Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Bill 2001: Report and Final Stages.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Before we commence, I remind Members that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. Each amendment must be seconded.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, lines 17 to 19, to delete "such person as is specified in the direction (being a person who is serving a sentence of imprisonment)" and substitute the following "a person who is serving a sentence of imprisonment".

The Minister of State may recall what I said on Committee Stage about tautology and the need for clarity when dealing with legislation. In my opinion, the wording used in the section adds nothing to the Bill in terms of clarity. I ask the Minister of State if he will accept the more simple wording proposed in the amendment which, ultimately, means the same thing but makes matters clearer to ordinary people.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

In the absence of a seconder, the amendment lapses. Does the Minister of State wish to comment?

Yes, I will comment. The formula of words used in the subsection was chosen because it introduces a fundamental concept employed throughout the Bill, namely, that of a direction. If we had defined the term "direction" we would have been obliged to have a separate definition or interpretation section in the Bill which would have contained the phrase "In this Bill, ‘direction' shall mean". Given the short nature of the Bill, it was decided to incorporate or introduce the concept of a direction at an early stage rather than having a definition section.

I agree with the Senator that the sentence in question would be more concise if her amendment was accepted. However, to accept the amendment would cause problems elsewhere in the text of the Bill by upsetting a basic premise on which the other subsections are constructed, namely, that the term "direction" has been defined at the outset and is then referred to throughout the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Amendments Nos. 2 to 5, inclusive, 7 and 9 are related and may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, line 25, to delete "him" and substitute "the person".

I have retabled this amendment and I hope the Minister of State may have reconsidered the position. The Minister of State has said that if he accepted this amendment he would have to amend the Bill itself and previous legislation. I do not accept this. The words "the person" are being inserted instead of "him". I do not see how this requires amending legislation that already says "him". I do not accept the reasoning there. I do not think it will cause any extra work to the Department were this amendment to be accepted.

I second the amendment.

Amendments to any legislation are intended to be read in conjunction with the remaining provisions of the original Act. This Act does not operate in isolation. Hence, it seems impractical to follow the course advocated by the Senator and gender-proof this Bill without gender-proofing the original 1960 Act. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has been consulted on this issue and its strong advice is that this would create a huge additional workload that would have huge resource implications for all legislation.

I referred last week to the codification programme for the criminal law under way in the Department. An Agreed Programme for Government contained a commitment that all substantive criminal law would be codified into a single crimes Act. An expert group has been set up to advise on the scope of the codification and is due to report early next year. The codification programme will provide an opportunity to gender-proof all criminal legislation and consider the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission on plain language.

It is not a question of applying a male gender regime to legislation. It is simply a matter of ensuring consistency in the expressions used where an amending Bill deals with legislation that originated prior to the beginning of the gender-proofing regime. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has assured us that it is a question of applying the appropriate terminology that suits the circumstances. For example, amendments to the Maternity (Protection) Act 1994 would be drafted in the feminine form as the original Act is in that form and references in the masculine gender would not be used there. I am not sure that the Maternity (Protection) Act comparison is apposite as it deals with mothers, and there is a distinction between a father and a mother. While we changed our practice in this issue in 1993 and legislation is now gender-proofed, there is a difficulty with the consistency of new legislation with pre-1993 legislation.

There must be a consistent standard. The difficulties caused by not having a consistent standard are considerable. In any legislation, the court will view a corpus of legislation as a consistent code, taking both earlier and subsequent legislation into account. I do not accept that it is practical to have one standard of draughtsmanship for a Bill and a different standard for an earlier Act. There simply must be consistency in legislation that amends previous legislation. This is our central issue regarding this amendment.

I do not accept the Minister of State's reasoning. I do not think it requires gender-proofing of the principal Act.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."

Brennan, Michael.Callanan, Peter.Dooley, Timmy.Feeney, Geraldine.Feighan, Frank.Glynn, Camillus.Hayes, Maurice.Kett, Tony.Kitt, Michael P.Leyden, Terry.Lydon, Donal J.MacSharry, Marc.

Minihan, John.Morrissey, Tom.Moylan, Pat.O'Brien, Francis.Ó Murchú, Labhrás.O'Rourke, Mary.Ormonde, Ann.Phelan, Kieran.Scanlon, Eamon.Walsh, Jim.Walsh, Kate.White, Mary M.


Bannon, James.Bradford, Paul.Browne, Fergal.Burke, Paddy.Burke, Ulick.Coonan, Noel.Cummins, Maurice.Feighan, Frank.

Finucane, Michael.Hayes, Brian.Henry, Mary.Higgins, Jim.Norris, David.Ryan, Brendan.Terry, Sheila.Tuffy, Joanna.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Ryan and Tuffy.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 4, line 23, after "relates" to insert "or the victim of any other offence committed by the person, or a member of the family of a victim of an offence committed by the person".

I raise this issue because the legislation should include the victims of a prisoner. There may also be other victims involved and the family of a victim should be included. The Minister should have regard to the welfare of those people when granting temporary release. It is an important provision and I am interested in the Minister of State's comments.

I second the amendment. I am disappointed the Minister has not brought forward an amendment dealing with what we spoke about last week, specifically my amendment regarding any representations made by the victim or next of kin of the victim regarding the proposal to direct the release of a person from prison. The Minister should take those representations into consideration when considering a proposal to grant temporary release to a prisoner. I thank the Minister of State for being sympathetic to that proposal.

I am disappointed the Minister of State did not bring forward an amendment in this regard because we want to strike a balance between the rights of the victims and the rights of the offender. We often hear of victims speaking about their fear of what may happen when a prisoner is released. For every prisoner there is a victim. There are 308 prisoners on temporary release today. That means there are 308 victims. This legislation presented an opportunity for us to strike a balance between those two rights. I would like to hear why the Minister of State was not in a position to bring forward an amendment in this regard.

This amendment relates to offences other than the offence for which the person is in prison, which goes a step too far. I acknowledged on Committee Stage that Senator Terry's amendment had a good deal of merit. Subsection (2)(d) provides that the Minister shall, before giving a direction under this section, have regard to the potential threat to the safety and security of members of the public, including the victim of the offence to which the sentence of imprisonment being served by the person relates, should the person be released from prison. That provision is welcome and positive. I would liked greater emphasis to be placed on the victim. Perhaps the Minister of State had a difficulty in bringing forward a positive measure in this regard but I hope that he, the Minister and the other Minister of State in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will use their influence to place greater emphasis on the victim in the drafting of all legislation. That would represent a beneficial change. I will not repeat what I said on Committee Stage but placing emphasis on the victim in legislation can have a restorative or rehabilitative effect on the culprits. However, it has not been possible to do that in this instance. The reference in the Bill is welcome. I do not support the amendment which provides that people who were previously affected by a crime committed by the person involved would also be consulted. That is unnecessary and it would not add to legislation.

On the wider question raised by Senator Terry, I would not like the House to be under the impression that the correct balance is not struck in this Bill or that the Department is not interested in the position of victims. The Department published the Victim's Charter in 2000. In dealing with legislation, we must judge it in the context of where it arises in the criminal justice system. This legislation is about a system of temporary release, which effectively is an abrogation of a period of a sentence for which an offender has been punished. The Oireachtas has given the Minister clear guidance under section 1(3) which provides that the Minister shall not give a direction under this section in respect of a person if he is of the opinion that, for reasons connected with any one or more of the matters referred to in subsection (2), it would not be appropriate to so do.

While I found some attraction in the wider amendment proposed by Senator Terry, it would have the effect, regardless of how one would formulate it, of elevating the representations of the victim which are always taken into account by the Minister, and have to be necessarily because this is a grave power. It is not a power any Minister would wish to have to exercise. It would have to be exercised with great care and caution and it would be a foolish Minister who did not listen to victims in this matter.

To write into the legislation the principle that the victim must be considered as a matter of legal obligation on the part of the Minister, could well lead to a challenge of the temporary release system because the basis of the system is that we are abrogating a sentence for humanitarian or other reasons connected with the rehabilitation of the offender. If we wrote into legislation that, as a matter of law, the Minister must consider the position of the victim, that reason of itself would be a reason to refuse temporary release. If the Minister developed a practice of consistently granting temporary release, irrespective of those objections, the exercise by the Minister of his powers or her powers under this legislation could become endangered.

I examined this question in a minute way. The reality is that any amendment would have to be made to subsection (2), in regard to which the Minister cannot give a direction in respect of any matter in that subsection if it would not be appropriate so to do for any one or more of the matters concerned. That creates a legal problem which is insuperable.

In relation to the amendment tabled by Senator Tuffy, the Government, conscious of the position of the victim, accepted a Labour Party amendment on Committee Stage in the other House, and amended section 1(2)(d) to provide the potential threat to the safety and security of members of the public, including the victim of the offence to which the sentence of imprisonment being served by the person relates. The concept of having regard to the victim is written into the legislation in the context of potential threats to safety and security. Senator Tuffy proposes in this amendment to widen that provision to include the victim of any other offence committed by the person or a member of the family of a victim of an offence by the person. That proposal would extend the provision very far. The subsection already provides for the potential threat to the safety and security of members of the public, which could include any such persons. In a sense there is an element of repetition in the amendment.

The other considerations which the Minister must take into account include the person's previous criminal record, the conduct of the person while in custody or while previously on temporary release, the nature and gravity of the offence, which also directly relates to the victim, the sentence of imprisonment and any recommendations of the court. There is a clear set of guidelines set out for the Minister in subsection (2). The amendment tabled by the Senator Tuffy takes somewhat from that clarity. The protection of the public generally as well as the victim of the offence is written into legislation and a clear set of guidelines are outlined to the Minister in the legislation beginning with the nature and gravity of the offence. The victim in this context is a victim who has seen his or her offender punished with a sentence of imprisonment by the courts. It is important to bear that in mind when we consider the context of this legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 7 not moved.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 4, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

"(h) any representations made by or on behalf of the person,”.

I retabled this amendment because I believe this provision should be included in the Bill. Senator Henry said during the Second Stage debate that a person might have something to say about why temporary release might be good for a prisoner. The current position is limited in terms of sentence management. It is a positive step for a prisoner to be granted temporary release for education purposes or to gain work experience. The provision proposed would be an important inclusion in the legislation. Surely the person concerned, who will be the subject of the temporary release, should be able to make representations on his or her behalf which should be considered because the purpose of the temporary release is to assist the prisoner concerned. I would be interested to hear the Minister of State's view.

I second the amendment.

I am not sympathetic to this amendment. If a victim is not to be consulted, it would add insult to injury for a criminal to have such a right. When people are incarcerated, hopefully by due process, they should be there to serve their sentence. They should not be in a position to campaign or advocate for temporary release. There is a system already in place. Adding this amendment to the legislation would not be right and would run contrary to everything we have said in relation to recognition for the victim. The legislation refers to a report or a recommendation made by any other person whom the Minister considers would be of assistance in enabling him to make a decision. This covers the point made by Senator Tuffy that a person who might be an acquaintance of, or familiar with the person in jail, might be able to give evidence as to why temporary release for that prisoner would be desirable in the circumstances. Incorporating this amendment in the Bill would be wrong, even though the Bill allows for victims to be consulted.

The victim can write to the Minister and, in practice, the Minister has considerable regard for what the victim has to say in a matter of this kind. I would not wish to have it on the record of the House that the Minister accepts that victims are not consulted. In any serious matter the victim can, through the relevant probation liaison officer in the prison, insist on being contacted and notified. We discussed this last time in the context of the issue of whether the victim should be automatically notified of a release.

In relation to the amendment, I return to my fundamental point about subsection (2) which sets out a sequence of legal matters to which the Minister must have regard in the giving of a direction. The Minister is under a specific statutory obligation not to give a direction, not to grant temporary release, if he is of the opinion that, for reasons connected with any one or more of the matters referred to, it would be inappropriate to do so. To legislate for representations from any person in this context is to oblige the Minister to personally consider them, vet them and take them into account as a matter of law in his determination. To impose that particular obligation on a Minister in the administration of any Department is a very far-reaching step.

The intention of this Bill is to provide a clearer legislative basis for the power of the Minister to grant temporary release. This could lead to a position where Ministers would have to consider representations made in all cases regardless of their bona fides. This could result in an unsustainable burden being imposed on the Minister and would ultimately be a recipe for chaos.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 9 not moved.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 5, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

"(j) such humanitarian considerations (if any) as may appear to the Minister to exist and such efforts (if any) as in the opinion of the Minister have been made by the person towards rehabilitation,”.

All the things the Minister must have regard to are either neutral or negative. In the Bill the purposes of temporary release come across positively, but the issues covered by section 1(2)(1)(a) to (k), inclusive, in terms of what the Minister must have regard to are all either negative or neutral. If one considers the issue of temporary release and why it is a good thing, the Minister should have regard to reasons which are more positive as well as considering the potential dangers of such release. I am talking about humanitarian considerations and any efforts made by the prisoner towards rehabilitation. The Minister of State may say that the Minister has regard for that, but if that is the case, it should be in the legislation. I am interested in the comments of the Minister for State.

I second the amendment.

In a sense, the Senator has correctly hinted at the legislative scheme of the Bill because if one looks at subsection (1), it clearly empowers the Minister, who "may direct" temporary release. As the Senator outlined, it then outlines the positive reasons that temporary release might be granted. An example would be reintegration upon release or temporary circumstances relating to health or other humanitarian grounds. Section 1(2)(1)(c)(i) and (ii) refer to the good government of the prison and the good order and humane management of the prison. There is also a reference in section 1(2)(1)(c) to rehabilitation. When the Minister exercises his or her power under that particular subsection, the Minister does so in the context of one of those four positive reasons for temporary release.

The considerations in subsection (2) are, as the Senator appropriately described it, "neutral or negative" checks. These checks lead to subsection (3), which is the checkmate, where the Minister "shall not give a direction under this section in respect of a person" in relation to matters in section 1(2). To put the Senator's amendment into the second subsection would say that the Minister "shall not" release a prisoner because of humanitarian considerations. That would introduce into the legislation a fundamental contradiction.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 5, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:

"(k) whether any risks arising on temporary release could be obviated by attaching conditions to the release, by limiting the duration of the release, by directing release during specified hours only in the course of a specified period, or by directing release with escort and with or without personal restraining measures,”.

The purpose of this amendment is to recognise that there are different types of release. The Minister argued against this on Committee Stage, but he should recognise that there are different types of release. For example, there could be an escort with the prisoner under a particular type of temporary release. This should be allowed for in the legislation.

I second the amendment.

As I outlined to the House in relation to the last amendment, to insert this paragraph in the relevant section would be to give the Minister a reason to refuse to make a direction. Apart from that, I take it that the substance of the amendment is to ensure that the Minister would not rule out temporary release solely because of the element of risk. The difficulty is that by its nature, temporary release, even with conditions attached, always involves some element of risk. These risks can be obviated by attaching conditions, but in this context there is the whole extension of trust to a prisoner. It is in reaction to that trust that the Minister makes a decision and the Prison Service authorities consider whether further concessions which may help to reintegrate the prisoner can be granted. The Minister has the responsibility to seek to minimise the risk as much as possible with the attachment of conditions which are suitable. That is the reason the considerations taken into account by the Minister are so important. The primary concern regarding temporary release is the safety of the public, including the victim. As I stated on Committee Stage, this amendment is already covered by subsection (2)(i) which provides that the Minister can direct the temporary release of a person subject to such conditions as may be specified. Under the terms of the temporary release, these can be standard conditions which apply to all persons or specific conditions relative to the person concerned. I would be worried that if certain conditions were specifically stated in the legislation, as is proposed, the effect would be to limit the Minister's powers in this regard.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 5, line 20, after "court" to insert ", unless such order is expressed to be subject to such temporary release (if any) as may be directed under this section".

The purpose of this amendment, which I also tabled on Committee Stage, is to allow for the release of a prisoner between remand dates or when the court is on vacation. The Minister undertook to take another look at my amendment for Report Stage.

I second the amendment.

There is a distinction between the remanding and sentencing of a prisoner by the courts. The system of temporary release operates in relation to sentenced prisoners. Where a prisoner is on remand for trial for an offence, clearly the prisoner is within the jurisdiction of the courts system and the trial, conviction and punishment of criminal offenders is a matter reserved to the courts under the Constitution. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform cannot be empowered to interfere with that particular process. That has been well established in our constitutional law for decades. The Minister cannot have a function in this matter.

Bail applications are made to the courts who decide whether it is prudent to release a particular offender on bail pending trial or take the view that there are serious or grave circumstances in relation to interference with witnesses and, since the constitutional amendment, the possibility of the repetition of offences means that the offender should be retained pending trial. Often, when a court makes such a determination, an application is made invoking the High Court's inherent power in relation to the liberty of the citizen by way of a bail application to release him or her. That is practice in that area.

I do not accept that we can interfere with this particular matter in this legislation. The decision to grant or refuse bail in any case is a matter for the courts who are independent in the performance of their traditional functions. I appreciate that this means where a humanitarian issue arises for a person in custody pending trial, the person then has to make application to the courts to obtain temporary release. Bail applications, as I know the Senator is aware, are a constant feature of the legal diary and continue during the vacation period. The courts provide for emergency sittings to deal with urgent matters.

I am aware that the Inspector of Prisons in his first annual report made a number of recommendations for legal and systematic change including the granting of temporary release for remand prisoners in special circumstances. The recommendations are under consideration. As I outlined already, there is a fundamental constitutional issue involved. The trial, conviction and sentencing of prisoners is, under the Constitution, exclusively a matter for the courts.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 5, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

"(5) Notice of a direction under this section shall be given to the person (or next-of-kin of that person) against whom the offence was committed.".

While the Minister of State did not accept my earlier amendment that victims be informed when consideration is being given to the temporary release of a prisoner, I ask that he accept this amendment which is more important. I am asking that a victim be informed of a decision to grant temporary release to a prisoner. I am hoping the Minister of State has had time to reconsider this important amendment and will accept it. I understand it is currently the position that the Garda is informed of such decisions and that it may, in turn, inform the victim. I want to provide that victims be informed of prisoner releases thus ensuring that they are not surprised if, when walking down the street, they bump into the offender.

I second the amendment.

I indicated on Committee Stage that I had certain sympathies with this amendment. However, there was logic in the Minister's reply that many victims do not wish to be contacted because it merely revisits the trauma of whatever crime was committed against him or her. He also said the victim's liaison officer will often make the victim aware of temporary release measures. I would like us to establish a proper code of practice in this regard. There was an element of doubt on the last occasion as to whether every victim would be made aware of the position. I concur with Senator Terry on this matter. It tends to bring the law and the operation of justice into disrepute. The media has highlighted many instances of innocent victims being unexpectedly confronted by the culprit of the crime visited upon them. I was assured on Committee Stage that the Garda would be made aware of such releases.

We should establish a code of practice whereby the victim's liaison officer would make the victim aware of his or her entitlement to information regarding a prisoner's release. Those who opt to receive such information would then be in a position to make representations regarding the release. It is important that, in practice, victims are aware of their rights in this regard. I am a little dubious that they all have such a right. Victims liaison officers will differ from one to another and while some make victims well aware of their entitlements in this regard, others may not. In those circumstances, we should put in place a fail safe system to ensure that happens. If I interpreted the Minister's sentiments correctly on the last occasion, he agreed with me on that point.

I propose that we extend the debate by ten minutes.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Not all victims want to be informed of the temporary release of the offender. It may bring back memories of the pain and hurt he or she experienced. To accept the amendment in this form would be to cast a very definite legal obligation on the Minister to notify the victim in every case where the temporary release of an offender takes place. That would cause considerable practical difficulty in that it would require the Minister to maintain an updated address for every victim of an offence. It would not simply be a matter of providing for a legal obligation to inform the victim of the release of an offender. It would also place a possible legal obligation on the Minister to maintain a contemporary record of where victims of offences have gone. I welcome the discussion because it raises a number of other issues. However, I cannot accept the amendment because the Minister would then have to advise victims who do not want to hear about their offence or offender that the offender has been at large for a number of days under certain conditions and it would be possible to meet him or her.

Senator Walsh referred to practice. Currently, the Garda victim liaison officer advises the victim at the time of the court proceeding of the option of advising the prison service of the offender's interest in temporary release. Victims who wish to receive information about temporary release have a number of options. A victim of a serious sexual or violent offence may ask the prison service through the prisons victim liaison officer to notify the Garda prior to the release of the perpetrator from prison on temporary release or at the end of his or her sentence. A victim may also ask to be notified if an offender is to be given temporary release. Those facilities are advised by the Garda victim liaison officer.

However, the Department's victims' charter is being revised and I have asked officials to examine a specific reference to this issue. Many amendments tabled relating to victims, while well intentioned, are not appropriate to the legislation but are highly apt in the context of the codification measure proposed by the Minister. If we are to get the balance right between the offender, the victim, the court and the public interest, that must be structured into the entire system. For example, if leaving it as a practice in the victims' charter, there should be an obligation on the court at the time of sentence to explain the nature of temporary release in written form to the victim. Such an amendment requires an examination of the entire criminal justice system and the codification on which the Minister has decided to embark will provide an opportunity to raise those issues.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 6, line 22, to delete "shall come" and substitute "comes".

This is a simple amendment, which the Minister of State could not accept on Committee Stage. The Law Reform Commission recommends that, when drafting legislation, simple language in the active voice should be used. Legislation should be clear and readable and I ask him to accept the amendment.

I second the amendment.

As Senator Terry pointed out, the Law Reform Commission recommended there should generally be greater use of the active instead of the passive voice. It is more appropriate on occasion to use the passive voice to emphasise an act rather than its agent. The present drafting style makes too much use of the passive voice, often obscuring the central message of a section. However, having examined this issue, the amendment does not raise the issue of the active and the passive voice. I regret Senator Norris is not present to elucidate on this matter. The active, autonomous voice relates to the detachment of a person from a particular subject whereas the active voice requires an agent or subject for the verb.

The subsection under consideration states, "This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Minister may, by order, appoint", which uses the future tense while the Senator proposes the use of the present tense. She is correct that a divergent practice has emerged in this area. If the amendment was accepted, the legislation would state, "The Act comes into operation on such day as the Minister may, by order, appoint." The view of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is that would be a change of style rather than substance. It does not alter the meaning of the provision. However, the Department raised the issue with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and pointed out the measures to which the Senator referred where the alternative construction was used. We have requested that the office should seek to ensure a consistent approach on this matter in future Bills.

A number of Bills include the term "comes". For example, the Containment of Nuclear Weapons Bill 2000 was amended in this regard in the Dáil. However, this does not change the fact there is absolutely no change in the meaning of the provisions. "Shall come" is unambiguous and clear and the commencement in this instance is done by the Minister on a future date. There is a greater stylistic precision in using the future tense to refer to a future event, namely, the making of a ministerial order to bring the Act into operation than the present tense, which introduces an element ambiguity in that it makes the enactment a continuous process. It is a fine point but we have asked the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to ensure a consistent approach in this regard.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Bill received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister of State and his staff for their attendance. Many issues were teased out and the Minister of State was most amenable and constructive. He was prepared to investigate points of merit. The tenor of the debate was positive in terms of focusing on victims of crime. We can look forward positively to codification as that will benefit the administration of justice.

I thank the Minister and his staff for the time they put into the legislation and for their helpful comments and replies. I look forward to a review of the victims' charter. Perhaps more can be done under the charter to provide greater rights for victims. While it must be recognised offenders have rights, we hear too often about victims who feel they have been hard done by.

I thank the Minister of State and his staff. A Labour Party amendment was accepted in the Dáil regarding the consideration of victims and I thank the Minister of State for that. I should not have agreed to the grouping of a number of my amendments and I mention this to be helpful. I wanted to substitute "him" with "the Minister" and it would have made sense to accept that.

Report Stage has been disposed of and we cannot reopen the debate.

Perhaps that issue will be addressed the next time.

The Senator is correct that I had a narrow miss because of a procedural difficulty. The Senator is right to say that to include "the Minister" in place of "him" in this Bill will not do any damage to the consistency of the legislation.

We have dealt with this matter.

I abide by the ruling of the Cathaoirleach. I replied to various queries on Second Stage. I would like to thank Senators for their co-operation in the subsequent evolution of this Bill. We have had an interesting discussion. It was very focused on the rights of victims in the criminal justice process.

We must remember that Ireland's criminal law follows the tradition established and exported from England. This involves the notion that a crime disturbs the peace of the king or queen and is a wrong against the public. We have inherited the idea that the criminal law exists to punish public wrong-doing – meaning, in one sense, that the victim has no say. It has always been established in law, for example, that the victim of an assault has no right to veto a prosecution. The assault in itself is considered to be a wrong against the public in general, as well as against the victim. This assumption led to certain practices in courts, or in relation to how we charge offenders and how we administer the system of criminal justice. The system often seems remote to victims, who may believe they are isolated from the criminal justice system. I know the Oireachtas has intervened, in many modern enactments, to try to redress this balance. This debate will have been useful if it focuses our minds on the codification measure. We have to recalibrate the entire system in terms of the interests of the victim.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 3.10 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.