Dáil Éireann - Volume 578 - 22 January, 2004
Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill 2003 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage.
Mr. B. Lenihan Mr. B. Lenihan
Mr. B. Lenihan: I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
The importance of co-operation between member states' operational police is recognised by the treaty on the European Union. Common action in this field reflects a Union objective of providing citizens of member states with a high level of safety from serious crime, in particular from terrorism, drug trafficking and other criminal activity. The Government fully subscribes to this objective.
Joint investigation teams have been a feature of international co-operation in investigating cross-border crime for many years, especially in the area of organised crime. They have generally been set up on the basis of understandings between the responsible competent authorities, without an internationally agreed framework for establishing and operating the teams. This Bill will enable effect to be given in Irish law to an agreement at European Union level that attempts to ensure that international boundaries are not used by criminal gangs to their advantage. Organised criminal groups exploit modern phenomena such as globalisation, an increasingly border-free world and rapid technological advances in computers and communications. Their operations inflict harm on citizens and societies worldwide, as well as threatening economic and social stability. Crime does not respect national borders. Organised criminals have become increasingly more sophisticated and regularly use EU-wide or international networks to carry out their activities.
Faced with this reality, EU Governments are aware that they cannot effectively tackle international organised crime by relying solely on national law enforcement agencies. At the heart of the European fight against organised crime is better and closer co-operation between the national law enforcement agencies, particularly national police services. In December 1998, the European Council at Vienna agreed an action plan on how best to make the Union an area of freedom, security and justice for its citizens. The Tampere European Council took a further step in October 1999 by deciding on a comprehensive approach to reinforce the fight against serious crime. This included a number of new initiatives designed to foster practical police co-operation. For example, a European police college was established to train the next generation of senior police officers, enabling them to get to know their counterparts in other European countries and to become familiar with working in a European context. The college has opened initially as a network of national police colleges.
Other Tampere initiatives included the creation of a task force of European police chiefs. This has helped to create personal links between the heads of national police services in EU countries. Arising from this, chiefs can more easily lift the telephone to discuss practical problems and joint operations with their opposite numbers in neighbouring and nearby countries. The regular meetings of the police chiefs should result in a more spontaneous input and closer co-operation between national police services in EU member states.
The European Council was anxious to ensure that maximum benefit should be derived from co-operation between the member states' authorities when investigating cross-border crime in any member state. It called for joint investigation teams, as foreseen in the treaty, to be set up without delay as a first step to combat trafficking in drugs and human beings as well as terrorism. Provision was made in article 13 of the convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters between member states of the European Union for the establishment of such teams. This convention was signed in May 2000. Following the tragic events of 11 September 2001, the Council of the European Union considered that joint investigation teams should be set up as a matter of priority to combat offences committed by terrorists and organised crime generally and that a specific and legally binding instrument providing for such teams should be adopted as soon as possible. Accordingly, the text of article 13 of the mutual assistance convention, together with articles 15 and 16 which make provision for criminal and civil liability, were brought forward in the form of a framework decision. Although the framework decision is targeted in particular at setting up joint investigations to combat trafficking in drugs and human beings as well as terrorism the Bill is not confined to these offences.
All member states agree on the particular need to tackle organised criminals who either smuggle narcotic and psychotropic substances into the Union or, as in the case of certain synthetic drugs, manufacture them illegally in laboratories within the European Union. The EU has a co-ordinated action plan to cover the years 2000-04 and work has already commenced on the preparation of an action plan for the period from 2005 onwards. These plans are designed to put more emphasis on prevention and reducing drug demand.
Trafficking in persons is an odious crime which is widespread and growing. Tragic experiences in Ireland show that we are not immune from being targeted in this respect by organised criminal gangs. Recent successful prosecutions abroad show the value and benefit of international co-operation in this area.
The provisions of the Bill also interact with a number of the recommendations of the Patten report on Policing in Northern Ireland, such as the following: the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Síochána should have written protocols covering key aspects of co-operation; there should be a programme of long-term personnel exchanges between them in specialist areas; and consideration should be given to providing for an immediate exchange of officers and pooling of investigative teams after major incidents with a substantial cross-Border dimension.
Article 9 of the Agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom on police co-operation which was signed in Belfast on 29 April 2002 provides that the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Síochána shall, as appropriate, make full use of existing arrangements for facilitating joint investigations and additional arrangements that are put in place in the context of European Union iniatives. A concrete example of this new impetus for co-operation was a seminar last May on cross-Border co-operation in the fight against organised crime held in County Cavan. The seminar, which was attended by representatives of the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, together with a number of other relevant agencies, led to the establishment of a number of cross-Border investigations which are ongoing. It is planned to make this very positive development an annual event and this legislation will provide a legal framework for such co-operative cross-Border investigations in the future.
The key elements of the Bill are as follows. The full text of the European Union Council framework decision of 13 June 2002 is contained in the Schedule to the Bill. The framework decision provides, by mutual agreement of the competent authorities of two or more member states, for the setting up of joint investigation teams for a specific purpose and limited period, to carry out criminal investigations in one or more of the member states setting up the team.
Section 1 of the Bill defines some of the key terms used throughout the Bill. Section 2 provides that the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána will be the competent authority for the State for the purposes of the Council framework decision except where other member states require a judicial authority for the making or receiving of a request, in which case the Minister - not the Garda Commissioner - will be the competent authority. The purpose of nominating the Minister as a competent authority is to allow Ireland to make and receive requests from other member states, which in accordance with either their legislative or constitutional arrangements require and have named judicial authorities, rather than chiefs of police, as their national competent authorities for the purpose of giving effect to the framework decision.
Section 3 deals with the establishment of joint investigation teams in the State. Where the Irish competent authority is satisfied that either an offence has been committed in the State or there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed in the State and the investigation of the offence or suspected offence has links with another member state or states or that conduct which would constitute an offence or a reasonable suspicion thereof has occurred partly in the State and partly in another member state, it may request the relevant competent authority in the other member state or states to establish a joint investigation team.
Section 4 provides for the establishment of joint investigation teams on receipt of requests from other member states and contains provisions which are similar in nature to those contained in section 3.
Section 5 elaborates on the provisions relating to the establishment and termination of joint investigation teams and provides for the agreement governing the establishment of such teams. A joint investigation team can be established for a specific purpose and for a limited period which can be extended for such periods as are agreed by the competent authorities concerned. A team can operate for as long as is necessary for the purpose of conducting the investigation concerned and parts of the team can operate in more than one member state at the same time. Provision is also made for member states to join a team which has already been established.
Section 5(4) was amended on Report Stage in the Seanad in order to include the criteria which must be considered by the Irish competent authority when deciding whether to join an investigation team which has already been established by other member states. These criteria are similar to those contained in section 4(3) of the Bill. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has since considered the matter further and is of the view that the wording of section 5(4) as passed by Seanad Éireann is imprecise and requires to be tightened up for the purposes of providing greater clarity and accuracy. Accordingly, I will bring forward an amendment to address this issue on Committee Stage.
Section 5(5) provides that a member state may join a team already established by more than one member state including the State on such terms and conditions as may be agreed. The agreement to establish the team can be amended to reflect changing needs on any of these matters. Section 5(6), the final subsection of this section, allows a joint investigation team to be terminated when the purposes for which it was established have been achieved or when there is no further benefit to be gained from its continued operation.
Section 6 deals with membership of a joint investigation team and the terms and conditions of such membership, including remuneration and allowances. National membership can be drawn from the Garda Síochána, Customs and Excise, the Revenue Commissioners, other Departments and persons who, in the opinion of the Minister, have experience or expertise relevant to the investigation concerned. Members of the Garda Síochána and civil servants will continue to be subject to the same terms and conditions of employment as they were subject to immediately before they became members of the team. Provision is made for the removal of members from the team by the Commissioner in the case of members of the Garda Síochána, or by the Minister, at the Commissioner's request, in the case of other team members. Members of the Garda Síochána and officers of Customs and Excise will continue to be vested with and can exercise their Garda or Customs and Excise powers while operating as members of a team.
Section 7 provides for the operation of a joint investigation team. A team will perform its functions in accordance with the law of the state of operation. In Ireland, a team will operate under the control and general supervision of the Garda Commissioner who will make the necessary organisational arrangements, including the appointment of a team leader. Team members, including seconded members, will perform their functions under the direction and control of the team leader.
While Article 1.6 of the framework decision provides for discretion as to whether seconded members of a joint investigation team are to be entrusted with the task of taking certain investigative measures in the host state, it is not intended to provide for such an option in the case of a joint investigation team operating here. Section 7(4) contains the necessary prohibition. This is in line with the practice being adopted in other member states on the role of seconded members in a joint investigation team. Seconded members may, however, be present when investigative measures are being undertaken, unless otherwise decided by the team leader. Evidence obtained during the course of an investigation will remain in the possession of the Garda Síochána or, if not already in their possession, will be taken into their possession.
Subsections (7), (8) and (9) of this section provide for one of the more innovative aspects of the Bill in that, where investigative measures are required by a joint investigation team in one of the member states involved in the team, seconded members can request their own national authorities to take such measures. This means that it will not be necessary for the member state of operation to submit a formal request for mutual assistance to another member state. The relevant measures sought will, of course, be considered in the member state in question, in accordance with the conditions which would apply had the measures been sought in a national investigation. In order to give effect to this, section 7(7) provides that evidence which is obtained directly by a seconded member operating in the State from his or her competent authority of appointment will be considered as if it had been obtained on foot of a mutual assistance request made under section 52 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994.
Provision is also made in subsections (8) and (9) of this section for a member of the Garda Síochána who is operating as a seconded member in another member state to make a request, on behalf of the team, for mutual assistance under section 51 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, or for a search warrant authorising entry, search and seizure under section 55(4) of the Criminal Justice Act 1994.
Another innovative measure is provided for in section 7(11) which allows a member of a joint investigation team operating as a seconded member in another member state to provide to that team information which is available in the state and which is relevant to the investigation being conducted by the team. This will only be possible, of course, where it can be undertaken within the scope of national law and within the limits of the team member's competence.
Section 8 deals with the written agreement for the establishment of a joint investigation team and lists the provisions which must be included in any agreement - the parties to the agreement; the purpose for which the team is established; the identity of the person or persons to be investigated, if known, and details of membership of the team. Financial arrangements must also be agreed and included in any agreement drawn up between member states involved in the establishment of a team. Provision is also made for the agreement to be amended in order to allow for issues such as the extension of the period of operation, changes of membership and other incidental matters.
Section 9 provides for additional assistance and expertise to be provided to a joint investigation team by appropriate persons, described as “participants”, from EU bodies or authorities of countries other than member states. Participants can be drawn from Europol, bodies established under Title VI of the European Union, such as Eurojust, the European Commission or other institutions of the European Communities, and authorities of countries other than member states which have been designated by the Minister. The role of participants is similar to that of seconded members and, like them, they will not be permitted to take investigative measures.
Section 10 amends the Garda Síochána Act 1989, as amended by section 5 of the Europol Act 1997, to allow the Garda Commissioner to assign a member of the Garda Síochána as a member of a joint investigation team abroad and to provide for the making of regulations to allow for the registration of his or her death or the birth or death of a member of his or her family while serving in that capacity outside the State. While it is not envisaged that the length of time served by a member seconded to a joint investigation team will necessitate his or her family joining him or her abroad, the length of time for which a member is seconded to a team will depend to a great degree on the nature of the investigation in question.
Section 11 is concerned with the use of information lawfully obtained by a member of a joint investigation team which is not otherwise available to the competent authorities of the member states that established the team. Such information can only be used for the purposes for which the team was established. It may be used in other circumstances but only where the prior consent of the member state in which such information became available has been obtained or where the member state has been informed.
Consent to the use of the information for the detection, investigation and prosecution of criminal offences other than those in respect of which the team was established may be withheld where it would be likely to prejudice criminal investigations being conducted in the State or where a request for mutual assistance or co-operation could be refused under the international co-operation provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994.
Section 12 makes provision for criminal liability in respect of offences committed by or against seconded members while they are operating in the State as part of a joint investigation team. Specific provision is made for seconded members who are also members of a foreign police force, in that they will be deemed to be members of the Garda Síochána for the purpose of criminal liability.
Mr. F. McGrath Mr. F. McGrath
Mr. F. McGrath: The Minister of State is building up the numbers.
Mr. B. Lenihan Mr. B. Lenihan
Mr. B. Lenihan: A rainbow can have many colours. Section 13 provides for the satisfaction of civil claims which may arise from operations carried out by members from another member state operating in the State as part of a joint investigation team and also by Irish members operating abroad. The State will reimburse another member state in full for any amount paid in respect of injury, loss or damage caused by our national members in the performance of their duties as seconded members. The State will also pay compensation or damages or provide another appropriate remedy for any injury, loss or damage caused by seconded members in the State in the same way as would apply to injury, loss or damage caused by national members. The State may seek reimbursement of compensation or damages it has paid or other loss incurred from the member state which appointed the seconded members or from third parties who may be liable for injury, loss or damage caused.
Section 14 provides that the Act is without prejudice to other agreements or provisions that exist regarding the establishment or operation of joint investigation teams. Section 15 is a standard provision providing for the payment of expenses out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas. Section 16 repeals section 5 of the Europol Act 1997, as a consequence of the provisions in section 10. Section 17 is a standard provision dealing with the Short Title and commencement. As far as commencement is concerned, it is my intention, and I am sure the wish of the House, that the Bill would be brought into effect as quickly as possible on enactment.
That completes my detailed statement on the purpose and main provisions of the Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Mr. Deasy Mr. Deasy
Mr. Deasy: The Fine Gael Party will not oppose the Bill. It makes good sense for co-operation to exist within this type of framework. It will be interesting to hear if there are dissenting voices concerning the legislation which makes perfect sense in the investigation of organised crime, including drug trafficking and trafficking in people. Recently, we have had a taste of the spread of organised crime as shown by the activities of drug gangs in Limerick and Dublin. In many cases, these gangs obtain arms through their links with organised crime in Europe. It makes good sense for police forces to train and work together as well as communicating more freely. Such joint investigation teams need to be put in place.
Before the Christmas recess, we dealt with monitoring legislation about which I raised some concerns. Do we have the necessary systems in place to deal with global terrorism? Some people have referred recently to Ireland, Dublin in particular, as a soft target. For example, many foreign embassies are located in Ballsbridge. Considering what has happened throughout the world for the past two to three years, such critics make the point that Ireland is a potential target and have asked whether the Government has the systems in place to deal with such a threat. The first question they raised is whether we have a sufficient air defence capability. The answer would appear to be that we do not but that we hope such a threat will not materialise. The contingency plans and structures in place to deal with a terrorist attack are scant. Before the Christmas recess, I sought a report on that matter. In light of the Bill, the Dáil should be furnished with a report on what structures exist to prevent a terrorist attack and what should be done were such an attack to take place here.
The terms of the Bill refer to rapid technological advances in computerisation and communications generally. It is becoming clear that the Garda Síochána does not have the proper resources, not only to deal with white collar crime but also technologically-based crime, including child pornography. In many cases, the Garda Síochána relies on people in University College Cork to provide information to tackle child pornography. The Garda Síochána does not have the resources to deal with current levels of child pornography on the Internet. We need to update our legislation in this regard to cover areas such as vetting. This has been done in England recently.
The protocol agreement between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland is a welcome aspect of the Bill. We had a nasty reminder of how bad matters were in this area with the recent publication of the Barron report. At the time, co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the RUC was almost non-existent. Some 30 years later, such protocols are badly needed to cover key aspects of co-operation, including long-term personnel exchanges.
The pooling of investigative teams and the formation of new teams to deal with specific areas of crime have given rise to problems over the years. Special units are formulated in the Garda Síochána all the time and, in many cases, are quite effective. The difficulty is that they place a drain on the regular complement of the force. Even though I may agree with and fully support the goals of the Bill, in many such cases we are stripping the regular complement of the Garda Síochána to form specialised units. It is a matter that the AGSI and the GRA have raised for some time. The brightest and best are usually selected for such units which include senior officers. There is a trend, however, whereby the requisite numbers of gardaí are not replaced in the regular complement of the Garda Síochána. While it is all well and good to create specialised units, extra numbers must be provided as replacements.
The legislation concerns co-operation, which is good, and we are going in the right direction as far as co-operating with other police forces is concerned. However, I do not see the same happening in this country regarding the relationship between the entities involved in law enforcement, security and social issues that affect policing. By that I mean the relationship between the Garda Síochána and the other entities involved in social policy and security matters. I am concerned at the growing rift in the relationship between the public and the Garda. Many citizens are becoming disillusioned with the criminal justice system. I am concerned that while the majority of people still have confidence in the Garda, that confidence is ebbing. In many cases people are extremely unhappy with their dealings with gardaí and with their responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency. We must ask ourselves the reason for this and try to provide a solution.
When I look at public representatives - Deputies and county and city councillors - I see that their relationship with local gardaí is often not what it should be. They are often hesitant to phone the superintendent about a policing matter. The lines of communication are not as good as they should be. Gardaí are working in an environment which has become rougher than before and they have manpower and resourcing difficulties, particularly on weekend nights in urban areas. The growing rift between gardaí and the public disenfranchises people at two levels. First, they are disappointed by the responsiveness of gardaí to victims of crime and then they are often infuriated by the suspended sentences delivered to people who have been arrested again and again for similar crimes. The Probation Act is often applied, a fine, often left unpaid, is imposed or the sentence is suspended.
Local authorities must develop a role in policing in their areas. Policing in Drumcondra is different to policing in Dungarvan or Dingle. Successive Governments have introduced rafts of legislation, drawn up by people with good intentions but with no idea of what is involved in policing at a local level. This legislation has little relevance for the people on the ground or gardaí in a particular area. If we want safer communities and to reduce the high levels of crime, it must be done at a local level. It must also be done in partnership with all the stakeholders in an area.
Local authorities must, therefore, take on a second role. They must become involved with helping the police deal with security issues in their area. I do not mean that local councillors or local authority members should be given decision making powers but they must be regularly given the opportunity to question policing methods in their area and to support their gardaí. If this means it is necessary that they bring senior officers into the local authority office every month to be questioned on policing or as to the reason nobody was on the beat on a particular night, this must be done. The probation services, the health boards, social workers and all those involved may have to be brought in to answer questions. We must use this holistic approach.
There have been some pilot programmes of this nature around the country and Cork has had some success with its programme. However, I suggest we go further. Councillors are now being paid a salary of €25,000 or €30,000. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to ask them to take on a role of policing and security in their neighbourhoods. If we do not take this holistic approach and target some of the working class neighbourhoods such as those in Limerick and Dublin, the situation will get worse.
In many areas gardaí are treated as if they were a foreign army. This must change. Antagonism towards gardaí in some of these areas is worrying. The suggestion made by the Minister some weeks ago for a reserve Garda force will not improve the situation. A reserve Garda force coming in to police these areas would make the situation worse. We need to get gardaí speaking to people in these communities. Often all the community sees are a few people in a squad car. That approach has led to the increased crime levels in these neighbourhoods. If we create a reserve police force which will deal with “customer service” in these neighbourhoods the Garda will become more removed than ever.
Many people no longer report crime because they do not think they will get any response. If their bicycle gets stolen, their son gets beaten up or their window is smashed, they do not bother making a report. People need ownership of the criminal justice system and of policing in their community. We must bring a policing role to the local authorities in order that people may question what is happening in their neighbourhoods with regard to policing. If we do not have this vital component to help us deal with crime, our crime rates will remain high.
Fine Gael will support this legislation but will examine it further on Committee Stage.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to the House. We are not here by chance discussing this legislation nor is it by chance that the Minister is in Dublin Castle hosting his 14 colleagues in a discussion on related matters of co-operation, etc., on a European-wide basis. This is an amazing departure for someone who a few months ago was a eurosceptic who regarded all things European with arrogance, disdain and an enormous dollop of suspicion. Now he has been transformed and we have the good European, Minister McDowell. He has said that his priority is to ensure that European Union deadlines are met. He has organised nicely that while he hosts his European colleagues, we discuss legislation dealing with his portfolio. This is certainly a changed scene.
In our final sitting last year we dealt with the European Arrest Warrant Bill. That legislation was also contrary to legislation with which the Minister would have agreed before. Previously he saw no purpose in harmonisation in matters such as arrest warrants to replace extradition but all of a sudden he has been converted without a murmur to this process and as a result we now have another Bill dealing with European Union legislation before us.
There is no doubt but that the Minister has a good PR machine. He is a good stuntman and manipulator of timely interventions and occasions and must be complimented on that. This stands poorly against his previously expressed views on these matters. Perhaps, when he finds time to come into the House, he will explain his transformation over recent months.
None of us can disagree seriously with the aims of this legislation. It sets out to provide for the establishment of joint investigative teams on a bilateral and multilateral basis among EU member states to fight against crime. All of us recognise that crime has become far more complex than it was a generation previously. Crime has been internationalised to an enormous extent. Human activity has been globalised to a great extent yet the concept of globalisation did not even exist a generation ago. There is no doubt about the contribution from abroad to the quantity of domestic crime. The crime involved is extremely serious.
The two most significant areas of crime in Ireland have their origins abroad. Almost all the drugs which appear and are consumed here are manufactured abroad. In very few instances do we have a home grown drug product. While some ecstasy tablets are made here, the base for them comes from abroad generally. The level of smuggling and international crime which relates to drugs is enormous. As we saw from the Garda figures, €100 million worth of drugs was seized last year, which is a colossal figure. The other major area of crime is not, like drugs, a crime of the past. Drugs crime has been a major problem only since about 1980.
Trafficking in human beings has also become a very serious aspect of crime in this country. We have seen how it has brought about a huge amount of criminality and how people have been exploited. Children are exploited by the criminal pornographic industry, as are women. We have seen the mushrooming here of lap dancing clubs in which the Garda is now finding evidence of Mafia style international smuggling of prostitutes. Other areas of crime involve technology. Computer scams and frauds have an international dimension and they must be fought on the international stage.
While we accept that EU co-operation will deal with these matters, very often these are global rather than European problems. We must recognise the exacerbating factors which could be dealt with through better international policies. The invasion of Afghanistan by the United States of America is the reason for the enormous supply of heroin on the streets of Dublin and other Irish cities. Cheap heroin is streaming through our streets because there is far greater lawlessness in Afghanistan than there ever was before. As the economy has collapsed, opium has become the main crop and the mainstay of the industry. The United States of America is turning a blind eye to the activities of the warlords operating in Afghanistan. What sort of liberation is that? It is enslaving people all over the world through one of the most serious, poisonous drugs ever created.
The heroin trade and the cocaine trade are serious problems. International policies have an enormous impact on us for better or worse, and in this case, the impact is for worse. US policy is enormously increasing the level of crime taking place on our streets. While one must co-operate with foreign police forces, the stable door is open and the horse has bolted.
Colombia is another country which continues to be affected and whose future seems to be determined by American policy and interference. Colombia is the second largest producer of illegal hard drugs. Despite the close involvement of the USA in the affairs of Afghanistan and Colombia, they continue to be the mainstays of the international hard drugs trade. While we must discuss issues of police co-operation in Europe, from where the drugs, by and large, do not come, in the context of this Bill, we should be talking to our cousins in the United States of America. We should tell them that if they were to improve their policies in countries with which we are not directly involved, the world would be a much safer place. Much of the misery caused could be avoided. That dimension of these matters must be considered.
Deputy Deasy referred in his closing remarks to the domestic scene. He said we should not talk about joint investigations with other member states until we put our own house in order. He said we could not talk about this matter in a vacuum. Our house is not in order. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform pretends to us that everything is hunky-dory on the domestic scene. He does this, as usual, with his PR machine the output of which seems to be bought very easily by the media. I received for the first time yesterday the 2002 annual Garda report. I have been looking for this since new year's eve, the day on which the Minister's Department published the 2002 crime figures. The Minister received great coverage from some of the main press organs. Most newspapers did not publish on new year's day, which meant the Minister had effectively buried the terrible figures from the annual report for 2002, which showed an increase of 23% in headline crime, through the spin he put on them on new year's eve. The annual report document had not been published, but he had given the impression that it had.
The annual report was only circulated to Members of this House yesterday. The response of the Minister yesterday was to publish the 2003 figures. He presented the media, rather than Members, with a half dozen pages relating to 2003. The effect is that 2002 seems not to have existed. This is how the Minister's PR machine dealt with this matter and the media bought it hook, line and sinker. Presumably, the media received the 2002 report also, but it did not ask questions. The 2002 annual report tells us that there was a 23% increase in headline offences during 2002 and an 18% increase in 2001 but only a paltry drop of 2% in 2003. These figures add up to a 39% increase in headline offences over a three-year period. However, the Minister has nicely stage-managed events. He has his smoke and mirrors and nobody gets the impression that the manner in which he is fulfilling his brief is other than wonderful.
The domestic scene is not as rosy as it is represented. We all know the degree of concern in the public arena regarding crime. There are serious problems with public order offences. They are documented in the 2002 report. These are not the only ones. We are not talking about a selected piece for 2003 that the Minister issued yesterday from his Department. There has been a significant increase in public order offences, burglaries, crimes against the person, mobile phone theft and street crime. Gangland activity dominated the media throughout last year. Drug-related and firearm-related offences and manslaughter by the use of firearms have increased. All of these are extremely serious offences that have not abated despite the impression the Minister has given. That needs to be dwelt on for some time because the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform seems to be trying to cover up the reality of the situation with judiciously placed press releases and by restating policy. He is great at restating what he intends to do but there is no sign of him doing anything. It has been a bad year. Organised crime at home has been very serious. If we are to deal with organised crime abroad we must first put our own house in order.
I suppose it would be unfair to mention once again that the Minister has not delivered on his commitment, given prior to the last election, to recruit 2,000 gardaí. In the context of the legislation passed last year, which provides for international deployment and secondment of gardaí, either in co-operation with the Police Service of Northern Ireland or with European police forces, it will be difficult to establish a team that will require extra resources and personnel. There has been no sign of funding being provided for Garda recruitment to meet those commitments. The rate of recruitment barely matches the number of resignations and retirements. That must be addressed and there is no sign that the Minister is doing so.
There is serious difficulty in knowing what is really happening in the State. The National Crime Council's first report on crime in Ireland in November 2001 could make neither head nor tail of our crime statistics because they are determined differently by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform under its various organs, and there is no independent assessment or survey. We do not, therefore, know what is really happening. We are merely pulling out of the air the idea that PULSE may be responsible for the variations in crime figures or the dichotomy between one category and another, between one time period and the next, and there is no basis for it. Now there will be an expert group examining that. For the first time there will be an independent examination of crime figures which will give us a decent idea of the reality of the situation.
The Department's strategy statement 2001-2004 on dealing with crime is the greatest gobbledegook I have ever seen. It is meaningless. One of its stated objectives is, “to progress a comprehensive and measured policy for responding to crime, in the context of a well-informed and broadly-based public discussion on crime issues”. What does that mean? When will it happen? Other objectives include: to continue to develop and implement Department policy in relation to combating organised crime; to assist in the implementation and ongoing development of multiagency, integrated policies to deal with the problem of drug misuse at national, regional and local level as defined in Building on Experience — National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008; to continue to focus on youth crime by supporting and developing evidence-based preventative measures [what are evidence-based preventative measures?] and interventions aimed at young offenders and those most at risk of offending; promoting the co-ordination of response; to develop a focused response to and the expertise to deal with cybercrime; and to contribute to progressing measures to reduce deaths. It means nothing. It cannot be assessed in a year's time to discover whether targets have been met because there are no targets. It is just words and it is not possible to identify a target. That is not good enough. If the Department is serious about its strategy it must set targets and have definite policies that are capable of implementation and intelligible to ordinary people.
The Minister spoke to the European Parliament yesterday. Many of us might not have realised how busy our Minister is. As well as addressing the European Parliament he was telling RTE how great the crime situation was.
Mr. F. McGrath Mr. F. McGrath
Mr. F. McGrath: He was also picking on asylum seekers.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: There is no doubt that he was picking on asylum seekers. He predicted that the European arrest warrant would be in place across all European Union countries by the end of April. Does he know that Germany, France and the major states have not begun the process of examining it, probably have no intention of implementing it, and that at least one of the states has indicated it will not implement it? We had a guillotine at the end of last year which prevented us from debating it. The Minister was so anxious to deal with it and look like a good European that he produced two Bills before the so-called deadline at the end of last year, which was actually 12 months earlier. Now he is predicting that all the other countries will go along with it when only eight of them have signed it. One would wonder what is the purpose of some of these European directives if the big states can pick and choose the ones they want to transpose into law while our Minister is running around, changing his mind, wanting to look good for the cameras because Ireland has the European Presidency. The Minister's main task during the European Presidency is to meet deadlines set by the Amsterdam treaty of 1997. One would think the Minister would have a worthwhile and desirable policy of his own. The only other thing he is going to do is to adopt the legislation on asylum and immigration. Interestingly, the European Parliament did not express the same concern about deadlines as the Minister. It asked whether he would do something about the prisoners being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is wandering away from the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill 2003.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: This relates to how we get global security.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is speaking about Europe.
Mr. B. Lenihan Mr. B. Lenihan
Mr. B. Lenihan: It is a matter for the Minister, Deputy Cowen.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: No, it is a matter of security and crime. There are concerns about the United States getting the airline passenger data of all the EU member states. This is an interesting issue. How will justice be dealt with in the Intergovernmental Conference which will discuss the new EU treaty? It is interesting that the European Parliament has had a totally different focus from that of the Minister. I would prefer the Minister to examine some greater policy issues in leadership during the six months of the Irish Presidency, rather than meeting European deadlines that were set seven years ago. The deadlines are out of date.
I would like to speak about the Bill itself. The Minister of State mentioned that it originates from a proposal made at the Vienna European Council of 1998. There have been various twists and turns in the intervening six years, but nothing happened until it suddenly became a priority in recent times. The events of September 2001 and the framework decision of June 2002 contributed to the decision to make it a priority. Although it is a priority for the Minister, it is not a priority for anybody else. We are not opposed to it, of course.
I was struck by the major section 3 when I examined the Bill, especially in light of the hearings of the sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality Defence and Women's Rights, which resulted from the Barron report. Deputy Finian McGrath is a member of the sub-committee. I am interested in the note struck by the text of section 3, in terms of how it relates to what the sub-committee was discussing. I refer to the inability of those investigating the events of May 1974 to get the co-operation that was required to be successful. It strikes a chord when I read sections 3(1)(a) and 3(1)(b). It is clear that if one could have investigative teams in two jurisdictions, one would go a long way to resolving problems. Having listened to the harrowing tales of the ordeal and trauma experienced by the survivors and the families of those who died in Monaghan and Dublin in 1974, I am certain that a joint investigative team would have been absolutely invaluable in solving the problem. Anybody who wishes to read section 3(1)(a) and 3(1)(b) will see that they are relevant to the hearings of the sub-committee. We have moved closer to police co-operation with Northern Ireland as a consequence of the Patten report. We have taken the initial step and I hope it will be successful in the future.
Many aspects of the Bill exist already in domestic legislation, such as the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and the Europol Act 1997. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform does not seem to believe that the annual Garda report for 2002 exists, because it contains bad news. The report contains many good things in respect of international co-operation between the Garda and other police forces. The Minister of State did not mention in his speech that the European Police College is located in Templemore. We have a base in this country from which co-operation between the police forces of the European Union is already taking place. The report we have received of what is happening at our Interpol national central bureau states that seconded Irish officers are taking part in global cross-border criminal police co-operation.
There is a great deal of co-operation at the level of Europol, which resulted from the Maastricht treaty and which combats serious international organised crime. Secondment and joint co-operation are taking place at present. Joint teams are in operation. These matters are mentioned on pages 43 and 44 of the annual Garda report. Schengen information systems have been put in place following the Schengen acquis of 2002. This means that co-operation takes place at technological level. Garda liaison officers co-operate with their counterparts in Europe. The bureau de liaison provides for co-operation between the Garda and police law enforcement agencies throughout the world. There is a considerable amount of co-operation, on a broad base, at present. It is interesting that the European Police College operates at the Garda college in Templemore. It is quite a valuable development.
This Bill seeks to advance the levels of co-operation I have mentioned in a more formal fashion. It provides for investigative teams to be established and joint investigations to be conducted with other member states. Just as requests can be made to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or the Garda Commissioner, those persons can make specific requests for particular purposes. Although these provisions are very desirable and are teased out to some degree in the legislation, there are enormous logistical problems. Extra personnel, organisation and travel will be required.
We need to take account of the different policing systems that operate in various countries. There are approximately 40 police forces in Britain. We do not have this structure of regional forces, as the Garda is a national force. To what extent will personnel parachute into the existing structures? How will language barriers be dealt with? How will the systems of policing the very different criminal justice systems be taken into consideration? Will the question of prosecutions be examined? The Bill seems to state, on the one hand, that there will be a specific duration, but immediately contradicts itself, on the other hand, by saying that the duration can be extended, willy-nilly, for any length of time. I can envisage that there will be a plethora of independent and discrete joint investigations. They will operate in a patchwork fashion, will be considerably incoherent and may cost a great deal of money. They may become a modern form of tribunal, although not to the same degree. It would be lucrative and attractive to go around the Continent as part of a joint police investigation.
I welcome this legislation, although the Minister is being cynical in the manner in which he is presenting it to us today. He has brought it forward purely for publicity purposes as he has no commitment to this type of legislative development. Now that it appears he will be meeting his deadlines in the criminal justice system - I refer to matters such as immigration - I am disappointed we do not have a plan. Discrete individual framework documents and Bills are coming before us without a co-ordinated plan. We need to sit down and see where we are, domestically and internationally, in respect of the criminal justice system.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: I would like to share time with Deputies Finian McGrath, Healy and Cuffe.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: I will start by stating that Sinn Féin is not opposed, in principle, to inter-jurisdictional police co-operation on investigations of serious crime, with a cross-border or cross-borders dimension, where such co-operation is authorised on a case-by-case basis and is limited to what is necessary and where there are appropriate safeguards and accountability mechanisms in place. Sinn Féin strongly supports effective action against cross-border organised crime, including trafficking in human beings, child pornography and drugs. However, I remind the Minister and others that the Human Rights Commission, in an observation to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality Defence and Women's Rights, during its review of the criminal justice system, pointed out that it is vital that we are constantly vigilant to ensure that in our outrage at acts of violence, cruelty or abuse we do not rush to judgment. In other words, provisions based on gut reactions to sensational cases are bad law. Such laws have eroded basic rights established over years.
The proposed legislation goes beyond the existing adequate Interpol and Europol mechanisms for police co-operation. Deputy Costello listed some of the mechanisms mentioned in the Garda review of 2002. The proposed new mechanisms for police co-operation and information sharing will allow for members of foreign police forces and possibly intelligence agencies to operate in this State. The new legislation goes beyond the existing mechanisms and therefore has far-reaching consequences for the sovereignty and human rights of Irish people. It deserves careful consideration.
I remind my fellow Deputies that this Bill should not be considered in isolation but in its proper context. It is not just the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill 2003, it is another in a series of so-called EU anti-terrorism road map measures to which the Government signed up under cover of darkness and which will most likely be fast-tracked through the House without adequate consideration and scrutiny. The fact that such measures as the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002, the European Arrest Warrant Bill 2003 and this Bill have been prioritised at the expense of other Bills, including the long overdue Equality Bill, whose aim is to implement EU equality directives and which has only just been published, says much about the Government's real orientation and how we can expect our EU Presidency to be conducted in important and sensitive areas such as implementing the Tampere agenda.
The claim that the complementary measures included in the framework decision on joint investigation teams are not part of an overall EU federalist drive towards criminal justice integration but have been developed purely in response to the attacks of 11 September 2001 is a falsehood. It is wrong, balderdash, a spoof. These plans were long in gestation prior to that date. The more important date is 16 October 2001, which is the date of the letter from the US President, Mr. Bush, setting out 40 demands for the EU to co-operate on various matters. That is the date on which the fast-tracking of legislation such as this began. It is objectionable because of the nature of the legislation that has emerged since, which has rolled back the rights and fundamental freedoms won over the course of hundreds of years of struggle by peoples across Europe and throughout the world.
Amnesty International has warned that the so-called war on terrorism is being used as a pretext for gross human rights abuses and the undermining of the rule of human rights within the EU as well as in other parts of the world. We agree with Amnesty International that there can be no security without human rights and that human rights begin at home. I commend Amnesty International on the recent launch of its campaign to highlight the issue of human rights at home.
Ag filleadh chuig an reachtaíocht atá idir lámha againn, tá mé buartha faoi roinnt gnéithe atá ann. Mar shampla, section 3 does not foresee conditions under which bringing other police forces on to a joint investigation team is prohibited. Section 4 does not elaborate on conditions under which consent to enter a joint investigation team led by another state police force may or shall be withheld. I am concerned that the Bill is flawed in its presumption that all EU police and intelligence forces are democratically sound and can be trusted not to violate human rights. Amnesty International has condemned 13 of the 15 EU member states, including the UK and Ireland, for perpetrating abuses of human rights within their territories and has found that the most frequent violations were carried out by the police forces in those states.
Sinn Féin's concerns about the PSNI and the Garda Síochána are well known, but we must consider the track records of the police forces with which Ireland will co-operate under the provisions of the Bill. We must consider the documented, well founded allegations of police ill treatment and excessive use of force against detainees as well as the impunity enjoyed by law enforcement bodies in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Some of the cases listed have resulted in death. Given these facts, the operation of other forces in this jurisdiction must not proceed in the absence of properly established best practice complaints investigation mechanisms in the form of a fully independent ombudsman's office based on the Patten model and a properly established best practice civilian oversight mechanism in the form of an independent civilian policing board, as we have proposed. Amnesty International has proposed the Patten model as best practice for police accountability, to be considered for extension across Europe, and Sinn Féin agrees.
The conditions under which foreign police forces will be invited to participate in a joint investigation team and the conditions under which the consent to participation of gardaí on joint investigation teams based elsewhere will be withheld on the basis of human rights concerns also need to be elaborated upon in the Bill so that the legislation may enjoy and earn public confidence. Fundamentally, this legislation should not proceed in the absence of these measures and, in particular, until such time as the Human Rights Commission is convinced of the adequacy of such safeguards.
The following sections of the Bill require safeguards: section 6, granting Ministers discretion to appoint non-police to joint investigation teams; section 7(4), prohibiting a seconded member from taking part in certain investigation measures; section 9(3) regarding the participation of joint investigation team participants from other EU bodies or non-member states; section 11, which deals with the disclosure of information to the authorities of other states; and sections 12 and 13, which deal with criminal and civil liability of joint investigation team participants from other member states. It is not acceptable that the Minister did not approach the Human Rights Commission to obtain its opinion on this Bill. In accordance with section 8 of the Human Rights Commission Act 2000 I urge him to seek the opinion of the commission and to guarantee that Committee Stage of this Bill will not proceed until such time as that opinion is available to the Members of this House. I urge the Minister to take up the challenge of Amnesty International's campaign, Human Rights Begin at Home. It is a pity he is not here. He is at the meeting of European Ministers for Justice, where he should be pushing for recognition of this campaign and showing leadership within the EU in preventing the erosion of human rights.
Mr. F. McGrath Mr. F. McGrath
Mr. F. McGrath: I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill 2003. While I welcome these first steps in combating trafficking in drugs and human beings and attempting to tackle crime in general, I have some concerns about this Bill.
I have no problem with close co-operation between states. However, I hope this Bill is not a subtle attempt to set up a European police force which, one day, would fit into the united states of Europe project. I would also not tolerate any attempt to undermine our own force, the Garda Síochána. By all means, let us all work together in the EU on social, economic and policing issues, but let us at all times retain our independence to make our own decisions based on democratic principles. These are the core issues of this debate on general international co-operation between states. We should never be afraid to put down our own markers when it comes to the human rights records of other states. When we are not even satisfied with policies and examples of bad practice in other states, we should never stay silent on them and never shy away from saying so.
The purpose of the Bill is to enable effect to be given in Irish law to the EU Council framework decision of 30 June 2002 on joint investigation teams. Joint investigation teams may be set up for a specific purpose and limited period by mutual agreement of the competent authorities of two or more member states in order to carry out criminal investigations with a cross-border dimension in one or more of the member states setting up the team. In 1999, a European Council meeting called for joint investigation teams, as foreseen in Article 30 of the European Union treaty, to be set up without delay as a first step to combat trafficking in drugs and human beings, as well as terrorism. Provision was made in the convention, established by the Council in accordance of Article 34 of the European Union treaty, on mutual assistance on criminal matters between member states of the EU, signed on 29 May 2000. Following the events of 11 September 2001, the Council considered that such teams should be set up as a matter of priority. When we speak of the events of 11 September 2001, we must remind ourselves that it was not the Iraqi state or people that attacked those innocent people in New York. We should also remember the 8,000 to 15,000 innocent Iraqi civilians who died in the recent Iraq war.
When dealing with the drugs issue and the crisis that exists in Ireland and the EU, we should remind ourselves that this issue is not confined to policing. There is money in drugs because there is a market there. People who use and buy drugs contribute to the rise in crime and, as we have seen recently, to deaths and violence. We all have a duty to act responsibly on this issue and, politicians in particular, have to show leadership on this issue. In 2003, in parts of the Dublin North-Central constituency over €20 million worth of drugs were confiscated and over 278 people were charged with drug-related offences. However, because there are no shoot-outs and the crimes are hardly noticed, there is no coverage of this in broader society. We hear much talk about other locations in the State, but the sad reality is that the drug epidemic is in every constituency. Members must wake up to the fact that there is a drugs crisis and epidemic in this country.
In tackling human trafficking, I hope this Bill will not hammer or clamp down on disadvantaged people from poor countries who are fleeing them to start a fresh life and create a decent standard of living for themselves and their families. Is this Bill an attempt to police fortress Europe? By all means we should go after organised criminal gangs and the drug barons, but I hope immigrants and asylum seekers do not get caught up in the crossfire. We have to be vigilant against this happening and the rise in racism in our society. We cannot have laws in the EU that may contribute to the increase of racism in our society. Racism is in our country and in other EU member states, but politicians cannot hold back in showing leadership in tackling this issue. If we believe in equality and interculturalism, we have to live and practice it. True democrats believe in a pro-active inclusive democracy. That is the way forward and should be a part of the justice and crime debate.
I welcome the debate on the Bill. However, I urge the Government to take on board my concerns about the legislation. We need closer policing co-operation, but, at the same time, we must also have respect for human rights.
Dáil Éireann 578 Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill 2003 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage.