I welcome the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the House.
Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Bill, 2000: Second Stage.
There can be a temptation when introducing new legislation to use words such as "ground breaking", "innovative" or even "radical" to describe the proposals in a Bill. I have done so in relation to some of the many Bills which I have brought before this House since I became Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Be that as it may, I do not think that it would be a great exaggeration to use any of these words to describe the Bill we are debating here today.
It could be described as ground breaking in that it does away with legal concepts which, though they have been with us for a long time, have served their time and are, perhaps, less relevant to today's world. It could be considered innovative when one looks at its provisions dealing with making a gain or causing a loss by deception or the provision dealing with unlawful use of a computer. The Bill is certainly radical in those areas concerning criminal procedure.
This Bill will be seen as a major advance in tackling crimes of dishonesty and fraud. It sweeps away a large amount of common law and statutory offences which often, because of the peculiar definitions applied to such offences, caused confusion or, at worst, did not adequately address the problems encountered and replaces them with a modern code designed to meet current needs in this area.
The Bill follows on a number of examinations of the law relating to dishonesty which recommended significant changes. These are the Law Reform Commission report on the law relating to dishonesty and the report of the Government advisory committee on fraud.
The Law Reform Commission recommended that the law relating to fraud and dishonesty should be consolidated in a single Act and that it should also include new offences to cover situations not covered at present. Its aim was to simplify and modernise the law in this area. The need for such simplification is quite evident when one considers the large number of offences dealing with theft and dishonesty in the Larceny Acts. Not least of the problems at present is the definition of larceny which requires that the thing stolen should be carried away and that at the time of stealing the person should have the intention to permanently deprive the owner of it. This can be difficult to prove and may be inconsistent with certain behaviour which should properly be classed as stealing. The Bill before the House will eliminate such inconsistencies.
I mentioned that the Bill is also based on the recommendations of the advisory committee on fraud, whose chairman was Mr. Peter Maguire, SC. Among the recommendations in that report were reform of the substantive law on fraud as well as powers of investigation and related matters. These matters are covered in the Bill before the House.
I emphasise that the Bill is a comprehensive measure aimed at all forms of dishonesty and fraud. There will be no hiding place from its provisions. It targets both small time dishonesty, which should nevertheless be punished appropriately, and large scale fraud and will render the real culprits liable for their crimes. I would mention in this regard section 58 of the Bill which deals with a situation where an offence is committed by a company with the consent or connivance of, for example, a director or manager of the company. In those circumstances the person as well as the company will be guilty of an offence. Assistance in detecting and investigating such offences is provided for in section 59 which requires certain persons such as auditors to report to the Garda matters which indicate that the company or those responsible for its operation may have committed an offence under the Bill. Further assistance in the investigation of offences of dishonesty and changes in trial procedure will tighten the net around those engaged in these forms of crime. I will outline these in more detail shortly.
As I have indicated, the primary aim of the Bill is to consolidate the law relating to dishonesty and to make it reflect present day realities. Such reform is necessary even at a time when crime rates are falling as was evident from the most recent annual report of the Garda Síochána. I expect this trend to continue. This reduction is the result of the Government's commitment to investment in the criminal justice system.
That investment is clearly evident in a number of related areas. Under the programme for Government there is a commitment to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 12,000, the highest in the history of the State. The Government decided to recruit 550 trainees in each of the years 1998 and 1999. In 2000 a further 500 were recruited. In October 2000 it was decided to recruit 500 trainees in 2001. This additional recruitment will enable the Government to meet the target of 12,000 gardaí. As of 1 November of this year Garda strength stood at 11,579. This means that there are now an additional 791 gardaí when compared with 31 December, 1997. A further 119 gardaí are due to be attested at Templemore next week.
Garda CCTV systems are currently in operation in Dublin and Tralee. A CCTV system is also being installed in Cork city and a number of the cameras there are already operational. As part of the Garda CCTV expansion programme, a total of £12 million has been allocated towards the installation of CCTV systems nationwide over the next three years, with £4 million being allocated in 2001. In the initial phase Garda CCTV systems are to be installed in the following ten locations: Athlone, Bray, Clondalkin, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Finglas, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Tallaght. At least a further six areas will commence in 2003 and they will be announced in due course. It is anticipated that the ten CCTV systems referred to above will be installed by the end of 2002.
Garda CCTV systems act as an overt deterrent to criminals. They allay the fears of local communities in which they operate and help create a safer environment in which people may go about their business. Garda authorities have confirmed to me that assaults, drug dealing and "on-street crime" generally have dropped where the cameras are in place. Some benefits of CCTV systems to the Garda Síochána include more effective management of resources, detection of events as they occur and filmed evidence of events. Video evidence may also lead to guilty pleas and consequent reduction in court costs.
The prisons building programme, which is proceeding on target, is an important element in the Government's strategy to combat crime. I have met the long-standing need to address prison overcrowding by bringing on stream over 1,200 additional prison places since 1998. This was done by opening three new prisons – Cloverhill, the Dóchas centre for women and the Midlands Prison – by adapting existing State properties – Castlerea and the Curragh – and by extending existing prisons.
Considerable progress has also been made in upgrading existing accommodation. By July of this year more than seven out of every ten prisoners in closed institutions had access to in-cell sanitation. There have also been widespread improvements in kitchen, visiting, education and library facilities. Indeed, the kitchen at Wheatfield prison was the joint overall winner of the supreme hygiene award in this year's National Hygiene Awards. Such positive developments deserve appropriate recognition.
Even with these developments, there can be no room for complacency and I will continue to invest in the improving situation to prevent a slide backwards. I will endeavour at this stage to outline for the benefit of the House the central provisions of the Bill.
Part 1 contains standard provisions dealing with the title of the Bill, necessary definitions and repeals. Part 2 deals with theft and related offences. Section 4 creates a new offence of theft which will cover those situations currently covered by a wide range of offences, including larceny, embezzlement, obtaining by false pretences and fraudulent conversion. The new offence will consist of dishonestly appropriating property without the owner's consent, and with the intention of depriving the owner of it, either temporarily or permanently. It also provides for situations where property is held on trust for or on behalf of more than one person by another person acting in the course of business and where some of the property is appropriated for the latter's benefit without the consent of the owner or owners. Where it is proved that there is a deficiency in the property without a proper explanation there is a presumption that it was appropriated without the owner's consent. The maximum penalty to be imposed following a conviction on indictment under the Bill is an unlimited fine or up to ten years in prison or both.
Section 5 provides for certain exceptions to the offence of theft, for example, where a person has obtained property for value and in good faith, even if the property in question subsequently transpires to be stolen property. The section also provides that land, or things forming part of it, cannot in general be stolen, except in specified circumstances.
Sections 6 and 7 deal with aspects of deception. Section 6 provides for an offence of making a gain or causing a loss where a person dishonestly, by means of deception, induces a person to do, or refrain from doing, something. Section 7 makes it an offence to obtain services by deception. This includes, for example, obtaining a loan, where the person has been led to believe that the loan has been, or will be, repaid. Under both sections, a penalty of an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to five years, or both, may be imposed following conviction on indictment.
Section 8 provides for a new offence of dishonestly making off without payment for goods or services where the person knows that payment on the spot is required or expected and where he or she intends to avoid making payment. The penalty for an offence under the section is a fine of up to £3,000 or imprisonment for up to two years or both following conviction on indictment.
Section 9 relates to the unlawful use of a computer in the State with the intention of making a gain or causing a loss. The person committing the offence may be either inside or outside the State at the time of the offence. Section 10 deals with false accounting and encompasses such actions as destroying, concealing or otherwise falsifying an account or document; failing to complete it; making a misleading, false or deceptive entry, or using any account or document knowing it to be false, for the purpose of furnishing false information. Section 11 provides that a person who dishonestly alters or suppresses certain types of document in order to make a gain or cause a loss is guilty of an offence. Actions covered by the section include destroying, defacing or concealing certain documents, or procuring the execution of a valuable security. The penalty for offences under sections 9, 10 and 11 is an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to ten years or both following conviction on indictment.
Section 12 deals with burglary and provides that a person is guilty of burglary if he or she enters a building as a trespasser intending to commit an arrestable offence or, while there, commits or attempts to commit such an offence. The penalty is an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to 14 years or both following conviction on indictment.
Section 13 deals with aggravated burglary, in other words, the commission of a burglary by a person who has a firearm, imitation firearm, weapon or explosive. Section 14 deals with robbery and provides that a person who steals and, either at the time of or immediately before the stealing, and in order to do the stealing, uses or threatens to use force against any person is guilty of the offence of robbery. The penalty for conviction on indictment for aggravated burglary and robbery will be imprisonment for up to life. Section 15 relates to the possession of certain articles by a person for use in certain offences such as theft or burglary. An offence under the section carries a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to five years or both following conviction on indictment.
Part 3 of the Bill deals with the handling of stolen property and other proceeds of crime and related matters. Section 16 sets out key definitions for use within this part of the Bill, including the meaning of "reckless," that is, disregarding a substantial risk that property was stolen. Section 17 creates an offence of handling stolen property, that is, where a person, knowing or being reckless as to whether property was stolen, dishonestly receives it or makes arrangements to do so, or retains, removes or disposes of it. A penalty of an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to ten years or both may be imposed following conviction on indictment.
Section 18 creates a new offence of possession of stolen property and addresses difficulties under existing legislation which arise when a person is found in possession of stolen property, but the question of whether that person has stolen such property or is handling it remains unclear. The offence created is to the effect that the person, without lawful authority or excuse, possesses stolen property knowing or being reckless as to whether it was stolen. The penalty for conviction on indictment is imprisonment for up to five years or an unlimited fine or both.
Section 19 sets out certain circumstances under which a garda may require a person to give him or her an explanation of how stolen property, or the proceeds from it, came into that person's possession. Failure to give a truthful account of how this property or proceeds came into the person's possession carries a maximum penalty of a fine of up to £1,500 or imprisonment for up to 12 months or both on summary conviction. Section 20 provides clarifications concerning the preceding sections by providing that references to stolen property include property, whether it had been stolen before or after the Bill commenced, or had been stolen outside the State.
The events of 11 September have far reaching consequences. One issue which has emerged as a key element of the fight against terrorism is the range of mechanisms by which terrorists finance their activities, particularly their use of money laundering. In this context, I draw the House's attention to sections 21, 22 and 23 of the Bill.
Sections 21 and 22 amend aspects of the money laundering provisions contained in the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. Section 21 substitutes a new section for section 31 of that Act which revises the definition of the offence of money laundering by introducing the concept of recklessness. The new offence provides that being reckless as to whether the property is or represents the proceeds of crime is now a sufficient level of culpability to warrant conviction. Section 22 is associ ated with this substitution in that it provides for a technical amendment to section 56(a) of that Act as inserted by section 15 of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1997.
Section 23 of the Bill provides that I, as Minister, in consultation with the Minister for Finance, may designate countries or territories for the purpose of requiring banks and other institutions to report to the Garda authorities transactions connected with those countries or territories. This provision will enable Ireland to meet obligations arising from international developments to fight money laundering. The Financial Action Task Force, an international body of which Ireland is a member, in order to address deficiencies in the anti-money laundering legislation of certain countries or territories, has identified a range of countermeasures to be enforced by its members. The European Union has agreed to support this initiative by requiring member states to have necessary legislative provisions in place before January 2002.
Part 4 of the Bill deals with forgery and enacts offences in a modern form currently covered by the Forgery Acts, 1861 and 1913, which are being repealed in full. Section 24 contains some necessary definitions. In particular, it defines an instrument as any document, whether of a formal or informal character, other than a currency note. Among the instruments named in the section are money orders, stamps, cheques, credit cards, share certificates, tickets, passports and other documents permitting entry to the State. Sections 25 to 28, inclusive, deal with the making and use of false instruments or copies of false instruments intending their use in order that another person will accept them as genuine. Offences under these sections carry a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to ten years or both following conviction on indictment.
Section 29 deals with the custody or control of certain false instruments. It provides for an offence of having control or custody of any of the specified false instruments, knowing or believing that it is false, with a view to inducing another person to accept it as genuine and of having a false instrument in one's custody or control without lawful excuse. It will also be an offence to have custody or control of a machine, or of material, suitable for use in the making of a false instrument, or with the intention of passing it off as genuine. The maximum penalty of an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to five years or both will apply to offences related to possession, while the maximum penalty applicable to offences relating to the intention to use such instruments will be an unlimited fine or up to ten years imprisonment or both.
Sections 30 and 31 provide further definitions of key terms for the purposes of that part of the Bill dealing with currency counterfeiting. At present counterfeiting of currency is only an offence if the currency is legal tender, and hence a new currency, such as the euro, requires protection prior to being lawfully issued. This part will provide protection for the euro currency prior to issue. The measures necessary to protect a currency from counterfeiting once it has been issued are also being strengthened fulfilling Ireland's commitments to the European Union in this regard. Following the definitions in section 32, section 33 provides for an offence of counterfeiting where a person makes a counterfeit note or coin with a view to passing it as genuine. This offence carries a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine or imprisonment for a term of up to ten years or both following conviction on indictment.
Section 34 makes it an offence to pass or tender a counterfeit as genuine, whether directly or via a third party, and also makes it an offence even to knowingly deliver a counterfeit to another person, without lawful authority. Section 35 provides that a person who has a counterfeit note or coin in his or her custody or control with the intention of passing or tendering it as genuine is committing an offence. It also makes it an offence even to have such a counterfeit in one's custody or control, without lawful authority. Section 36 deals with materials and implements for counterfeiting and makes it an offence to make or have custody or control of any thing to be used for the purpose of counterfeiting, or to have any thing, without lawful authority, which is designed or adapted for counterfeiting. Offences under sections 34, 35 and 36 carry maximum penalties of an unlimited fine or either five years imprisonment or ten years imprisonment or both a fine and imprisonment, depending on the circumstances of the offence.
Under section 37, a person who, without lawful authority, imports a counterfeit note or coin into a member state of the European Union, or exports such a note or coin from a member state, is guilty of an offence, the penalty for which is an unlimited fine or imprisonment for a term of up to ten years or both.
Section 38 arises from a requirement of the European Union that member states provide full and proper protection of the euro currency. It is necessary to provide that counterfeiting of the euro and related offences are punishable under Irish law even when they are committed abroad. Due to the nature of such offences and to the fact that evidence of their commission is to be found in another state, provision is made that proceedings will only be taken by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Section 39 obliges credit institutions and other cash handlers to retain and hand over to the competent authorities, that is the Garda Síochána and Central Bank of Ireland, all counterfeit euro notes and coins received by them. While informal arrangements were already in place for this purpose, the European Union requires member states to put such arrangements on a statutory footing, for the protection of the euro. The section includes provisions for a code of practice to deal with issues such as staff training, and detecting and reporting procedures. Offences under the section carry a maximum penalty, following conviction on indictment, of an unlimited fine or up to five years imprisonment or both. Section 39 also provides a defence for such institutions where they have complied with a recognised code of practice, and for individuals where they had acted in accordance with an internal reporting procedure.
Part 6 of the Bill provides that the provisions of the EU Convention on the Protection of the European Community's Financial Interests, and the three protocols to that convention, will have the force of law in the State. The convention requires each member state to provide for criminal penalties against the use or presentation of false, incorrect or incomplete statements or documentation, resulting in the misappropriation or misapplication of Community funds and the illegal reduction of the Community's general budget. The protocols deal with such matters as corruption by or against national and Community officials, which damages or is likely to damage the Community's financial interests, jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Community and co-operation between member states and the Commission. For the sake of convenience the convention and protocols are set out in schedules to the Bill.
Part 7 of the Bill deals with the investigation of offences. It provides for the issue of search warrants and makes it an offence to obstruct a garda acting under a warrant. It also aims to protect documents, which may be relevant to an investigation and provides that evidential material must, where ordered by a district judge, either be produced to a garda or the garda allowed access to it.
Part 8 of the Bill deals with the trial of offences. It provides for the summary trial of indictable offences under the Act where all parties agree to this. It also deals with a number of aspects of trial procedures, in particular giving assistance to juries in complex cases. There is also a provision for flexibility in relation to charges of theft, handling or possession, in that a person charged with theft may, if the facts so prove, be found guilty of handling or possession and vice versa.
Part 9 of the Bill deals with a range of miscellaneous issues such as the liability of companies or their directors for offences. It also places an obligation on certain persons, such as auditors, to report suspected offences, while providing immunity from civil suit where this is done in good faith. There are also provisions dealing with the admissibility of certain types of evidence in proceedings, for example documentation, including translations, provided by an overseas lawyer about comparable offences under that state's legal system and documentation provided by an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the effect that a person is an Irish citizen.
It is clear that the Bill is a comprehensive measure. To go into any greater detail than I have just done would require considerably more time than is available to me. However, if there are particular matters, which Senators would like to have clarified, I will endeavour to do this in my reply to the debate.
I will bring forward two amendments on Committee Stage. The first will be an amendment to the commencement provision. At present section 1(2) of the Bill provides that the Act will be brought into operation by orders to be made by me as Minister. In view of the urgency in commencing certain provisions, notably those dealing with the obligation on banks, etc. to report transactions having a connection with certain countries, which do not have adequate anti-money laundering legislation, and those dealing with protection of the euro, I will be proposing that these sections will come into operation upon enactment.
The second amendment will correct an error, which resulted in a number of words being omitted from the amended section 31 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 that is being made by section 21 of this Bill.
Since I became Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I have consistently stated that anyone who engages in crime will face the full rigours of the law. Where necessary, I have brought forward legislation to provide for appropriate penalties for those guilty of serious crimes. The law must be kept under constant review and where shortcomings are identified these should be remedied. Sometimes, such a review points to the need for fundamental change requiring a root and branch reform of the law in a particular area. That is the position with the law on fraud and dishonesty and that is the reason the Bill is necessary.
I look forward to listening to the contributions of Senators to the debate and I commend the Bill to the House.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I welcome his last announcement that he will introduce two amendments, particularly the first one relating to commencement. There are obligations on banks to report on transactions with other countries and in relation to money laundering. When the Bill goes through this House, I am delighted that section will become law immediately. This is overdue and I compliment the Minister on announcing that today.
I commend the Minister and his staff on the fine work done in drafting this Bill. This Bill is urgently required and should have been brought forward by this or a previous Government long before now. The legislation governing all aspects of this matter goes back to the Forgery Acts, 1861 and 1913 and the Larceny Acts, 1861, 1916 and 1990. The modern types of crimes relating to forgery, fraud and larceny, and the sophisticated manner in which many of these acts have been committed in recent years, particularly money laundering, make it vital that we have modern legislation to deal with these offences.
I should have said at the outset that I wish to share my time with Senator Burke.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
The Bill is highly commendable and it is very important that the specific aspects of the Bill are dealt with in detail. I welcome in particular section 6 relating to making gain or causing loss by deception. People are increasingly making gains for themselves by being deceptive. In many cases they are clearly and deliberately doing this in their own interest. In some cases it could arise that somebody is making gain, but not deliberately. Such concerns were raised during the Dáil debate. It is usually professional, skilled competent criminals who carry out these acts. This is something upon which we should elaborate in much greater detail during the debate.
False accounting is very much a white-collar crime and this is an important section. Certain difficulties may arise in cases where somebody does not have the details at the time of going to court. This may be in the course of a financial dispute between companies, between partners in a partnership or in a family law case where all the evidence and documentation may not be available. A presentation may be made to the court or documentation may be put on file in the course of court hearings stating all these details are not available. In those cases it is important that an exemption be made. It should apply only where somebody wilfully and knowingly does this.
Aggravated burglary is becoming factor in rural and urban Ireland and it must be taken seriously. I am pleased that section 13 deals specifically with that issue. It is important that the Minister and the courts are seen to take a strong line in relation to aggravated burglary.
Burglary is one of the most common crimes committed throughout the country, particularly against old people in rural areas. It is important that section 12 is put on the Statute Book. The person who steals will be guilty of robbery either at the time of or immediately before the stealing and if he or she uses or threatens to use force against any person in order to carry out the crime. It is frequently the case, particularly in isolated rural areas, that the homes of old people are broken into, they are tied up and their property stolen. That should be condemned and the full rigour of the law should apply.
I welcome section 17 which deals with the handling of stolen property. Too many people claim to be innocent about the fact that property is stolen when the world and its mother know it is the case. It is important that section 17 is applied and that people do not claim innocence and lack of knowledge about stolen property.
I am concerned about section 18 which deals with the possession of stolen property. As the Minister is from a rural constituency, I am sure he appreciates that there are cases where sophisticated criminals break into premises, steal certain goods and leave them on someone else's property. If the stolen property is in someone's house or old farmyard in an isolated area, it can be deemed to be in his or her possession. I would like section 18 to be teased out in greater detail. I know of instances where the person was oblivious to what had happened and did not have any connection with the stolen property on the premises. If the gardaí have good sense, which most of them have in a local area, they will know that. However, I fear that section 18 could be misused.
I am sharing time with Senator Burke because I must attend another important meeting. I am sorry I must conclude my contribution, but I will be back for the remainder of the debate and for Committee Stage.
We will miss the Senator.
I thank Senator Taylor-Quinn for agreeing to share time. I welcome the Bill which deals with closed circuit television systems, which have been put in place in various towns and cities, the prison building programme, theft, embezzlement, etc. The Minister has many ideas about these matters. He said that closed circuit television systems will be put in place in Athlone, Bray, Clondalkin, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Finglas, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Tallaght and that a further six systems will come on stream in 2003. Castlebar made a strong case for inclusion in the scheme. It was sure it would be included in the first round, but it will appreciate inclusion in 2003.
The closed circuit television system is welcome. It provides gardaí with an opportunity to carry out surveillance in a town. A monitoring station should be set up in every region because it is expensive to set one up for each town in which the system is placed. Such a station would monitor a number of towns or cities in a region and report to the local Garda station about activities in the area. Perhaps the Minister could consider that.
A number of towns have set up taxi ranks. Castlebar applied to the Garda Síochána to set up taxi ranks in the town and this request was forwarded to the Garda Commissioner. However, it is taking a considerable length of time to put things in place. There are taxis in the town but there are not any taxi ranks. This means gardaí must spend time moving taxis which are illegally parked. The Minister might find out the reason for the delay in making a decision on this matter.
I welcome the recruitment of additional gardaí which will bring the number up to 12,000, the highest it has been in the history of the State. The Minister said there are now an additional 791 gardaí compared to December 1997. I do not know the significance of that statement, other than the fact we were in Government in 1997. I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that the Organisation of Working Time Act came into operation in 1997. If there are 12,000 gardaí, each one must reduce his or her working hours from 40 hours to 39 hours a week. We would need at least 300 more gardaí to make up that time. While the Minister said there are now an additional 791 gardaí on the streets compared to the end of December 1997, the additional number is 400 because the extra hour must be made up. The figures are distorted.
We need more gardaí on the beat in major towns. Every local authority is clamouring for extra gardaí. The Garda will admit it does not have enough manpower on some occasions. While I welcome the increase to 12,000, every effort should be made to increase this number further, particularly when shorter working hours are taken into consideration. I am sure the working hours will get shorter, not longer, in the future.
It has been brought to my attention that crime is on the increase, particularly among young people. My local gardaí told me recently that the number of offences committed by young people under the age of 17 is frightening. Last Friday night my local Garda station took approximately ten or 12 people between the ages of 14 to 16 into custody. These crimes are not statistically recorded because the people are under the age of 17. Something must be done about this issue. I do not know if the gardaí know how to combat this problem. The gardaí contacted many of the parents who, in some cases, criticised the gardaí for taking their children into custody. I do not know how we will get the message across to parents and to society that crime is being committed by people under the age of 17.
The majority of cases are related to drink and drugs. All the cases last Friday night were drink related. There was not a single incident which involved a young person who had not taken alcohol. I know that people who sell alcohol get a bad name, but in the majority of cases it is not the proprietor of the premises who is the real offender but the person who buys alcohol and gives it to the young person.
Bringing this problem under control will be a huge task for parents and society in general, in co-operation with the Garda Síochána. No doubt it is getting out of hand. The hands of gardaí are tied in many instances. In the case of young offenders, the local gardaí can take no action because the files are sent up to headquarters and it is dealt with on a national basis. I believe a certain amount of them should be dealt with locally. This is something which the Minister should look at also.
I hope that when the CCTV systems are being allocated in 2003 there will be a new Government in place. We will probably have our own Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform at that stage and no doubt the system will be put in place then.
We have our own Minister. Is the Senator saying that the current Minister is an asylum seeker?
We will have a new Minister anyway and he will be a member of my party. I ask the Minister to check why it takes so long to get authorisation for a taxi-rank in Castlebar. If it is taking so long for Castlebar, I am sure it is taking just as long in other towns. I welcome the legislation and wish the Minister well with it.
I also welcome the Minister to the House. It is important to put on record again that more justice legislation has been introduced in this House in the past four and a half years than was ever introduced previously. As spokesman on justice in opposition and since he assumed office as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue has always said that anybody who committed crime should pay the price. It is difficult to ensure people pay the price if one is dealing with outdated Acts and laws enacted in the earlier part of the last century. This Bill, in particular, is necessary to ensure that those laws are updated.
The Bill is a consolidation measure. It repeals earlier legislation dealing with stealing, fraud, forgery etc., including the Larceny Acts and Forgery Acts. It also updates the law relating to theft and dishonesty and provides for matters not adequately covered at present in legislation.
I will refer briefly to the main features of the Bill. The Bill provides for a new offence of theft to replace the existing offence of larceny and other offences of dishonesty such as embezzlement. It updates existing offences of burglary, aggravated burglary and robbery, possession of articles in connection with certain offences and handling stolen property, and creates a new offence of possession of stolen property. The Bill provides for new offences to deal with dishonest behaviour such as obtaining services by deception, making off without payment and unlawful use of a computer. The Bill amends the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, concerning money laundering and provides for the reporting of financial transactions having a connection with certain countries. There are new offences of forgery and counterfeiting, including counterfeiting of the euro even before it is issued, and measures to detect counterfeiting.
The Bill contains provisions to enable Ireland to adopt the convention and protocols on the protection of the European Union financial interests. There are provisions providing for search warrants, production orders and alternative verdicts in relation to offences of theft, handling or possession of stolen property and restitution of stolen property, making companies and their directors liable for offences under the Bill and requiring auditors to report indications of offences under the Bill. There are provisions for making information available to juries to assist in their deliberations.
As the Minister stated, there is of course a certain urgency in ensuring the safe passage of this Bill. The measures in the Bill concerning the implementation of anti-money laundering provisions contained in section 23 and also the measures dealing with the protection of the euro in Part V need to be enacted urgently in view of our obligations and the introduction of the euro in January 2002.
The Minister need not be a bit shy about using the words ground breaking, innovative and radical because they are fitting words to describe this Bill. It certainly deserves praise from all of us because it is necessary.
It would be difficult to fulfil the promises which the Minister and my party made on doorsteps at the last election at a time when people were living in fear in their homes if we did not have the laws in place. At that time the homes of vulnerable elderly people were being broken into. The culprits were not satisfied with taking their belongings because they went on to beat the occupants, and they beat some people to death in their homes. Thankfully such break-ins have ceased because the Minister has ensured that we introduced the necessary legislation and used the full rigours of the law on these offenders.
We must have the laws in place and therefore this Bill is necessary. Not least of the problems at present is the definition of simple larceny, which requires that the object stolen should be carried away and that at the time of stealing the person should have the intention permanently to deprive the owner of it. Of course this can be very difficult to prove and may be inconsistent with certain behaviour which should properly be classed as stealing. The Bill will eliminate such inconsistencies.
Reference has been made by Senator Burke and Senator Quinn to the fact that we are now approaching a situation where we will have fulfilled another promise made to the electorate in 1997. At that time we promised that there would be 12,000 gardaí patrolling our streets and enforcing law and order in an effort to reduce the instance of crime from the pre-1997 level. In fairness, we have arrived at a stage where there are 11,579 gardaí and there are others in training and about to come on stream.
Senator Burke referred to the 39 hour week. I know very few gardaí who work a 39 hour week and the Minister can verify this by referring to the fact that £50 million was paid in overtime to gardaí in the past year. That nails the lie about the 39 hour week. I am sure most gardaí are working much longer hours than that.
I welcome the fact that the Minister is about to civilianise 500 posts. That is a move we have all sought for a long time because it did not make sense to us to have gardaí sitting at desks carrying out clerical duties which could be done adequately by civil servants. Those 500 gardaí coming on stream are separate from the figure of 12,000 which we have almost reached.
Reference has been made also to the installation of CCTV cameras in many of our cities. We are about to embark on the installation of such systems in many towns throughout the country also. First, as the Minister said, they are a great deterrent and, second, they are invaluable in that video evidence can be used subsequently where crime takes place and it can speed up proceedings in the court.
I particularly welcome the fact that Limerick has been included in the scheme to install these cameras. Some people might say that it must be so because of the reputation of Limerick. Anybody who studies statistics on crime will find Limerick well down the league table. Limerick was in seventh or eighth place when I last looked at these statistics and it is terribly unfair that many people describe Limerick as "stab city". There is crime in Limerick as there is in every other city and town, but it is no worse than in any other city. Recently I saw in a Bord Fáilte publication that Limerick was described as not being a very loveable city to visit. Remarks like that should not be allowed to go uncontested. However, I welcome the fact that the CCTV cameras are being installed in Limerick and I sincerely hope they will bring our crime figures down further.
Mention has also been made of the additional prison spaces that have been made available. The Minister has told us exactly how he accomplished that despite the fact that some felt it could not be done. Our prisons had revolving doors prior to 1997 and for some time thereafter while the Minister was setting about ensuring that would cease to be the case. He has been quite successful. Some may disagree, but standards have been improved in our prisons. Various programmes that have been discussed in this House on a number of occasions when dealing with legislation on prisons have been put in place. An additional 1,200 prison spaces have been created since 1998. That has been accomplished by opening the three new prisons, Clover Hill, the Dóchas centre and the Midlands Prison, as well as by adapting existing State properties at Castlerea and the Curragh while extending existing prisons. That is very welcome.
In an age when there is such huge growth in the IT sector, section 9 is extremely important. It relates to the unlawful use of computers in the State with the intention of making a gain or causing a loss. The person committing the offence may be within or outside the State when the offence is committed. When this Bill is enacted we will have vital legislation covering the offence of the unlawful use of computers.
Sections 12 and 13 cover the most common forms of crime. They have been referred to by previous speakers and I wish to refer to them also. Section 12 deals with burglary and provides that a person is guilty of burglary if he or she enters a building as a trespasser intending to commit an arrestable offence or who, having entered a building, attempts to commit such an offence. The penalty is an unlimited fine or imprisonment for up to 14 years, or both, following conviction or indictment. Section 13 deals with aggravated burglary. Whether aggravated or otherwise, it is a terrible crime to commit. In many instances the victims are less concerned about the goods that have been stolen than they are about their own health. It is a very traumatic experience for anybody to realise that someone has invaded the privacy of their house and has been in their kitchen or their bedroom. Culprits should be subjected to the full rigour of the law when they are caught. We have had much more of that sort of crime in the past and there have been cases where people were beaten and killed in their homes. Thankfully that has been stopped and not before time, but there are still cases of break-ins and burglaries. However, they are not happening to the same extent. The penalties that can be imposed under this legislation will be a great deterrent and will help to bring this form of crime under control.
Section 5 is important as it provides for certain exceptions to the offence of theft. Such an exception occurs where a person has obtained property for value and in good faith, even if it transpires subsequently that the property in question is stolen. People can, on occasion, end up with property they bought in good faith, perhaps believing it to be a bargain. They then realise their mistake. I welcome that aspect of the Bill.
The Minister referred to 11 September in his address. A key matter that has emerged during the fight against terrorism is the range of mechanisms by which terrorists finance their activities, in particular through money laundering. Any effort we in the Oireachtas can make to cut off the avenues these people have to launder their money is welcome.
I welcome the Bill and look forward to its passing safely through the House. It is being dealt with in a spirit of goodwill and co-operation by all sides of the House and I welcome the amendments mentioned by the Minister.
I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Mary Wallace, to the House. I very much welcome this legislation. It is based on solid research carried out by members of the Law Reform Commission. We tend to commend the Minister alone when he comes to the House, but we should also commend the commission on its ongoing input, made over many years, into upgrading and updating legislation. The Minister has had to leave for another engagement, but even in his absence I say that he has been a true reformer. The amount of new legislation and updated, upgraded and amended legislation he has put on the Statute Book since his appointment is very impressive. To seek to deny that is to seek to deny the truth and we are talking about honesty this evening. The Minister has been tremendously intelligent, hardworking and reforming in respect of legislation.
Given the genesis of the crimes dealt with in this Bill, the legislation it is to replace is extremely old, having been on the Statute Book for over 100 years. That is how much time it has taken successive Ministers to examine existing legislation in terms of how it responds and corresponds to rapidly changing times. This Bill is very welcome. It is high time we sought to bring our legislation into line with new technology and practices and with a vastly changed world. If the law and those who frame, administer and enforce it are not ahead of the criminals, the criminals will certainly win. In many cases of theft, burglary and larceny the criminals have been winning well. Crime pays and has paid handsomely. We all know people who have greatly extended their wealth through theft, burglary and dishonesty. It is time that practice was brought to an end.
In many ways these are vastly changed times. For 30 years of bank robberies, money laundering and terrorist related activity certain people grew fat on the proceeds of crime and did so under a political banner. That was widespread and for reasons I am unprepared to go into right now a great many people got away with it. I hope that we have emerged from that era, though that does not mean that new forms of terrorism are not emerging. The atrocities of that awful day, 11 September, remind us how all-pervasive terrorism can be on a worldwide stage. Anti-fraud and anti-theft laws can be framed to attempt to at least reduce that kind of terrorism, if not to defeat it. We are entering an era of very complex technology, of very sophisticated money-laun dering practices, and we have seen what people can do with other people's visa cards. They can be used to obtain money under false pretences. Cunning and clever people can use new technology to defraud others on a large scale. We must have the most up-to-date legislation we can possibly create to defeat such money laundering and fraud, as well as to defeat the more usual and equally corrosive crimes of burglary and larceny.
White collar criminals have got away with murder and they have got away with a lot of money. Our track record in dealing with those who have feathered their nests through such crime has been very poor. However, there has been a huge improvement in this respect since the Criminal Assets Bureau was founded. My second tribute is to the CAB and how it has gone about its business and scientifically tackled white collar crime with resultant gains for the Exchequer and the taxpayer. I pay tribute to the CAB and those who have worked skilfully for it.
As well as referring to the vastly updated law, some Members referred to an increase in the number of gardaí and an extension of the number of closed circuit television cameras, all of which are happening at the same time and which would lead us to be optimistic about the outcome of this type of legislation. The additional gardaí are welcome. I endorse what was said by the Senator from Limerick about the civilianisation of posts previously occupied by gardaí. It is high time that was done. Gardaí are trained to do a given type of work and they should do that work and no other. I welcome the intensification of the civilianisation programme which is due.
We should seek to train more specialists in the Garda to deal with specific types of crime. When dealing with money laundering and fraud and crimes at that level people trained in accountancy are needed because they understand the practices and how the crime can be made to happen. For this reason, we need specialist task forces to deal with such crime and other types also. The day of the general practitioner is gone in many areas. For example, in education teachers are used who have the expertise to deal with certain areas of activity. Specially trained teachers are employed in given areas of activity to boost overall educational objectives. It is also done in medicine and many other areas.
More like this should be done in the Garda. We will be fighting a losing battle if the criminal has more tricks up his sleeve than the Garda. This is happening in many cases. We must train specialist units to deal with different types of crime. When dealing with fraud and white collar crime one is dealing with very cunning, sophisticated and technologically very advanced individuals, and a unit within the Garda which is one step ahead of them is needed. It must also be borne in mind that we need more specialist task forces to make the provisions of the Bill happen and enforce them. Enforcement is everything.
Coming back to general, day-to-day crime such as burglaries and aggravated burglaries and their impact, a previous Member referred to the trauma they cause older people, in particular. What is inflicted on the people concerned is sub-human and deserving of punishment far in excess of that often meted out. The major damage is to their self-confidence. They are stripped of their feeling of independence. They are also often stripped of their life savings, the few bob they put away to bury themselves. We often hear of assaults, but do not often hear of the money stolen being recovered and returned.
Justice is not done until stolen goods and money are recovered and returned to the person from whom they are stolen. It may not happen 100% of the time, but as matters stand, people will say that, if their houses are broken into—
North Kerry is not too bad.
I was born and raised in County Kerry, but at a time when people left their doors open and, when they got cars, never locked them. I was raised in County Kerry in those days and God be with them.
It is a terrible injustice for stolen goods or money not to be returned. In Cork city, where I have lived all my adult life and practise politically, I know of widows, neighbours of mine, who had their televisions, jewellery and every possession stolen which could be flogged and converted to cash. While in all cases the burglaries were reported, in few cases were the stolen goods returned. That is wrong and justice is not done until stronger efforts are made to return stolen goods. For that reason, I am glad new offences are created in the Bill such as the handling of stolen property in section 17 and the possession of stolen property in section 18. These two new provisions should assist in the recovery of stolen goods and their return to their rightful owners. This is terribly important. It is also important the Garda is reminded that we require its members to put more effort into ensuring these two provisions are fully implemented.
I am glad we have more gardaí. I would like to see a stronger Garda presence on the streets. Our main objective should be crime prevention. Once a crime is committed irreversible damage has been done. The uniformed garda seen to be walking the beat is a great prevention mechanism. I want to see gardaí visible on the streets as a crime prevention measure.
There are crimes specified in the legislation for which the Minister has said fines unlimited will apply. I suppose that is a good thing because money values change so rapidly these days. In the context of this measure being enacted, I would like the Judiciary to support the idea of not just imposing the minimum fine. Judges should first be consistent in their judgments in order that a fellow does not get away with something in County Mayo for which another fellow in north Kerry is prosecuted. We need consistent judgments from the Judiciary. As well as that, we need judges who will not hesitate to apply the maximum where it is warranted. This is important.
I am not sure I agree with imprisonment, although it is important. There should be a much stronger emphasis on fines when dealing with burglary and fraud. Money and gain are the game for those who engage in this type of crime. The one place to hit them is where their gain is meant to be: in their pockets. I would like to see fairly extensive use of money fines. If we could get to the point where crime would not pay, this legislation would have served citizens well.
In as much as I have studied it, this is promising legislation. It is encouraging that so much effort has been put into bringing legislation into line with modern conditions, the challenges of new technologies, the open society in which we live and international terrorism as it operates. It is also encouraging that so much effort has been put into acknowledging that money laundering is a substantial international crime in the times in which we live. In acknowledging this, there must be the type of co-operation between and among states which will at least play its part in defeating international terrorism by seeking to ensure it does not line the pockets of those who practise it. Provision for this is made in the legislation.
I welcome and support the Bill. I look forward to understanding it in greater detail when it comes to Committee Stage and pledge the support of my party.
A Bill such as this is to be welcomed, given what its provisions attempt to achieve. I welcome the Minister's statement but I wonder if there is to be any follow up to the neighbourhood watch scheme introduced some years ago. The Minister announced an extension of the CCTV monitoring system to various areas, which I particularly welcome. Up to now, it has been operational in Dublin, Tralee and parts of Cork city. Has the Minister received any feedback concerning the achievements of the CCTV programme to date?
Some time ago, I raised the possibility of extending the CCTV system to Dún Laoghaire, but its introduction was put on the back burner. It is due for installation in Dún Laoghaire next year, along with another nine areas. Will the Minister indicate when exactly the system will be installed? I would like to hear from the Minister how well the system has worked in Dublin. I know that both the senior Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, and the Minister of State, Deputy Mary Wallace, have examined the system in operation. We have also seen CCTV in use in Britain, particularly at carnivals, festivals and at football matches, where it has worked well.
A horrific murder occurred in Dún Laoghaire a few years ago, which remains unsolved. There is hope, however, that some CCTV footage may lead to the person responsible being brought to justice. Does the Minister have any specific information about the timescale for introducing the CCTV system in the proposed ten locations that have been mentioned, including Dún Laoghaire?
The Minister's speech dealt with the Bill's sections in detail, as well as outlining a variety of new offences envisaged by the legislation What implications does the Bill have for the various protocols concerning legislation on extradition and our co-operation with other EU member states in this regard? The last 25 sections of the Bill appear to have been skimmed through rather succinctly by the Minister in his speech. A relatively small part of his speech was devoted to them. Section 40, for example, deals with the First and Second Protocols, and refers to Members of this House, the Dáil, and various other office holders.
In light of recent comments from the Director of Public Prosecutions, will the Minister indicate what, if any, further changes will be recommended by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform concerning the operation of the DPP's Office? In recent times, the DPP has been very clear about difficulties that have arisen concerning certain cases. I presume the DPP brings proceedings unless there is a likelihood that a conviction will not be obtained. Problems have arisen where the DPP blandly states that because of certain factors his office is not proceeding with a case, yet there has been no explanation. The DPP has made it clear that he is not there to respond to the victims' appeals or the concerns of victims' families. If we are trying to ensure that justice is seen to be done, however, some explanation should be made available when the DPP decides not to proceeed with a case. Given the DPP's recent report and comments, does the Minister envisage any changes concerning these pronouncements?
Sometimes, a solicitor representing the Office of the Chief State Solicitor announces in court that it is not intended to offer any evidence, so the proceedings are stuck out and the summons is not proceeded with. I would suggest to the Minister that there is some public concern about this. There may be valid reasons not to proceed with a case but if they are not made clear the public perception is that a cop-out has occurred.
In principle, Fine Gael broadly supports this legislation. Section 12(1) states:
A person is guilty of burglary if he or she–
(a) enters any building or part of a build ing as a trespasser and with intent to commit an arrestable offence, or
(b) having entered any building or part of a building as a trespasser, commits or attempts to commit any such offence therein.
There have been ongoing difficulties in various parts of the country, particularly where groups, including Travellers, enter upon lands, although they may not be entering a building, as such. If a person has a farm building on a couple of adjacent acres I would contend that if one enters all or part of the property – whether one goes upstairs to the attic or one is in the front or back garden – one is trespassing within the curtilage of the building. In light of complaints about trespassing in certain areas, section 12 should place an onus on the trespasser and provide that, technically or otherwise, they have no rights to be there because they are neither welcome nor an invitee. Will the Minister comment on how this section relates to people causing problems by encroaching upon land?
It is now clear that the quickest way to get trespassers out is literally to give them money to leave. I am sure the Minister is aware it is common practice that moneys are demanded and paid. Given the current delays in the legal system, the quickest way to get them out is to offer them £1,000 or £2,000 to get off the land.
I am sure Senator Cregan would agree with me about this problem.
Senator Taylor-Quinn has been very vocal in this area and I hope she also will support me. I thank the Minister of State for being present. I hope she can respond positively to the various matters raised. We may table some amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage. I hope the Minister of State will give a detailed response to the queries I have raised.
I thank all Senators who have contributed to the debate and, as usual, it has been constructive. As the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, said, the intention of the Bill is clear. It is a modern form of the law of dishonesty to replace the often confused distinctions in the existing law relating to larceny which derives from the common law and the Larceny Act dating back to 1861. This new clarity will benefit everyone involved in the criminal justice system. I have no doubt it will be seen by those engaged in crimes of dishonesty as removing the opportunities which may currently exist for sowing confusion about such matters as to whether larceny has been committed or whether any particular person may be guilty of larceny or handling. Bringing clarity to the law will also help to ensure continued confidence in its operation.
The Bill includes new offences to replace existing offences, including larceny and embezzlement, as well as matters not properly covered at present. There are also measures to assist in the investigation and prosecution of such offences. The new offence of theft will replace the current range of offences in this area. Under the Bill theft will consist of dishonestly appropriating property without the owner's consent and with the intention of depriving the owner of it, whether temporarily or permanently. This differs significantly from the current law relating to larceny which requires the physical taking away of the property with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of it. This has presented evidential difficulties for the prosecution in proving the various elements of the offence and, in addition, gives rise to the requirement to specify separate offences for different types of stealing. Thus we have such offences as embezzlement, obtaining by false pretences, larceny by trick and fraudulent conversion to mention a few.
The Bill contains other offences to deal with dishonest behaviour not covered adequately by existing law, including making a gain or causing a loss by deception, obtaining services by deception, making off without payment, unlawful use of a computer with the intention of making a gain or loss and false accounting. These are aimed at types of behaviour which may have become more common in modern society.
The Bill re-enacts in an updated form the existing offences of burglary, aggravated burglary and robbery. The offence of handling stolen property is also largely a re-enactment of the current position. Under the Bill a person will be guilty of handling, whether he or she received stolen property or undertakes to assist in its retention, removal, disposal or realisation knowing or being reckless as to whether it is stolen. In cases where it may not be clear whether a person has stolen property or whether he or she has handled stolen property the Bill includes a new offence of possession of stolen property. This is an important distinction because of the fact that the offences of stealing and handling are mutually exclusive. The real difficulty in such situations is that the Garda knows the property is stolen, knows it was in the possession of the individual, but has difficulty determining whether he or she stole or received it. The creation of a new offence of possession of stolen property will remedy the situation by providing that a person will be guilty of possession where he or she, without lawful authority or excuse, possesses stolen property knowing or being reckless as to whether it was stolen.
Furthermore, as an additional aid in the fight against theft and possessing stolen goods, the Bill contains provision for alternative verdicts. This will ensure the Garda is not hamstrung in its choice of charge.
Amendments to the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, designed to strengthen anti-money laundering measures have assumed added significance since the events of 11 September in the US. Those Parts of the Bill dealing with forgery and counterfeiting re-enact in modern form the current offences contained in earlier Acts which are being repealed. The counterfeiting provisions also provide for protection against counterfeiting of euro notes and coins even before these are issued and contain measures to detect and prevent counterfeiting. The new provisions are contained in the Part of the Bill relating to the protection of the European Communities financial interest which are mainly designed to tackle fraud and corruption in relation to Community funds.
In addition to the provision for the granting of search warrants, the Bill contains a number of innovative measures to assist in the detection of offences of dishonesty. One of these is a section allowing the court to make orders for the production of evidential material, which is a less intrusive way of obtaining evidence than the use of search warrants in terms of trial offences. The new provision will allow a judge to provide the information for the jury in the form of documents, charts and transcripts to assist it in its deliberations. This will be especially helpful to a jury in complex cases, particularly those involving fraud.
Members raised many interesting issues during the debate. I thank them for their general support for the measures contained in the Bill and the compliments to the Minister in regard to the legislation. A feature of modern life is that criminals are constantly inventing new ways to get around the law, but the Bill gives the Garda the edge in so far as crimes involving dishonesty are concerned.
Senator Taylor-Quinn is right to point out that the area of law covered by the Bill was in need of modernisation. There had been piecemeal changes up to now, but the Government has decided that the time is appropriate to sweep away the earlier legislation and replace it with what will be a modern code dealing with dishonesty and fraud.
Senators Burke and Cosgrave raised the issue of CCTV. Senator Burke pointed out that CCTV systems are proving beneficial in the fight against urban crime. The Government is committed to enhancing this aid to crime prevention and detection. In the long-term the benefits will repay the investment. The installation of CCTV was part of the Government's response to on-street crime. The Minister outlined the proposed locations for the extension of the system. The precise timetable for implementation in each area will depend on the examination of suitable locations – Senator Cosgrave was interested particularly in Dún Laoghaire – in terms of installation, training programmes and provision of links to monitoring centres. The Government is committed to the programme of expansion. I reiterate what the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, said that systems will be installed at the ten locations referred to, including Dún Laoghaire, by the end of 2002.
Does the Minister of State have a more definite date than that?
It will definitely happen during 2002. As I explained, having regard to the training involved and the need to look at suitable locations in Dún Laoghaire and so on, I cannot be sure of the exact date. However, the Senator can be assured that the system will be installed in Dún Laoghaire and in the other nine locations during 2002.
Why would it be—
It will happen as soon as possible.
We will do our best to have it installed before June. The important commitment is that it will be provided in 2002.
Senators Cregan, Quill and others expressed concerns about the effect of crime on victims. In particular, aggravated burglary and robbery not only deprived the victim of their property, but also their feelings of security and the inviolability of their homes. We recognise this. That is the reason the penalties are so severe. In the case of aggravated burglary and robbery, the sentence can be up to life imprisonment on conviction.
The sophisticated nature of many modern crimes, particularly fraud, requires, as suggested by Senators, a sophisticated response. The Garda is increasingly developing the expertise to detect and prevent this form of crime. There are specialised units within the Garda and qualified accountants working with them. This will lead to better detection. The provision in the Bill concerning the giving of assistance to juries will also help in this regard.
In response to Senator Cosgrave, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has no role or function in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions or its decisions. This independence is essential if the integrity and independence of the office is to be protected and confidence is to be maintained.
The Senator referred to section 12 in the context of trespass by certain groups of individuals. Section 12 creates the offence of entering a building as a trespasser with the intention of committing an arrestable offence. The Bill does not address trespass as such; that is a matter for another day. The intention of creating the offence under the Bill is the link with section 12.
Unfortunately it is not possible at this Stage to go into the Bill in more detail. The Minister went into extensive detail when introducing it. There will be an opportunity on Committee Stage to consider matters in greater detail. I look forward to being involved in that.
I thank Senators for studying the Bill and putting forward suggestions at this Stage.