I am very pleased to introduce the Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018 to the House. The Bill is significant for two main reasons. The first is that it will enable Ireland to prosecute violent crimes committed abroad by Irish citizens and residents in certain states. The second is that it is the final legislative action that is required to enable Ireland to ratify the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence. The main aim of the convention is to protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence. The convention also aims to ensure the design of a comprehensive framework, policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of such violence.
Violence in any form should not be tolerated in a civilised society but evidence tells us that violence in a domestic setting presents a unique set of challenges, insofar as it so often happens behind closed doors. We know it happens in Ireland. Most people in this House know someone who has been a victim of domestic violence, but it is often the elephant in the room, something that is not to be spoken about. In a recent pan-European Eurobarometer survey on perceptions, attitudes and awareness of gender-based violence, published in November 2016, 77% of the Irish sample regarded domestic violence against women as either "fairly" or "very" common in Ireland. That is the reason the Istanbul Convention is important. It is a significant legal instrument in the fight against domestic and sexual violence.
The Government agreed at the time of the signing of the Istanbul Convention to an action plan that contained outstanding legislative and administrative actions that were identified as being necessary to enable Ireland's ratification of the convention. Those actions were incorporated into the second national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence which was published in 2016. Significant work has been done on those actions to date. The Domestic Violence Act 2018 was enacted on 8 May, which addresses all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation in a manner that provides protection to victims.
It also addressed a number of evidential issues to protect child and adult victims of sexual assault from any additional trauma arising out of the criminal process. The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 was enacted on 5 November 2017. It provides for a wide range of measures to protect and inform victims during the progress of their case through the criminal justice system.
Under the Istanbul Convention, Ireland is required to make provision for extraterritorial jurisdiction regarding convention offences. While there are some provisions on the Statute Book already in respect of murder, manslaughter and some sexual offences, this short Bill is necessary in order to fully extend extraterritorial jurisdiction to all convention offences. The Bill is a priority for the Government. It complements other recently enacted laws already mentioned that have also given effect to our obligations under the Istanbul Convention.
Senators may note that the provisions of the Bill do not just apply to situations where the victim of a crime is a woman or a victim of domestic violence. While the primary aim of the convention is to tackle violence in these circumstances, this Bill does not limit the scope of extraterritorial jurisdiction in this manner. For equality reasons, the offences under this Bill will apply equally to women and men.
I will now outline the Bill's key provisions. Section 1 defines the key terms used in the Bill, the most notable being the term “relevant offence”, which is used in the offences created under section 3. A relevant offence under the Bill is defined as: assault causing harm, assault causing serious harm, threats to kill or cause serious harm, coercion, and harassment under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997; sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault under the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990; rape and rape under section 4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990. Another key definition is “convention state” which is defined as a state, other than Ireland, that is a party to the Istanbul Convention. Only acts committed in another convention state are covered by the Bill, with the exception of murder and manslaughter, which already had limited worldwide jurisdiction.
Section 2 is technical in nature and is aimed at excluding the provisions of the Bill in circumstances where section 3 of the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976 applies. This Act deals with certain offences committed in Northern Ireland. The provision is necessary to avoid confusion as to the basis for claiming jurisdiction over an offence committed in Northern Ireland.
Section 3 sets out offences under the Bill and various provisions relating to double jeopardy and proof of citizenship or residency, as the case may be. Section 3(1) provides that it is an offence for any person to commit a relevant offence on board an Irish ship or on an aircraft registered in the State. Section 3(2) provides that it is an offence for any person to aid, abet, counsel or procure another person to commit a relevant offence on board an Irish ship, on an aircraft registered in the State or in a convention state. The aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring must take place in the State, on board an Irish ship or on an aircraft registered in the State. Section 3(3) provides that it is an offence for an Irish citizen or resident to commit a relevant offence in a convention state, with a requirement that the offence must also be an offence in the place it occurs.
Section 3(4) provides that it is an offence for an Irish citizen or resident to aid, abet, counsel or procure another person to commit a relevant offence in a convention state. The aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring must take place in a convention state with a requirement that it must also be an offence in the place it occurs. Section 3(5) provides that it is an offence for a person who is ordinarily resident in the State to commit murder or manslaughter in any place outside the State. Murder and manslaughter committed by an Irish citizen outside the State is covered already by section 9 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Section 3(6) provides that it is an offence for a person to aid, abet, counsel or procure another person to commit murder or manslaughter in a place outside the State. The aiding, abetting counselling or procuring must take place in the State, on board an Irish ship or on an aircraft registered in the State. Where the person who aids, abets, counsels or procures another to commit murder is an Irish citizen or resident, the aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring can take place outside the State. Section 3(7) to (12), inclusive, relate to procedural and evidential matters such as the place that proceedings may be brought, evidence relating to proof of citizenship or residency, and the matter of double jeopardy.
Section 4 amends the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 to ensure that the provisions of that Act are applicable to the Istanbul Convention. Section 5 provides for the short title and commencement of the Bill.
The Bill marks a significant addition to our ability to investigate and prosecute crime committed abroad by our citizens and residents. It also means that we will be in a position to ratify the Istanbul Convention in the very near future. This will send out a strong message that this country takes violence against women and domestic violence very seriously and that our laws are sufficiently robust to tackle both. I hope Senators will support the Bill and that we can get it enacted as soon as possible to allow for swift ratification of the convention next year. I thank Senators for facilitating this debate. I look forward to listening to the views of Senators on this matter. I commend the Bill to the House.