Dáil Éireann - Volume 578 - 22 January, 2004
Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill 2003 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage (Resumed).
 Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
Mr. Healy: Most, if not all, Members support the general thrust of this Bill, subject to ensuring that human rights are respected during the operation of these joint investigation teams. However, I want to raise the issue of the domestic crime situation.
International criminal gangs do not arise out of the blue but instead begin at home. We have, therefore, to get our house in order in this State. I want to refer in particular to the serious levels of anti-social behaviour in the estates of our towns and villages. Small numbers of individuals in these estates are creating havoc. They are ensuring that respectable, responsible and law-abiding citizens are unable to sleep at night through abuse. Stones are thrown at houses and windows are broken. Unfortunately, the Government and Garda management are gradually abandoning these estates. It is now unusual to see gardaí on the beat in those estates. Instead, policing has been reduced to a quick whip-through in a police car with no involvement with local communities. It is a situation that has been promoted by this and previous Governments.
We saw another element of this abandonment last year when provisions in housing legislation which would have ensured mixed private and public housing estates were proposed. However, developers were not in favour of such provisions and the legislation was changed for their benefit. If we are to deal effectively with criminality on an international basis, we must first put our own house in order. Our local authority estates are being gradually abandoned and ghettoised by Government policy. This ongoing anti-social behaviour is now not reported to the Garda because people know it will not be investigated. If it is reported to the local authority, we are told it is a matter for the local gardaí.
The Bill should be amended to include the provision of community gardaí in all areas. I say that because I have raised this matter in the House on numerous occasions but got no response. In my own area, the local RAPID programme and the local authority have sought the provision of community gardaí but it is like playing handball against a haystack; there is no comeback. The Minister has no interest in it. We must enshrine the provision of community gardaí in legislation, and this is an opportunity to do so.
The promise made by the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats during the last general election, and subsequently included in the programme for Government, that an additional 2,000 gardaí would be provided must also be included in this legislation to ensure the Minister does what he said he would do and that proper policing measures are put in place in the areas about which I have spoken.
Mr. Callely Mr. Callely
 Mr. Callely: It will be met in 2004.
Mr. F. McGrath Mr. F. McGrath
Mr. F. McGrath: In 2004? How many extra gardaí will there be in Clontarf and Coolock?
Mr. Cuffe Mr. Cuffe
Mr. Cuffe: Obviously all politics is local.
Mr. F. McGrath Mr. F. McGrath
Mr. F. McGrath: Especially in a three-seater.
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten: I know all about that.
Mr. Cuffe Mr. Cuffe
Mr. Cuffe: I welcome the Bill, the substance of which is based on a significant amount of international co-operation. It looks good on paper. International co-operation is of more importance than ever before and looking at the heads of the Bill, we would welcome it but many questions arise. For instance, we already have a significant amount of international co-operation on policing matters, with Europol and Interpol, and a good deal of co-operation already takes place across the European Union and beyond. It is worth asking why we need this greater amount of co-operation.
This morning the annual report of the Garda Síochána arrived on my desk and I delved into it to try to find out—
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: I managed to get it yesterday.
Mr. Cuffe Mr. Cuffe
Mr. Cuffe: Deputy Costello did well. Perhaps there is a priority system in place. I delved into the report to try to get to the heart of what is needed in the area of international co-operation but it was not that easy to do. In the first few pages of the annual report we find out that new instruments and equipment were purchased for the Garda band and that a group e-mail facility has been put in place in the Garda press office. One has to delve deeply, however, to find out what is going on in the area of international co-operation but even if one gets to pages 41, 42 and 43, the reference to what is going on in international co-operation is couched in very bland language and we do not really know what is happening in that respect. The Bill does not give us that much more information either.
I would like to know from the Minister the reason we need yet another layer of international co-operation when we already have an international co-ordination unit in place. We already have links to Interpol and to Europol. Why do we need to go one step further and put this Bill in place?
It is worth pondering that question at a time when we have much work to do to get our own house in order as regards the activities of the Garda Síochána. When we cannot yet get to the heart of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings investigation, the investigation of the events of the May Day protests some years ago or get members of the Garda Síochána to identify other members of the Garda Síochána on videotape, should we be going this far down the road to international co-operation? We have got to get our own house in order first and we need radical reform of the Garda Síochána prior to entering into yet further international commitments.
For instance, we should recruit into the Garda Síochána at a level other than entrance level. Any other organisation or State or semi-State division brings in people at a senior level and now more than ever we need people with a strong background in international law and a university background in human rights in terms of what is going on in the areas on which we are seeking co-operation. With all due respect to the system of training in place in Templemore, we need to bring bright people with international experience into the force at a senior level, and this Bill does not go any way towards attempting to do that. We need serious reform at that stage before we proceed with this type of legislation.
On a fundamental level I and my party are nervous about giving more resources to policing when perhaps we are not putting the same quantum of resources into the social and economic disadvantage that occurs in areas suffering from crime. That does not just occur in our own towns, cities and villages; it has an international dimension also. Before we combat significant drug trafficking or trafficking in people at an international level, we should ask ourselves what we are doing to stop this trafficking from taking place in the countries at which we are looking, whether it be Latvia, Lithuania, Afghanistan or other areas in the Far East. We should examine the kind of resources the State is putting into improving the social and economic conditions in those countries prior to devoting yet more resources to international co-operation.
At a very parochial level, what will happen when we devote all these extra resources to international co-operation? What areas will suffer? I am concerned that local gardaí will be taken off the beat and put working in the area of international co-operation, and policing at a local level may suffer.
I am concerned also that there is not enough reference in the Bill to human rights and the proposed police ombudsman. I want to record our party's welcome of the Minister's late conversion to the importance of having a police ombudsman because, for the past year and a half, I, my party and others have repeatedly spoken of the need for an ombudsman. The Minister, Deputy McDowell, would not agree to an ombudsman but in his most recent pronouncements he has agreed there is a need for an ombudsman. I welcome that because the appropriate model is across the Border in Northern Ireland which has a well-funded, well-staffed, independent police ombudsman. That is exactly what we need here and I encourage the Minister to go down that road.
There are concerns about the resources that might be taken away from everyday policing. We have got to get our own house in order. We have to get the extra gardaí on the streets and behaving correctly. There are issues to be discussed within the State to begin with.
I would like to know something about the costing for this measure, which is very open-ended. We should find out more about what it costs us to service these international commitments. The annual report will tell us everything about the number of road accidents in Tipperary but it does not tell us too much about what is going on in international co-operation. We would like more facts and figures on that because there are so many organisations, including Europol and Interpol, and now there will be another layer on the net. We need more detail on what this co-operation will consist of. What penalties will cross-border crimes meet with in other countries resulting from this type of co-operation?
We welcome the Bill. Much fine-tuning of it will have to take place on Committee Stage. We look forward to engaging in that process and producing a worthy Bill. We need to address the social and economic disadvantage that gives rise to international crime. We are concerned that resources might be diverted from addressing those issues at home and abroad to service the policing requirements of the Bill.
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten: I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. It will provide a formalised structure which will facilitate police co-operation in criminal investigations, further develop the existing level of co-operation and assist in improving crime detection, investigation and prosecution of offences. An objective of the Bill is to ensure that country boundaries do not mitigate against police co-operation by ensuring that a person who has committed an offence in one jurisdiction does not avoid punishment. We have had a litany of examples over many years of people who have committed offences - drug-related, criminal, financial irregularities where they have defrauded pensioners' money, and so forth - have absconded abroad and evaded prosecution.
The basis for this legislation dates back to the European Council meeting held in Tampere in 1999 which called for joint investigation teams, the need for which was foreseen in Article 30 of the treaty on the European Union. Such teams should be set up without delay as a first step to combating the trafficking of drugs and human beings as well as terrorism. It is now 2004 and the legislation has only now come before the House. Given that it was stated that this legislation should be introduced and the necessary structures set up without delay, I would hate to consider how long it would take to implement a measure which was not considered urgent.
I broadly welcome the thrust of the Bill. The main impetus behind it and the reason the Council decision in 1999 was given such priority was the terrible events of 11 September. The Bill effectively provides for enhanced inter-Community police co-operation. International police co-operation has already been formalised through the establishment and successful operation of Europol. Under current legislation it is already possible to do what is set out in the Bill. There is nothing preventing the Garda Síochána investigating matters in another country and other countries' forces can investigate matters here. Such co-operation already exists and the Europol system has worked well in this regard.
Will the Minister of State explain how these investigation teams will operate differently from the current system under Part VII of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and the Europol Act 1997? I understand that the Bill is not being driven by the Government but was introduced on the basis of a European Council decision. While the importance of the measure to facilitate co-operation of this nature might have been clear in June last year when the framework decision was signed, I sometimes wonder about the necessity for this Bill in today's context. I strongly believe that the Statute Book should contain only legislation which is effective. Each provision should have an established purpose and meaning. The Statute Book is not a place for articulating grand aspirations nor should it be the home for cautionary measures or bodies whose existence progresses no further than their establishment.
On the international stage, there is Europol, the membership of which numbers 181 countries. Its purpose is to promote the widest possible mutual assistance between all criminal police authorities. We already have an international peace co-operation mechanism in place. What additional measures will this legislation introduce? Earlier this week the Taoiseach launched the regulatory reform legislation and there are advertisements in today's newspapers requesting proposals, suggestions and ideas in this regard. However, we should tread carefully to avoid a duplication of legislation. I hope the Minister will elaborate on the major differences in this legislation compared to what is already on the Statute Book.
Apart from concerns about the necessity for the Bill and its purpose, I have concerns about specific aspects of the Bill. One of its key elements is to control trafficking in persons. We are aware of the atrocious incidents that have occurred here and in the UK when people were locked into containers in other countries, thought they were going on a short journey but ended up going on a significantly longer journey that took some 24 to 36 hours, and their bodies were found subsequently when the containers were opened. We must try to combat such trafficking.
This country and Europe as a whole are considered a soft option because of the lack of border controls in place. Once one gets into the European Union it is basically a free-for-all. We have passport controls at our airports. Why do we not have passport controls at our ferry ports? The majority of such traffic comes from the UK with which we have a common travel area. Passport control is in place at Dublin and the other airports. Passengers enter the country at our ferry ports from locations other than the UK, France being the main one.
Perhaps the Minister might elaborate on this issue. Many would question the passport control in place at Dublin Airport, especially those entering the country from the UK. We see the passport control counter when we come through the airport. The perception is that passport control here is extremely lax. If that is the case, such laxness encourages people to use it as a mechanism to gain entry to the country and engage in the trafficking of people. By not having passport controls at our ferry ports, it seems we are also allowing such trafficking to happen. I appreciate such controls would cause difficulties along the Border, but the Minister might outline the thinking on this matter and whether there are plans to tighten up such controls.
Another objective of the legislation is the combating of drug trafficking. Ireland is a soft option because it is almost impossible for our Naval Service, which has only a handful of vessels, to police our coastal waters and shoreline. The service cannot even police our fishing rights within the Irish Box against 30 or 40 renegade trawlers from Spain. If we cannot do that, how will we ensure that we can police our coast to prevent the importation of drugs? Many people who have spoken on this issue claim that what is being seized by the Garda is only a minute fraction of what is getting into this country and subsequently being exported to other European countries. There are genuine concerns about that. It is all well and good bringing forward legislation, but we do not have a proper coastguard service or a properly resourced Naval Service. It is pointless debating drug trafficking when this country is the softest option for the importation of drugs in the European Union.
Section 2 designates the Garda Commissioner as the competent authority in this regard. We are all aware of the crime statistics available, especially in respect of violent street crimes. Nobody can deny that Garda resources have been overstretched. There was a significant cutback in Garda overtime last year because there was a cutback in the Garda budget by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. This year there is a further significant curtailment in available Garda resources. One could see gardaí deployed to bring justice Ministers from the airport and the same will happen today while those Ministers are here. That ties up a significant amount of Garda resources, with gardaí trained as riot police having to remain on call also. This means that resources which should be available for day-to-day policing are not available for the six months of the Presidency.
Mr. Callely Mr. Callely
Mr. Callely: That is not true. There will be adequate policing.
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten: Since the Government began its second term, we have seen a clawback of Garda resources. That has not been helped by the Government reneging on its pre-election promise to provide an additional 2,000 gardaí.
Mr. Callely Mr. Callely
Mr. Callely: That will happen in 2004.
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten: The Bill does nothing to address the problem of Garda resources. There is no provision for the allocation of additional resources to enable gardaí to discharge the considerable burdens imposed by the Bill. Day in, day out we call for measures to enable gardaí to carry out their duties in a more efficient manner, most recently in the call for additional Garda recruitment. This Bill will put extra pressure on Garda resources, which are already overstretched. How can we conceivably send gardaí off to work on these teams when in reality we do not have the resources to enable gardaí to keep the streets safe?
Deputy Deasy said earlier that public respect for gardaí is being lost. That is because they are not getting the necessary resources, which means that many major towns are policed by five or six gardaí on Saturday nights. If there is a road accident, which frequently occurs on a Saturday night, two gardaí are called to it, leaving four gardaí on duty in many of our major towns. We do not have gardaí in many rural locations and if gardaí are called out from one of those towns one could have two gardaí policing a town of 15,000 or 20,000 people. An ongoing court case is dealing with a young man being assaulted outside a nightclub and according to some of today's newspapers such assaults are all too common. If one has five or six gardaí policing a major urban centre then resources are so stretched that in reality there is no policing at weekends. That leads to public resentment of the Garda.
Enforcement of the road traffic legislation is also leading to public resentment. People travelling one or two miles an hour over the speed limit are being caught for penalty points. They are breaking the speed limit and if one wants zero tolerance that is the way to do so, but it does not encourage public respect for the Garda. We want the penalty points system to curb reckless behaviour on our roads and having a motorway speed trap catching people travelling at 71 mph or 72 mph is not going to change attitudes. Gardaí should be deployed on dangerous stretches of road.
The solution to this problem was another Government commitment during the last election: a specific Garda traffic corps which would be independent of ordinary gardaí. Traffic gardaí were to be differentiated from the ordinary community gardaí who carry out street policing but this has not happened. It is another promise the Government reneged on and the result is a situation where respect for the gardaí is being lost day by day, a critical matter in a country with an unarmed police force. We sometimes fail to recognise that such an unarmed force needs the support and respect of communities if it is to police the country successfully. That is not happening at present.
Mr. Callely Mr. Callely
Mr. Callely: That is wrong.
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten: It is a reality.
Mr. Callely Mr. Callely
Mr. Callely: Gardaí do a great job.
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten: Deputy Deasy spoke about giving local authority members a dedicated supervisory role on policing matters in local communities. This is a positive step forward which the Government should run with. It would open up lines of communications between the gardaí and local communities, and where such communities have concerns there would be a mechanism enabling gardaí to explain the situation first hand. If one asks a Garda superintendent about any problem area in a community he or she will say that limited resources mean the gardaí cannot reach the most basic level of policing.
A Garda superintendent told me recently about four or five areas with problems within a community, saying the problem areas would be addressed on a rotating basis. There would be two gardaí dedicated for three months to policing an area. What happens to the other areas while Garda resources are concentrated on one area? Not only should we have a situation where local authority members can question gardaí on community policing, with gardaí being able to give full, frank responses and point out they are hamstrung by the lack of resources given them by the Government, gardaí should be able to question the local authority on matters like housing policy. If the gardaí were involved more proactively in housing policy we could avoid the creation of communities which are just waiting for problems to develop. Such problems could then be resolved before they occur. In tandem with those measures we need resources to be put in place for community facilities, which is not happening at present.
The Minister seemed to claim that resources are being given to the gardaí. I draw his attention to the Dáil debate of 25 November 2003, when I asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about the future of many rural Garda stations. He was very ambiguous in his response, saying that in many areas the Garda station only operated a few hours per week or per month. I give him credit for recognising that, but his party is mainly urban-based and maybe this is not as important a priority for him. However, many backbenchers from the other party in Government are from rural communities. Maybe they should sit up and take notice of what the Minister is saying.
He is saying there is a skeleton service in place already and asking whether it makes sense to maintain those institutions, spending OPW funds on keeping them up to the basic standards for such short periods. That question will doubtless be addressed in the ongoing SMI process. The Minister is giving no commitment to the future retention of rural Garda stations. When Deputy O'Donoghue was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the previous Administration he wound down resources. As a result of the last six years, Garda stations now exist in many communities in name only, with gardaí being dragged into the bigger towns. The Minister's colleague, Deputy Parlon, has carried out valuations of many rural Garda stations with a view to possible sales. We know how interested he is in selling State assets, be they land or buildings, because the Government is trying to balance the books and ensure that some basic level of infrastructure is put in place. Up to six Garda stations in County Roscommon have a question mark hanging over them. When I questioned the Minister on this matter on 25 November, he did not indicate a rosy future for these Garda stations.
I urge the Minister of State, Deputy Callely, as a member of the largest party in Government, to monitor what is happening in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform because not only rural Garda stations but also urban stations, including those in Dublin city, are at risk of being closed.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle An Leas-Cheann Comhairle
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy should conclude.
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten: I was only getting started.
Mr. Callely Mr. Callely
Mr. Callely: So we noticed.
Mr. Naughten Mr. Naughten
Mr. Naughten: The Minister of State was waiting with bated breath to hear what else I had to say.
My final point relates to what the explanatory memorandum has to say about sections 3 and 4. It reads more like the heads of a Bill rather than an explanatory memorandum. The Minister and his departmental officials should ensure that, when legislation is brought forward, the explanatory memorandum does what it should, namely, provide an explanation of the legislation in plain English not only for Members of the House but also for the public.
Mr. Kehoe Mr. Kehoe
Mr. Kehoe: I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. This is important legislation because it is critical that our policing board and the Garda Síochána work closely with police forces in other countries.
Deputy Naughten spoke about the importance of ports as a point of entry for criminal activity. I come from County Wexford where a major port is located. It is important that we have international co-operation to combat potential crime in ports.
Section 6 deals with a joint investigation teams' membership and the terms and conditions of membership, including remuneration and allowances. National membership can be drawn from the Garda Síochána, Customs and Excise, officers of the Revenue Commissioners or other Departments and persons, who, in the opinion of the Minister, have experience or expertise relevant to the investigation concerned.
I am disappointed that it has taken so long for the Bill to come before the House. The view was expressed at the European Convention that it should be ensured that maximum benefit would be derived from co-operation within member states. The Bill has been long promised and I am pleased that it is at last before the House. Joint investigation teams will work closely and well together.
Deputy Naughten referred to the issue of drug trafficking. A significant amount of drugs appear to come through Rosslare without being detected. I welcome future co-operation between the Garda Síochána and police in the UK to investigate drug trafficking more closely and ensure that those involved are apprehended.
Some years ago approximately 16 people were smuggled in a container to Rosslare. Eight people died during the journey. Somebody received payment for secreting these people on board. While the passengers were unaware of their destination, they thought they would be brought safely to a destination. They certainly did not expect that, some weeks later, a number of family members would die in the container which was without air or light. It is important that those involved in such incidents of human trafficking be identified and brought to justice.
Drugs also come into Ireland at other points on the coast which, unfortunately, are hard to police. In my constituency drugs are apparent in every town and village. It appears to be easy for young people to access drugs. It is regrettable that the culprits are rarely found. The Garda simply does not have the resources to tackle the problem.
Over the Christmas period in my home town of Enniscorthy, there were many drug-related incidents which led to arrests. This trend has increased in recent years and it is to be hoped that the legislation will assist in the detection, investigation and prosecution of those involved in the drugs trade. If it is not nipped in the bud soon, the consequences for the future will be even more serious. Drugs appear to be rampant in schools and colleges where they can be obtained easily and cheaply. I am pleased to note the recent arrests of drug traffickers and look forward to their prosecution.
Deputy Naughten referred to the important issue of passport control at ports. A passport is required to be carried at the airport, even if one only intends to travel to the UK. However, people travelling to ports are never asked for any identification, even if they travel from France or Germany. Nobody knows who they are or what business they are on. They could bring in different substances through ports either by truck, car or on foot. It is vital that identification is sought from all people entering the country. Passport control should be introduced at ports as soon as possible. Not everybody will agree with me when I say that it is important that everybody carries identification so that we can be assured that they are above board and that a record is kept of all those who travel by boat, especially where a serious incident or crime occurs.
In the past, people came into Ireland and committed serious crimes. I read a book recently about people in Ireland who had been murdered or were missing. In one case two people came from England, committed one murder and tried to commit others. Fortunately, in that instance the perpetrators were caught. It is possible that such crimes still take place. If that is the case, it is important that the Garda is able to work closely with its counterparts in other countries to catch the culprits.
The number of Garda on the streets of Enniscorthy is a cause of concern. Last night I walked from O'Connell Street down the quays and met only one garda in 35 minutes.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: The Deputy was lucky.
Mr. Kehoe Mr. Kehoe
Mr. Kehoe: I probably was lucky. I could not believe it. I met some drug pushers on the way. I knew what they were from the way they were behaving. I also met some drunken people. What would have happened had I or anyone else been injured, a knife pulled or money stolen? I would have had to wait a long time for the Garda to show up. I saw one garda in all the time I spent walking around the city centre. I would like to see a greater Garda presence on the streets. Half an hour before this, seven gardaí were part of a motorcycle escort to ensure a number of very important people involved with the EU Presidency were brought quickly through traffic. I accept that such people should be looked after and it is great that we hold the European Presidency. However, we must put our house in order and ensure gardaí are on the beat.
Three gardaí were brutally attacked with bottles and stones on New Year's Eve in Enniscorthy and ten people were arrested. Gardaí in Enniscorthy have told me they do not have adequate resources. An additional 2,000 gardaí were promised. Where are they? What does the Minister of State propose to do about what has happened in Enniscorthy and many other towns across the country in recent weeks? Crime, drug-related incidents and alcoholism have got out of control. The Government has failed to deal with crime.
Deputy Naughten spoke about rural Garda stations. I could bring the Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, around Wexford and show him the many rural Garda stations that have been closed. I would like to see the OPW refurbishing and reopening them. I am sure the Minister of State continues to read the Irish Farmers' Journal and saw its report on rural crime last week.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: While I am reluctant to intervene, we are wandering far from the Bill that is before the House.
Mr. Kehoe Mr. Kehoe
 Mr. Kehoe: I must get my point across.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: While passing reference to domestic Garda matters is in order, going into detail is not.
Mr. Kehoe Mr. Kehoe
Mr. Kehoe: It is the only opportunity I have to put this to the Minister of State. He is a busy man and is not in the House too often.
Mr. Parlon Mr. Parlon
Mr. Parlon: I understand reinforcements arrived to deal with the events in Enniscorthy.
Mr. Kehoe Mr. Kehoe
Mr. Kehoe: I hope the Minister of State will consider the important issue of rural Garda stations.
I welcome this Bill. It is important that our policing board and boards in other countries have a close relationship. I hope the Bill functions well and helps to catch drug traffickers and those involved in trafficking illegal immigrants.
Mr. Kelly Mr. Kelly
Mr. Kelly: I wish to share time with Deputy Andrews. The purpose of the Bill is to give effect in Irish law to the requirements of the EU Council framework decision of 13 June 2002 on joint investigation teams. This provides for the establishment of joint investigation teams by mutual consent for a specific purpose and limited period to carry out criminal investigations with a cross-border dimension in one or more of the member states setting up the team.
The European Council held in Tampere in 1999 called for joint investigation teams, as foreseen in Article 30 of the Treaty on European Union, 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 with Article 34 of the Treaty on European Union on mutual assistance in criminal matters between member states of the Union, which was signed on 29 May 2000.
Following the events of September 11 2001, the Council of the European Union considered that such 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 on joint investigation teams should be adopted as soon as possible. Accordingly, Article 13 of the mutual assistance convention, together with Articles 15 and 16 which deal with criminal and civil liability of officials, have been brought forward from the convention in the form of a framework decision. Member states were requested to implement the measures by 1 January 2003.
The Bill will provide a formal structure that will facilitate further police co-operation in criminal investigations and will assist in improving crime detection, investigation and prosecution of offences. It will also have the effect of ensuring that boundaries do not militate against effective co-operation.
Section 2 provides that the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána will be the competent authority in the State for the purposes of the Council framework decision, except where a judicial authority is required by another state for the making or receiving of a request, in which case the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will be the competent authority.
Section 3 contains provisions concerning requests by the State to other member states to establish joint investigation teams. Where the competent authority is satisfied that an offence which has links with another state has been committed, or there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, and that the investigation of the offence requires co-ordinated and concerted action with another member state or states, and that there are reasonable grounds for believing that it would be in the public interest to establish a joint investigation team, that authority may request the relevant competent authority or authorities of the other member state or states to establish such a team.
Section 4 contains provisions for dealing with requests from other member states to establish joint investigation teams. The provisions are similar in nature to those contained in section 3. Section 5 deals with provisions relating to the establishment and termination of a joint investigation team, the agreement governing establishment and additional competent authorities joining a team. Section 6 deals with team membership and the terms and conditions of such membership, including remuneration and allowances. Section 7 provides for the operation of the joint investigation team.
Section 8 sets out what the written agreement for the establishment of a joint investigation team should contain and makes provision for amendment to the agreement to allow for issues such as the extension of the period of operation, change of membership, etc. Section 9 provides for additional assistance in the form of support or advice, or both, to a joint investigation team by appropriate persons from other states or international agencies.
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 regulations to be made to allow for the registration of his or her death, or of the birth or death of a member of his or her family.
This Bill is a necessary and positive way forward in combating crime. It is in the interest of all law abiding citizens that crime is combated at all levels. As people travel more, making the world seem smaller, it is important that all our European allies stand together. People in the main are law abiding and want to live in peace and harmony. and criminal activity cannot be allowed to ruin that. They have the virtues of faith, hope and charity. It is very sad that a tiny minority of crooks, gangsters, criminals and terrorists can upset the majority. It is high time that decent people stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against criminal activity.
Mr. Andrews Mr. Andrews
Mr. Andrews: I thank Deputy Kelly for sharing his time with me. This Bill is about the issues of sovereignty, terrorism human trafficking and membership of the European Union. The provisions of the Bill may have been viewed as eating away at our sovereignty, but I strongly believe that being a member of the European Union has resulted in the expansion and extension of our sovereignty. The setting up of joint investigation teams, minor as it may be in the scheme of the European Union, constitutes another step forwards in the expansion of our sovereignty. It gives us a strengthened hand to combat threats to peaceful society. As everybody knows, terrorism has a multi-state and non-state character and the solution to it also must be non-state and multi-state in its character. While this Bill is not a total solution, it is part of the armoury which allows us and other member states to combat these threats.
I have criticisms of sections 3 and 4 because neither section allows for the setting up of an investigation team in anticipation of a crime being committed. In other words section 3(1)(a) and section 4(3)(a) deal with an offence that has been committed. There may be arguments for the setting up of investigation teams where there is a reasonable apprehension on the part of the Garda Commissioner that an offence may or will be committed. We have technology in Europol and in the Garda Síochána that allows us to anticipate the committing of a crime and there is no reason that the Bill should not focus on crime prevention rather than solving cases of crime already committed. I realise that in this Bill we are transposing into Irish law agreements that have been made though the European Convention. There are probably good reasons that this has not been touched on or is not allowed in the Bill. Perhaps the Minister will allude in his concluding remarks to why crime prevention is not a focus of the Bill.
In earlier contributions there were references to Garda resources being over-stretched, with specific examples of outbreaks of violence and disorder. I think the Members opposite will be generous enough to concede that the figures published in the past few days indicate a noted improvement in serious crime figures. There may be criticism of the way the figures are compiled and the Minister is due to receive a report on whether the figures are reliable. Nevertheless they are the only available statistics. It is a pity that, despite those figures, some Members commented that the lack of respect for the Garda Síochána in the community means the gardaí are somehow hamstrung in all their activities and gave single individual incidents as if to prove the general rule. That is a highly unscientific method of argument.
If one is to approach the debate seriously, one deals with the general rather than the specific issues, for example, the effect of the PULSE system together with the Minister's commitment to redirecting Garda resources to more effective policing as opposed to administrative activities will have an appreciable effect on the availability of Garda resources. The fall-off in high crime figures will naturally free up more Garda time and resources. I strongly contradict the view expressed in the Chamber that Garda resources are over- stretched and are not capable of meeting the needs set out in this Bill.
I am very pleased to note the commitment in the Bill to deal with human trafficking, the most pernicious and insidious crime that challenges Europe today. Deputy Keogh referred to the case in Wexford, and it was an absolute shame that such trafficking could have happened. I represent Dún Laoghaire, and the personnel in the port are very vigilant of such activities. I am glad to see that something as effective as a joint investigation team can be set up to investigate crimes that have been committed. However, I reiterate my concern that such teams should be available to prevent such crimes because it is little consolation to those who have been trafficked to know that it will be investigated by an investigation team after the event.
Section 13 deals with the issue of civil liability. I am sure it must have been a matter of grave difficulty to agree such parts of the conventions that give rise to this section. Loss, damage or injury sounds fairly mundane, but a grave difficulty in transnational agreements such as this is in making agreements on civil liability, less so in criminal liability cases. In civil liability it is a real challenge to make an agreement, however, the Garda Síochána has the benefit of the Garda compensation Act and I understand that what will happen is that if joint investigation teams are operating in another member state such award as may be attracted by a Garda under the Act will be paid out by the member state that made the application in the first place. It will probably come as a bit of a shock to some member states to see the awards that are made here, and I make that comment advisedly.
The character of terrorism has changed dramatically in the past few years. I agree with Deputy Kelly's comment that we have to meet this threat seriously by changing the way we deal with it. Historically, armies lined up against each other in neat brigades, wearing the same uniforms, to settle their differences in that way. The changing face of global terrorism, however, presents us with extremely difficult challenges. The Bill represents a step forward that will solve the problems currently facing the Garda Síochána and other law enforcement agencies as a result of international terrorism.
I wish to refer to the issue of sovereignty, which I raised at the beginning of my contribution. At sittings of the Committee on European Affairs we have seen thousands of documents emanating from the European Commission which require that committee's scrutiny and investigation. It comes as a shock to some people to see the volume of legislation that is being directed to this country from Europe. I do not think this represents a diminution of our sovereignty but rather an enhancement of it. I commend the Bill to the House. It will enhance our sovereignty rather than undermining it in any way.
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
Mr. Sargent: Tááthas orm deis a fháil labhairt ar an mBille um Cheartas Coiriúil (Foirne Comhpháirteacha um Imscrúdú) 2003, the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill 2003. In dealing with this legislation it is important not to give the impression that it is being used as a substitute for local Garda effectiveness. Currently, many pressures are being brought to bear, and many calls are being made, on Garda time so we need to examine closely how the Garda Síochána can operate more effectively. This legislation goes above and beyond local considerations, however. The legislation should not be seen as an answer to the growing tragedy of international terrorism or, indeed, as a substitute for tackling increasing instability. In addition, to consider the Bill as a method of tackling growing international inequality would be to delude ourselves and we would learn a hard lesson from so doing.
Deputy Kelly mentioned the tragedy of 11 September 2001, which is imprinted on all our minds and as a result of which thousands of people lost their lives. It is important to bear in mind, however, that that act of international terrorism can be compared with a basic weapon of mass destruction, which is world hunger. Although starvation cannot be considered as a calculated act, if we were to compare the attack on the Twin Towers with the number of people dying from hunger, we would be talking about the equivalent of 300 jumbo jets crashing every day.
The Bill attempts to face up to growing international tension from a criminal justice viewpoint. However, the economic system that is regularly praised by the Government as being so good is the same system that is widening the gap between rich and poor, both here and internationally, on a north-south basis. Mercedes Benz cars may be exported from the EU to poorer countries but the trade in reverse is in pineapples and cut flowers, which earn far less than motor cars. Because of such trade imbalances, people in poor countries continue to be impoverished by their reliance on cash crops. Therein lies much of the cause of the growth in the illegal drugs trade, which must be faced up to. It cannot be dealt with by joint investigation police teams using sniffer dogs to find drugs unless the root economic cause of why people grow drugs instead of food is dealt with. I hope the Bill will allow a wider consideration of those issues because if it does not it will be perceived as having failed to cope with the growing tensions arising from injustice worldwide.
A certain amount needs to be done quickly in this country, which goes beyond the wider issues of international injustice to which I have referred. For example, in my own housing estate in Balbriggan, my next door neighbour woke up one morning to find that two vehicles, a company car and a family car, had been stolen. The Garda Síochána reported that there was little they could do about it. The cars were probably stolen to order and by the time my neighbour woke up, they were probably in another country. It is a tragedy but that is the way life is. Will the Bill enable the Garda Síochána to tackle car thefts effectively?
As an island country with four main ferry ports, it is strange that to date we have not been able to require proof of ownership when people drive vehicles on to international ferries. A substantial number of stolen vehicles are being driven, without fuss, on to ferries and away to other jurisdictions, but I hope the Bill will bring an end to such matters. The problem could be tackled even before the Bill is enacted. If he was sufficiently interested, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform could tackle it quickly by raising it with his EU colleagues whom he is meeting today. It would be interesting to ask EU Justice Ministers from Germany, the Netherlands or France if they would require proof of vehicle ownership if they were responsible for an island nation. I am sure they are envious of Ireland's island status, given that we could block stolen goods, such as cars, from leaving the jurisdiction if we put the resources into doing so. The Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, can speak from his own experience about this because he lives within the commuter belt, while his colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, lives much closer to hand.
With the development of our motorway infrastructure, it works both ways because thieves are benefiting from the lack of international co-operation, including controls on stolen cars leaving this jurisdiction. Last night, the Minister referred in an almost derisive fashion to stolen bicycles which are also part of the problem. Cars are packed up and sent out of the country and it appears that the Government is not interested in protecting property from being smuggled out of the country.
Perhaps when the Minister has spoken to his European Union colleagues with justice portfolios he will inform us whether there is a ground rule for increasing Garda resources in line with population growth. It was a shock to me to hear that my area had only received one extra garda although the population had grown from 11,000 to 33,000. That is one extra garda for a population increase of more than 20,000. The Minister knows all about it because he was in the area the other day. The same will happen in Donabate as a result of yesterday's rezoning decision which will multiply the population by three.
Gardaí are in a position where they cannot cope, yet we are debating a Bill which will create joint investigation teams. The manpower situation is stretched to a level where there is concern if a garda is sick and it is a crisis if one dies, as happened in Balbriggan recently. Will the Government take this into consideration? It is easy to pass legislation which will set up joint investigation teams but from where will the members of those teams come? Deputy Cuffe asked the same question earlier. The fear is that these teams will further deplete the existing resources of the Garda Síochána.
Deputy Andrews praised his Progressive Democrats Government colleague last night following the news bulletin on crime figures. It is unfortunate that Deputy Andrews was not in the Chamber when Deputy Costello regaled us with the inside track on the 2002 figures which did not get much attention because they brought us the bad news. We only heard the good news from RTE on this occasion because the Minister ensured for PR purposes that these figures were the ones broadcast. People should examine the 2002 figures to get a balanced picture of the full story rather than a selective Government viewpoint.
I welcome the announcement by the Minister that he will support the creation of the position of ombudsman for the Garda Síochána. It does the majority of decent gardaí no favours to play down the misdemeanours of the minority or to say it is a bad reflection on the force to discuss the matter because it reduces the respect people have for gardaí. The Garda Síochána is in a position to earn respect and I wish it well in the maintenance and enhancement of that respect. Respect will not be given because gardaí refuse to discuss misdemeanours. That creates suspicion and distrust. We must do all we can to confront that.
If people do not report crime, the impression is given that crime does not exist. We must bear that in mind both nationally and internationally. People must not be tempted to leave crime unreported because of the fear that nothing will be done about it. At the least, the crime will be added to the statistics. The trend has grown for people to say there is no point in reporting a crime because nothing happens about it. We hear that again and again. While I am sure it is not true, this is the impression people have. It is important that we confront the issue.
This Bill makes specific reference to trafficking in human beings. As a result of news reports and RTE and Danish television dramas such as “Proof”, this issue is being discussed throughout the country. The matter is not helped by the failure of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to provide adequate language translation facilities for many of the refugees and people who come to the country without English. The situation of people not in a position to communicate except through a mediator who may have malevolent motivation, such as a person trafficking or exploiting people for sexual profiteering, is made worse by our difficulty in providing language translators for such vulnerable people. Dealing with this issue could help in the prevention of trafficking. If people coming to Ireland knew there was somebody here who could understand them, they would be less likely to put their trust in some of the shady characters who exploit them.
Trafficking is not confined to human beings because we also face the problem of drug trafficking. Ireland also has the indigenous problem of the smuggling and laundering of diesel. Gardaí have often raised this issue with me and they are at their wits' end trying to deal with the problem with their current resources. The smuggling of cigarettes is also a problem and, despite Government policy on the matter, the trade continues on our streets. There is obviously the paradox of an open economy and borders and the temptation that gives, not just for legitimate business but also for illicit business. This Bill recognises the need to do something about that but, unfortunately, it will fall far short of making a substantial difference unless it deals with the reasons for resorting to crime.
In places such as Afghanistan, Colombia and other areas where drugs are produced without thought or compassion for those who will be caught in an addiction, people may be driven to drug dealing by hunger or trained into a life of crime because it seems they will not get caught and it looks like a possible career path. Whatever the reason, the underlying causes are exacerbated by the economic system in this country and throughout the neo-liberal economic empire. We must face up to that because it widens the gap between rich and poor. Certainly, the issue will not be confronted by a joint investigation team acting alone.
Mr. B. Lenihan Mr. B. Lenihan
Mr. B. Lenihan: I thank the Deputies who contributed to the debate and welcomed this measure. This is an important Bill and the tone of debate, in so far as it touched on the Bill, has been constructive. I propose to deal with the different points raised in the course of the discussion on it.
The discussion was not on the neo-liberal economic empire, the Estimate of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform or the confidence of the House in the Minister and his effective publicity machine. It is first and foremost a Second Stage debate on the Bill before the House.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: The Minister has a very cynical PR machine.
Mr. B. Lenihan Mr. B. Lenihan
Mr. B. Lenihan: I thank the Members for the interest they have shown in the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigations Teams) Bill. Deputy Deasy opened the debate for the Opposition by welcoming the legislation and expressing concern that Ireland could be a soft target for terrorism. While it does not arise specifically on the Bill, it does relate to the general policy it seeks to address. The Minister and I are satisfied that the Garda assesses constantly its intelligence on any threat posed to Ireland by global terror. Terrorism has been a particular focus of Garda intelligence in recent months in the context of the EU Presidency which will be in progress in Ireland over the next six months. This Bill represents one initiative in that context.
Naturally, Deputy Deasy raised other questions. On the subject of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, arrangements have been put in place to accommodate formal and informal co-operation on a regular basis. As he said, it is regrettable that in the past such co-operation was not forthcoming, as was well demonstrated in the Barron report.
As Deputy Costello spoke about the Minister's publicity machine I was reminded of the line from Julius Caesar, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” I felt Deputy Costello was engaging in the opposite.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
Mr. Costello: With faint praise.
Mr. B. Lenihan Mr. B. Lenihan
Mr. B. Lenihan: The Minister is well able to look after his own publicity machine. Deputy Costello proceeded after discussing that matter to swim in Guantanamo Bay, which does not have a huge connection with the measure before the House. It is part of the more general, legitimate point made by Deputy Sargent that the causes of crime are manifold. Just as there must be international police co-operation, we must address the issues and problems of global concern which give rise to the supply of narcotic drugs from countries such as Colombia or Afghanistan and the conditions which breed the terror which has become part of today's globalised political scene. Deputy Costello welcomed the Bill.
I was concerned by Deputy Costello's suggestion that the European arrest warrant would not be implemented. My understanding is that this is not the position. The member states assured the Justice, Equality and Home Affairs Council at a meeting this week that there would be full implementation of the European arrest warrant. All member states which have not yet implemented the legislation will do so in the months ahead. Deputy Costello was correct to state that provision has already been made for police co-operation in the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and the Europol legislation. However, this Bill will put that co-operation on a more formal footing among the member states of the EU by providing a legal framework for it.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh raised the question of the protection of fundamental rights. I assure the Deputy that the State will not participate in teams which do not respect fundamental human rights. He raised the question of whether this Bill should be referred to the Human Rights Commission. I will certainly raise the matter with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
Deputy Finian McGrath expressed the hope that the Bill will deal with the difficulties we have with the supply of drugs and human trafficking. There is no doubt that the implementation of the framework decision through this legislation will result in improved crime detection, investigation and prosecution of offences. It will also ensure that our boundaries do not militate against effective co-operation. This will be possible as a result of more speedy investigations arising from the fact that seconded members of a team can request their own national authorities to take measures which are required by the team without having to submit a request for mutual assistance. Seconded members may also share with the joint investigation team information which is already at their disposal, which is one of the advantages of this legislation.
Deputy Andrews was concerned that the measure did not contain certain other provisions. In the implementation of a framework decision of this character, which does not deal with crime prevention, we are constrained in what we can include in the legislation. As the Deputy indicated, the Bill gives effect to an EU framework decision. We must act within its scope in adopting the legislation. There are provisions in Part VII of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 to deal with crime prevention across borders and other matters.
I agree with Deputy Sargent that this Bill is not the answer to terrorism. No one Bill could be. However, it is one of a number of measures to deal with the problem. Further measures will be brought forward as necessary to deal with any ongoing and changing needs in that context. Deputy Sargent also raised a specific point relating to the composition of joint investigation teams. The persons who make up the teams will be specified in the agreements between the competent authorities of the member states involved. While most of those persons are likely to be law enforcement officers, persons who are not representatives of the competent authorities may also take part in the activities of the teams. This will allow a degree of flexibility in the formation of teams and permit additional assistance and expertise to be provided by appropriate persons from other states or international organisations. Examples include representatives of Europol, the Commission's anti-fraud body, OLAF, or non-member states. Persons authorised to participate in this way will act primarily in support or advisory roles. They will not be permitted to exercise the functions conferred on members or seconded members of a team unless such provision is specifically written into the agreement with the body or member state concerned.
Given the contemporary debate about sustaining confidence in the Garda, the matter of an ombudsman, which was raised by Deputy Deasy in opening the debate for the Opposition, is relevant. While the Garda Complaints Board deals with these matters currently, the Government is committed to the establishment of a Garda ombudsman commission to deal with complaints against the force. The Minister published the general scheme of the Garda Síochána Bill in July last year. The drafting of the Bill is at a very advanced stage and the Minister intends to publish it within a few weeks. The ombudsman will have comprehensive powers of investigation. The provisions in the proposed Bill will apply to members of the Garda operating on joint investigations teams conducting inquiries in the State.
I hope I have dealt with the points of substance relating to the Bill raised by Members. I know other points of substance were raised. I thank Members for their courtesy and interest.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: In accordance with an order of the House on 18 December 2003 the taking of any division shall be postponed until immediately after the Order of Business on Tuesday, 27 January 2004.
The Dáil adjourned at 1.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 27 January 2004.
Dáil Éireann 578 Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill 2003 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage (Resumed).