on financial institutions will be warmly welcomed and will change the attitude of many banks and building societies.

The Minister was willing to introduce amendments to the Bill as it passed through the other House. One part of this Bill which worries me relates to the seizure of the proceeds of crime. The Minister has indicated that part of the proceeds will be used in the implementation of this legislation. I believe they should be used to establish a fund to ease the pain and suffering of crime victims. Drug barons make their money from drug addicts and those who go to prison. Many of these people are attending drug rehabilitation centres, many of which are under-funded. There are long waiting lists for those who need treatment at these centres. The money should be used to help these victims; it should not go back into the Exchequer for general distribution. A voluntary committee for the support of victims of crime has been established and it receives support from the Minister, but it is under-funded. I will be interested to hear what the Minister says about this.

It could be said that this radical legislation is draconian, but it is warmly welcomed.

For many months a number of Senators raised the issue of the importation of drugs. We called for many debates and today we are speaking on a Bill which meets our requirements. We hoped the drugs problem would go away, but it will never be defeated because of the large amount of money generated from the importation and distribution of drugs. However, we should try to curtail this situation.

The legalisation of drugs was mentioned. I am against the legalisation of narcotics which people use in the streets. It is a sad day for any country which prides itself on caring for all sectors of society, including drug addicts, if we accept defeat and legalise drugs. If we do so, we are sending a clear message that we should legalise any form of criminal activity the resolution of which has defeated us. More people would use drugs if they were freely available. It would be better to make drugs illegal if this would stop one person from using them.

I welcome this comprehensive Bill. Drug trafficking is a profitable game because there is a demand for drugs and we should tackle this problem. As a responsible member of the international community we should look at countries where drugs are freely grown and exported. Trade embargoes on such countries would be an effective way of informing them of the havoc they are wreaking on society.

The Bill deals with the seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of drug trafficking and other serious crimes. Last year drugs worth over £7 million were seized in the west Cork area. This is an indication of the lack of resources provided for those who are trying to fight crime. Mr. Barry Galvin, a State solicitor, once said that west Cork was a haven for drug importation, and I am sure other areas are the same. If that is the case, I fear what we do not know. The Bill is important, but resources are needed to implement the harsh rigours of the law on those who are blatantly flouting it at present.

While the European Community is losing the battle against drugs, this problem could be overcome if resources were made available to the international police. Ships are moving freely and if an international drugs body was established and there was proper liaison between all member states, it would help to solve this problem.

I welcome this Bill. It was stated that the confiscation of property could be unconstitutional. We should try to seize property and assets if they have been gained through illegal drug trafficking. Money laundering is also tackled in this Bill. I welcome this because for too long people have gained by moving money illegally through states.

The main thrust of this Bill is to stop, curtail or make unprofitable the illegal importation of drugs. I am against removing the prohibition on drugs. It would serve no purpose and would send a clear signal to criminals in this country and abroad that if we are defeated we give in immediately. We should never give that message to anyone involved in any form of crime.

I compliment the Minister and look forward to the other Stages. This Bill will be successful if resources are provided. The proceeds from confiscation should be used to enforce this legislation. I welcome the Bill and hope it will help to solve our problems.

I also welcome the Bill. I agree with the Minister that it forms a vital part of the comprehensive programme of criminal law reform which she and her Department are undertaking. In conjunction with the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, 1993, this Bill indicates the direction this Government intends to take in order to put our system of law and order back on the rails.

Politicians are often accused of not listening to the public or responding to their concerns and suggestions as to how we could strengthen our laws, particularly in this area. Our system of justice is held up to ridicule. One sees known criminals parading on television and thumbing their noses at the justice system. They are collecting social welfare although they have large amounts of money in bank accounts. In one instance, a recipient of social welfare, a well known criminal in the Dublin area, had a local authority house in addition to a large and expensive private house in the suburbs. If we are not seen to right this kind of situation the public will rightly lose confidence in politicians and in our system of law and order.

It has been suggested that this Bill is draconian, though I am not sure exactly what those who made the claim mean. As far as I can see, this is sensible legislation. It sets out to deprive criminals of their ill-gotten gains. I do not view that as draconian; I view it as sensible. It is a welcome disincentive to those making profits on the backs of unfortunate people.

It has already been said that we should not raise the total problem of drug abuse with this Minister. However, as the problem overlaps into her Department I want to put on record my concern about the huge increase in drug abuse. Senators have said that no small town remains untouched by the drug problem, though Dublin city and county, and other larger urban areas, share the bulk of the problem. A study carried out in 1962 reported that of the total admissions to hospitals in Dublin city and county, only 18 were for drug abuse. Would that we were back in those halcyon days. By 1971 there had been a three-fold increase in the number of drug abusers known to the Garda. A further study showed that the figure increased from 350 known abusers in 1969 to 940 in 1970. This shows that we did not tackle the problem early enough or hoped it would go away. Far from going away, however, drug abuse is ever on the increase and needs to be tackled by a specific and comprehensive programme.

This legislation concentrates on what are referred to as the godfathers, more commonly known as drug dealers. I have no fear about what the legislation is going to do, but in the general context of reducing dependency on illegal drugs, I do not know if this legislation will be worth anything because a 1991 report entitled The Government's Strategy to Prevent Drug Misuse, stated that: "The majority of persons charged in each city were drug offenders and not drug dealers."

This Bill is just one instrument and, while it is a vital one, will not make the kind of inroads we need to reduce dependency on illegal drugs and the related increase in crime. The Minister knows that in urban areas a huge volume of crime is drug related and has to do with the cost of feeding drug dependency. I welcome the fact that this Bill will hit the drug dealers where it will hurt. Unlike drug offenders, dealers have the expertise to escape the full rigours of the law and have shown themselves very capable of evading the legal process. Taking money from their pockets is a more effective way of dealing with the problem.

I have been calling for a debate on drug abuse and I am going to abuse my position in this House by asking the Minister, with the Ministers for Health and Education to put vital pieces of legislation in place. The 1991 report suggested the introduction of legislation to confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking. That has now become a reality in this Bill but a number of other recommendations were made in the report, many in the education area.

A three-pronged approach to drugs is required. The first we are dealing with today is the confiscation of assets. The second deals with education. From my involvement in school boards of management I now that what was referred to as the pastoral care system in schools is now being broadened to include educational awareness of drug abuse. Unless we follow up on the other suggestions in the report we will not make the necessary inroads into the problem. Perhaps the Minister could take on board a third recommendation in the report, the need for informal education. It stated:

The Department of Education will continue to make full use of the funding available from the National Lottery under its youth and sports programme to ensure that adequate, attractive leisure activities exist for young people through the provision of sports and recreational facilities, supporting the activities of voluntary organisations and the establishment of special projects for the disadvantaged by the EC and voluntary organisations. The various initiatives undertaken by Cospóir, with a view to increasing the general level of participation in sports and active leisure activities, will be supported and further developed.

I live in a suburb of County Dublin which has a large young population. There is a very serious drug problem there, as in many inner city and suburban areas. It is no mere coincidence that the increase in drug abuse among young people is linked, as the report suggests, to bad living conditions and unemployment.

However, where that is not the socioeconomic profile of the user abuser, it is because kids are bored and hang around street corners since there are no leisure facilities in the area. In the suburb I represent and in which I live, there are limited — perhaps non-existent — recreational facilities for teenagers. That, allied to an unemployment rate of between 60 and 80 per cent in certain housing estates, means the area is a breeding ground for the continuation of the existing drug problem. In conjunction with what the Department is doing, I ask the Minister to tackle the preventative side because it is only through reducing drug supply and demand that we will combat the problem.

Reference has already been made to the great work that Customs and Excise officials and the Garda Síochána are doing to reduce the supply of drugs coming on stream. We must provide the Garda Síochána with whatever resources they need to ensure they can win the fight against drug abuse on the streets. There must be an educational and rehabilitation programme to reduce demand; I do not know if such a programme is in place at present.

Senator Honan referred to the proceeds from the confiscation of money. This was discussed in the Dáil when the Minister said that the proceeds could not be used for a specific purpose. There would be no greater irony than if the proceeds of assets confiscated from drug dealers could be used for rehabilitation and drug treatment programmes. That would send the correct message to the people we represent and to those who exploit unfortunate addicts.

The Public Order Bill, which I welcomed although I did not get the opportunity to speak on it, and this Bill are the law reforms which our constituents have been seeking. They want to live in peace and free from persecution by unruly mobs. They want to know that their representatives are capable of legislating in such a way that our system of law and order is not held up to ridicule. These two Bills are sensible, timely and welcome. On the other hand, speakers for the liberal agenda suggest that they may be unconstitutional and probably invade civil liberties. Such an attitude encourages the possibility that the first person who is arrested or whose assets are confiscated under this Bill will challenge the legislation on constitutional grounds. I hope that will not be the case.

That is the right of every citizen.

I hope the Minister has received the assurance of the Attorney General that the legislation is implementable. I understand why Senator Norris raised the possibility of legalising drugs. However, if we take a three pronged approach — legislation to confiscate the assets of drug dealers, an educational programme to reduce the number of young people who get involved with drugs and total support for our Customs and Excise personnel and the Garda Síochána in their fight to reduce the supply — we will not need to legalise drugs. I welcome this legislation.

I also welcome this legislation. I was a member of the national drugs co-ordinating committee in 1982. At that time I sought legislation which would permit the State to confiscate the ill-gotten gains of those who had benefited from drug trafficking and drug abuse — which would be more correctly termed "life abuse" because these people are killers in the true sense of the word. I am also glad there is renewed interest in the drug abuse problem in the city.

I do not know how the legislation will work. For ten years I have listened to six Ministers for Justice speak of the impossibility of making legislation like this compatible with the Constitution. Section 4 states that the standard proof required "shall be that applicable in civil proceedings". When I discussed this issue with Ministers for Justice I was told it might be found to be offensive to the private property provisions in the Constitution. Like Senator McGennis, I hope that will not be the case, although people should be encouraged to test the constitutionality of legislation. Perhaps the Minister will explain how that hurdle will be overcome.

There are a number of critical aspects to the drug abuse problem — supply, demand, detection and punishment. There is one certainty: the drugs problem will never be resolved by focusing on supply. We have seen that on numerous occasions throughout the world. In the golden triangle in Asia people involved in drugs trafficking were shot, killed and maimed. In Columbia flame throwers and American bomber aeroplanes were used against drug traffickers but it did not stop them. When things got bad a clever scientist in Amsterdam developed designer drugs. In the last five years new designer drugs have been developed every six months.

Any preventative programme which focuses on the danger of drugs and the fact that they might be life threatening will never be effective. Drugs are no more life threatening than joyriding or climbing Ben Nevis in a snowstorm. Danger will not stop people taking drugs. The critical point is to focus on the moment when a young person is offered drugs. We should focus on giving that person the confidence to say "no". There is a huge debate on how that might be done. We are utterly and irresponsibly remiss in this area.

It must be six or seven years since the EU recommendation that every school in Europe should have on its teaching staff a person with skill and support in drugs education. Drugs education is one of those areas which people allocate to the schools. The vast majority of teachers — 99.9 per cent — like 99 per cent of politicians would not know the difference between white talcum powder and heroin. The teaching profession cannot be expected to take that task on board without any background, in-service education or preparation. That must be recognised.

The other question is, where do we begin? I received a telephone call from a school principal in the city about three months ago; he was principal of a school in an area which I will not identify — it has enough trouble. He told me he was worried about drug abuse in his primary school. The drug being used in the school was heroin. He had evidence of that. People have a tendency to litigate and the difficulty for teachers, like gardaí, in dealing with such situations begins at that point. Many people believe that once a problem is identified it is resolved. From the teacher's point of view, the problem begins when it is identified. He or she does not have the authority to accuse a child of abusing drugs. If the principal involves the gardaí there is an element of breach of confidence inside the school and a risk to life and limb outside the school.

In this instance, we advised the principal to raise the matter with the parents of the pupil involved. That gave rise to a huge row during which the teacher was accused of making all sorts of allegations against the children in the family. Eventually we had to involve the gardaí confidentially. The gardaí told us, off the record, that the family were pushers in the area and there was nothing they could do. That child was aged between 12 and 13 years and was attending primary school.

In a recent "Prime Time" programme the interviewer spoke to drug addicts about their early experiences with drugs. Two of them made it clear that their first experience with heroin occurred when they were still at primary school. I do not raise these issues to be sensational. I have two reasons for doing so. I wish to make it clear that drugs are a problem at primary level in certain areas and it is a problem that will never be addressed by telling children about the dangers of drugs. Young children would not be able to keep up with the changing names for heroin; every three or four months it is called a different name in different areas in the argot of the streets. We must focus in on the child's capacity to say no to drugs, and that must begin at an early age. It also implies a clear responsibility on parents, indeed on all of us, because it begins with the gateway drugs of tobacco and alcohol.

In the early 1980s I worked with drug addicts and I never met a heroin addict who did not smoke tobacco; I never met a heroin addict whose first involvement in the misuse of addictive substances was not with tobacco. In recent years I have met two addicts who were not smokers and I found that extraordinary. We need to address the issue at that point. I do not agree with the general view that gateway drugs immediately lead to others and there is plenty of evidence to show this is not the case. I raise the point because children and young people should be in a position to make choices at different stages. Any parent who believes their child can get through primary and post-primary school without being offered a number of opportunities to indulge in alcohol is living in cloud cuckoo land — although I meet them every day. We need to address the problem at that level.

The provision in the Bill which excites me most is that which finally nails down the international element of co-operation in the detection of drugs. It has become necessary following the developments of the Maastricht Treaty and we must be careful about it. The value of this legislation will be to people who live in the socio-economically deprived areas and who, despite the outside world thinking that everybody in the area is a criminal or a junkie, have to barricade their houses day and night and are afraid for their lives because of these terrorists who deal in drugs in their area. Those people will feel there is now a new deterrent.

The criminals who got away with it for a long time and were finally apprehended would have their ill-gotten gains to live on. In the early 1980s criminals took great care not to be caught. There was one famous case of a person who was finally convicted and the word around town about him was that "Larry did not carry" because he knew that if he carried the stuff could be found on him. I will not identify anybody. That was one case which went to court and was reported in court. There was another case on the northside of Dublin where it was reckoned that the person who was convicted was a millionaire and would live a comfortable life having served a jail sentence. That has happened time and again over the last ten years.

I have no doubt that there will be a constitutional challenge to elements in this Bill because it is the first defence that will be used by the first lawyer who deals with the provisions relating to confiscation following the declaration that a person has benefited from crime and having to prove the amount of benefit and seize the assets. This will create problems down the line but it has to be tested. I support the Government's decision to put forward this legislation and even if it is found to be unconstitutional this decision will stand to the Government's credit. We have been looking at this issue, talking about it and threatening to do something about it for at least ten or 12 years.

I compliment the Department and the draftspersons involved in this legislation. I hope it works. I have some doubts about it — as do others — but it is an honest effort to move forward. There are people in communities in Dublin in particular who will feel that if these people are not caught until next year, at least when they are caught we can gain from their fancy houses and their money. Many lives have been lost through drugs. This Bill is an important move forward.

I welcome this Bill which has been introduced not before time. We must put those who control the supply of drugs in a position where they can be brought to court and the assets they have accumulated through drug trafficking or through other serious crimes can be seized. Many Irish citizens have been killed as a result of those other serious crimes.

All too often it appears that when these people are brought before the courts they have no apparent means or livelihood yet they live in fine houses and have a standard of living few people enjoy. There has been a proliferation of crimes of violence and there is a need to have a full check on where the perpetrators live, the standard of living they enjoy and how they come by the large amount of arms that seems to be available.

When the test case goes to court it will be interesting to see how effective the legislation will be. Lawyers will test this legislation in court and because these people have accumulated wealth illegally they will be able to buy the best lawyers. They will have better financial means to test this legislation than ordinary criminals or any other member of society who might wish to challenge it. Legislation has been challenged in the past and, in some cases successfully, but the cost of these challenges has, in the main, been supported by money from organisations. It is only through these organisations. The criminals who have benefited from the illegal accumulation of wealth will challenge this legislation. I hope the legislation is solid and if challenges are made that they can be fought all the way.

There is an international implication whereby the people who make the most money in Ireland will be in contact with those who make the most money abroad and they will get together to fight any such legislation. This has happened in the US, Germany and everywhere legislation has been introduced to eliminate the curse of drug trafficking and international crime. Those who profit most from this have fought through the courts using constitutions. In certain cases Governments have been bought off by these international criminals.

In Ireland there has undoubtedly been a huge increase in drug availability as can be seen in any city or town and many rural areas. The number of people involved has grown substantially. It has been suggested that much drug trafficking and pushing happens in deprived areas of Cork, Limerick and Dublin but the situation is the same in smaller towns and villages and country areas.

Those involved come not only from deprived areas. Some prominent people in Dublin have been heavy drug users. It is well known that drugs can be made available in certain clubs and entertainment venues in Dublin and elsewhere. The Garda Drug Squad and the Department of Justice have tried to eliminate these problems but they were not successful because there is an unlimited supply of drugs on the international market.

It has been suggested that legalising drugs might have an effect on drug barons and minimise the money they can accumulate. I do not agree, because drugs are available from rich and poor countries. The proposal is that certain so-called minor, non-addictive drugs be legalised. That would involve many more people in the drug culture and they would progress from one drug to another.

One problem encountered when travelling is the sight of so many young people who cannot be rehabilitated. Outside every railway station in Europe there are "spaced out" addicts who can never recover. I do not know how the international community can address that problem; we can only use our limited resources as best we can.

This Bill will at least signal that this country will not allow drug traffickers to exploit unfortunate individuals. Those who take drugs are the people most punished by society. It is they who are caught, gaoled, and put into homes and who die of AIDS or other diseases arising from the misuse of drugs. Those who supply drugs will often say they do not take drugs, they do not drink or smoke and are not involved; but they are the killers. We should punish them severely, not the poor, basically innocent young people who have been dragged into this major problem.

The other side of the problem is seen in the poorer areas of the world, in the poppy fields of the "golden triangle". There is no point burning the fields to eliminate the problem, as some have suggested. The people who produce poppies make a poor living in dreadful circumstances. Unless they are provided with income substitution — agriculture or tourism, for instance — they will continue to grow and harvest poppies.

We cannot put nets around our shores to limit the amount of drugs which can be brought in by sea. It is virtually impossible to control the numbers coming through airports or to restrict what may come in by container or car. We must compliment the Customs officers, the Department of Justice personnel and the gardaí for the major drug finds, especially in the last three years. Every drug haul affects the drug barons. They have paid cash for the drugs so they are most affected when the drugs are confiscated.

We must examine the possibility of more rehabilitation centres for those who have become involved in drug abuse. However, that does not come within the provisions of this Bill. It provides for our involvement in as many international conventions on the subject as possible and for the confiscation of proceeds from drug trafficking and other major crimes.

Money laundering must also be carefully examined. Someone may approach an Irish business person with a view to investing in that business. Large sums of money are available for legal investment but it is often better to check the source of the money beforehand to ensure that this is not laundered. There have been cases in Ireland in the past where laundered money was used to set up industry. We should not grab whatever money is available without examining its source.

Switzerland is said to be the safest place for laundered money because bank accounts are kept secret. The Swiss can be moralistic on other issues but their country has been the biggest centre for laundered money in the world, followed by Las Vegas, Atlantic City and the financial institutions on Wall Street.

The Bill is being introduced as a result of the Vienna convention on drug trafficking at sea. It is major legislation deserving the support of everyone in the State. We should ensure the barons who kill hundreds of young people every year are put behind bars, where they belong. No one involved with them should ever be able to avail of the huge profits made by them.

I add my voice to those welcoming the Bill; it is long overdue. I come from an area which has its problems with drugs. The emphasis in the Bill makes it clear how seriously the Department has thought about solving the problem.

This Bill seeks to deal with drugs trade barons who have large amounts of illegal money from laundering. I welcome the stringent provisions in the Bill. We should waste no time informing the public of what these regulations involve. The barons appear to benefit from "light" laws to make massive amounts of money by exploiting young people. It is important to remember that 52 per cent of this country's population is under 25 years of age.

For the first time, this Bill includes a provision for the confiscation of property. There have been many other less serious situations — for example money owing to the State — where property could be confiscated but at long last we are attacking the drug barons.

The vast majority of Irish people are conservative and many can be discreet about their views but they want proper laws on the Statute Book. The impression was given for too long that we were not on top of enforcement laws, particularly in relation to drugs and those involved in drug money laundering. Nothing should be spared to deal with these people and the Bill is tough in this area. At long last we are getting on top of the situation and saying, as a nation, that we are prepared to get tough. I have spoken to many people who, directly or indirectly, know of people who distribute soft drugs in my area. I have often asked about the situation and been told there is no legislation to deal with it. Although it is generally known who these people are, nothing can be done about them. That must change. I hope the provisions in the Bill will be implemented.

The situation is that many pieces of legislation that go through both Houses are not fully implemented. I ask the Minister of State to ensure that all the ill-gotten gains of the drug baron will be put to useful purposes. Any money confiscated should be utilised to tackle this problem and nobody would object to that because, from a social point of view, it would provide protection for young people and the less well off in society. It is a sad reflection on society that many people living below the poverty line appear to depend on drugs.

There is a serious situation as regards people who are constantly on bail. This Bill tightens up this area and creates the position where people may or may not be given bail. This is to be welcomed. It is good for the public to hear that people may not be granted bail. In a small society, such as Ireland, where everybody knows everybody else, we can create an atmosphere that would make these people unwelcome. At present, that is not the case. If it is properly implemented and if finance is made available, I hope this Bill will change that.

I know of many sad problems which have been created by drugs. People below the poverty line are not the only offenders; people with higher living standards are also included. We have a duty and a responsibility to inform everybody, particularly those in higher education, of the severe penalties provided in this Bill. People involved in drugs should not get the opportunity to use their resources to employ the best barristers to defend them. I would welcome amendments which would make the provisions in the Bill more stringent in this regard.

I hope the Bill will create a better Ireland. It should be a better country. There is no reason that cannot be the case. We have the resources, particularly customs personnel who are no longer required because of the Maastricht Treaty. These people are willing, well informed and well trained. I have seen their commitment over the last 12-18 months, particularly in the west Cork region. They have put their lives at risk to ensure that no illegal drugs are transhipped through Ireland. A few days ago, drugs, which were to be transhipped to Ireland, were found in a container on its way to Dublin.

The amount of drugs coming into the country, especially along the south west coast where a quantity was found for transhipment to other countries, is a sad reflection on our society. It is regrettable that drug barons are using Ireland as a distribution area and I hope this Bill will ensure that this is not an ongoing development.

The present drug trafficking does not make it easy for those living in affected areas, nor for those charged with the control of crime on the island of Ireland. For this reason I welcome the stringent laws set out in this Bill to deal with drug traffickers.

It is most important that information be provided to the public on the implications set out in the Bill for those intending to break the law. For too long knowledge of measures such as these has been restricted. We should not be afraid at any time to publicly display in our libraries, local authority assemblies, courthouses and community areas the regulations contained in Bills such as this. Other Departments have become more open regarding their provisions and regulations. For example, the Department of Social Welfare now provides information on its activities and its welfare provisions and I have remarked upon this when addressing social welfare issues in the House. The Minister and the Department are to be congratulated on this. Similarly, the Road Traffic Acts have led to widespread publicity on the implications of drink driving, publicity which rightly entails the expenditure of large sums of money.

There is no reason the Department of Justice should not be more open. The public should be advised on the meaning of drug trafficking laws and regulations. Similarly, for those using or pushing drugs, information should be made available as to the implications of these activities. For this reason the Minister should be ensuring publicity for the provisions of this Bill.

I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Department of Justice on its circulation. Once the Bill is enacted, I hope that all of its provisions will be implemented.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. The Minister is earning his money today because I had the pleasure of listening to him in another forum earlier as he expounded on a number of other Bills within his brief in his usual excellent way. I am sure that this House will benefit from his response on Second Stage.

I agree with all the comments made on this Bill, and it is significant that it has been welcomed by all sides of the House. The Bill has been introduced in the context of our obligations as a member state of the EU. As a peripheral state within the EU and with a large seaboard on the ocean between America and Europe, the opportunities for drug trafficking in Ireland will increase. Within the context of the significant finds by various drug agencies operating worldwide in recent years and the general increase in drug trafficking, this Bill is timely. Upon enactment, it should go some way towards alleviating the legal difficulties that our drug enforcement agencies have had in this country for several years.

The Minister will agree that the Bill is not a panacea for the international drug problems. These problems will not be solved overnight following the enactment of this legislation. However, it will send a message to the international drug cartels that Ireland is no longer, if it ever has been, a soft target in terms of landing drugs for onward trafficking to continental Europe.

From the debate in the other House I am pleased that it has become evident that the Government is committed not only to introducing this Bill but to giving it effective resources to ensure that the various sections of the Bill will be enforced in so far as the resources of this country will allow.

While I welcome and pay tribute to the drug enforcement agencies in this country and in Europe, who have had some spectacular successes, it should be remembered that the detection of drug trafficking is generally the consequence more of chance and coincidence than real detective work. This is not a criticism of the agencies concerned; but when one reads of the manner in which some of the more significant finds have initially been detected by the police forces of various countries, it gives an indication to the ordinary layman such as myself of the difficulties facing our law enforcement agencies in detecting drug trafficking.

Such trafficking has become highly sophisticated. In the last couple of weeks a programme on Ulster Television gave a reconstruction of one of the largest discoveries of drugs in the UK and Ireland, which had a street value of over £110 million. The cocaine was landed in an obscure Scottish port where it was recovered by the authorities. It would have caused immeasurable damage to our young people if it had been released onto the market. The authorities also arrested the couriers involved. Sadly, the godfather involved, who is a Scotsman, got away and continues to live somewhere in Europe.

The manner in which this case came to the attention of the customs officers in Scotland was as a result of a chance conversation which took place on one of the islands off the Spanish coast. A local expatriate Englishman was discussing with a holidaymaker friend whom he had met the purchase of a boat sail by a Scotsman for a substantial sum of money. It happened that the holidaymaker he was talking to was a police officer who, on returning home, checked his data base and discovered that the name mentioned was of a well known drug traffic dealer.

I recount this incident to inform the House that drug trafficking is a highly sophisticated business and that as many laws as possible should be passed as an obstacle to the continuance of this heinous crime.

Regarding the measure dealing with the confiscation of assets, may I ask the Minister if he is satisfied that there will be sufficient resources to ensure that the assets are confiscated? This refers to the following of the famous money trail. I ask this because Members of the House will be aware of the extreme difficulty that Government inspectors had, with the full resources of the State behind them, in identifying the real owners of the Johnston Mooney and O'Brien site at Ballsbridge. To this day the establishment of the owners of the site at any one time, through its sale and resale, is not in the public domain. In view of this, it will not be easy to locate and confiscate assets and perhaps the Minister would comment on this.

Regarding the status of customs officers, I am aware, as is the House and the Minister, that there has been a continuing feud, perhaps not in the public domain but certainly behind the scenes, involving customs officers, who form the recently constituted national drugs squad. These were customs officers who were surplus to requirements following the enactment of the Single European Act on 1 January 1993 and who were designated as having a particular function in the detection and follow up of drug traffickers. However, their terms of reference or job description are in conflict with the agency designated to carry out that function, the Garda Síochána. As a result of proposals contained in this Bill, customs officers have lobbied the Department for equal status to the Garda Síochána in regard to the power of arrest and follow up powers. I understand the Department has resisted this.

I raise this matter because it is of concern to customs officers. Ireland is alone because it does not have a drug enforcement agency dedicated to the detection and the arrest of drug traffickers. I appreciate that we do not have to follow Europe and that a system has evolved in this country. I bring this matter to the Minister's attention and I would like clarification. Customs officers would like to be on a par with the Garda Síochána. To a certain extent I sympathise with them, because they are involved in the area of drug detection and are in contact with European drug enforcement agencies, which are, I understand, customs rather than police forces.

Members may be familiar with the recent television programme, "The Chief", which is about a chief constable in a fictional area in south-east England. A number of recent programmes were devoted to drug addicts and drug trafficking. A particular episode highlighted the question of the status of customs officers vis-a-vis the police. This story centred on a drug detection squad attached to the UK customs and it was led by a determined lady operating a covert operation to flush out and arrest an industrialist suspected of drug trafficking between Britain and Holland. In order to acquire evidence they mounted a surveillance operation at his factory. With the assistance of the night porter, to whom they showed their identification and who believed their bona fides, they preceded to burgle the factory. They found the evidence, but as they were leaving the alarm went off and the police were called. A young policeman who saw the van coming towards him, stood in the middle of the road and was run over. The local police treated the case as hit and run and burglary. When it became evident an independent covert operation had been mounted by Customs and Excise, the police decided to prosecute customs officers on the basis that their patch had been interfered with and that there had been no liaison between customs officers and police. That highlighted a difficulty which the Department of Justice might face if it transferred powers from the Garda to customs officers.

I raise this issue because it has been brought to my attention. I must declare an interest in this because my brother-in-law is a member of the Customs and Excise. Although he is not involved in the drug area, he and his colleagues were partly responsible for a major drug bust in Rosslare one or two years ago. Furthermore, my late brother-in-law was an employee of the French customs service. I have an interest in this area and I would like to hear the Minister reply. I commend the Bill to the House.

May I share my time with Senator Quinn?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I congratulate the Minister on bringing this Bill to the House, although it is astonishing that it has taken so long. The public must look at the way drug dealers have been able to enjoy money collected from young people in recent years. I am not the only person who has bought a house and who has had to explain to the Revenue Commissioners where every pound came from. How is it possible for drug dealers to spend and launder money so easily? It is incomprehensible to me and, I suggest, to the public.

Many important points were made by other speakers. Senator Honan spoke about how the proceeds of drug should be spent. Perhaps the Minister would direct moneys confiscated to areas affected by drugs. The treatment of drug addiction is important, but it costs a great deal of money. We have been involved in setting up satellite clinics around Dublin. These clinics have put drug addicts on methadone programmes, provided counselling and have managed to get those addicted to drugs off them. The clinics are expensive to run because they need a large personnel and counselling service to help those addicted. If possible money should be given to the Department of Health in order to improve these clinics so that those from whose misery this money has been made may kick the habit.

There is a need for penal reform, and those involved in prisons insist on it. When the Department of Health has used the money it needs, money acquired from drug pushers could be used to help prisoners. It is interesting that there are so few grey heads in prisons today. Most prisoners are young and come from poor backgrounds. Drug pushers have taken everything from those with least. Some people have said that if the drug problem was as bad in Foxrock as it is in the inner city, it would be dealt with. Those in some inner city areas have little to hope for and see nothing wrong with becoming involved in drug addiction; momentary pleasure is all they see in their future.

Prevention is important, and Senator O'Toole spoke about a lack of facilities for young people. After we have spent money on the health service and on the rehabilitation of prisoners, we must spend some on prevention so as to tackle this problem. We must improve facilities for young people in the areas I spoke about. Like Senator O'Toole, I will not name these areas, because once one names them it increases the stigmatisation of those living in them and makes life more unbearable for them.

One rarely comes across a drug addict who has not been involved in alcohol abuse or smoking at a young age. The sale of alcohol to under age people must be looked at by the Department. This is a very serious problem and has been looked at by youth clubs and community groups all over the country. It has been found that it is far too easy for young people to buy alcohol. Often it is from alcohol, which is a drug, that people go on to become drug abusers. This seems to be ignored when prevention is discussed. I urge the Minister to urge the Garda, who must act like social workers rather than guardians of the peace in many situations, to secure convictions, where possible, of those selling alcohol to underage children. The Bill is to be commended.

I welcome the Bill and the Minister. The Bill deals with very serious offences. We need to adapt our prison system to cope with the type of serious crime we have described today and which we are encountering more and more in everyday life. Our prison system is, by its very definition, a finite resource. There is only so much it can take and do. We can build more prisons and have done so. The time has come to face the fact that in the foreseeable future, whatever about the long term, there will not be enough prison spaces to accommodate all the people the justice system is automatically sending to prison for the full period of their sentences. People who commit serious crimes, often involving violence, are not serving sentences appropriate to the seriousness of their crimes.

There is a way of coping with this challenge which does not involve building more prisons. Better use should be made of the resources we have nowadays. Use should be made of — and it is possible to adjust to this — the modern technology which is becoming available around the world. Our detention system is based on prison concepts which existed prior to the 20th century. We are close to the 21st century but have not changed our attitude since the 19th century. We lock people up to keep them out of trouble, often in degrading conditions with little prospect of rehabilitation. We do this more or less regardless of the seriousness of the crime. However, there is the possibility that modern technology may be able to give us the same results by means which are radically different to the ones we have used for centuries. The future dungeon may be a digital one. Electronic tagging may be used. I am not an expert on this. Tagging and similar techniques are being used around the world. They make it possible to control a person's movements and behaviour as effectively as locking them up. This system is used extensively in the United States. It involves attaching a tagging system to a person's body to control the area in which he or she may stay.

There are disadvantages to putting criminals in jail. First, we often put them into an educational establishment for future criminals. This is the degrading situation in which they can be placed. Secondly, we remove them from the very occupation which would perhaps have enabled them to rehabilitate themselves later. Thirdly, we give them bed and breakfast, which the State pays for at a very expensive rate. Using modern technology, there is a tagging system which could control the movements of somebody in an area, whether that area is a parish, a postal area or a Garda control district. This could be an appropriate form of detention for those convicted of less serious crimes. It would save the State the enormous expense of detaining them and, equally importantly, it would give the detainee a better chance of building a normal life again. It would also free up space in the prison system for the small band of hardened, serious, professional criminals who are the main beneficiaries of the present constraints on resources. For the relatively small number of criminals who commit crimes over and over again and while on bail, violent crimes and the kind of crimes covered by this Bill, the answer will always be to lock them up. They should serve the full sentences the courts hand down to them, subject to remission for good behaviour. Serious criminals should not be released before time due to lack of space for them in our prison system.

When we pass laws such as the one we are debating and when we talk about putting more resources into the criminal justice system, we should not just think in terms of more police and prisons. We should also think of how we can use resources more smartly and use technology to extend the reach of those who work the system. I am not convinced we have been doing this. I am fairly convinced we have not changed our mindset from the one which says this is what we have done in the past and will continue to do in future. Tomorrow's criminal justice system should be a marriage between highly professional people and very sophisticated technology. I suggested tagging. This is one system, but there are many variations of it which we could use. We should realise that passing laws like this to cover new kinds of crime is only one part of the adaptation we have to do.

Those who are more expert in prison systems will say there are three reasons for sentences. Senator Henry referred to them. Punishment is one. Somebody who commits a crime needs to be punished. Rehabilitation is another. A third reason is the protection of society from violent criminals. The system of locking people up, which we have used for many years, manages to achieve two of these needs. It protects society and punishes people. It does not rehabilitate in the manner in which it is possible to do so. We should adapt the system all the way along the line.

Debate adjourned.