Seanad Éireann - Volume 101 - 06 July, 1983

Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill, 1983: Second Stage.

[779] Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East): The purpose of the Bill is to provide the criminal courts with a further sanction which they may apply in appropriate cases. Essentially, the Bill provides that where a person is convicted of an offence for which the court considers that in the ordinary way the appropriate sentence would be one of imprisonment, the court may, with the offender's consent, instead order him to perform a specified number of hours of unpaid work. The work would be of a kind which would benefit the community but which people could not readily be got to do in the ordinary way for pay. The arrangement of the work would be a matter for the Probation and Welfare Service of the Department of Justice and that service would be expected to find tasks for offenders which would be of a worthwhile nature. The work would also be carried out under the general supervision of the Probation and Welfare Service and under the direct supervision of voluntary or paid on-site supervisors.

Before going on to deal with the advantages which will follow from the passing of the Bill, I feel that the Bill ought to be put in perspective. While a very important and progressive piece of legislation, it is only one of a number of measures being taken and planned to cope with the problem of rising crime which concerns us all. For example, as already indicated, another Criminal Justice Bill is in the course of preparation which will include measures to deal with strengthening the power of the gardaí in dealing with persons suspected of having committed serious offences and with new measures to deal with the problem of offences committed by persons on bail.

Now I would like to return to the present Bill and the advantages of it. First of all, it would be of considerable advantage to the courts by giving them an extra [780] sanction and it will improve the ability of the courts to match the penalty to the crime. In some other jurisdictions where community service is already a court sanction rather striking use has been made of the principle of suiting the sanction to the crime: for example, State and municipal courts in the United States of America order traffic offenders to carry out work in hospitals, and in the Federal Republic of Germany juvenile courts can order young offenders with alcohol problems to help in homes for inebriates. However, I do not see it as important that there should be any close connection between the nature of the crime and the penalty imposed, but I think it would be quite appropriate, for example when offenders are convicted of acts of vandalism, that they should be required to repair the damage.

Community service orders have a number of advantages for offenders. First of all the making of the order will require the offender's consent and thus he will be given a say in the way in which he will repay the community for his criminal activity. An order would not upset the offender's daily routine because he could fulfil the obligations of the order in his spare time. Accordingly, he could continue with his education or employment. In addition, there would be the minimum disruption to the offender's family life. Then community service orders have the advantage to the community in that work of value to the community, which would not otherwise be done, would be performed under the orders. Some examples of this work would be: helping the disabled and the old with some of the problems which they have to face in dealing with their incapacities or helping organisations both voluntary and statutory which provide assistance for those people.

Other examples of the kind of work which might be undertaken are set out in a White Paper dealing with community service orders which was published in June 1981. Incidentally, the widely-distributed White Paper invited the public to give their views on community service orders and it is a source of some disappointment [781] to me that there were very few responses to it.

An important advantage of community service orders is the help they should give in containing any increases in the numbers being committed to custody. So, hopefully, community service orders would play their part in reducing the need to resort to the undesirable but necessary practice of “shedding” offenders from custody after they have served part of their sentences. However, it ought to be borne in mind that community service orders are not a panacea for the current pressure on prison accommodation: the immediate solution to this pressure lies in the provision of additional accommodation. In this regard moves have been made in the right direction by the recent opening of Loughan House as an open centre and of a second wing in Cork Prison.

Some members of the community may be slightly apprehensive about offenders coming to work among them. I would like to allay any such apprehension. In general in the Bill I have tried to achieve a situation whereby as far as possible there is little or no risk to the ordinary members of the community by reason of the fact that offenders are sent to work among them: first of all community service orders will not be an option to courts in respect of crime for which the law has provided a mandatory sentence. This would exclude offenders convicted of murder. Secondly, community service orders will not be an option open to the Special Criminal Court and accordingly community service orders would be ruled out for persons convicted of the serious offences which come before that court. Thirdly, the judge dealing with the case is required before making his decision to satisfy himself that the offender is a suitable person for community service and for this purpose to consider a report about the offender prepared by a probation and welfare officer. In addition while performing community service an offender will be under the general supervision of a probation and welfare officer as well as being under the direct supervision of the paid or voluntary on-site supervisors to whom I have already [782] referred. I am convinced that these safeguards are adequate and they should go a long way towards easing the worries which some people might have about community service.

Under the Bill offenders who are aged 16 years or older will be eligible for community service. The reason such a low age is being fixed is that community service orders have been found to be particularly suitable in the case of the young offender. In Britain the minimum age for community service orders was 17 years since the early seventies but, due to the success of the community service order for young offenders, the minimum age was reduced to 16 years a month or so ago. During the passing of the Bill through the Dáil it was suggested that the minimum age be reduced to 15 years, but this suggestion was opposed on the grounds that as a general rule persons under 16 years of age are not sentenced to detention in St. Patrick's Institution or to imprisonment, though they can be committed to institutions under the control of the Department of Education. It was considered that it was best not to interfere with this situation at least until the whole area of child care comes up for consideration in the context of the Children Bill now being prepared by the Minister for Health. The question of the proper way to dispose of charges where an offender is under 16 years is one which ought, more appropriately, to be considered in the wider context of that Bill rather than in a Criminal Justice Bill.

An important aim of the Bill is to try to ensure that compliance with the community service order will not jeopardise the offender's employment or his availability for employment or unduly disrupt his family life. The Bill, therefore, provides that directions as to the times for which an offender may be required to do the work as far as practicable will avoid any interference with the times the offender normally work or attends school and the Bill is framed on the basis that the work will be carried out in the District Court district where the offender resides. If he fails to comply with the order proceedings will be taken against him for such failure and he may be fined up to [783] £300 without prejudice to the continuance of the order. There is an alternative method, of course, of dealing with the offender for failure to comply with the community service order: he can be returned to the court which made the order and dealt with there for the original offence. The court to which he has returned may revoke the order. This might be appropriate if, for example, the offender was clearly determined to disregard the requirements of the order.

The Bill also provides that if the offender moves from one part of the country to another, for example in the course of his employment, the community service order may be amended to allow him to do his community service in the area to which he has moved.

It is necessary to provide in the Bill for a review of the community service orders when circumstances have changed since the order was made and the interests of justice dictate that it ought to be reviewed. Such review will be carried out by the District Court in the area where the offender resides. An example of where an order might be reviewed in the interests of justice could be where the offender, because of deterioration of his health or for family reasons, will be unable to continue with the work.

It is an important requirement of the Bill that the offender must have consented to the making of an order and I consider that I ought to explain why this requirement has been included. First, it would be highly unlikely that an offender would comply with the order unless he had accepted it in the first instance. Secondly, it is important that we do not breach the letter or even the spirit of international conventions dealing with forced labour to which we have subscribed. I anticipate that there will be no shortage of offenders who would consent to the making of community service orders: after all, the alternative is imprisonment or detention. I believe that many offenders will appreciate that there is a positive side to community service as opposed to the negative aspects of custodial sentences.

The Bill provides that the maximum and minimum periods of work under community [784] service orders shall be 240 hours and 40 hours respectively. When at first a sub-committee considered this particular aspect of community service in Britain they recommended a minimum of 40 hours and a maximum of 120 hours. However, in the course of the passage of the Bill through Parliament the upper limit was raised to 240 hours. Incidentally, France have how adopted the same limits. As regards the minimum number of hours I consider that anything much less than 40 hours would lead to administrative difficulties. The maximum of 240 hours seems to me to be about right. An order requiring very long hours could influence the offender as to whether he should continue to comply with the order.

The Bill provides that it should come into operation on such day as the Minister for Justice by order appoints. The selection and necessary training of staff for this scheme and the making of necessary rules and regulations will take some time but I can assure the House that there will be no unnecessary delay in bringing the Bill into operation.

Finally, I would like to reiterate that I consider the Bill to be important and progressive. The Bill brings into our criminal justice system a new sanction which is fundamentally different from other sanctions.

I am not advocating it as a panacea for all the ills of our court system or prison system, but I do recommend it as an important contribution, an alternative sanction which is progressive, liberal in intent, and which will help to deal with our problems of overcrowding in our prisons and in the shedding which has taken place from our prisons in recent years. I commend this Bill to the House.

Mr. E. Ryan: Many people will be disappointed that this Bill is being introduced rather than another one dealing with crime which is urgently required. This is a good Bill and I do not think it should be criticised merely because it is not another Bill. In the course of recent debates here, some of the measures brought forward were criticised very often because they were not something [785] else, I strongly feel that something should not be criticised for that reason. With the Minister's assurance that the other Bill is being introduced in the near future, we can devote ourselves to this one Bill and commend it for the very useful provisions in it.

There is no question whatever that we need to explore new methods of atonement, and new sanctions and this Bill provides a new approach in that respect, and for that reason it is very welcome. It is important not merely for what it does, but because it encourages the Oireachtas to look at this problem more closely, to explore the position and, hopefully, as a result of our discussions here today to introduce reforms in due course. In this connection would the Minister indicate whether his Department have further proposals of this kind, and if so, if he would perhaps indicate what they are?

The advantages of the Bill are very considerable. The fact that a person convicted of a crime can serve his sentence and at the same time continue his education or his job is a very good one. Also, there will be a minimum disruption of family life and a young offender will avoid associating with more experienced offenders, or hardened criminals as they are sometimes described. These are all important features of the Bill. Now the offender has some say in how he pays for his offence, in the sense that he is able to opt between going to the ordinary prison or accepting the proposals in this Bill. These are fairly important considerations and add to the constructive nature of this Bill and to the possibilities it opens up for further reforms of this kind. These proposals can only be introduced with the consent of the offender. It could not be otherwise for the reasons the Minister has outlined. The very fact that the offender does consent, that he does have an option, that he is allowed to take part in the consideration of how he should serve his sentence, may in many cases make the sentence, the way in which he atones for his crime, slightly more palatable.

Before making an order of this kind, apart from getting the consent of the offender, the judge must consider him [786] suitable. This is going to present some difficulty for judges. First, a judge must get a report from the probation officer and, having considered that report and the possibility that the offender might be a danger to the public, and having obviated that possibility he then can consider whether he should go ahead and introduce this form of sanction. There is also the difficulty of having a report in almost every case. I suppose the offender would have to be put back for sentence while the report is obtained and this means a great deal more work for the probation officers. I will be referring to that later.

The other question that arises is whether suitable work is available. In the initial stages if many offenders opt for this form and if the judge considers them suitable I think it is going to be difficult to find a sufficient amount of work. Another aspect which may give rise to some difficulties, to some comment at any rate, is the fact that there may be discrimation, not deliberate discrimination but discrimination nevertheless, in the sense that in some areas when an offender consents to do this kind of work, the work may not be available and he may have to go to prison, whereas a person in exactly similar circumstances in another area will be able to do work of a kind provided by this Bill. That will be discrimination. It could be argued of two people with equal degrees of guilt that one will have to serve his sentence in a much more objectionable way than the other and certainly would have some cause for complaint in this respect.

For the sanction to bear some relationship to the offence is certainly a very good idea indeed. For a person to be put to work repairing the damage he has done, as in the case of vandalism, or put working where he will see the result of similar offences, is an extremely good thought and should be introduced wherever possible. It may be very difficult to provide work of this kind and certainly in the initial stages we will have very few cases where it will be possible to provide suitable work of this kind for an offender. Nevertheless, the idea is an excellent [787] one, that of atoning tor a crime in a practical way by recompensing society.

In the present situation, before the introduction of this Bill, judges in many cases put back an offender for sentence and were influenced by the behaviour of the convicted person in the meantime and, in particular, by whether compensation was paid where possible. This was, in a sense, something similar to what we are talking about in this Bill. It was an excellent idea and one which judges might consider more often. I have no doubt that judges will be glad to have this additional option open to them, even though in some cases it may be difficult to decide whether it is the proper thing to do. Certainly to have an option open is something that most judges will be glad of, because the most difficult part of a judge's job is deciding what is an appropriate sentence.

In many cases, an offender may be an object of considerable pity, and all kinds of special family circumstances may make the judge inclined to be excessively lenient. The French have a proverb which says that to understand all is to forgive all. If the circumstances of every crime and the background to every offender were totally understood by a judge, then he would find it difficult to impose any sentence. This is a very serious problem for a judge, but he must think of society, of the wrong done to the public and to individuals and must sometimes be much less lenient than he might feel inclined to be. He also has to think of the danger of repetition if no deterrent exists and the danger to the public if offenders appear to get off scot-free.

Generally speaking, there have to be exceptions to every rule but, by and large, a judge must bear in mind the fact that crime does not pay and must not appear to pay. Consequently, judges will be grateful for an option such as this which, on the one hand, will be fairly lenient as far as the offenders are concerned and will avoid some of the harsh aspects of going to prison but will, nevertheless, show the offender and those who are watching what happens that he is not [788] going to get away completely with his offence.

Many judges are ill-equipped to deal with this question of penalties. A judicial appointee may be well versed in the law and may have very good experience in evaluating evidence and in assessing character, but very often he has no experience in deciding on appropriate sentences to strike a fair balance between the offender and the public. A recent motion here in regard to reform of the legal system referred to training courses, refresher courses, seminars and so on for judges. I would not be in favour of this in general terms, but if it is justified in any area, it is in this area of discussion and exchanging of experience in regard to appropriate sentences.

I would like to ask the Minister about a few points arising from this Bill. What will be the position in regard to the availability of probation officers? As far as I know, they are fully occupied at the moment but it is extremely unlikely that this Bill could be operated successfully without an additional number of officers. Not only are they going to have to provide reports, as mentioned in the Bill, before the judge makes up his mind, but in addition, they are going to have to supervise the work being done and to devise that work. The success of this Bill will depend entirely on the work of the probation officers on this new and additional arrangement. It seems inevitable that additional probation officers will have to be provided.

The Government are dedicated, and properly so, to not expanding employment in the public service because of the additional cost that this would entail, but in this instance an exception could be made because, on the one hand while there would be an additional cost of employing probation officers, on the other hand it would save a great deal of money by not sending these offenders to jail. There could be considerable justification for taking on extra officers in the particular circumstances where, in fact, the end result might be a saving of public expenditure, rather than additional expenditure.

I would also like to ask the Minister [789] what is the accommodation in regard to prisons at the moment? This Bill is partly to deal with the problem as well as to provide an extra means of dealing with offences. One of the reasons for its introduction and welcome is that it would ease the present position of lack of accommodation for offenders, resulting in other prisoners having to be let out before their time to allow new prisoners in.

The Minister did say somewhere recently, possibly in the debate on this Bill in the Dáil, that contrary to public belief there was not a very large increase in the number of prisoners in the country over the past five or ten years. On the other hand, we have had a new wing in Cork and some additional accommodation in Loughan House. Perhaps the Minister would give us the accommodation position at the present time with these additions. Is it now possible to accommodate all offenders sentenced to terms of imprisonment and, with the provisions of this Bill, will the accommodation problem be less serious in the future?

The other point is: are there any open or semi-open prisons in the country at the moment, ones that would be half-way between the ordinary prison and what is provided for in this Bill? I understand that there is such a prison in Wicklow and would be glad to know whether that is the case. If so, approximately what accommodation is provided in these kinds of open or semi-open prisons? Generally, this is an excellent Bill and will have our full support.

Mr. Durcan: I would like to join with Senator Ryan in welcoming this Bill. The Bill, in effect, provides an alternative sanction for the courts in dealing with offenders who come before the courts and, as such, represents a radical departure. All too frequently in the past, the administration of justice and, indeed, those who administer justice, have been condemned and criticised unfairly because of the ineffectiveness of the sanctions available to the courts and to those who administer justice. I welcome this Bill also because it provides a suitable sanction in a situation where our prisons are overcrowded and where for many [790] crimes now coming before the courts custodial sentences or custodial orders are not suitable sanctions. Furthermore, the Bill must be welcomed because this heralds a positive approach to crime. On the one hand, the operation of this Bill, if successful, should help the criminal — or the offender as the Bill terms him or her: on the other hand, the Bill by its very nature should in its operation prove beneficial to society.

Anybody who attends our courts frequently sees in operation the dilemma with which the Judiciary in criminal courts are faced. On the one hand, they are faced with the plea of defence lawyers who point out to the court the problem which a custodial order could occasion to their client. Problems of family background, of family finance, of hardship, of individual inadequacy will all be pointed out to a justice or a judge as being good reasons why an offender should not be sentenced to prison. On the other hand the judge as the person administering justice in any court is faced with his duty to see that society is protected. He may have before him somebody who has a list of previous convictions, convictions which in all respect have offended society in an open and public way and yet he is faced with this dilemma whether, on the one hand, he should give the offender a second, third or fourth chance and perhaps thereby do some good for the offender or, on the other hand, he should take a step which some might argue would be for the benefit of society, namely, to sent the offender to prison.

Frequently, we see our judges and justices faced with the dilemma of trying to evaluate the difference between administering justice on the one hand and applying the law on the other. It takes, as Senator Ryan said, an exceptional judge or an exceptional justice to walk that very narrow path between those two distinct concepts. Therefore, the Bill in its radical nature, by providing an alternative sanction does something which should make it easier for those administering justice to find their way along the narrow path. The administration of the Bill and the implementation of its terms would seem to lie overwhelmingly in the [791] hands of probation officers. Perhaps that is a good thing. As I see our probation service, it seems generally to work satisfactorily. The officers who operate that service certainly are people who are equipped and trained to implement the provisions of this Bill.

I would like the Minister, when he comes to making regulations for the implementation of the terms of this Bill, to take steps which would ensure that the probation service would link up with various other organs of State. I refer to Manpower, the Youth Employment Agency, local authorities and various voluntary organisations, which increasingly are playing a linked role with State and semi-State organisations at all levels in our society, and finally with the Garda Síochána. There may be those who would criticise a link up between the operation of this scheme and the Garda Síochána because in all cases the Garda Síochána are those who prosecute for crimes coming before our courts. Nevertheless, it is a good idea because in rural Ireland the Garda operate very much as a community force. We have gardaí in small towns and villages who are aware of the social circumstances and background, the qualities and problems of offenders.

My experience of watching gardaí at work dealing with offenders and with people who come before the courts, is that by and large they operate in a very helpful way and indeed there seems now to be a very good working relationship between the probation service on the one hand and the Garda Síochána on the other hand in helping offenders to find their way out of crime.

There are certain areas of work to which offenders could be directed. The unpleasant graffiti we see on so many walls could be removed for the public good. Removal of litter which in many circumstances is becoming quite a nuisance, particularly in public places, despite the enactment of recent legislation, is another area. I could also mention here voluntary organisations. I would also see a role for offenders in improving the appearance of every town and village in the country for the Tidy Towns competition. [792] It is only by taking steps of that nature—by ensuring that we become tidier where we are untidy—that we can steer people, in a broader sense, away from crime. By directing offenders to work of that nature we would not merely be helping the offender but, overall, the work done would be a help to society.

Another work area into which I would like to see offenders moving would be the preservation of national monuments. We have a problem of lack of finance in this area and many of our national monuments are crumbling. With the help of the Office of Public Works and of local authorities steps could be taken to get offenders involved in that kind of work also. I just mention these matters because the Minister has to make regulations under this Bill. I would like to see this legislation operating as far as possible within the confines of these matters.

At the moment at District Court level the justice has four options in dealing with any offender. He can sentence the offender to prison; he can place the offender on probation; he can apply the Probation Act and he can adjourn the charge—which to my mind can often prove a very effective measure. I have already mentioned in relation to custodial orders that these frequently do not seem to have satisfactory effects. This may be due to a number of reasons. It may be due to the unsatisfactory nature of our prison service, if it is unsatisfactory, and I am not in any way condemning it. It may be due to overcrowding. It may be due to any number of factors, but it does seem that people who serve prison sentences, even for a short period, at the end of the day do not appear to have improved and society therefore continues to suffer all the more.

With regard to the second manner in which a judge or justice can deal with an offender—namely, placing the offender on probation—the probation service appears to be working satisfactorily. In its operation there could and should be a closer continuing relationship between the service and its officers on the one hand and the offender and his defending lawyers on the other hand. After an order has been made. that relationship ceases. [793] It can be argued that the relationship may continue with the offender but in many cases it is important that that relationship should continue with the offender's lawyer.

The final sanction open to a judge or justice is that of adjourning charges. This matter is important as it relates to this Bill in a general sense, particularly in rural areas where offences which are of a community nature come before the courts. I am referring to dancehall rows, assaults in public places and so on. A judge or justice should use the adjournment procedure as a deterrent and a warning that if there was any repetition of this conduct a final order would be made.

I mentioned earlier that in the operation of this Bill I would like to see a link between certain organs of the State, in particular in this context with the Garda Síochána. In rural areas we are lucky to have the benefit of a resident Garda establishment in most of our villages and small towns, where there is a close relationship between all members of society and their protectors. That role is one which has developed. Older members of the House living in rural areas will remember the role of the Garda in dealing with agricultural census returns, with ordinary census of population returns and even in dealing with social welfare matters. There was a time in the not too distant past when old age pension books were always first delivered by a member of the Garda Síochána. There are those who now condemn that role of the garda within the community. It is an excellent role as it has the effect of keeping gardaí closely in touch with the population, of providing them readily with a basis for obtaining information and knowing exactly what the community is doing.

I am not wandering from the Bill, as we are speaking about community work and community policing and the administration of justice in a broad community sense. We are operating a pilot scheme in rural areas which can have the ultimate effect of removing gardaí from a residential basis into central locations. While at all times providing a Garda presence in every village where there was formerly a [794] resident garda, nevertheless the gardaí will not have to be resident in rural areas. The Minister should look at this scheme in his concern for the operation and administration of justice and the maintenance of law and order in rural areas. The Department should ask themselves if the operation of the pilot scheme will have the effect of keeping in closer contact with those in rural areas, if it will have the effect of ensuring that the gardaí know what is happening in rural areas. I think that it will not. Ultimately gardaí will be travelling out from the larger central barrack towns to the various villages with Garda stations, for one or two hours per day and that is not a satisfactory situation.

I would like to mention specifically one or two matters in relation to this Bill. Section 2, referring to the persons to whom the Bill applies may be a little restrictive. It refers to people over the age of 16 years. The Minister referred to the lowering of the age limit in Britain from 17 years to 16 years and gave certain reasons as to why the particular age limit is applied. I am concerned about situations where people under the age of 16 commit crimes against society and where their parents would be anxious, for a number of reasons, that the provisions of the Bill should operate. One can argue against this point of view by saying that there are international conventions dealing with ages of work and so on but nevertheless if a parent gives his or her consent to the provisions of the Bill operating for a person of a younger age, the judge or justice should be able, with the parents' consent to make the provisions of the Bill applicable.

Section 4 deals basically with matters which a judge or justice must consider in applying the Bill with the offender's consent. It is not specifically stated but suggested that he should have before him a written report from the probation officer. Is that not too cumbersome? Other than those specific matters, the Bill is an excellent measure. In a very unassuming way, it is a radical departure — a departure which in the administration of justice will prove very effective, if properly implemented.

[795] Mr. B. Ryan: As one who has almost established a reputation for often bashing the Department of Justice, I enthusiastically welcome the Bill. It is a progressive measure, an imaginative measure and my rather frequent contacts with the Minister in the last few months have convinced me that it is a measure that will be implemented imaginatively as well. I have, therefore, great hopes for the Bill.

At a time when we have something close to a panic about crime and about the apparent ineffectiveness of our law enforcement and of our prison system to do what our society collectively expect these things to do, it is good and courageous that this legislation, which will not appeal to many in terms of how they believe instinctively the crime problem should be dealt with, should be before us.

I use that phrase “something close to a panic” about the country's crime problem but the reality is that, of course, it is terrible and terrifying every time an elderly person is beaten up and a young girl is assaulted, when we have armed robberies in the streets of towns and cities that ten years ago did not know what an armed robbery was, except from what they saw in a wild west movie of something that happened thousands of miles away a hundred years ago. We are in a position at this stage to respond imaginatively to our crime problem.

Let there be no doubt about it, one solution to crime, unquestionably, is extraordinarily severe penalties, extraordinary legal powers for the police force and an extraordinarily rigid prison system. Anybody who visited, say, Spain, during the regime of General Franco will testify that crime was then at a very low level. Anybody who visited many of the countries in Eastern Europe for instance, will know that one can walk with absolute safety through the not too well lit streets of East Berlin, or Dresden, or Bucharest late at night and feel quite safe.

Whether you talk from the right or from the left, extreme measures will work. What is true is that if the demand for more police powers, more sanctions [796] and more imprisonment were satisfied it would not make a difference. The only sort of sanction that would really have a deterrent effect would be socially unacceptable here, apart from anything else. That is my view on it and I suspect it is the view of many people in the Department of Justice. What is extraordinary is the length of time it has taken for the new Criminal Justice Bill actually to emerge. There may be different views about different aspects of it, but we will await that Bill.

Politicians have a duty to keep things in perspective in the area of crime. We have reached the stage now when many people from rural Ireland are quite frightened about coming to Dublin because of the panic about crime. However, they will go on continental holidays to the capital cities of Europe and quite happily stroll around late at night, even though the objective evidence is that many of these are much more crime-ridden than Dublin. So we have an obligation not to frighten ourselves into a panic in the way that, for instance, people in the United States have done.

The Bill is a major attempt to re-define punishment or penalties for offenders outside the prison system for the areas of offences where prison would be the normal penalty. That is a major almost revolutionary reforming measure. It is imaginative, it is new and I suspect that it will produce the problems of local acceptability, and community acceptability that were mentioned by the Minister and in the White Paper also. Politicians have a habit of being in favour of various good causes at a safe distance. Everybody is in favour of looking after the travelling people at a safe distance. Everybody is in favour of looking after homeless people at a safe distance. Indeed, there are occasions when people have taken some exception to looking after even handicapped people when they come too close.

When community service orders begin to be introduced and to be a part of court procedures, I hope that all of us public representatives will not begin to jump on whichever is the politically appropriate bandwagon to prevent individuals who [797] may be convicted of relatively serious crime getting involved in community service work in the area because of one or two people. This is a method of treatment of offenders which has worked, and worked very well in other countries and has worked with our young people. As one who regards himself as a professional liberal, I am always disappointed to have to record that whether you treat young offenders by the harsh regime that some theorists espouse or by the much more liberal rehabilitative, educational regimes that other people espouse, most of the evidence is that at the end of it all you do not get much difference in terms of control or further offences and so on. There is no really proven method, will all the experiments that have been done in western society.

Professor Dooge: The intention of the House is to take the expediency motions at 7 o'clock but if that debate does not run to 8.30 p.m. it will be possible to resume this Second Stage debate.

Acting Chairman (Séamus de Brún): I am in the hands of the House. What is the decision? I was given an indication to watch the clock at 6 o'clock and I understood that it was the intention to adjourn for tea.

Mr. B. Ryan: When can I expect to resume the debate?

Professor Dooge: There are two alternatives. The Senator will resume the debate some time between 7 p.m. and 8.30 p.m., the question of establishing the two new committees having been dealt with, or otherwise we will resume it at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended at 6.05 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.