Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill 2016: Second Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Twenty years ago, when a fearless journalist told the truth about vicious gangsters and paid for it with her life, these Houses, the Government and the agencies of the State responded swiftly, effectively and in a spirit of unity. Veronica Guerin's murder by ruthless men marked a very dark hour in the life of the country, an enduring loss for her family and friends and an important turning point in the fight against crime. Six weeks after her murder, the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 was passed and two months after that the Criminal Assets Bureau Act was passed. In doing this, these Houses developed an innovative model for depriving gangsters and murderers of the proceeds of their crimes.

The Irish model is one that has been studied and copied by some countries and envied by many that have not done so. In the intervening period, the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, has retrieved hundreds of millions of euro in proceeds of crime, unpaid taxes and fraudulently obtained welfare payments. It has been so successful that it has driven some gang leaders overseas, leaving only their accomplices here to run their day-to-day drugs businesses. We have now reached another turning point. The subordinates of the offshore drug barons have brought murder to the streets in an appalling way in recent months. We must respond and are doing so. The State, the Parliament, the Government, law enforcement agencies and communities will stand together to face down those who would put themselves above the law and the lives of others. Their motivation is greed for wealth and we will do all we can to deprive them of their wealth.

My officials and I met the Garda Commissioner, the chief of the Criminal Assets Bureau and other senior officers to examine what further measures could be taken to pressurise and deal with the lower level gang activity taking place. Five weeks ago I secured the agreement of the Government to a package of measures to increase the pressure on organised criminals. That package includes the establishment of a special crime task force by An Garda Síochána, in co-operation with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection. The task force will focus relentlessly on persons involved in gangland activities.

The Government has consistently made it clear that we will fund whatever measures are needed for An Garda Síochána to best tackle the critical and unprecedented challenges it faces. We have backed up these assurances with the recent approval of substantial additional funding of some €55 million for An Garda Síochána.

We need to invest the Garda and the CAB with the right legislative powers. There is already in place a wide range of strong legislative measures to deal with gangland activities. These measures include the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 which brought forward provisions to respond to the reality of intimidation by criminal gangs; the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009; the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 which addressed the use of weapons; the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 to enhance international co-operation which is essential in the fight against organised crime gangs; and the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010. Therefore, we have a range of criminal justice legislative provisions in place.

I am introducing proposals to enhance and update the legislative framework for the lawful interception of communications and covert electronic surveillance to combat the threats from serious and organised crime and terrorism. We discussed this issue at the Cabinet today. Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe that cannot respond to warrants from other countries in this area because of the lack of legislation.

In the shorter term the prescribed sum under section 38 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, under which cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime may be seized by gardaí or Revenue officers, will be reduced from €6,500 to €1,000 by way of section 44 regulations. The necessary motion for the approval by the Dáil of these regulations will be debated tomorrow evening. The approval of this House will be sought shortly afterwards.

The other key immediate legislative change is this Bill. At the Government meeting its drafting was approved as a matter of urgency. It has been crafted quickly but very carefully to provide additional powers for the CAB to target the proceeds of crime. We are very conscious of the balances that have to be maintained in the legislation. We have had several challenges during the years to the CAB legislation, each of which the State has won.

At present, the CAB has no power under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize and detain the proceeds of crime without making an application to the court. Section 2 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 allows for it to make an ex parte application to the High Court for an interim order. An interim order can prohibit any person from disposing of or dealing with any property if the court is satisfied that it constitutes the proceeds of crime. To seek such an order, the CAB must have marshalled all of the relevant evidence and be in a position to establish that the property derives from criminal conduct. Given the level of scrutiny applied by the court to such an application, particularly as it is an ex parte application where only the applicant is heard by the court, this is a challenging task for the CAB. The new power will now allow CAB officers to move quickly to seize property and they will have 21 days to prepare their court application.

The Bill will also allow gang members to be targeted by reducing the threshold that applies under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 from €13,000 to €5,000. The Bill is being brought forward as an urgent measure in order that these changes will be available to the CAB without delay. Senators may have other proposals for reform, but I ask that such proposals not delay unduly the rapid passage of the Bill and instead be considered as part of the wider review of the proceeds of crime legislation which can deliver further reforms in the medium term.

The Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 operates as civil law. The applications made under it to the High Court rely on the civil standard of proof - the balance of probabilities. It operates, as the legal experts say, in rem, not in personam, to target property, not persons. No finding is made as to the guilt of a person, as happens in a criminal trial; rather, a finding is made on whether the property is the proceeds of crime. Provision is made for the belief of a Garda chief superintendent to be admitted as evidence. The Act allows for an interlocutory order to be made where the court is satisfied on the evidence from the CAB that property is the proceeds of crime and, to an extent, shifts the onus to the respondent to disprove the case. The Act contains no criminal offences and no penal sanctions.

Early on in its operation, the civil status of the Act was considered in litigation. In the Murphy v. G. M. and Gilligan v. CAB cases the then Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Keane, noted that the legislation was "unquestionably draconian" and then addressed the key point of whether proceedings under the Act were civil or criminal in nature. Following an extensive review of the case law on the factors that differentiated between criminal and civil actions, he found the appellants had failed to establish that the Act amounted to criminal proceedings. It is possible to maintain the special provisions of the Act because they amount to civil proceedings. Any addition to the Act, therefore, must not tip the balance of the Act in order that they become criminal proceedings. It is for that reason that I want to emphasise the care which has been taken to ensure the Bill is not only constitutionally sound but also sustainable in the special civil context of the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act. The Attorney General has not only reviewed its provisions but has also had external senior counsel consider it twice, first when the scheme was being developed and again when the final draft was prepared. The chief bureau officer and the bureau legal officer were consulted on a number of occasions by my officials as the Bill was developed to ensure all their knowledge, experience and expertise were brought to bear. Even with all that care, there are some minor textual errors in the Bill that need to be corrected on Committee Stage. That is the other key reason I ask that more extensive proposals for change be considered as part of the wider review of the proceeds of crime legislation which can deliver further reforms in the medium term. I would like all such proposals to undergo the same rigorous checking by my officials and the Office of the Attorney General and the CAB to be consulted on them.

The proceeds of crime legislation has served us very well. When one examines annual reports showing the detail on proceeds of crime and the amounts involved during the years, one notes the success of the CAB. Many other countries want to copy our model and others are very impressed by the way it has operated. It has served us well and been important in dealing with criminal activity. It has been tested time and again in the courts. We must be sure changes to this carefully honed legislative tool do not blunt or break it in any way. It is important for the State to have this legislation in place and be able to use it effectively, given the challenges An Garda Síochána faces nationally and internationally from criminals.

Let me turn to the details of the Bill. Its Long Title indicates that it is to amend the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996. Section 1 defines the "Principal Act" as being the 1996 Act.

Section 2 contains two definitions.

Section 3 inserts three new sections providing for the administrative seizure and detention of property other than land by the Criminal Assets Bureau, applications to the court and compensation.

The new section 1A allows a bureau officer who is in a public place or any other place in which he or she is permitted to be to seize any property he or she has reasonable grounds for suspecting to be the proceeds of crime. It is intended to provide for seizure of the suspected proceeds of crime, both where the property is discovered opportunistically as part of general CAB operations or as part of a focused operation targeting particular suspected proceeds. The bureau officer must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that the property, in whole or in part and directly or indirectly, constitutes the proceeds of crime and is of a total value of not less than €5,000. Once these criteria are met, the bureau officer may seize and detain the property for up to 24 hours. This represents a serious interference with the property rights and potentially other rights of individuals; hence the need to limit the period in which it can have effect. Any further detention beyond 24 hours must meet the additional criteria set out in subsection (2). The chief bureau officer, the head of the bureau, can authorise the further detention of the property for up to 21 days if the criteria included in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) are cumulatively met.

The whole purpose of the section is evident in paragraph (c). It is to allow the CAB time to prepare for an interim or interlocutory application to the High Court.

Subsection (3) requires that the chief bureau officer give written notice to all affected persons unless satisfied that it is not reasonably possible to attain their whereabouts. The notice shall include the reasons for the authorisation and inform them of their right to make an application under section 1B. Subsection (5) allows details, the disclosure of which might prejudice the investigation, to be withheld. I will table a Committee Stage amendment to correct a small error. The section currently refers to a "direction" but should read "authorisation".

The new section 1B provides protections for affected persons by allowing them to apply to the court to vary or revoke an authorisation made by the chief bureau officer under section 1A. The court can vary or revoke the authorisation if satisfied that any one of the criteria outlined in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) or (d), to which I have referred, is not met. The word "not" will have to be inserted in paragraph (b) before the words "less than €5,000", and there will be a Committee Stage amendment to that effect.

The new section 1C provides for an application for compensation for losses incurred by the owner of the property if the CAB fails to apply for or obtain an interim or interlocutory order from the court. I will table a minor amendment to section 1C to clarify that a compensation application can be made where such an order is not sought before the expiration of the authorisation.

Sections 4 to 6, inclusive, amend the relevant provisions of the principal Act to reduce the threshold value of the property from €13,000 to €5,000.

Section 7 provides the Short Title and relevant citations and a standard commencement provision.

I reiterate that we will face down the current threat posed by criminal gangs and will do whatever is necessary to ensure nobody is above the law. I think Senators will agree that An Garda Síochána has done some great work in dealing with the current situation. This legislation aims to help this work and follows on from detailed discussion and consultation with people dealing with these issues on the front line day in, day out. They have shown absolute determination and resolve in the face of what I think Senators would agree is unprecedented ruthlessness from the gangs. I want to make it clear once again that there will be no let-up in the pressure that will be put on the criminal gangs and the actions that will be taken by An Garda Síochána, the relevant authorities, to deal with the threat that they pose. The gangs are involved in a cycle of revenge and retaliation, the consequences of which we have all seen. Their outrageous actions are in very sharp contrast to the dignity that we have seen in local communities in the face of the threat that they pose. The communities have the right to live safely and securely. All sides of both Houses came together as one 20 years ago to reject the violence, greed and indifference to human suffering that we saw in the leaders of the drug gangs. I hope we can do so again today.

I welcome the Minister and her comments on the Bill. Just over a week ago the 20th anniversary of the murder of Veronica Guerin was marked. The Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, was established and the proceeds of crime legislation introduced as it was acknowledged that new powers were needed by the authorities to deal with the threat of criminal gangs which thought nothing of murdering a young mother and journalist 20 years ago. The proceeds of crime legislation empowered the CAB to identify and seize assets of persons which derived, or were suspected to derive, directly or indirectly from criminal conduct. Given the gangland murders in Dublin in the past few months and particularly in the wake of today's apparent gangland shooting in my constituency, in Lusk, in north County Dublin, these powers urgently need updating. While I accept the Minister's comments that they have served us well, they have been in place for 20 years, the nature of crime has evolved and the legislation, therefore, needs to evolve likewise. The shooting in Lusk marks a frightening escalation in gangland-associated crime. I live in the locality of this latest shooting and the community today is shocked and frightened. While the exact circumstances of the shooting are still unfolding, I am extremely concerned that there is an apparent link between this latest shooting and the spate of gangland-related killings in the past few months.

Fianna Fáil supports the amendments before the House. Communities, particularly in Dublin, are under siege. They have been calling for these changes to be made to help keep their young people out of gangs and out of a life of crime. The lowering of the threshold value for property subject to seizure by the CAB from €13,000 to €5,000 allows middle and lower level criminals to be brought into the net of the CAB. Young people in many communities, as we all know, across this city and communities across the country see criminals driving around in nice cars and wearing expensive jewellery and see their life of crime as an attractive choice. Oftentimes these assets have a value of less than €13,000 and, therefore, do not come within the current remit of the CAB. These criminals are rubbing ordinary, decent, hardworking, law-abiding citizens' noses in it every day by showing their ill-gotten gains around their community. More importantly, this allows these criminals to attract new members into their gangs. Criminality is often seen as glamorous and a viable career choice for many young people with limited prospects in life. These criminals are often given cult-like status in their communities.

The other changes the Bill seeks to make are also welcome and necessary in the fight against crime. The procedure by which goods are seized needs to be changed. Currently, the Garda, as the Minister has outlined, needs to make an ex parte application to the High Court for an interim order. Given the level of scrutiny applied by the court to such applications, it is a very challenging task for the Garda to undertake, and the amount of time required is enormous. Consequently, goods are often dispersed and the CAB cannot then seize them. The new procedure would allow a chief bureau officer seize the goods for 24 hours on the basis of having reasonable grounds for suspecting them to be the proceeds of crime. This 24-hour period would allow for inquiries to be made. Before this 24-hour period expires, the chief bureau officer can then authorise the goods' further detention for 21 days. Fianna Fáil welcomes this amendment. The authorities need to be empowered to deal with the increasingly sophisticated criminal fraternity we now see in the capital city and cities and towns all around the country.

Opponents of the amendments cite interference with the constitutional right to property, rightly so. I am, therefore, happy that the new section 1B provides protection for affected persons by allowing them to apply to the High Court to vary or revoke an authorisation made by a chief bureau officer under section 1A. Section 1C provides for an application for compensation for losses incurred by the owner of the property. I am further reassured by the Minister's comments on the further safeguards in the legislation. Given the gravity of the situation facing the country and the threat to law and order, Fianna Fáil wishes to propose an amendment to section 4(a) by lowering the time the State has to retain the seized goods from seven years to four years. Separately, we also welcome the amending of regulations to lower the sum of cash set out in section 38 of the Criminal Justice Act from €6,500 to €1,000. All these measures are necessary to fight the biggest threat to the security of the State since provisional republican terrorism was rampant on these islands. However, greater harmonisation of EU laws should be a priority also, given the international aspect to these crimes.

Fianna Fáil also renews its call on the Government to establish a Dublin armed support unit as a matter of urgency. The latest shootings in Dublin last Friday in the south inner city and today in Lusk mark a serious escalation in gun crime.

We are also calling for additional supports such as counselling services to be made available to children affected by crime in their communities. Many children have witnessed shootings or the immediate aftermath of a shooting. People from their families may have been involved in a shooting. We all agree these are the innocent victims and that their young fragile minds need to be protected. Will the Minister allocate extra resources to allow for counselling services to be offered to the young members of the communities affected?

I, too, welcome the Minister. It is 20 years almost to the month since Veronica Guerin was brutally murdered in Dublin by drug barons. At the time I was graduating from University College Dublin and the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality was my local Deputy. The then coalition Government, under the stewardship of the then Minister, Nora Owen, introduced the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996, which led to the creation of the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB. This was ground-breaking at the time because it hit the criminals where it hurt them, namely, in their pockets. It removed the proceeds of crime and ill-gotten gains from them. They were not allowed to keep the properties they accumulated as a result of their vicious, murdering crimes.

The constitutionality of the CAB legislation is the most tested. A particular criminal who created enormous hardship in the streets of this city dragged that legislation through the courts, right up to the Supreme Court. The Government, the State and Ireland won, however, and every challenge was defeated.

The Bill is a natural progression. As Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee rightly pointed out, crime has evolved and, as such, the response must evolve also. The Bill is necessary as a result of the evolution of crime and what we saw in the streets of Dublin city this morning where somebody was gunned down in broad daylight. It is appropriate to reduce the threshold value of property subject to the legislation from €13,000 to €5,000. It is also appropriate to allow a CAB official seize property if, in his or her valued judgment, the property is a result of the proceeds of crime.

People's constitutional rights are also protected in this legislation. If a seized property is not a result of the proceeds of crime and the owner can prove that in the courts, the property will be returned to him or her. If the owner has lost income as a result, he or she will be compensated for it. The balancing introduced in this legislation further strengthens it.

We are at war with criminals in Dublin city and throughout the country. We have to win. We cannot let the criminals win. They are winning because they are succeeding in murdering people on the streets of this city and in inflicting pain and suffering on people throughout the country. The Government, however, is determined to defeat them. Since coming to office, it has increased the budget to An Garda Síochána by €55 million. This increased investment will continue. The Government is committed to investing in high-powered vehicles to catch criminals and respond appropriately. The Government is investing in upgrading the ICT equipment available to An Garda Síochána to ensure the PULSE system which was ground-breaking at the time will be fit for purpose in the modern era.

In the spirit of new politics, we must all come together to ensure democracy beats criminality and that the people in this city and the country can live without fear, as well as ensuring they feel safe in their homes and on the streets. We are determined the murderous thugs who have frightened the living daylights out of the people in inner city Dublin will be beaten. This is an important incremental step to ensure they will be beaten. If the legislation needs to be further developed, evolved and improved, on the advice of An Garda Síochána and those at the coalface, I have no doubt that the Minister and the Government will not be found wanting in further amending legislation to deal with this savagery in the city of Dublin.

I welcome the Minister and congratulate her on her elevation to Tánaiste. I also congratulate her on bringing forward this legislation as rapidly as is possible in the system in which we work.

I find myself wondering from where we have come in this country. I remember as a young man in Salthill in Galway witnessing a stand-off one night outside the Hangar ballroom between a group of thugs from Dublin on one side and a group of thugs from Galway on the other. There was one garda on his own standing in the middle, but neither group would move because he was there. Where have we gone? Today, we have a situation where thugs wander around Dublin city with firearms. I carried firearms for ten years of my life and learned to respect them at all levels. I have fired almost every type of weapon there is to fire. The one thing I learned from the earliest time was how dangerous an instrument they were. Criminals will open fire in crowded areas and in the middle of groups. They do not care about the likelihood of ricochets, who they kill or how they kill them for that matter. What the Minister is doing is commendable. However, I am a little concerned we need to bring on more trained gardaí faster. I know that the Minister is constrained in the time it takes to train a garda, but there is no point in moving a garda out of one area to arm him or her in another, meaning somewhere else is missing out. I know the Minister is doing her best and that the Garda College in Templemore is working hard to get gardaí on the streets as quickly as possible.

The Bill suggests we are after a particular type of criminal. Last year I spoke about my concerns about gambling and the proceeds of crime. I am aware of one particular betting shop where one particular customer who is now residing as a guest of Her Majesty in Manchester would throw €20,000 on the counter every Saturday and tell the guys behind the counter to put a couple of bob on every favourite for the day. If I walked into AIB, Bank of Ireland or Ulster Bank with €20,000 today, they would want to know from where I had got it. There are no regulations which force gambling institutions or organisations to inquire as to from where the money for a bet has come. It is very easy to throw to throw €20,000 behind a betting shop’s counter, if one is willing to lose €10,000 of it to wash it through the system. The Minister knows that I have tabled an amendment to deal this issue which I hope the Government will take on board. We really have to move in on all the areas in which these criminals work. The particular guy to whom I referred derives his money from trafficking young women into Ireland and beating them to a pulp until such a time as they are prepared to act as prostitutes. He cleanses the revenue raised by putting it on horses.

We heard of a betting slip for €37,000 being taken off one of the thugs who was arrested. I could not afford to put €3.70 on a horse, let alone €37,000. If people can do this, it is important that while the Bill seeks to tackle mid-level criminals, many of the thugs hide behind mid-level criminals. They can cleanse their dirty money through betting shops and the gambling system. A provision to address this should be included in the legislation. The Minister had intended to bring the gambling Bill before the House and I acknowledge there have been problems with this. I hope she finds a resolution in the near future in order that the Bill can be brought forward. Unfortunately, there is a hierarchy on the streets. Some of these guys do not care who they injure or how they injure them. They have a commitment to meet because they owe the guy up the food chain money. The only way to pay that off is either through stealing or another criminal act.

I wish the Minister all the best with the Bill. She is working hard in this area and she is doing all she can. I passed a rapid response vehicle the other day, but I am a little concerned about them. One of my colleagues referred earlier to "chasing them down". Sometimes in chasing these criminals innocent people are killed in road traffic accidents and so on. I hope substantial amounts raised through the CAB are put into the training of gardaí as expert drivers and expert marksmen in the use of weapons, which can cause fair destruction. I compliment the Minister on what she is doing. I will table an amendment on Committee Stage and will support a number of amendments that will be tabled by colleagues. I wish her the best with the legislation which, I hope, will be passed quickly.

My party is broadly in favour of this legislation and we are happy to vote in favour of it to allow it to proceed to Committee Stage. It is welcome that, in drafting the legislation, the Minister has sought to strike a balance between giving the CAB the practical powers it needs to combat criminality and the rights of innocent persons who have the capacity to prove their assets were obtained by legal means. However, our support for the Bill and the overall approach to the CAB is not unqualified and a range of matters must be dealt with before the Bill concludes its passage through the Houses.

It is essential that moneys seized by the CAB can be put back into the communities worst affected by drugs and organised crime. There is no bar to this happening and we will table amendments to this effect. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd tabled legislation designed to do exactly that in 2003 and I urge Fine Gael, in particular, to reintroduce and update the Bill or incorporate the intent of the Bill in this legislation.

Approximately €14 million was seized solely under proceeds of crime legislation between 2006 and 2010. We have asked the Government on numerous occasions to retain this money for community development purposes and give it to organisations in the communities worst affected by these criminals. They are on the front line trying to help, protect and support them through all of this. This is separate from the money seized by the CAB in respect of Revenue and social welfare fraud. The money is taken from drug dealers and criminals who are profiting from the communities they are decimating. It is not good enough that the Government sees fit to use the CAB as a vehicle to raise revenue while continually reducing funding allocated to the communities that are victims of crime and, at some point, I hope it takes this on board. It is important that if the revenue raised by the CAB is allocated to community organisations, particularly in inner city communities worst affected by criminality, it is not a replacement for existing funding and, therefore, it is additional funding.

Sinn Féin's view is this money should be set aside for these communities, for example, to be used as a funding mechanism for the local drugs task forces' short to medium-term projects. The Government has cut community funding in general and the current legislation allows for all moneys collected by the CAB to be returned to the Exchequer in accordance with the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 and 2005. The funds are then paid into the Government's Central Fund from which it draws for expenditure. If the Government had the political will to fund these much-needed community organisations, it could easily do so by amending these Acts. We call on the Government to introduce this mechanism to fund local drugs task forces and community groups.

We have concerns about the absence of safeguards and while cognisant of the High Court decisions in respect of the Proceeds of Crime Acts in the past, we wonder if the reduction in the threshold of proof has dropped so low as to raise issues about its constitutionality. Perhaps the Minister might comment on this when she replies. We will raise this issue again on a later Stage.

Like Sinn Féin, I broadly support the Bill. I will deal separately with the regulation lowering the amount of cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime that may be seized from €6,500 to €1,000.

I can just about handle the reduction in the threshold value of property subject to the Act from €13,000 to €5,000 in the Bill, but I am concerned about the fact that family members can be subject to this provision. Because the property at issue could be the proceeds of crime, the provisions are not individual to the person who committed the crime, as I understand it. I would like clarification on that point. There are many hard-working family members who have nothing to do with their loved ones' criminality and I do not want the legislation to be abused in terms of them having to prove they own a car or jewellery. What suffices as proof of ownership? It is easy in respect of a car because the log book or the registration certificate can be produced but it is not as easy for jewellery or IT equipment. Will there be set criteria on what constitutes proof of ownership in order that people can claim they are the lawful owner?

The Bill refers to authorised officers finding or coming "into possession of any property that he or she has reasonable grounds for suspecting" was obtained through criminal activity. Will there be set criteria on what constitutes "reasonable"? Will it be up to the Garda or will there be a set structure to define "reasonable"? The Bill also makes reference to the threshold value of property subject to the Act being "no less than €5,000". Is that for a single item of property or will the CAB have the power to group pieces of property belonging to one person to make up the value of €5,000? I would have a problem if that was the case and I would like this clarified.

I acknowledge the regulation is separate from the Bill, but I have an issue with it being another regulation that goes after low-hanging fruit. When the amount is lowered to €1,000, we will again be hitting the people who are probably forced into carrying cash and into being mules. There is also a grey economy in working class communities involving counterfeit goods right down to MAC make-up brushes and tanning injections. Will lowering the amount that can be seized to €1,000 leave the people at the bottom wide open to attack from the authorities? It is often said people who owe a debt to others further up the chain are being forced to carry out the murders. Will removing the €1,000 debt from the person at the bottom of the chain add to the cycle of criminality?

Will that person be the next one who will have to pull the trigger because he or she has to make up the shortfall?

The fundamental purpose of the Criminal Assets Bureau is to remove the motive for profit. My fear is that if we lower the amount that can be seized to €1,000, it will not remove the motive for profit but rather increases the motive to make up for the shortfall or to somehow make up that money because, again, that will affect the low hanging fruit. I will deal with that aspect when it arises, but I would like to receive clarification on the first question I asked. I would support any amendment where the money would go back into the community sector.

I welcome the Minister back to the House. I also welcome the opportunity to debate this important issue. All of us and others outside the House have spoken of the wider context in which the Bill is being proposed. All of us have seen horrific murders in recent weeks and months. Many have mentioned the shooting today in Lusk and there was another shooting last week very close to where I live in a busy shopping street in the south inner city. All of us have been shocked by the brutality of these murders and shootings and by the recent violence, although we acknowledge they represent only a small number of individuals who are connected to an international and national drugs trade and to criminal organisations. That is the context within which the Bill is being introduced and, clearly, a key aim of the Bill is to act to seek to tackle those involved in criminal organisations at low and middle level. I recognise that tackling organised crime at all levels is a priority for the Government. We all acknowledge this. There is no doubt that the escalation of crime, particularly in inner city Dublin in recent months, requires a proactive approach.

My party colleagues and I in the Labour Party emphasise - I am sure most would agree - that tackling this level of this type of organised crime requires tackling the core issues of disadvantage abd drug use and tackling them in a way where we do not only have a criminal justice approach. I share Senator Lynn Ruane's concern about criminalising addiction and my colleague, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin expressed that view recently in a debate on the misuse of drugs legislation. We would clearly support a model that would examine much broader issues and that would redirect attention and investment towards disadvantaged communities suffering from a lack of opportunity. We drafted our amendment along the lines of the amendment, to which Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn referred, concerning the ring-fencing of proceeds or money confiscated for disadvantaged communities.

The Minister said she would be seeking Cabinet approval today for new legislation allowing increased powers for the Garda to intercept e-mails, social media accounts and so on. She has spoken today of the further motion that will be brought before this and the other House concerning reducing the sum under which cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime may be seized by the Garda or the Revenue Commissioners under the Criminal Justice Act. We will have an opportunity to debate that issue at another date. I emphasise the need in both of those areas - in the area of increased powers of interception and in the area where we are considering a regulation to reduce the limit to €1,000 with respect to powers of seizure under the criminal justice legislation - we would have to make sure we were striking a balance between effective investigatory powers and fundamental due process rights. The Minister has also emphasised the need for this.

Turning to the Bill, we must be mindful of the need to strike a balance. The Minister quoted from the litigation under the original 1996 Proceeds of Crime Act in which the courts refer to this Act as bringing in draconian powers and those powers of civil forfeiture were unprecedented at the time. Ireland was one of the first countries to introduce them in the context of the appalling murder of Veronica Guerin and also the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe 20 years ago. That was the context at the time. I had the pleasure some months ago of chairing an Irish centre for European Law conference at the Royal Irish Academy on the enforcement of laws against transnational crimes across the European Union. It was interesting to hear from people on the front line of law enforcement who have such an interest in our model of civil forfeiture. Having listened to those people speak, there is no doubt that they face enormous challenges in dealing with transnational crime but, again, at that conference and at all other forums where we are dealing with this issue, we must be conscious of the need to balance enhanced powers for law enforcement officers with the need to ensure protection for due process rights.

Turning to the amending legislation which amends the 1996 Act which was introduced to have a civil forfeiture regime, we must be concerned to ensure we do not unbalance the delicate crafting of the 1996 regime. Others have mentioned the huge amount of jurisprudence litigation that has developed since 1996. We must be careful that any amendment to the 1996 Act does not unbalance it or unduly encroach on due process rights.

I will make the following three points. First, we in the Labour Party will bring forward an amendment on Committee Stage aimed at ring-fencing the proceeds seized under the legislation to go towards addressing issues of disadvantage. Others have spoke about that issue also. I accept that the Minister has spoken about a wider review in terms of this legislation and that issue may come under that wider review, but it is important we bring it forward during the debate on this Bill. A second issue which was raised previously is that there are concerns that there may be unforeseen consequences flowing from the significant reduction in the threshold to €5,000, for example, with respect to those engaged in prostitution where moneys gained from the sale of sex may be seized. We will bring forward an amendment on that matter to take account of the proposed change in the law in the sex offences Bill which, as the Minister will know, I strongly support, with respect to the change in the law on prostitution. However, we must be careful that this change will be reflected in this Bill to ensure those engaged in prostitution will not have money seized under this legislation, as that would be an unforeseen consequence. I am referring to those on the ground; I am not referring to those involved in pimping or organised crime where, clearly, the legislation is directed towards them.

I want to return to section 3 which deals with the extension of powers of seizure and detention to CAB officers and, in particular, the chief bureau officer. We need to carefully scrutinise these provisions. They represent a very significant expansion of the powers and of a very significant extension of the current civil forfeiture regime. The current regime requires court supervision and empowers the CAB to apply to the court for interim or interlocutory orders under 1996 Act, whereas the new legislation proposes to enable CAB officers and the chief bureau officer to freeze assets or proceeds of crime, where they consider there is a reasonable grounds for suspecting moneys are the proceeds of crime, for 24 hours and then for 21 days.

We need to be particularly careful about the significant expansion of powers. In particular, it would be sensible and in keeping with constitutional concerns to at least include some provision requiring that the CAB officers could not keep the property up to that maximum period without some obligation to go to the court if the tests under sections 2 and 3 of the 1996 Act apply. There are similar provisions already in place that we could use as a model. The Criminal Justice Act 1984 brought in the power of detention for up to 24 hours at the time, but section 4(5) of the 1984 Act provides that where the Garda has enough evidence to prefer a charge, it must, without delay, charge the person, even if that is within the period of detention permitted. In other words, in order to be careful about introducing safeguards, there should at least be some provision in the new Bill to require CAB officers to go to court where they have enough evidence to seek an interim or interlocutory order.

We must be mindful that in sections 2 and 3 of the 1996 Act there are careful safeguards in place to ensure, for example, that people who have legitimate businesses are not targeted unfairly and, as was said, we must be careful that people do not lose out. Many of us may have heard of cases where, for example, criminal proceeds are being stored unknown to legitimate business owners on their premises and their property is then seized at a huge loss to their business and it takes them some time then to recoup it. We know that may be happening already, but, clearly, court supervision is provided for in the 1996 Act. This significantly expands the powers of seizure and detention of property. We need to be careful that where we are doing this - I recognise the reason for it and the importance of it to enable the CAB to prepare the evidence for the interim and interlocutory order applications - we should consider some additional safeguard to require that they go to court immediately within the 21 day period where they have requisite evidence gathered or the application prepared under the 1996 Act. We are working on drafting an amendment of that nature, but I thought I would raise the issue because we must be mindful of that section 3 power which is probably the most significant aspect of the Bill, more significant than the lowering of the threshold which perhaps is the issue on which the public has focused the most.

Debate adjourned.