We will now deal with the second item, a motion regarding the Criminal Justice Act 1984 (Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Síochána)(Amendment) Regulations 2006 which was referred to the joint committee on 12 December.
Criminal Justice Act 1984 (Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Síochána)(Amendment) Regulations 2006: Motion.
I thank the members of the joint committee for making time available to discuss the motion which relates to draft regulations amending existing regulations on the treatment of persons in custody in Garda stations. As they may be aware, under the Criminal Justice Act 1984, regulations on the treatment of persons in custody in Garda stations must be approved in advance by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas. Therefore, I seek the approval of both Houses for these draft Criminal Justice Act 1984 (Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Síochána Stations)(Amendment) Regulations 2006.
Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 is the main provision in law for the detention of arrested persons for questioning in Garda stations. It applies to persons arrested for any offence punishable by five years imprisonment or more. There is also a separate provision for the detention of persons under the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, which we already discussed this morning, and the Offences against the State Act, which particularly targets persons arrested for offences relating to firearms and explosives. The 1984 provision, however, is the only detention provision of general application.
Under section 4 of the 1984 Act, an arrested person can be detained for questioning in a Garda station for up to six hours, extendable by a further six hours on the authorisation of a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of superintendent. The 1984 Act also provides for regulations to be made on the treatment of persons in custody in Garda stations and requires such regulations to be in place as a prerequisite for the operation of the detention provisions of the Act. Both the detention provisions and related custody regulations came into force in 1987.
Section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, when brought into force, will provide for a further extension of the period of detention by an additional 12 hours, on the authorisation of a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of chief superintendent. This increases the maximum period of detention under the 1984 Act from 12 hours to 24 hours, thereby enhancing the capacity of the Garda Síochána to investigate serious crime.
All the detention periods under the regulations are exclusive of "rest periods" which the arrested person may avail of between 12 midnight and 8 am. A detention of 24 hours will include at least one such rest period and possibly two, thus giving a potential maximum period in detention of 40 hours. Due to the fact the period of detention will be extended by the 2006 Act, the 1987 custody regulations must be adapted to reflect this change. This is the main purpose behind these draft regulations. They provide for the recording of any direction for the extended detention for an additional 12 hours, just as the existing regulations provide for the recording of any direction for the extension of six hours in detention.
Additional provisions are included in the draft regulations to tidy up references in the 1987 regulations with regard to age. The 1987 regulations provide certain safeguards with regard to persons under 17, such as parents or guardians being informed of arrest and being entitled to sit in on questioning. The Children Act 2001 directly amended from 17 to 18 two references in the 1987 regulations but left other references to be changed by subsequent regulation. These draft regulations therefore, in addition to amending the maximum period of detention of arrested persons, also change all age references in the 1987 regulations to 18, removing any potential anomalies and increasing the protection afforded to young persons.
The draft regulations bring into force section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which is just one of a wider range of provisions within the Act aimed at bringing about significant improvements in the way crime is investigated and prosecuted. Other provisions in the Act relate to additional Garda powers which include the designation of crime scenes, requesting of arrest warrants and new provisions for fixed charges for certain public order offences. It also makes provision to facilitate the Director of Public Prosecutions and to create new offences, particularly with regard to organised crime, large-scale drug trafficking and reckless endangerment of children.
The enactment of these new regulations, on the approval of both Houses, will be a significant milestone for the Garda Síochána in its continuing fight against serious and organised crime and will facilitate more effective investigation of offences through the additional powers of detention.
On behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I hereby submit these draft regulations to the committee for approval.
My concern is not so much about the guilty being detained and questioned but about the innocent being detained and questioned. Given the figures from the last report we had from the Minister, I must assume that there were as many innocent people as guilty people arrested and released after a short period of time. We have all heard about people trying to get their friend away and everybody being thrown into the back of the paddy wagon. Prolonged periods of detention can sometimes lead to grave miscarriages of justice. The Dean Lyons case was one of the most pathetic cases. It still baffles me that anyone made that judgment call in respect of someone as clearly dependent as Dean Lyons was. The Kerry babies case was another incredible case in which there seems to have been no protection for the innocent.
How many Garda stations in the country have the facility to video record interviews? How often is the facility used? I do not accept that only the statement of the accused person should be recorded. The entire interview should be recorded. Ultimately this protects not only the person who is arrested but also the gardaí, given that false claims are sometimes made. If periods of detention are to be extended, we must put in place every protection available, because innocent people are also arrested.
These regulations which purport to govern the treatment of persons in Garda custody have been in place since 1987. They predate the deaths of Terence Wheelock, Brian Rossiter and John Moloney, all of whom died in Garda custody. We should not only video record interrogations in Garda stations, hallways and other areas should also be recorded so the rights of arrested persons are protected the whole time they are in custody.
We cannot escape the facts. Abuse may not be as widespread as is made out. However, we must be cognisant of what happened in Donegal and even in the 1970s when the heavy gang was in operation and had a free hand to do what it wanted and innocent people were brought before the courts and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Many of those people have never had their innocence vindicated. The greatest disgrace ever in this State was the Kerry babies case. It was a deliberate and blatant attack on an innocent family on the basis of an assumption that was unbelievable.
It could not have been true.
It happened and we should not stick our heads in the sand and pretend all is perfect. The rights of people who are arrested must be protected and the rights of gardaí must also be protected. Where there are video recording facilities — there are very few at the moment — certain gardaí may abuse a person in custody when away from the recording facility and force him or her, through fear or intimidation, to make statements that are not true. What happened in the McBrearty case in County Donegal is only now bringing to light what many have been saying for decades.
Sinn Féin argues that the extension of the maximum period of detention, without charge, must be preceded by a full independent public inquiry into the deaths of persons in Garda custody. Three people died while in its custody. Dean Lyons was forced to make a confession. We must provide that all aspects of a person's detention be recorded on video and made available to human rights groups or appointed individuals if we are to restore public confidence in the system and protect those in custody, as well as gardaí from false accusations. The extension of the maximum period of detention should not be proceeded with until such time as these issues have been addressed.
To reply to Deputy Lynch's question, every interview is recorded. However, there may be cases in which, owing to equipment failure and so on, this may not happen. Full recording takes place in 90% of cases. Where equipment is not available in a particular Garda station——
Recorded on video.
In every barracks.
Not in every barracks. Where equipment is not available in a particular Garda station, a person is taken to another station to be interviewed. A committee, chaired by Judge Smith, has been tasked with overseeing implementation of video-recording, ensuring equipment is properly installed in every station and the system is rolled out in accordance with agreed procedures. The Garda Commissioner has taken additional initiatives such as providing CCTV cameras in public areas at a number of Garda stations. Every effort is being made to ensure interviews are fully recorded on video.
In accordance with Standing Orders, the joint committee will report back to Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann to the effect that it has completed its consideration of the motion. A formal message confirming this in the manner prescribed in Standing Orders will be sent separately to the Clerk of the Dáil and Clerk of the Seanad. Is it agreed that there should be no further debate on the matter by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann? Agreed. Is the draft report agreed, subject to the insertion of details regarding attendance and contributions to the discussion? Agreed. I thank the Minister of State and his officials for attending.