Proceeds of Crime Bill, 1996: Second Stage.

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

I thank the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, for coming into the House today and for her and the Government's support for Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill. I am sure the Minister will join me in congratulating Deputy O'Donoghue for introducing this important legislation. This Bill was presented to the Dáil the day after the terrible murder of Veronica Guerin and a short time after the equally terrible murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. The Minister will agree that these murders and the increased public perception that the level of organised crime is spiralling out of control have galvanised Members of the Oireachtas with a firm and determined sense of purpose to move forward together in the fight against crime.

As Deputy O'Donoghue and the Leader of Fianna Fáil stated, our party will be completely constructive in relation to any other legislation introduced by the Government to bolster the fight against crime. Much of the legislation introduced by the Government during yesterday's meeting of the Dáil will be welcomed by this side of the House. A point may be made about there being a famine and then a feast, but that is another day's work.

I commend this Bill to the House because it seeks to deal with the problem of crime and the term "untouchable" which is associated with that problem. This is the central criminal concept the Bill seeks to address. The Taoiseach correctly stated that no one in the community is untouchable. In so far as various criminal elements have sought to place themselves on an untouchable pedestal in recent years, this imaginative Bill created by Deputy O'Donoghue is to be welcomed as spearheading the fight against those who claim to be untouchable. The legal concepts in the Bill are interesting, bold and imaginative. The Minister will agree that it brings civil law concepts to bear in the fight against crime.

The first of the two civil law concepts being brought to bear in the criminal sphere is the notion of interim and interlocutory orders. Members are aware of these orders from their use in common law injunctions where a person enters courtex parte and says stop, a wrong is about to happen. That concept is now being transposed to the criminal sphere. It will enable an officer of the Revenue Commissioners or another authorised person — the Bill was correctly amended in this regard by the Dáil — to enter court to request the freezing of assets which they believe are the proceeds of crime and which should not remain in the ownership or control of the person in whose name they are held. It is very important that an officer of the Revenue Commissioners can enter court directly to make an application.

The second vital element of the Bill introduces the concept of the civil burden of proof to cases involving criminal assets. The existing criminal law stipulates that to secure a conviction one must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person has committed an offence. The creative aspect of the Bill is that the civil burden of proof will apply, in other words, the lesser proof of the balance of probabilities which will basically be 59 out of 100 as opposed to 99 out of 100. These two civil law concepts will be transposed to the criminal sphere.

I hope the Minister agrees that, good as it is, the Bill will not be enough in itself. What are needed are convictions, action and freezing orders because members of the public are not interested in legislation; they are interested in results. People want results. They want to feel safe and know that gangsters are not roaming the streets. One aspect of this Bill I hope we will see will be a reporting mechanism to the Dáil and Seanad. We would like to know how many freezing orders will be made over the next few months. We would like a proper report from the Minister.

My second point deals with publicity. I accept that in certain cases some proceedings may be held in private and that there are specific provisions in the Bill relating to this. The use of publicity against some of these untouchables is itself a way of dealing with them. If freezing orders are made, the public has a right to know and would like to know, and we as legislators should know. I think the Minister is on record as saying that assets have been frozen under the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. I would like to know if there have been freezing orders under the Criminal Justice Act, 1994.

I was delighted when the Government decided to accept this Fianna Fáil Bill. Almost all the Government amendments have been good. The amendments in relation to receivers — where one may be appointed to administer the property — and the sections relating to the bankruptcy of the respondent and dealing with the official assignee, winding up, immunity, etc., are welcome. We have had similar freezing legislation before. This was the subject of a High Court decision I believe in the Clancy case. In that case, Justice Barrington said there were three requisites to any freezing legislation: one, the respondent had a right to be heard, two, there would be a scheme of compensation in cases where somebody's assets had been wrongfully frozen. In this legislation the respondent has a right to be heard at the interlocutory stage, and that is good. However, there appears to be a dilution in the amendment to the original Bill in relation to the respondent putting in an affidavit as to his or her sources of income over the last ten years. In the original Bill, this requirement of an affidavit for ten year income was mandatory but is only at the discretion of the court in the amended Bill. In all cases where the Garda or Revenue Commissioners have come to the conclusion that an interim freezing order should be made or subsequently an interlocutory, the affidavit of the respondent in relation to his or her means should be obligatory. This would put an onus on such a person to state in writing how and why they came to own this and that.

Part of the public frustration is that the Revenue Commissioners have in several cases by way of personal audit arrived at ordinary citizens' doors and asked how they earned this and that. If the Revenue Commissioners or the Garda Síochána come to the initial conclusion that a restraining order should be made, it should be mandatory for this affidavit to be sworn by the respondent.

Another point I make relates to loss. The public do not want this Bill to result in large compensation claims from people who have had restraining orders made against them and subsequently discharged. I accept, and Deputy O'Donoghue accepts, that somebody who is the subject of a restraining order which turns out to be based on incorrect information is entitled to compensation. However, that compensation should be reasonable and confined to actual loss as opposed to economic loss. If somebody puts a freezing order on my bank account which contains £10, I might be entitled to get back my £10 and interest on that sum. However, I am not entitled to claim that if I had had that £10 on a Friday I could have invested it in a few shares or put it on a horse and won £1 million and therefore claim £1 million compensation. It is important that we do not open the door to astronomical claims for compensation against the State, but there is a question mark on the degree of loss for which a wrongly accused person can apply.

If we are going to get tough with the godfathers of crime, let us get really tough with them. There is an ironclad determination in the Fianna Fáil Party that the godfathers of crime will be tackled head on. Despite the introduction of this legislation, there is still a feeling throughout the country that many people will continue their gangster activities unhindered. Two weeks ago, on 14 July, I was shocked to read on the front page of theSunday Independent that crime bosses had halted a crackdown by the Revenue Commissioners on the selling of illegal cigarettes. The import of the story was that the Revenue Commissioners had been stopped in their investigation into the illegal sale of cigarettes by an intolerable level of intimidation.

I presume the person who wrote the story is a responsible journalist. I also presume that her claim that she was informed about this by the Revenue Commissioners is true. If that is the case, it is extremely serious that the Revenue Commissioners could admit that they have been intimidated into stopping a serious investigation. I hope the Minister can give an assurance that nobody is selling illegal cigarettes in any part of Dublin city.

I most certainly cannot.

I would be most distressed if, after this article was brought to the attention of the public and the Government, people were still selling illegal cigarettes in Dublin's streets and if gardaí and Revenue Commissioners were still intimidated against stopping it. I hope the Minister will give an ironclad guarantee that this activity, which takes place only a stone's throw from this House, has been stopped.

I am the Minister for Justice not God, although the Senator might think I am at times.

Get a few Olympians to chase them around because they all wear "Nike" shoes.

We just want a minor miracle.

Senator Mulcahy without interruption.

This is one of the most important and far-reaching Bills to be introduced in the fight against crime. It is draconian legislation because it interferes with one of the primary constitutional rights, the right to private property. However, nobody has the right to use private property to trample on other people's rights. Nobody has the right to private property by breaking the law and nobody has the right to misuse or abuse the right to private property in order to conduct a life of crime and deny the State its lawful revenue.

I commend the Government for having accepted this Bill. I hope the Minister will join with me in praising Deputy O'Donoghue for the magnificent work he did on the concept of this Bill and in revolutionising to a certain extent the fight against crime by way of legislation which, as an Opposition spokesperson, is all he can do at present.

Questions about the constitutionality of this Bill have been raised. Not I, the public or the Minister want people who might be the subject of a restraining or freezing order taking this legislation through the courts so as to render it ineffective for several years. The public demands that Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill will be effective very quickly. I hope — I am not sure if this can be communicated in official form — the President will refer this Bill to the Supreme Court so that an early decision can be made as to its constitutionality. I will go further. If the Supreme Court finds any aspect of this Bill unconstitutional, I hope the Minister will quickly bring forward a constitutional amendment so that criminals cannot hide behind their constitutional rights while denying others the basic right to live a normal and free life in their own country.

There will be no delay on this side of the House in supporting any changes to the Constitution, including changes in relation to bail, if that is required in the fight against crime. There is nothing that will not be done, there is no support that will not be given by this side of the House if the Minister moves quickly and decisively to fight the people who organise themselves professionally to enrich themselves and to undermine the very foundations of our democratic society.

In the name of Veronica Guerin, Detective Garda Gerry McCabe and all the unnamed victims of crime in this country, I commend Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill to the House. I praise the Government amendments to it and I hope it will be passed speedily by this House.

I welcome the Second Reading of the Proceeds of Crime Bill in this House and acknowledge the role played by Deputy O'Donoghue in the other House in originating these proposals in what was then the Organised Crime (Restraint and Disposal of Illicit Assets) Bill, 1996.

In agreeing to the principles of the Bill I undertook to carefully examine the issues raised by the proposals, constitutional and otherwise, and to bring forward any necessary amendments. The latter half of Senator Mulcahy's contribution gave me the impression that as a lawyer he might still have some worries about its constitutionality. His colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, did not have a scintilla of doubt about the constitutionality and correctness of his Bill as first published. On Committee Stage the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, was able to show on my behalf that the Bill needed very substantial amendment to guard as far as possible against the risk of the Bill being overturned on constitutional or other grounds in the courts if the President exercises her right to refer the Bill, or if any individual sent it, to the courts. As a result, the Bill the House is dealing with today has been extensively amended and has a new short title.

An examination of the Bill will show that what started out as an eight section Bill is now an 18 section Bill. It has been amended from the Title down as is necessary. This measure, which the Government is accepting in its wholly amended form, and the other measures which the Government brought forward yesterday are necessary. We are not trying to create a Richter scale of toughness where I am really tough, somebody else is really, really tough and somebody else is really, really, really tough. That is not what we are about; we want to put effective legislation on our Statute Book.

I do not mind whether the newspapers call me tough or soft. I will do my job in a responsible way and ensure that any legislation to which I put my name will, to the best of my ability and that of the legal advisers and staff available to me, stand the test the time. That will continue to be my primary responsibility in accepting Opposition legislation. Other Bills have not stood the test of time, despite the best efforts and endeavours of Ministers over the years.

In addition to this Opposition legislation, I have also accepted serious legislation put forward by Senator Henry, Deputy O'Donoghue and Deputy Eoin Ryan. That legislation is undergoing extensive amendment but the spirit and principle of the Bill are accepted. However, Members of the Opposition who frame Bills naturally do not have the same access to legal advice as I have available to me. I am acting as the Minister for Justice, rather than as Nora Owen, TD.

The amendments are extensive but they have kept in place the main principle of the original proposals, as Senator Mulcahy said, which is that the High Court is being empowered to freeze and ultimately dispose of property which it is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, is the proceeds of crime. While keeping to the broad principles of the original proposals, the amendments which I put forward in the Dáil and which are now part of the Bill, have made some changes of substance. Perhaps I might briefly mention the more important of these and explain the reasoning behind them.

Perhaps the main change of principle brought about by the amendments is that the scope of the Bill has been expanded to cover the proceeds of all crime. I do not want to differentiate between one sort of crime and another in terms of this power. The original proposals covered only certain offences, namely, the theft, illegal acquisition and/or destruction of property valued in excess of £10,000 or the distribution of controlled drugs. Even then, the Bill would only have applied to these offences where they were organised or committed by two or more persons.

Apart from serious drafting errors in the provision itself, the concept of such a narrow list of offences, allied to the requirement that more than one person must have been involved, could have led to the most serious difficulties in the actual enforcement of the provisions of the Bill. It would have been a legitimate defence — if I can use that word in a civil context — for a person facing a freezing order, and where there was some evidence of criminality, to say that he or she had derived the property from an offence committed alone or that the property derived from offences not listed in the Bill. A court might have had great, if not insuperable, difficulties in overcoming this argument, perverse as it would be. It might simply have been impossible for a court to find, even on the balance of probabilities, that property derived from a particular type of offence rather than another or that a particular offence had not been committed alone. At the very least, this limitation would have made it immeasurably more difficult for a court to implement the provisions of the Bill.

I did recognise, of course, that one of the objectives of this limitation was to target the Bill on persons with significant property rather than petty criminals. I think this point is substantially met by limiting the provisions of the Bill to property which is worth at least £10,000 and which is the proceeds of crime.

Another change of substance, although in keeping with the principle of the original proposal, was in the procedure for applying for and obtaining an interlocutory order. This is the main freezing order, which can last for up to seven years. The Bill as published provided that a court, on application to it, was obliged to make an interlocutory order in respect of property where an interim order already applied to the property, unless the person claiming to own the property could show that it was not the proceeds of crime. In other words, the Garda or the Revenue Commissioners simply had to point to the existence of an interim order which, of course, would be madeex parte, for the onus to shift to the respondent. The revised proposals require the Garda or the Revenue Commissioners to make a case to the court that property is the proceeds of crime, and only then does the onus shift to the respondent. It is still a tough measure but it is now a more balanced one which is an important factor in legislation of this kind.

I refer back to all our efforts to find an adjective when people say "He or she is tough". We have to be careful and cautious about serious infringements of people's rights that might actually have the effect of not being able to do what this legislation is trying to do. The respondent will have the opportunity of hearing the case against him or her and of then responding to it rather than, as was originally provided, having to show that the property is not the proceeds of crime without necessarily hearing the case made by the State at all.

Another change is that the onus of proof of innocent origin of property will be on the person claiming to own the property at the disposal stage. This was the case in regard to the freezing of property in the original proposals — and of course is still provided for in the revised Bill — but not in relation to the disposal of property.

I believe that to have required a court at the disposal stage to be satisfied that property was not the proceeds of crime, without any obligation on the respondent to show that the property was of innocent origin, could have weighed too heavily against the purpose of the proposals. If it is thought necessary, when seeking to freeze property, to place an onus on a person claiming to own the property to show some proof of innocent origin, what is likely to happen if that onus is removed when it comes to seeking the disposal of the property seven years on? Presumably, the property would in many cases simply be handed back, perhaps even with compensation, as the State would no more be in a position to discharge the full onus of proof at the disposal stage than it would have been at the freezing stage.

In addition to these changes, I put forward a number of amendments to deal with the practicalities of freezing property for a number of years. Provision is now made for the appointment of a receiver to manage frozen property and there are parallel provisions for the variation of freezing orders where it is essential for some business or trade, subject of course to any restrictions which the court may consider necessary. All these provisions are new.

I also thought it desirable to provide for a number of eventualities which were not catered for in the original Bill, such as the bankruptcy of a person whose property is frozen or the winding up of a company which owns property which is frozen. These are essential provisions, the absence of which could have, indeed would have, severely affected the practicability of the Bill. There were also a great number of drafting amendments to the extent that the Bill was, in fact, revised in its entirety. I will not dwell on the detail of all those changes but it does illustrate the need there was for a fundamental revision of the Bill.

What we now have in the Bill before this House today is, as a result of the changes which have been made to it, what I hope will be an effective mechanism for dealing with the unacceptable phenomenon whereby a certain number of people have, through a pattern of criminal behaviour, acquired significant wealth. Of course, this phenomenon is not new and I want to stress that there are already extensive provisions in place, in the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, to deal with this situation. While not inferring that Members of the House are unaware of that, there is certainly ignorance concerning that both among the public and media commentators. Under that Act, where a person is convicted of an offence on indictment, the court can, on the application of the DPP, inquire into whether the person has benefited from the offence and, if it is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that there has been such a benefit, the court can require the repayment of that benefit. If necessary, the property of the convicted person can be confiscated to satisfy the requirement of the court.

There is also provision for the DPP to apply for a court order freezing property in advance of a prosecution to ensure that the property will be available for any confiscation. These powerful provisions are already in place and are working. The measures in the Bill before the House will, therefore, supplement the existing provisions for confiscating the proceeds of crime.

Senator Mulcahy said he hoped there would be convictions, etc. One of the difficulties of this Bill is that it does not require any conviction or a crime. It is simply a mechanism to freeze, to take out of use the criminal's assets. This Bill might freeze their bank accounts, etc., but it does not go on to convict them of the crimes from which they might have made these moneys. That will be done by the 1994 Criminal Justice Act.

In 1994, when the then Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, was examining ways of freezing assets, she chose the recommendation and advice of the Law Reform Commission which said it might be dangerous to go the way we are going and that it was better to link the freezing and confiscation of assets with a conviction. This meant we ended up with the assets being frozen and the person locked up, hopefully following a conviction, and we had a double victory. This legislation is another mechanism and tool to freeze assets. However, we should not underestimate the need for the existing legislation because it is working.

The disclosure mechanism in the 1994 legislation required building societies, banks and other financial institutions to report lodgments of over £10,000 where there was a suspicion it might have been a money laundering exercise — I am sure Senators have seen signs to this effect in banks and other financial institutions. Since I signed into order that disclosure mechanism, up to 31 December 1995, seven months after it was put in place, 199 disclosures with a monetary value of £19 million had been made; in the first seven months of this year, a further 182 disclosures with a monetary value of £9.5 million had been made; that means a total of £28.5 million was reported as being in some way suspicious.

In 1995, only 15 of the 199 disclosures have been written off as not constituting an offence. In accordance with the law, the Garda has a certain period after the disclosure is made by the bank or financial institution in which it can carry out a speedy investigation to ensure that, for example, the person's grandmother had not died and left him with a large sum of money, that he had come into a windfall or won the lottery. There is an immediate examination to ensure there is no unjustness involved in lodging this money. Somebody in this House might come into a windfall and find a disclosure order being made on them. There is a period during which the Garda try to check there is not a legitimate reason for a lodgment.

Only 15 of the 199 disclosures, and a small number of the 182 disclosures this year have been written off as not constituting an offence. The remainder are being, or have been, examined. I will not go into the kind of detail Senator Mulcahy wants. I am not the prosecuting authority and I do not rehear and retry cases. There have been confiscation orders and people are being convicted as a result of the information from the disclosure of money lodgments. This is working and this new Bill will add another piece to the jigsaw of dealing with people who commit crime in this country and try to launder money through legitimate structures.

These proposals have to be seen in the context of the other measures which I and the Government have already put in place. First, we are putting in place the mechanism to effectively implement these new provisions. I am referring to the new Criminal Assets Bureau to be headed up by a Chief Superintendent and comprising Garda, Social Welfare and Revenue officials. My colleague, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, yesterday introduced legislation to provide a statutory basis for this new bureau which will mark a new approach in focusing the concentrated attention of all the relevant authorities on persons suspected of having substantial criminal assets. Work on the bureau will start immediately in advance of the passing of the legislation. This work will be greatly facilitated by a second Bill introduced yesterday by the Minister for Finance, the Disclosure of Certain Information for Taxation and Other Purposes Bill, 1996, which will enhance the free flow of information between the Garda and the Revenue Commissioners in relation to criminal assets.

These developments also have to be seen against the backdrop of other legislative initiatives which I have recently or am currently undertaking. The Drug Trafficking Bill was given final approval in the Dáil yesterday and is one of the strongest pieces of criminal law passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Criminal Law Bill is currently before the Dáil and I look forward to debating it here. It abolishes many outdated provisions which needlessly complicate the criminal law, such as the distinction between felonies and misdemeanours, and puts in place clear and effective powers of arrest for the Garda Síochána.

The Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1996, is also before the Dáil having passed Second Stage only yesterday. One of the main purposes of the Bill is to free, as far as possible, members of the Garda Síochána from non-operational duties in the courts, for example, by permitting the giving of evidence by certificate. All these measures are part of a comprehensive and coherent plan to reform our criminal justice system and make it more responsive to the demands of our time. This needs more than legislation, vital though that is.

Every aspect of the existing structures needs to be examined and improved. We need more prison spaces — not the freeze experienced over the last decade — and more probation and welfare officers.

Do not be political.

I have put up with a fair amount from Fianna Fáil.

Not from me today.

We require more and better deployed gardaí, regionalisation and civilianisation of the Force, air support and information technology, a Garda national drugs unit, a Garda national bureau of fraud investigation and a fresh look at how to ensure the efficiency of the Force; more judges and court sittings and a radically reformed courts system; bail laws which reflect today's needs; practical steps to tackle the drugs problems in our prisons; new measures to tackle drug trafficking and organised crime and new schemes to divert youths away from crime. Each and every one of these things has been or is being done.

I welcome the Bill before the House today. It forms part of a wider programme of reform which I and the Government are undertaking. I acknowledge and pay tribute to the work of Deputy O'Donoghue in originally bringing forward these proposals. I hope that I have been able to play a part in improving them.

It is important that the Minister was heard to generously pay tribute to Deputy O'Donoghue from the other side of the House. That is the type of approach to this legislation which gives confidence to the general community and population. There is no one person in whom all the wisdom for the resolution of these difficulties resides.

For three to ten years, we were told that the elimination of unemployment or the reduction of the numbers unemployed should be the first priority of Government. In the last month this has changed and Government representatives and representatives of other political parties are now saying that the first priority for any Government must be the attack on crime. I make that point to stress that there is a fickleness in public opinion which should not be allowed to determine the long-term direction of State policy in looking after the common good. Measures must be taken but it takes a steady hand to move this forward properly.

There is a close connection between unemployment and the crime rate. However, it gives sustenance to the wrong people to give the impression that, because disadvantage can lead to crime, it should in some way should be offered as an excuse for crime. They are two significantly different things. There can be no excuse for people who make a decision to commit crime. It is wrong and will always be wrong, regardless of background. There may be circumstances which alleviate it and there may be fundamental issues which need to be addressed, and that is an issue to which I will return. Once in this House I said cynically that with the prison population coming mainly from easily identifiable areas of the State, it might be cheaper and easier for the State to build walls around certain housing estates and call them prisons given the lack of opportunity there for young people. I still believe that there is a direct correlation between disadvantage and crime but I do not believe in the "weeping liberal" line that crime can be excused because the criminal is disadvantaged. Once we make those distinctions we can move forward.

There is a similar situation with the common good and civil liberties. They are both important in their own way and those who go only for one or the other miss that importance. We have all heard stories of people who felt their civil liberties were infringed upon or that power was being abused. A Minister of State — he was not a Minister of State at the time — said that at one time he was being persecuted by a Garda. I do not know if he was right or wrong but the case got much publicity at the time and the person felt there was an abuse of power. I do not know if there was and for my purposes it is not important. An engineer friend of mine who has never been in trouble, he never even received a parking ticket, but he happened to look like an escaped criminal and he was treated diabolically by the authorities. It was a case of mistaken identity but the man has been shattered since that time. He was seen by many people accused of various crimes. An apology might have helped but it was not even given; acknowledgement of mistaken identity was the end of the matter.

I had grave reservations about the powers given to gardaí to break into people's homes on the basis of road traffic legislation initiated by the previous Administration and passed by the current Administration recently?

It was amended.

My reservations were that people would find themselves on the wrong end of the legislation when their doors were broken down and the gardaí could claim they felt a person in the house was involved in a hit and run accident. We will regret some of these measures but I make these points to offer a balance. We need an overview and people should not be afraid in their homes. As the Minister has said on a number of occasions, that is happening at present. There is no real answer to it.

When people from middle class areas talk of city areas noted for crime and criminals, it should not be forgotten that the most frightened people in the country live in those communities. These are old people who bolt their doors with six or seven locks at 6 p.m. and will not go out until nine or ten the following morning. The people living in these communities are decent, hard working and honest. They are the great victims in the sense that when their addresses are known they are assumed to be of a certain type. It is not always appreciated that people living honestly in those areas are constantly the victims of crime; very often they do not even report them.

The issues involved are bail, detention, evidence, courts, assets and jail. I am distinguishing between detention and jail. By detention I mean detention for questioning. I recognise that I am going beyond the Bill but every other speaker has done this, including the Minister. On the important issue of bail, 99 per cent of ordinary people believe that bail is given on the basis that the court is of the view that the person will not offend during the bail period. That is not the case. Bail is only granted when the court is satisfied that the person will not abscond from the jurisdiction. The vast majority of people would agree that where a judge feels that a person might commit crime while on bail, bail should not be granted. There would be full support for such an approach.

An associated step which might be taken is, for the small percentage of people on bail who commit crime, such offences should be factored into the sentences. Legislation tends to contain provisions for punishment for people found guilty of offences. The Minister should introduce legislation to allow for such punishments to be increased in the event of an offence being committed while the person is on bail. Additional pressure must be brought to bear on people not to commit offences while on bail. Such a step would need enabling legislation and the Minister should consider it. It would be well received by the public and would not infringe on people's personal rights. It is a measure that would only have effect in the event of an offence being proved.

Detention is the most difficult element on which to strike the right balance. The Minister has tried to tackle that with recently published legislation. I must admit to getting confused with what legislation has been published, what is pending and what has been passed. Recent legislation will allow a period of detention for questioning to be extended in certain circumstances. There are few objections to such a move because it is positive and it creates a balance in allowing more protection for people taken in for the first time. It is a measure which gives no sustenance to the weeping liberals nor to the hanging and flogging brigade, but strikes a balance between the common good and general civil liberties.

It pains me to say that given the way society is developing, the nature of the need to protect the common good means that civil liberties will be constrained to some extent. I regret that state of affairs, but I accept it. It is our duty as legislators to ensure that it is as controlled as possible.

With regard to the issue of evidence, the recent move to allow Garda evidence to be presented in apro forma or certificated manner is welcome. Anybody who has followed a court case will have found a huge element of time wasting involved in the provision of the specific minutiae of the Garda handling of evidence and in having to bring gardaí to the stand to prove such technical points. I support this move, although I am aware some of the Garda groups have reservations about it. In general, however, the approach to the issue is clear and will be widely welcomed. It will allow the court process to move more swiftly.

There is less of a confrontational element, which is so central to the operation of the courts in this jurisdiction, in the UK jurisdiction where there tends to be a process of agreeing technical and other aspects of evidence before cases get to court. I am not sure if this has developed by a process of legislation or evolution of court procedures. The efficiency of the courts could be enhanced by having a process where certain items of evidence, after or leading up to the entering of a plea, could be agreed by both sides beforehand and would not have to be proven in the court. This could save much time. Will the Minister consider this?

There has been much criticism of judges and the Judiciary over the past couple of months. Since I was first elected to this House in 1987 I have become aware of the great distinction between the operation of the Executive and the Judiciary; that is a healthy distinction. While it is right that judges paid from the public purse should be answerable and accountable, that needs to be balanced in terms that they should not feel the way they do their business should be in any way constrained by the views of politicians. Politicians are entitled to speak generally about the operations of the courts, but the courts themselves should implement legislation and make clear the way they conduct business. If it is conducted incorrectly the Government should introduce corrective measures through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The vast majority of members of the Judiciary, especially members of the higher courts, are people of the highest integrity. They are sensible people and while I often strongly disagree with them, I have never seen them abuse their position. It is when the judgments of the five judges of the Supreme Court are published that one can appreciate the tortuous process by which they interpret the law, to be clear about precedent and to move matters forward while taking account of the position of society. As I said, they are people of the highest calibre.

There have been too many examples in the lower courts of people whose idiosyncrasies have become legend. They remind me of the old parish priests before they came under the power of the bishops; they could do what they wanted and could not be sacked. A District Justice in the midlands area expressed views on politicians and politics which crossed the divide between the Executive and politics on the one hand and the Judiciary on the other. The words would have been better left unsaid. Judges should be allowed proceed with their work and to organise themselves and deal properly with problems within their own profession.

The need by people to prove that they came by ownership of assets innocently will be welcomed. In any tightening of the justice system there is always the worry that the small person will get booted. This is a classic example where this cannot happen. A youngster from Seán McDermott Street does not have to worry about the seizure or foreclosure of assets. It will only apply to somebody with assets and a person who is in a position of wealth and influence. I welcome moves to tackle this aspect.

Eight years ago I was involved with anti-drugs groups in the north inner city and I sat on a number of Government and European committees. Mr. Felloni was first imprisoned about that time but people in that area knew he had salted away about £330,000 — a lot of money at that time — which stood to him when he was released in four years. It will give people sustenance to see the wheels of justice catch up with him again. Those like Mr. Felloni who have power, influence, property and flashy cars and spread their largesse around, become role models and success stories for innocent young people in their community. Those people should be beaten down.

We must move forward and tie this debate in with the education system. Many people in these communities do not have a system for distinguishing between right and wrong in the wider community. The frame of reference is different from what it used to be. A recent UK survey showed the most common way for young people to be introduced to petty crime was through robbing food off supermarket shelves. I have no reason to believe Ireland is different — my colleague Senator Quinn probably knows more about this. These are not big robberies, they are just stealing a cake or a chocolate bar, but it is how involvement with crime begins. The goods stolen do not cost much but it is easy to move from stealing something worth 50 pence to something worth £5 and upwards. We must look at the problem at that level, to give people a new set of values and to give communities confidence that these values will allow people to live full lives and achieve their potential. That is a hard thing to do and education on its own is not the answer but it is part of the solution. I would like to develop these ideas at another time.

I compliment the Minister. She has had a few rough months but Ministers for Justice always do, and long may that continue.

Until Senator O'Toole gets the job.

She has weathered the storm. It is good for the community to see parties and their spokespersons working together to address this issue because it gives them confidence in the political system. I welcome the legislation.

I also welcome the legislation and congratulate Deputy O'Donoghue for bringing it forward and the Minister for accepting an Opposition Bill. Over many years Opposition spokespersons in both Houses have brought forward Bills which were automatically turned down by the Government. The first breakthrough was during the Fianna Fáil/PD Coalition when two Bills from Deputy Shatter were accepted. I had the frustration of having quite simple Bills turned down and seeing the exact wording of my Bill subsequently introduced in other legislation by a Minister for Justice. In that context I welcome the response of the Government and the Minister to Deputy O'Donoghue's Private Members' Bill. Its powers to restrain and confiscate assets are necessary to shift the balance of the application of our laws to the detriment of the criminal.

I do not like using the term "drug barons" to describe organised criminals; "drug super criminals" is a better term. We give them an aura of something other than what they are by calling them barons. Drug super criminals are adept at ensuring they are at arm's length from the coalface of criminal activity. They will not be found with their hands dirty. They get lesser men to do their dirty work. They organise the activity and plan the entrapment of vulnerable people into using drugs. They organise the importation and distribution of lethal, dehumanising and often fatal substances. Their underlings bleed unfortunate people of their income and force them to steal to feed their habit once they are addicted. These organisers reap the vast benefits of their activity. They live in big houses, have expensive lifestyles, frequently fly abroad and cannot be touched by the State forces of law and order.

Conviction in court for criminal activity requires proof beyond reasonable doubt. In a civilised society, this must always be the case. Organised criminals, whether drug barons or those who organise spectacular robberies, are adept at ensuring there is no admissable evidence to obtain a conviction. When arrested, as previously stated in the House, they stare at the wall and remain silent. The recent changes introduced by the Minister regarding the right to silence will improve the situation. However, these professional criminals ensure they have an alibi when their hired hands commit the crime, whether it is robbery or the importation and distribution of drugs. The dogs in the street know who these people are. The late Veronica Guerin knew who they were and was prepared to expose them. She paid dearly for her efforts. The Garda knows who they are and it is impossible to accurately reflect the level of frustration within the Force at having to tolerate and look at the lifestyles and riches of the most notorious and dangerous criminals. This lifestyle must be removed from them. The law as it stands cannot deal with that but we have reached a point where the law must deal with it. We can no longer tolerate the power and control these organised criminals have over our society. The Bill before the House will play a strong role in doing this. I share the regret that these measures are necessary. However, the present drift towards anarchy must stop. The super criminals must be dealt with. We can no longer tolerate the brazen flaunting of their ill-gotten gains, often cleverly laundered and untouchable under present legislation.

The solution to the drug problem is multifaceted. The Minister for Health and the Minister for Education have taken initiatives on the issue of demand. By their nature these have a medium to long-term effect. The issue of demand must be tackled as vigorously as that of supply. I am confident this Government has introduced and will introduce measures to deal with the demand side of the problem. There are many areas, especially in Dublin, where drugs are an integral part of people's lives. They grow up without knowing a life outside heroin addiction. Drug super criminals exist because there is a market for drugs. Multimillionaire criminals are benefiting from this trade in misery and death and it has been known for many years that the State cannot deal with them. Some years ago we saw a wealthy criminal drop his pants to gardaí in mockery and defiance when acquitted, despite the widespread knowledge that he was benefiting from professionally organised crime. At present the State does not have the power to tackle, prosecute or to send these criminals to prison. Recent measures introduced by the Minister will dramatically improve the situation.

The place to hit these untouchable super criminals is in their pockets and so deprive them of the proceeds of their work. We must stop the excesses of the super criminals, take away their ill-gotten millions and eliminate their lavish lifestyles. We must also stop the brazen disregard for those who aspire to a decent society and those who wish to succeed by hardworking means. We must end the disregard for the Garda Síochána which is charged with ensuring a civilised society so that decent people can go about their work without being executed.

Over the past decade confidence in the criminal justice system has been undermined. Those who killed Veronica Guerin believe they are untouchable and under present conditions it appears they are. Society, as we know it, will disintegrate if this continues. Super criminals will become more powerful and will have more influence through fear and death than the Houses of the Oireachtas if the present drift continues. Unless we introduce measures to stop this drift, we are looking into a very black abyss.

This Bill will play an important role in removing from the super criminals the benefits of their dastardly occupation. It will enable the High Court to freeze and dispose of the proceeds of crime. It authorises the initial application for a restraining order to be made which will ensure the criminal does not remove the assets and frustrate the order of the court. The court may, if satisfied, make an interim order freezing assets. It must then order the person whose assets are frozen to file an affidavit within 21 days setting out the assets owned or controlled by him or her. A person must also file an affidavit setting out the sources and amounts of income over the proceeding ten years. The person in possession of assets which are suspected to be the proceeds of crime must state openly from where they came and how they were paid for.

The Bill authorises the court to order the discovery and production of relevant documentation in the possession of any person. Bank statements and business records can be obtained by the court for inspection. The criminal will have to openly and publicly assert their claim of ownership and defend it in the face of cross-examination in the court. If the person can satisfy the court on the balance of probability that such frozen assets are not the proceeds of organised crime, they are unfrozen and returned to him. If he fails to satisfy the court, an interlocutory restraining order is made to deprive him of the use of the illicit assets.

The Bill also empowers the High Court to make disposal orders in respect of frozen property. This will be done if no adequate affidavit as to the income and assets have been filed. As the Minister said, the Bill and the issue being debated are not new. In 1994 this issue was debated at length in this House when the former Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, introduced the Criminal Justice Act. At the time some of us argued that the measures in this Bill should have been included in the 1994 legislation. However, our arguments were rejected on the basis of a report by the Law Reform Commission. We accepted the views of the Minister that it would have been unconstitutional and that it was dangerous legislation.

Under the 1994 Act if a person is convicted of an offence on indictment, the DPP can apply to the court for a confiscation of assets order requiring a person to pay a sum equivalent to the benefit which the court is satisfied they obtained from committing the offence. The Minister outlined the success of the 1994 legislation over the past 12 months. Is the standard of proof determining the extent to which a person benefited from an offence applicable to civil proceedings, which is the balance of probabilities, although of course the conviction itself must be obtained in the normal criminal standard which is beyond reasonable doubt?

When the offence concerned is a drug trafficking offence the court is empowered to make strong assumptions about the origins of the defendant's property, such as, that property transferred to him or her in the six years prior to the proceedings were as payment or reward for drug trafficking. The Bill before the House today is an important measure in tackling the drugs problem but is only a small part of the package to deal with that crime.

For many years Senators interested in this issue repeatedly asked successive Ministers for Justice to bring the Garda force up to a proper level and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors repeatedly highlighted the need for this. It is encouraging that at long last a Minister has responded positively to this request and I congratulate her on doing so. I welcome the decision of the Minister and the Government to increase the strength of the Garda with the recruitment of an extra 400 gardaí over the period from 1 July 1996 to December 1997; this is in addition to the 350 new gardaí already planned for 1996 and a further 350 in 1997. There will be a further 400 recruited next year. We must also be conscious of the fact that there will be retirements so it is not a net increase but I reckon there will be a net gain of approximately 800 gardaí on the beat. It is a very good start. I understand the limitations with regard to training, etc., because the resources are not available. If the Minister wished to train many more than number which I believe is necessary, I would hope the policy of recruiting those 400 extra gardaí would be continued until we reach the level for which the AGSI has repeatedly asked of 12 years ago when there were around 11,000 in the force.

I also welcome the additional 300 civilians to be recruited between now and early 1997 to enable an equivalent number of gardaí to be released to operational duties. In effect, the Minister is talking about a net increase of 1,000 gardaí — two lots of 400 recruited and 200 released from their desks onto the beat. As I said, the Minister must continue to review this with the objective of bringing the total force to at least 11,000.

Numbers are not the only determination of the Garda's success in tackling crime. Efficiency and effectiveness play a key role in the delivery of any service. I welcome the fact that the Minister is reviewing this by the setting up of the co-ordinating group under the Strategic Management Initiative which will undertake a review of the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the Garda Síochána against the background of the challenges which it now faces and is likely to face in the future.

The success of the implementation of the legislation is most important. The super criminals must be denied the enjoyment of their ill-gotten gains. This will be facilitated by the Government's decision to set up a special unit headed by a garda to target suspect assets, which will comprise Garda, Revenue and Social Welfare officials.

Lastly, I want to refer to the prisons because I raised the issue of the revolving door policy over the years. I remember that a féile in Thurles three or four summers ago caused the release of 100 prisoners in Limerick Prison to allow for arrests. It is forgotten that there was a national debate about the problem with the revolving door system at the time. It was raised here on a regular basis and totally ignored so I welcome that, at last, a Minister has responded positively to deal with the situation. I welcome her decision to build a new remand prison capable of holding 400 prisoners on a site already available at Wheatfield Prison at an estimated cost of £40 million. I also welcome the fact that the Minister has obtained Cabinet approval for the capital funding for the construction of Castlerea's main prison which will provide 125 extra places and the women's prison in the Mountjoy Prison complex. I especially welcome the decision which I had called for on a number of occasions to expedite work in 1996 on a new wing at Limerick Prison which will provide 55 extra places. The Minister has put in train a plan to create 640 extra spaces in our prison service.

I congratulate Deputy O'Donoghue for introducing this necessary legislation and the Minister for accepting it.

I welcome this Bill which should be implemented as soon as possible. I compliment Deputy O'Donoghue for introducing it. It is difficult for someone on the Opposition benches to draft a Bill because they do not have the necessary resources. Deputy O'Donoghue was placed at a disadvantage because he did not have access to the expertise which is available to the Government. The Minister's amendments were introduced as a result of legal advice which was not available to Deputy O'Donoghue. We must consider how Opposition spokespeople can have access to relevant information and expertise. The Bill has not been changed dramatically, so we must give tremendous praise to Deputy O'Donoghue.

The Minister said there is a provision for the DPP to apply for a court order to freeze property in advance of a prosecution. That suggests there will be a prosecution in every case where a freezing order is given. I am not sure what effect a freezing order will have in terms of a charge being brought against the person against whom the freezing order is made. Is the person charged with possession of goods which were deemed to have been stolen or acquired illegally after which a freezing order is given?

They are charged with a crime, not the freezing order.

How will the court know from where the assets came? Someone must be able to say the assets were acquired as a result of particular crimes. It is unclear how this will work.

It is one of the reasons the Law Reform Commission recommended the other way.

How will the Minister ensure these people will be brought to justice under this legislation and that their assets will be disposed of and not just frozen for seven years?

The Minister said that over the past number of months freezing orders to the value of £28 million——

On a point of order, I did not say freezing orders to the value of £28 million, but disclosure of £28 million.

——disclosure of £28 million which was deemed not to have been acquired by legitimate means.

Suspicious lodgments.

In some cases it was discovered that the money may have been the result of windfalls or winnings from the national lottery and the applications were thrown out of court. However, orders were made against a number of people. The general public should be aware that these orders have been made and that there are suspicions about the origin of the assets held in people's bank accounts.

There is no press reporter present in the House so this issue may or may not receive publicity. Certain individuals who supposedly left the country in recent weeks did so as a result of the publicity they received. If there is evidence under the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, that certain lodgments were made which were deemed to be criminal in nature, why is this not publicised? Why are photographs of those involved not published? In America, police authorities publish photographs of what they term "Public Enemy No. 1". The individuals I refer to are criminals and enemies of the people and maximum publicity must be given to court cases in which they are involved.

Are there reciprocal laws in other countries with which the provisions of this Bill can operate in tandem? Today's criminals will not build ostentatious houses or appoint their wives to operate equestrian centres. A trip to Newry from Dundalk takes no longer than 30 minutes and it is easy for people to transfer ill-gotten assets across the Border; they can do so unless those assets are frozen. I fear there will be a major transfer of criminal assets to Wales, Liverpool, Newry or Belfast if reports about the connections between various crime lords are to be believed. Are there any reciprocal arrangements under which we can prevent these assets leaving the country because there are rumours that this is already taking place?

Earlier speakers referred to increases in the numbers of gardaí. On the surface it appears there will be a huge increase but, in effect, this is not correct because there will also be a large increase in the number of retirements in the next four years. The age profile of the force means that many gardaí will retire in the near future. Therefore, the number of gardaí will have to be substantially increased. Why is a garda of 57 years of age or a detective of 60 years of age deemed to be no longer fit for duty? Successive Garda Commissioners have made a major input towards a resolution of the country's crime problems but they must retire at a relatively early age and are removed from the system. Replacements must be trained and we are losing people with great expertise. If these officers are merely dropped from the system, they will not be replaced by recruits because their expertise in detective and surveillance work is built up over a long period. It is also important to maintain the continuity of the contacts they developed during their careers. I am not referring to increasing the compulsory retirement age. If there are people in the Garda with certain skills they should not be forced out because they reach their 57th birthday.

It was not until photographs of super criminals appeared in the papers that many members of the public realised they were consorting with criminals. There must be some law in Ireland which makes regular consorting with criminals a crime. Therefore, it is important that all criminals should have their photographs taken.

I am not sure about the lower limit of £10,000 because it infers that petty criminals whose proceeds from crime are below £10,000 are not criminals. That is a nonsense. If they steal goods amounting to £10,000, they can steal £20,000, £50,000 or £500,000. There is one such person in every town in Ireland today and they should be as liable to the Proceeds of Crime Bill, 1996, as someone with assets totalling £2 million, £5 million, etc. That is a point that might be taken on board.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. It indicates co-operation on both sides of the Houses in fighting crime. It is appropriate that there is no party political point scoring on this debate, that we are approaching it in a spirit of co-operation and bringing to it the best of various viewpoints.

I welcome the Minister's positive response to the Fianna Fáil Bill and her significant addition to it. Its central purpose is to allow for the freezing and ultimate disposal of property which the court is satisfied has, on the balance of probability, come from the proceeds of crime. That is its central point and I welcome the Minister's expansion of the area of cover to all proceeds of crime. She has also made a change in the onus of proof of innocence.

Senator O'Toole made a good point when he said that we are dealing with the disposal of money. In that sense, the area of civil liberties is not a major consideration in this legislation. We are talking about people who have a great deal of money. If they have property it can be frozen. I would be more concerned about civil liberties if we were to limit a person's individual freedom.

We have to get the balance right in relation to bail and the right to silence. We are dealing here with people who have money. In limiting their freedom by granting the courts power to freeze their assets before proof is furnished that they were obtained through illicit means, the invasion of innocence until proven guilty is entirely justified as is the change in the onus of proof. We are dealing with ruthless and clever people who will use any loopholes to escape with the proceeds from their illicit activities and hide that money and not let it be known that it was secured it by illicit means that caused untold misery to a huge number of people. In that sense, we must be clever in using whatever means we can to detect what they are doing and to take action against them.

This legislation is one of a series of measures the Minister is taking — other measures have already been taken by the Minister and by other Departments — to get at the individuals we describe as drug barons. They are clever people and we must use whatever methods we can to put them behind bars and to get them off the backs of people who already have enough problems without their children being at the mercy of drug barons.

The legislation that will be before the House later this afternoon ties in with this legislation. There will be difficulties in dealing with properties being transferred to other people's names, money being put into offshore accounts and simply getting at the drug barons. In that context, it is important to have a designated body to carry out such work. The Minister is legislating for the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau. The Labour Party had previously called for the establishment of a special unit comprising personnel from the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Welfare, the Garda Síochána and the Customs Service to target these individuals in a focused way. I welcome the Minister's introduction of that legislation.

The bureau must have teeth and protection and must be capable of co-ordinating the activities of the Garda Síochána, the Department of Social Welfare and the Revenue Commissioners. They are dealing with ruthless people. Deputy McCreevy, a former Minister for Social Welfare, told the Dáil yesterday about intimidation of social welfare officials. We have also heard of it happening to other personnel who tried to investigate these barons. Clearly we need people who are well protected, well paid and well equipped so that the people they are investigating will not be able to get at them. That will be difficult but the political will exists to do it and it can be done.

Ultimately, we must use the various measures together to target the drug barons effectively and disabuse them of their belief that they are untouchable. This will be done with the necessary determination. It will require not only the input of finance and resources but also the effective use of those resources. In that context I welcome the action being taken with regard to examining the situation in the Garda Síochána. I also support the recommendation of Mrs. Justice Denham's group that an independent body be established to oversee the provision of court services and I welcome the provision of extra judges.

We must ensure that there is a determination to use the Garda Sóchána effectively. I was disappointed to read a comment inThe Irish Times recently by a representative of the Garda Federation. It was suggested that the proposals in the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill would reduce overtime payments but would not increase the number of gardaí on the beat. The representative went on to say: “The only absolute effect this new measure will achieve will be a greater Exchequer saving and a further reduction in Garda supplementary income and consequent morale”. I do not understand that statement. I assume that if the gardaí are not sitting around all day in court and being paid overtime they could be doing something else for being paid overtime. They could be doing something effective, such as going out on the beat. I have heard no explanation or retraction of that statement and a statement of that nature must be challenged. If we are paying people with public money, regardless of whether they are gardaí, judges or otherwise, to implement legislation on the Statute Book we must ensure that they are being used effectively. This is a very important point.

When this legislation is enacted, we must ensure that there are no delays in having cases dealt with by the courts. I have already referred to various aspect of that issue, but consideration should be given to fast tracking the cases of those who are making money out of drug addicts and the community. We must take the necessary measures to ensure that these people are brought to trial as quickly as possible.

I was one of the Members who went to Buswells Hotel yesterday to meet with groups representing various Dublin communities who have been so badly affected by the drugs crisis. I spoke at length with two women from Kilbarrack who have been working on this problem for years. Both are mothers of drug addicts and they explained in great detail what they wanted.

Today we are discussing the question of stopping those who impose such hardship and wreak havoc on their communities. This is the criminal justice area. Community groups such as those I met yesterday want these people targeted. They know that people at the lower levels have to be targeted as well but the most important thing from their point of view is to target the people who flaunt their wealth and who are ruining children's lives.

Community groups put just as much emphasis on the other aspects of this issue, such as education of communities and treatment. I know we are not discussing those issues today but they are all connected. If we take the customers from the drug barons by empowering those who are addicted and the communities around those who have the potential to become addicts, then we will be taking business away from those who sell drugs.

We have to approach this problem from all directions. We have to give support to communities which themselves put forward plans. I was told yesterday that community groups have been asked by the Eastern Health Board to put forward proposals as to what should be done. We have to listen to these people who have experience of the problem and we must ensure that the authorities work with them. We need to improve co-ordination between the various sevices. Representatives of these groups told me they are not sure where to go when looking for a particular service. Local communities need a co-ordinated approach. They have to know where they can go to have issues resolved and to have various parts of a solution brought together.

These groups see a need for preventative education. Their young children see adults and older teenagers taking drugs and accept it as normal. That is another area about which they feel strongly. The various aspects of this issue are linked and we have to bring the various aspects together. Today we are concentrating on the justice side. The Bills being enacted to combat this problem are linked. This is an important Bill, as is the Bill we will discuss this afternoon. The Labour Party fully supports the Bill and congratulates both Fianna Fáil and the Minister for the progress being made.

I wish to share my time with Senator Lee.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Bill which the Minister has brought forward, based on Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill. I welcome all the other initiatives the Minister has taken to fight crime, particularly the battle against drugs. I am delighted she has decided to use the Richmond Hospital for extra court space. This is a most imaginative use of the hospital and will, I am sure, be welcomed by all who ever worked there.

I would like to see some other aspects of criminal legislation put forward as well. My hobbyhorse is prisons and the independent prisons board. Senator O'Sullivan mentioned Mrs. Justice Denham's recommendation that there should be an independent court service. I hope that is brought in as soon as possible because I would not like to think of us invoking the Denham report in ten years time the way I have invoked the Whitaker report on several occasions.

The freezing of assets is incredibly important in the fight against those who are making such enormous amounts of money from the drug business. I wish to focus today on the use of children by these people in organised crime. The involvement of children in crime has been well known for some time. We have seen from recent court cases how many important criminals in this city are involving their children in what has become a family business. They are involved not just as couriers and pushers but as names for the laundering of money through bank and building society accounts. While I welcome the fact that many bank accounts have been investigated, I found it astonishing that a young girl aged 20 years had an account containing £50,000 which nobody seemed to think was unusual — although she owned her house and also rented an apartment.

Much of Mrs. Justice Denham's report focuses on the delays within the courts. The area where delays are the most serious is the children's courts. Anyone who has dealings with children knows there has to be a close association between the misdemeanour and the sanction for what has happened to have any relevance to the child. Delays of three to four months in the children's courts are most unfortunate because this appears like three to four years to a child. Senator O'Toole was right in pointing out that we must look at the involvement of children in crime. Surveys in Great Britain have found that most children become involved in crime at a very young age by first stealing food from supermarkets. While we are looking at the situation of young children who become involved in crime, it is also important that we raise the age of criminal responsibility from seven years, which is the lowest in Europe.

Younger and younger children are becoming involved in the drug trade. It is important to keep as many of them as possible outside the court system. They should be dealt with, when at all possible, by intervention. I have spoken in the past about the Garda liaison scheme which has been incredibly successful. This non-statutory agency should be given every support. I know the Minister has expanded all the schemes. However, it is essential when we look at the age of the children coming into court — and not just for possession of drugs but for involvement as couriers and pushers — that we immediately ensure this scheme is expanded as much as possible. It is important to conduct research in this area. When these children come into court do we know if this is their first brush with the law or if they have been involved in crime for some time? We have very little knowledge of what is happening in that area.

I was glad to hear the Minister mention the expansion of the probation service. This is vital because children need to realise that their misdemeanours are being taken seriously and that they will be supported. This is particularly important if they come from what can only be regarded as criminal families.

The Bills before the House deal with drug related crime in particular. It is important to remember that we now have teenage addicts — 12 to 14 year olds — coming before the courts, yet there are no medical facilities within the State to treat them. It is most unsuitable to send them to detoxification programmes with adult addicts who may be trying to kick the habit for the umpteenth time. We have to get at the criminals as early as possible. Detoxification for these children is incredibly important.

It is unfortunate that there has been some resistance to the Minister for Education's programmes in primary schools on the prevention of drug abuse because that is where it has to start. We had the same sort of trouble with the Stay Safe programme. I was pleased to hear that the Minister is holding a conference on best practice in substance abuse prevention educational programmes in the autumn in association with our Presidency of the European Union.

We need to look at the profile of prisoners in Mountjoy Prison who are involved in the drugs business. It costs £68,000 to keep a child in Trinity House but how much more could be done on a one-to-one basis with families? Such families, very often comprise lone parents, usually women, who are bringing up large families. If these child drug addicts are not treated, they will become the super drug criminals of the future. Sadly, as Senator O'Toole said, such people too often provide a very acceptable role model in deprived areas.

I congratulate Fianna Fáil on what it has done and I also congratulate the Minister on the way she has handled the issue. I listened with great interest to Senator O'Toole's speech which was commendable. However, I disagree with his comment that it was good for the Minister for Justice to be an open target in certain respects. He has a much more robust sense of how one deals with things than I have but whatever about the fairness of party political conflict, it is irresponsible for the media to attack a Minister for Justice without adequate justification. The place of law and justice in society is far too important for it to be played around with as a media football. In that respect I would be far less tolerant towards attacks of that nature on a Minister for Justice compared to any other Minister in the State.

Leaving aside the tragic affair of Veronica Guerin, in general the media has not distinguished itself in handling issues of justice over the past couple of years. Civil liberties are crucial in any civilised society but the balance has swung much too far in favour of the criminal and, therefore, the direction of this legislation is correct. All citizens are entitled to freedom from fear. Anybody who has seen the fear in an old woman's eyes after her house has been burgled, even if she has not been personally attacked, knows what fear means for many of our defenceless citizens. The first duty of the State is to protect citizens who cannot protect themselves.

The legislation broadly strikes the right balance. The bulk of complaints made by the demonstrators yesterday were justified as were most of the arguments they advanced. There is an important place for education and for rehabilitation, but we are failing to recognise that, irrespective of what one does, there is an element of evil in human nature which will try to find a way of expressing itself whatever programmes or resources are put in place. Drugs almost crystallise the articulation of that evil.

Valuable and worthy though many of the moves towards the general liberalisation of society that have occurred in recent years are, nevertheless they too are now contributing towards an ethos in society which makes the whole drug dimension almost inescapable. We may control it but we will not eliminate it because it is an integral part of the logic of the ethos to which most of us subscribe nowadays.

A report inThe Irish Times today mentioned the appointment of Garda representatives in The Hague and in Madrid. There was an implication that Holland and Spain are not behaving in a way that we would wish in terms of their attitudes to the drug trade. I do not know whether that is true but if there is any truth in it at all, it points to the importance of having a European wide policy on drugs. I know that is part of our policy during Ireland's Presidency of the European Union, but these are issues which are obviously of European wide significance. This makes it all the more important that our own house should be seen to be in order as far as possible in the way we handle these matters. In that way we can try to promote our way of looking at things on the wider European stage with a reasonably clear conscience.

I wish to share my time with Senator Cosgrave.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I compliment the Minister on bringing forward the various elements of this legislative package. I was a bit disappointed, to say the least, with the comments of Deputy O'Donoghue who introduced the original Bill. Before the discussions took place in the Lower House yesterday, he said the legislation being introduced was not adequate. Deputy Bertie Ahern made a similar point. That was like shutting the stable door when the horse had bolted. This was a change of heart from Members who had introduced tax amnesties for the same type of people who bought substantial amounts of property in the county in which I live. We have seen what happened since the pressure was applied in recent times.

Why are we talking about a seven year order in relation to the freezing of assets? Other jurisdictions freeze assets within 90 to 120 days. If genuine persons with assets can produce the legitimate details of how they got the money to purchase them, why can this not be done much faster? There may be a problem with it under our Constitution; it may be necessary to amend it to bring that time forward. The assets could be sold off and used for the rehabilitation of areas of this city and country which have been destroyed by these drug pushers. I think, wish and hope that the Minister can examine the overall position and see if this provision can be changed dramatically.

I also welcome the fact that we are forming an overall plan to deal with inadequacies in areas which were not addressed over the last number of years. Many comments have been made by politicians about prison places not being provided. The remand prison at Wheatfield should have been built but it was put on the long finger in 1988. We all know who was in Government during that period and subsequently and no money was provided to build this prison, although the site was available. There is no point saying that nothing was done. All parties had the opportunity to deal with this problem but we ran away from it because the Department of Finance would say there were not sufficient funds to do it.

I also welcome the fact that suspects' cars and other belongings can be seized under this Bill. If the vehicles were used by the Garda to show the children living in the estates where the seizures took place that they were purchased by these criminals with drug money, we might be sending a very important message to them about the results of becoming involved in drugs. With the review currently taking place in the Garda, we should be working towards a more efficient and effective organisation.

I welcome the opportunity to make these points. Many provisions that should have been put in place in the past were not. Comments were made by a reporter that my family was affected by drug pushers in the area where we lived, and they were. He also stated I had not given proper information to him that the Garda was informed; in fact, the Garda had been involved in the case for over 12 months. When the second incident took place, the Garda was also informed. When I asked the particular individual if he thought I was not telling the truth, he said he thought I was but he printed it differently. Not alone am I saying this today but I also said this here before when we were talking about criminal legislation. It is very unfair of the particular individuals involved to report as other than the truth something I said.

I welcome the Minister and I thank Senator Farrelly for sharing his time. Today has proved the usefulness of combining the suggestions of the Opposition and the Government to present a united front to fight crime. I acknowledge what the Minister said about Deputy O'Donoghue and Senator Mulcahy and their constructive approach to this issue. These Houses should provide leadership and display a united commitment to fighting crime. The Minister said yesterday in the Dáil and again today that everybody must play a part, whether it is the ordinary man or woman on the street, the media or those who form public opinion. All must come together if we are going to win this battle which affects the fabric of society and young people in particular.

We all have a duty to respond to this challenge. This legislation is part of that response and I hope it will be a success. There are ill-gotten gains in the accounts of these drug menaces, as we should call them rather than attributing a status to them.

I support this legislation. It is part of an overall package being introduced by the Government assisted by the Opposition and the various parties. No one person in the Department of Justice or no one Minister has the panacea for every problem. It is important to accept good suggestions, even if they need amendment from time to time. The message should go out from the debates yesterday and today that, while politicians may have been lacking at times in the past when dealing with these issues, we are responding now.

If there were delays and a tardiness in the past, we all stand condemned. No Member can say it was the fault of any one party. It has been a combination when one considers the various parties which have been in Government over the last ten years. There is a recognition now that things must be dealt with differently. I support the legislation and I hope it can deal with some of the great problems which affect us.

I welcome the Minister and the legislation. I congratulate the Fianna Fáil Party and particularly Deputy O'Donoghue for initiating it. To be fair, the Minister was gracious enough to acknowledge the Deputy's contribution to this legislation in her opening remarks.

The legislation has been improved significantly. I accept the Minister's point that there is more expertise and more people available in the Civil Service and the Department of Justice to advise on the drafting of legislation than in the parties, even though their resources in intellectual terms can be considerable. From that point of view, it is appropriate that the Department should have an input into the legislation. However, I also believe that the Civil Service is not the repository of all knowledge.

There is a lot to be said for studying legislation in these Houses. We have had recent examples where this House has amended and improved legislation and the House acted very responsibly in doing so. The Minister said this morning that the legislation should stand the test of time. I subscribe to that. It has been the case where legislation is introduced on a reactive basis as a short-term measure that we can, on occasion, get it wrong, particularly when it is rushed through the Houses. That said, I understand the need for urgency in this case. We are confronted by a direct threat to democracy and society and the State must react quickly, decisively, effectively and strongly to put down that threat.

We should send a signal to the people who are responsible for these types of activities, organised crime, drug peddling, etc., not those who do the dirty work. One of the most effective short-term signals we could send to them would be to secure the convictions of the killers of Veronica Guerin and Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. Let them see that they cannot get away with sheer bloody murder, which appears to be the case now. I expect that would be done within the strictures the law imposes on us all. I hope and wish those convictions are secured; if that were done, it would be possibly more effective than the legislation being brought before the Houses in the past two days.

If we do not put this situation right, we are looking at an increase in the number of vigilantes and punishment shootings we have condemned in this House. Society will decide to take the law into its own hands if we do not provide the weapons to stamp out these activities. If society acts on its own behalf we are on a slippery slope to ruin.

We have always given serious, detailed and prolonged consideration to legislation. That is as it should be, but once the legislation is passed it is no good unless we implement it. The Minister and several other speakers have mentioned this. I can think of occasions in this House when legislation was passed after great and detailed consideration, amended and improved and I have subsequently strained to see if the legislation has been used effectively. In some cases I cannot see that it had any effect. I hope in passing this legislation that the Minister, the Government and all of us will show the determination required to make sure the legislation is implemented and used to stamp out the activities of these criminals.

In addition, the Garda Commissioner, the Garda senior management and the gardaí themselves must be provided with backup to do their job well, and not just financial support. I proposed recently on the Order of Business, and I propose again, that the Garda Commissioner be given administrative control of the money provided in the Estimates and that he would prioritise the areas on which it would be spent. The Department of Justice has far too much control over that money. Those on the ground know how best it can be spent. In that context I find it extraordinary that a Minister of State should launch an attack on senior Garda management yesterday.

Hear, hear.

Does the Minister support what he had to say? The Minister of State is reported in the newspapers as saying there was a time when a TD could have a Garda moved, "but now a Garda can have a TD moved". That is an extraordinary statement for a Government Minister to make. I cannot understand why a backbencher would make a statement like that. Then the Minister goes on to say that "judges have got away with murder for long enough". That too is an extraordinary statement for a person in Government to make. From time to time we in this House have criticised aspects of judges' decisions or the operation of the Garda, but I cannot recall anybody having made such extraordinary statements about the Judiciary or the Garda.

There is a somewhat flippant suggestion that the senior management of the Garda should not attend State functions or receptions. We all go to them, and properly so. The senior gardaí represent the Garda at such functions in the same way as senior members of the Army represent the Army. It is appropriate that senior gardaí would be present at such functions. It is also appropriate that the Garda Commissioner, if he is unhappy about aspects of the way he is allowed to do his duty, should comment. I do not wish to suggest that any those people would involve themselves in politics. They go to great pains, and historically have taken great care, not to do so.

The outburst to which I refer was extraordinary and I wonder if the Minister supports some of the statements that have appeared in the newspapers. The newspaper article reported that it was stated in respect of judges "... we have had enough of their interfering with the Legislature and the Executive. The tail will have to be wagged a bit and judges will have to change the way they do their business." That is an extraordinary statement.

Was that Minister of State, Deputy Gay Mitchell?

Yes. However, there is a tradition in the House that we do not name those who are not here to defend themselves.

He has been named on radio programmes.

I am prepared to maintain the traditions of the House. He may have been named elsewhere but I will not name him. What is the Minister's attitude to such remarks?

I find the tax amnesty disturbing, especially the degree to which it was a charter for people who were involved in crime to find a way to launder money and to have the State facilitate them in doing so. It was a retrograde, unhelpful step. Crime bosses will only face reopening of their files where the State can establish by clear proof that the money represented the proceeds of crime. We need to examine other aspects of legislation and what has been done through budgetary instruments.

The Oireachtas is not responsive to the pace of change in society. We are still hidebound by procedures which date back to the last century and which are totally useless in dealing with the crisis which is developing. Do we really think the legislation we are introducing will terrify the top criminals into changing their ways? I refer to the people who go to the races, mix in polite society and are accepted as part of it. Do we really believe the legislation will worry them? They are using the most modern means to evade the law. If there are unethical sophisticated accountants and lawyers who are of the same ilk as the criminals, we are on the hind foot in terms of being able to deal with them.

I accept the need for the legislation and that we must take this course to ensure such people can be dealt with. However, I will not go so far as to say that rumour, innuendo or being "known to the Garda" should be sufficient grounds in itself for interfering to an unwarranted degree in the liberties which we enjoy. I do not want to be the person who is apprehended on a whim by a garda or by anybody else while walking down Kildare Street and then have to give the reason I was on the street. The Minister made the point about the need to be cautious on this aspect. I support her views but society demands that these people be dealt with effectively and are put away.

I have an amendment tabled for Committee Stage dealing with using the money for education and rehabilitation purposes. The Minister will know the intention of the amendment from yesterday's session in the Dáil.

We are focusing on the criminals but we must also focus on the demand side of the equation. It is important to remove the demand for drugs as much as possible and this has to be done by way of education, rehabilitation and funding the agencies which have an input in that regard. Earlier this year I was involved with the local rotary club in Newbridge. We visited the various schools around the town with a member of the Garda Síochána. I was disturbed when he told us that in the town of Newbridge, which has a population of around 15,000, approximately 50 people were regular drug users five years ago, but today there are about 500 regular drug users. When children were shown Ecstasy tablets, cannabis and other substances, it was disquieting to note how readily they could identify them. We must accept how pervasive the drugs culture is in our society and that we have a major uphill battle to counter it; one of the arms, and it is only one arm, of the battle is legislation, and the demand side of the equation must also be dealt with.

The inability, through a culture that goes back many years, of various State agencies to co-operate fully with one another must be addressed. The Minister has made efforts to overcome some of these deficiencies. However, it is a pervasive feature of the public service which must think hard about its responsibilities in terms of how it cooperates within itself between, for example, the Revenue Commissioners, the Garda Síochána, Customs and Excise and whatever other agencies are involved to ensure meaningful co-operation at every level.

The gardaí have a responsibility within their own organisations. After the murder of Veronica Guerin, members of the Garda Representatives Association and the Garda Federation told many interviewers on radio what should and should not be done. However, nobody asked them what they proposed to do within their organisations to ensure that their difficulties were resolved to enable them combat this menace effectively. I wonder why this question was not posed.

The State and society are entitled to expect service from us, whether we be Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, members of the Garda Síochána or whatever. If we approach matters in this spirit, some of these difficulties, which appear to be insurmountable and with which the Minister is grappling, would disappear more easily.

I hope that the gardaí will be given the resources, and not just financial resources, to deal with this legislation and to use it effectively, and that the intention of the legislation, which is laudable, will be carried through to positive action on the ground. I was taken by the figures the Minister gave for those who had come within the scope of the earlier legislation. It might be no harm and would be a salutary lesson if those names were published. If the people at the top can be marginalised from "polite society", that might be as effective a sanction as any other, although I am enough of a realist to know they are likely to move to another, more accommodating jurisdiction to carry on their activities.

I thank the Minister and the Government for adopting the broad thrust of Fianna Fáil's Bill on the proceeds of crime. This is welcome because over the last few years we have let down the people who elected us and look to us for guidance and support. I hope that together we can at least set in motion the process of dealing with the problems currently destroying our society.

The proceeds of crime covers everything from petty theft to the large scale importation of drugs. We have always had petty theft but in the last few years we sent out signals to well-organised criminal gangs and individuals with large amounts of cash at their disposal that they can import drugs at will, flout the law, execute people on our streets and get away with it, because the State cannot prosecute these people. That is why we are discussing this legislation, because if we had used the existing provisions and put people behind bars for their crimes, we would not have to force current and previous Ministers and Governments to introduce these Bills.

The Proceeds of Crime Bill is welcome. The ideas in it were put forward by Deputy O'Donoghue, the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Justice, and it acknowledges that we have a huge problem which we can only deal with through proper procedures. We can go a step further. The recent execution of a drug addict, Mr. Josie Dwyer, had all the hallmarks of a desperate society which had been totally let down by the Oireachtas, the Garda, the Judiciary and the prison service. These people felt alienated, had nowhere to turn and, unfortunately, a drug addict was beaten to death by a vigilante gang which felt it was protecting its families and estates from the evils of drugs. Everyone condemned this act but we had to wait for the shooting dead of Garda Jerry McCabe in Limerick to realise the State was again under attack from individuals. Finally, the tragic execution of Veronica Guerin spurred us into action and the realisation that we had to do something immediately. I regularly speak on crime and I may be repetitive but I will continue repeating myself until such time as we have done something concrete which is visible and tangible to the public.

The O'Callaghan case in 1966 set the precedent for granting bail. That was 30 years ago and many things have changed in the meantime. The State is no longer under attack from subversives but from individuals who have amassed huge fortunes either through organised crime or the importation and distribution of drugs. It is these individuals we wish to attack. There is not much point tracking down, prosecuting and jailing drug addicts and people at the bottom end of the scale but unfortunately, that is what has happened all along.

We have not been successful in a prosecution against those involved in organised crime and drug dealing. Recently, I brought the case of the transfer of a prisoner to the attention of the Leader of the House. This person was sentenced to eight years for the importation of illegal drugs to the value of £7 million off the south west coast of Cork. He served 70 days of his prison sentence before being moved to Shelton Abbey. The transfer of Christopher O'Connell sent signals that crime does pay. We may pass all the legislation we wish but something has to be done to ensure we do not send signals that we are soft on crime or that the State cannot cope with it.

The Garda Síochána will have to be examined. The average garda, when discussing the problems of organised and drug related crime will say that they are powerless. They say they do not have the resources or time to cope with it. The Garda would tackle this problem if it was given encouragement. How many times have we heard of people being brought before the courts, sentenced and released after a short term in jail? These issues resulted in us almost panicking and saying something has to be done. There have been heated exchanges with the Minister in this House and the Government was slow in reacting. We were promised legislation and a referendum on the bail laws on a regular basis. We were promised more prison spaces and extra gardaí but there was little action until the executions of Veronica Guerin and Garda McCabe. It is appalling that it takes such tragic events——

Where has the Senator been for the past 18 months?

I have been in this Chamber arguing this very point.

The Senator might have been better out of it.

Successive Governments have been shielded from reality. We we debated crime recently in this Chamber I said I was concerned about who advises the Minister on this issue. These people are also shielded from reality. How many officials in the Department of Justice live in or visit Darndale, Knocknaheeny in Cork, Southill in Limerick or any other estates where many lives have been destroyed by the problems of drug related crimes? Why is there not more co-ordination between the various services, such as the social services and the Garda? This would provide a channel of information to the Minister who can decide whether legislation is being implemented. If Bills are placed before the House, we can discuss them in depth and ensure that when they are passed the resources are made available.

I hope this Bill will be passed and its provisions implemented immediately. If the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda are not given the resources to tackle individuals who have evaded all forms of capture, we will have failed once again. I do not believe any Revenue Commissioner who enters the Civil Service from university would put their hand on their heart and say they were willing to chase criminals who are orchestrating executions on the streets. I do not blame them as we would not protect them. I hope the Minister will ensure the proper resources are made available when this Bill is passed. I have suggested we establish a team of "untouchables" linking Customs, the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda. This would at least ensure they have proper resources and the backing of legislation to successfully prosecute. I thank the Minister for accepting this Bill. I hope she does not disappoint us by not making the resources available to ensure its provisions can be implemented.

I am concerned about the Minister being in the House for so long. Would it be preferable if we took a break?

That is a decision for the Leader.

There may only be ten or 15 minutes left.

There are only a few more speakers. Perhaps we can have a break at the end of Second Stage.

It was out of sympathy for the Minister that I made the suggestion.

Senator Quinn will not delay the House.

It is only a few weeks since Veronica Guerin was in the House with me. She would welcome the Minister's support for the Fianna Fáil Bill if she was here today. Veronica Guerin spent the last few weeks of her life in my company. She was to learn about my job after which I was to spend a week helping her to do hers. I did not spend that second week learning how to do her job. As we discussed the horrors of her work and those with whom she came in touch, I realised I could not do her work. It also opened up a view which I had not heard before despite all that has been written and spoken about here. I learned about the horror of drugs, criminal activity and criminal leaders.

I am delighted to welcome this Bill as I know Veronica Guerin would have been. Any legislation in this area demands the strictest care and vigilance. We should always be reluctant to endorse what I call "quickie" legislation. We should be in favour of safeguards which would encourage or force us to review regularly legislation which is quickly passed through the Houses. We should ensure that when we pass a law it does not become frozen and, therefore, difficult to change. It is our duty to review the situation regularly.

We should ask if this new system works and if there are restrictions on freedom which are no longer necessary. The reason we should ask the first question is to reassure the public that the legislation is not window dressing. The reason we should ask the second question is to ensure that we do not pass on a legacy of repressive legislation to future generations.

We should accept that there are different crimes which need different legislation. The Offences Against the State Act relates to the prevention of terrorism, while this legislation is against crime. We should try to find a system to review legislation to ensure it is being used correctly. This Bill, which received a full hearing yesterday, is welcome. We are trying to ensure the best legislation is passed.

Let us not lose sight of technology in the fight against crime. I am interested in the efforts in the United States to use electronic tagging as a way to free prisoners, while ensuring they do not commit crime. It is cost effective and ensures that space is used for the worst criminal cases. There would be no market for drugs if we were able to remove the customers. Let us not lose sight of the opportunity to include whatever measures are necessary in our education system to avoid the demand for drugs described by Senator Dardis. These steps must be taken in conjunction with those being taken in the House today. I welcome this necessary Bill. I am sorry it is necessary but let us make sure we review it on a regular basis to ensure it does the job for which it was intended.

Our fundamental obligations under the Constitution are being attacked and undermined, and that has been the case for some time. The Constitution states specifically that, as legislators, we are obliged to defend and vindicate the personal rights of citizens. These personal rights include the right to life, bodily integrity and to own private property. Therefore, it is our function, as legislators, to ensure that the action we take on a variety of fronts helps us to build up the rights we enjoy which have been a feature of society for a considerable time.

It is a sad reflection on society that, in a sense, we celebrate while we condemn. We enjoy celebrating the achievements of Michelle Smith and what it represents in terms of commitment and all that is best in society. While everybody wants to be associated with that and to praise and acknowledge it, we know that politicians are being attacked because it is seen that the ills of society are our responsibility in some way. Clearly, it is our responsibility to advance and protect the fundamental characteristics of a stable happy society. Therefore, I am prepared to look at this Bill from two angles. First, my normal reaction would be one of concern at introducing a range of Bills, of which this is one of a number, in a hurried fashion. I will not say it has been introduced hastily but there has been a sense of urgency to deal with an issue which has existed for some considerable time.

I would prefer to see a broader approach. We talk, and rightly so, about the need to inform, through education, and have an enlightened system, but should we not return to basics and ask about our responsibility as parents? Will we say it is the responsibility of teachers, gardaí, health boards and everybody else except us as parents. It is time we faced that basic fact. There lies the primary responsibility. For too long, there has been too great a focus on the exercise of individual rights without recognising that this must be balanced by family and parental responsibility. We do not have sufficient time to deal with that issue today but it is essential.

I resent the fact that criminal thugs or pirates — do not call them barons — are undermining the base of society. They control the empire of unlawfulness and we must react. I have said before to the Minister that this is not something with which one Minister in any country can deal. I am convinced that until all Governments remove the base of this criminal empire, which is operated by evil men and women, and provide whatever is necessary to extricate the addicts from the grip of evil people involved in a multi-billion pound industry, which is undermining the basis of society not just in Ireland but around the world, we will not solve this problem. Governments have a responsibility to recognise and register the addicts. We should provide, under a controlled programme, what will otherwise be provided by the drug criminals who will continue to undermine our society. In the meantime we must take short term action.

This Chamber does not have a direct role in nominating the Government. However, we have a responsibility to look at all legislation in a reasoned and informed way. We should not be rushed, as seems to be the pattern these days. The Minister may recall — I will not be offended if she does not — that nine months ago I sympathised with her because she was constrained by elements of the Left in Government who prevented her from taking effective action as a result of their alleged concern for individual rights.

That is rubbish.

I said that nine months ago when we should have taken action.

Fianna Fáil should have taken action two years ago.

I am more convinced than ever now. When this Bill was first introduced, before the terrible murders of Veronica Guerin and Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, the Minister did not have the support of the Government.

This Bill was published after those events.

Before those events, the Minister's view was that this Bill was unnecessary and unconstitutional.

The Deputy's timing is all wrong. Fianna Fáil introduced this legislation after those events.

Did the Minister not say this Bill was unnecessary because its provisions were already contained in statute law and that it was unconstitutional? Is the Minister not saying now that the Bill is not strong enough? The amendments the Minister proposed to the Bill she originally said was unconstitutional and unworkable seek to extend its coverage to the proceeds of all crime. The original purpose was to deal with the proceeds of drug related crime. The Minister expressed reservations that this was perhaps unworkable and unconstitutional.

I thank the Senator for putting the correct words on the record. I questioned it; I did not say it definitively because I do not use the same absolutism as Deputy O'Donoghue.

We must move away from politics.

I will mix it with the best, but we are trying to improve the tone of this debate.

The Minister can mix it with Mr. Richard Crowley on RTÉ but not with me.

I will mix it with Senator Mulcahy.

No one can have a reasonable discussion with the Minister whether it is on radio or elsewhere.

That is unfair.

I am trying to be reasonable about this.

The Senator should be careful because he was a Minister in most of the Governments for 20 of the past 30 years. I ask him to outline his record. Senator Mulcahy should not have to take the blame; the responsibility lies with Senator O'Kennedy.

I welcome the fact that the Minister, who stated for some time that this was unnecessary and unconstitutional, has changed her view. However, now that the Bill has been amended, the new elements may also prove unconstitutional.

Case proven. The original Bill was not adequate or satisfying.

It is important that there is a reporting mechanism whereby the Oireachtas can be informed of the actions taken under the provision of this legislation in respect of freezing assets.

As a short-term measure, I support the Bill. However, it is essential that the Minister indicate to the Oireachtas what has been achieved in respect of this legislation which forms part of a package of very urgent measures. I would prefer if these actions were taken in a more considered way. In so far as they are being taken in a hasty fashion, the Minister should report to the Oireachtas with regard to what is taking place. If we are to grant powers of this nature, I would like to know how effectively they are being implemented.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the Bill and I welcome its introduction. Deputy Owen is a good Minister for Justice and I made that point when she was recently under pressure. The intention of the Bill is to ensure that crime does not pay. It is very important that the public is made aware that crime will not automatically yield the enormous benefits in the north inner city area of Dublin that it did in the past.

In the interests of generosity, elements of this Bill clearly derive from work carried out by members of Fianna Fáil. This is a co-operative measure but I listened with horror to the debate in the Dáil and some of the discussions on radio. As an Independent Member, I support Fianna Fáil when I believe it is right and I support the Government when I believe it is right. However, Fianna Fáil descended to an infantile level by attempting to play for political advantage. The language used by Deputy O'Donoghue, although I have considerable respect for his intelligence and sharpness as a lawyer, was regrettable. The public is not interested in large political parties playing a serious issue for their partisan political advantage. Both parties are to blame but particularly Fianna Fáil and the sooner this type of behaviour stops the better because the community in which I live suffers seriously from drug abuse and we are not about to have a political football made of this issue. Any honest attempt to deal with this problem will be welcomed by the people among whom I have the privilege to live.

Having made a number of strictures, we should deal with this Bill in an adult manner. Members should not be dog in the manger and state it is their Bill or that one party first had the idea for its introduction. That is the essence of childishness. I received a number of lessons about being a dog in the manger from Fianna Fáil during my early days in this House.

This Bill is part of a larger package. I would like to quote an important editorial from theBar Review which places the entire group of measures in context. This may go outside the scope of the debate but it is important.

A referendum on changes in the law on bail is to be held in November which, if successful, will have a very substantial effect on the right of accused persons to bail. It will, if passed as suggested, reverse the spirit and substance of the O'Callaghan case in 1966. Most importantly, it will discriminate directly against disadvantaged persons in our society by requiring that cash or its equivalent be lodged as bail money.

It is hoped that the referendum will be preceded by a fully informed debate in order to facilitate a meaningful consideration of the relevant issues.

The right to silence is also to be affected, though why the existing provisions in the Criminal Justice Act, 1984, which affect that right, have not been employed is unclear. Consideration is also being given to have any drug trafficking offences heard by the Special Criminal Court and legislation to seize and freeze suspected assets of crime has been introduced for debate. The Misuse of Drugs Bill introduced by Fianna Fáil envisages seven day detention, partially validated by anex parte application to the Circuit Court and the abolition of the preliminary examination by the District Court.

These law reform provisions will, if enacted, introduce the most radical single package of alterations to Irish criminal law and procedure ever put together. However, many of the proposals have, in the present climate, received little, if any, intelligent public debate yet. Shrill voices have been raised to attack those who defend accused persons.

This is a time for clear thinking and decisive informed action on a range of comprehensive measures. Legislation passed in undue haste is likely to give rise to unforeseen consequences and it will then fall to the courts to reconcile and remedy the fruits of such haste.

In this regard, the appointment of a Ministerial Task Force to consider a co-ordinated approach to combat and reduce the demand for drugs is welcomed as an essential component of any comprehensive package designed to deal with the criminals who trade in drugs.

Having issued some reservations, it ends there on a note of welcome although I end the quote in the middle of the editorial. I specifically welcome something which I, in the footsteps of someone who should be regarded as an important spokesperson in this area, Deputy Gregory, have requested for many years, the establishment of a coordinated group to strengthen the efforts of the Garda, the Department of Social Welfare and the Revenue Commissioners. The Minister refers to this directly in her speech. I strongly welcome this. It is one of the more important provisions in the Bill. The Ministers said, "I am referring to the new Criminal Assets Bureau, to be headed up by a Chief Superintendent and comprising Garda, Social Welfare and Revenue officials". She refers to the fact that yesterday in the Dáil the Minister for Finance introduced the necessary statutory financial provisions for this. That is welcome and I am glad to see the speed and efficiency with which the necessary financial machinery was introduced to give this effect. It is fine to be talk in these wonderful 18th century rooms about these complex problems out in the jungle of Dublin life, but unless you provide the real means and the money to fund measures and establish them they are going nowhere and are meaningless. I welcome this clear and practical demonstration. I hope we will have someone from this House watching to ensure these are implemented. I welcome this provision as it is one of the more important ones in the Bill.

I notice more prison spaces are being built. In the short term I have no doubt that is necessary, but, having criticised Deputy O'Donoghue, he made a good point and it is something that should or might be examined. The time of the Garda is frequently spent on travelling to and hanging around courtrooms on comparatively small issues of speeding offences and parking tickets. If it were possible to examine the case for allowing some degree of on the spot fines, it might free up a significant proportion of Garda time which could then be devoted to these more serious areas. I accept, in the light of the American experience, that there are risks, particularly peculation and corruption on the part of gardaí. I would not wish to suggest anything that could lead to the deterioration of the excellent standard of service we receive from the Garda. But, instead of going through this rigmarole of bureaucracy, form filling, hanging around and having cases delayed, etc., we should have a parking fine of £50 or a speeding fine of £100. If the Minister could do that, it would be valuable.

I believe the Minister is correct in attacking the economic basis of the drug barons. I have made it clear on many occasions that this will never fully cure the situation. Only one thing will: the destruction on a global basis of the financial foundation of this. Many people using Singapore airport have seen the notices and been told on the airplane that if they bring in a joint they will be hung or shot or whatever the punishment is. Yet, every day people are prepared to risk their lives because, as I have said many times, the only drug more powerful than heroin is money. As long as that base remains people will traffic in drugs.

It may be a terrible prospect and it is something not everybody would look forward to, but in the long run it will be necessary to allow drugs freely into circulation and to allow people who choose to inject themselves to do so with whatever substance they please. It is not the State's responsibility to act as nanny. Free circulation would ensure that the supply is cheap, unadulterated and controlled. Addicts would not inject themselves with adulterated substances. That might seem a terrible prospect but it is no less terrible than what we have at present. The American Government throws thousands of millions of pounds into its war on drugs while simultaneously it fed £40 million worth of cocaine onto its streets through the CIA in order to fund the subversion of Nicaragua. I laugh at the hypocrisy. If, globally, we could attack the problem realistically we could do something about it, but we must start treating our population as adults and allow them to make choices with which we disagree.

A briefing was given by parents yesterday to Members of both Houses and I regret I could not be present. The parents are not terribly interested in drug barons being attacked; they want facilities in their areas. No Government has been serious about tackling the problems of the inner cities.

I have tabled an amendment to this Bill and I hope the Minister will accept it or introduce her own amendment — I am not interested in having my name on it — and Senator Dardis has tabled a similar amendment.

Both amendments seek to ensure that the moneys generated by the sequestration of funds will be channelled directly back into the communities from which the money was taken, at the cost of so much misery and hearbreak, to provide facilities for those communities. One of the mothers asked yesterday: "What will our children do in this area? There are no swimming pools. We hear about Michelle Smith and Sonia O'Sullivan and we are proud of them but there is nothing like that for our children. There is no decent playground, there are no facilities, no halls, no community organisations". I wrote to the Minister for Education today to ask her to reconsider the decision whereby a group of north inner city schools was denied recognition as a cluster for special funding even though had they existed in rural Ireland they would be so recognised. These issues are important.

The Abbot, the Monk, the Penguin and whatever else they call themselves are becoming role models because they are seen as successful and clean. According to the newspapers they are involved in athletics, personal fitness and so forth. They are seen as successful in their communities and, by their example, they lead other young people to be seduced into this terrible way of life. Instead of simply attacking them I appeal to the Minister to ensure that this money is earmarked for the communities to which I have referred rather than being diverted into improving the pavements in Foxrock or elsewhere. Taking their money is not enough for these barons. The money was a blood tax on the innocent people of the inner city and it should go back into those areas to ensure that another generation is not lost again.

I welcome the Bill and congratulate Deputy O'Donoghue, Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice, on his hard work in the past 18 months in presenting so many Bills to the Dáil. I am delighted the Government has accepted the Bill and I wonder why there was such a delay in it taking action in this area. It is hard to run a household so I suppose it is difficult to run a Government that is made up of three political parties. Perhaps there were other difficulties. It is odd that with the power of the Department of Justice and all the organs of State something could not be done about the more than 30 unsolved murders in the State. Some of those murders could be termed "assassinations", particularly that of the garda and the journalist. This is a sad reflection on the Government of the day. I wish the Minister every success in the difficult task ahead of her. I know she has the will to do the job although it seems that in the past she did not get the support to which, in the public interest, she was entitled. Deputy O'Donoghue drafted the original Bill, most of which has been incorporated into the Bill before us. Considering the lack of resources available to the Opposition he is to be congratulated on his achievement. I am sure the public will thank him.

We are living in strange times. I hope this Bill will strengthen the powers of the Garda Síochána, the courts and the Revenue Commissioners to protect the public. However, as soon as they take action many do-gooders become vocal and I sometimes wonder what they are trying to do. Criminals and murderers have been breaking the law for many years and have been involved in some terrible crimes, especially recently. I remind the do-gooders of the reports in the newspapers and on television of old people battered to death and tortured with cigarettes and hot irons. People talk about civil rights, but what about the rights of the victims of those crimes, including Detective Garda Jerry McCabe?

I have special regard for the Garda. I had an uncle who, as a young garda, lost his life while protecting public property. I know what families go through in these cases. I was not born at the time but my mother told me about the trauma that that family experienced for years. We are proud of the Garda Síochána. It is respected throughout the world and does its best.

I spoke here a few weeks ago, as did the previous speaker, about the system we have in this country which means that gardaí waste much of their time in court. A member of the Garda might have to spend a full day in court in order to prosecute a minor offence. I was listening to the Minister on the radio yesterday and was delighted to hear that this system will be updated so that gardaí will be able to devote their time to pursuing those who have committed crime for so many years.

These people do not recognise the Government or the organs of the State. They attacked the free press when they assassinated Veronica Guerin. They have no regard for anybody. The do-gooders should think very seriously before they clamour for the system to remain as it is because the public is sick and tired of it. To add insult to injury, in many cases these people get free legal aid, paid for by the taxpayer, when they have broken every law in the book.

Judges are not above making mistakes. I get very annoyed when judges pass sarcastic remarks when some unfortunate person who has been caught committing a minor offence is before him or her. Those to whom the remarks are made cannot very well reply.

That is very hurtful to the families concerned and it takes from the dignity of the courts.

About nine months ago there was a case, not too far from the Minister's constituency, where a young boy, who came from a family of 12 and whose father was unemployed, was challenged by a bus inspector on his way to a FÁS course. The bus inspector should ask how many hundreds of millions of pounds have been squandered by CIÉ over the past 40 years. The young fellow was brought to court because his bus ticket was short by 10p. He had nobody to represent him because he was not well off and was sentenced to two months in jail. A young solicitor — I heard about this on Pat Kenny's radio show — took up his case and brought it to the High Court where the judgment was reversed. That young man was trying to do something for himself but because he underpaid his bus fare by 10p — a service subsidised by the taxpayer — he would have had a criminal record.

The judges should cop themselves on in terms of the remarks they pass and the sentences they hand down and have more time for the less well off. I am sure the Minister agrees that young people are losing respect for the law — Garda and judges — because of such carry-on. Thank God it is rare but it should not happen at all. Judges can also sneer and take pot-shots at public representatives. A certain judge in the south recently criticised councillors going to conferences. He should keep his nose out of political affairs.

We should try to stay away as far as possible from the Judiciary.

It was in the press — it is a pity I did not bring the newspaper with me. These gentlemen should remember our freedom was dearly bought and that the councillors concerned were elected by the public. These snide remarks do not do any good for the standing of public representatives. It is not good to hear people of very high standing passing such remarks in District Courts. I am not ashamed or afraid to make that statement because it needs to be said. They could devote their energies to other areas. Young people lose respect for the courts as a result of that carryon.

People who employ others and pay their taxes and rates can be caught by a speed trap. Their licences are endorsed and they are fined. It happened to two Members of this House in the last 12 months. They were fined £500, had their licences endorsed and were put off the roads for six months. Those gardaí should be out looking for the murderers who assassinate gardaí and journalists. It is a disgrace. If somebody comes out of a country pub there is a squad car around the corner, while the criminals are free in the big cities. I plead with the Minister to ask them to devote their energies to the areas to which they should be devoted. If that was done we might not need as many extra gardaí. It is not good enough for them to devote their energies to pursuing people who are trying to make a living, employing others and pay their taxes.

I compliment the Minister on the increase in the number of gardaí on the beat in the bigger towns and cities. That is a step in the right direction which I am delighted to see but it should have happened long ago. It is not possible to beat crime from inside a squad car. There should be more communication between our young, highly trained gardaí and our young people. I welcome the Bill but we must support the Garda if it is to work, because they cannot move in the right direction without public support. We need to support the Garda Síochána if the provisions of this Bill are to work. Without the support of the general public they cannot move in the right direction.

The Minister said I had questioned the constitutionality of the Bill, whereas Deputy O'Donoghue had accepted it. However, if the Minister checks the record she will see I did not say that. I said the public would not want people who are the subject of restraining orders to drag this legislation through the courts for a long time, including constitutional challenges. I did not address my mind to the constitutionality issue because that was teased out in the Dáil. On the basis of the Clancy judgment, I suspect that the Bill, as drafted, is probably constitutional.

Probably? I would say certainly.

If the President were so inclined, it would be appropriate to refer this Bill to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality. That, however, is a matter for the President and one in which the Seanad does not have an input.

Senator O'Toole implied that judges were answerable and accountable to us. In one sense they are in that judges can be impeached by the Oireachtas for stated misbehaviour. In general, however, they are not answerable or accountable to us. They exercise their functions independently. Senator O'Toole's remark should be corrected because a wrong impression could be created.

On the last occasion the Leader of the House, Senator Manning, spoke about some comments that judges had made. My colleague, Senator Byrne, also commented on them. There is no problem with a general exchange of views. Judges will frequently say that certain legislation needs to be enacted and they certainly utter criticisms. Equally, it is not impossible for us to make broadly based criticisms or statements, but we should underline that each arm of the State must act independently without being fettered in any sense.

Both Senator O'Kennedy and myself made the point that there should be more reporting about people whose assets are frozen, although the Minister pooh-poohed the idea, if I can use that horrible expression. This applies especially to this Bill, although there are provisions about confidentiality.

Does the Senator mean reporting in the newspapers? I do not have any control over that.

Or inIris Oifigiúil. There are various ways in which the State can publicise issues. This is an important point. It is not stretching things to say that this Bill has been urgently brought before us because of a public outcry. It is important for the public to see justice being done. It would be interesting to publish over the next six months exactly how many freezing or restraining orders have been made under this legislation. The Minister should think seriously about some mechanism of reporting the Bill's effects back to the Oireachtas. The Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill, 1996, provides for an annual report to the Oireachtas and an annual review as to whether the Bill should remain in operation.

But it will not list names.

Perhaps not.

It is important because the Senator is requesting this reporting mechanism when the first part of this legislation is implemented, the making of a restraining order. The Senator must remember that the final act is not until seven years later when a decision is made on the property. I would warn the Senator against asking me to do something which might jeopardise a case. Court reporters are present when a restraining order is agreed by the court. If it is done publicly and openly, then it can be reported in the newspapers. The Senator should guard against asking me, before a case is even finished, for the sake of giving some comfort, by saying the following ten people had their property seized. These people may not subsequently lose their property and may be innocent of the order put on them.

I accept the Minister's point. The way around that is, at least on a biannual or annual basis, to publish anonymously the number of interim and interlocutory orders and the total amount which has been frozen. That would not give rise to the danger the Minister has correctly identified.

I am not saying it is an omission, but I am not sure if this is meant to be legislation for all time. Since there is no annual renewing provision in the Bill, it appears that it will be on the Statute Book forever. I am not saying whether that is good or bad but I was under the impression that this was extraordinary legislation to deal with an extraordinary set of circumstances in the same way as the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill, 1996.

That is not Deputy O'Donoghue's view.

I am only making some general comments. I will not reply to the last two pages of the Minister's speech, in keeping with the positive attitude which, for once, I have shown here today.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

With the permission of the House, I propose to discharge the earlier order made. We will now go straight into Committee Stage.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.