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 has been 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, the Cathaoirleach has arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendments. The Minister will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the list of amendments it is proposed to group. A Senator may contribute once on each group of amendments. I remind Senators that the only matters that may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.
Criminal Procedure Bill 2009 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages
I call on the Minister to speak to the first group of amendments.
Amendment No. 1 arises from amendment No. 24 which amends the Courts Act 1991. It makes the necessary alterations to the Long Title as a result of an amendment to that Act being added to the Bill.
Amendment No. 24 relates to the issuing of bench warrants. It amends section 22(5) of the Courts Act 1991 by deleting the words, "if the complaint or accusation has been substantiated on oath and". That section of the Courts Act sets out the procedures for the service of summonses by the District Court. It relates to summonses issued under the 1851 Petty Sessions Act and the Courts Act 1986. Different procedures apply under the two Acts for the issuing of summonses. Sworn information is required in the case of the 1851 Act but not in the case of the 1986 Act.
Section 22(4) provides that where a person does not appear as specified in the summons, the court has various options, including adjourning the case to enable the person to be notified of the adjourned hearing. Section 22(5) deals with the enforcement of attendance by a person who fails to appear on the adjourned date. The court may issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the person concerned or it may proceed to hear the case in his or her absence.
In a case stated, the High Court in DPP v. Murphy, October 2009, concluded that where section 22(5) arose, the District Court may proceed to issue a bench warrant but only after hearing sworn evidence. The requirement that the evidence must in all cases be sworn is causing difficulty. It is at odds with the practice in the District Court where, until now, sworn evidence was not required. By removing the words referred to in the amendment, it will be possible to continue to operate on the basis of the practice that applied before this judgment. I have been advised that such a course is in order since the issuing of a bench warrant is a new and separate procedure, the purpose of which is different from the purpose of the original summons. Its purpose is to secure attendance. It does not, therefore, need to reflect the basis upon which the original summons was issued, whether it was under the 1851 or 1986 Act.
A change in practice would present considerable resource and logistical obstacles for the prosecution, as in many cases prosecuting gardaí are not present and the interests of the State are presented by court presenters. The amendment does not put the defendant at any new or greater risk but merely returns to the practice and procedure applied for many years.
Group 2 comprises amendments Nos. 2 and 3 to the interpretation section of the Bill.
Amendment No. 2 deletes the word "Equality" from the definition of "Minister" to reflect the recent alteration to the name of the Department and the title of the Minister responsible for it.
Amendment No. 3 arises from amendments to Parts 3 and 4 which concern exceptions to the rule against double jeopardy and appeals, respectively. Its purpose is to ensure certain terms in the Bill which apply to the ordinary courts may be construed, when the need arises, as referring to a Special Criminal Court and the procedural steps related to bringing a person before such a court. The terms in question are "a jury" and "a person being sent forward for trial".
Group 3 concerns the extension of the range of offences to which victim impact provisions apply.
Amendment No. 4 arises from the debate on section 4 in this House. As Senators will recall, section 4 reforms the law relating to victim impact evidence, principally to give the family members of homicide victims the right to make a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing. The Bill, as published, retained the existing categories of offences to which the victim impact provisions applied, namely sexual offences, offences involving violence or the threat of violence and attempts and conspiracies to commit such offences. The amendment takes account of several offences under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 such as harassment and false imprisonment which may not necessarily involve physical violence but which can cause great emotional distress to victims. The amendment ensures they are included by adding the words "any offences under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997" in section 5(1)(c) of the Criminal Justice Act 1993.
Group 4 relates to the amendment of standards applied to the tainted acquittal retrial procedure, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 5, 10 and 12.
Amendments Nos. 5, 10 and 12 relate to the tainted acquittal retrial procedure in section 9. The tainted acquittal retrial procedure is one of three retrial procedures in the Bill, the other two being the new evidence retrial procedure in section 8 and the with-prejudice prosecution appeals avenue in section 23.
This set of amendments raises the threshold that must be met before the Director of Public Prosecutions may make an application to the Court of Criminal Appeal for a retrial and by that court before granting the Director of Public Prosecution's application. The amendments are intended to ensure an acquitted person is put through the ordeal of a retrial only where there is a real prospect of a conviction, that is, where there is sufficient evidence on which a jury may convict. Later amendments address in similar fashion the thresholds applying to new evidence appeals and with-prejudice prosecution appeals.
Amendment No. 10 substitutes the balance of probability standard contained in section 9(3)(a) by a requirement that there be compelling evidence against the acquitted person before the Director of Public Prosecutions may make an application for a retrial order. The requirement that the application be in the public interest has been retained.
Amendment No. 12 follows from amendment 10 and substitutes the balance of probability standard in section 10(2)(a) by a requirement that the court must be satisfied that there is compelling evidence against the acquitted person. The requirement that the granting of the Director of Public Prosecution’s application is in the interests of justice has been retained.
Amendment No. 5 inserts a definition of "compelling evidence" in section 7 which contains the definitions for this Part. The definition has three elements. The evidence must be reliable, of significant probative value, that is, of high evidential value and is such that a jury might reasonably be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the person's guilt in respect of the offence concerned. I want to highlight two points about this definition. It has been formulated to incorporate the criminal standard of proof in order, as I said, to ensure the Director of Public Prosecutions makes a retrial application and the court quashes the acquittal and orders the retrial only where there is a real prospect of a conviction. Given that this retrial procedure and the other retrial procedures in the Bill represent a radical departure from long-standing legal principles, it is desirable to provide explicit guidance for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the courts in this regard.
Senators will also note the definition refers to a hypothetical future jury. It does not require the Director of Public Prosecutions or the court to look behind the verdict of the original jury to determine the reasons for the verdict to acquit and the extent to which the taint might have affected their deliberations. I am advised that if they were required to do so, they would run the risk of infringing the constitutional right to a jury trial. As Senators will appreciate, the secrecy of jury deliberations is firmly established in law. Any suggestion it is possible to look behind a jury decision to see the reasons on which it was grounded could be viewed as undermining our system of jury trial. In the light of this, the formulation in the definition focuses on a prospective jury.
I welcome the Minister's amendment to the definition of "compelling evidence". The opportunity of a retrial in the criminal code, as advanced in the Bill, will strengthen our criminal law. The definition makes clear what is required in order for there to be a retrial, which will protect all concerned. The term "probative value of the evidence being adduced" will ensure the State's time is not wasted and that in respect of a conviction the jury will be the final arbiter. This will strengthen the code. I look forward to seeing how this will play out in our criminal law.
These sections of the new procedures for a retrial are based on the opening up of a previous acquittal. These amendments were made, following discussion in both Houses and with the Director of Public Prosecutions, to give more guidance to the DPP and the court in regard to the ordering of a retrial and to a certain extent the raising of the standard of proof in that respect. I believe the Bill is better than originally drafted in that it contains a little more detail and fleshes out the requirement for the DPP and the court, if making an order, to be cognisant of the strong possibility that a conviction must be attained.
We move on to Group 5, amendment of definition of new and compelling evidence, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 6 and 7. The Minister may have already touched on this issue when dealing with the amendments in Group 4.
Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 concern the definition of "new and compelling evidence". I referred earlier to what we understand by "compelling" in the case of tainted acquittals. This time the definition relates to the procedure in section 8 which permits the DPP to seek an order for a retrial where fresh evidence emerges post-acquittal.
Amendment No. 6 is focused on the part of the definition which goes to the meaning of "new". It clarifies that the words "evidence adduced in the proceedings" refers to evidence adduced by the prosecution.
Amendment No. 7 is focused on the part of the definition which goes to the meaning of "compelling", namely, paragraph (c). Subparagraph (i) remains unchanged, namely, the evidence must be reliable. Subparagraphs (ii) and (iii) have been amended. The amendment to subparagraph (ii) is aimed at tightening up the wording. The original phrase “is substantial” was somewhat at large while the substituted text “is of significant probative value” clearly refers to the evidential value of the new evidence.
The purpose of the amendment to subparagraph (iii) is to ensure that it is the criminal standard that applies to the DPP's determination to make a retrial application on the basis of new evidence and to the Court of Criminal Appeal's assessment of the application. I have already set out in section 9 the rationale for introducing this high standard in the context of the tainted acquittal retrial procedure. The same rationale applies in this case. The amendments have the added benefit of applying similar tests to each of the retrial procedures.
The next group of amendments is Group 6, amendment of the scope of the new evidence for retrial procedure on tainted acquittal retrial procedure, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 15.
This set of amendments concerns the scope of the new evidence retrial procedure in section 8 and the tainted acquittal retrial procedure in section 9. The amendments will allow persons charged and sent forward for trial before commencement but tried and acquitted after commencement to be the subject of a retrial application. Only the trial and the acquittal must follow the commencement of this legislation.
Senators will recall that we debated at length the possibility of applying these procedures to historical cases, namely, to persons acquitted before the commencement of these provisions. While calls for these procedures to apply retrospectively are understandable, the strength of the advice against doing so was such that I could not accede to them. To legislate to allow historical acquittals to be reopened would amount to a breach of the doctrine of the separation of powers which is fundamental to our Constitution. While it is true that such legislation would not alter a particular court judgment, it would have the effect of altering the status of all acquitted persons who are under our law as it stands entitled to an irrebuttable presumption of innocence. There is also a strong possibility that if we were to allow cases that have been finally disposed of by our courts to be reopened we would be breaching the constitutional right to a trial in due course of law. Given the limited possibilities for extending the scope of the provisions, the inclusion of those awaiting trial at the time of commencement is as far as we can go if we are to stay within the boundaries set by the Constitution.
We now proceed to Group 7, amendments to clarify options available to the court when ordering retrials, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 11, 13 and 14.
Amendments Nos. 11 and 13 make identical amendments to section 10(1) and (2). Subsection (1) relates to the new evidence retrial applications. It provides that in the event that the court grants the DPP's application and directs that the acquitted person is to be retried, that direction may be subject to any conditions and directions the court considers necessary or expedient to ensure the fairness of the retrial. Amendment No. 11 inserts the words "(including conditions and directions as to placing a stay on the re-trial)" in subsection (1) in order to clarify that this option is available to the court. Subsection (2) relates to the tainted acquittal retrial applications. Amendment No. 13 makes the same amendment to this subsection. Amendment No. 14 was a consequential amendment to subsection (6).
We now proceed to Group 8, technical and drafting amendments, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 16, 20 and 23.
These are drafting amendments. Amendment No. 16 is a minor drafting amendment to section 22. It has the effect of replacing "or" with "and" to allow Rules of Court to be made to provide for the expeditious hearing of the retrial applications and any retrial ordered.
Amendment No. 20 corrects a drafting error in section 26(3), namely, the words ", the legal aid (trial on indictment) certificate" are added after "in respect of the original proceedings".
Amendment No. 23 corrects an error in the layout of the text in section 35(1). It moves the words "before the trial begins" to a new line, thus making it clear that whichever of the two options is selected, namely, to return the property to the owner or to dispose of it, it must be done before the trial begins. That was always intended but this alteration in layout makes the position much clearer.
We now proceed to Group 9, refinement of the scope of the with prejudice prosecution appeal procedure, the subject matter of amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 19.
Senators will recall that I indicated in this House my intention to bring forward amendments to refine the scope of this section in order to ensure that jury verdicts following receipt of all admissible evidence would not be brought into question. With this in mind this suite of amendments specifies the type of rulings that may be appealed by the prosecution, specifies the standard that must be met before a "with prejudice" appeal may be lodged by the DPP or granted by the Supreme Court and explicitly requires the Supreme Court to consider the interests of justice when assessing the matter.
New subsection (3) inserted by amendment No. 17 contains the key changes to this section. It limits the circumstances in which an appeal shall lie to rulings by a court which erroneously excluded compelling evidence and, in the case of judge directed acquittals, where the direction was wrong in law and the evidence put forward in the proceedings was evidence upon which a jury might reasonably be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the person's guilt in respect of the offence concerned.
At this point, I draw attention to new subsection (12) which is inserted by amendment No. 19. It inserts a definition of "compelling evidence" for the purposes of paragraph (a) of new subsection (3). The formulation in new subsection (3) not only limits the type of ruling which may be appealed under this section to evidential ruling and directed acquittals that were wrong in law but it also requires the DPP to examine the totality of the evidence in the case to determine whether it affords a real prospect of a conviction in the event of a retrial. In the case of a jury acquittal on the merits, the focus on evidential rulings ensures that jury verdicts reached on receipt of all admissible evidence are protected.
Amendment No. 18 is consequential on amendment No. 16 and brought the terminology in subsection (5) into line with that used in new subsections (1) and (2).
Amendment No. 19 substituted existing subsections (9) and (10) with four new subsections.
New subsections (9), (10) and (11) are intended to give more explicit guidance to the Supreme Court when assessing a "with prejudice" appeal. Subsection (9) supplemented by new subsection (10) sets out the matters about which the Supreme Court is to be satisfied before it quashes an acquittal or reverses the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal not to order a retrial. It must be satisfied that the test in subsection (3)(a) or (b) is met and that, having regard to the factors listed in subsection (10), it is in the interests of justice to do so. The factors in subsection (10) which go to the interests of justice test are similar to those that apply in the case of retrial applications under sections 8 and 9. They include whether it is likely that any retrial could be conducted fairly and the interests of any victim of the offence concerned.
Subsection (11) again replicates the provisions of sections 8 and 9 which permit the court, when granting a trial order, to make the order subject to such conditions and directions as it considers necessary to ensure the fairness of the trial. New subsection (12) defines "compelling evidence".
Overall, these amendments are intended to ensure due regard is paid to the rights of the acquitted person and that the right to jury trial, a central feature of our criminal justice system, is protected. These amendments follow extensive consultation with the Attorney General and I am satisfied that the procedure, as it now appears, is sufficiently robust.
I welcome the refinement of this section. As the Minister said, the protection of the right to jury trial is paramount to all accused and acquitted. The clarification in respect of the Supreme Court's decision when dealing with prejudice appeals and evidential rulings is welcome. I believe this section strengthens the Bill.
As the Senator is aware, heretofore an appeal could be made to a higher court to determine a point of law on a without prejudice basis to the person who was acquitted. What this procedure is bringing in is the possibility that it would be on a with prejudice basis. In other words, an appeal can be made in regard to an erroneous point of law which would then have implications because it is with prejudice to the position of the previously acquitted person. Owing to the requirement to ensure fairness of trial and in the interests of justice, we have inserted this clarification which has gained acclaim in both Houses.
Group 10, amendment to Courts of Justice Act 1924, is the subject matter of amendments Nos. 21 and 22.
Both sections 31 and 33 as passed by this House amended the Courts of Justice Act 1924, albeit different sections of that Act. One of the effects of amendment No. 21 is to combine the amendments to the 1924 Act in one section, that is, section 31, with the consequent deletion of section 33 by amendment No. 22.
Amendment No. 21 has two other effects. Paragraph (a) of section 31, the substance of which was previously contained in section 33, amends section 29 of the 1924 Act to create a limited exception to the normal rule that no appeal lies from the Court of Criminal Appeal to the Supreme Court where the Court of Criminal Appeal has quashed a conviction and granted a retrial. Amendment No. 21 expanded the limited exception concerned to permit a person who has been granted a retrial to appeal a point that is relevant to his or her defence at the retrial, not only where the point at issue was not adjudicated upon by the Court of Criminal Appeal but also where it was determined against him or her. The addition of this second scenario contributes to a more complete treatment of this issue. The normal filtering rules for appeals to the Supreme Court will apply.
Amendment No. 21 also introduces amendments to sections 32 and 33 of the 1924 Act arising from paragraph (b) which abolishes the requirement that a person wishing to appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal must obtain a certificate from the trial judge or leave to appeal from the Court of Criminal Appeal. I refer to paragraphs (c) and (d) which remove what are now obsolete references to the certification and leave processes in those sections.
Group 11, amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act 1967, are the subject matter of amendments Nos. 25 and 26.
Amendment No. 25 deletes the word "and" between paragraphs (a) and (b) in section 37 and facilitates amendment No. 26 which inserts a new paragraph (c) in section 37. Amendment No. 26 amends section 24(5) of the Criminal Procedure Act 1967. The amendment addresses a lacuna in the law governing the production in court of accused persons who had been remanded in custody. The jurisdiction of a District Court to remand a person on bail or in custody derives from section 21 of the 1967 Act. That section provides that the court may, subject to the provisions of the 1967 Act, remand the accused from time to time as the occasion requires.
Section 24 of the 1967 Act deals with periods of remand, including the circumstances upon which a person who has been remanded in custody can be further remanded in his or her absence. It is clear from subsection (5)(a) that those circumstances are limited to illness or accident. However, there are situations where it is reasonable for prisoners not to be produced, for example, where they have been lawfully produced before another court. This can happen where they have charges before a number of courts and remand dates coincide or where they are produced in the High Court on foot of their own application — normally under Article 40 of the Constitution — making it impossible for the governor to produce them in the District Court to which they have been remanded.
This amendment has addressed the difficulty by adding a new provision in subsection (5)(a) to deal with cases where the non-appearance is “for any other good and sufficient reason”. Where the court is satisfied that the reasons are good and sufficient, it may extend a person’s period of remand. The amendment ensures a non-appearance must be explained to the court’s satisfaction. That is a strong safeguard that will prevent any arbitrary extensions of remand times. It protects against any abuse and gives good and timely protection to the individual concerned.
Group 12 — addition to list of scheduled offences, the subject matter of amendment No. 27.
Amendment No. 27 relates to the Schedule which lists the offences in respect of which the Director of Public Prosecutions may seek to have an acquittal quashed and a retrial ordered on the basis of new evidence. The procedure is limited to the most serious offences on the Statute Book, that is, offences that generally carry a mandatory or discretionary sentence of life imprisonment. In line with this threshold, amendment No. 27 added the offence of "directing a criminal organisation" at paragraph 15. Senators will recall that this offence was introduced under the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009. That Act was enacted after the publication of this Bill. Therefore, as the offence did not exist when this Bill was published, it was not possible to include it in the Bill at the time of publication.
I thank the Seanad, the officials who dealt with this Bill, the Members on the other side of the House and those on my side of the House. This is a significant Bill that makes a fairly dramatic change in the criminal law. I believe the procedures under this Bill will be used sparingly. The main procedures regarding the issue of retrial will be used sparingly. It was never intended that they would be used very often but only in exceptional circumstances. The amendments I have brought before the House have changed the original setting out of the way these procedures are to be implemented, both before the Director of Public Prosecutions makes an application for a retrial and for the court to determine whether that application should be granted. To a certain extent, it might not happen but conceivably it could. It is one of the reasons I decided to go for this and move forward in the Department. I was also conscious that Members on both sides of the House had endeavoured to get us to apply provisions of the Bill retrospectively. However, common sense and legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General dictated that was not possible. We made a slight amendment to the Bill, but we did not go the whole way to include offences committed prior to its commencement. The reason is that somebody convicted of an offence has to know what the law is on the date on which the offence was committed. If the Legislature was to be in a position to change the law subsequent to an offence happening, putting at peril the person who potentially committed the offence or had been acquitted, that would not be fair and reasonable. There were also good and very strong reasons from the Attorney General's office, not least the issue of the Oireachtas interfering in acquittals and decisions made by the Judiciary. It goes to the very heart of the separation of powers; we cannot interfere with the role of the Judiciary as laid down in the Constitution. Equally, the phrase "in due course of law" which is in the Constitution relating to the conducting of a fair trial is a very strong mandate to the Oireachtas to ensure the laws passed are reasonable and fair and do not change the goalposts just because of the political mood of the politicians present in the Oireachtas at a particular time.
I genuinely thank my officials for the work done on this and the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Bill 2009. The amount of work carried out in this respect has been phenomenal and I thank my officials for the Trojan work they did, particularly on the briefing material and explanations available for me to give to both Houses. We are extremely well served by the public servants we have in this respect. Time and again there is public criticism, but we are extremely well served by our public servants. I thank publically the public servants involved with this Bill.
I also thank the Seanad. I am delighted to see a predecessor of mine has changed his view on its role. Once Michael McDowell became Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and fully understood the examination of legislation by the Seanad, he knew his previously expressed view that it was not required was not correct. That has come home to me just as much, even though I was never of the view that we should get rid of the Seanad. Two thirds of all legislation which passes through the Oireachtas comes from the Department of Justice and Law Reform. The Seanad is an extremely useful tool to me as Minister, the Department and officials. Quite a number of suggestions have come from the both sides of the House which alerted my officials to issues which did not occur to them. It is only valid that we have a double examination, checks and balances as it were between both Houses of the Oireachtas, something I welcome.
I was not having a go at the Senator.
I thank the Minister and his officials. As he stated, this is an important Bill which makes significant procedural changes to our criminal law, in particular the new rules on retrials. Some of the changes it makes are very welcome. I echo the Minister's words on the need to ensure there is adequate protection for the rights of victims. The new provisions on victim impact statements are to be welcomed.
I welcome the Minister's comments on the role of the Seanad. On Committee and Report Stages we had very robust and constructive debate and we did attempt to scrutinise the Bill — fairly I hope — to ensure it did not encroach unduly on the rights of an accused, something to which we must all have regard, while at the same time strengthening the position of the victim and ensuring victims would not simply be overlooked, as often happened in the past in the criminal justice system. We have to be conscious of this need also.
I tabled amendments on Committee and Report Stages. The Labour Party was the only party to do so in this House. The amendments were constructive and I am very glad that on Report Stage the Minister accepted the point we had made on the victim impact statement and the need to ensure the family could give evidence as to the effect on the deceased relative between the commission of the offence and the death of the person, if there was a time gap. This is the lacuna, albeit a rare occurrence I hope, that it is important to ensure is addressed in legislation such as this.
I am glad to see that amendments were made in the Dáil that took account of some of the discussion we had in the Seanad, in particular on the reference to the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act in the definitions section — amendment No. 4 refers — and also of the points we made on the respective roles of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions, the subject of some of the amendments from the Dáil.
The Minister is correct to state we all very much hope the procedures will be used sparingly, certainly the retrial provisions, because the rule against double jeopardy was very well established in our criminal justice system. It should not be upset lightly; it should be used sparingly. We have to have regard to the need for certainty and finality in the criminal law, a matter not only for accused persons but also for victims.
The provisions dealing with victims are very welcome. In our debate we have sought to ensure there will be an adequate balance in the legislation in order that encroachments on the rights of an accused will not be made in breach of his or her constitutional right to due process, to which the Minister referred.
The need to ensure the presentation of cross-referencing legislation was at the heart of the comments I made on Committee and Report Stages on the reference to the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act. This is important. We have too much disparate criminal law legislation and there is a need for codification, something the previous Minister, Michael McDowell, recognised. I am aware a codification project is under way. However, we need to stress the point made.
With regard to the need for greater consistency in the criminal law, a matter that has arisen in discussion among practitioners and at conferences is the need to ensure the permanent status of the Court of Criminal Appeal. Judgments need to be made at a court with permanent status, not one in which there is a rotating series of judges, a point which has been highlighted on a number of occasions.
Very important procedural changes will be made through the Bill and it is vital that practitioners, in particular, are made aware of them. It is up to all of us to try to disseminate information on the changes and inform people about them.
I thank the Minister and the officials at the Department for giving of their time on the Bill. It is clear they have put a lot of work into the Bill which makes radical procedural changes to our criminal law. The rule against double jeopardy, as Senator Bacik stated, has been in place for a very long time. The exceptions provided for in the Bill give teeth to the Director of Public Prosecutions, in particular, to retry cases where incontrovertible evidence appears at a later date. We all know stories and the folklore, that people felt X had got away with an offence and was laughing in the face of the law as a result.
This legislation gives teeth to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the courts, to look at those instances again, give justice and tip it back towards the victim. It is a vital, delicate tipping balance that will be used sparingly.
The fact that it also includes persons awaiting trial is an important amendment to those who are worried about certain pieces of evidence not being within grasp at this point in time. I appreciate very much that we could not bring it back to a historical level and include persons who had already been tried because the principle of legal certainty is such a significant principle to have and hold dear in a democracy. At the same time, a good balance has been found in this legislation without thwarting that principle of legal certainty.
My party looks forward to the Bill being enacted and to the strengthening of the criminal procedures as a result. I thank the Minister for his time. I also thank him for the comments he made in respect of the relevance and benefit of this House which, I note, were welcomed by my colleague across the floor.
I now want to make a lengthy contribution on the value of Seanad Éireann. I thank the Minister and his officials as well. I am only substituting for my colleague, Senator Regan, whose daughter is being conferred in the practice of law today and who could not be here.
I welcome the provisions of the Bill. I cannot say much on the issue of the Seanad other than that I agree with most of what the Minister stated. I do not agree often with Deputy Dermot Ahern on issues, but on that issue I do agree.