That Dáil Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:
Criminal Justice Act 1994 (Section 44) Regulations 2016,
a copy of which was laid in draft before Dáil Éireann on 7 June 2016.”
All of us in this House have been shocked by the upsurge in gang-related violence in Dublin in recent months. I am determined that the outrageous and ruthless brutality we have seen on our streets will not go unanswered. Concern has been raised in particular about the activities of some gang members who are operating locally but working for bosses who live overseas. My officials and I met with the Garda Commissioner and other senior gardaí to examine what more could be done to tackle these gangsters. At the end of May, I secured the agreement of the Government to a package of measures to enhance our efforts to fight organised crime. That package includes the establishment of a special crime task force by An Garda Síochána, which is currently under way, in co-operation with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection. We are working to ensure that staff are being seconded from those Departments and that there is co-operation in that respect. The task force will focus relentlessly on persons involved in gangland activities. The package of measures I spoke about also includes the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill, which passed Second Stage in the Seanad last night - it got all-party support and I thank everybody for that support - and which will shortly be brought before this House. I am also bringing forward proposals to enhance and update the legislative framework for the lawful interception of communications and for covert electronic surveillance, in common with what other countries have, to combat the threats from serious and organised crime and terrorism. I have been clear that we would fund whatever measures were needed for An Garda Síochána to best tackle the critical and unprecedented challenges it currently faces. Unfortunately, we have seen examples of it in recent days as well. Government recently approved substantial additional funding, of which Deputies will be very aware, of some €55 million for An Garda Síochána, so that it can continue with Operation Thor and its other operations to deal with the security issues facing the country. An important element in that package of measures, and one which is particularly aimed at these gangsters, is the one we are debating here this evening. The motion seeks approval for the draft regulations under section 44 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, which I have laid before the House. Regulations under section 44 set the prescribed sum for the purposes of section 38 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. Section 38 allows for the search for, seizure and detention of cash gained from, or for use in, criminal conduct. Cash is defined to include notes and coins in any currency; postal orders; cheques of any kind, including travellers’ cheques; bank drafts; bearer bonds; and bearer shares. Powers under this section may be exercised by members of An Garda Síochána or an officer of the Revenue Commissioners where he or she has reasonable grounds - a well-used concept - for suspecting that the cash, directly or indirectly, represents the proceeds of crime or is intended by any person for use in any criminal conduct. The power of search under subsection (1) is only available where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the person is importing or exporting, or intends or is about to import or export the cash. This aspect of section 38 is more likely, therefore, to be availed of by customs officers at ports and airports. The power of seizure under subsection (1A) allows gardaí and Revenue officers to seize and detain cash, including cash found during a search under subsection (1), if it is not less than the prescribed sum, and the officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that it directly or indirectly represents the proceeds of crime or is intended by any person for use in any criminal conduct. When cash is seized by a member of An Garda Síochána or an officer of the Revenue Commissioners under section 38, it may be detained for 48 hours. Detention beyond 48 hours may be authorised by a judge of the District Court if he or she is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the suspicion which led to the initial search and seizure. Section 39 of the Act allows for a judge of the Circuit Court to order the ultimate forfeiture of the cash if satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the cash directly or indirectly represents the proceeds of crime or is intended by any person for use in connection with any criminal conduct. The section currently sets the prescribed sum at €6,349. The draft regulations I have laid before the House will reduce this limit to €1,000. Provisional figures from the Revenue Commissioners, which I want to put before the House, indicate that over €8 million has been seized by them under section 38 and almost €7 million forfeited under section 39 since 2010. The annual report of the Director of Public Prosecutions for 2014 notes that almost 40 files were opened in relation to section 39 applications from both Revenue and An Garda Síochána. In terms of forfeiture orders made in 2014, there were eight on the Garda side, amounting to almost €390,000, and 24 on the Revenue side, amounting to almost €500,000. Reducing the prescribed sum to €1,000 will ensure that gardaí or Revenue officials will be able to seize amounts above that level from gang members. If we are to tackle organised crime, we must go after those at the top, but also the foot soldiers who make it possible for gangs to carry out their criminal operations. I commend the motion to the House.