Molaim an Bille don Teach. I commend this Bill to Seanad Éireann. It is a necessary technical measure to give effect to the 1988 United Nations Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and also to the 1988 Protocol to that Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms on the Continental Shelf. The texts of the convention and protocol are contained in Schedules 1 and 2 to the Bill.
Both the convention and protocol are in force since 1 March 1992. The contracting states thereto now number 78 and 71 respectively, including almost all of the EU member states and seven of the states which will join the EU on 1 May 2004. Ireland could become a contracting state to the convention and protocol only following enactment of this Bill and formal approval of the terms of the convention and protocol by Dáil Éireann pursuant to Article 29.5.2° of Bunreacht na hÉireann because expenditure is likely to arise in that context. Section 13 of the Bill also refers.
Ireland's accession to the convention and protocol could not have effect until 90 days after the instrument of accession is deposited with the secretary general of the International Maritime Organisation, headquartered in London, as specifically provided for in Article 18.2 of the convention and Article 6.2 of the protocol. The need to proceed with the Bill to early enactment has been reinforced by recent terrorist atrocities in Madrid and elsewhere. We extend our sympathy to the bereaved and injured and commit ourselves to greater vigilance and further international co-operation against terrorism. All member states of the United Nations must have the necessary laws in place to deal with very mobile, serious offenders to ensure they will not escape jurisdiction. More important, the law must be dissuasive, with sufficiently strong penalties, search and enforcement provisions. This Bill, therefore, addresses a particular gap in Irish law which should be filled as quickly as possible. The Government is committed to ensuring that other legislative measures which may be agreed at EU level or at the wider UN level to enhance maritime security will be made part of Irish law without delay.
In that connection, I will continue to work closely with my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who is sponsoring the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002 which is now before Dáil Éireann. That Bill gives effect to several international instruments directed against terrorism and is generally intended to enhance the capacity of the State to address international terrorism. The 1988 convention and protocol are among 12 international conventions and protocols drawn up specifically to help prevent and suppress terrorism. Following the terrible terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 in New York, the United Nations Security Council on 28 September adopted Resolution 1373 calling on all UN member states which had not yet done so to become parties to all 12 conventions and protocols as soon as possible. Ireland is already party to six of the international instruments referred to. The Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002, sponsored by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, gives effect to an additional four, while the Maritime Security Bill 2004 now before this House gives effect to the remaining two, namely, the 1988 maritime convention and protocol referred to.
In the light of the recent terrible Madrid bombings and, more particularly in the context of the EU Presidency, the Government wishes that both Houses of the Oireachtas would deal with both Bills and enact them soon. That would clearly signal our resolve to press for greater co-operation between states in working against international terrorism in all of its many manifestations. While much of the Maritime Security Bill is, of necessity, modelled on provisions of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002, a separate Bill was decided upon to deal with maritime security matters, which are of a somewhat specialised nature, by analogy with the separate legislative provisions made in the Air Navigation and Transport Acts to safeguard air navigation and transport against certain unlawful acts.
Section 2 of the Maritime Security Bill 2004 creates certain offences against the safety of Irish ships and other ships which are in Irish territorial waters, as specifically required by the convention and protocol, and against any fixed platforms on Ireland's continental shelf, while section 3 is a standard type extension of Ireland's jurisdiction to allow prosecution in the State for breaches of the convention or protocol committed outside the State. In either case, the penalty is life imprisonment on conviction on indictment. The specific offences listed in section 2 of the Bill mirror those set out in Article 3 of the convention and Article 2 of the protocol.
Sections 4 to 8 of the Bill supplement those principal provisions by providing powers for search on a ship or fixed platform on which an offence was believed to have been committed or an alleged offender is on board, and for the apprehension, detention and prosecution of alleged offenders or handing them over for prosecution to the appropriate authorities of another State party to the convention and protocol. Sections 9 to 12, while ensuring the avoidance of double jeopardy in any case arising under the Bill, also ensure that, due to the gravity of the offences to which it refers, the most stringent requirements of the Bail Act 1997 and other relevant Acts will apply thereto. Thus, an application for bail in the case of a person charged with murder or attempted murder could only be made to the High Court, and bail may be refused in any event to a person charged with a serious offence under the Bill, when enacted, if the court considers it necessary to refuse bail in order to prevent the commission of a further serious offence. Moreover, offences under the Bill cannot be regarded as political offences so as to prevent the extradition of the alleged offender from the State to the requested state.
I have already dealt with section 13 of the Bill, which is a standard provision to cover expenditure in the administration of the Bill when enacted. The remainder of the Bill, section 1, the interpretation section, and section 14, Short Title, is also on standard lines. A detailed explanatory and financial memorandum was published with the Bill. I will of course be glad to provide any further information required by Senators to facilitate their consideration of the Bill, the early enactment of which is a pressing matter for the State. I therefore look forward to the assistance of Senators in its passage.