Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill, 1983: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

Before the debate was adjourned on Tuesday last I had referred to the crime figures for 1981-82 showing an increase of 23 per cent compared with the previous year. Having been reading the events of the past week it is my opinion that if we are to prevent a further increase in crime, we need a greater police force, that we need, so to speak, a garda at every street corner.

We cannot hope to combat crime until we attempt first to treat its root causes. As I mentioned briefly on the last occasion, the widening gap between the privileged and the have-nots is increasing. Until such time as Governments realise how serious the whole crime situation is we cannot expect to bring about a decrease in the crime rate. A high percentage of our population is under the age of 25. They are well educated and have high expectations but unfortunately their expectations are not being fulfilled so far as jobs are concerned with the result that they are becoming frustrated, cynical and bitter about our democratic system. If our young people are denied the opportunity of using their talents in a constructive way we will have much more trouble in the future.

This Bill provides the opportunity for young offenders to repay the community by way of compensating for the damage they have caused. The Bill is designed to operate in a way that will not leave the stigma of jail on the record of such offenders. It is a means of weaning young people away from crime and keeping them separated from the hardened criminals in our jails.

I welcome the Bill. Similar legislation has been successful in other countries. A previous speaker said that we should not go along necessarily with the ideas of Britain or elsewhere. I agree with that to an extent but the corresponding schemes in Britain, in Canada and in New Zealand have proved successful. There must be a good deal of merit in introducing something that has been tried and found to be successful in other cases. In the past number of years a number of projects undertaken in the Cork area involving prisoners in community works have been very successful. However, the only fault I could find with them was that the participants were easily identified as prisoners. I trust that will not be the case in this instance and that the community will accept the Bill as a plan to keep young people away from crime. Part of the plan should be the provision of facilities for proper leisure-time activities. There is nothing like the discipline of a game or involvement in a club or organisation for keeping young people on the straight and narrow. From my experience with sports clubs and youth organisations I am aware that very few members get involved in crime subsequently.

I hope financial allocations to such projects are increased. While I accept that money has been allocated for youth projects and sporting organisations it has not been sufficient, particularly when one considers that our young people have so much free time. This is an ideal opportunity to try out leisure and sporting projects. It is a pity that major commercial companies tend to invest their money in glamour sporting events while so many community-based projects are starved of finance. Our major commercial enterprises should invest money in community projects.

We will be wasting our time in approving these services if we do not consider the leadership that is necessary. I am learning frightening things from young people and I find they are becoming more cynical about our democratic system. Unless there are changes from the top down, our young people will become more cynical, frustrated and bitter. I have had contact with a number of young offenders and they have challenged me on many occasions about the way our democratic system works, in particular what they term as abuses of our democratic system by those in power. What is thrown at me very often recently is the use of State cars and the payment of Ministerial pensions. To be honest, I find it hard to explain or justify such expenditure to those who may be on unemployment assistance. Before we can hope to control the crime rate or wean young people away from crime we, as the leaders in the country, must give the example. I accept that the last administration, like the Coalition Government, were genuine in their efforts to wean young people away from hardened criminals and keep them out of prison.

I support the Bill and I hope sufficient money will be made available so that the scheme can be administered properly. It is important also that sufficient welfare staff are appointed to administer the scheme.

Níl a fhios agam an bhfuil mé chun fáilte a chur roimh an mBille seo nó nach bhfuil. D'fhéadfainn, mar a rinne daoine eile a labhair romham, é sin a dhéanamh ach go fírinneach níl mé ach beagáinín beag sásta leis an méad atá scríofa ann. Caithfidh mise anseo, cosúil le chuile duine eile, labhairt de réir mar a mhothaím. It is because of that, and appreciative of the fact that a Fianna Fáil Government and the Coalition Government have been associated with the presentation of the Bill, that in all honesty I must say I am very unenthusiastic about this legislation. I shall endeavour to indicate why that is my position. The people in my constituency — I owe my first allegiance to my constituents bearing in mind all the time the responsibility which is on me to give what might be identifed as leadership — are law abiding, about 95 per cent of them, and they are prepared to go about their business and look for nothing from society except the right to live. They seek the right to do that without offending or injuring anybody and they do not expect anything more than reciprocity.

However, because of the times in which we live and the nature of man we have in the State certain institutions charged with protecting the rights and interests of those people, the Department of Justice, the legal profession and the Garda. We have other organisations and other Departments concerned about the interests of those people but, in respect of this legislation, we are only concerned about the simple responsibility of allowing people the right to live their lives in peace. I am not saying that this is the responsibility of the Government; it is the responsibility of all Governments and the fact that the problem has been compounded in recent months is not entirely the fault of the Government although it is their responsibility. It is not an understatement to say that the situation in the country, in my constituency and in the constituency of the Minister of State, is such that the 95 per cent of our people whom I referred to have lost faith in the Departments, our institutions and the professions charged with providing care and protection for them. In particular, they have lost faith in the Department of Justice.

I do not make that statement with any relish. I do so with a certain amount of reluctance but if I remain silent any longer I will regret that I did not tell the House of how I feel about the times in which we live. The legislation before the House seems to be a step further in making apologies to those found guilty of offences. I have heard references to sensitivity that the stigma of a person having been found guilty of an offence should be removed, that in respect of the penalties which normal society requires for offences we should be making apologies. I do not agree. If we are to live in any class of organised society there must be an acceptance ab initio that there is reward for doing the right thing and lack of reward for doing a wrong.

Deputy Allen told us of his interest in the young people of his constituency. I have a similar interest. That interest is not just superficial; I have an interest of involvement. I can tell the House that they are fast losing faith in us because they see us condone a situation where there seems to be far more regard for the wrongdoer and far more consideration and provision for the criminal than for the young person who is living in accordance with the normal requirements of society. Is there not justification for the young teenager feeling that way and, if that is so, are we not culpable? If the young male teenager, charged with all the interest and sense of adventure that is his nature, is prepared at times to withdraw from those urges which would satisfy him but which are damaging to his neighbour and if he is prepared to forego the transient or ephemeral pleasure because he accepts it is not the correct thing to do or because there is a deterrent against his doing it, why in Heaven's name do we make it obvious to him that there will be a reward for the teenager who does not submit to that personal discipline, who allows his sense of adventure to run riot and who will yield to all those urges and harm himself and his neighbour? Will the normal, well behaved youth not learn the lesson that he should so indulge? That is what is happening.

I refer again to an RTE programme made two years ago in my constituency which was full of sympathy and encouragement for the teenager who will take a car. They interviewed a parent who said that his son had come to him telling him about such things as taking cars. Nobody asked this parent whether he had told his son that this was not the correct thing to do. There was a glorification of this activity. I do not want to appear to be saying "I told you so" but it is significant that problems which have arisen of late in my constituency are headquartered at the point where RTE set up their headquarters when making that programme. I do not want to attach full blame to RTE but I am entitled to comment in pursuit of the case I am making that if we appear to accept the wrongdoer, if we appear to glorify him and his activity and if we allow that person who is breaking the law to get special attention, then we must run the risk of being accused of nurturing rather than discouraging such happenings.

This legislation does nothing more than fan my cynicism. We are told that we cannot get sufficient gardaí to patrol and carry out the law as it exists. It is well known that members of the Garda will tell people their hands are tied if they have recourse to them in respect of some injury done to them. That is the response being given by the gardaí to law abiding people who have recourse to the normal destination of all of us when in trouble, if we are being attacked by our neighbour or our property is being injured. When people can identify the wrongdoer the Garda are quite likely to say that they know the person, that he has been before the courts ten times but they can do nothing because their hands are tied. That is not good enough. Until we have remedied this there is little point in presenting to the House this piece of paper containing aspirations and providing for a situation that may be appropriate in other nations where normal standards are higher than ours but which are practically useless in the face of the prevailing standards here. That is not to dismiss from consideration knowledge I have about projects that have been pursued by men from Arbour Hill and Mountjoy in coming to my constituency and others and working on the provision of a scout den or other building to be used for community purposes. I would do that only when everything else had been satisfied. We are codding ourselves and the people if we think that what is proposed here will make any worthwhile contribution towards curing our ills.

I return to my constituents and their simple demands. I can boast of a greater number of PAYE taxpaying constituents than perhaps any other constituency. They are making a contribution towards the maintenance of law and order. Of the many millions provided for the Department of Justice, our judges, solicitors and lawyers, the people whom I represent make a considerable contribution. I am not being too demanding on their behalf and there is no point in saying that the problems there arise because it is a built-up area. Shame upon us and our planners if in our wisdom, or lack of it, we have put so many families of the same kind in one area. I would not be able to put up with the adversity, the abuse and the lack of consideration under different Governments suffered by people living in my constituency. They feel completely isolated. They make a contribution towards the Garda, toward educating our doctors, teachers and our lawyers but they can never speak to one of them except when those people are paid to listen to them. They cannot have recourse to those people in their normal social lives, yet they pay five-sixth's of what it costs to train those people. We accept a situation that, because it is happening there, it is what one expects; but there is not an acceptance of the fundamental requirement in a democracy that those people more than any others are entitled to the protection of the State, especially when going about their normal business, which invariably means working hard.

This Bill provides that if somebody injures one of those people we in our wisdom will accept that the person causing the injury is making full restitution to the injured person and society if he condescends to perform some physical work which some civil servant or social worker decides he should do. I do not accept that. The problem in my constituency is that there are far too many good people anxious to do work in the community, and there is far too much work to be done in the community without depending on having it done by a person who causes harm to another person as provided in this Bill. This work is to be done under certain officers. Have they been appointed? Probation officers in the Department of Justice tell me that they are far too busy. I am aware that the Government have an embargo on the appointment of additional people. Is there an embargo on the appointment of additional probation officers? What provision has been made? I believe the speed at which this Bill has come before the House is an attempt at getting away from the unwelcome fact that we have not prison accommodation at the moment for the people spoken about in this Bill.

Have the normal, traditional and well-tried means of bringing people to justice failed, or are we running away from them? Does it look well to show to our neighbours, as well as to the people abroad, that we have brought our sense of justice and our laws to such a refined state that now any little boy who attacks or rapes his neighbour is put out painting a wall and we think that is very good? We put that person out removing graffiti from a wall and we think that is an excellent form of rehabilitation. I do not think it is. We are all concerned when we do this that the person might only do it in darkness or when he is doing it nobody must know that he raped or injured his neighbour. The Minister of State in the House at the moment is a learned lawyer and a distinguished politician. Does he accept that is the solution to the many existing problems? Should we not see to it instead that, irrespective of the cost, the existing agencies, which are being well paid, apply themselves to carrying out the law in relation to the protection and the well-being of our citizens?

I never indulge in the usual clap-trap of welcoming a Bill. I am not dismissing this Bill as useless but as next door to it, because I do not see its immediate implementation. We have not got the work that can be done. I see in it an escape from what we should be doing. I have read all the contributions to date and I note that certain freedoms have been given to speakers. I am quite happy that I am remaining within those freedoms. I am also mindful of the fact that in respect of any Bill one is entitled, on Second Stage, to refer to what is in it or what might be in it. I am very happy that I should not incur your interruption in relation to my contribution.

I would expect that.

Thank you. We have good and well paid judges, lawyers, social workers and a Garda force, bigger than ever, a frightening investment in what is supposed to provide law and order. We know we have reached the point that there are impediments and inhibitions in relation to the execution of the laws by the people to whom I have referred. I am sure everybody has heard the stock reply about the uselessness, even though somebody has been identified, of bringing that person to court. The Garda should be asked if that is true and, if it is not, they should stop saying it. If the position is that, having brought somebody before the courts, they find themselves before a district justice or a judge who is not sensitive to the requirements, who thinks that he or she is free to interpret the law in a way which is not in accordance with what is being provided for, I believe the time has come when we should say to those men and women they are not doing their business in the fashion provided for.

I said a few years ago, having heard a few whispers from members of my party who are friendly with the men in question, that there was no doubt that the time had come when every district justice and judge should have to undergo a medical examination. A person applying for the most underpaid job in the civil service must submit to a medical examination. That is for people who could find themselves with no better company than a brush or no better companion than a pen. Why should the same not apply to people who will have the responsibility of interpreting the law and administering justice?

My solicitor and Garda friends tell me that it is well known that the nature of a decision from the bench can be influenced by the prevailing state of health of the judge who is sitting in judgment. I am not identifying any judge, but if I were, I would not make any apology for it. I look upon them in the same way as I look on a TD, teacher or anyone paid by the State. They are there to give a service. For too long we have indulged in an oversensitivity and over-respect for these good gentlemen. They do not look for it. They are well able to defend themselves. Occasionally some of them make excursions into the political field and I do not see why I, as one who represents the people who pay their salaries, should not be entitled to make what I regard as fair comment on them. I do not do so under the protection of the House. I have said this outside the House and so cannot be accused of abusing my rights as a Member of the House.

It is well known that some of these gentlemen are not up to the responsibility of their appointment. Perhaps that could have been avoided if before their appointment they were subjected to a medical examination.

The Deputy is dealing with the Judiciary. I would be grateful if he would come back to the Bill before the House. There is a Criminal Justice Bill pending and I am sure the Deputy will be competent to deal with it. I appreciate his concern for his own area and the needs of the people there. However, the Deputy must not wander from the Bill.

It is not appropriate that a statement should be made as if it was an accepted fact that a number of members of the Judiciary are unfit for the office they hold.

Deputy Tunney to continue on the Bill. Whatever remarks he has to make on the Judiciary would be more relevant to the Criminal Justice Bill which will come before the House.

The Minister of State may try to exaggerate what I have said to try to strengthen his position with his colleagues. I am not concerned about that. What I have said is on record. I am at a loss to know how the Chair can justify deciding it is improper for me to make any reference to the Judiciary under this Bill.

I have allowed the Deputy to wander away from the Bill. I would be grateful if he would now continue on the Bill.

I will do that because you asked me and because I have said what I want to say in respect of judges. I make no apologies to the Minister of State for what I have said. Some of his colleagues would also say it if they had the courage to do so.

It should be pointed out to the Deputy that one does not have to undergo a medical examination in order to become a TD.

Deputy Tunney to continue on the Bill regardless of what the Minister of State has said.

The position I hold as a TD I hold from election to election. The positions held by these gentlemen, who are Deputy Shatter's friends and as well paid as he is, are held in perpetuity. There is a distinction. I referred to medical examinations for positions in the civil service. We are not state servants.

Deputy Shatter's remarks are irrelevant. Please continue on the Bill.

I am a member of the teaching profession and am not one bit shy or slow to criticise my profession if I feel so disposed.

I have never heard the Deputy do so.

Then the Deputy has not been here to benefit from my great utterances in that field.

I never heard the Deputy say anything that did the slightest bit of harm to himself.


It is regrettable that when a Deputy rises to speak full of conviction and armed with evidence and statements and ventures to criticise the legal profession immediately he should be confronted by four legal luminaries in the Fine Gael benches.

I am not a member of the legal profession but I would be grateful if the Deputy would concern himself with the Bill.

At least lawyers do not boast about their Hippocratic oath and tell lies at the drop of a hat as doctors in Fianna Fáil did last week.

They still continue to draw their salaries.

One of the great securities we have in this country is the fact that there is an independent Judiciary. I would tremble for the country if it ever came under the stethoscope of Deputy Tunney.


Will the people on that side of the House please allow Deputy Tunney to continue?

Bíonn an fhírinne searbh. An gad is giorra don scornaigh.

Is minic a briseadh——

Is ionadh liomsa gur tháinig ceathrar ón taobh eile isteach agus tá siad ag déanamh cosanta ní ar an mBille but on the legal profession.

That is because the Deputy has not been addressing himself to the Bill.

I would appreciate if the Deputy would continue on the Bill.

I thank the Chair for his forbearance. It is not my intention to make his life more difficult than it is but I am convinced that it was in order for me to criticise the judges under this Bill. I am happy that I have done so. Surely judges play an important part in the legislation before us.

We have solicitors who take advantage of the fact that the same people appear before the courts very often because every time that person appears the solicitor is paid. I have heard the Garda being criticised but no criticism of solicitors because there is a fund made available by the people whom I represent for them. The solicitor is paid directly or indirectly. I am not saying he has a vested interest in doing that but I appreciate he would not have the same objection to returning to court as someone who is not paid for doing so or someone who had been injured and is not getting the satisfaction to which he or she is entitled.

It is now May 1983. Please God we will all be here in May 1984. I hope I am wrong but I predict that what is envisaged here will not have got off its feet. It is because of that I am speaking in such a critical and cynical fashion. I repeat that it gives me no pleasure. We should be applying ourselves to a situation where we stop looking on society casualties as the standard for which we must provide. We are doing all we can to rehabilitate them but meanwhile we must afford protection to the people who are suffering. I am amazed at the sensitivity of some people who say in respect of a prisoner who might be asked to do some of the work envisaged in the Bill that he should not at any stage feel hurt or that anybody is looking at him. That may be a person who perhaps a month before removed an eye or injured the face or person of his neighbour. What about that person and the stigma that he or she must carry for the rest of his or her life? What about the person who is robbed and battered? What about the person who is denied the normal service provided by CIE because some of these wrong-doers have decided that buses will only pass a certain road if they allow it?

The Garda, the Department of Justice and CIE who are charged with providing that service are running away from their responsibilities and we think we are going to solve all these problems by talking about a Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill. It is a waste of time. When people have friends in court or are familiar with somebody who is making something worth while out of it, that cannot be spoken about. It is shoved under the carpet. We indulge in claptrap and talk about what they are doing elsewhere and how projects have succeeded in other countries. The acceptance of law and order is being eroded daily. If the Criminal Justice Bill was being introduced next week I would not be availing of the opportunity of interpreting Standing Orders in the fashion allowed.

I would like to see a mechanism in this Bill whereby anybody who is guilty of an offence, especially an offence which injures his neighbour, should be brought to justice and suffer the appropriate penalty for it so that it will be a deterrent against the repetition of such wrongdoing. The legislation before us is not going to provide that. It would be appropriate and applicable if everything else was as ideal as we would like it to be but coming at a time when there is such disorganisation, disarray and indifference and where there is this feeling that we have failed the people — and I readily accept that accusation — this legislation will only serve further to fan the feelings that they have towards us.

Since I became a Member of this House I have never been critical of TDs until today. As a profession we are as good as any other. We have commitment and dedication and are anxious to perform the duties entrusted to us in the best manner possible. However, in respect of this legislation, we are taking the easy way out. We should have told the Minister for Justice that this legislation is in appropriate to the times in which we live. The former Government had envisaged the introduction of this Bill. I hope they had envisaged introducing it after the new Criminal Justice Bill.

They introduced it first.

I wish to thank the Deputy for his assistance. The legislation we should be considering here is a new Criminal Justice Bill. Until that is introduced, it should be clearly understood that we are no longer happy with the approach towards the wrongdoer and making apologies to him. That is only encouraging him. The appointment of a new corps of social workers who will appeal to the better judgment of these young people is not going to solve the problem. The problem will be solved when we ensure that the laws that exist are applied in the proper fashion, that those who administer the laws are as industrious, conscientious and courageous as we here are, and to establish that from now on there will be no bonus, no credit, no sympathy, no apologies to those who break the laws. We can go back to 1916 — if one is disposed to go back so far— and to defining the word "freedom", the freedom so dearly won, the freedom of being able to go to your place of employment, return to your home, socialise, go to bed, happy in the thought that when you rise next morning you will not have had an unwelcome visitor. That is as much a part of the freedom for which those great men fought——

That much freedom existed under the English, believe it or not.

I always am amazed at and it is only rarely that I benefit from the interruptions of Deputy Kelly. Nevertheless, I am thankful to him——

It is a very bizarre concept of freedom. We should have freedom to make laws of our own without cogging out of British Acts, which is what this is.

I am glad that Deputy Kelly is agreeing with me on that information, which I did not have, that his Government and ours have combined to plagiarise or cog from the Brits in this. It will not go between me and my night's sleep——

It ought to.

——and I will look forward to Deputy Kelly elaborating on that and demonstrating to this House how dangerous an occupation that is. I am not familiar with it being wrong in that case. There are virtues across the water and we can learn from them in certain areas. I hope that in certain areas they might learn from us, but they will not learn from us in the matter of the hypocrisy of expecting that people will accept that because we put this legislation through this House we are moving any step further in the direction of providing for that freedom to which I referred. Again I return to it, and I am at a loss to know why Deputy Kelly would seem mildly dismissive of that type of freedom. Is that not what freedom is about? If you have not got it, of what use is any other freedom? I notice, too, that my definition of that freedom so dearly bought by our great forebears evoked from Deputy Shatter something between a smile and a smirk. I am at a loss to know why. I hope that presently he will indicate to this House his thoughts on the legislation and he will defend the people who might be regarded by him as having been unduly criticised by me. He will give us the benefit of the difficulties that perhaps the legal profession have and to which he is privy. He will indicate to us how he expresses his concern for the constituent of his who is suffering in the fashion that I have described as existing in my constituency. Perhaps he has some information which he will give to me about some solicitors who will look after the interests of such people free, gratis and for nothing, who will take a fatherly interest and fatherly care in trying to restore the flagging faith in all our legal profession that exists in my constituency. If so, I will be very happy to relate that and abide by it.

While it is open to the Deputy to cast aspersions on all members of the solicitors' profession, I do not think that the remarks made by him are relevant to this debate or appropriate. In the context of smirking, the only thing that caused me amusement was the idea that somebody might try to disturb one's sleep in the middle of the night. The Deputy's reference to that was rather obscure.

Deputy Tunney, please continue on the Bill.

If Deputy Shatter is not aware of the fact that in every home in Dublin at the moment anxiety exists——

I am well aware of that.

——and that not alone will people be disturbed during the night but when they go to church or shopping they return to a home that has been vandalised, robbed by criminals——

What did the Deputy's Government do to tackle such matters?

Deputy Shatter will be speaking shortly.

I hope that when Deputy Shatter is speaking he will be as tolerant of interruptions from me as I am of interruptions from him. I did not invite Deputy Shatter to interrupt. If, as I said on some other occasion, conscience is making cowards of us all, so be it. I have no apology to make to Deputy Shatter or to anybody for what I say and I will now proceed——

——with your protection, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. It is farcical that, having regard to the circumstances and conditions prevailing when the people of this nation are looking to us and crying out that we apply ourselves in heaven's name to give them better value for the money they are paying and to afford to them normal protection, the only answer we can come up with is that we are now discussing and studying a piece of legislation called the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill which we hope will solve their problems. I am sure we all agree that there are difficulties (1) in bringing the wrongdoer to court and (2) in getting whatever is the sentence applied. Will we not have the same difficulty in having whatever the penalty is applied under this legislation unless we tidy up that which exists? I noticed that there was no suggestion from the benches opposite that all was well with the courts or with the Garda in the matter of the administration of justice at the moment. We all know the difficulties that exist about people on bail committing other crimes. We all know about people being sentenced and it not being possible to carry out the terms of that sentence. What provision is made under this legislation, bad and all as it is, that any sentence passed will be carried out? Who has monitored the situation? Has the situation been monitored so that we know all the areas where these operations can be carried out?

Has the Deputy read the legislation?

I have. Have you been told by your Minister that, supposing this legislation goes through tomorrow, the areas have been identified where these people will work? Have you? Have you been told that provision has been made for the appointment of probation officers? Silence. Would you not accept——

I should not have to tell Deputy Tunney that "you" means "me".

I have always been careful to keep as close as possible——

Deputy Tunney sees himself as one of nature's chairmen and does not like to be——

May I say, on a note of flippancy, that Deputy Kelly should forget the many occasions when, as chairman, I did not give him the freedom he so dearly wanted?

Deputy Tunney never gave me a bit of bother.

I get the impression that when I got between him and his professorial announcements——

It was due to the then Deputy O'Donoghue that Deputy Tunney was in the Chair.

——Deputy Kelly has made many references to this during the last week.

We should not have a post mortem.

I am flattered that I was able to thwart Deputy Kelly in such a way that he has not yet been able to get it out of his little mind.

The Deputy's contribution should relate to the Bill.

I hope that when he replies the Minister will be able to assure the House that the existing conditions in our courts and the attitude of our gardaí will change and that anybody brought to justice under this legislation will be subjected to the penalties provided under this Bill. I hope his reply will ease my mind and that he will tell us he has been in consultation with the agencies which can identify for him the areas where these people can carry out the work envisaged here. I also hope he will be able to tell us that provision has been made in this year's budget for the appointment of additional probation officers and that the embargo on appointments will not apply here. If he can do that I will accept that he is in earnest about what is proposed here. It will not make me very happy to say at some future time, "I told you so". I repeat that my fears are very real. I do not believe the Minister has been in consultation with all the interested bodies. Until I get better news from him I will still harbour these fears and frustrations.

It must be admitted that this Government and our Government have failed in one of their foremost duties, that is, to ensure our people are protected and those who commit offences, especially offences against our neighbours, are made pay the appropriate penalty. We should not continue to offer apologies and show them greater sympathy and sensitivity than that shown to those against whom these offences were committed.

I am sorry to strike a fairly neutral note in dealing with a Bill promoted by the Government I support. The Bill was well-meaning in its original form, which was a British form. It first surfaced in substantial form in the powers of the Criminal Courts Act, 1973, the sixty second Act in the twentieth year of the reign of Elizabeth II. There was the usual decorous interval of ten years during which alternative methods of penal treatment were mulled over by our domestic authorities of all political complexions.

Now we have our own little Bill, the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill, 1983, the guts of which have been lifted straight out of the British Act. I cannot count the number of times I have complained about that in this House, nor can I count the number of occasions on which I had to criticise patterns of Government and administration here, not necessarily all statutory, in which we seem to have no ideas of our own and wait until the British have taken any kind of step before we take one for ourselves.

The conditions of criminality and criminal administration which led the British to introduce this experiment ten years ago were equally visible to us. Nineteen seventy three was the year in which our jails were already bursting with offenders, many of them very violent and troublesome people. The kind of problems which led the British to make this experiment were just as obvious, if not more obvious, here as they were across the water. I am not going to labour this point because I have laboured it since I was elected to this House over ten years ago, and I do not want to weary Deputies or anybody else on the subject, but this is simply one more example in the ignominious parade of legislation masquerading under an Irish title "An Bille um Cheartas Coiriúil (Seirbhís Pobail), 1983" which is a British legislative idea taken over here and given a green outfit with silver buttons to make it look native. I protest against that.

The spirit of 1916 was invoked unctuously by Deputy Tunney 20 minutes ago. I believe and share the sentiments about 1916 which underlie what he was saying, but by a bizarre twist of his mind, which no X-ray or stethoscope would show were it the case that politicians were ever subjected to the annual medical check which he so anxiously recommends for the Judiciary, he seemed to think that the difference which 1916 should have won for us is that we could sleep in our beds at night with properly patrolled streets and relative freedom from fear of marauders and Ribbonmen. The DMP provided at least that standard of tranquility and security to the people of this city 70 or 80 years ago, but that is not what freedom was about, as I do not need to tell Deputy Tunney because I know his heart is in the right place on this theme. That is not what freedom is all about. It is about running our own affairs in a way which seems most appropriate to our own problems.

I must stigmatise this Bill, knowing I do not offend the Minister of State sitting in front of me, Deputy O'Keeffe, who has both a mind and a skin tough enough to withstand stuff like this from me, particularly since he knows that this Bill represents an area of consensus among both sides of the House. Whatever Deputy Tunney may say about it, it is exactly the thing that 1916 was not all about. It was not all about tamely copying British legislation 10 years after.

In case, Sir, you do not believe me, it is true that the Bill does not literally, word for word, reproduce the British sections, although there are examples in our legislation, many of them, in which English sections are reproduced word for word, the only difference being what the despised legal profession would call the operation of the mutatis mutandis principle. We were careful enough to take out some references that are no longer or never were applicable in Ireland, like “county courts” and substitute “circuit courts”. We took that much trouble with it. We change “London” to “Dublin”, things like that. We are well able to make such changes, it is well within our competence, we are not stretched or worried to do that; but anything more substantial, like recognising or analysing a problem which is under our own noses and doing it now and not waiting for the English to do it for us, seems to be beyond us. Whatever about the men of 1916, in the first years of the State under the late W. T. Cosgrave and ensuing years under the late Éamon de Valera, we had innovation and we used independent thinking. That has now become lost and submerged.

The Bill in front of us does not follow the 1973 English Act literally word for word, but in every important respect it does. It defines in the same way the conditions in which these community orders may be made. It defines "community service" in the same way. It defines conditions for revoking orders in the same way. It defines even the numbers of hours per week and per year which may maximally be spent on community service with the very same number of hours.

I do not think there is any ethnic or climatic reason to go out of one's way to differentiate between the number of hours of community service appropriate for an offender in Inverness and those apporpriate for an offender in Tullamore, which Deputy Connolly was talking about a moment ago. However, I consider it uncanny, not in the nature of a free people, that time and again in our legislation, down to the number of hours we define, we decide that because the British did it it is more than good enough for us.

I have nothing against a 40-hour week of community service, or against a 240hour year, but the likelihood that we would have decided on these figures had we been approaching the matter ourselves without any knowledge of what the British had done, is infinitesimally small. It clearly is cogged, like so much of our legislation, straight out of the English Act, 10 years on, and as far as I can see, without any visible reflection of any lessons that the British may have learned themselves in the meantime.

The Chair feels that having dealt with that aspect the Deputy should now deal with the merits or demerits of what is in the Bill.

With your indulgence I want to make one more point about legislation of this kind. It is an important point. There is a principle in our law since Mr. Justice Hanna's decision in the Pigs Marketing Board case against Donnelly in 1939, that legislation, an Act of the Oireachtas, is to be deemed constitutional in the sense that a presumption operates in its favour which it is for the person challenging the Act to overthrow, rather in the way that an accused person in a criminal court is presumed innocent until shown to be guilty: in the same way, an Act of the Oireachtas carries a presumption in its favour that it is constitutional, and it is up to the person challenging it to demonstrate the contrary: the State is under no obligation to demonstrate its constitutionality; the onus is the other way around.

That is a very logical and rational presumption and it is easy to see the reason for it because the courts have to assume in respect to another arm of the State that the Oireachtas has respected the injunction of Article 15 and has not enacted something that is repugnant to the Constitution. That is the basis on which the presumption rests. Although as a general proposition that is unchallengeable, I believe that that presumption ought to apply, if at all, with much diminished force when one has a statute which has been cogged straight from the English Statute Book, because that is visibly not a statute to which an Irish mind and the mind of this House have been directed de novo, directed from scratch. It is something that has been taken from a strange jurisdiction with no written constitution, to which none of the rules to which we have become accustomed in the last 60 years applies, in which parliament is sovereign and can make or unmake anything it likes until it runs up against the walls of biological impossibility.

When we take from the other jurisdiction a statute and put in into Irish dress and write it on green paper with minimal consideration which is visible from the fact that whole clauses of the statute, entire sections, whole phrases, are copied out word for word, then the presumption of constitutionality must apply at least on rationale, when presumption exists at all, with much diminished force, and it is only a matter of time — it would be an impertinence to predict this — before some court finds to that effect. I do not say I can see anything unconstitutional in this Bill, although I will point to something which seems to me to be caught in a corner, something which I believe an Irish draftsman approaching the matter from scratch would not have done.

However, before I get to that rather technical matter I would ask the Minister of State, if he gets a chance to reply this evening, or the Minister for Justice, whether they would be good enough to let us know the cost of operating this system of community service. What will be the cost of supervision? I hope I will not have some smartie coming along to say I am applying preconception to criminality. Honestly, I know very little about criminality and I am not an expert on it in any shape or form. I have appeared for accused persons at the Bar and that is the only context in which I have come across it. I willingly admit that I very likely know far less about it than solicitors in practice, like the two Deputies here beside me.

Far too little work has been done on the specific Irish mores of criminality. I hardly need to weary the House by saying that we rely on English textbooks as though the patterns of social existence and the criminality that goes with them are likely to be the same in Macclesfield as they are in Bangor Erris. We tend to do very little study nationally on the forms that criminality takes here or on the most appropriate methods of dealing with them. We have done very little experimenting.

However, this Bill is an experiment which was suggested to us by British experience. I would like to know therefore whether any cost estimate has been made of supervising these offenders who will be made the subjects of community orders. These offenders are not just any old offenders. It will not be somebody who in other respects is law abiding, although I do not pretend there is a moral gap. However, this kind of order cannot be made against somebody who normally in the opinion of the courts would be adequately punished with a fine. In other words, a grossly negligent driver, perhaps even somebody who injures another person, commonly is not given a prison sentence here. Somebody who cheats the Revenue so far is commonly not given a prison sentence; somebody who gives short weight, somebody who sells drink to minors in pubs or supermarkets. These people are not given prison sentences. I will not try to explain that. I will let a sociologist or a criminologist do so.

It may be that the middle class have a kind of tacit or unspoken, unwritten form of privilege in this regard. I do not know about that. All I am observing is that there is a wide range of offences which are criminal offences, and about which people in this House are forever listening to complaints — people give out and say these criminals are the same as wretched, under-privileged youngsters who commit mayhem on the streets and in the suburbs — to which sentences of imprisonment are not as a rule or at all applied. Offenders of this kind are completely outside the scope of this Bill. Why? Because the British say so. Why? Because the British Act is like that. That is the only reason. The British Act has exactly the same fence around the conditions in which these orders may be made. They are a substitute for imprisonment, not for a fine.

I know almost nothing about this but I do know that community service as a penal measure is applied in some parts of continental Europe. There was a passing reference to that in the Minister's speech. In Scandinavia they make a drunken driver do community service. I do not believe there is anything wrong in making somebody who, in the ordinary way, is punished by a suspension of his licence and a fine perhaps, be seen to be weeding a public park. Naturally that is a somewhat ignominious punishment. I do not want to be taken as advocating it. It is very easy to be glib in advocating punishments for others. It is unlucky to do that, and I am not doing it now.

The people who were behind this Bill, in whatever party and in whatever Department, did not look further than across the channel. Apparently they gave no thought to the possibility that community service orders might be appropriate in some contexts for that kind of offender. They restricted it to the kind of offender for whom imprisonment is commonly doled out. That is exactly the kind of offender, because of the kinds of offence to which it is usually attached, the average Irish citizen will not want to have hanging around his premises, will not want to have weeding paths or clipping hedges outside his house, will not want to have next or near him. He will complain if he finds that a number of offenders of this kind are being employed in his vicinity, and employed not under constant police supervision, but in such a way that they can fill in the work in their own time, in any free hours they have.

What will be the cost of supervising adequately the kind of offender for whom this Bill is tailored? I do not know what the cost will be. Perhaps it will not be very much. The Minister made an allusion to the likelihood that he would have to recruit staff. We may be perfectly certain that is exactly what he will have to do. He said it may be necessary for the probation and welfare service to employ people either on a paid or a voluntary basis. How many is he likely to get on a voluntary basis if they can be paid for it, and if a case can be made to pay them? What kind of industrial problems does he think he will have if he imagines he will be able to run one part of the service for nothing while paying the rest? He said it may be necessary to employ people either on a paid or a voluntary basis to supervise the actual performance of the work. I am damn sure it will be necessary.

I am not a criminologist or a penologist. I am not advising a massive extension of the jails system. Will it be all that much cheaper in the eyes of the Department of Justice than providing proper prison accommodation? I am not advocating putting people in prison. As a general rule, the best thing to do is keep them out of prison. No matter what complaints come from a victimised community, on the whole you are more likely to get recidivism and back-sliding into crime among people who have been sent to prison than among people who have managed to be kept out of prison. I am not laying down the law about this. I should like to know whether any cost analysis has been done on the likely product of this system in comparison with expanding prison accommodation.

The Bill envisages the making of regulations for the refunding of travelling expenses, the offender's travelling expenses and presumably somebody to keep an eye on him while he travels down to Mountmellick, or wherever it may be, to do some community service there.

Tax deductible.

I am asking these questions only because, regrettably, the Minister's speech contains nothing on this point. I should also like to have known whether the Garda have any opinion about this Bill and, if so, what it is. The Minister was silent on that as well. The Minister in front of me will know I am not saying that in any carping sense. I would ask that of any Minister. That element is missing from the Minister's speech.

I should like to know whether the Garda look on this Bill as being one more headache, one more piece of cosmetic legislation which will increase the burdens on them, or whether they are willing to give it a chance. Are they indifferent to it? Are they cynical about it? Are they bitterly opposed to it? The Garda have collective opinions on these things. Since they are the people who provide the cutting edge of the State in dealing with a criminality which most of us are lucky enough not to come in contact with, I would have thought their opinion was valuable.

If the Garda view was that this would put a lot of rogues back on the streets, and put them back even quicker than they are now being put back, I would have been slow to go ahead with a Bill of this kind. I emphasise that in saying that I do not want to insinuate that that is the opinion of the Garda. I do not know what their opinion is. For all I know it may be that they are anxious to give a thing like this a chance. That may well be the case. Very much to their credit, the Garda have done a great deal in trying to keep offenders, and particularly young offenders, out of prison. It may be that they agree entirely with the spirit of this Bill. At least the House should be told.

The point to which I want to draw attention as an instance of where the draughtsman copied something from British legislation — and I believe he would have done better for himself had he pretended he was starting from scratch — is to be found in section 11 which deals with the revocation of community service orders. Subsection (1) provides:

Where a community service order is in force and, on application by the offender or a relevant officer, it appears to the District Court that it would be in the interests of justice, having regard to circumstances which have arisen since the order was made, that the order should be revoked or that the offender should be dealt with in some other manner for the offence in respect of which the order was made, the court may—

—do this, that or the other, things which may possibly be unwelcome to the offender.

That phrase is far too vague for an Irish statute. It may be all right for the English. In the much despised legal area which Deputy Tunney thinks so little of, we have erected far more independent measures and standards for ourselves than the State has in any other Department. If I were showing a visitor from some other country around our constitutional supermarket, so to speak, there is no area I would show him more proudly as being an exemplification of the independence which was won in the way Deputy Tunney described, than the area in which the courts have been operating.

The courts can operate only with the legislation put in front of them. They cannot make legislation. The District Court is now being given a power "in the interests of justice"— which is an extremely vague expression; it has a status in our law but not in a context like this — to adjudicate a standard which is totally vague. What are the interests of justice for a purpose like this? "...having regard to circumstances which have arisen since the order was made..." What circumstances? Does it mean having regard to the fact that offences have been committed by the person about whom an order was made and that he has been convicted of those offences? Has he committed some fresh offence? If so, say so.

Have the circumstances nothing to do with a fresh offence? Have they come to light in regard to the ability of the Department to effect proper supervision? What are the circumstances? What is the basis on which this jurisdiction will rest? That is a jurisdiction which may mean, possibly if it is not interpreted in a liberal manner, that some offender who is making a go of a community service order, or has almost discharged the number of hours he has been sentenced to community service, may find himself hauled back before the District Court and subjected to some quite different treatment, perhaps sent to prison, in consequence of the application of a standard which no one in this House can now define. I do not know what is meant by "circumstances which have arisen" or "the interests of justice". The only explanation for those phrases being in the section is that they are in the English section. The words of our section 11 (1) — the right to enact which we fought for in 1916 — are to be found in section 17 (2) of the British Act. My tongue has got the better of me, as it so often does, in some respects in this contribution but I did intend to make a serious technical point which I hope the Minister will see fit to deal with in his reply.

I am delighted that I share the constituency of Dublin South with the previous speaker who has shown himself to be not only a wonderful orator but a new-found Republican. I did not know that Deputy Kelly had such an aversion to British legislation or to adopting some of the provisions enacted there. I cannot say I disagree with him entirely but neither will I develop a fixation about it, because if an idea is good I do not see any reason why we should employ an army of civil servants poring over statutes and precedents in order to reinvent the wheel. I do not see any common sense in that approach, just because we have some difficulty with the freedom from Britain for which we fought so hard. Some of our own constitutional provisions have found their way into the colonial constitutions. I take a rather practical view and feel we should adopt good ideas if they can keep down our costs of research and so on. I would be quite happy to adopt good ideas whether they be American, Canadian, Swiss or British. Crime is not an Irish problem only. It is a problem suffered by every civilised society and we must examine the situation in each country, not just Britain, to see how they are tackling crime. The alternative is to employ a group of public servants for some indeterminate time to reinvent the wheel and figure out how to tackle crime without considering any of the approaches adopted elsewhere.

They probably would make a better wheel than the one we have. I have great confidence in them if left to themselves.

That remains to be seen. We should not be too insular and should examine any good ideas. I share Deputy Kelly's concern regarding the cost of this scheme and perhaps the Minister would give an estimate of the total cost.

If Deputy Kelly is saying that people should not go to prison and, on the other hand, that these community service orders will not work, the alternative is to turn people loose. I would guess that this is not what Deputy Kelly would advocate, but I wonder what precisely he would do with offenders.

I find much that is wrong with this Bill in some ways, but there is some imagination in it and imagination is badly needed in the economic and legal areas and particularly in the area of crime. I am prepared to give this Bill a chance and to see how it works. If Deputy Kelly chooses to look at the scheme which has been operating since 1976 in Britain and Northern Ireland he will see that it has had some success. The alternative is to put people in cells and throw away the key. That is not a real alternative for a civilised society. We must be imaginative and consider new methods. Is it not better for people to repay society by doing some work rather than languishing in prison at enormous cost to the taxpayer? It must make sense and the only difficulty is whether this Bill will work. I am not too concerned about points concerning taxi fares and so on. I am concerned that the scheme should be given an opportunity to work. If it does not, we must try something else.

The community will benefit because work will be done which would not otherwise be done. The courts will benefit because they will have a better opportunity to make the punishment fit the crime. The prison administration will benefit because it will relieve congestion in overcrowded prisons. There is public support for some move of this kind. There is not a Deputy who does not daily attend meetings where the subject of crime is raised. The public are not quite sure what they want but they are asking for answers from the Dáil to the problem of crime. I found support for the principles of this Bill at meetings. The general public did not have access to the details of the Bill but there was a feeling that something must be done and, if the Bill is a step in the right direction, let us have it. That is the mood of my constituents and I doubt if the mood is different anywhere else.

The Bill deals with offenders over the age of 16. The Minister might consider having a look at a different type of work for people under 16 because that seems to be an area which is not getting the attention it deserves. The age of criminal responsibility is still seven years of age. I have a seven-year-old son and I do not regard him as being of a mind or an age to be a criminal. Anyone with children must realise that this is a ridiculous situation. All the lawyers have now left the House, which probably means that we can have a more reasonable political debate, because they would state that the age of criminal responsibility is a matter fraught with legal difficulties. We must untie those difficulties. A child of seven cannot be a criminal, by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps there is another type of work of a less penitential nature available to youngsters, possibly of the boy scout bob-a-job kind. This could be an extension of the scheme. Having criticised Deputy Kelly, I must say that I share his view that an Irish hand could have been found to extend the ideas in the scheme.

There has been much talk recently about how to tackle crime and headlines have been full of this vigilante nonsense. I want no hand, act or part in any vigilante groups. They should not be encouraged. The Government should make it quite clear that it is the Garda who have responsibility for enforcing law and order and that nobody else should be permitted to take the law into their own hands however well intentioned. I want to make that clear as my personal view on that subject. I do not believe it has been said loudly enough because there is a feeling around that somehow it is public-spirited to take someone who has committed a crime behind a wall and beat the head off him. There is a feeling around about that. If this Bill does anything to relieve that type of feeling that is great. If not the Government should say quite clearly that this country will not have what have now become known as vigilantes; we just will not have them.

Hear, hear.

I want to raise the question also of whether this Bill is suitable to tackle the terrible drugs situation here. I do not need to recount the statistics on that subject. Suffice it to say, from my research, one in ten teenagers in this country is now playing with heroin. That is a frightening figure. It is a hidden, sinister crime and one that is difficult to handle. I wonder will this Bill do anything in that regard because, if somebody is accused, found guilty and sentenced to X hours of community work, how do we know that the other X hours of their time will not be spent continuing their trade in drug trafficking? There is no way it can be supervised to that extent.

While this Bill will be helpful in other areas I suggest it will be most unhelpful in that area of the fastest growing crime — as I said before — now the fastest growing business with the greatest turnover of any company in Dublin city today. I do not think the provisions of this Bill will do anything in that regard. I would ask that some alteration be made in its provisions to allow for the handling of that drugs situation — perhaps extra supervision, perhaps extra reporting, some other area of greater or more intensive supervision if it happens to be a drugs offence. I do not think the ordinary supervision will suffice.

The whole area of law enforcement and of crime in Ireland today is one on which we could hold up this House for many years if we got into it. I do not intend to do that today. But I want to say this, that the suburbs of this city today are terrorised at the extent of crime in the city. That takes me back to my opening point, that it is not just more laws, more gardaí and so on that are required, it is imagination. I ask the Government, the Minister and the officials advising these people to bring a little imagination to bear on old problems. To an extent that is what politics is about, tackling old problems in a fresh way. That is what leadership is about, bringing fresh minds and approaches to old problems and my God, crime is the oldest problem we have. I am asking the Minister and his officials to bring some fresh thinking to it, for example, such as the idea of trying to establish a police point in every substantial suburb. There are whole suburbs, such as Dundrum, Rathfarnham, right across the board, each the size of an Irish town. For example, Rathfarnham is almost the size of Galway city. Take Dundrum and a few more places thrown in and one has an area the size of Cork city. Tallaght has up to 90,000 people with one Garda station, and so on. The kind of imagination for which I am asking is that perhaps those areas could be broken down into communities, with a community police point whether it be only a telephone number, a letter-box, a sentry or even a local post office but, whatever it be, it would constitute a fresh idea and establish a police point. The greatest difficulty of which I have been told in dealing with crime in my constituency is that when people want to contact the Garda, particularly when in difficulty, they discover there is no local spot to do that, that they must contact the rather remote Garda stations that service the fast growing surburban population.

What I am asking for is a community policing system. I do not believe it would take any more money or an enormous number of extra men. It requires just a little imagination to use our existing resources a little better. Dublin city has become enormously impersonal. Most of its estates would be the size of an ordinary Irish town, be that Portumna or whatever. There are estates the size of those towns. But the difference is that those towns such as Portumna, Mullingar or whatever, have their own Garda station, their own police protection, their town hall, their civic services and their sense of identity. But that is not available in Dublin, suburban Dublin particularly at present, in the huge concrete jungles that have grown up. It is no problem now to build 2,000 houses. Just put a name on it and walk away from it. But there will be no town hall in these areas, no social services, no sense of identity there. Of course there will be very serious crime in an area like that. Therefore, let us try to get Dublin back to a more communitybased type of society. Let us pick a place like Rathfarnham, let us turn that into a community with its own police point. If it cannot afford a police station perhaps the post office could be used. Let us bring some imagination to bear on it.

For example, in my constituency there are 106,000 people, 30,000 of whom are youngsters in the sense that they are under 18. There are two resident Garda stations in that constituency; I know there are some over-flows dealing with edges of it. That is not the kind of community policing and connection with the public I want our gardaí to have. I am suggesting, therefore, a community policing type of operation particularly in our suburbs, the idea that we establish a police point in large housing estates, be it just a telephone, post office or whatever.

I notice in the Garda Report for 1981 that there are 52 crimes committed per thousand of population. It is significant to note that, while the overall detection rate is 37 per cent, there is an 87 per cent detection rate in offences against the person, meaning that in serious crime our Garda do a far better job than they are given credit for. But bring it down to less serious crime, the day-to-day crime, the stealing of the video, of the television set, the kitchen furniture, whatever, there the detection rate is something of the order of slightly over 30 per cent. Therefore we can see that our gardaí, when they get their teeth into the more serious crime, are able to handle it. In that regard also I might talk of imagination. When one looks at those statistics one sees that the major area of crime that goes undetected is that of the casual larceny and break-in and so on, the not so serious beatings as opposed to serious beatings. In that regard, considering that one young person in four is now unemployed, why do we not bring some imagination to bear on that problem, perhaps by introducing some type of police warden instead of the fully-fledged official garda? The House might recoil in shock and think of all the union problems, of second-class Garda — they are problems that will be thought of — but think of the opportunities as well as the problems. We have a litter problem in this city with which the Garda had to deal at one stage. Now what happens? We have got litter wardens to deal with it. Nobody is causing any trouble about that. We used to have the Garda dealing with all the traffic problems of this country; they were bogged down with traffic problems. Then what happened? We had traffic wardens and nobody saw any great difficulty in doing that. We had a particular drugs problem and we instituted the Drugs Squad. Considering the figures I have put before the House today and the enormous amount of petty crime that is around, why not look at the idea of establishing petty crime wardens to take the burden off the Garda, to patrol the areas in which there is known to be a high incidence of petty crime?

Do we need to have fully-fledged gardaí chasing people who have stolen videos from somewhere in Mount Merrion or who have kicked in someone's door or taken a tyre from a car, gardaí whose energy and resources are limited and needed in the pursuit of serious crime? I suggest not. Between them the 4,941 gardaí in the Dublin metropolitan area in 1982 clocked up 1.3 million hours in overtime and that was a reduction on the figure for the previous year. In terms of the level of public expenditure I cannot object to the cutback since I am one of those who has called constantly for control of public expenditure, but I suggest that most of the Garda overtime to which I have referred was spent in the area of the detection of petty crime.

I am asking the Minister and the Department to bring some imagination to bear on this problem and to consider the suggestion I am making. At the time of the proposal to introduce traffic wardens objections were raised from various people alleging that such a move would undermine the Garda, would adversely affect Garda careers and so on, but we have traffic wardens and they are doing an excellent job. I know this because I get tickets from them regularly.

I see no reason for our not having petty crime wardens, too. Perhaps the idea needs to be thrashed out a little more but I would ask the Government to consider the practicality of it. It is not as farfetched an idea as it might seem. There is no point in each of us coming here and talking about the increasing crime rate or telling about the old ladies who are beaten up and so on. Somebody must suggest a way out of the difficulty. We are all against crime, but someone must do something about it. If the Minister is of the opinion that the suggestion I am putting forward would not be feasible, I should like him to tell us why he holds that opinion. However, as a minimum I would ask him to give the suggestion serious consideration. Perhaps I will ask him more formally about it later by way of parliamentary question.

There is an item in the Bill which suggests that the prisoner, for want of a better word, has an option in regard to undertaking community work. I wonder if that will result in any good. If there is to be a choice involved in this area of law in terms of offences, are we not opening up the whole area of law and of offences and of sentencing? If a charged person is to be requested to undertake community work it may amount to offering him a choice as between the scenery in Mountjoy and in the Limerick area. I am not sure that this is a good principle, but in the absence of the bevy of legal talent on the other side I shall have to wait for the Minister to reply on that point.

As Deputy Kelly mentioned, the Bill provides for a minimum of 40 hours work or a maximum of 240 hours work per annum. On the basis of a 40-hour week, 240 hours represents six weeks work in a year and that is the maximum sentence. I wonder if by that provision we are allowing for a fair opportunity to determine whether the Bill will work. Is this not too marginal, too mickey-mouse almost? It is not really allowing the courts to breathe. In his speech the Minister said he picked these figures out of the sky, as it were. Deputy Kelly said they were taken from the British Act; but regardless of where they came from the Minister indicated that he had no hard and fast ideas about them. I suggest that a total of six weeks work per annum is not going far enough. If we are to try this approach let us do so properly and give the courts some flexibility instead of tying their hands too tightly.

I wish to remind the House and the people, and more particularly the Judiciary of a Dáil debate that took place here some time ago concerning the sentencing policy of our courts. I do not wish to dwell on this matter. The Ceann Comhairle asked a previous speaker not to intervene too much in this area. Suffice it for me to say that the spirit of the motion in question was that our sentencing policy should be more consistent. I suggest that our Judiciary pay heed to that debate and pay heed to the wishes of the Dáil in regard to bringing more consistency into the sentencing policy. They should read between the lines instead of having the wishes of the House spelled out in too much detail for them.

The success or failure of crime, particularly of serious crime, depends to a large extent on the operations of the Garda. In that regard we must give the Garda the modern equipment, the back-up and the services they need. I am aware that I am delving into a controversial area in saying that the Garda, particularly at the top level, need the maximum flexibility in dealing with serious crime.

In regard to the kidnapping case that has come into the news recently I would find it difficult to criticise former Commissioner Garvey for the way he acted in that instance. To an extent he was involved in a war with criminals and it is said that all is fair in love and war. We must not have the hands of our top Garda officers tied totally in dealing with unscrupulous people. They must have some flexibility.

The principle in this Bill suggests that there is unpaid work for offenders, that there is work to be done and that the courts will determine if that work is to be done by offenders. About three weeks ago the Taoiseach suggested that perhaps a scheme be made available involving unpaid work for our unemployed. I notice that the Minister has got trade union agreement in respect of this Bill; but, if we could organise our affairs so as to make work available on an unpaid basis, why not do so? We would not have to discontinue payments to people on the unemployed list who would participate in such work. We could pay them the equivalent approximately of what they were getting by way of the dole.

To summarise, I have called for more imagination in our system and I have put forward a number of ideas which I am asking the Minister to consider.

Debate adjourned.