The Programme for Government contains a commitment to enact a new consolidated and reformed anti-corruption law to punish white collar crime and end the impunity from consequences for corporate behaviour that threatens the economy and a commitment that rogue bankers and all those that misappropriate or embezzle funds are properly pursued for their crimes and that the full rigours of the law will apply to them.
These commitments are being addressed in a multifaceted approach through various legislative measures.
The Criminal Justice Act 2011 is an important step in delivering on the Government’s commitment to tackle white collar crime. Its main purpose is to facilitate the more effective investigation of white collar crime and to reduce associated delays. The Act provides for new procedures to facilitate Garda access to essential information and documentation to assist in current and future investigations of white collar crime. The Act is targeted at specified serious and complex offences (“relevant offences”) attracting a penalty of at least 5 years imprisonment, including offences in the areas of banking and finance, company law, money laundering, fraud and corruption. The Act will provide vital assistance to the Gardaí in the completion of current investigations as well as providing assistance to them in investigations undertaken in the future.
The General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill was published in 2012 and referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for its consideration. The Bill is currently being drafted by Parliamentary Counsel. The Bill will replace the seven enactments making up the Prevention of Corruption Acts of 1889 to 2010. The Bill will replace and update existing offences relating to giving or receiving bribes. It will also introduce new offences in relation to corrupt influence peddling.
The recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal have been taken into account in provisions to be contained in the Bill such as a new offence of making payments knowingly or recklessly to a third party who intends to use them as bribes.
Stiff penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and unlimited fines are envisaged for persons convicted on indictment. In addition the Courts are to be given new powers to remove public officials from office and to exclude them from holding office for up to 10 years.
In addition, the current Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which is scheduled to be enacted before the summer recess, provides a number of measures to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the judicial process. The Criminal Procedure Bill which is currently being developed aims to improve the efficiency of the criminal trial process. The establishment of a new Court of Appeal will, if approved by referendum in the autumn, further enhance the efficiency of the criminal justice system. While these latter measures are not aimed any one area of the criminal law, they will enhance the efficient operation of the courts overall and will have consequential benefits for the prosecution of criminal offences, including while collar crime offences.