Dáil Éireann - Volume 346 - 24 November, 1983

Criminal Justice Bill, 1983: Second Stage (Resumed)

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

Mr. Wallace: I had almost completed my contribution last Tuesday in this debate and I was dealing with the role of the courts in the implementation of justice in law. There is no doubt about the concern expressed by the public regarding decisions of the courts in the recent past. The Judiciary have a very important part to play in ensuring that people see that justice is done and this is a link in the chain of the process of law and order. From time to time we see reports in the media of cases where persons convicted of very serious crimes have got away with suspended sentences and for crimes of a minor nature people have been sent to prison. Nobody is outside the law but the public are entitled to ask questions when they see that serious criminals are let off lightly and minor crimes, such as shoplifting, get serious sentences. This is creating doubt in the minds of the public regarding the role of the Judiciary. While members of the public would not have all the information in such cases and therefore could not judge on them from what they hear in the media, that area should be looked at. I do not know if the Minister [231] has any role regarding the Judiciary or whether he can interfere in this area, but the Judiciary play a part on behalf of the community and so their role must be seen as in the best interests of the community. Therefore, I question this lack of consistency in the decisions of the Judiciary.

I want to refer briefly to prisons. I am glad that the recent industrial dispute at Mountjoy is over and I hope that never again will this kind of action be taken by people involved who are working on behalf of the public. We saw what happened and the opportune moment was taken by those concerned to take advantage of the situation. This is not in the interests of the community and I hope to see procedures adopted to deal with disputes of this nature effectively and quickly without the need to resort to measures such as were taken at Mountjoy on that occasion.

During the course of the debate many matters were put forward as factors contributing to the high crime rate. One was drugs, and there is no doubt that drugs play a major part in crime. We have acted too late in dealing with this problem. The warning signals were there many years ago. I remember a sergeant in Cork speaking about the increase in drugs some years ago but nobody was prepared to listen and certainly politicians were not prepared to listen. This is why we have today a situation which we must tackle very constructively and forcibly in order to bring the drug traffic under control. The drug addict is a victim of the system. We hear from time to time that it is always the socially deprived who are affected by the drug problem, but I do not accept this. I hope the Minister will continue to use all the resources available to him to ensure that drug pushers are eliminated. We can well do without them. The harm they have done and are doing to our young people must be stopped and for this purpose any assistance necessary from this side of the House will be given to the Minister.

Finally, this legislation is intended to be for the benefit of all the community. It is not only the Garda and the courts who have a role to play in ensuring the [232] success of this legislation. The media have a very important part to play. We must all work to ensure that we have a better society. Some people are saying that this is only to create a police state. That is not so. People must be assured that those who pass legislation here are doing it for their benefit. Unfortunately, some people will do anything to undermine the statutory bodies. We must be vigilant about such people. They have a foothold here. We must highlight at all times the needs of our community and their social and economic problems and unless we have law and order we have nothing. While I welcome the legislation, I have reservations about some sections of the Bill and I will refer to them on Committee Stage.

Mr. Molony: Deputy Wallace in his closing remarks put his finger on one of the most important things that arise in relation to any Criminal Justice Bill, and that is the fact that it is not just to give the police or the State more power in the administration of criminal law and criminal justice, but it must be seen as something that is there for the entire community and to make that community work. There is always this dilemma between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community and it is hard to draw the line between them. The remarks of Deputy Wallace and others who have spoken on this Bill are important in that context.

At the outset I must say that I hope that it will take some time yet before this Bill becomes law because it is important that as many people as possible speak on it, particularly on Second Stage. Many points in this Bill need to be teased out and talked about. As a lawyer I could very easily give in to the temptation of going into the Bill as a solicitor or barrister might. I will avoid that entirely because we need to examine here the general purpose and emphasis behind the measure. I have one other thing to say by way of preface. This Bill is perhaps the most promised and most talked about Bill to come into this House for quite some time. In the last few general elections, and certainly since 1981, this Bill [233] has been promised in one form or another. Without question it has been in the Department of Justice and we do not know why it has not come forth until now. I want to pay a compliment to the Minister for Justice and the Government for bringing forward the Bill.

That is not to say that I welcome the Bill in all respects, as will be apparent when I have finished speaking. I have some reservations about parts of the Bill but I realise it has required political will to get the Bill out of the Department of Justice and onto the floor of the House. It is clear that several of the Minister's predecessors in the Department lacked the political will and courage to come forward with a Bill.

It is a difficult Bill for any Minister to produce. Striking a balance between the interests of the community and the rights of individuals is difficult. It requires courage on the part of the Minister because he can lose out on both sides. On the one hand he can be attacked by those who advocate civil liberties and, on the other hand, he can be attacked by the Establishment for not going one way or another. It is our duty and responsibility to examine the Bill in its entirety, to alter it or to propose changes. That is a major undertaking because when one starts to tamper with a matter like that one is likely to bring about consequences that may not have been foreseen at the start. It is important that as many as possible speak on the Bill. It requires much public discussion not only in this Chamber but in the media and I am glad to see it is attracting much attention. It is important to point out that the Garda Síochána, their representative body and the civil liberties groups among others did not at the beginning see in the Bill what they see in it now. It is only as they have had an opportunity to go through it in detail and to tease out what it means that the emphasis they place on parts of the Bill has differed.

The people who have spoken in the debate have been in favour of the Bill, with one exception. Most people have seen good in it and I think that is the case. I do not think anyone has spoken completely against it. Every speaker has [234] echoed the concern of all of us to ensure that we do the right thing. I have not given as much thought to any other legislative measure since I became a Member of the Oireachtas in 1977. I have to admit that the views I had initially on the Bill have changed at least in respect of the emphasis I place on certain parts of it. I am satisfied now as to my views on the Bill but I know that there are matters that will have to be teased out further on Committee Stage.

I do not find it easy to make this speech. I have the highest regard for the Minister but I must say I do not welcome all the measures in the Bill. It is difficult to express my reservations without seeming to differ from one's Minister. However, I must say that I welcome the offer of the Minister to accept amendments. That is very important. Traditionally Opposition front benchers and back benchers have had a very minor function in amending legislation but this Minister is giving us an opportunity to think about the legislation and to consider its various parts. I think he is quite open to the question of making alterations in the Bill and I will certainly take this up. I have already discussed the matter with the Minister and in my contribution today I will propose certain amendments that I think will improve the Bill.

The Minister said that the objective of ensuring that the guilty are convicted should not be achieved at the cost of putting the innocent at risk. That is an excellent expression of the balance we are striving to find in the Bill. It is our job to satisfy ourselves that the provisions in the Bill will deliver to the Garda whatever powers it seeks to deliver to them, ensuring that the guilty get a fair trial but also ensuring that the innocent are not put at risk. At the moment there is a risk of being carried away in dealing with legislation which proposes to deliver more powers to the Establishment because it is popular to do something like this at the moment. The rising crime rate and the great difficulties faced by many people, particularly those living in urban areas, are matters that are very much in the public mind at the moment. There is the danger that politicians, particularly [235] after a by-election campaign and after knocking on many doors, will say that something must be done without necessarily analysing what might and should be done to solve the problem. Politicians are people who call for things to be done and there is a slight danger that we will pass the Bill, give powers to the Garda, imagine that that will solve all problems and then wait until problems build up in the future and until the question of reviewing the legal system comes up for examination. We must divorce ourselves from such luxurious thinking. We have to accept that dealing with a crime wave such as that which we have been experiencing in the past few years is extremely difficult and the problem will not be solved easily. I do not believe it will be solved by the passage of the Bill although I think it will help to solve the problem. We must accept that the problem is greater and will require far more effort.

We must ponder on what in the Bill will help to reduce the crime rate. I think it will help us to do that and also to deal with the habitual criminals who exploit and abuse the system. However, I do not think it will deal with the real difficulties we have today. The most significant development in crime in the past few years has been the number of young people involved in crime and the different types of crime being committed now. Two or three years ago armed robberies were the major type of crime but now they are on the decline. Nowadays house-breakings and the larceny of cars are the major crimes. We should examine why we have been successful in coping with armed robberies and why we have not been successful in dealing with the other types of crime. We must also consider why crimes are based so much on particular urban areas and also why they are based on petty larceny and so on.

We must be realistic and face the fact that changes must be brought about in our legal system. In his speech the Minister reminded us that economic and social problems are at the root of some of our problems in the criminal area. I agree with the Minister in this. The Minister [236] also said that we cannot wait until the Government have dealt with the economic and social problems before we work out a strategy to combat the crime wave. I agree with him in that. We must recognise that particular difficulties arise so far as the Garda are concerned. We have to consider their lack of resources and also the tragedy in the North of Ireland. We cannot ignore the sheer pressure that puts on the operations of the Garda in terms of taking up so much resources. Those resources are deployed in the Border areas away from areas such as Dublin where there is a crime problem. Many public representatives perceive the greatest problem as not enough gardaí on the beat. They also lack the technical and forensic resources of other police forces. We must also accept that the Garda feel very strongly — in this I have the greatest sympathy with them — that the criminal legal system at the moment seems almost to favour an accused person rather than the Garda. They see that as wrong. They are frustrated and annoyed, and rightly so, that that should be the case.

We have to examine and appreciate all those points but having done so we must still stand back from a Bill like this and, when looking at all the powers we are giving the Garda and every proposal in the Bill, we must ask ourselves if this power will help us solve the problem. We must also ask ourselves is this giving the Garda more power and at the same time ensuring that the innocent person is not put at risk. Each and every Member of this House must ensure that whatever is in this Bill is fair and that the innocent person is not put at risk. Even though it may not be politically popular, we have a duty that we must discharge.

Members will recall that earlier this year there was a vote in the House of Commons on whether the death penalty should be restored. Every public opinion poll in the United Kingdom over the last few years clearly indicated that the public want the death penalty restored but Members of the British Houses of Parliament recognised the fact that one cannot simply go along with what is popular, [237] politically or otherwise. One has to consider whether it is right to do something.

There is one area where there is a particularly heavy responsibility on us to ensure that what is in this Bill is right, and not just that it will satisfy us in our need to do something about the crime rate. We must realise that we are changing our legal system and, in some respects, we are changing it very drastically. We must ask ourselves whether what we are doing is right for the country, whether it is what we want to do and not just whether it will be right tomorrow so that we can say to the people of Dublin Central, “Look what we have done”. I saw Fianna Fáil claiming credit for this, and so did my party. When we are asked what we are doing about the situation, we tell the people that we are passing the Criminal Justice Bill at present, as if to say that once the Bill is through crime in Dublin city and everywhere else will be a thing of the past. We must bear in mind that what we are doing here will be part of our legal system until it is changed again. We know from experience that it takes a long time to change legislation. This Bill has been in the Department of Justice for the last seven or eight years in one form or another and the likelihood is that when this Bill passes the changes it will bring about in our legal system will remain for many years and will bring about consequences that will affect the Garda, the public and, most important, the relationship between the Garda and the public.

Before going into the areas where I find there are problems, there are a number of points which have not been highlighted in the past few weeks as being of importance. There are a number of new ideas in the Bill which are important and which I welcome. I want to welcome one particular proposal which will enable the prosecution and the defence in criminal cases to reach agreement on certain matters. Up to now it has been the custom in the criminal side of our legal system that the prosecution had to prove everything in a very formal way. We had experience of this during the court-martial in the Curragh this summer. People had to be flown from the Lebanon to prove that a [238] certain person stood in a certain place at a certain time. These formal proofs were totally unnecessary. This has been an archaic part of our system for years and has cost the country massive amounts because doctors and other professional people had to wait in court to discharge a very formal item of proof in a criminal case. I welcome these provisions because they will make our court system more efficient.

Other matters in the Bill have been referred to by many speakers. The proposal to impose consecutive sentences for offences committed by persons while on bail is a good idea; to create a new offence for somebody who fails to surrender is also a good idea. The proposal to increase very substantially the penalty for taking a vehicle without the consent of the owner is to be welcomed, although I believe the car manufacturers have a greater part to play in combating the problems of car thefts. In my view it is important that these penalties be increased. This proposal now comes within the scope of section 3 and other sections. I recognise that this is something which must be done.

I also welcome the proposal to oblige a defendant to give the prosecution notice of an alibi he proposes to produce in court. It has been unfair and unduly helpful to a defendant to put the State in a position where they had to disclose details of their evidence months before a case went to trial and the defendant could hide behind the secrecy of his own position and only disclose an alibi in court when the Garda and the prosecution would have no opportunity to investigate its validity. I also welcome the proposal to introduce majority jury verdicts and the proposal to alter the order of closing speeches in criminal trials.

Having welcomed those provisions I hasten to say that I do not believe this 1983 legislation will be remembered for those proposals. I believe it will be remembered for two main powers proposed to be given to the Garda and the State. First, the power to detain and second the inferences sections. I want to devote the rest of my remarks to those [239] sections.

Section 3 gives a garda power to arrest a person without warrant whom he suspects of having committed an offence which carries a penalty of imprisonment for a term of five years of more. The section goes on to provide that where a garda detains somebody in those circumstances the member in charge of the Garda station must have reasonable grounds for believing detention is necessary for the proper investigation of the offence.

The proposal is that if a garda has reasonable grounds for believing somebody has committed a crime, he will be able to detain that person and presumably the arresting garda will have to inform the member in charge of the station of his reasons. Therefore, I suspect that the Bill provides that the garda in charge of the station will have to have reasonable grounds for believing that his detention is necessary for the proper investigation of an offence. There is no provision that this information should come to the member in charge of the station from his own resources. I presume it would be good enough for the arresting garda to bring somebody in and say “I believe this person has been involved in the commission of a crime and wish to interview him”. That is all that would be required.

The Minister very properly pointed out that in recent years the Garda in many cases have not been able to investigate cases properly because there was no legal basis for them to detain somebody for questioning. I do not find this section or the purpose of the section, namely, detaining somebody for questioning, reprehensible in itself but in my view the provision, although it is a good one in the sense that it gives the Garda an opportunity to investigate properly, has not been fully thought out by the draftsman and requires many changes before it can work effectively. Those people who say this is novel and a new development in our legal system are being quite unfair. People generally were inclined to believe that they could not refuse to go to the station if they were asked by a garda to [240] do so in order to answer questions about a certain matter. They were under the impression that the garda had the force of law behind him. That has now changed and it has become more difficult for the Garda to investigate crime. The hardened criminal knows very well what his rights are and has been able to exploit this. Most ordinary people if asked to accompany a garda to a station would quite willingly do so. The Garda are frustrated and infuriated by a system which demands that they get on with the job and solve crime but which at the same time impedes them from doing so.

There are many journalists who regard the period of detention as completely reprehensible. That is an unreasonable attitude. It must be recognised that if the Garda are to investigate crime they must at least have the opportunity to have a chat with a suspect. Our proposals are moderate and reasonable in comparison with those which exist in other European countries. In England a person may be detained for up to 48 hours or longer in the case of serious crime. In the North of Ireland the period of detention is 48 hours, while in Scotland it is six hours on the authority of the police but this period can be extended on application to the local sheriff. In Belgium the period of detention is 24 hours. This is also the case in Denmark but it is extendable on application to a judge. In France the police may detain a person for 24 hours and this period is extendable on application to the public prosecutor for a further 24 hours. In Italy the period of detention is 48 hours, in Luxembourg 24 hours and in the Netherlands 48 hours on the authority of the public prosecutor, extendable in certain circumstances. In Sweden a person may be detained for up to five days following formal arrest and in West Germany the period of detention is 24 hours. These are examples of the periods for which people can be detained but I would emphasise that the systems obtaining in other countries are different from ours and the circumstances in which people can be detained also differ. I am not familiar with the precise provisions of the law of each of the countries I have mentioned but it is universally accepted [241] that in order to afford police the opportunity to investigate criminal activity they must have the power to detain suspects so that proper investigations can be carried out.

We must equally recognise that to deprive any person of his or her liberty even for a few hours is a grave matter and it can only be done in circumstances and in an environment which are completely controlled and where a person's rights are fully, not partly, safeguarded. My major criticism of this Bill is that it is shabby and defective in regard to safeguards and does not ensure the full safeguarding of a person's rights. There are provisions in the Bill which could lead to proper safeguards coming into existence and provisions which might in certain cases provide proper safeguards but the fact remains that a person's rights are not safeguarded in the Bill as it stands. Although I may find certain parts of the Bill difficult to accept, I will support it if the Fine Gael Party and this side of the House stand behind it. I will, however, be disappointed if other Members, having fully examined the matter, do not feel that some stronger safeguards should be written into the Bill.

I say that not just in the interests of the rights of an individual but in the interests of the Garda Síochána themselves. They are regularly the subjects of allegations of abuse, brutality and assault. This does not arise only in security-related matters but in every twopenny-ha'penny case in the District Court. When a solicitor interviews a client, particularly a client who has made a statement admitting a certain offence, there will often be an allegation that the person was pushed or beaten into making the statement. This happens in at least 50 per cent of cases. At present there is a case in the Four Courts concerning this matter and there have been many other such cases in recent months. Some of these allegations against the Garda may be well-founded but very many are not. The public do not understand and cannot have all the facts before them. This feature of our society has had a very damaging effect on the morale of the Garda and on the spirit of co-operation and the respect that should exist [242] between them and the public. We must ensure that this cancer which is building up in our society is excised. If not we will suffer the results for many years to come.

The vast majority of gardaí will use the powers of this Bill with responsibility and care and a consciousness of the rights of people. However, within the Garda a few bad apples can give the force a completely unfair name. It is imperative that this Bill should succeed not only in giving the Garda powers to deal with crime but should also give them the protection they need and the opportunity to increase the respect of the public for them.

We all recall the allegations of brutality made against the so-called “heavy gang” in the Garda some years ago. Deputy Gerry Collins was then spokesman for Justice for his party and he made promises about an independent inquiry. When he became Minister no such inquiry was held and this was a pity. Perhaps if I knew all the facts and were given the reasons for not holding an inquiry I might hold a different opinion. It is difficult for us to consider this type of legislation without being able to assure the public that, although in the past, there have been problems and allegations, they have been dealt with through an independent inquiry. It is a pity that inquiry did not take place.

Instead, the then Minister, Deputy Collins, established in 1978 the Ó Briain committee and asked them to examine what might be done to ensure that the interests of the Garda and the public in relation to allegations of ill-treatment or brutality by the Garda could be protected. That committee met and, in very quick time examined the situation, and came up with proposals. Some of those proposals are in this Bill but many of them, and particularly those which would have the direct effect of ensuring that the Garda were not left open to allegations of abuse, are not included in the Bill. That is a pity.

We are not seen as a legislative body which has recognised the problems which have been seen by the public to have existed over the past few years. We cannot ignore them. Even though there is a demand to give the police more powers [243] to deal with the crime rate, the public are also concerned that the problems within our system have not been ironed out and dealt with. I refer specifically to the problem of allegations of ill-treatment.

I have given credit to Judge Barra Ó Briain and his committee for some of the proposals in this Bill. It is important that credit should be given where it is due. It is a pity that in his very excellent speech the Minister did not explain to the House why other proposals in that committee's report were not produced as proposals in the Bill.

I should like to quote briefly from the addendum by Judge Barra Ó Briain to the report. Speaking about the power to detain people without warrant he said:

I would go somewhat further and question whether or not the time has now come to change the law relating to the investigation of crime by providing a form of “detention” for a strictly limited period. During such detention the Gardaí would have the right to hold persons reasonably suspected of having committed a crime, but only such persons, for the express purpose of questioning them in relation to the crime. The Gardaí lack such power at the moment. Notwithstanding this, they are under extreme and increasing pressure from the whole community which is clamant that the police uncover and prevent crime and bring guilt home to guilty parties. Is it any wonder that the allegations which we have considered show a picture, again and again, of the Gardaí frustrated by their lack of legal power to question suspected persons in custody, taking the law into their own hands by holding them for custodial interrogation, and in doing so, breaking the law if not indeed the Constitution. This is so even apart from ill-treatment. But the allegations we have considered state that in a number of cases the Gardaí in their frustration have used physical violence or threats of violence to secure answers to their questioning. If, therefore, this element of frustration can be eliminated, or even reduced, in some cases, [244] by a change of the law, it seems to me that this change would afford per se some further safeguard against ill-treatment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Will the Deputy quote the name and date of the document?

Mr. Molony: I am not quoting from the original report but from the addendum by Judge Barra Ó Briain. I have not got the date of publication. It is probably 1978. We have to accept that a period of detention is necessary. I support that, but my problem is that the safeguards for the individual are not there.

We should look briefly at the proposals in the Bill. The Minister made a point which has been highlighted in the media, that one proposal is that provision will be made for the electronic recording of all interviews with people detained. There is no doubt that is an excellent idea but the fact is—and we must be absolutely clear on this—that the Bill does not provide that interviews will be electronically recorded. The Bill merely provides that in future the Minister may make regulations for the electronic recording of interviews. To suggest that is a safeguard in the Bill would be quite untrue. I am not saying the Minister said that, but there is a perception that there will be video recordings or audio recordings of interviews. It is an ideal solution, but I want to make it absolutely clear that the Bill does not propose that interviews will be recorded; it simply allows the Minister the opportunity in the future to introduce regulations governing that question. I look forward to the day when that will happen.

There is a provision in the Bill, described by some people as a safeguard, that people may at their request have a solicitor notified by the Garda and the solicitor will come into the station. There is no provision in the Bill which ensures that the solicitor will talk to the person at the beginning of the detention period. There is no provision in the Bill that the solicitor may remain during questioning. It is interesting to note that, while the Garda must advise people without delay [245] of their right to have a solicitor, the Garda need call a solicitor only as soon as is practicable.

I do not know why the distinction is drawn there. I do not know why something is not written into the Bill providing that a person may not be questioned until he has had the opportunity to talk to a solicitor. I am not suggesting that a solicitor should remain during all the questioning. I am not even directing my mind to that subject. I am saying that in terms of safeguards it is wrong to suggest that is a safeguard. The provision in the Bill is merely a solicitor can be called. There is nothing definite written into the Bill about questioning a person in the presence of a solicitor or after he has been advised by a solicitor.

There is no provision in the Bill that if a garda suspects somebody of having committed a crime the garda should record anywhere his grounds for suspicion. There is no provision in the Bill that a Garda officer has to tell somebody the crime he believes he may have committed. Imagine the case of people who are picked up and brought to the station. I presume they will be told they have been arrested pursuant to the powers given to the Garda under section 3 of the 1983 Criminal Justice Act. People do not have to be told the reason they were brought into the station. They do not have to be told the crime it is believed they may have committed. They have not got the right to have their solicitor there from the start. They have not even got the right to insist that the solicitor should be there during any part of the six hours. The obligation is to call a solicitor as soon as is practicable.

If a person feels aggrieved afterwards, what rights has he got? There will be a complaints tribunal and I will deal with that in a moment. That person will not be able to say: “This happened. I want it investigated by an independent complaints tribunal or a senior member of the Garda force”. No record or log will be available which might indicate why the person was called in. It is fundamental to this type of system that if people are detained they are told why they are detained. If we are to have this detention [246] period it is as much as in the interests of the Garda themselves as in the interests of the individual that more than one person should be there at all times during questioning.

I like the idea proposed by Judge Ó Briain in his report that a custodial guardian should be there. I recognise the fact that that might be difficult. I propose that this Bill should be amended to provide that until such time as electronic recording of interviews comes into effect a custodial guardian should be appointed in each place of detention and that custodial guardian should remain with the person at all times while being interviewed during a period of detention. If that is impossible, something should be written into the Bill to ensure the right to speak to a solicitor and if he so choose, have the solicitor remain with him for the entire six hours, the extended period of 12 hours or any other period. That would absolutely copperfasten a person's rights, removing the possibility that people could afterwards claim that they were brutalised, threatened with violence, frightened and, as a result, made an untrue statement. There is no other way of getting rid of that problem. There will always be people who have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by accusing gardaí of doing things which they have not done. You will never be able to protect the Garda or the public unless you build in that type of safeguard and it can be done. The electronic recording of interviews is the ideal solution in the long term, but in the short and medium term if the Government want the new power of detention it is absolutely essential that a person's rights be safeguarded.

It is essential that judges or lawyers be not put in a position of having to decide on the credibility of evidence given by a member of the public, an accused person, and of a member of the Garda Síochana, as to whether there was a threat of violence. It is not good enough that that should happen under this Bill. Regretfully in the longer term this provision in the Bill, far from helping to deal with the problem of crime, will build up a distrust between the public—or certain members [247] of it — and the Garda. We need exactly the opposite, to have power of detention but in such a way that the individual's rights will be safeguarded to the extent that the possibility of untrue or unfair allegations being made against the Garda is got rid of once and for all.

I said I would avoid the temptation of going into the detailed provisions in the Bill, and I intend to adhere to that. However, I make one point in relation to section 8. It will be bad enough for anybody, particularly an innocent person, to be detained for six or 12 hours and it is envisaged in the Bill that a person should not be brought in for another six hours. However, that provision appears to be very loosely drafted. It states:

Subject to subsection (2), where a person detained pursuant to section 3 is released without having been charged with an offence he shall not be arrested again for the same offence except on the authority of a justice of the District Court...

It is well to have the facility of the District Court and circumstances will arise under which the Garda will obtain additional information and need to speak to a person again. However, they should not have the right, having once arrested a person, to arrest him again for any offence, at least for a period of time. Alternatively, if they are to have that right, it should be obligatory that they apply to a District Justice to obtain permission. The provision specifies the same offence, but a person could be arrested for another offence and there is no obligation on the Garda or on anybody else to tell the arrested person either the offence for which he has been arrested or the grounds for suspicion. I do not believe that it will happen but, in theory, it is quite possible that a person could be brought in a dozen times in the course of a month, on different offences. That can and should be changed. The section should be amended to ensure that when the Garda want to bring in a person for a second time they have to go to the local [248] district justice to get authority and permission to do so.

I turn now to the inference sections and shall confine my remarks to section 16, but these remarks will apply, in one way or another, to the other inference sections, 17 and 18. First, without any doubt the proposal contained in section 16 is the most dramatic change ever proposed in our criminal legal system since the foundation of the State. It is only as time has passed since this Bill was published that I have realised the enormity of the ramifications of this section. It is very noticeable that when this Bill was published very few appreciated that this was the area where sweeping changes were proposed. In recent times people have cottoned on to this dramatic change. They can read the section for themselves but I shall try to summarise what the section proposes. In essence, it is to impose an obligation on persons when questioned to disclose to the Garda any information which they may have about any crime. Such information which they are obliged to give may include information known to a person but not regarded by that person as material to the questions being put to him by the Garda. Such disclosed information may be used against that person and inferences which may damage a person's defence can be made by judges and juries.

The Minister may consider that I am being unfair in describing this section in these terms and will point to the various qualifications written into section 16. However, the fact remains that this section is so wide-ranging that we have to consider all areas of possibilities. An obligation is being imposed on a person to give the Garda any information about any crime if he is ever interviewed by them. If he does not give that information, and all of it, he is placing himself in some way at risk. The right to silence — and this is what we are talking about — has been the cornerstone of our criminal legal system and it is not because it has been there for centuries that I have a problem as regards this section. There is no doubt that the regime of the right to silence has weighed the scales of justice ludicrously in favour of an accused person [249] in some cases in the past. It has enraged the Garda, with very good cause, that the value of the endless hours of work put into a case has been set at naught because of the technicalities of that system which gives the right to an accused person to remain silent. This regime should be changed and I would highlight the fact that although other commentators say that there is no need for it, the need is there. Eminent legal practitioners and academics here and in the United Kingdom have advocated a change in this regime of silence for some number of years now.

I submit that there is need here of a scalpel in skilful hands to cut away the abuses and the bad parts of the present legislation. This section is a demolition hammer which will devastate our present system and leave in its wake a void of uncertainty and confusion. That must be avoided. The Minister has said that this proposal in section 16 has “intrinsic merit”. There is intrinsic merit in the idea which the Minister and his Department officials will have had in proposing this section, but frankly the effect of it is that we import into our legal system the worst aspects of other legal systems and marry them to the weakest parts of our own legal system. Our legal system is an accusatorial one, whereby one party to the case in court has on him the onus of proving the case against the other. Other countries use the inquisitorial system. In some countries a citizen is obliged to come in to respond to questioning. We are proposing to use that part of the system which obliges a person to answer questions without in any way ensuring that the person who asks the question is independent, or is somebody who can stand back from the system and who sits in a quasi-judicial capacity as opposed to a person who investigates and would prosecute after the investigation.

The Barra Ó Briain Report was full of the difficulties that we are faced with in a system whereby gardaí have to interview people and those people claim afterwards that their so-called voluntary statements were not voluntary, that they were threatened, they were under duress and had to make them. The Minister recognises [250] that because he acknowledges in the case of a person who is detained at some stage in the future that it is highly desirable that any interview which takes place between gardaí and that person be electronically recorded. I believe the Minister is right but now we have a proposal which puts a person, who is not in detention, at risk. Gardaí will be able to interview that person and afterwards, when the gardaí are giving evidence in court, they will be able to refer not only to the questions asked without there being any record of the questions and answers so that they might be the subject of agreement between the prosecution and the defendant, but they can say to the court that they asked this, that and the other question and the defendant did not give any answer or he said this or that. The inevitable result will be constant disputes in court about what was said or what was not said even before a person was detained by the Garda, where ordinary questioning was in progress in regard to ordinary inquiries. The system will be brought into bad repute because of this. Our whole system will be made virtually unworkable by doing this.

I am not convinced that the section is a good one. The Minister's speech did not spell out the a, b, c or d reasons for this proposal. Unless his reasons are very good he should take out the section altogether. If the Minister gives us good reasons I want to say this to him. If people are going to be obliged to answer certain questions, those questions must be asked by a person who is independent of the prosecution and of the defence. That person must ask questions which will be recorded and invite answers that will be recorded so that the questions and answers will be available to the court in a written form and there will not be any room for dispute between the prosecution and the defence in relation to what questions were asked or were not asked. The Minister could do this in the Bill if he provided that the inference power which will exist in the courts in the future will only apply in serious cases. There is no justification for it applying in minor cases in the District Court.

I am not convinced that this is the right [251] thing to do but if the Minister has reasons for doing this I suggest that at the preliminary hearing in indictable cases a district justice should ask the questions. The prosecution should say that they have the following questions to ask the accused and they need answers to them. In those circumstances the defendant will at least have had the benefit of legal advice if he wants it and he will also have the knowledge that whatever he says will be recorded; questions will have been recorded and afterwards there will not be any dispute about the questions asked and the answers given.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy has certainly put the Minister on notice that he is not happy about this section. It may be taken from what the Deputy has said that he will have a lot more to say about it on Committee Stage. Perhaps it could be left for Committee Stage.

Mr. Molony: I am certainly prepared to do that but I wanted to highlight this. Several pages of the Bill are taken up with this proposal. I have avoided the temptation of going into detail about it but, in fairness, I should spell out what my alternative proposal would be. I am satisfied that I have done it. There is one other point I want to make in relation to the inference section. This came from a proposal that was to go into a Bill in the UK in 1972 and was subsequently rejected by the UK Parliament. I want to refer to the report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, published in the UK in January 1981. This report dealt in very considerable detail with this whole difficulty presented by the regime we have of the right to silence. The commission gave two main difficulties which they saw in relation to interfering with this. I would like to read those into the record of the House. The commission stated:

Two main difficulties would arise if the right of silence during investigation were to be modified in this way. The modified caution proposed by the Criminal Law Revision Committee [252] would have been required to be given only when the suspect was charged or told that he might be prosecuted, that is when there is notionally, at least, sufficient admissable evidence available to the police to enable a prosecution to be mounted but it is difficult to see how the fact that silence at the point of charge would lead to damaging consequences for the suspect would not in practice affect the attitude of the police in their conduct of interviews prior to charge and the way that suspects would respond to questioning. It might put strong (and additional) psychological pressure upon some suspects to answer questions without knowing precisely what was the substance of and evidence for, the accusations against them; and in consequence what they needed to tell the police in order to allay the suspicion against them. This, in our view, might well increase the risk of innocent people, particularly those under suspicion for the first time, making damaging statements. The risk may be small, but these things do occasionally occur. On the other hand, the guilty person who knew the system would be inclined to sit it out. If his arrest had been on reasonable suspicion only and this were not enough to make a prima facie case he would lose nothing and gain everything by keeping silent, since he would not be prosecuted if no other evidence emerged. If the police had got sufficient evidence to mount a case without a statement from him, it would still be to the guilty suspect's advantage to keep to himself as long as possible a false defence which was capable of being shown to be such by investigation. It might just be believed by the jury despite the fact that the prosecution and the judge would be able, under the Criminal Law Revision Committee's proposals, to comment.

The Royal Commission saw that this provision would actually be of advantage to the hardened criminal and would put the innocent person at risk.

The second reason given is at paragraph 452 of the report and states:

[253] The majority of us does not accept that this would not unfairly prejudice the suspect. Quite apart from the psychological pressures that such a change would place upon some suspects it would, in their view, amount to requiring a person during investigation to answer questions based upon possibly unsubstantiated and unspecific allegations or suspicion, even though he is not required to do that at the trial. Such a change could be regarded as acceptable only if, at a minimum, the suspect were to be provided at all stages of the investigation with full knowledge of his rights, complete information about the evidence available to the police at the time, and an exact understanding of the consequences of silence. But that could only be done if the critical phase of investigation, that is the phase at which silence could be used adversely to the accused, was to become more structured and formal than it is now; in effect, responsibility for and conduct at this phase of the investigation close to charge, would have to become quasi judicial rather than a police function.

This question was considered by Judge Ó Briain and he said it might be desirable to make changes in relation to the regime we have about the right to silence at the moment. He claims:

Such questions might relate to identity and address, marital status, explanation of stains on clothing, property (including money) found upon the suspect, an account of his dealings with a vehicle believed by the Gardaí to have been used in a crime, his movements for a specified period of time before and after the crime, and some other kindred questions to be set out in a statute and strictly limited.

The proposal in the Bill is wide ranging, universal in its application and is not confined to serious crime. There is no provision for recording any of the questions that might be asked or might not be asked or provision to ensure that a person might be advised before being launched into this. In short, it is a wild and unthought [254] out proposal to change our existing system. Our existing system is not perfect but the proposals in the Bill will be so devastating in the changes they will bring about in our system that they will lead us into a situation of confusion and uncertainty. They will do more damage than anything else.

I welcome some aspects of the Bill but I wonder whether we are approaching the problem in the right way. The Garda, given that circumstance and the resources they have, do an incredible job but we do not take the opportunity to see what changes are needed not just in their powers but in their resources. I have been struck by the fact that armed robberies which were such a problem some years ago are no longer the problem they were. What is the reason for that? The Garda and the Minister will give as the reason for this the fact that a special task force was set up to deal with that problem. Since they went into operation they have worked successfully. Although some of the provisions of the Bill are useful and good, I wonder if the powers being given to the Garda will help to deal with the detection of crime. I am certain that the Garda will be helped to secure more convictions but the provisions will not do much to help them detect crime. More technical and forensic resources would help the Garda to deal more effectively with the crime problem.

At a meeting of the Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism recently I met Garda Commissioner Wrenn and some senior officers and I was struck by their remarks as to the problems that exist in certain parts of Dublin. For example in C District in Dublin 11,000 crimes, or 10 per cent of the country's total, were committed last year. Of that figure 3,300 crimes went to the charge stage and of that number — I am not referring to individual criminals — 1,100 were juvenile committed crimes. In that central area of Dublin the Garda are aware that about 200 young people are responsible for the vast majority of those crimes but about 40 or 50 of those young people are the main individuals behind the crimes. This is not new. It has been recognised for a number of years that this [255] group of 40 or 50 people are responsible and as those young people move on it is obvious there will be successors to take up the cudgel.

I recall that Deputy Gerard Collins as Minister for Justice put forward the opening of Loughan House in Cavan as a solution to the problem. That was a complete failure, a fiasco. It was a bad idea at the start and it was recognised by many people as a hopeless venture. It cost a fortune but did not achieve anything. Many of the 30 or 40 people I spoke of in C District have graduated to senior places in crime and Garda officers told us that many of the young people roaming around C District today will form the nub of the criminal class here in a few years' time. What are we doing about that problem? I accept the Minister's sincerity and that he cannot do anything about this in terms of solving all of our economic and social problems but I am not suggesting that we must do that. Parts of C District are rough and have economic and social problems that will not be resolved for many years, but the area has been identified as a problem by the Garda. One of the main gangs in the area is led by a 13-year-old and I understand he is some operator.

There is an opportunity for us to do something in that area. This should not be a Garda matter. It is a social problem that could be tackled. Loughan House was established because it was felt that juveniles like those operating in C District should be put away. It is obvious that those young people lack parental control and the Garda, while they do not want them put behind bars, want them moved from their home environment where they are running wild. In fact, we do not have any places to help such young people. We have an obligation to deal with them and we should have places for them. I do not wish to sound like a dogooder or a wildly socially concerned person but on a practical basis we have a problem in that major area of criminal activity in the country in that 1,100 of the crimes committed there last year were carried out by 40 or 50 young people.

We know what we can do in that area [256] and we know also that if we do not do something we will face greater problems in the future. Those who grow up in that type of environment will remain in the criminal industry because they will not have any other way to survive. It may be that attempts were made to deal with that problem in the past and that people were frustrated in their efforts. However, no reason has been given to the House and the matter was not referred to by the Minister. I hope the Minister has an opportunity to refer to it when replying to the debate because this is a problem the Garda know of and complain about.

The Minister mentioned a figure of £230 million for crime related services in his Department in 1983. That is a lot of money and that is why it would make good sense to tackle the problem that has been identified. As a law student between 1969 and 1971 I had the privilege of working in the Free Legal Advice Centre in Mountjoy Square and I was acquainted with such places as Gardiner Street, but I was saddened when I returned to that area to canvass support recently to discover that the situation has deteriorated. It seems that we have not come to understand the problem much less to do something to deal with it. The problem was based in the centre of the city but it is creeping out slowly to the suburbs. People living on the edge of that constituency do not answer their door at night because of a fear of being attacked. This is a major social problem but what I cannot understand is that, although we know what the problem is, we are unwilling to do something about it. I accept that this is not a matter for the Minister for Justice entirely but it is a problem that must be tackled. The provisions of the Bill will not help to deal with that problem. We need to put our thinking caps on and recognise that there is a lot more we can do to deal with the rising crime rate than give more powers to the police, the prosecution or the State. Perhaps if we examined areas where we could increase resources for family-related services in the area about which I have spoken and thought out what we might do, we could achieve a great deal more.

Even though in parts of my speech I [257] may have expressed the views that might lead people to believe I was in some way doubtful of the integrity of the Garda Force, I want to emphasise that I believe the work they have done in extraordinarily difficult circumstances over the past number of years has been absolutely superb. We have been blessed by having a Garda Force that has never been armed, who have had to do very dangerous work in recent years. They are very good. But we should not think for a moment that merely because we give them more powers in this Bill we are really helping them along their way. They need a lot more than that, a lot more support than that. Let this be the first portion of what we are doing but there remains a lot more to be done.

I know that the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Fennell, who has now joined us is somebody who is interested in that area and will ensure that something is done. But all of us have a responsibility. Perhaps before this debate concludes more people will have expressed views leading us to believe that there is a demand not just to give more powers to the police but to give them more help and indeed the community at large, particularly in the constituency in which a by-election has just been held.

Mr. O'Dea: While I welcome an opportunity of contributing to any legislation in this House it was with some reluctance that I agreed to participate in this discussion. My contribution will be brief, reflecting the fact that I do not think much of this Bill.

Having read the debate so far, I find myself in the somewhat embarrassing position of being out of line with the main stream of thinking of my party on this Bill. I am sorry about that; it is something that cannot be avoided. I overheard a Fine Gael Party political broadcast the other day in relation to the Dublin Central by-election in which the Minister for Justice stated on national radio that he was putting a Criminal Justice Bill through the Dáil which would render the homes of people living in Dublin inner [258] city safer. To describe that as being untrue would be too weak. It is the exact reverse, a distortion of the truth. If the Minister whom the Head of this Government has placed in charge of the Department of Justice really believes that, then this country is in a more sorry state than I had thought and those people who know me will know that as it is I am pessimistic about the country.

This Bill represents the most insidious and far-reaching erosion of personal liberties since the foundation of the State. That is the price we are paying; that is the price the Government are paying, and to achieve what? Nothing, in my opinion. I do not intend to go into detailed Committee Stage points. I do not want to pre-empt the input of my Party into the Committee Stage debate. If one looks at the various headings of sections of the Bill — for instance section 3 is headed “Detention after arrest”; section 4 “Access to solicitor and notification of detention”; section 5 “Powers of Gárda Síochána in relation to detained person” — one appreciates that all this Bill is dealing with is a situation in which somebody has actually been detained, apprehended or accused of something. What we must deal with is the growing crime wave, with people who are not being detected. What we should be talking about are measures to prevent people committing crimes in the first place rather than giving the police substantial powers to deal with people once they have been apprehended, once the crime has been committed.

The Government should be turning their attention to the prevention of the commission of crime, not giving these sinister, huge powers to the Garda Síochána to deal with people who have already committed crimes. That is a defeatist approach. The Government approach suggests that one cannot prevent crime, that one cannot stop these things happening, that what we need to do is to give the courts and the Garda Síochána power to deal with people who have committed these crimes, or allegedly committed them.

The central problem in relation to the [259] administration of criminal justice here is not that people are walking away from Garda stations or from the courts on a technicality. The problem is that these crimes are being committed at an ever-increasing rate. Naturally as the crime rate increases so the detection rate drops, is dropping and has been for some time past.

The second central problem here is that, once a person has been convicted of crime and sentenced to a period of imprisonment there is a severe overcrowding accommodation problem in our prisons. I had the unhappy experience about six months ago in relation to a constituent of mine of having to make strong representations to the local chief superintendent in Limerick to actually get that person into prison to serve his sentence because the Garda were showing some reluctance to pick up the person in question. Having made representations to the chief superintendent the local sergeant called on the family in question and informed the young lad that if he had a hair cut, shaved himself, packed his case and presented himself at St. Patrick's Institution, looking as respectable as possible, they might accept him. That is the second problem we encounter in relation to the administration of criminal justice.

What is the response of the Government and of the Minister for Justice to both of those problems? The response to the problem of the ever-increasing crime rate is to give the Garda increased powers to deal with the people who have been apprehended, a typical political, gallery-playing response with no effort being made to deal with the central problem, that being the rising crime rate itself. Rather: play to the gallery, it looks good; we are doing something about crime; we are going to render the homes of the people in Dublin central safe again, we will make the streets safe to walk again by giving the Garda increased powers to deal with people who have committed crimes. The streets will not be safe to walk while people commit those crimes. What do the provisions of this Bill do about that? Nothing. It deals with the [260] situation after the crime has been committed.

The response to the second problem, that of prison accommodation is especially cynical. This sort of approach of successive Governments is bringing this House and the general democratic process into disrepute. The Minister is fully aware that there is a severe accommodation problem in our prisons. His response is to give the courts power to mete out longer maximum sentences. Yet there is no place in which to accommodate criminals; that has not been solved. The courts are given power to send people away for longer periods, if they so wish, but the real problem is that there is nowhere to put them.

If one looks at section 13 which deals with the increase of penalties for certain firearms offences one finds there, in subsection (1), a typical example of this type of political cynicism and gallery-playing. That subsection reads:

Section 15 of the Firearms Act, 1925, as amended by section 21 (4) of the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act, 1976, (possessing firearm or ammunition with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property) is hereby amended by the substitution, for “imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years”, of “imprisonment for life”.

If a person is convicted under that section he or she can be sentenced to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years. The response of the Minister for Justice to this problem is to increase the maximum period for which a person can be imprisoned from 14 years to imprisonment for life. What is called in the business the average “lifer” serves a period of between eight and ten years. The Minister for Justice knows that well. It constitutes no response, means nothing but is sheer cynicism, mere window-dressing to insert a provision implying that we are now dealing with this problem, because, to date, the maximum term of imprisonment was 14 years. Now they can be sentenced to life imprisonment. That is our solution to the problem. Up to now they could only be sentenced to 14 years. [261] We changed that by bringing in a provision whereby they can be sentenced for a period which averages between eight and ten years.

As Deputy Molony indicated, and I was delighted to hear him saying so, this Bill will do nothing to solve the basic problems of our crime rate and the administration of criminal justice. The Bill does nothing to deal with the rising crime rate, the fear in our streets and homes and the problem of people who, having been sentenced for offences involving a great deal of violence, are allowed out again after serving a month or two of their sentences because there is no room for them. These matters are not dealt with in the Bill, nevertheless civil liberties are seriously eroded. The Minister for Justice stated that he has the balance right between the rights of the individual and the protection of the community. The balance is not right and, if the Minister for Justice is not aware of this, I am pessimistic about our country's future. The balance was still weighted in favour of the authorities before this Bill was brought in. It is now weighted much more in favour of the authorities and all to achieve nothing. That is the tragedy of this legislation.

A number of Deputies on the opposite side have mentioned section 16. Whilst I do not want to make points which would be more appropriate on Committee Stage, I want to look very briefly at the implications of that section for the administration of criminal justice. On one interpretation, the section could mean nothing. It allows the courts to draw such inferences as are proper. What does that mean? I doubt if even the Minister knows. On the other hand, on another interpretation, the section could result in the invidious situation that even momentary forgetfulness of the smallest fact will inevitably lead to conviction. Almost any word in that section is open to question. For instance subsection (3) (a) states that nothing in this section shall, in any proceedings, “prejudice the admissibility in evidence of the silence or other reaction of the accused...”. What does “other reaction of the accused” mean? Unemployment has reached 200,000, crime is [262] escalating and yet these words seem to indicate that a person's facial expression can be used in evidence against him. Section 16 is a large, sinister section which erodes and destroys civil liberties and human rights that have existed from time immemorial and, as I have said, achieves nothing. The legislation is meaningless in terms of achievement, it cannot and will not achieve anything.

Despite Deputy Molony's eloquent protestations, he is determined to vote in favour of the Bill even if it remains in its original form. The possibility is, unfortunately, that the Bill will pass through this House, be signed by the President and become law. The Bill purports to give vastly increased powers to the Garda Síochána. The average training period for a Garda is about 22 weeks and is largely concerned with physical training. Surely people who already have substantial power and who are being given increased powers and responsibilities should be subjected to a longer period of training and also a different type of training? I understand that a probation officer must have a university degree in order to carry out his or her duties. If that is so, surely gardaí with this vast panoply of increased powers should have at least a longer period of probation and a different type of training from that which they now receive?

Deputy Molony also referred to the provision in the Bill whereby the Minister may provide for the electronic recording of questioning. He pre-empted what I wanted to say on that and it disturbs me that the Bill says that the Minister may make regulations which provide for this. If the Minister is committed, as he has stated he is, to introducing electronic or other recording of questioning as one of the necessary checks and balances to offset some of the more draconian provisions in the Bill, why does he not do so? There are examples of legislation — I cannot recall them now — where the Minister may provide for this or may make regulations for that and the Minister never made the relevant regulations. I should like the Minister for Justice to indicate whether it is true that the Department of Justice and members of [263] the Garda Síochána said that they would not be prepared to work that system and that that is why we have this window dressing section which states that the Minister may do something which he has no intention of doing. I should like a clear, unambiguous reply to that.

Since this legislation will cause fundamental damage to our system of criminal jurisprudence and will do nothing even to begin to solve crime, I want to make one or two remarks on how I think the Government should be approaching the solution of that problem. There is a large area of jurisprudence and criminology which states that all crime arises inevitably from social and economic conditions and factors. I agree with that but we have a problem on the ground, as it were, which we must deal with and try to control. The Government should be encouraging the idea of community policing and all parties should adopt a uniform approach to this idea. I am convinced, representing a constituency which is largely urban and which has a vast and escalating crime rate, especially in the area of violent crime, that this is the direction in which we will have to move in the future. It is long past the time when we should be sitting down to work out an intelligent all-party approach to this and making some concrete proposals in that area.

The prison accommodation problem is of concern to all of us. Some time ago I suggested that if the Government could not see their way to becoming involved in increased capital expenditure for additional buildings in which to accommodate prisoners, they might give some thought to converting to prison use some of the disused Army barracks of which there are a large number throughout the country. One would hope that any such move would be only on a temporary basis and that we would not continue indefinitely to need extra prison accommodation.

It has been said that justice is often tortured where the law is done. This Bill represents a torturing of the law in a misguided and ill-conceived attempt to do justice. The Bill is wrong-headed and involves a great price in terms of civil [264] liberties without achieving anything tangible. It is my personal view that it should be opposed.

Mr. Allen: Having listened to the two previous speakers and having attempted to interpret the various submissions that we have all received from the interested bodies during the past few weeks, it is my intention, as a non-legal person, to deal with the Bill only in its broadest terms.

I recognise the need for a new Criminal Justice Bill but in introducing such legislation we must not ignore the underlying reasons for the increase in crime in recent years. I do not agree with the easy response that public opinion is in favour of a crackdown on crime and that consequently these new measures must be welcomed. Public opinion is very fickle so that while a Government may be applauded at one stage for the introduction of certain measures they can be condemned later for having introduced those same measures. Therefore, it is silly to take advantage of the increase in the rate of crime in order to give a free hand to the Government to put the Bill through the House. I do not wish to be taken as saying that there is no need for the Bill but I am making the point that I have reservations about certain sections in it.

The Bill has been introduced against the background of a steady increase in crime. I recall speaking at the Speakers Club in Cork more than 12 months ago when the theme of the debate was the triumph of crime. For the purposes of my contribution I had to rely on the figures that had been released for the previous year, 1981. These figures showed that there was a 23 per cent increase in crime compared with the 1980 figures and that the biggest increase, 27 per cent, was in respect of larcenies. As the Bill was introduced here we received the report of the Garda Commissioner concerning the crime figures for 1982. This showed a further 10 per cent increase in the figures. What was most disturbing was that it showed that 5.7 per cent of the population in Dublin as against 3 per cent in Cork were involved in crime. Unfortunately, the increase is greater in the urban [265] areas and Cork is no exception in that respect.

In examining the statistics we find that many of the crimes committed were against the least protected and the least well off, against the aged and the young. In the urban areas car stealing and drug pushing are now major problems but many of these crimes can be attributed to social problems. A previous speaker said that we were one of the most policed states in the world. He gave figures to indicate that we have three policemen per 1,000 of the population as against a figure of 1.8 in the US.

In stemming the increase in crime we must find a solution for some of the social problems that lead to crime. I take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation to the Minister for Justice for granting us permission, after many years, for two further Garda stations in the Gurranabraher and Mayfield areas of Cork.

There are many factors that are said to lead to crime. It can be said that crime results either from personal, environmental or economic stress. I find that a good deal of crime resulting from personal stress is committed because of a breakdown in family units and very much because of a breakdown in parental control. Some of the cases that I have come across resulted from drink problems within the family. On the question of environmental stress, I am amazed at the cutbacks at local authority level in spending on recreational facilities. Any such cutback is shortsighted because it has been proved that the availability of these facilities is a major factor in keeping young people on the straight and narrow. The major problem of unemployment is the biggest contributing factor so far as economic stress is concerned. Lack of employment is the cause of so many young people engaging in crime. Talking of young people, I think we must all agree that drug abuse is one of the major sources of concern. This is a problem that has been increasing in recent years. The figures in respect of the seizure of drugs is a good barometer of the demand for them. In 1981 there were 1,200 seizures and in 1982 the corresponding figure was 1,900. The recent seizure of drugs in [266] Dublin and in the south-east prove that there is a huge demand for drugs.

I am glad that the Government are facing up to this very serious drugs problem. The setting up of the Special Task Force and the issuing of their findings are to be welcomed. In regard to preventing the importation and sale of drugs, we could fall into the trap of spending vast amounts of money in this way while avoiding tackling the underlying factors that contribute to drug abuse. However, the task force are placing a high reliance on health education in this whole area. They are in favour of health education being added to all school curricula. The underlying principle when dealing with drugs is that we must eliminate the need for and reduce the number of people using drugs. There must be no future for the drug pusher.

I know that I have deviated slightly from the reasons for the increase in crime. In getting back to the main point we must divide crime into categories: offences against property and offences against the person. More often than not the person who commits a crime against the person has graduated from less serious crime against property. Offences against property are usually in the form of vandalism and petty theft such as shoplifting. I came across some very interesting figures recently when talking to some people involved in shop security. The major incidence of shoplifting occurs among young people from 12 to 16 years of age on their way home from school. That statement indicates ever-decreasing parental control. It must be obvious to parents that goods coming into the home cannot be purchased by the children who bring them in. After the age of 16 the incidence of shoplifting decreases. Another interesting point was that the incidence of shoplifting increases in females over the age of 36 for some reason or other. Perhaps somebody will do a thesis on the reasons for these figures at some stage.

In dealing with offences against the person we are dealing with robbery with violence and personal assaults. This type of offence is increasing alarmingly in both urban and rural areas and our present [267] system is not successful in preventing this type of crime, though we must give due credit to the Garda: the detection rate is high, the figure given to me is something like 70 per cent detection.

Why is crime increasing and what can be done? One of the reasons crime is on the increase is that the State is becoming more divided between the advantaged and disadvantaged. I have said that before now and I have no hesitation in saying it again. Real poverty is becoming far more widespread than it was previously. Poverty is not just the lack of money. It must be defined and it was defined very well in a thesis put forward by Townsend in 1979 when he dealt with poverty in the UK. He said that poverty was a lack of command of resources, including cash, income, material assets and publicly organised services such as housing and education, so extreme that the individual, family or person involved is excluded from minimum acceptable ordinary living patterns, customs and activities. That is dealing with poverty in the widest sense. Poverty in the form of lack of job opportunities, unemployment, and poverty in the form of lack of recreational facilities must be behind the increase in crime.

Unless persons committing the less serious types of offences are weaned off crime at an early stage they will graduate quickly to more serious crime and will eventually graduate to serious crime against the individual or person. Crime can be prevented only by tackling the social, environmental and recreational conditions that encourage crime in the first place. A report from the NESC in 1981 on the problems of urbanisation stated that, if cities do not begin to deal constructively with crime, crime will deal destructively with cities. We must all agree with that. Therefore, the basic causes of poverty must be eliminated. As long as people are deprived of basic job opportunities and basic recreational facilities the temptation to indulge in minor crime and then far more serious crime will be too great to overcome. To date, unfortunately, the factors underlying poverty have not been successfully tackled, [268] and with the increase in unemployment and the neglect shown by local authorities in the provision of basic facilities it seems that this country is destined to see an ever-increasing rise in the crime rate.

It also seems that successive Governments have not been prepared to deal in a humane way with the causes of criminality as our present courts system is geared to a more punitive solution, and to me as a lay person it does not seem to have a great awareness of why people revert time and time again to crime. Also it is accepted that the experience gained at an early stage in crime means that a person becomes more and more involved in it. The legal and judicial systems as we have seen them in operation in recent times are not helping the situation. We need a courts system that will deal swiftly with hardened criminals, sentences should be served fully and, as the previous speaker, Deputy O'Dea, said, this is not happening at present, and he put forward his own solutions for that.

The system of bail is totally unsatisfactory. Figures show that many crimes are committed by individuals on bail. I welcome the measure in the Bill which relates to this matter and I will deal with it later when dealing with the sections.

Before dealing with the Bill itself I must say that a number of unusual and inconsistent judicial decisions recently do not inspire public confidence in the administration of justice or in the Judiciary's determination to stamp out crime. We all must demand that a greater discipline be present within the structure of the legal profession. Greater use must be made by the courts of professional services, such as psychologists and welfare officers. This is beginning to happen. Unfortunately, there is a belief among the public at present that we operate a two-tier system of justice and, even though high standards are expected in high places, the public are saying to me—and I as a public representative must listen—that they are not getting these high standards they are expecting.

Dealing with the judicial system, which must be looked at in dealing with the overall problem of crime, the archaic [269] ways of Irish justice are now notorious. There is a belief among the public that they are enjoyed by those who are part of the system and detested by those who are denied justice because they cannot afford the costs or have not the resources or knowledge to use the system. Unfortunately, calls for reform of the system are made from time to time but these calls are quickly swallowed up and have been stonewalled by the legal system itself and — shame on us — killed by the indifference of political parties who tend to treat law reform as a technical issue of no great electoral appeal. Not being an expert in the legal profession and having no legal knowledge, I am not trying to wash my hands of this but I am greatly handicapped in attempting to grasp this problem. One finds it hard to get advice on how to approach it and one meets also great resentment from the profession.

However, it is obvious that certain action must be taken. There must be a section within the Department of Justice to look at legal services in general, especially legal costs, and the manner in which barristers and solicitors operate the system. I should like to know what is the real role of the Law Reform Commission. They seem to have inadequate resources and my impression — the impression of a layman who happens to be a politician — is that they are just fiddling around with minor issues. They are not tackling the real problems of the legal system. They will only tackle controversial issues when they are dumped upon them because of the weight of public opinion.

In my short time as a public representative — three years, of which I have spent two years in this House — I have had many complaints in relation to the administration of justice. In the last session when I spoke here about the performance of judges I was told there is a tradition that we do not criticise the Judiciary. There is a fear that by being critical we may undermine the whole system. I can see the dangers inherent in this and I accept that point but it must not prevent us from having a critical look at the matter.

I cannot understand the traditions of [270] this House with regard to the Judiciary. Members of the judiciary are not doing a job that is different to that done by most other people. To me they are the distributors of justice, as the bread delivery man is the distributor of bread. Justice is a public service and it must be administered fairly and consistently. The public must be informed of what monitoring takes place with regard to the performance of judges and if no monitoring takes place they must be told the reason. Such monitoring is carried out in other countries. I should like the Minister in his reply to deal with this problem. It is part of the reason there is disrespect for the law and, as a result, an increase in the crime rate. I should also like to know what formal training justices are given before they are appointed, in addition to their qualification as barrister or solicitor.

My own impression is that a big mistake was made when the State was founded when we took on the British judicial system instead of looking at the American and continental systems. In my brief examination of the different systems I found there was much in other systems that would be attractive to our way of life. However, I know there are other aspects of continental justice that would be alien to us and this point was mentioned earlier by Deputy Molony. The system in Britain was a throw-back to the 17th century, but in fairness to that country they have set out to streamline the system. However, we have taken very little action in this area. A total review of civil procedures is long overdue. As was pointed out by my colleagues from Cork, the symptoms of the problems have surfaced. There have been long delays in the High Court and in the Circuit Courts, especially in the Cork region. Such delays are intolerable and are causing severe hardship to people.

The position as it affects Cork has been clearly set out already. Much poverty and hardship has been caused to certain families, especially where the bread-winner has been affected by an accident. It is tragic and is a reflection on everyone that the way of life of a family can be affected for years because we cannot streamline the administration of justice. There has [271] been a failure on the part of State agencies to provide an adequate service and I am asking that this be dealt with as soon as possible. I have had discussions with the Minister for Justice and there has been an indication from him that he is committed to improving the situation as soon as possible. However, every month that goes by increases the suffering of people throughout the country, and especially in my city, Cork.

I should like to support fully the statement made by Deputy Lenihan in this House on 16 November when he said that, however welcome the principle of the Criminal Justice Bill, it acts only as an umbrella. I echo his sentiments that the real work will have to be in the area of administrative performance. In other words, the work methods of the Garda Síochána must be more effective, the prisons must be able to cater adequately for those convicted and the courts and the judicial system must work in an efficient manner. This means better training, more sophisticated equipment, greater manpower and a more sophisticated approach by the Garda.

In the area of the courts we need more court sittings, more judges and more courtrooms. Cases must be brought to trial more speedily. The time is long overdue for the reform of our legal and judicial systems. This can only be achieved by the efforts of all concerned, including the Incorporated Law Society and the body representing the barristers. Avoidable delays and unnecessary expense must be identified and there must be consultations between lawyers and other users of the system. I cannot understand why people who may be affected by the system are not consulted and brought into the decision-making process. I see a role for a body such as the Confederation of Irish Industry who are affected by outmoded legal practices and I cannot understand why they are not brought into the consultation process.

Law reform should be an ongoing process, but at the moment it is hardly moving. Although complaints abound, there is no momentum for reform from industry, politicians or those utilising the system. [272] There is a responsibility on all concerned, including industry, to indicate clearly their requirements. There is an onus on politicians to provide the procedures that will enable legislation to be passed quickly. I know from statements made this week by the President of the Incorporated Law Society that at long last they are committed — in theory at least, I have yet to see what they will do in practice — to law reform and to look into the working procedures of their members. I hope everyone involved will tackle this serious problem. Otherwise the confidence of the public in our legal structures will evaporate.

I have dealt at length with the question of examining the underlying reasons for the increase in the crime rate. It was strange to hear a previous speaker, a member of my party, state that the unemployment problem is one which no Government can successfully tackle, but the problem of law and order is one which should and must be resolved. Despite the new Criminal Justice Bill and the increases in the Garda force, there will be no resolution of our crime situation until our social problems are dealt with.

Since the publication of this Bill every Deputy has been lobbied by various opinions. People have expressed their fear and mistrust and are of the opinion that the trust which has been slowly built up between the community and the Garda will be eroded because of this Bill. Deputy O'Dea mentioned community policing, a suggestion put forward by one of the Garda representative bodies earlier this year. This whole area must be looked at and I hope the Minister will deal with it and give his views sometime.

There was a debate in Cork last year where it was said that crime was triumphing. I must agree with that. It is against that background and the background that our laws are not effective and were not designed to deal with the present problem that this Bill was introduced. However, in drafting new laws we must ensure that we do not impinge on the rights of individuals. We must deal with the problems facing us by bringing about social justice and not by narrowing people's personal liberties.

[273] As a lay person I will attempt to deal with this Bill. I have studied the briefs given to me and have tried to put in written form what I believe to be correct. In dealing with this Bill, in case an impression is given to the contrary, I must express my admiration for our Garda force who are unarmed and have won the admiration of the world because of their commitment to the implementation of law. Many gardaí have lost their lives because of that commitment. The Garda have insufficient manpower and technology and have been doing a very good job. There have been exceptions, but there are bad members in every profession and organisation. Despite all the drawbacks, the Garda have served the country well and have behaved admirably in carrying out their duties.

The Minister introduced this Bill some weeks ago and all Members must compliment him for his application to the job to which he was appointed. We have heard a great deal of talk about the need for a new Criminal Justice Bill. Each of the Minister's predecessors has been either unwilling or did not apply himself to bring a Bill before the House. I am also pleased to note that the Minister is committed to tackling this problem of crime. He put forward his views in his speech but he said he was prepared to listen to proposals and amendments from the House. I hope he is.

First, I will deal with the sections of the Bill which I welcome. I have already dealt with sections 9 to 11 which deal with offences committed while the accused is on bail. I welcome them because they were long overdue. Sections 12 and 13 deal with the theft of motor cars and offences involving firearms. These measures are long overdue because the incidence of armed robbery with violence involving stolen cars is on the increase. This pastime which is indulged in by so many young people in our urban areas has to be stopped. Therefore an increase in penalties may be a deterrent. I cannot understand how car manufacturers have failed to lessen the incidence of car thefts. It is beyond belief that we can put people on the moon but we cannot solve this problem. We are told that the micro-chip [274] and new technology have brought new inventions but we are still left with the problem of car thefts. Even new cars coming on the market have the old fashioned steering lock appliances which are useless. We must look at the standards of car assembly and either the Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism or the Minister for Justice must insist that the new technology at our disposal be applied to this very serious problem.

Section 19 deals with trial procedures and covers the situation where an accused puts forward an alibi. Under this Bill he must give notice of his intention to do so. This is a welcome departure from the present practice because the introduction of last minute alibis was undesirable and had to be stopped.

Section 24 deals with the proposal to adopt majority verdicts in criminal jury trials. This too is welcome but the safeguard is still there because we require ten out of 12 jury members to convict. Section 26 deals with the introduction of tape recording and video recording of interviews in Garda stations. I find that hard to understand. I acknowledge that there must be safeguards to protect the individual, but in the case of most minor crimes now, the Garda will find it very difficult to get even an admission of guilt because we will have a very formalised situation.

A point I overlooked but which Deputy Molony made me aware of, is that this proposal will be introduced later; it is not to be introduced in this part of the Bill. I would like the Minister to clarify that point further and to go into it in more detail in his reply.

Now I will deal with the sections which caused me some problems. Before I deal with section 3 I would like to quote Sergeant John O'Brien who wrote in the recent Garda Review:

Compounding all the difficulties faced by the Gardaí was the lack of any powers of detention except those included in the Offences Against the State Act, 1939 for a narrow schedule of offences which, incidentally, did not include murder. So Gardaí found themselves in the situation where there [275] was very little power of detention and no power to put leading questions to a suspected person and require a response to be given. All this while being subject to the most microscopic scrutiny in the Courts of Law and all against the background of a steadily increasing crime rate and falling detection rate. In consequence of this situation criminals were able to go free simply by refusing to answer any questions or offer explanation and slowly but surely this strategy was adopted by all leading criminals. In short, the criminal had to be caught red-handed before there was a likelihood of conviction. Evidence gathered as a result of interview by the garda was badly hampered and evidence procured in this way was usually contested vigorously and often outrageously at the subsequent trial.

This statement by Sergeant O'Brien gives the impression that at present gardaí have no powers of detention. The statement may have been made in all sincerity but it gives the wrong impression. My information is that in 70 per cent of cases brought to court there is either a signed statement or a verbal admission. Another statistic is that 15 per cent of criminals are caught red-handed and 20 per cent of professional criminals cannot be convicted due to other factors. The statement in the Garda Review that the Garda need to be able to detain people in order to question them is not borne out by these facts.

Criminal cases may be divided into three categories — minor offences, non-minor offences and offences against the State. The latter cases are tried in the Special Criminal Court and minor offences are tried in the District Court. All non-minor offences except murder and treason are tried in the Circuit Criminal Court or, at the option of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in the Central Criminal Court. In non-minor offences the procedure consists of a preliminary examination in the District Court and if the justice is satisfied that a sufficient case [276] has been made by the DPP he returns the accused to the appropriate Circuit Criminal Court or the Central Criminal Court for trial, except in the extremely rare cases where the accused pleads guilty in the District Court. In this case the DPP is obliged to prepare and serve on the accused and the District Court a book of evidence. This contains statements of evidence by the various witnesses and any written or verbal confession by the accused.

The Garda argue that at present they have no opportunity to question the suspect once he has been arrested, but it appears that 70 per cent of books of evidence contain either written or verbal confessions. I find it hard to understand the reasons for increased powers of detention. I would ask the Minister to say how many books of evidence produced by the DPP since the establishment of this office in 1974 contain written or verbal confessions. Would the Minister be prepared to obtain this information from the office of the DPP through the auspices of the Attorney General's office? I should also like to know what percentage of books of evidence contain direct evidence of criminals being caught red-handed by the Garda. Could the Minister give information on the other books of evidence produced and the type of evidence put forward in these cases? I want to find out whether my information is correct and to reconcile the contradictory statement that the Garda need these powers in order to get written or verbal admissions while 70 per cent of books of evidence already contain written or verbal confessions.

The Minister might also state how many cases of trial by jury in the Central Criminal Court since the establishment of the office of DPP in 1974 where an alleged confession, either written or verbal, has been challenged on the grounds of oppression or violence have the jury acquitted or disagreed on the verdict. Has the Minister given careful consideration to the effects of the proposed changes on the jury who will be determining a case? If under present laws there are more acquittals and disagreements, does it not naturally follow that the problems [277] raised by the carrying out of the new proposals will be greater unless we have satisfactory or acceptable corroborative evidence? I am trying to put the matter in the best way I can. If some of the terminology used is inaccurate, the questions are still valid.

This leads to the question of access to a solicitor under a section 3 detention. The presence of a solicitor is necessary and the use of electronic equipment is essential, despite some reservations I have about it. The presence of such equipment may at times make the whole procedure so formalised that it will be impossible to get the simplest statement on a minor matter. The primary concern in a criminal trial will be to satisfy the requirements of a jury, having regard to the principle of fairness and fair procedures. The intention of all of us is to enhance the prospect of securing convictions and we must take special care to consider the real requirements of juries. The evidence offered to a jury will be written or verbal confessions or the conclusions reached by different people from the facts established in the case. If under the present system juries are reluctant to rely on confessions, it follows that their apprehension will increase proportionately because of the increased powers of the Garda. The procedure will be counter-productive in dealing with serious crime, especially when one remembers that the jury must be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt of the guilt of the person before them. We must remove such doubt because failure to do so could precipitate an even greater crisis in the criminal justice system.

When a citizen is detained the garda in charge has to inform him of his right to consult a solicitor. I may be going into some detail which would be more appropriate on Committee Stage, but it is important to air this at an early stage. The accused has to be informed of his right to consult a solicitor. If a prisoner requests the garda to contact Mr. X who is a solicitor, there is an onus on the garda to contact that solicitor as soon as possible. In recent weeks I have spoken to gardaí and lawyers and people who have been involved with the law, and the [278] impression I got was that many arrests are made late in the evening, or outside the business hours of solicitors. My impression may be mistaken but I think I am correct.

What does “as soon as possible” mean in those circumstances? Does it mean the solicitor is notified after the period of detention has expired? If so, the safeguard in section 4 becomes meaningless. If the prisoner is informed of his right to consult a solicitor and makes no such request to the garda, he is free at his trial to allege that he was not informed of his right, or that he requested a consultation and the garda refused to comply with his request. I presume that, in a situation like that, the statement of the accused would be contradicted and the garda would be supported by other members of the Garda. The jury would have difficulty in coming to a conclusion. Therefore, it is important that a very critical appraisal should be carried out on the operation of the proposed system.

As a result of the question marks over the application of the section, we have a responsibility to make sure that it is modified. The solicitor requested may be unavailable, and I suggest that a panel of solicitors should be available on a 24-hour basis. A solicitor would then have access to the prisoner and he could ensure that the prisoner was not placed at a disadvantage in relation to the Garda. If this were done the Garda would have a stronger hand in trying to convince the jury that everything that needed to be done was done, and the rights of the individual were protected. Before the Bill is passed, the Incorporated Law Society should indicate that they will ask their members to be available to serve on such a panel.

Deputy Molony dealt at length with the whole question of detention. I am surprised that the Ó Briain Report has been ignored and that no safeguard has been introduced to protect gardaí and the people detained against subsequent allegations of abuse. Deputy Molony mentioned the question of custodial guardians. That suggestion in the Ó Briain Report has to be looked at by the Minister, and the Minister has to give some [279] reasons why he has ignored that recommendation.

In relation to the procedures for bringing hardened criminals before the courts, I am worried about the fact that in practice people can be held for 20 hours in a Garda station even though the initial holding period is six hours. I will not detain the House by going through all the procedures. The legal profession have made a number of submissions on this Bill and I ask them to address themselves to the problems in those sections.

Section 16 has been dealt with adequately by Deputy Molony. I consider it a somewhat frightening measure which must be thought out a bit better than it has been to date. On my reading, it abolishes a fundamental right which exists at present and changes totally a basic principle in our present law. Deputy Molony raised certain serious questions which need to be answered.

To sum up my feelings on the Bill, some of the powers contemplated in it would not have been tolerated some years ago. Under the Bill people can be brought into Garda stations on suspicion and photographed and finger-printed. This is a very retrograde step, but unfortunately it is a sign of the times. People opposing this Bill must remember the ugliness which has prevailed in this country in recent years. We must not allow this ugliness to stampede us into taking steps we may regret later.

The public are demanding more effectiveness in the apprehending of criminals. The prevention of crime should be the operative words. Preventing crime by apprehending criminals and their organisations is very important, but it is also important to prevent crime by doing more work with people who commit crimes and with their victims. We must make sure that the parole and probation systems are such that a person is less likely to commit a crime again.

It has been said that prisons can be a university of crime where people learn more about crime while serving their sentences rather than how to avoid it. All members of the public are interested in making sure that their neighbourhoods [280] are crime free. When we see a criminal being apprehended, we are not so much interested in what he will experience as punishment, as in whether he will get out and steal or injure people again. The Garda Force must be given help and support, and their educational standards and qualifications must be constantly improved as they have been in other countries. They must be seen to be part of the community and identified with it.

Deputy O'Keeffe dealt with that aspect in speaking about community policing, but more important is the prevention of the sources of crime — those factors operating in society which lead to families being disrupted or split up. What we require is a more professional approach to the prevention of crime, not talking off the tops of our heads. We must give the subject more thought than just the introduction of punitive measures. Steps must be taken which are based on fact and we must look at the lessons learned by other countries. We must turn our attention to families at risk where repeated episodes of crime take place and the Department of Justice must pay heed to the provision of services to all the children of such families if we are not to have crime continuing from generation to generation.

There is urgent need for the constant up-grading of the Garda and prison officers so that they are working on a prevention programme and not fighting society's more basic instincts by punitive measures. There is a grave need for the Minister to outline in detail his proposals for the introduction of a procedure for handling complaints against the Garda Síochána. This is in the interests of everybody including the Garda, because at times I get the impression that an effort is being made by a section of our community to undermine our confidence in the Garda. In fairness to the Garda force, to whom I have paid tribute earlier, these proposals must be spelt out in detail. More important, they have to be spelt out to every Member of this House so that we can come to a conclusion about this Bill.

I was glad to see, in one of the Garda magazines recently, that the Garda are [281] on record as saying that they welcome the proposals and the procedures put forward for the handling of complaints against the Garda force by the Association of Civil Liberties and that they will accept the proposals put forward, with a few minor changes. It is most important, therefore, that the Minister spell out in detail his proposals.

Miss Harney: Like those who have spoken before me, I welcome the opportunity of contributing to this debate. I shall begin by quoting from a famous speech made by Senator Edward Kennedy in June, 1977, as follows:

You did not make the world you live in but you have the chance to change it, to leave it better than you found it.

We, the legislators, have made an appallingly bad job of fighting the crime wave in our cities and towns over the past number of years. This Bill will in no way contribute to ending the rampant rise in crime in recent years. Despite serious changes in the demographic structure of our population from 1926 to the present time, we have made no radical changes in our legal, judicial or prison system or in the method of recruiting, training and promoting the Garda Síochána. Is it not strange that in 1983 we still apply the Larceny Act of 1916, the Forgery Act of 1913, the Offences against the Person Act of 1891 and the Children Act of 1908? It is an appalling reflection on us that we have failed to do anything to up-date fundamental legislation relevant to this subject of crimes in our society.

We have, piecemeal, from time to time introduced measures into the Dáil and explained them to the public as measures which will help to fight crime. No subject has been debated more in recent weeks than law and order, particularly in Dublin city and county, given that 60 per cent of crime takes place in Dublin. Powerful law and order speeches by politicians are always guaranteed to get a few votes. Behind the rhetoric lies the reality which we must face. We must introduce measures which, on the one hand, effectively fight crime and, on the other hand, eliminate [282] the very many causes which we politicians have ignored.

I was disappointed with the Minister's speech. He said:

For instance, in what sense can poverty be said to be a cause of crime when in fact the great majority of poor people are never in trouble with the law?

The fact is that for years statistics have proved that the vast majority of the people in our prisons come from deprived and disadvantaged backgrounds. They come from families in which unemployment is the norm, many from families where a parent, brother or sister has been involved with the law. Many live in slums, in ghettoes, and in 1983 is it appropriate that we still have young children begging for a living on the streets of our cities and towns? We all have failed to deal with the very many pressing social problems which have contributed seriously to the escalation of crime here in recent years.

I was disappointed that many of my colleagues made what I regard as rather emotive speeches, for example Deputy McGahon, who last week said:

I believe it is the liberal influence permeating Irish society today which is largely responsible for the absence of law and order.

He went on to say:

The weaker sex and society in general must be protected and I call for the re-introduction of hanging...

To make statements in Dáil Éireann in 1983 calling for the reintroduction of hanging is an absolute disgrace. I am sorry that capital punishment is still on our Statute Book and has not been repealed by this legislation.

The power which we here give to the Garda and the courts, the manner in which we tackle crime and those who commit crime in our society, the way in which we protect the civil liberties of our citizens, are what distinguishes democracy from totalitarian regimes. There are many places in the world where if one committed serious crimes one's hand might be chopped off. Do we want that [283] kind of criminal system here? We must face the reality that 50 per cent of those surveyed in 1979 in our prisons were illiterate — and this in a country which prides itself on having what is called free education and whose Constitution guarantees the right of education to every citizen. Is that not an appalling statistic? We have many social problems which we have ignored for many years. By sweeping them under the carpet we have pretended they do not exist. They have now caught up with us and the criminal who raids our towns and cities, and to whom many people are afraid to open their doors, has taken over. He has taken over because he has been shown no other way. In many cases he has been given no other chance.

What chance has a child of seven or eight, sent out by his parents to beg on the streets? What chance has the child living on the seventh or eighth floor of some of our tenement blocks? What chance has a child in the areas of the inner city in which I canvassed recently? They have parents who do not care. It is time that we in Dáil Éireann faced reality, shouldered our responsibilities and gave those children some chance to live.

Debate adjourned.