Last week I said that while I support the amendment put forward by Deputy Woods I do not believe that the Criminal Justice Bill, even if amended in this way, will achieve the objectives for which we are told the Bill was designed. It will not improve the detection rate or achieve a reduction in crime level. My fear is that it may well exacerbate relations between disadvantaged communities and the Garda and it is in that context that I support the view which Deputy Andrews expressed last week that the Bill even at this late stage should be scrapped. I listened attentively to Deputy Woods explaining his amendment. I agree with much of what he said. My only regret is that the concern expressed by Deputy Woods has not led him to the view held by his colleague, Deputy Andrews. Many of those Deputies who have spoken have linked the need for an independent complaints procedure to the provisions in the Bill relating to detention. My interest in this amendment is as much related to the experience of the past ten years as it is to what the future may hold if and when this Bill is brought into operation.
I will illustrate my point by referring to a specific case in respect of which I have spent a good deal of time pleading with the Minister with a view to having that case investigated. I am referring to the awful experience of Nicky Kelly and the others who were charged with the Sallins mail train robbery. To this day the Minister has refused to have an inquiry into the allegations of ill-treatment in that case, allegations that were brought also to the attention of previous Ministers. The failure of successive Ministers to respond in that instance has had at least two adverse effects. First, it has heightened public concern that there should be an effective and independent complaints body and, secondly, it has led some members, if not sections of the Garda to believe that the heavy-gang tactics used in the Sallins case investigation must have had some degree of official approval.
Many Members of the House who are concerned at recent events and who are supporting strongly Deputy Woods's amendment chose in the past to ignore what was happening. It is not simply a matter of the Nicky Kelly case. A few weeks ago theSunday Tribune devoted an entire page to cases which in the past ten years clearly required investigation by a body independent of the Garda. Again, all of these cases were ignored by successive Ministers.
Yesterday I received a written reply from the Minister in relation to one of these cases, the case of Amanda McShane. In this case the defence solicitor acting for Amanda McShane produced in court a concocted typewritten statement which he had found at the Garda station prior to the defendant having made any statement. When this evidence was produced in court, the State withdrew the case. The matter was raised in the Dáil and an independent Garda inquiry was promised. The outcome of that inquiry is interesting and is relevant to the present debate. Part of the Minister's written reply was:
I am informed by the Garda authorities that following a full investigation a file, which of course included the statements made by the woman concerned and by her solicitor, was submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions for directions as to whether criminal proceedings against any member of the force were warranted. I am further informed that, on receipt of directions from the DPP criminal proceedings were not warranted, the question whether proceedings were warranted under the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations, 1971, was considered by the Commissioner and that the decision was similar to that which had been taken by the DPP in relation to criminal proceedings, namely that disciplinary proceedings were not warranted against any member.
That was despite the fact that it was warranted for the State to withdraw the case based on the evidence produced, the evidence of a concocted statement which very much fits into a pattern going back to the Nicky Kelly case when that individual stated that his statement had been concocted by the Garda and that he had been forced to sign it. Yet, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison on the sole basis of that type of statement and there is still no inquiry into the case.
Without even considering the new provisions of the Criminal Justice Bill, it is this sad record that makes it essential that there be an independent complaints body. It is in that sense that I support the emphasis placed by Deputy Woods on three aspects, first, that the procedure should be totally independent of the Garda, secondly, that all members of the force, from the garda on the beat to those at the highest levels, should be subject to that investigation procedure and, thirdly, that its function should not be simply to adjudicate but to investigate also. That is the aspect to which I wish to turn now because anyone who has ever brought complaints against members of the Garda to the attention of the Garda must agree that all too often the procedure whereby the Garda investigate complaints against themselves is a cosmetic exercise. I do not wish to make general remarks without referring to specific instances in my experience.
One of these cases relates to a Mr. Thomas Dolan who is a constituent of mine. Mr. Dolan was beaten up severely by a member or members of the Garda at Summerhill in Dublin. The following day, after he had approached me, I arranged for him to put his complaint in person to the superintendent at Store Street Garda Station. Though other individuals were charged in connection with the incident with which Mr. Dolan was alleged to have been associated no charges have been brought against him. The superintendent was courteous and took a detailed note of Mr. Dolan's complaints. He examined Mr. Dolan's very severe injuries, all of which were documented at the time by others, and, inevitably, an internal inquiry was promised.
Some weeks later Mr. Dolan was arrested at his home in the early hours of the morning and charged with obstructing the Garda, using abusive language and so on on the night about which he had complained in my presence to the superintendent of being beaten up by the same gardaí. When these charges were brought to court they were dismissed by the justice and Mr. Dolan brought a High Court action subsequently against the garda involved. He won that action. All of this is a matter of public record.
I am not suggesting that such instances occur every day of the week and, equally, I am not suggesting that Mr. Dolan's case was an isolated one. I am saying simply that this sort of thing happens, that people are concerned that it happens and that it is to protect innocent people such as Mr. Dolan that an independent complaints procedure is required. But for the assistance of various legal people it would have cost Mr. Dolan a great deal of money to pursue the course of action he took through the courts before he finally got justice. Many people might not have the resources or willpower to persevere in such a long procedure. It should not be necessary to do that in order to get justice.
It is equally inevitable that I will be accused of Garda bashing but that is not my intention. My intention is to highlight the widely held view across the country from Deputy Blaney's area in the rural north — we heard his account last week — to my area in the inner city of urban Dublin. Time and again there are cases which warrant investigation by an independent complaints body, completely independent of the Garda. That is not a criticism of the force but simply a statement of fact. There are numerous instances to support the view that such a body is required. The basis of my argument is that politicians who, over the last ten years, ignored so many cases which were subsequently brought to public attention by the media, are as much if not far more responsible for any criticism now being made of the Garda as are the actions of the force.
The Garda require resources and training to enable them to get the results the public desire. They do not need draconian powers. Such powers simply satisfy the whim of right wing politicians and individuals. A spokesman for the Garda is quoted in the newspapers as echoing the view that the Garda need a great deal more training and resources before any attempt is made to bring the Criminal Justice Bill into operation.
In her contribution, Deputy Barnes referred to the growing alienation of young people from the Garda. I see this in my own constituency. I greatly fear that this Bill, even with the amendment put down by Deputy Woods, will drastically increase that alienation. Without an effective independent complaints body we are heading for a major confrontation between young people and the Garda. I refer, as other Deputies have, to the existing powers available to the Garda which are draconian in themselves. Deputy De Rossa pointed out that approximately one in seven of all those detained and interrogated under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act are actually brought before a court. Surely it would have been better to review the success or failure rate of that measure and repeal it if necessary rather than introducing, as is now proposed, an even more draconian measure.
I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment put down by Deputy Woods. I suggest, although I suppose there is not much point at this stage, that he put the Criminal Justice Bill back on the shelf where the previous six Ministers for Justice left it.