Criminal Justice Bill 2004: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

I am pleased to resume my Second Stage contribution on this important Bill.

When I spoke on the Bill a few days ago a case was due to be highlighted on "Prime Time" concerning a man who had been apprehended after a serious road traffic accident in which a taxi driver was killed on the side of the road. He was mowed down by a car coming at speed. Someone shouted for him to look out but it was too late and he lost his life. The incident was to have featured on the "Prime Time" programme but it was unfortunately pulled before transmission.

The law appears to vary depending on who is involved in incidents. In this case, a man was involved in a fatal road traffic accident in which the victim had a wife and family yet no investigation was carried out as to whether the driver was under the influence of alcohol, although he had been seen in two public houses in the area and at a disco. He was not even breathalysed. I ask the Minister to urgently examine this case. The person involved in this fatal road traffic accident has caused terrible hardship and deprivation to the relatives of the victim. It is difficult to accept that somebody can walk away from such an accident without being breathalysed. The Minister must address this incident as a matter of urgency and amend the law to ensure that anybody involved in a fatal or serious road traffic accident would be breathalysed. Otherwise, we will not see any change in the number of terrible fatalities we have seen on the roads.

Donegal has had its fair share of such fatalities. Many of these accidents are due to the fact that people do not obey road traffic legislation in terms of speed limits and driving under the influence of alcohol. If people think they can get away with such behaviour, they will do it. If one looks at the car parks of public houses any day of the week there are many cars outside yet the majority of these cars are gone after closing time. Only one or two conscientious souls leave their cars behind. The Minister should not tell me all those people are safe drivers. People are driving cars under the influence of drink because they know they can get away with it. People abhor the terrible consequences of drink driving and know the effects an injury resulting in premature death can have on the family of the deceased.

People feel the law is not being upheld. In respect of the criminal justice system, we are talking about introducing anti-social behaviour orders although there are already adequate laws in place, such as the Children Act and liquor licensing legislation. These laws are not being enforced and they exist to ensure one can deal with the aforementioned activity.

We know there has been a 41% increase in the consumption of alcohol in the past ten years. We also know the major effect of advertising in this area, yet no changes are being made in response. The licensing system is in operation but the problem is the drinks industry controls the advertising of alcohol. We all know young people are influenced by what is going on around them and, over the years, we have all noted influences from outside this country. I am thankful that many influences no longer exert themselves. The Government can have a major effect on one's influences. Elected representatives in the Dáil have an obligation to point out the issues that are important and in this regard I can think of none of greater importance to people than staying alive. Facilitating this is the job of this House and the Government.

Gardaí have discretion as to whether to breathalyse a suspected drink driver. However, it should not be discretionary but mandatory. I ask the Minister to consider this as a matter of urgency. In the case I mentioned, I wonder whether there could be a reinvestigation into what happened. I find it very hard to understand how, in cases where someone is fatally injured, the person responsible can be brought to court only on minor charges, such as the charge of driving with a provisional licence without being accompanied by a fully licensed person. I ask that the case in question be investigated.

We, as citizens and parents, have a responsibility to ensure our children get the best possible chance in life. Every parent dreads that his or her children may go out at night and not return. When they get that phone call——

Drink driving legislation is now the responsibility of the Minister for Transport.

Yes. I therefore ask the Minister to talk to his colleague in that Department and pass on my urgent request. It is also a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform because of Cabinet collectivity, and justice demands that it be addressed.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this Bill. It is one of many Criminal Justice Bills to have come before this House over many years. We have dealt with 60 Criminal Justice Bills since 1985. While many were to deal with circumstances in Northern Ireland, 40 were specifically aimed at creating new powers for the State. However, in spite of all those laws, headline crime has increased by 10% and the number of gardaí per head of population has fallen from one per 331 in 1985 to one per 360 today. As with every other organisation, a percentage of the members of the Garda are tied up in bureaucracy and red tape. While I welcome the legislation, the problem is not necessarily the want thereof — it is a question of Garda manpower.

The explanatory memorandum to the Bill makes interesting reading. It states the Bill is to give the Garda more power in tackling criminals. It takes into account the recommendations of the expert group appointed to consider changes in the criminal law as recommended by the steering group. All sorts of groups are dealing with this but we want action on the ground to ensure the victim comes first, not the criminal. It is very clear that law without penalty is only advice.

It is no secret that all a certain judge from my area ever did was ask people to put money in the poorbox rather than impose fines or jail sentences. Thus, they walked out of court without a sentence. Often they appeared before the court some months later only to receive the same judgment and thus preserve their clean records. We need to tighten up the law in this area. If people do not realise they must suffer for perpetrating criminal wrongs, they will simply repeat them.

Let me refer to another example. A young man who was in considerable trouble some years ago and who had a number of fines imposed on him, perhaps to the tune of £2,000, had to go to England because he could not afford to pay them. There was no way the Garda would accept his paying them on a phased basis — they wanted all or none. Some time later the man came back from England and his sister got him a job in a good factory. He was in the process of getting a loan from the credit union but the Garda apprehended him and landed him in Mountjoy. However, there was no room for him at the inn and he was sent straight back down the road with a £20 note in his pocket to cover the expenses. I raise this issue because the Minister has failed to introduce a Bill to allow for a system of attachment of earnings in respect of either social welfare payments or people's incomes. This failure means there are more people in jail than there should be. The young man in question certainly felt no pain when he did not have to pay the £2,000 fine at the time in question. His not having had to pay led to his becoming involved in crime again. His family and others were certainly not very happy with what happened.

Last week we dealt with the Land Bill in the House. In dealing with it, the question of an attachment of earnings system arose. Although it is not directly related to this Bill, the failure to address it is part of the problem. Through the Land Bill, the Government insisted on introducing draconian measures such that if a farmer does not pay his annuities, the money can be taken from his EU funds, his creamery cheque or another source. The Minister refused to accept the Fine Gael Bill in this regard or introduce an alternative one to deal with the attachment of earnings.

Another aspect of this Bill that has caused much annoyance and anger is section 30, which deals with firearms. Firearms are held in the main by sports people, who use them to enjoy their sports. They feel very aggrieved that the issue of their control of firearms should be dealt with in the Criminal Justice Bill. Many small Bills pass through this House and there is no reason this matter could not be dealt with in its own right in a separate Bill, rather than by classifying as criminal the activities of sportsmen who hold guns legally and use them solely for sports. I have no problem with the matter section 30 deals with, namely, how guns are held and the need to ensure they do not get into the hands of subversives or anybody else, but the issue of controlling guns held by sports people should not be dealt with in this Bill. I ask the Minister to consider this point even at this late stage.

The Minister has made many promises about increasing Garda strength and I am sure he means to deal with this issue but there is a serious criminal structure in the Border region, although thankfully we are finished with the activities of the Provisional IRA and such groups. People living near the Border find it virtually impossible to contact the Garda Síochána at night.

In answers to my parliamentary questions the Minister has frequently stated there is a sufficient Garda presence in the area. However, crime there has increased. On 18 October the Minister sent me a nice letter dealing with the situation and trying to explain what happens but there are serious increases in burglary and theft figures. In Cavan in 2004 there were 373 burglaries, compared with 243 in 2000, an increase of 50%; in the Monaghan district there were 249 in 2004 as against 172 in 2000, a 45% increase; in Carrickmacross the increase is thankfully only 20% from 189 to 227 in the same period but in the Bailieboro area the increase is 150% from 106 to 251; and in the Ballyconnell area the increase is from 62 in 2000 to 104 in 2004. These figures cannot be ignored.

As a public representative one hears about all the recent robberies of small shops in villages and out in the country. The robbers arrive in daylight, wearing balaclavas, carrying long knives and iron bars. This happened to one shop three times in three weeks. One can guess how scared is the family who own the shop.

This Bill will strengthen our laws but we must bring in the personnel to support them. We must ensure there are gardaí on the beat and burglars are conscious that gardaí are about and available, and they cannot walk over ordinary decent individuals who want to run their businesses. The Minister can imagine how a girl behind a counter feels when, in the middle of the day, people come in wearing balaclavas, carrying knives and iron bars, and remove the till. This causes problems for the shopkeepers not only through the loss of money but because of all the records kept in modern tills.

The Minister needs to recognise these events. While there may be less danger from the IRA, etc., in the Border region there is criminal activity to deal with and significant manpower is needed. I, and those who have spoken to me about this problem, appreciate there is more Garda activity as a result but what rights do people have if they must close their business? Will we give them the protection to which they are entitled? This is an extremely serious issue and Garda power must be provided to ensure it does not happen again. When burglars strike three times in three weeks one begins to have serious reservations about Garda activity.

While it may not be relevant to the Bill, when the penalty points system was introduced there was a tremendous drop in the number of traffic accidents and road deaths because it was clear more gardaí were on the beat. Unfortunately, that presence is gone and one can see what has happened recently in Donegal and Cork, and my area, where young people have lost their lives in accidents caused by speed and drink. Nobody can deny this. If there were more gardaí on the beat at different times of day much of this trouble could be controlled.

I am keen to see private companies deal with speed cameras but that is a different issue. It is necessary to make more gardaí available to go on the beat and have fewer tied up in bureaucracy. To achieve this the Minister need only bring in other civil servants or personnel to deal with some of the office work that gardaí do.

I have no problem with many of the amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, for example, reclassifying saliva and mouth swabs as samples for which consent is not required. Criminals must be identified and dealt with by whatever means necessary. I encourage the Minister to bring in the measures needed to achieve that. We have seen enough of events in Donegal to know the scene of the crime must be preserved and I welcome the efforts of the Garda to make sure that criminals are brought to justice. It is interesting to watch the painstaking efforts of the gardaí at the scene to establish a link to the crime.

I often wonder why we must release people so quickly despite the heinous crimes in which they have been involved. I welcome any improvements in that process. It is also important to control the use of drugs and associated activities. I congratulate the Garda Síochána and the drugs taskforces that have been so active and made so much progress in apprehending major drug dealers. There is no doubt drugs are still freely available even in small towns and villages and we must continue the efforts to curtail them as much as possible.

This is the time of year when fireworks are seen all over the country. What is the situation in this regard? The Minister might advert to it in his closing speech. We are told that fireworks are illegal, yet gardaí are involved with family groups in organising proper fireworks displays, which I welcome. However, it is illogical that fireworks are illegal and are not supposed to be sold while at the same time, official personnel are involved in fireworks displays. Like any other illegal activity, there is a great glow to being involved in it because one is doing something that is not right. However, the situation is serious. At Hallowe'en nearly every year there are serious accidents, with children's hands or even their eyes damaged as a result of fireworks.

The situation must be clarified. The Minister said he would introduce appropriate legislation but we can no longer turn a blind eye and allow people to buy all the fireworks they want in Northern Ireland. One has only to travel along the Cavan-Clones road to see massive advertising hoardings informing one that 500 yards down the road, one can buy all the fireworks one wants. That is what happens with the free Border situation. We would be safer if we had a logical structure and knew exactly what the law is.

A near neighbour of mine was recently in Mountjoy Prison as a result of a drink-related offence. Ideally, with social workers involved, that man should have been placed in some hospital or home to cure his alcohol addiction. It cost €290 per night to keep him for three weeks in Mountjoy Prison. What most worried his family was that in prison he was among many drug addicts. We must take such matters seriously. Alcohol problems should be dealt with by the health structures and we should ensure drugs are not available in prisons. Alcohol and drugs do not mix. It was a great relief for the man and his family that thankfully, the prison system staff allowed him to move from Mountjoy Prison to Loughan House. Such situations are serious and not acceptable.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak. This is an important Bill. Some of what I hope to say echoes the views of my Border constituency colleague Deputy Crawford, particularly with regard to the bottom line of resourcing and dealing with issues which are as pertinent in Cavan-Monaghan as they are in Donegal, and no doubt other Border counties.

I have looked closely at the resourcing numbers. For many years we had a good situation in terms of Garda personnel. In my home town we had 29 gardaí, on the basis that we were in the Border region, with certain activity going on in Northern Ireland. Now we have eight gardaí and a sergeant, though people who live in the area see little difference to the former situation, except that there has been an increase in aggravated robbery. They do not see the peace process making a great impact on certain types of crime. We see more criminality in the area than ever before and the people there cannot understand why Garda personnel numbers do not reflect the crime problems they experience.

I have talked to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to the Garda Commissioner, to the Chief Superintendent, to superintendents, to local sergeants and gardaí. I do not usually go straight to the top and I have been right around the block on this issue. Off the record, everyone agrees we do not have sufficient resources but when one asks a question officially, one is told that everyone has plenty of resources. The message from the people in my area is that they want Garda visibility. If those who tell us we have sufficient resources are correct, we want to see the gardaí out on the beat, and if we do not have sufficient resources, we want more.

I am not here to criticise the gardaí in all respects because they catch many people breaking the law. When they catch such people and they are brought to court it is important that people feel confident about corroborating evidence. It is also important that sentences reflect the seriousness of the crimes. I know there is a separation between the State and the legal profession just as there is between church and State. However, I cannot talk about a criminal justice Bill without saying that we need to consider the sort of sentencing we currently see. It must be asked if certain penalties are appropriate for certain crimes. If the answer is "yes", I am wrong, but if the answer is "no", then perhaps certain issues can be dealt with. I understand for example that the maximum fine that can be applied for anti-social behaviour offences is €350. If a person is earning the sort of income currently earned by many people, that sum is not a deterrent, particularly for a second or repeat offence. A more serious issue, consistency of sentencing, must also be examined.

I am living in an area with no 24-hour Garda station. The closest such station is in Buncrana, and the station there is badly in need of rebuilding. This should be done in conjunction with the Department of Social and Family Affairs which has a green-field site ready for use under the decentralisation programme. I hope the Minister will soon be in a position to announce the rebuilding of Buncrana Garda station because it is the obvious solution to a difficult problem. The situation whereby the only 24-hour Garda station in the area is in a run-down and dilapidated state does little for the morale of the Garda or of the people living there.

In my area of the constituency there is no 24-hour Garda station. I am not concerned whether there is a 24-hour station or 24-hour cover because I do not want to simply see personnel sitting in Garda stations. The problem in Inishowen is that we formerly had eight 24-hour Garda stations and now have one such station, though there has been no difference in terms of Garda visibility. We need 24-hour Garda cover in north Inishowen, a matter I have previously raised with the Minister. The Garda Commissioner responded positively on this matter so I hope we will be hearing an announcement about cover in the area in the near future.

The announcement of a Garda traffic corps may have been a response to the recent fatalities in the Inishowen area. This is another issue I have brought to the Minister's attention. We have had the most tragic and awful 18 months in my immediate area in terms of losing young people in car crashes. I ask anybody to attend the number of houses of the bereaved that were visited in our area. Inishowen is not like other locations in that most of the 30,000 people living there are related to each other. When a car crash occurs on Inishowen, members of the community are sure to know the people involved. The past 18 months have been horrendous and any attempt to address our problems, including the traffic corps, are welcome.

The corps has only been in operation for two weeks but it is already producing results. This pilot project, which lasts a few months, is not a public relations exercise but is intended to resolve issues such as sufficient staffing and expansion. The existence of the corps is not in question.

The majority of speed cameras seem to be located on national primary or secondary roads so they do not affect us because we do not possess such roads. This absence of national primary or secondary roads was the reason for the reduction of speed limits on all Donegal roads to the county road limit of 50 mph. That limit is not realistic on some roads which have hard shoulders and are straight enough to fulfil the criteria for a 60 mph speed limit. However, it will probably take a further 18 months to restore the 60 mph equivalent. Under these circumstances, members of the traffic corps can have lots of fun and fill the coffers with speeding fines by stopping soft targets who are travelling at 60 mph on roads where it is safe to do so.

Joined up Government is needed. The Minister will probably tell me that the functions have been decentralised to the council and it is the latter's responsibility to fast track the matter. From the start, I did not believe that all speed limits should have been reduced from 60 mph to 50 mph but that councils should have responsibility for reducing speed limits on dangerous roads. However, I did not win that one.

I often complain that people are penalised for driving at 35 mph in a 30 mph zone, while somebody passing at 90 mph is ignored. I hope the traffic corps will target people who drive dangerously or at extreme speeds rather than abuse the system. At present, the system does not work because of the blanket nature of the legislation.

Education and driver training programmes are needed to prevent further road deaths. In Northern Ireland, a driver is automatically tested for alcohol if he or she hits a cyclist. There should be mandatory breath testing when a fatality is caused and possibly in cases of serious injury. While I am aware that constitutional issues arise in terms of the presumption of innocence, such a measure has merit and is not dissimilar to actions taken in other areas.

Many crimes are linked to drug or alcohol use and much anti-social behaviour is conducted by people who are trying to feed habits or who are out of control. The Minister may claim that he is not responsible for rehabilitation centres, such as the White Oaks Centre in my constituency, because they fall within the remit of the Department of Health and Children. The problem is that, because they are nobody's responsibility, they do not receive recognition for their work. While not every person who drinks or takes drugs is involved with crime, many who commit crimes have problems with drugs or alcohol.

Recently, I tabled a parliamentary question on fireworks to the Minister and received the reply that the matter is covered by the Explosives Act 1875 which is to be amended. I was interviewed on the radio this morning and was asked why the current legislation is not being enforced. Current sentencing and fines, however, are totally inappropriate. Fireworks are not used for display in my area but as missiles that are fired at cars and into fields containing cows.

Donegal was always different.

I wonder whether it is different — fireworks are used in Dublin for even longer. It is like Christmas, which nearly starts in June.

The situation is improving in Dublin.

We have Operation Tombola.

If Operation Tombola was to follow me for a day, I would find a few fireworks. I am glad this issue is being addressed and, while some people make the case for an outright ban, the problem is that fireworks are currently banned but continue to be used. We need to decide which fireworks are safe. Some are more like mini-bombs than fireworks.

As with any other aspect of criminal justice, enforcement is important but not sufficient. Other issues in terms of training, education and regulation also arise. The situation will not be addressed by focussing solely on enforcement. Fireworks are illegal but the law is not being sufficiently enforced.

I wish to address the issue of funding for institutions that deal with domestic violence, although it may not be directly relevant to the Bill under discussion. Significant efforts are ongoing in my county to provide support in terms of drop-in centres and telephone helplines. Many of these operate through a part-time FÁS service. Difficulties arise in terms of funding because the centres are successful and greater numbers of people are contacting them. The centres' efforts may be directed towards finding funding for the following year rather than concentrating on people who are seeking their help. The part-time nature of centres means that people are not available at certain times. It is important to deal with the victims of crime as well as the perpetrators. In terms of rehabilitation, the domestic violence support network should be addressed. There is a huge level of anti-social behaviour taking place. Such behaviour is manifested by the consumption of a large amount of alcohol, the taking of drugs, the use of fireworks or in other ways. I propose that discussion, if it has not already taken place, would take place across the relevant Departments to accept that there is a problem and to ascertain if it could be addressed by an interdepartmental approach. It is not a question of they adopting a big stick approach to addressing this problem. Some people who engaged in anti-social behaviour have been diverted from it by being encouraged to participate in sport, but not everyone is interested in sport. While we have excellent sporting facilities, particularly in the past eight or nine years, a youth officer-type person might not be available to co-ordinate such activity. It is as much the role of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform as any other Department to address the needs in this area. If we are trying to keep such people out of prison by encouraging them to become involved in activity that is constructive, the needs in that area need to be addressed.

As to the notion that all such offenders should come under the juvenile liaison officer system, some offenders are frightened by it and the system works in their case, but other offenders have no fear of it and it does not work in their case. The JLO system needs to be reviewed in terms of dealing with hardened criminals who need to be dealt with in a particular way. Alternatively, in the case of offenders who are not hardened criminals, imaginative initiatives need to be explored. In that context, I envisage a role for the arts as much as for sport and education in the development of diversionary projects. I would like to think the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform would discuss with the Minister for Arts, Tourism and Sport the possibility of funding being made available to assist offenders to be diverted to participate in arts projects, either in the visual arts or in music, composition or other such activities.

Another issue, which I tried but was unable to raise by way of parliamentary question to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, relates to a recent series of bomb threats in my constituency in respect of which there was a difficulty in tracing the mobile phone used. It can be difficult to trace the ownership of pay as you go mobile telephones. I raised the lack of registration of ownership of such phones with the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he was dealing with the issue of safety in terms of minors using mobile phones. From the perspective of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, there is a security issue regarding the use and tracing of the ownership of such phones. It is a matter the Minister present could raise with the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

When one purchases a pay as you go mobile phone in the North, one must produce a utility bill or other documentation to prove one's identify while in the South all one need give is one's name and one could cite any name. There is no requirement to show proof of one's identity. If such a phone is used in criminal activity, it is probably possible to trace the owner of the phone but the process is much slower than if a registration system were in place. That issue has cropped up of late.

It is difficult to require 11 year olds to show a gas or ESB bill when they purchase a mobile phone.

In their case parents could be required to produce such a bill. There must be some mechanism put in place to meet this requirement. In many cases parents give their children the money to buy a mobile phone. Some form of identification needs to be produced because the other side of the coin is their dangerous use in criminal activity. Considerable manpower hours have to be devoted to tracing the owners of mobile phones. Sometimes the authorities get hoax calls but many such calls are not in that category. Therefore, the mechanism I propose is valid.

I also draw the Minister's attention to the Buncrana Garda station in terms of it being open 24 hours a day and having adequate Garda resources. He knows my view on that.

I welcome this opportunity to contribute on Second Stage of this Bill which has come to us in stages, so to speak, with a further parcel of amendments to be introduced on later Stages. Its primary purpose is to enhance the power of the gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of offences by the provision of additional anti-crime measures. It outlines a comprehensive set of measures including increased detention powers, crime scene preservation, firearms assurances, fixed penalties for lesser offences, electronic tagging, DNA data banks and enhanced Garda powers. Mandatory minimum sentences are also proposed for certain firearms offences, including the modification of firearms such as sawn-off shotguns. That is necessary because firearms, including shotguns, and robbers seem to go hand in hand. Deputies Keaveney and Crawford, representing Border areas, spoke about local shops in their areas being targeted and robbed. One of the undesirable by-products of the peace process is that people believe there is less observation in place and these criminals can travel to and from the two jurisdictions. That is one of the sad situations that has developed.

A shop in my neighbourhood has been robbed three times in three weeks at various times, perhaps at 9 a.m. on a Sunday when the owners were setting up the shop or at lunch time. These crimes are usually committed in daylight and initially, in the instance to which I referred, the robbers did not wear balaclavas. That is the type of activity that is going on. When push comes to shove, the gardaí know who has carried out these crimes. In one case they know it is individuals from Cookstown, County Tyrone. What level of co-operation do we have or what do we need to apprehend these people? One necessary requirement is good quality video evidence of these people, and we know who they are. It is a farce that we cannot take these people off the streets. These crimes have occurred regularly and the perpetrators believe they can continue to do this with impunity.

I am aware these crimes have driven some victims to distraction. They feel they are forced to sell their shops or whatever and that they have been devalued. If they go away for a weekend and put a member of staff in charge of the shop, they believe they are putting that person's life at risk. I talked to one individual who told me he was a coward but that he felt like getting a shotgun and going after these people. They have been driven to that. Unless gardaí are assigned to deal with these individuals committing these crimes on a one to one basis, so to speak, addressing the problem will be very difficult. However, when we have got to the point where the individuals are known, there must be some way of dealing with them. That is a major difficulty.

Tougher sentences have been promised for drug dealers as well as traffickers and for firearms offences. These include sentences of up to life imprisonment for a person convicted of importing large consignments of drugs. What is the definition of a large consignment of drugs? Is it a sufficient amount for a dealer, or for two people? How large must the consignment be? There is no doubt those who sell drugs are vermin in our society. In the country we used to be of the view that drug dealing only occurred in certain areas of cities but every drug dealer must get money from somewhere to expand his or her empire. The problem of drug dealing has expanded to every village and town in country areas. We hear of seizures being made in country areas and so on and it is vital that this problem be dealt with urgently.

The problem of drug offences in respect of prisons, supplying, attempts to smuggle drugs into prisons and possession in the vicinity of prisons are addressed in the Bill. People used to be put in prison to take them away from mischief but there is anecdotal evidence from different programmes and from people who have been released from prison that they can get drugs in prison. Perhaps a small percentage want to get their lives in order when they are given the shock of a prison sentence but they discover that there is a culture of drug taking in prison. We must address the problem of the suppliers and people who circumvent ways of getting drugs into prison. That is the nub of the problem and we must find a way of dealing with that problem.

Persons on the periphery of drug smuggling, better known as mules, will be enabled to apply to the court to have information in terms of assisting gardaí heard in camera. That is vital because while these mules are involved in illicit activity, they are basically driven by money. We could get a good deal of valuable information from them, which would give us information on who is selling drugs. We need to encourage key people to co-operate, people who know the drug pushers, those who are giving them money and who have given them contacts. The concept of life for the big guys in the drugs business is to remain free and not to be caught in possession. They do not mind the mule being caught in possession but when the mule is caught we should realise he or she is a mule, and move to offer some sort of anonymity through the court. That would pay dividends.

Like the penalty points system this raft of measures will prove pointless without vastly increased resources to ensure enforcement of what, at first glance, appears to be a shot in the arm for crime prevention. It should be taken as a given, having been recognised in the programme for Government that there was a need for an additional 2,000 extra gardaí, that would form part of any comprehensive package to tackle the crime rates. It is absolutely necessary to get the extra gardaí.

The ASBO phenomenon has been imported from Britain where the implications have ranged from the ridiculous to the draconian. I have heard ASBOs described as a type of esoteric injunction that bans people from highly specific acts that fall just this side of criminality. Many citizens demand that politicians consider imposing sanctions on behaviour that has hitherto been considered annoying but not criminal. It is just bordering on the criminal. The tragedy is that many young people realise they are underage and know they cannot be arrested. To some extend parents are almost goading the children and not taking them in and correcting them. We cannot ignore these issues but whether ASBOs is the correct route they got much negative publicity.

Buzz words such as "anti-social behaviour" and "weapons of mass destruction" come to mind. There is no doubt that anti-social behaviour does exist but the way to tackle is to hit its root causes. That has been mentioned here on a number of occasions. This would entail the provision of adequate sport and leisure facilities locally, together with excellent properly funded high quality educational facilities. We all acknowledge this is the way around the issue. Does one introduce an order and say this is what will be done when one misbehaves or put in a distraction which improves the behaviour? This will do more to tackle youth crime and anti-social behaviour than the knee-jerk reactions embodied in some ASBOs that descend to the farcical, such as the banning of clothing accessories, baseball caps and hoodies. Because of the way the media has driven it, if I see a hoodie I wonder what the guy is up to. I tend to forget this is a style or an accessory.

Rebuilding a spirit of basic solidarity in our communities is also essential. Young criminals invariably feel alienated from everyone around them, and see crime as the easiest way of expressing a backlash against alienation. In the UK, ASBOs can be served on any person over ten years of age. They were introduced in 1999 primarily to deal with the phenomenon of neighbours from hell. The guideline for their use has been extended to cover graffiti, under-age drinking and smoking. The recipient of an ASBO does not have to be present in court but hearsay evidence is enough to have him or her convicted and often it is the only evidence available.

There also has been the instances of dress codes against jeans in schools and the efforts to ban the veil in the case of Muslims in France. Some of us can remember the time when jeans and runners were banned in dance halls, or we may have read about the ban.

I was probably too young to remember.

The Minister of State was probably too young to remember. Also people who spit and swear and play loud music and wearers of skimpy clothing have been the subjects of ASBOs imposed by the courts. I do not know if courts have a role in terms of the attire people wear. There has been an increasing tendency to ban people from doing precisely the kind of things people used to do while saying, "it is a free country". Some of the laws we are attempting to introduce can lead to accusations of the State becoming a nanny State. We have got to be careful of that. It reinforces the notion that we are being intrusive and so on.

There are many excellent youth programmes in Ireland which seek to deal with the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour. However, they are invariably grossly underfunded and, therefore, unable to achieve their full potential. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Government should tackle the root causes of anti-social behaviour and deal with non-criminal behaviour exclusively through non-criminalising methods. They should tackle the fact that many communities have minimal or no play and recreational facilities for children. Some 46% of local authorities do not provide playgrounds. An interesting statistic is that Ireland has twice as many golf courses as play grounds. I am a member of a golf club and every time there is a price increase there is pressure on people to leave those facilities. Even in the well-heeled K Club when there was talk of increasing the fees there was a suggestion that it might have to go back to being a playground.

The lack of adequate funding is causing youth clubs to close, with thousands of young people deprived of outlets in which they could be gainfully occupied. We have one of the highest rates of child poverty in Ireland where one in seven children has been described as living in abject or consistent poverty. This shows we should provide for these people.

Among the amendments introduced by the Minister is a proposal for electronic tagging of offenders. Electronic tagging has enjoyed a phenomenal rate of success, particularly in the US and the UK, with a 2% to 3% rate of re-offending. In the fight against anti-social behaviour and crime, it has proven to be extremely effective but the circumstances of its use are somewhat obscure.

At its annual conference a few years ago the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors pointed to the excellent results being achieved with electronic tagging in other countries. The president of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors called for the use of electronic tagging to protect the public from dangerous offenders such as convicted sex offenders. The conference also suggested the tagging of serious offenders on early release, thereby protecting potential victims while monitoring those on release until their time was up. The representative groups say these are successful. The cost of keeping an offender in jail for one year is €55,000 while a tagging device at a cost €4,000 would have paid for itself in a period of four weeks. Given the value for money and the fact there will be no re-offending this deserves consideration.

Given the high level of success achieved elsewhere, it would be eminently feasible to use tagging in the case of first-time offenders, thereby easing pressure on over-crowded prisons. A spell in prison is a stain on the record of a young first-time offender and is frequently the prelude to a life of crime. If tagging was instrumental in the rehabilitation of such offenders, enabling them to stay out of prison and be integrated with their community, its success would be compounded.

I note the Minister stated it was his intention to draw up proposals to provide for the establishment of a DNA databank. This is a bank in which most of us would not wish to have an account but that does not mean there are no dividends. It would certainly prove to be an asset in helping to solve hundreds of crimes each year. A suspect is not necessarily always guilty. The fact that DNA taken from suspects detained would be available could help prove their innocence if the courts relied on DNA evidence. Given that DNA cannot be replicated, al-Qaeda would have a major problem with it. The power of DNA is indisputable. Its reputation for accuracy has become so widespread that many juries are reluctant to convict without DNA evidence. The development of as extensive a databank as possible would have to have regard to the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and also the Constitution. As yet we do not have a national criminal DNA databank while the criminal fraternity can avail and make use of all the latest developments in technology. A strong and effective DNA databank would be of tremendous benefit to the criminal justice system. Not alone would it assist the Garda in identifying persons who have committed crimes but it would also serve to exclude innocent persons who have been wrongly convicted.

The DNA databank would have a number of purposes including the deterrence of potential repeat offenders — if it succeeded in that objective it would be a massive achievement; the promotion of the safety of the community; the detection of when a serial offender is operating; assistance in solving old and cold cases; streamlining investigations and exonerating those wrongfully convicted. It is clear from evidence in other jurisdictions that the more profiles included in a DNA databank, the more effective it is. DNA evidence has an immense effect on the criminal justice system with the real potential for the reduction of miscarriages of justice.

It is important to achieve an appropriate balance in weighing the competing interests of the security of the person, the privacy of the individual and the public interest in compiling a strong and effective DNA databank. It has also been suggested that DNA testing might make the transition from solving crimes to deterring them. If it helps in this regard it would be excellent.

Earlier in the debate reference was made to fireworks. This issue raises its head regularly in a Border constituency like mine. Some shops in Northern Ireland sell the proper kite-marked fireworks but a customer must have a licence to purchase them. It is like buying ammunition for a sporting gun; the licence must be produced and note taken of to whom the fireworks are sold. However, people are getting around the regulations and they obviously have sources where they can buy their fireworks. They can then set up shop on the side of the road in Northern Ireland. When travelling from my home to Dundalk or Cavan, it is necessary to pass through concession routes. These people seem to be allowed to operate in this way in Northern Ireland. If we have co-operation between police forces why is nothing being done about this matter? Do the authorities in Northern Ireland know that because the fireworks are being bought by people from the South it will not affect them? Each year at Hallowe'en time we hear of the damage that unregulated fireworks can do. I could drive into Northern Ireland and fill my car with fireworks. I am sure that carloads of them are coming to the South. We have no way to deal with the issue. They sell the products on concession routes or other strategic locations in Northern Ireland. We should raise this matter with our colleagues in the context of cross-Border meetings. Even if I went into a regular shop and the shopkeeper guessed I was from the South, I would have no difficulty buying them. This area needs to be reviewed.

Section 11(1) will empower the Garda to photograph all persons arrested even if they are subsequently released. Some Garda arrests will be made in error and in such cases the photograph and its negative should be destroyed. While Garda powers should be extended we need to be careful about how they might be misused. We have seen Garda powers misused in the past and we want to avoid a recurrence.

I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly on this Second Stage debate on the Criminal Justice Bill 2004. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, was here earlier but regrettably he has now gone.

The way the Minister operates is called into question by the manner in which this Bill has been introduced. I have heard the Minister on many occasions and have enjoyed what might be called his colourful style. He describes himself as many things. I have heard him describe himself as a republican and as a liberal. I presume he would describe himself as an arch-capitalist, as the rest of the country would. The first two labels interest me most.

He is definitely not a socialist.

I do not believe he is a socialist. I do not believe he would go along with the Taoiseach in that matter. However, anything could happen. I see his party colleague, the Tánaiste, is now concerned about community values. As such radical shifts in interests can occur perhaps he will become a socialist in time.

Or perhaps even an environmentalist.

I believe he is a fraud particularly when he claims to be a liberal of the great enlightenment tradition. I would consider myself a liberal. A liberal believes the State should not be involved in the nitty-gritty of people's business. We should set a light hand to the legislative process to maintain freedom as the enlightenment tradition behoves us to do. We should recognise the respect it gives to citizens as free and equal in a republican democracy under the law.

If the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is a liberal, what is he doing? Deputy Costello can confirm that in his three years in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform he has dealt with approximately 35 Bills. A Chinese mandarin would be proud of the rate at which he is throwing out legislation. I note he speaks mandarin Irish.

The Opposition always seeks activity and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is the greatest reforming Minister in the Cabinet.

He is certainly reforming. The Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, is making my point. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform cannot produce enough legislation. He cannot make it wide-reaching enough. He is so keen to legislate, as a liberal, that on Report Stage of a previous Bill this year he introduced entirely new surveillance legislation at the last minute on Report Stage. He is certainly busy.

The Bill we are discussing was published in 2004 within the time the Minister was in office. It deals with many sensible measures regarding how we treat crime scenes, etc., which are not contentious. However, as we debate Second Stage we are told the Minister will introduce a huge number of amendments. A genuine liberal concerned about the preservation of the value of all being equal before the law could not describe this Bill as liberal.

I have deep concerns about the move towards mandatory sentences regardless of the crime committed. This provision does not come from the liberal tradition that I supposedly share with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I do not believe that the criminalisation of people, even if they are members of a gang or whatever, goes in the direction of the liberal republican tradition in which we treat people as innocent until proved guilty as opposed to criminals by association.

I am deeply concerned about extending periods of detention to 24 hours, something I regard as highly illiberal. It is difficult to debate the matter at this stage because we do not know what the Minister will propose. He is throwing it up in the air to get media coverage and notoriety. He wants to be seen proudly as the bull in the china shop, recklessly but happily willing to say the bold thing. A liberal would not legislate in that manner and the Minister of State should not snigger at legislating in such a manner.

The Deputy is out of order with his description. He does not need to court——

I am perfectly accurate in my description of the Minister as a fraud in the way he has introduced this Bill.

I disagree.

Central to any liberal republican democracy is the need for the courts and the police to apply the rules of a civilised ordered society. If the Government is genuinely concerned about progressing those institutions, protecting them and giving them respect, certain planning and legislative processes should be followed. The Government should engage sections of society in proper planning and discussion of legislative proposals. A Green Paper and White Paper should be produced on these complex and controversial legal issues. Then possibly one brings them to the Second Stage debate for discussion but one does not insert them at the very last minute, in a sweeping change to some of the fundamental principles of our judicial and policing systems. That is a reckless and illiberal approach to legislative change.

The issue of policing is of major concern. At this time there are concerns about the way in which evidence has been collected in west Cork with regard to certain murder inquiries. There is concern in Donegal regarding the way in which certain detentions and arrests were carried out. Only yesterday concerns were expressed throughout the country about the absolute absence of records in Garda stations relating to very serious crimes perpetrated against children in Ferns. The Minister has a duty to address the incredible loss of faith in our police force which was, up until very recently, viewed with such respect and held in such high regard by citizens. Rather than throw legislation around, left and right, like confetti, he should address that real loss of confidence in the Garda Síochána.

Whenever I think of our police force, I return to that simple, but powerful statement by the first Garda Commissioner, Mr. Michael Staines, who said, "The Garda Síochána will succeed, not by force of arms or numbers, but by their moral authority as servants of the people". The Minister should base his agenda on the police force on that simple principle. There is a real concern about trying to give the police authority, not by arms, but by a whole array of legislative measures and powers. Such measures include increased 24 hour detention rights before an arrest has to be made, the removal of the requirement for a warrant from a judge in order to search a property and ASBOs, which are being considered here. Rather than providing the police with authority by such widespread and potentially dangerous measures, which could be thwarted or used in an improper way, the Minister should start working from the ground up in the Garda Síochána. He should examine the training, the control system, in terms of the Garda ombudsman and the structures of the force. We need to move towards a system of community gardaí, who are linked closely with local authorities and communities, so they are not just dealing with the issue of social disorder, which is of real concern to people, on a reactionary basis and as a sideline to their main duties, but as the core of their duties.

If the Minister is seriously interested in addressing the social concerns that exist in our society, he must undertake genuine root and branch reform of the way the Garda Síochána works, the thinking within the force and the way that it is controlled rather than throwing legislation at the issue, giving the Garda sweeping powers, which goes against the judicial tradition and what can be truly described as a proper, liberal judicial system.

With regard to children, there is one issue that stands out as being of particular concern, although it is impossible to know the real position because the Minister has not bothered to insert the provision into the legislation yet, so we are arguing in the dark, to some degree. The issue is the potential criminalisation of young people under the anti-social behaviour orders system. This is a remarkable example of the lack of a proper legislative process. The Minister, no doubt, will refer to the experience in the United Kingdom. However, the United Kingdom went about this process in the proper manner, in terms of putting in place judicial changes in other areas, such as the courts system, the policing system and so on, before engaging in detailed planning and investigation with regard to how ASBOs might be introduced.

I suspect there is not a single person on either side of this House who knew the Minister was coming up with the ASBOs idea. I believe he came upon it one night, perhaps around 3 a.m., and decided that it would rattle the cages and receive a fair amount of political support and that he would be seen as a courageous, pioneering Minister. I do not think a single member of Fianna Fáil or the Progressive Democrats knew what he was up to. Certainly, there was no consultation beyond those boundaries. Perhaps the Progressive Democrats sat down in a huddle and came up with it as a bright spark idea but nobody else did. For these proposals to then appear in the Minister's speech on Second Stage as something he intends to introduce on Third Stage is a remarkable and disgraceful example of the illiberal, fraudulent style of legislative process in which this Minister is engaged.

If we are to treat this issue seriously, as many others including Deputies Andrews, Carey and Higgins have said, we should be treating the legislation we have already passed, namely, the Children Act 2001, seriously. That point also came out yesterday in the remarkable litany of incidences of blind indifference by the State towards the welfare and upbringing of children. Then Members come to this House and express concern that some children are acting in an anti-social manner that is of concern to others. If we wish to address that problem then, rather than throwing platitudes at it, we must run our society on the basis that we get the early years' rearing of our children right and provide children with a supportive background. That requires fundamental and radical changes in a wide variety of areas. I suggest that the Progressive Democrats contribution to that process, in terms of its children's policy, is that whatever is good for the business community is good for children. The Progressive Democrats want to get everyone into the workplace and to plan children's futures around that priority. That is something that must be changed if we want to change the behaviour of children, subsequent to such policies.

We should also change our planning laws. We are seeing the "PD-ification" of our society in planning terms ——

Is the Deputy suggesting that jobs are not important? A job is the most important aspect of this issue.

I would describe the "PD-ification" of our society as the electronic, closed-gate society we are developing. One comes along to a closed community, supposedly designed to give greater security, and one has to press a button before one can enter. Those inside may think they are living in a much more secure society. That personifies the situation to me. When I approach such buttons, I think to myself, this is a Progressive Democrats first preference household.

The safer and better way to bring order and coherence to our society is to start planning integrated communities properly, where people look out for each other. Simply planning, as this Government does, for the interests of builders and developers, and then tagging on social order legislation afterwards is not the way to go. Yet the Tánaiste has expressed surprise at the fact that the way society has been developed has broken up social capital and led to a lessened sense of community. We should start from the first principles of society, getting the planning right, designing a cohesive, collective society. This revolves around the types of decisions made in education and child care, in choosing public transport over the private car and so on. Bad decisions trigger a divided, unequal and unfair society and it cannot be surprising if this leads to anti-social behaviour or other negative reactions. The answer is not to slap on further punitive legislation on young people, but to recognise that the Government has got the fundamental design of society wrong. That is why the Government needs to be changed, to be thrown out of office.

I look forward to seeing the contents of this Bill on Committee Stage.

This is important legislation. The issues of criminal justice, criminality and protection for citizens are of major concern. There is considerable debate raging in communities with regard to the safety of citizens. However, we must balance the safety of citizens with the rights of citizens.

The place where we discuss the rights of citizens, where we enact legislation, where the representatives of the people can voice their concerns to the Executive is here, in this Chamber. I am concerned that what is before us is only half a Bill. We have yet to see the other half, which we are told will be introduced, possibly on Committee Stage. This is very serious and dangerous. I would be much happier if we had the full legislative proposals before us today, in Bill form, so we could discuss them in this Chamber, which is the parliament of our country.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.