Dáil Éireann - Volume 548 - 19 February, 2002
Other Questions. - Tax Offences.
Mr. Quinn Mr. Quinn
51. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the main features of the decision taken by the Government prior to Christmas 2001 with regard to giving powers to the Revenue Commissioners to directly initiate prosecutions for tax offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5554/02]
Mr. McCreevy Mr. McCreevy
Mr. McCreevy: I am not clear what exactly the Deputy has in mind. As he will be aware, there are existing arrangements between the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Revenue Commissioners whereby members of the DPP's staff provide on-the-ground assistance for Revenue in the course of investigations of criminal cases. Under these arrangements cases are now handled by Revenue without the involvement of the Garda which refers them directly to the DPP.
The Deputy may be referring to the issue of a revenue court. In its final report the sub-committee of the Committee of Public Accounts on DIRT found “that the case has not been made for the introduction of a Revenue Court and fiscal prosecutor.” It recommended that “the Department of Finance in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General undertake a more detailed study of the benefits of a Revenue Court and fiscal prosecutor and to report to the Public Accounts Committee by 31 March 2002.”
My Department had preliminary discussions with the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners as to how the study proposed by the sub-committee of the Committee of Public Accounts might be undertaken. I discussed the matter with the Attorney General. Having considered it, it was decided that the Attorney General would ask the  Law Reform Commission to undertake the study. The Government noted the position in December 2001.
Mr. McDowell Mr. McDowell
Mr. McDowell: The purpose of the question was to elucidate the nature of the decision made by the Government in December 2001 when, according to press reports, it was indicated that Revenue would have an in-house tax prosecutor and be given the power directly to prosecute without the need to go to the DPP, something that would obviously require legislation. Is this procedure being contemplated by the Government?
Mr. McCreevy Mr. McCreevy
Mr. McCreevy: We are getting two matters slightly confused. Since 1996, when Deputy Quinn was Minister for Finance, the Revenue Commissioners have operated a dedicated unit for prosecutions. It liaises with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and has done so since 1996, before I became Minister for Finance. It is working effectively, although, as Deputy Jim Mitchell pointed out, the number of prosecutions brought to court may not be at the desired level. This system has been in operation for the past five years. Before 1996 matters had to be referred separately to the Director of Public Prosecutions in respect of which there were all kinds of difficulties. The sub-committee of the Committee of Public Accounts, under the chairmanship of Deputy Jim Mitchell, stated the question of having a fiscal prosecutor was being considered by the Department of Finance which is to report by 31 March 2002. This involves a considerable amount of research and resources. Having considered the matter and discussed it with the Attorney General, I considered that the most appropriate body to research the matter was the Law Reform Commission. We decided to refer it to the commission for its views in December 2001.
Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.
Dáil Éireann 548 Other Questions. Tax Offences.