Investigating and detecting crime costs money. In this situation, the competent authority, namely the Garda Commissioner, provides the initiative to set up the joint investigation team. We cannot introduce something into domestic law which compels competent authorities in other countries to calculate costs in advance. The Garda Commissioner will calculate costs and ensure taxpayers' money is not spent foolishly in setting up joint investigations and allowing them to continue indefinitely. We are talking about serious crime. Joint investigations will not be a daily feature of policing. Rather, they will be set up to deal specifically with serious problems which have a trans-national element. The crime will of necessity be serious if the Garda get involved and invite foreign police forces to help them.
These cases will involve crimes such as drug trafficking or the trafficking of human beings, which have a serious impact on quality of life. These types of situations are unusual but are, nonetheless, a feature of the modern criminal scene. It would not be possible successfully to investigate such crimes unless police forces from outside were involved. Therefore, the costs will be well worthwhile and some of those costs will be borne by the other states. That is the mechanism we are seeking to establish here.
The proposed amendment in the name of Senator Terry provides that the establishment of each joint investigation team should be costed prior to establishment. One of the guiding principles for the Garda Síochána, as indicated in the Garda corporate strategy 2000-2004, is to ensure that the Garda carries out its functions in a way which obtains the best value from Garda activities. The Garda policing plan for 2003 lists 12 strategic goals, one of which is managing finance to achieve best value for money. The performance indicators in the plan for this strategic goal include compliance with budget allocation and costing of major functional policing areas, including drugs, traffic and crime enforcement.
This goal is intended to ensure that resources are properly managed and effectively used. With regard to certain drugs operations, which can often involve the deployment of personnel and resources from different Garda divisions, as a matter of good management practice it is not unusual, as the Senator indicated on Second Stage, that they be costed in advance to determine where costs fall and to ensure that such resources are being used effectively. I am informed by the Garda authorities that sanctioning operations which could involve major seizure or arrest are not subject or dependent on such costing. However, it is considered to be good management practice for the reasons illustrated.
If the Senator is suggesting that a provision be made for the establishment of teams to be subject to costing, it is difficult to see how this would work in practice if the implication is that joint teams would not be set up if costs were over a certain limit. Investigations would be set up to deal with serious crime. While good management practice would require effective use of resources and planning for same, it would not make sense to compromise the safety of citizens, perhaps even in life threatening situations, by having a mandatory requirement to go ahead or not on the basis of cost.
Given the nature of a joint investigation, I do not believe it would be possible at the outset to give anything other than an estimate cost of the establishment or operation of the team. The costs will vary depending on issues such as the nature of the investigation, the type of offences to be investigated, the size of the team and the length of the investigation.
As the Senator will be aware, precise costing exercises take time and protracted discussion on the subject between competent authorities would only serve to delay the establishment of a joint investigation team. The primary benefit of a joint investigation team is speed and efficiency. Why introduce provisions which allow team members to bypass existing mutual assistance procedures if we are going to delay the establishment of the team while engaged in discussions on arithmetic with the other competent authorities involved?
As currently drafted, the issue of pay and remuneration for team members is dealt with in section 6 of the Bill, while section 8, which provides for the written agreement drawn up between member states establishing the team, makes specific provision for "the financial arrangements for the team, including arrangements for the payment to its members of remuneration and allowances for expenses, if any, incurred by them, the payment of other expenses that may be incurred by it in the performance of its functions".
With a view to facilitating the establishment of joint investigation teams and to allow, where possible, consistency between member states with drawing up agreements for the establishment of teams, a Council recommendation for a standard model agreement was adopted by the Council of the European Union on 8 May. The model is intended to allow for flexibility and to be adapted according to particular circumstances, i.e. not all of the provisions would necessarily be used in every case. The Council recommendation is an unbinding measure – it is being recommended. I agree that it is appropriate that the agreement to establish a team, rather than legislation itself, address the issue of costs. The Senator might wish to note that the model agreement, in dealing with organisational arrangements, allows for the setting out of costs, which will be subject to the exclusive competence of one or other of the parties to the agreement and to costs which will be shared by the competent authorities establishing the team. It is important to remember that the cost is a shared one between the member states involved. We will never bear the burden of the cost alone.
The provisions for costs in the Bill are sufficient in the circumstances and the Senator must agree that the benefit to be gained from the establishment of these teams in the fight against serious crime, particularly terrorism, will largely outweigh any cost involved.