Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, 1993: Committee Stage (Resumed).

At our last meeting, we completed discussion on section 4. Procedurely, we are required to dispose of amendments Nos. 5 and 6, each of which proposes the insertion of a new section, before we decide formally on section 4. I now call on Deputy Gilmore to move amendment No. 5. I appeal to Members to speak to the amendment only. Unfortunately, on the last occasion we were drifting a lot and talking generally on the Bill.

NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 4, before section 4, to insert the following new section:

"5.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, on conviction of any person of an offence, the court instead of or in addition to dealing with him in any other way, may, unless it sees reason to the contrary, make (on application or otherwise) an order (in this Act referred to as a ‘compensation order') requiring him to pay compensation in respect of any personal injury or loss resulting from that offence (or any other offence that is taken into consideration by the court in determining sentence) to any person (in this Act referred to as the ‘injured party') who has suffered such injury or loss.

(2) The compensation payable under a compensation order (including a compensation order made against a parent or guardian of the convicted person and notwithstanding, in such a case, any other statutory limitation as to amount) shall be of such amount (not exceeding, in the case of such an order made by the District Court, such amount as may stand prescribed for the time being by law as the limit of that Court's jurisdiction in tort) as the court considers appropriate, having regard to any evidence and to any representations that are made by or on behalf of the convicted person or the prosecutor, and shall not exceed the amount of the damages that, in the opinion of the court, the injured party concerned would be entitled to recover in a civil action against the convicted person in respect of the injury or loss concerned.

(3) Where the commission of the offence by the convicted person involved the taking of property out of the possession of the injured party and the property has been recovered, any loss occurring to the injured party by reason of the property being damaged while out of his possession shall be treated for the purposes of subsection (1) as having resulted from the offence, irrespective of how the damage was caused or who caused it.

(4) A compensation order may provide for the payment of money as compensation or for the carrying out of works in lieu of payment or for both.".

This amendment is proposing the same provision in relation to the payment of compensation as is contained in the Criminal Justice Act, 1993. There has been a great deal of discussion about the need for non-custodial sentencing, moving away from prison sentences, particularly for less serious offences. We all know that jail does not appear to have the rehabilitative effect that had been attributed to it many years ago and we have the problem of the "revolving-door" syndrome. There is also the cost of keeping people in prison. It would make a lot more sense if forms of penalties were introduced, other than or as alternatives to, prison sentences. We have the community service orders at present but the idea of the payment of compensation is one that needs to be provided for in this legislation to deal with offences outlined in the Bill.

There is a difficulty with compensation. First one has to identify the victim to whom the compensation is to be paid. It is not always possible to do that easily. However, most of the offences dealt with here are ones that can be said to be committed against a community or a neighbourhood and it would be possible to identify the neighbourhood or the community as the victim of the offences. If, for example, a disturbance is created in a neighbourhood by a group of people and they cause distress or damage in that community, then there should be some provision whereby they pay compensation to that community. It might be in the form of work carried out to the local community centre or some other form of compensation to be paid to the local community or neighbourhood. That would be a better way of dealing with those who offend against the community than fining them or taking them out of the community by way of prison sentences. It would certainly be a better way of dealing with first offences than either applying the Probation Act, or, as is often the case imposing a sentence which in some cases cannot be implemented because of lack of space in custodial centres.

I appreciate what Deputy Gilmore is proposing. When the Criminal Justice Bill, 1993, was going through the Dáil and the Seanad, all of us talked a lot about the compensation of victims and how that might be done without the victim having once again to meet the perpetrator of the crime.

Section 6 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1993 allows a court, on conviction of any person of an offence, to make an order requiring the offender to pay compensation in respect of any personal injury or loss resulting from that offence to any person who has suffered injury or loss. That provision would apply automatically to offences under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill. Because of that, most of what Deputy Gilmore is suggesting is already taken care of, so I do not see any need to include in the Bill a provision which automatically applies from another Bill.

The second part of Deputy Gilmore's contribution, referring to payment of compensation, is a different matter in that some of the offences in this legislation would perhaps be committed against communities. That is going a lot wider than what is already part of the Criminal Justice Act, 1993. I am not sure how feasible or practicable it would be to have that kind of insertion in the Bill. It takes care of most of what Deputy Gilmore is talking about, which is personal injury or loss and the fact that the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, which we passed some months ago, will apply automatically to this Bill. Therefore, there is no need to include it as a separate provision or as an amendment to the Bill.

I appreciate that the provision for compensation is included in the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, and that in cases where there has been personal injury there is provision for compensation to be paid. However, the use of compensation as an alternative to custodial sentences must be considered in the wider context I described.

The offences in this Bill deal with public order generally, particularly where a gang of youths cause disturbances in a local community by acting in a threatening or menacing manner — the kind of problem we all come across and one which has given rise to calls for the introduction of this type of legislation in the first place. We must consider what kind of sentences, if convictions are obtained against people under this legislation, will be imposed and whether custodial sentences are appropriate.

We know there is a problem about space in prisons and it is accepted that prisons should only be used as a last resort when sentencing. This legislation does not deal strictly with the juvenile area. However, there are repeated cases where young people are brought to court, convicted and sentenced and then released because there is no place to put them. They must queue for a place in some custodial centre. If the Minister creates a number of new offences, is she serious about having custodial sentences as a penalty for those offences or are we including a provision in the legislation that if one is caught and convicted, one can go to jail. However, we know that in practice people will not be jailed for the kind of offences created here. If that is the case, which, I suspect, it will turn out to be in practice, we will have legislation providing for people to be put in jail for certain offences. However, we know this will not happen because there is limited space in prison or because the courts will take the lenient view that it is not appropriate, for example, for somebody convicted of disorderly conduct in a public place to be put in prison. In those circumstances, the alternatives must be considered.

I appreciate that what I am proposing is wider than that provided for in the Criminal Justice Act, 1993. My suggestion in relation to the payment of compensation to local communities or neighbourhoods was made to overcome the problem of identifying the victim. The victim may not be an individual, it could be a neighbourhood.

In the light of the Minister's response, I am not sure whether we will make progress with this amendment. It is an area which must be considered. The document on sentencing by the Law Reform Commission deals at considerable length with the need for the sentence to be appropriate to the offence. The sentences proposed in this legislation are the traditional fine and jail sentence approach and I am not sure this is the appropriate type of sentencing for offences of this kind.

It would appear from the Minister's earlier response that she will not accept the amendment. However, I would like her to tell me how the general idea behind it might be incorporated in some way.

Before I call Deputy Harney, I should have said at the beginning of the meeting that it is proposed to adjourn at 1.30 p.m., with the agreement of the committee. Is that agreed? Agreed.

There are a number of things I want to say in relation to this amendment. I support the thrust of Deputy Gilmore's amendment which introduces a number of important concepts. The purpose of a sentence is threefold. It is to act as a deterrent to others committing the crime; to punish the offender; and, in so far as it can, to rehabilitate the person.

One of the difficulties in relation to sentencing policy at the moment is the perception among the public that inconsistent sentences are handed down and the fact that the Judiciary is reluctant to give reasons for imposing one sentence as opposed to another. In the wider context of sentencing policy and the Law Reform Commission's discussion document, I hope we will be able to set down guidelines for the Judiciary because this is part of the problem as far as the community is concerned.

We need a wider approach than custodial sentences. In my experience, they do not work, particularly with young offenders because as many as 50 per cent of those in prison at any one time are serving at least a second sentence. In some parts of the country it is almost a status symbol in the eyes of their peers for a person to spend a week in what is known as the "Joy". For all these reasons, we need to look at this issue in the context of Deputy Gilmore's approach. If a person has to pay compensation or if they are seen in the community doing work in lieu of the damage they have caused, whether it is to a person or to the community, it acts as a deterrent and also punishes and rehabilitates. The prison system does not seem to be capable of doing that.

The provision in Deputy Gilmore's amendment to allow for the parents or guardians of offenders to pay compensation is something which we must introduce. Too many parents neglect their responsibilities and expect the State to rear their children for them. I am not saying that every offender comes from a bad home or is neglected by parents. However, too many parents fail in their responsibilities to their children, their family and their community. This is an important concept.

The question of compensation needs to be addressed in the context of criminal law reform. It is wrong that we offer no compensation for pain and suffering. It is wrong that somebody can suffer serious injury and, perhaps, be left in a wheelchair and receive only out of pocket expenses from the State. Often, they have to wait three years for this money. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Yesterday in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court Mr. Justice Moriarty dealt with a sexual assault case, where the offender offered £5,000 compensation to the victim. Mr. Justice Moriarty was critical of the provisions of section 5 (3) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, which was passed a number of weeks ago, in relation to the effect on the victim. He said that this section of the Act could scarcely be described as a triumph of draftsmanship. He also drew attention to the difficulties and he felt the section had not been given sufficient consideration.

Since the last meeting of this committee we had correspondence from the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland. It has drawn our attention to the fact that we need to consider Committee Stage carefully and we should not do anything in haste. The society has described the wording as vague and it believes that it will lead to litigation, etc.

It is appropriate that we should adjourn at 1.30 p.m. Before I got the correspondence I would have been happy to go on all day and try, if possible, to discuss Committee State of the Bill. We could discuss then Report Stage in the autumn. In the context of the submissions received, particularly from the Law Society and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, it is important that the Minister and her officials have time to consider and to ensure that we get it right and that we do not bring in legislation which cannot be enforced or is ineffective.

I support the Minister. I agree with the principle of compensation to victims. It introduces a desirable new element into our criminal code. Could the Minister assure the committee that what is intended under Deputy Gilmore's amendment has been met under the Criminal Justice Act, 1993? If that is the position and if the Minister can give the committee that assurance, we would be happy. There is little point in going through a long amendment already met under existing legislation and which has yet to be fully tried by the courts. I refer to what was said by Mr. Justice Moriarty in relation to one case which arose a few weeks after this legislation was brought into law.

I am in favour of district justices and judges having a consistent attitude to sentencing. I would be in favour of measures taken by the Minister to emphasise to them that the idea of victim compensation for personal injuries or loss is an excellent principle and should be applied where appropriate and possible. It is only in the circumstances of each case that a judge may decide whether it is appropriate or possible and where a person has money to pay compensation. There is no point in making a compensation order against a person who cannot pay.

Each case must be decided on its merits. If the principle, which is excellent, has been met by an Act recently passed by the Oireachtas and yet to be implemented, we should allow that Act to be seen for what it is in the way it is working. The Minister might elaborate on that aspect and assure the committee that it is her intention, provided the courts co-operate, where possible to implement a compensation order provision in regard to victims. If this is the thrust of future sentencing in cases where appropriate, the committee should be happy with that assurance.

I agree with the last point made by Deputy Lenihan. There seems to be some intention in recent legislation, the Crinminal Justice Act, 1993, to deal with the question of compensation to victims. In the child care legislation there is provision for parents and guardians to be made responsible for the offences of their children. There are elements in both pieces of legislation which can be drawn on.

Regarding Deputy Gilmore's amendment, I agree that there is merit in the thrust of what he is saying. It has always amazed me that all criminal justice legislation has only two sanctions listed for the judge's attention, a fine or a prison sentence. I have always regarded it as negligent on the part of legislators not to draw the attention of our justices and judges to the variety of sanctions available to them. If we do not show the way, they will not vary too much from traditional sanctions.

All legislation should include a broader range of sanctions than listed here. The Department of Justice and the Government have for some time indicated that they saw the way forward in terms of community service orders, as a useful alternative sanction to either a fine or imprisonment. Yet they are not listed in the range of sanctions. Probation and personal restitution could be listed. We must get away from dealing with sanctions which have been listed for decades and centuries.

In that context, we must look at our prison system. We have a revolving door system in operation and there is no sense in sending people to prison if we do not know the length of the sentence they will serve. A judge decides on a prison sentence, but the system is unable to cope. This it totally inadequate, although I am no blaming the prison system per se. I blame the fact that we do not have sanctions operating in other areas, allowing and directing judges to take people out of the prison system. A large pecentage of those who commit certain offences and who go regularly from the courts to prison need not go at all. That is outlined in the Whitaker report. Recommendations are also made in this regard. If we want legislation to operate efficiently we must refer to that report. Could the Minister indicate whether she plans to introduce the recommendations? It is a part of the Programme for a Partnership Government which would make our work easier in introducing criminal justice legislation of this nature.

A problem in the past was that the Garda did not have sufficient powers to enforce certain aspects of the law to deal with certain crimes. Without enforcement the community became disillusioned with the effects of the law in their area.

Two other areas need to be highlighted in relation to the amendment tabled by Deputy Gilmore. The punishment for a crime must be seen to be correct by the community. It must be a sufficient deterrent for others not to participate in such a crime. If it is not seen as that, then there is no deterrent and people will continue with crime.

Deputy Harney stated that it is a status symbol, in many cases, for young people to go to the "Joy" for one week, a fortnight or a month and that their status among their colleagues rises dramatically, thus giving them the wrong signals. Although the community may consider it appropriate, it is having the opposite effect on their colleagues.

The community is being attacked and the depiction of the community as a victim is, in most cases, correct. I represent areas of south west Dublin where the people are dealing with the problem. The community get rid of graffiti, but their work is often undone. Those who work in the community to remove graffiti are victims and must receive some kind of compensation in the form of community work. The courts must direct those who deface walls to remove the graffiti. This should be specific and clear. Few judges live in communities affected by valdalism. Deputy Gilmore is trying to highlight this issue.

We must be specific in the way we deal with certain crimes in the community. Local communities have little resources to deal with these problems, therefore the courts should address this by directing community work to be carried out to delete the offence and to repair the damage done. In that way, the community will see justice being done and the young people who hang around with the offenders will see that this is what is on the cards for them if they offend.

In some cases, prison is unnecessary, but I refer to the area of drugs. If a person commits an offence associated with drugs and is only given community work to do, that person will be back on the streets straight away and will continue to deal in drugs in the area. There is a need for custodial sentences for crimes in the drugs area. That must be clearly defined. People must be taken out of the community if they are actively involved in pushing and using drugs and offending while on them. If we make some provisions for this area in addition to the other Act and specify the types of community work as penalties for certain offences, it would satisfy the community that we have gone some way towards solving the problem.

A number of previous speakers made the point, which seems to be in vogue these days, for consistency of sentencing. However, no two cases are the same and there are always circumstances which would lead a judge to impose a sentence in one case which he might not impose in another. While some effort should be made to bring judges together, I do not think we should in any way hamstring them with regard to sentencing.

Regarding compensation, while I agree with the broad thrust of Deputy Gilmore's amendment, the fact that we include compensation as one of the penalties open to a judge to impose, could favour people who are in a position to pay. Generally, the people who come before a court cannot afford to pay compensation, but on occasions people can. These people are very quick to provide compensation and evade the other element of the sentence, which could be custodial. The point is also made in relation to compensation that the State had the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal, but, unfortunately, because of a decision in 1986, that is no longer pertinent to pain and suffering.

Due to the ever-increasing level of crime, I do not think that the State should escape having to compensate people for injuries inflicted by criminals by inserting provisions such as this in criminal legislation, which will in some way let the State off the hook. I am a firm believer that the community service work element of sentencing should be used more often. I would have thought in relation to Deputy Gilmore's amendment that perhaps there is already a general provision whereby a judge can order that community service be carried out and that there is no necessity for this to be included in the legislation.

On the last day, my Fine Gael colleagues and I stood almost alone in opposing section 4 of this Bill for reasons I stated then, although I welcome other sections of the Bill. I do not think this amendment fits in with section 4 of the Bill. I would like to speak on the section before we vote on it because many Members have not heard all the arguments for it. If the Minister says that this whole area of compensation is covered under the legislation passed earlier this year, then I am prepared to give that legislation an opportunity to work so that we can see if it covers all these areas.

According to the amendment proposed by Deputy Gilmore, a person shall be guilty of an offence where he might endanger himself or any other person in his vicinity. If we were to pass this amendment would somebody be liable to compensation because they are a danger to themselves? It seems to me that although this amendment is well intentioned and I would support its general thrust, it does not apply to various sections of this Bill. The Minister has given an assurance that other offences and other people affected by this Bill would be liable for compensation under the earlier Act, and I would be happy enough to go along with that. However, I believe sections of this Bill need to be teased out as I said on section 4. I am opposing section 4 for the various reasons I stated. Many Members are equipped with the letter the Incorporated Law Society sent to the Minister and other justice spokespersons are now having second thoughts on this. I do not know why they did not listen to the arguments when we discussed this the last day. Section 4 is unnecessary. I am inclined to accept the Minister's assurance and give the legislation passed earlier in the year an opportunity to work.

In relation to a number of points which have been made about the type of sentence which should be at the discretion of the judge in regard to this offence, I was struck by what Deputy Walsh referred to as the community service order. Deputy Ahern made the point that in a number of areas of legislation which preceded this Bill there should be the potential for a judge to invoke a community service order. I am supportive of the concept of a community service order where damage was done to property. Deputy Gilmore referred to that with regard to certain aspects of his amendment. It would be far more effective to invoke a community service order rather than ordering compensation, even in cases where the accused or the person found guilty would be in a position to pay compensation.

The most effective form of rehabilitation for an offender in instances where damage is done to public or private property, is to illustrate to the community that the person found guilty is making restitution to the community. The word "restitution" may be old-fashioned but it is relevant. It has many beneficial effects of which I will list two. It is a more effective way of rehabilitating the offender and restoring public confidence in the judicial system generally, as the public will see the offender making his or her restitution to the community by restoring or assisting in repairing the damage done.

I am very supportive of Deputy Walsh's idea. Given what Deputy Ahern has put to the Minister, would it be possible for a judge, in relation to the text of section 4, to invoke sections of other Acts in bringing in a community services order as distinct from financial compensation?

In relation to the amendment, Deputy Gilmore is proposing that an order may be made "on application or otherwise". Who does he envisage would make this application? Would it be made by the State, the prosecuting Garda or the injured party? If it is to be made by the injured party, then we could have a whole new area of injured parties becoming involved in criminal prosecutions. We have a taste of this in relation to what is now being suggested in regard to rape cases where the injured parties may be entitled to legal representation and to be heard. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that? It may be taken from other legislation, but if that is the case it opens up quite an interesting area as to whether an injured party has an entitlement to be heard rather than just being a witness in support of the prosecution's case.

I wish to speak briefly about community service orders. I understand that there is power under existing legislation for judges to apply community service orders whenever they wish. It does not happen as often as I would like. My understanding is that the essential difficulty is that nothing comes without a cost and that the probation and welfare services do not have the resources to identify the community work for offenders. A court or a judge might decide that a community service order is appropriate but when the offender turns up to do community work, he or she does not have anything to do simply because the welfare services have not been given resources to consult the community groups or whoever else's co-operation is needed to make the order effective. I would be interested to hear the Minister's view as to whether there are resources to make meaningful progress on community service orders.

I will refer to the last point first. Deputy McDowell, probably like most Members, and like me before I became Minister for Justice, is not sure how the community service order scheme works. First, under the legislation the power to apply a community service order is only in the case of a replacement for a custodial sentence. It cannot be imposed by a judge instead of compensation or a fine. It can only be imposed instead of a custodial sentence. Second, it cannot be applied until such time as it can be established from the probation and welfare services whether the offender is a suitable person to be placed on a community service order scheme. Thirdly, the type of work that the offender would be doing under such an order must be established. It is not correct to say that the resources are not there within the probation and welfare services to do this. The fact that we have so few, as Deputies referred to, involved with community service orders is because it is confined to being instead of a custodial sentence.

To answer Deputy Lenihan's question, which was echoed by Deputy Mitchell, the terms of Deputy Gilmore's amendment are covered under the Criminal Justice Act, 1993. Deputy Gilmore has accepted that. The only difficulty we have is the definition of victim which has been broadened by Deputy Gilmore to include a community where, perhaps, the community are the people who have been offended against. In relation to the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, and the comments by Judge Moriarty, the Department of Justice was generous in the course of the debate in the Dáil, as Deputies will recall, in accepting an amendment tabled by Deputy Shatter on behalf of Fine Gael, supported by Deputies Harney and Gilmore, which gave the injured party a right to be heard in court. That is the exact point with which Judge Moriarty finds difficulty. Perhaps at that time we should have looked at the drafting a little closer. We did examine it closely and the draftsman's advice was that Deputy Shatter's amendment was in order.

In relation to prison policy, perhaps we should talk first about what Deputy Harney, and others, raised regarding inconsistency in sentencing policy. There are many concerns, and we all accept that, in the community in relation to what is perceived as inconsistency in sentencing policy. Deputy Dermot Ahern made a very important point when he said that no two cases are the same. We all accept that but the perception is a huge part of what we have to deal with. In common with every Member I welcomed the Law Reform Commission's discussion document on sentencing policy generally. I would not like, in advance of the final recommendations of the Law Reform Commission, to introduce new forms of sentencing or new wordings in relation to sentencing policy. The commission will have all of the information available to it to make, I am sure, numerous recommendations to me as Minister for Justice. That would be the preferred way to proceed at this stage. The commission is looking at community service orders, compensation and probation.

When we are talking about the provisions in this Bill, or any Bill, in relation to sentencing, we are only setting out the maxima which a judge in any case can apply, and he or she can apply probation, a suspended sentence or community service orders instead of a custodial sentence and so on. I am not sure that we should be setting out clearly in all criminal law legislation the different options that are available to a judge. It is preferable to put down what the maxima is and give the judge the discretion within that to apply various forms of sentencing. I know from talking to members of the Judiciary that they are very much looking forward to the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in this whole area. The Judiciary is being brought into bad odium with members of the public who are concerned about what they perceive to be lenient sentencing or inconsistency in sentencing. We now have the powers to appeal lenient sentences but concerns are being exprssed in relation to the inconsistency of sentencing.

In relation to a point made by a number of Deputies about the onus of responsibility being placed on the parents or the guardians, that is something we are looking at in the context of the preparation, which is well advanced, of the juvenile justice Bill. We have been taking very-much into account in our deliberations the very wide-ranging report compiled and published by the Oireachtas joint committee on crime. It made a very valuable contribution to that debate and that has been taken into account. We will see responsibility being placed on parents. The point that Deputy Harney made is very important. We cannot treat all parents the same. Some parents have very good parenting skills while others' skills may not be as good through no fault of their own very often but because of other considerations which are outside my range or responsibility. We must have a balance as to how far we go with the onus of responsibility on parents and that is something which will be included in the juvenile justice Bill.

I support Deputy Harney's point in relation to the timetable for the work of this committee. This is a very important Bill. It gives wide-ranging powers to the Garda Síochána, not just in Dublin but in all urban areas to deal with public order disturbances. These have to be dealt with in law, and the garda need extra powers. We want to ensure that this legislation, when passed, will be the best possible and, therefore, we need a thorough debate on Committee Stage. I am very glad that is being facilitated.

I am not going to go into a long discussion on prison policy because we have debated this issue in the Dáil on other Bills and at Question Time. Deputies know that I am in the final stages of a review of prison policy which has examined the Whitaker report that Deputy Costello is very concerned about. We all want to see its recommendations implemented. The review is also looking at whether we need extra prison spaces and will also examine in detail what are the Law Reform Commission's recommendations on sentencing policy. The review will be available to me during the summer and I hope that in the autumn I will be able to give an indication to Deputies as to where we are going in relation to prison policy and prison development generally.

In answer to Deputy Lenihan's first question, section 6 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1993 will apply automatically to the offences in this public order Bill. I have a genuine difficulty in relation to the widening of the word "victim" to communities as Deputy Gilmore is proposing. Regarding sentencing, perhaps the best thing to do would be to wait for the Law Reform Commission's recommendations because it will look at the areas which Deputy Harney talked about which are deterrents, rehabilitation and just deserts as it were. Unfortunately, what Deputy Gilmore is proposing is included in this legislation. I do not think the wording of it is sufficiently tight for me to be able to take it on board.

I was interested to hear the Minister's comments in relation to what Judge Moriarty had to say but she blames Deputy Shatter, Deputy Harney and myself. There used to be a tradition here that if something started to go wrong the Government was blamed. This is the first time that we have an example of blaming the Opposition if something goes wrong.

I was not blaming the Opposition, I was being generous.

Giving the Deputy credit.

The issue we are discussing is the widening of the concept of the victim. It is appropriate that we discuss that. The new offences being created in this legislation are essentially offences against the community. There has been a degree of comment about the vagueness and difficulties associated with the creation of these new offences. Comments have been made by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Law Society about the imprecise nature of some of the language used in defining the new offences. I take the point being made about waiting for the Law Reform Commission's report on sentencing. I also take the point the Minister has made about the undesirability of stitching the whole range of sentences available into all criminal law.

I listened to the Minister's radio interview on Sunday in which she dealt with the question of sentencing. Is it her intention to introduce legislation to deal with the question of sentencing? Will this be after the Law Reform Commission has completed its deliberations, sent its submissions and had its discussions in relation to it? Will we get legislation at some stage which will deal in the wider sense with sentencing, setting out the various parameters for sentencing and the ranges of options that will be open to judges? If that were the case I would be happy to withdraw this amendment.

We must bear in mind that the offences we are talking about are committed, for the most part, against communities in their own neighbourhoods. There is a danger in creating a body of criminal law which dislodges the crime, its consequences and the sentence for it from the local community. If this is done, the law becomes alienated from the local community and that is part of our present problem. Local communities, faced with the kind of problems we are discussing, very often feel that the law is remote from them. If the Garda are called and they act on the offence, an offence against the community becauses a series of offences under different legislation from which very often the community feels remote.

It is important that the offence is essentially seen as an offence against a local community and that that perspective is constantly kept in mind right down to the sentencing stage.

I am happy to withdraw the amendment but I wish to hear the Minister's assurance that will have the question of sentencing dealt with in comprehensive sentencing legislation at some stage.

I do not want to delay the meeting unduly but I gather that when I was unavoidably absent at the start of the meeting the Minister made honourable mention of me. I am glad to know I am on her mind even when I am not present at the meetings.

I understand that in the context of Deputy Gilmore's amendment on compensation, reference was made to the proceedings heard yesterday in the Circuit Court in relation to the wording of section 5 (3) of the Criminal Law Rape (Amendment) Act, 1990 which deals with the victim's views regarding the punishment of the defendant and criticism of this by the judge. I gather that the Minister thinks the judge's criticism was laying the blame on myself, Deputies Harney and Gilmore for an amendment she accepted to legislation which came before the Dáil some two months ago. I have not had the opportunity to research the position to refresh my memory but I recall that the amendment was made to entirely different legislation which was accepted by her Minister of State at the Department of Justice, where the courts were asked to provide for the making of compensation orders for the benefit of a victim without the victim being given a mechanism to tell the court what damage, if any, was sustained by him or her as a result of the crime committed against them.

I fail to understand why the Minister should complain about Opposition Deputies trying to improve legislation if she did not——

That is most unfair.

I did not hear what the Minister said but I understand she raised an issue about the matter. Deputy Harney advised me that this had been raised earlier. I wanted to correct the record.

Do not blame women.

I never blame women for anything. I would like to refer to the compensation issue, the amendment and the issue raised at this meeting by Deputy Gilmore. It is a very serious issue, it arises from comments the Minister made over the past few days and is of relevance to the compensation issue itself.

I note the Minister indicated, in the context of other offences such as rape, that she is now giving serious consideration to the victim having separate legal representation so that in deciding the issue of compensation, or for the purpose of the court understanding the impact on a victim of an offence committed, a separate legal representative of the victim would present the victims case. I welcome that. The Minister is right to think along those lines. I hope she will not regard it as begrudgery if I draw her attention to the fact — and this is from recollection because I have not had an opportunity to check the Official Report — that I tabled an amendment along those lines to the legislation that the Dáil deal with a couple of months ago. That amendment was not accepted.

I made such a proposal more than a year ago and well before the Lavinia Kerwick case arose. I made such a proposal subsequent to the Lavinia Kerwick case and the Minister's predecessor refused to it take up. It was not contained in the legislation the Minister published as a response to the Lavinia Kerwick and other cases. It is regrettable that it required the more recent judgment in that case — and I am making no reference to whether the judge was right or not in that case — to finally act as the catalyst for the Government's decision to look again at that issue. The Government had fair warning that it should have been looked at. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong in this but I am pretty sure that the issue was proposed under recent legislation that went through the House dealing with compensation but the Government did not take it up. I hope the Minister will now look at that.

There is a serious problem, in the context of the recent legislation which allows the courts to make compensation orders and in the context of Deputy Gilmore's amendment. It is difficult to see how the courts can determine what type of compensation can or should be ordered without a full victim impact assessment and without hearing from either the victim, or his or her lawyers as to what the impact of the offence committed was on the victim. If the court is not privy to that information there will be difficulty in assessing what compensation, if any, should be paid in appropriate cases. That difficulty arises under Deputy Gilmore's amendment. It also arises under legislation that was passed by this House to deal with lenient sentences and the paying of compensation to victims of crime the principles of which were supported by all sides of this House. The only amendments proposed to that legislation, certainly from the Opposition side — I hope I will not be regarded as in any way distressing either Deputy Gilmore or Deputy Harney if I say it — were to constructively improve that legislation. That was a fair representation of the debate that took place. What happened in the courts yesterday, and Judge Moriarty's comments, have highlighted the need to address a flaw in that legislation which I believe was apparent at the time of its enactment. It is a flaw which the Government did not recognise but, hopefully, is now being recognised as a result of comments the Minister made over the weekend.

I will not go into the whole scenario of who said what, when or where in relation to Deputy Shatter's amendment. Secondly, in relation to separate legal representation, we had a debate within my party in 1990 when the former Minister introduced the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Bill and I was one of those who felt very strongly that there should be separate legal representation for the victim not just in the areas which Deputy Shatter seems to be talking about such as compensation and impact and so on but right through the trial.

It is unfortunate that at the time the Law Reform Commission came down very strongly against separate legal representation and there were strong legal arguments put forward by the then Minister as to why that was not possible.

The Second Commission on the Status of Women looked at this point and once again came out against separate legal representation for the victim. I am concerned as a result of a number of high profile cases recently, and as a result of representations made by the rape crisis centres and indeed by other voluntary organisations who are dealing with such victims. It is something that I, as Minister for Justice, should look at once again. I am doing that with a very open mind and I am coming from a position where, until all the legal arguments were put to me, I very much supported the idea. I am looking at the issue and it is going to be examined in the wider context of the whole trial.

On the point made by Deputy Gilmore, the indication which he thought I made at the weekend is correct. As soon as I receive the report of the Law Reform Commission on sentencing policy, I hope to have prepared within my Department legislation which will enact the recommendations of that report. That is the proper way to proceed because the Law Reform Commission has before it all the legal and other supporting evidence it needs to present a reasoned argument for whatever changes it may propose in sentencing policy.

That is the way I would like to go because there is a demand from the public in this area. As we have all said, there is a perception that there is a certain inconsistency at the moment in sentencing while taking account, of course, of what Deputy Ahern rightly stated, no two cases are the same; we all accept that. There is also a demand from members of the Judiciary whom I met over the past seven months, for an examination of sentencing policy. They are also very much looking forward to the publication of the report of the Law Reform Commission. I can give that assurance to Deputy Gilmore.

I had hoped to speak before the Minister replied. I welcome the Minister's statement that the prison review policy is likely to be available in the summer and that she will be able to deal with some aspects of it in the autumn. I also welcome the fact that the juvenile justice Bill is being compiled and of course that the Law Reform Commission is producing a report on sentencing policy. These developments are all to be very much welcomed.

On the question of whether there should be additional sanctions listed in criminal justice legislation, the Minister suggested that perhaps it might not be necessary because what was listed was the maximum. My concern is that it is only the maximum in certain areas of sanction and for certain categories of crime, only fines and or jail. It does not refer to maximum in other areas. When we are dealing with public order legislation, a fine may not be appropriate to the type of offence and the type of person who committed the offence.

We should be directing the judges to the list of options which would be appropriate to the legislation we are seeking to operate and the type of appropriate sanction. If we simply leave it in the traditional area of financial compensation in terms of a fine or a jail sentence than we are going to continue with the problem of over crowded jails. We should direct the judges to the fact that there are other appropriate sanctions. In this legislation, I cannot imagine a more appropriate sanction than community service orders. That is really the direction of my remarks.

I seek clarification about the community compensation. Is the difficulty with the definition of community or with the administration of justice? Tidy towns committees, who work extremely hard, sometimes find that beautiful trees they planted which might be three or four years in maturity are vandalised by some thugs going home having devoured 15 pints and who use that as on excuse for being full of exuberance. Is the Minister saying that these people should not or cannot be compensated for damage done to the community affairs like that?

I was about to raise the point mentioned by Deputy Browne in relation to who the victim is. In many instances the victim could be dead or not easily identifiable or the victim can be the community. If a joyrider is terrorising a community, there may be no particular victim but everybody in the area might be frightened to be around at certain times of the day because of this activity. If trees are torn down, a community centre destroyed, graffiti left on walls, people being drunk and disorderly in a park adjoining a number of houses or loitering which are the offences we are creating in this legislation the victim is the community at large.

It is important that the community has confidence in our criminal justice system. One of the difficulties I have in relation to the way in which the law operates at the moment is that in many parts of the country, particularly in deprived communities, many people take the view that it is the wealthy who suffer most at the hands of the criminal. In my experience, the poor suffer more at the hands of the criminal; it is the poor who are terrorised and it is in poor areas that one generally finds a couple of people committing these dreadful crimes. One does no see much loitering in middle class or upper middle class areas or riotous behaviour or drunk and disorderly people shouting, screaming and causing havoc. It tends to be in poor deprived areas that people suffer most at the hands of criminals.

There is a perception in these communities that the criminal justice system is such that people when sentenced are in one day and out the next and they become heroes in their community. A week in the "Joy", among some people I know, is a status symbol. They become a character, somebody to look up to and other young people actually admire them. That has been a change in society in recent years. We need to examine very carefully what we are doing. There is no point in having custodial sentences if they are not effective, if they are not acting as deterrents to others and and if they are doing nothing to either punish or rehabilitate the offender.

What worries me is when the Minister says that a community service order cannot be applied in lieu of a fine. I regret that because what will happen is that if one takes Part IV of the Bill and a fine of £300 is imposed, for example, and the offender does not have the money, he or she may petition the Minister who will decide whether or not to reduce the fine. If she does not and the day comes for payment, the person ends up serving a custodial sentence. It would be much more effective if we could have community service orders in lieu of custodial sentences and in lieu of fines. There were 1,200 community service orders last year; the Minister confirmed that during the Estimates debate. The probation service cannot supervise the community service orders and that is part of the problem. A staff of 180 in the probation service is totally inadequate to supervise community service orders because if one puts a high risk person who has been committing crimes for perhaps two or three years on a community service project they will need strict supervision, almost one to one. Three people to one probation officer is as many as one could have because of the type of people one is dealing with and the need for individual attention even to get them to turn up for the work. If community service orders are to be made and the person is not going to turn up to do the work, they are brought into total disrepute.

In relation to what we are doing here we need to have a sense of balance and to be fair and reasonable. One of the difficulties about many of the discussions recently on some high profile cases is that there is a peception that this legislation, and the recent Act, will be a panacea for all our ills. If an unduly lenient sentence is imposed there will be an appeal by the prosecution.

I recently had occasion to talk to prosecution counsel in a case which was made public some time ago. I will not identify the case because it would be unfair to the people involved. I remember the case at the time because it got a great deal of publicity and the general perception from the media, the politicians and the public was that there was a lenient sentence. I remember some time afterwards discussing it with the prosecution counsel and they told me they were quite happy with the sentence in all the circumstances. This is part of the difficulty about restrictive coverage, or perhaps when one party to a crime goes public and the other party's case is not placed in the public arena and then the public sits as judge and jury having heard only one side clearly. It has not heard the other and it believes that the sentence imposed was totally unreasonable.

We need to make it clear that in handing down sentences the Judiciary has a wide range of options at its disposal which includes fines, community service orders, custodial sentences and the payment of compensation. All these come as a parcel of remedies for the Judiciary. When they decide on one sentence as opposed to another — trial judges decision are not read often because it is difficult to get one's hands on that decision — it is important that the trial judges are required to say why they have chosen one course of action over another. They should spell that out so that the public realises that people are not walking free and that there are good reasons and perhaps it is best for the offender and best for the community.

The running cost — and not the capital cost which is additional — of prisons at £110 per day is expensive. There is a view in our community that if we build more prisons and lock up thousands more people suddenly we will solve the crime problem. We will not. There are huge social problems, drug related, alcohol related, related to unemployment and drug and alcohol abuse. There is a wide range of problems. We need to have a wide-ranging comprehensive response to that. I welcome the Minister's commitment on prison review as it is long overdue. We need to ask ourselves what the prisons are for, who should be there, how they should be run and so on. Perhaps the Minister might take the opportunity to comment on the situation regarding Portlaoise prison. I understand from contacts there that it is heavily staffed but is underused and that there is space in Portlaoise for more prisoners. Since, traditionally, Portlaoise prison was the place for terrorist offenders its full capacity for these offenders is not now used. I would like the Minister to comment on whether there is spare capacity in that prison.

I welcome representation for the victim. I am not surprised the Law Reform Commission opposed it since although the Law Reform Commission is not totally made up of lawyers, lawyers take a different view to this. They see the trial as being about deciding the guilt or innocence of the accused. That is the main function of a trial but in rape cases and in sexual assault cases in particular there is a tendency not to report them.

The Rape Crisis Centre has said that about 30 per cent of those who come to it report the case and the remaining 70 per cent do not. That is disturbing. The reason for this is that traditionally the victim was made to feel guilty and was humiliated. Some of the changes in the law have improved that.

The ordeal of the trial for many victims was worse than the rape or the assault. Many of the victims are on record as saying that and they feel that the prosecution counsel does not represent them. The prosecution counsel is there to prosecute and to have the guilt of the accused established by the jury. The victim is just there as a witness and is almost exclusively ignored. Some effort is being made by the prosecution counsel to discuss the case with the victim but the victim should have a choice of counsel in particular, many victims would like to have female counsel and, thankfully, there is now a host of very capable young female barristers and solicitors. There are also good male lawyers, Deputy Shatter among them, but because of the nature of what we are talking about many victims would prefer to have female counsel. The prosecution counsel in any of the cases which I read are nearly always men for some unknown reason.

When I heard the Minster's view on Sunday in relation to this I thought it was fantastic. It is the first time anybody in ministerial office said they approve of it and even if it takes time to establish I welcome her thinking in relation to this. It will improve the situation no end.

Chairman, we are all wandering on and I am probably contributing to it ——

We are certainly wandering on.

With regard to the Minister's comments on Judge Moriarty the Minister gave me the impression by the way she reacted that this was an amendment the Government graciously accepted from the Opposition and instead of criticising it now we should be grateful. If I remember rightly on that occasion the Minister of State who dealt with this Bill on Committee Stage did not give any spontaneous reaction to accepting any amendment. He came back and said he had consulted with his officials and the draftsman and had decided to accept or not accept. He accepted a couple of amendments and he may have redrafted some of them.

It does not matter who drafted it, the important thing is that we take it slowly and the Minister has accepted that and I welcome that. It does not matter who did or did not draft it. The point I was trying to make was not to apportion blame but to caution against rushing something which could prove unworkable.

May I say before I call the next speaker, and Deputy Harney summed it up for us, that we have strayed from the issue of compensation. In their own interests would the Members address the amendment before them please from now on.

I thought from Deputy Harney's approach that she was a paragon of virtue so I am glad to hear her say she has some faults and is not totally infallible. I am pleased to hear that for the first time in my political career. I thought only men had faults.

Gratefully accepted.

Crime is not unknown in my native city of Limerick and I deal with many victims of crime and also some of the criminals. The one thing I learned about it is that rigidity is no good. There is no good in our imposing a straitjacket on the Minister or the Bill. That would solve nothing and the cure could be worse than the disease. I did not think that Deputy Gilmore's amendment would provoke such a wide discussion but it has been heart-searching for many of us to look at this matter to see if we can find a way forward because it is a major problem in our society. We must find a way forward and we must do it here.

The one difficulty I have about the amendment is that it is hard to quantify compensation. I will give two brief examples. Recently in Limerick a young, so-called joyrider stole a vehicle. He drove it down to another part of the city, against the wall of the sports centre and set fire to it. As well as burning the vehicle he also burned down the sports centre. It cost about £1 million, a sum which is easily quantified but how can one quantify the loss of the facilities to the community, to the team in that area, to the residents associations or to citizens who were deprived of that amenity and facility for perhaps two years until a new centre was built? It would be hard for any judge to quantify the loss to the community.

Another example, I am a mason by trade and a fellow mason and friend of mine retired from his employment at the age of 66. I helped him get a bungalow in an area in the city of Limerick. He was robbed 12 times in the bungalow. Everything, from his bed clothes, his working tools, hammer, saw, etc. to the clock he got on his retirement was taken, until eventually he had to seek a transfer to another part of the city. How could one quantify the loss he suffered and his distress at those robberies? It killed him eventually to know that the robberies took place on the little property he had.

One would want the judgment of Solomon to be able to quantify compensation in those two cases. We must not isolate the discussion from the fact that in many parts of Limerick city there is huge unemployment — over 80 per cent in the two areas where the crimes I mentioned took place. Unless one deals with that situation one will always have crime; it will be endemic in our society. A flexible policy, as Deputy Costello said, is essential. Education and training may also be a means of getting people away from crime.

We are monitored by the press, although sometimes their method of doing so in terms of the amount of words we produce is not a good criterion for measuring how effective we are as legislators. They should look at the quality of work rather than the quantity of output. Similarly, if we intend to monitor judges it is important not just to measure them on one eccentric statement or judgment but on their overall performance. I hope the Minister will put something in place to look at the judges' performance, and endeavour to use some of her own staff to get consistency in that performance, rather than having the great disparity in sentencing we have seen in recent times and which the press highlighted. It is also important to ensure that we have good, wise judges who do their best to interpret the law as we frame it for them.

In short, Chairman, I ask Deputy Gilmore to withdraw his amendment and accept the Minister's assurance that she will endeavour to take on board our statements today.

A number of questions were raised in the debate. First, Deputy Browne asked whether I had problems regarding the amount of the compensation or the definition of victims. I have explained that my problem is with the definition of victims. Deputy Kemmy and Deputy Harney asked when a death-rider causes injury or loss to a community, who do you compensate? Who is the victim? Deputy Gilmore recognised that is my difficulty. Do you go to the local residents' association, the community centre committee, the local sporting organisation, meals on wheels, or any number of a whole plethora of voluntary organisations? That is my difficulty. How do you do it?

If a tidy towns committee has property vandalised is that not a straight case of people being responsible?

As far as I am concerned the tidy towns committees do not own property. They represent various organisations in an area and, in my experience in my own city, the tidy towns committee in any parish represents the residents' association, the sporting organisations, the community centre and all the rest. That is how it operates in my area and I can only talk from my own experience. I believe you are creating a difficulty. I would prefer, rather than creating a new type of sentence in this legislation, to do what I suggested earlier in response to a direct question from Deputy Gilmore, and wait for comprehensive legislation on sentencing policy generally.

Deputy Harney said that community service orders should be in place in lieu of fines. We are looking at that very closely in my prison policy review and I know the Law Reform Commission will be looking at it in relation to sentencing policy. I cannot preempt what they will suggest, but we all have a good idea that they are in favour of the possibility of extending the community service order scheme.

Deputy Harney also made the point that a judge should be compelled to set out the reasons he or she imposed one sentence as opposed to another. In the discussion document from the Law Reform Commission — and in fact that subject is out for discussion among the public and I am sure among the legal profession who are taking a particular interest in this area — they consider whether that should be done. On a personal basis I support it as it would certainly ease the concerns among the public over what they see as an inconsistency in sentencing policy.

Deputy Harney is correct — as all Members of the Committee will know — Portlaoise prison is used for a specific type of prisoner. I do not think the committee would want me to state how the prison spaces in Portlaoise are utilised for that purpose. Suffice it to say, we are convinced that the best possible use is being made of the prison spaces available. Up to when I started a prison policy review, there was continuous evaluation of the utilisation of such prison spaces.

I am not a lawyer, but I have been listening to what can only be described as an academic discussion on what sort of punishment we should bring in for crime. We have been talking about compensation, jail sentences and community service. What is the compensation for a punch in the nose or a kick on the shin?

Ask some of these practising solicitors.

As I have said to many solicitors, if you want to compensate someone for a punch in the nose, a kick on the shin or some other crime like that, you have to satisfy the person who has been injured. The person who has been injured has to say: "you have made an effort to undo what you did to me". That is how you assess compensation.

The next question I have heard discussed is community service. There used to be hard labour. A jail sentence with hard labour, meant you had to work inside the prison. Are we talking about community service as a substitute for hard labour outside the prison? What is community service? How does it punish an offender? Does making a community service order, for someone to turn up on Monday morning to cut briars along a road or to brush the streets, punish the offender? I was listening to Deputy Kemmy telling us what happened in Limerick. I would say the way you punish the offender for that is to get him and his like to restore the damage. Community service should fit the crime. I am not suggesting that people should be punished unduly, but I think that for community service to have any effect on the offender, it has to be the kind that will in some way humiliate that person, and make them understand that they are doing it not for the community but as the punishment for the offence which they have committed.

In summary, as a lay person I consider that this debate is an academic argument is regard to how we define punishment when we do not have jails to accommodate people. That has been the discussion here this morning. To conclude, if one does not impose a jail sentence, one has to ask offenders to pay compensation or to do community service. The compensation must to some degree compensate the person or the community which has been injured. The community service must punish the person in some way. I am not calling for a chain gang or anything like that — that went a long time ago — too many people who received community service sentences took them lightly and laughed at them, while people who watched them do the work wondered just what purpose was being served. There are many ways of getting services done in the community. If the purpose is to get a service done in the community then many willing, unemployed young people would be available to do this kind of work. If community service work is a punishment for a crime committed then let us see it carried through.

While I accept the sentiments which lie behind this amendment it is seriously flawed because it presupposes or presumes that there is no civil jurisdiction and that the criminal trial must also take account of the civil side of the case. That confuses two issues. When Deputy Gilmore mentions "the court", does he mean that the jury in the course of a criminal trial would give due consideration to what the compensation should be or does he mean that the judge, having heard the verdict of the jury, will decide on the level of compensation? It is quite clear to everybody that it is open to any victim of a criminal offence to bring civil proceedings against the offender and that that person is entitled as of right to damages against the offender because the standard of proof in a civil trial is lower than in a criminal trial. It is axiomatic that he would be entitled to compensation. The problem is, and let us be realistic about it, that very few victims of crime take an action for compensation against individuals. The reason is that very often it would be pointless and a waste of money because they would never get anything anyway. Deputy Harte says it is academic, I would go further and say that is philosophical.

After that comment I am not sure whether to make my statement. I hoped my contribution would not be academic. Now I have to add that I hope it will not be philosophical either. Planting trees has to be practical no matter what anybody says. There are far more identifiable groups who can receive compensation than those who cannot. What Deputy Kemmy said is obviously an example of a joyrider who does damage to property and cannot compensate. Members of a football club, a tennis club or a tidy towns committee work day and night with blood, sweat and tears watering shrubs, etc., and it is a scandal that somebody can wreck their good, hard work. I would not accept that that group is not identifiable as a recipient for compensation. Parish committees involved in community affairs are readily identifiable.

While Deputy O'Leary was philosophical, or not as the case may be, he did say you can go to court and get compensation. Why make two jobs. Allowing for the fact that he is a solicitor, why make two jobs out of one effort? Why not have compensation available if you are in court rather than go back and expect somebody to get involved in another legal process. Compensation should be awarded in the court if possible.

The trouble with this committee is that we are all trying to be judges. The only way the system works, from the time of Moses who first set up judges is to appoint judges who are separate from the Executive of the Legislature and they decide cases in accordance with certain guidelines that we lay down in legislation and ministerial policy. That is all we can do. A range of options for judges is being addressed by the Minister and the Department and has already been addressed in the recent Criminal Justice Act and by the Law Reform Commission. This has already been referred to here. A range of options should be available to the judge in a particular case in relation to the procedures he or she can adopt as appropriate in a particular case. If that wide range of options is there including a jail sentence, suspended or otherwise, fines, a victim compensation order or a community service order we can leave it to the judge to decide, on the facts of a particular case, which avenue to take. That is what we can do best in legislation, and by way of ministerial policy, in consultation with the judges. You can provide guidelines and allow them to broadly interpret in accordance with these particular statutory avenues of penalty or sanction which are open to them. That is all we can do.

We are not, as Deputy O'Donoghue says, in the business of putting people in criminal courts. If they feel that a particular sum of money in a case is adequate, and if the person can bear it and he or she sees it as proper compensation to the victim in the circumstances, then the judge can fix a figure. It does not have to be itemised and fully proved as in a civil case, that is a separate matter. Civil jurisdiction is separate from criminal jurisdiction. What we can do is to provide a range of options. The Minister for Justice told us that this is being addressed by the Law Reform Commission and herself at present. The Criminal Justice Act is in place dealing with some of these matters and, with all due respect to Deputy Gilmore, the amendment, while we all agree with its broad thrust, is superfluous having regard to the assurances the Minister has given us and the provisions of the recent Criminal Justice Act.

I indicated earlier, following the Minister's assurance that there would be sentencing legislation, that I was willing to withdraw this amendment and to await that legislation. I did not intervene in the debate since I gave that assurance. If the debate has rambled on since it is not my fault. In confirming my willingness to withdraw the amendment I want to respond to what Deputy O'Donoghue said. His comments go to the heart of what I am trying to do. It is simply not possible to say that the impact on a local community or on individuals can be dealt with purely by way of civil proceedings. We are dealing with problems which are arising mainly in areas in poor communities where people do not have the money to pursue civil proceedings even if they thought there was the prospect of a major result from those proceedings. Indeed, in many cases we are dealing with communities where people are even afraid to report the crimes to the Garda because if there is a gang operating in their area and they are identified as the source of the report, a stone will be thrown through their window. It is unrealistic to say that people in those circumstances will be able to pursue an action through civil proceedings.

In the course of the debate it has been acknowledged that community service orders can only be used where a custodial sentence has been handed down. It has been acknowledged that the question of compensation can only be applied where there has been personal injury and where there is an identifiable victim. What we are attempting to do — this is the thrust of the debate — is to have a wider range of options open to the courts in dealing with offences provided for in this legislation apart from the traditional forms of fine and jail sentence. Because of all the reasons set out during the course of the debate those types of penalty may not deal with the problem effectively. The range of options should be available.

I am quite happy to wait until sentencing legislation is introduced to deal with this more fully. I indicated earlier my willingness to withdraw this amendment in the light of that assurance and I am repeating that willingness now. If the debate proceeds any further let it not be on my head.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 4, before section 4, to insert the following new section:

"6.—Section 17 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 is hereby amended by the insertion after ‘£1,000' of ‘to be increased on the 1st day of January of each year by the amount of the increase in the Consumer Price Index over the previous year'.".

This amendment simply attempts to provide for the indexation of fines, which has been dealt with by the Law Reform Commission. In the light of our very stimulating discussion on the last amendment, and anticipating the Minister's possible response, if this problem is dealt with in the context of the sentencing legislation she promised, I would be happy to also withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.