There is a typographical error in the motion. It should read section 46 (6).
Criminal Justice Act, 1994 (Section 46 (6)) Regulations, 1996: Motion.
On a point of order, I spotted another error about which I am concerned. Page 2 of the regulations refers to sections 2 and 3 of Part III. I think that is meant to be sections 2 and 3 of Part I.
I can only clarify what is on the Order Paper. The Minister for Justice will deal with that matter in due course.
I am only trying to assist the debate.
Is the Senator sure he has the corrected copy of the regulations?
The error is in both copies. It refers to sections 2 and 3 of Part III of that Act, but I think it should refer to Part I of the Act.
It refers to sections 2 and 3 and Part III of that Act, not "of".
That is my mistake.
It is so important to understand the correct grammar.
On page 7 of the regulations subsection (3) is mentioned but I cannot find subsection (2).
I am sure the Senator can make these points during his contribution and that will give the Minister for Justice an opportunity to reply at a later stage.
That Seanad Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:
Criminal Justice Act, 1994 (Section 46 (6)) Regulations, 1996,
a copy of which was laid in draft before the Seanad on 26th June, 1996.
As regards Senator Mulcahy's point, section 2 has been left out because we are amending other Acts and section 2 of that Act is not relevant to these regulations.
I take this opportunity to express my outrage, disgust and anger at the callous, brutal and cold blooded murder of Veronica Guerin yesterday. The Taoiseach and I have made it clear that the full resources of the State will be used to bring those responsible to justice.
Yesterday, as I received information about the murder, I was completing a meeting with President Clinton's special adviser on drugs and with the ambassador to the UN, Ms Madelaine Albright, who deals with the drugs issue. We discussed the serious world-wide problem of organised crime and drugs. We also spoke about the need for more co-ordination among countries and the fact that countries would have to stop hiding information from each other. Shortly after that I addressed the United Nations Economic and Social Affairs Committee. I told its members I had received information about the murder of a journalist who had, with courage and integrity, sought to highlight the work and evil deeds of these criminals. It is not easy to get attention at such meetings because, as all of us who have attended them know, there are all sorts of side meetings taking place. However, that announcement certainly stopped the murmuring and whispering around the room because it was more graphic and telling than any speech I could have made to highlight the brutality, cold-bloodedness and total disregard of these people for any of the institutions of any of our democracies.
It is one of those awful, sad coincidences that that was what I doing yesterday when I got word. I am sure we will all remember in years to come what we were doing when we first heard a journalist had been struck down by criminals because they objected to what she was doing. They objected in the way in which they seem to think they can, which is to kill somebody. As I could not be present in the Dáil yesterday, I am glad of the opportunity to express my condolences in the Seanad to Veronica's husband and son, her immediate and wider family, and her husband's family, at the loss of a wife, mother, close relative and friend of so many people, not just in the media world but elsewhere.
This motion is a vital piece of the jigsaw we need to ensure we create those co-operations which are so necessary to fight these criminals who have no regard for borders or people's lives. The draft regulations we are seeking to have approved today under section 46 (6) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, are another part of the jigsaw, part of which I put in place last May when I became Minister. We now have a facility for the first time where assets can be frozen or confiscated by an order of the District Court. In order to do that ten years ago legislation had to be rushed through the House. We now have that provision permanently enshrined in our legislation. Cases have already been taken and assets are being frozen as we speak.
The other element of the legislation which I brought in last year was the reporting of suspicious lodgements to accounts in banks and other financial institutions. As I told the other House, over 300 such submissions have already been made to the Garda by the financial institutions. They are now being examined and many of them will probably lead to convictions, although some may be perfectly legitimate. The Garda has a period in which it must decide whether those lodgements are legitimate and then take action if they are not. The sum of money involved in those reported lodgements is in excess of £23 million.
I want to make that clear in the House, lest there be any doubt among the public or Members. There is still a certain amount of ignorance among Members of these Houses of the actions which have been taken by this Government and by me as Minister for Justice. Those facilities and mechanisms are now working and people whose assets are being frozen or confiscated will be jailed for their crimes. I had prepared speaking notes but I felt, having listened to the debate in the other House, there was a great deal of ignorance around about the laws. That is worrying in a way because if elected representatives do not provide themselves with the knowledge of what is available under our laws, it is little wonder people outside are still in some doubt about it. I want to make absolutely clear today that we have money laundering legislation in this country and the mechanism we are putting into place now will extend that.
The purpose of these regulations is to enable the courts to enforce court orders made abroad for the confiscation of the proceeds of crime. If the police in another country discover that somebody has put their money into this country, we can now freeze those assets in co-operation with the police force of the other jurisdiction. I have given the context of the 1994 legislation and this additional piece of the jigsaw which we are putting in place today to allow us enforce court orders made abroad.
I have already outlined the essence of the provisions of the 1994 Act, but there are, in addition, many technical provisions as to the enforcement of confiscation orders. First, a confiscation order can be enforced as if it were a judgment of the High Court for the payment to the State of the sum specified in the order. In addition, a convicted person who does not pay the amount due under the order can be imprisoned. The Act sets out a table of ascending terms of imprisonment corresponding to the amount outstanding under the order. Furthermore, a court may appoint a receiver with whatever powers are necessary to realise property in order to satisfy a confiscation order. Provision is also made for different eventualities, such as the bankruptcy of the person who is the subject of a confiscation order, or the winding up of a company which holds realisable property.
I should stress that provision is made for restraint orders, that is, orders freezing property in anticipation of a confiscation order. A confiscation order will only come into force when a conviction has been made. However, prior to that, there are powers for the freezing of the assets while the process of taking a case to court and getting a conviction which enables the use of a confiscation order is taking place. I am sorry if I am dwelling on this point, but I feel I have to because there is such ignorance about what is available.
I mentioned a moment ago the provision the Act makes for restraint orders to prevent property being moved out of the country in order to frustrate the process of confiscation. That provision is very necessary, in so far as it goes, but it could not, of course, deal with the situation where a person convicted of a serious offence already has property abroad, which is a reality we must face. We live in a world of sophisticated financial transactions where unlimited amounts of money can be electronically transferred in an instant. It is also the case, at least within the European Union, that individuals may hold a wide portfolio of substantial properties without restriction in a number of different states.
If we are to have an effective system of confiscating the proceeds of serious crime, we need to become part of an agreed international structure for coordinated action across international boundaries. I am talking about a commitment by other states to enforce confiscation orders made by our courts, with, of course, a corresponding commitment by us that we will do the same. Only in this way can we come to grips with the internationalism of much serious crime.
The international agreements to achieve this are already in place. They are the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime. Both of these conventions require contracting states to enforce each other's confiscation orders.
The purpose of the regulations before the House today, therefore, is to modify the confiscation provisions of the 1994 Act so that Irish courts can give effect to foreign confiscation orders in so far as any realisable property may be in Ireland. Section 46 of the Act provides in principle that such foreign orders may be enforced by way of corresponding Irish court orders known as confiscation co-operation orders. Section 46 goes on to provide that the necessary detailed technical changes to the enforcement provisions in the Act may be made by regulation.
Let me turn now to the regulations. As I said, they provide for purely technical modifications of the relevant provisions of the Act, essentially in the interpretation section and in the part dealing with the enforcement of confiscation orders. In the interpretation section it has been necessary to modify some of the definitions which are relevant to foreign confiscation orders but which, in the Act, currently assume an Irish context. For example, the existing definition of "defendant" is naturally based on the understanding that we mean a defendant before our courts, whereas in the context of a foreign confiscation order the defendant will be before a court of another state. A number of provisions, for example, the condition in the Act specifying when proceedings can be taken to have commenced or concluded or the reference to offences, similarly assume an Irish context and have to be modified to reflect the fact that foreign criminal proceedings are at issue.
In the modifications to the Part of the Act dealing with enforcement, many of the changes involve simply substituting the words "confiscation co-operation order" for the existing "confiscation order", but other more sophisticated alterations are also needed. This is especially so in the case of provisions for restraint orders. As I outlined, restraint orders may be made in advance of a confiscation order to ensure that property is accessible for the enforcement of any subsequent confiscation order. Briefly put, the conditions under which a constraint order may be made are where proceedings have commenced in this State and a confiscation has been or may be made, or where proceedings are to be instituted and where a confiscation may be made. The modifications proposed by the regulations will adopt these provisions so that they refer to proceedings in other states and to the likelihood of a confiscation co-operation order being made.
These regulations, which have been drafted by the parliamentary draftsman, represent technical but very important modifications to the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. They will enable Ireland to become a party to two important international conventions — the UN Convention on drugs and the Council of Europe convention on money laundering. This will have very significant benefits for Ireland in that Irish confiscation orders will be enforced by other convention states.
I know the House is aware of the importance of the participation by Ireland in international efforts to combat serious crime and that it will approve the motion. We must go back to the other House to get the regulations agreed when the Seanad approves this motion. In the middle of a constructive and wise debate there this morning, I was disappointed to note a statement to the effect that what we would do next week was not that important in the context of what occurred.
We must recognise that all these elements are part of the serious nature of the crimes being committed. We cannot pretend we are living in the 1930s and 1940s when we left keys in doors and carried on businesses as if nobody was committing crime. We are living in a modern, democratic Ireland where criminals operate as if they can get away with their crimes. Unless we put together all the pieces of the jigsaw we will not seriously combat crime.
There is no point in thinking there is a single answer to the problem. Everybody I listen to on radio or watch on television says something must be done. Many "somethings" have been done. Many more "somethings" must be done which will require serious consideration by all of us concerned about the rights of citizens, the need for evidence to convict people, the rights of accused persons and the rights of victims.
Conflicting balances must be brought together to create the justice system we need for the 1990s and beyond 2000. As Minister for Justice, I cannot give a simplistic, off the cuff response. Some may have that luxury; I do not because any proposals I make must be well thought out and be seen to be workable and constitutional.
I thank the Seanad for allowing me introduce this motion on what is a very difficult day for us all following the tragedy and horror of yesterday and two weeks ago when a detective garda was killed. These are difficult times. We must together, without party politics entering into this, find the way forward and adopt measures that ten years ago nobody would have envisaged. These would include a seven day detention period for drug traffickers. Ten years ago a former Minister for Justice tried to introduce a similar measure in the Dáil. It was thrown out by his party members and members of other parties because it was seen to be one step too far. It is not one step too far now and, with respect to anybody objecting to it, it is an appropriate measure to deal with the serious crimes that are being committed.
I will not avoid taking difficult decisions, but we need to adopt the measures together because for various well meaning and not so well meaning reasons people do not want to see our justice system become the kind of system which we need if we are to combat crime. I urge Senators to pass this motion and I hope we will be able to put another money laundering confiscation system in place.
Some weeks ago we approved regulations under the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, setting a limit of £5,000 on notifications. I said on that occasion that this is not the proper opportunity for a wide ranging debate on law and order or on the drugs question because it is enabling legislation. It represents a further extension of the powers provided in the 1994 Act and our debate today should be confined to it.
It was with a deep sense of shock and personal loss that I heard of the terrible murder of Veronica Guerin, who had been a friend of mine for some years. Before she went into journalism she was a member of Ógra Fianna Fáil. I had not met her often in recent years. Her murder was an appalling act. There is a justifiable sense of loss at her death. There is also a sense of outrage everywhere at what happened.
It would be no exaggeration to say that the country is stunned and shocked. It is not a time to propose any drastic measures at this stage because it is easy in the heat of a crisis to make proposals which, on calmer reflection, we would not want. Nevertheless, there is considerable public disquiet at this development and public patience is exhausted.
The Criminal Justice Act, 1994, is the most substantial legislation on our Statute Book dealing with the proceeds of drugs trafficking. Its provisions deal with confiscation of assets, money laundering, drug trafficking at sea or the import or exportation of cash for the purposes of purchasing illegal drugs. The Act also establishes a framework for international co-operation between Governments in the fight against drugs trafficking, the most international of criminal activities. The new regulations, which are pertinent also to the international co-operation aspect of the fight against drug trafficking, represent another essential element in the fight against the drugs barons and, as such, are to be welcomed and supported.
The regulations are very technical and require considerable study. I made one mistake in that I did not notice there was no section 2 before section 3. If it is not intended to include a section 2 before a section 3, it should be explained. Any legislation or regulations should be easy to understand.
It is essential that all the energies and abilities of the Oireachtas, Government and Garda are brought to bear on the drugs business, which is the most serious risk to the stability of society today. However, the Act and the regulations must not lull us into a false sense of security. For example, a few weeks ago the Minister for Justice informed the House that between May 1995 and April 1996, there were 285 notifications-under section 57 of the Act, which provides that a financial institution must make a report to the Garda Síochána where it suspects that money laundering is taking place in relation to its business. However, pursuant to these notifications, we do not yet know how many successful prosecutions there have been in cases where the notifications related to non innocent transactions. I look forward to the Minister informing the House of the number of successful prosecutions under any section of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994.
In so far as I might enter a discordant note today, I did not like the tone of what appeared to be a lecture from the Minister to Members of this and the other House regarding their knowledge, or lack of it, of the Criminal Justice Act or various other provisions which are available.
I did not lecture.
The Minister gave a lecture.
The Senator is lecturing.
I stated facts.
The Minister attempted to chide Members of both Houses in relation to a lack of knowledge.
Perhaps the Senator knows every line, chapter and verse of everything. If so, I apologise.
I am glad the Minister apologised. It is about time she did so for arrogance without activity.
Many people do not know the details.
The Senator did not understand it. He said so this morning.
The Senator did not understand it himself and he should be careful.
I ask Senator Mulcahy to proceed with his contribution. He should try to be less controversial.
The Minister was controversial when she tried to imply that Members of this and the other House were not sufficiently knowledgeable about the range of options available under this and other drug trafficking legislation.
Did the Senator hear the debate this morning?
I will not comment on the Minister's performance on the radio which would not enamour——
I am not talking about that but the debate in the other House where members of the Senator's party clearly did not know legislation was in place to deter money laundering.
I ask Senator Mulcahy to confine himself to the motion.
I ask for the protection of the Chair. I did not interrupt the Minister. She will have a right of reply at the conclusion of the debate and a full opportunity to explain her remarks. Members of this and the other House are aware that drug barons and professional criminals in this city appear to go untouched. The Minister referred to a radio programme this morning.
I did not; I referred to the debate in the other House.
Will she also refer to the front page of today'sIrish Independent which states: “We know who killed her — and he's untouchable”? If the Minister addressed herself to that aspect instead of lecturing Members of this and the other House on how the untouchables can be dealt with she might begin to get some semblance of public confidence in relation to the Government's handling of the crime crisis.
The Senator is a sensitive young man.
It is clear from the nature, extent and viciousness of those involved in drug dealing, drug trafficking and other serious criminal activities that a radically new and thorough approach is needed if we are to succeed in ridding the country of gangland killings, professional assassins, murder, intimidation and the destruction of those led into the abuse of prohibited substances. Measures which may be required include special legislation which might remove the right to silence of those habitually involved in criminal activity, legislation enabling specific inquiries to be made into the affairs of persons suspected of drug trafficking or serious criminal activity and the creation of a properly empowered and resourced drugs and serious crime enforcement agency.
We are delighted the Government is introducing regulations to bring the fight to the drug barons and traffickers on the basis of international co-operation. It must be noted that the European Union has not been able to fully co-operate and develop its policies in the fight against drug trafficking. This is another major item of concern. The House debated the drugs crisis several months ago. However, the Minister was not prepared to accept on that occasion that there was a national drugs crisis. Is the Minister prepared to accept now there is a crime crisis?
It is not a question and answer session.
Is the Minister prepared to accept that "crisis" is no longer an exaggeration but an accurate reflection of the state of the country? If the Minister will not accept that is the case, she runs the risk of being described as out of touch with reality. I am not talking up a crisis. It is a crisis when a journalist is shot in the city; who will be next?
Where was the Senator yesterday?
I ask Senator Sherlock to desist from interrupting. Senator Mulcahy without interruption.
It is an attack on the Minister. It has nothing to do with the regulations.
I thought the Senator supported the regulations.
We will support all measures to fight drugs and serious crime. We support the regulations; we also supported the previous drugs regulations. However, a more concerted, determined and head-on approach to the drug and gang lords is required. This side makes the point with earnestness. The Minister must accept she has received full co-operation from this side whenever she introduced new proposals to deal with the problem. I commend the regulations to the House.
I also condemn the outrageous killing of Veronica Guerin yesterday. It is an attack on democracy. An unacceptable level of viciousness is creeping into the criminal elements and it must be rooted out with the full force of the law. I welcome the Minister's statement that no resources will be spared in ensuring that is the case. Ms Guerin was executed for her courageous work in exposing the underworld, which is a cancer in our society. It is ominous that in the same month Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was executed for carrying out his duty, protecting the transfer of money for the most vulnerable in society, pensioners and the unemployed.