Criminal Justice (Psychoactive Substances) Bill 2010 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages

I welcome the Minister for Justice and Law Reform. This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 113, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question "That the Bill be received for final consideration", the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For the convenience of Senators I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of those amendments. The Minister will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the proposed grouping in the House. A Senator may contribute once on each grouping and I remind Senators that the only matters that may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

I call on the Minister to speak on the subject matter of the amendments in the first grouping. The amendments in the grouping are Nos. 1, 7 to 9, inclusive, 11, 13, 14, 22, 24 and 49 and relate to plants.

These amendments are technical and relate to the hydroponic cultivation of plants. Section 17 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 only relates to specified plants. The references to fungi, natural organisms and substances are not appropriate and therefore should be removed.

The second group contains technical drafting amendments and includes amendments Nos. 2 to 6, inclusive, 10, 12, 16 to 18, inclusive, 18, 21, 25 to 31, inclusive, 34 and 46 to 48, inclusive.

These are minor technical amendments.

The third group of amendments relate to prohibition orders. It includes amendments Nos. 15, 19 and 23.

The purpose of this group, which amends sections 7, 8 and 11, is to clarify that a prohibition order addressed to a person may also specify the place to which it relates if it is appropriate to do so. It is an important clarification because breaching a prohibition order will be a criminal offence and a court may impose a closure order on the place related to a person's conviction.

The fourth grouping deals with court sittings and includes amendment No. 20.

This amendment to section 8 deals with an issue raised on Second Stage of the debate in the Dáil by Deputy Shatter. It relates to the holding of District Court sittings during vacation periods and we have drafted an amendment which takes care of that point.

The fifth grouping deals with reasonable force when entering a dwelling on foot of a search warrant. It is the subject matter of amendment No. 32.

The purpose of this amendment is to clarify that a Garda entering a dwelling on foot of a search warrant may, if necessary, use reasonable force to effect such entry.

The sixth grouping deals with the clarification of power to search vehicles and includes amendment No. 33.

This is a minor technical amendment to clarify the wording of section 13.

The seventh grouping deals with amendments to section 14, powers of officers of customs and excise. It includes amendments Nos. 35 to 40, inclusive.

The purpose of amendment No. 39 is to clarify the application of the power under section 13(2) regarding searches of persons where that power is used by a customs officer. The purpose of amendment No. 40 is to deal with cases where a psychoactive substance is being imported or exported by post or a courier service. In such a case the powers under sections 12 and 13 cannot apply because the person in question would not be present in the mail centre or other place where the customs officer comes across a package suspected of containing such a substance. The proposed new section fills this gap by giving customs officers the power to open packages or containers suspected of containing psychoactive substances. The other amendments are technical.

The eighth grouping includes amendments relating to laboratories. Amendments are to sections 17 and 18 and include amendments Nos. 41 to 45, inclusive.

This is just to clarify the provisions regarding the analysis of samples by the forensic science laboratory or other designated laboratories.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank Senators for facilitating the quick passage of this Bill and I did likewise in the Dáil. I hope it will be signed into law very quickly and that the Garda Síochána will begin implementing its provisions immediately thereafter.

I thank the Minister for coming to the House to deal with the Bill. We had a detailed debate on the legislation on the last occasion and we all want it to be passed. It is in all our interests that it be implemented correctly and that it should prove to be effective.

I echo Senator Regan's comments and I thank the Minister for expressing his appreciation to us. We all did out best to try to approach the Bill in a constructive way to ensure its swift passage through the Houses.

I concur with the comments made by Senators Regan and Bacik. I welcome the legislation and look forward to its speedy enactment.

Question put and agreed to.