Seanad Éireann - Volume 152 - 12 November, 1997
Europol Bill, 1997: Second Stage (Resumed).
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Acting Chairman (Mr. Finneran) Acting Chairman (Mr. Finneran)
Acting Chairman (Mr. Finneran): Senator Fitzgerald is in possession and has ten minutes remaining. He wishes to share his time with Senator McGowan. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. L. Fitzgerald Mr. L. Fitzgerald
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Before I adjourned the debate I was discussing the options between rehabilitative and punitive measures. A Senator on the other side of the House stated that there were options but, in fact, there are not as we all know. A long-term strategy, such as that supported by the Minister and the Government, is a wide ranging rehabilitative programme targeting various communities.
In the short and medium terms, however, a punitive programme of imprisonment for those most guilty has to be pursued and expanded to relieve communities under siege. Communities throughout the country, rural and urban, are being ravaged by the scourge of drug abuse. According to this evening's papers the evil princes of darkness are using urban cowboys on horseback to promulgate their evil deeds for phenomenal gain. They must be put out of circulation, as must those who co-operate with them.
The Minister outlined a series of commendable initiatives. I want to refer in particular to his proposal to revise the Juvenile Justice Bill to take account of the problem of child pornography, which is becoming endemic. I want to castigate the previous Minister who, even though she brought in commendable legislation to deal with drug trafficking and money laundering, failed miserably in the area of juvenile justice.
When challenged in the Lower House as to what was being done about preparing legislation on juvenile justice, the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton, said nothing had been done. I told him that was totally inaccurate. A number of Deputies, including the present Minister, served on a crime committee chaired by Senator Quill who was then a Deputy. We did a phenomenal amount of work but despite all that the previous Government failed abjectly over a two year period to address the question of juvenile justice and simply ran away from it. Despite posturing and repeated promises from both the former Taoiseach and the former Minister for Justice, no such legislation was introduced.
Mr. Connor Mr. Connor
Mr. Connor: Utter cant.
Mr. L. Fitzgerald Mr. L. Fitzgerald
 Mr. L. Fitzgerald: That needs to be emphasised.
Mr. Connor Mr. Connor
Mr. Connor: The Senator should not deceive the House.
Acting Chairman Acting Chairman
Acting Chairman: Senator Fitzgerald, without interruption.
Mr. L. Fitzgerald Mr. L. Fitzgerald
Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Now that the Fine Gael spokesman is here, I condemn the failure of the previous Minister and the previous Government for not introducing the Juvenile Justice Bill.
Mr. McGowan Mr. McGowan
Mr. McGowan: I welcome the Bill. The expectations of those living in rural areas are high because, even before the Minister was appointed, people were aware of his determination, concern and knowledge of the problems. His appointment as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was welcome to those who must fight the drug barons. I compliment the Minister for a positive and determined campaign. Criminals know the resources of the State will be applied to make things more difficult for them. The Minister is committed to his job and is determined to obtain results. I have total confidence that he will be successful.
The county I represent has a more difficult problem in this regard than the rest of the country because in addition to the problems experienced in rural areas and cities, we have 100 miles of a long Border which runs from Derry to Dundalk, including all the difficulties concerning those who cross the Border illegally. It is an area which is nearly impossible to police.
Today, I received a fax from Letterkenny which contained an article from the Derry People of 7 October 1997. The headlines in the newspaper are alarming and, while they may be used to highlight the problem, I hope they are not true. The article stated that:
A former member of the recently established cross-Border anti-drugs group described as highly alarming comments by the head of the Northern Ireland drugs squad that his hands were tied in dealing with problems because members of the Special Branch exchanged free passage of drugs for information on terrorists.
I do not believe that any responsible police force worthy of the name would allow that to happen. Whatever the interest in securing information about paramilitaries, I do not believe that a policeman would allow drugs to pass as a price for obtaining information on criminals. Nevertheless, that is alarming information which makes life difficult for those who, like the Minister, are legislating. People will never accept that a legislative system can solve all the problems.
There is quite a bit of scaremongering which makes it more difficult to put such a policing system in place in rural areas. This concerns those who run discos, dances and other functions in the Border areas. Often in discos and such like boys  and girls are asked if they would like something to cheer them up as a way of getting them to take drugs. Policing this scene is a major job.
We must support the Minister in his campaign to clean up the drugs scene. The newspaper headlines only tell us about the big drug hauls, but there are Garda successes every day involving the capturing of smaller quantities.
The use of plain clothes gardaí represents the best effort in the fight against drugs. Will the Minister consider deploying a drugs squad on the Border which will undertake searches? Travelling recently from County Donegal I saw a garda take possession of a cattle trailer and was delighted to note gardaí deploying spot checks on all kinds of vehicles.
Many small Garda stations have been closed in my county yet it has now been suggested that there is a need for gardaí to return to the beat on foot or on bicycles. While that is good in theory, it is no longer feasible in practice. However, the Minister should consider using more plain clothes gardaí as it is the only way he will be successful.
We must allay the fears of those living in rural areas. It is not uncommon for people to have automatic security lights at the front and rear of their homes. Other kinds of costly security systems, which are perhaps necessary, are now in place in rural areas where people live alone.
The Minister's determination will help convince people that we are all in this together. If the public is to be safe the Minister must be successful. The issue is far too serious to become a political football. Any politician who does not take seriously concerns about policing, drugs and crime is out of touch. They should get priority funding and I hope the Minister will get sufficient funds to successfully put the drug barons and criminals in rural Ireland out of business.
Mr. Coghlan Mr. Coghlan
Mr. Coghlan: As a fellow county man and constituency colleague I welcome the Minister to the House and wish him well in his important and difficult ministry. There can be no doubting his bona fides regarding zero tolerance and positive action against serious criminals whether involved in drugs or engaged in organised crime. His intent is beyond reproach.
The country has learnt to great cost that criminality does not lack mobility. I welcome the Minister's commitment to provide an additional 1,000 prison spaces within two years, to increase Garda numbers to 12,000 over the next few years, to encourage various Garda operational initiatives and to strengthen the hands of the Garda in fighting serious crime.
The Minister is also serious and well intentioned in his resolve to close off any loopholes which are exploited by criminals. I look forward to the promised criminal justice legislation.
The demanning of Garda stations is not customer friendly and does not inspire confidence. Gardaí must be brought back to rural areas because crime has become increasingly prevalent.  The severe beatings of elderly people is an example.
The gardaí deserve great credit for their recent drug seizures and I welcome the extra facilities which this legislation will give them in fighting the drugs menace in the future. The purposes of the Bill are to facilitate the exchange of information between member states; to obtain, collate and analyse information and intelligence; to notify the competent authorities of the member states without delay, via the national units of information concerning them, of any connections identified between criminal offences; to aid investigations of the member states by forwarding all relevant information to the national units and to maintain a computerised system of collected information. I welcome this, but I sound a note of warning regarding the maintenance of a computerised system of collected information.
Some of the experts on computer hacking are versatile. Arising from that, there are two possible causes of concern. One refers to possible breaches of constitutional rights. We are blest with a written Constitution which respects the liberty of the citizen and personal and privacy rights. There is the possibility that we could subject the citizens of this State to less stringent protections which pertain in other states where our constitutional values are not so effectively protected. Persons in this country may have effective remedies in constitutional law against possible breaches of data protection procedures, but can such remedies be effective in a European context?
The second cause for concern refers to breaches of data protection. Living in the cyber age, where there is a huge amount of information at our fingertips, increasing use of computerised systems to gather, store and distribute data about individuals may have adverse implications for various persons. There has been a high level of compliance by data compilers and data bureaux with principles which seek to promote fair and honest dealing in respect of the gathering, storing, use and disclosure of personal data. I take it that all our European partners have implemented the data protection directive. If he has not already done so, I am sure the Minister will address this issue in his reply.
The scope for reform in this area might relate to the need for a more stringent checking system in respect of the type and amount of information stored. The probable fault of this legislation is the lack of independent scrutiny by specialists in the field of data protection — namely, the Data Protection Commissioners — of information which is passed on from this country. Another shortcoming of the Bill lies in the absence of a definite cut-off in terms of the types of crimes covered. A broad ambit is given regarding the type of crimes in respect of which Europol will have competence to retain information. The main provisions of the convention allow for progressive development of the types of crime which will be covered. There  should be some control over the progression of that development because there must be a cut-off point. Combating terrorism and unlawful drug trafficking can be justifiable but an extension into crimes involving motor vehicles might not be.
That said, I welcome the Minister's intent and the Bill. It is highly desirable that a measure to further combat organised and serious crime should come before the House. I support it fully on that basis.
Dr. Henry Dr. Henry
Dr. Henry: I will spare the Minister my speech on why, instead of providing a further 1,000 prison places, he should expand the probation service and give it proper resources. However, in a debate of this sort I must revisit my speech concerning trafficking in women and children throughout Europe.
Members' contributions have concentrated on the drug trafficking element of crime in Europe. However, as the Minister stated, it is important to recognise that where drug trafficking occurs there will also be trafficking in women and children. The latter has become a multi-million pound criminal operation and there is evidence that it is being committed throughout the world on a daily basis.
There are elements of the Europol Bill to which one could raise objections and it is regrettable that there has been little public debate about its provisions. However, despite my reservations, I support the Bill. I attended the 1996 conference on the sexual exploitation of children which was held in Stockholm. The declaration brought forward at that conference stressed the essential need for co-operation between police, customs officials and judicial and social welfare authorities at national and international level. Travel is now so much easier that it is ridiculous to tackle such problems on a national basis. Therefore, information must be shared between various countries.
I am glad the Bill will include provisions to stop trafficking in people. It is extraordinary that this new form of slavery is so widespread that every country recognises the need to legislate against it. When the Europol drugs unit was established at the end of 1996, it was quickly agreed that trafficking in people in addition to trafficking in drugs must also be included under its ambit. This is an unfortunate development but it is recognised in the Bill.
I am concerned about a number of aspects of the Bill. The Minister referred to Interpol in his contribution but I can find no reference to it in the Bill. It is essential that the lines of communication between the newly established Europol and Interpol should be clear. At present, there are units of Interpol in each country and it would be a great pity if there was a lack of communication between these units and their counterparts in Europol. I am sure the Minister has not forgotten this and I hope it will be emphasised when the Bill is enacted and implemented. If it is not, the two agencies might run in parallel to each  other and there could be a lack of co-operation and co-ordination. We must also avoid the duplication of manpower and resources, which is vital to the success of the Bill.
The Bill seems to be concerned in the main with what is coming into the European Union and not with what is going out of it. Clandestine emigration seems to be stressed more than the trafficking of people into the European Union and within it. Emphasis does not seem to have been laid on what is going out of the EU. This is important because last week's newspapers reported the case of a Chinese child who was discovered by an alert policeman at Milan Airport. The child was travelling on a Japanese passport and in the company of a Chinese woman to Miami. I do not know the legislation under which the authorities managed to stop the child's journey. It was later discovered that the operation was run by a paedophile ring which exploits Chinese children by shipping them through Italy to the United States. Will Europol be in a position to deal with such cases? The child involved was not entering Italy but was merely being shipped through that country. Will the Minister indicate whether Europol will be empowered to deal with this sort of activity? As far as I understand it, the policeman could only arrest the woman and child because they were travelling on false passports. It is important that the legislation be designed to deal with such cases.
Mary Banotti, MEP, liases in cases where children are abducted from their native country to another jurisdiction. I accept that these are often family situations but the tragedy affects everyone involved. The world is a large place. How carefully will Europol monitor this? For example, last year children from Ireland were abducted and brought to Western Samoa and they only returned home with great difficulty. Will consideration be given to those abducted and brought out of Europe? Will the Minister provide assurances that the emphasis will not merely be placed on people entering Europe?
The Bill places a certain amount of emphasis on the expansion of the European Union into central and eastern Europe, including the Baltic states. These countries appear to have a pre-accession pact so that their authorities will be in co-ordination with Europol before they enter the Union — they may not do so for many years. It is important to remember that huge numbers of people are trafficked from eastern Europe into western Europe because they are less recognisable and more easily hidden than, for example, people from the Far East. Approximately 500,000 women are annually brought into western Europe. I do not know how many come from eastern Europe but this is a major operation. One must hope that Europol will be given vast resources because it will not be easy to tackle this huge task. The Schengen Treaty has made a major difference in respect of the movement of people. However, we must be careful that we do not merely focus on the movement of goods such  as drugs, laundered money, etc. We must remember that the movement of people is equally important.
The training of the police force will be vital. What resources are being provided to train the police to deal with language problems? This is a serious problem for refugees, especially with the change in the criteria by which people can be stopped either on the Border with Northern Ireland or at ports or airports. People can have great difficulty trying to explain themselves if they are not English speakers. I heard on the radio, for instance, that people with strong Belfast accents were not recognised by the police on a bus in Northern Ireland the other day; how much more difficult would it be for refugees? I am not asking that all the should be able to speak the Serbo-Croat dialects, but it is important that we try to make available language facilities for the police when they deal with these problems.
Senator Norris, in particular, spoke about the right to privacy of data on computer. The rights of individuals are precious to all of us; this is another area on which it is a pity there has not been more debate. The data on computer are not nearly as important as to whom they are accessible. I know careful safeguards are being given but I would query how the confidentiality of the data will be maintained, knowing that already there has been difficulty with the data collected by Interpol.
Many people got excited about starting a database on people who have committed crimes associated with children — paedophiles. Will there be any reference on this international database to such crimes or must the person be found to have committed a crime in another country before they will be on the database?
There is much for which these databases could be used that would be very useful. For example, they could be used to put together a centralised register for missing children. This is very important because children are abducted from one country to another. The advent of the Channel Tunnel, for instance, has made it so much easier to abduct children from Ireland to the common travel area in England and on into continental Europe before taking them further. The setting up of such an international register would be important.
Many young people who disappear are never placed on any register. Sometimes their families think they are sleeping rough in a large urban area and if they have come from State homes, it is not noticed that they have gone missing. It is important to remember that nine of the people who were murdered by Frederick West in England had not been reported missing. There are many good things which this register could bring together. The lack of co-ordination and co-operation between countries has been a great deficiency in the past and I am sure the Minister will address this important area.
There are a couple of paragraphs in the explanatory memorandum to which I want to  refer. First, there is no mention of Interpol in paragraph 15, which states that each member state's national unit will be the sole liaison body between Europol and national authorities. I hoped there would be a mention of the international element there, that we must look at more than the European situation.
Second, it appears from paragraph 17 which deals with section 3(6) that there seems to be a reticence to place Customs and Excise officers in these units immediately. I realise the Minister is appointing the national unit under the Garda Síochána but the procedure seems fairly cumbersome. Surely these people should be in the first line of defence. The commissioner will have to get permission from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Finance but what happens if the Minister for Finance says “No” because it is a lean year? I would have preferred more emphasis to be put on the Customs and Excise personnel because they will be the first line of defence. Unless we can ensure that they are given a prominent position, I do not know how well the unit will do. The Minister might address that matter too.
Section 4 is rather cumbersome. According to paragraph 22 of the explanatory memorandum, Customs and Excise officers can only be sent after the Garda Commissioner has consulted with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and any other Minister, such as the Minister for Finance, as appropriate. It seems a tedious way to involve some of the most important people in getting this unit up and working.
This has so much to do establishing communication and co-ordination between the European police forces that I will support the Bill even though I know our civil rights must be carefully guarded because they are easily eroded. Nowadays there are elements of crime which cannot possibly be addressed on a national basis. For example, every day English girls arrive from Madrid on the way to some other country carrying drugs. This is not a situation which could be tackled on a national level. I am glad the Bill was introduced but I wish there had been more public debate.
Dr. Haughey Dr. Haughey
Dr. Haughey: I wish to share my time with Senator Lydon.
Acting Chairman Acting Chairman
Acting Chairman: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Dr. Haughey Dr. Haughey
Dr. Haughey: I welcome the Minister to the House. This Bill appears very comprehensive and necessary. Like previous speakers, I support it and commend it to the House.
Any legislation which enhances the powers of the forces of law and order to bring to justice drug barons and international criminals must be supported. At the same time we must be careful that in so doing we are not diluting the abilities of the Garda Síochána, which is doing a first rate  job at present with reduced resources when one considers the technology which criminals now have at their fingertips, in what are often extremely difficult circumstances.
I do not see any provisions in the Bill telling us from where the money is coming to pay for the additional manpower which will be necessitated by this Bill nor did I hear mention of it. I presume the introduction of this Bill came about because we are fulfilling an obligation to our European partners and European legislation. Nevertheless, it is good legislation and must be supported.
The collation of data on computer, to which Senators referred, which will make the job of catching the abovementioned criminals more efficient, must be supported. However, one must also express a degree of alarm when one reads articles such as that in a local newspaper to which Senator McGowan referred. Whether the article was true or false, we must take these matters seriously and investigate them. If we are to enact legislation which will collate a great deal of personal data on computer, we must be mindful of the fact that some police forces may not be so well meaning and the data may be used for the purposes of political oppression.
The Garda Síochána is doing a first rate job under difficult circumstances but we have an obligation to enable it do an ever better job. Rural Garda stations are often fitted with a “green man” but this is not working. We must get the garda out of the motor car, into the community, on to the roads and if necessary back on his bike, even if it is a motorbike. The presence of a garda creates security in a community and encourages respect among the young. When young people see gardaí passing by in cars they do not have the same respect for them as we did growing up. I cherish the day when the local garda, priest or school master could give a young person a cuff across the ear for misbehaving. That day will not return but we must provide a substitute.
This legislation will bring us into line with our European partners, although I hope the new agency does not cut across the duties of Interpol. The Bill must be sensibly and sensitively operated. We must we careful not to dilute the work of our current police force and that the Bill does not become a double-edged weapon.
Mr. Lydon Mr. Lydon
Mr. Lydon: This is an important Bill the provisions of which must be examined within the wider context of European integration. Ten years have passed since the Single European Act and four years since the Treaty on European Union, at which time we saw considerable scepticism about Europe in general and, in some countries, European integration. This was due to the emergence of severe economic and social problems which seemed too difficult for anyone to settle. The first of these was unemployment, especially in many economies which were not managed as well as ours; the second was organised crime, including drug trafficking, arms dealing, computer crime, pornography, etc. It is quite clear  that unless these problems are addressed — if they prove capable of solution — the process of European integration may be halted or even reversed.
Reasonable gains have been made through integration and no one wants these to be lost. Most people agree that no one state can solve these problems on its own. This is especially true regarding organised crime, which has a trans-European dimension and must be tackled on that basis. One task which has been identified by the European Council is a new security order, which is being addressed by this Bill. In the Dáil debate on 30 September, the Minister said:
I intend to take seriously the duty of the State to protect the citizen's rights to live in peace, free from the fear of criminal intrusion. Time and again I have said that in the hierarchy of obligations, the obligation of a sovereign Government to protect its people and its property is a superior one.
It is for that reason I support this Bill. The priority of the protection of European citizens is being advanced at both European and national level. We must tackle crime and this is one of the best ways to do it.
However, although I am a committed European and support the Bill, I have certain worries about it. What does the man in the street know or feel about a pan-European police force? No debate has taken place in the media on this. It is all very well to see on television an FBI man overriding local police and cleaning up a mess, but how would an Irish citizen react to a German, French or Italian policeman in Cahirciveen or Killybegs? It is incumbent on us to discuss the legislation and promulgate its provisions to a much wider audience. This must be part of an ongoing effort to help the public understand the provisions of the Bill.
I am also worried about the intelligence gathering provisions. How will this information be stored and in what detail? Will it be kept forever or will it be disposed of? On a recent BBC television programme, a police chief admitted to having 30 million people on file, including anyone who attended an Aldermaston march, who was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or Amnesty International or who had been involved in university politics. Big Brother has gone a little too far.
One provision of the Bill mentions a monitoring body. Who will be the judge of this? How will this person access information and know whether rights are being violated without becoming involved in an ongoing judicial process? The Bill also provides that information will only be stored if that is strictly necessary. Who will decide that? Will it be the monitoring body? Article 10 of the convention states:
Europol, in addition to data of a non-personal nature, may store, modify, and utilize other files … concerning … persons who might be called on to testify in investigations  … persons who may be victims of the offences … contacts and associates, and … persons who can provide information on the criminal offences under consideration.
That is extremely wide.
I applaud the Minister's attitude to crime but some of the Bill's provisions are frightening and if we discussed them at length I am sure they would be modified. Article 19 states:
Where the law of the Member State applied to provides for a communication concerning data, such communication shall be refused if such refusal is necessary to:
(1) enable Europol to fulfil its duties properly …
What does “properly” mean in that context — does it mean “efficiently” or “effectively”? It is a rather vague word. A provision of Article 19(5) seems to require correction; it states:
Europol, in close co-operation with the national authorities concerned, shall carry out the checks and notify the enquirer that is has done so …
I presume that should read “it has done so”. It may not make much difference but it could give rise to a constitutional problem if it is not corrected because this is a far-reaching Bill.
Why are the headquarters to be in the Netherlands? There may be a good reason for it being there rather than in Dublin. The convention states that Europol's employees shall enjoy the privileges and immunities necessary for the performance of their tasks. That is also vague and can be interpreted to stop anyone investigating any steps taken in this regard. The list of other crimes which can be added include the trade in human organs and tissue, computer crime, the illicit traffic in endangered animal species, and the illicit traffic in hormonal substances and other growth promoters.
This is an important Bill with wide-ranging effects for our population, more so than is realised even by those who have read it cursorily. It has huge implications for private citizens whose rights are affected even in a small sense. The Minister may not agree but it is a strong Bill. I am aware of the need for this body because I know the results of drug taking and organised crime — we see them world wide. Nevertheless, we must be careful not to move too far to the right. I do not suggest the Minister would do that but I share the fears of other Members in that respect.
I commend the Bill. It is necessary because society unfortunately demands such action and we cannot be found wanting. As the Minister said in the Dáil, the protection of the citizen must be paramount in our endeavours.
Ms O'Meara Ms O'Meara
Ms O'Meara: I agree with many of the points made by Senator Lydon. I welcome this important Bill which is unfortunately necessary.  It marks our responsibility to our European neighbours in the context of our membership of the EU. We have a responsibility to translate EU conventions into domestic law and, in a wider context, to play our part in combating crime at European level.
It is only when one examines the Bill that one realises this process has only begun. The process is difficult and legislation such as this must be debated in a more public fashion. We repeat frequently that the public needs to be included in debate on legislative matters such as this but I have not heard any proposals for mechanisms to ensure such inclusion. Senator Norris said that the European Parliament was not consulted on this legislation. The explanatory memorandum to the Bill states that the convention “… provides for progressive development of the types of crimes in respect of which Europol will have competence”. Therefore, this is just a starting point. I hope the European Parliament will be included in debates on such matters in the future. There has been criticism of the recent referendum on Cabinet confidentiality to the effect that people should have known more about the issue and the Government should have ensured they had more information. I await with interest its response to that because it is a matter which relates not only to this but to other issues.
When one examines the tasks which the convention accords to Europol they appear fairly straightforward. They include facilitating the exchange of information on crime between member states; to obtain, collate and analyse information and to notify the competent authorities. One might consider that it is a minimal task until one examines the terms of the convention. It is frightening to see the extent of what it involves. It takes on something of a Big Brother connotation in which Europol will have a large collection of data on crime and individuals. The only reference to protection in the legislation is that the powers of the Data Protection Commissioner will be the means by which a person will be protected. I do not suggest that the Data Protection Commissioner does not perform a good job. However, what are the resource implications for that office as a result of this legislation? Will the service be upgraded? Will additional staff and other resources be made available to ensure that the onerous duty this legislation places on that service will be carried out?
Great care and attention must be paid to the collection, storage and use of information. We live in a technological age. It is one thing to have information collected at national level but it is quite another to have it collected at European level. What will a citizen be able to do if he or she finds out that information has been collected in an incorrect manner? How will he or she access that information and ensure it is corrected? I imagine this will be a far from simple task and will prove an onerous exercise for an ordinary  citizen, especially when it concerns a body based in The Hague.
The Minister gave us a comprehensive review of his legislative programme on crime and I thank him for that. His speech dealt with many matters related to crime but I was disappointed that he did not take the opportunity to raise the issue of violent crime against women, the level of which is frightening. We seem to have become immune to news of women being murdered. When a murder occurs, an automatic assumption is made that the woman was attacked by a member of her family or somebody living with her. There is a higher level of tolerance in society for crimes committed in a domestic context. If a man hits his wife in the home it is considered less serious than if he hits a stranger in the street. I am sure the Minister shares my view that crime against women is the lowest level of crime and must be abhorred. The Minister has an important position and at every available opportunity he should state his abhorrence of violence against women. I was disappointed he did not refer to it in his speech.
This legislation and other crime related legislation, of which we have seen a lot in recent years, comes against the background of great social change. We have found it necessary to update our legislation, give more powers to the Garda and create agencies such as the Criminal Assets Bureau to deal with the increasing professionalism of criminals. We are no longer at a point where we can happily sleep in our beds at night knowing we live in a peaceful society. Unfortunately, we do not. I do not wish to exaggerate the point and I am aware that crime in rural areas is not at the same level as in urban areas. However, we must recognise that the drugs problem is one of the greatest scourges we have faced. The murder of Veronica Guerin shook out of us whatever complacency we may have had about the professionalism of drug pushers and the international nature of crime.
Change is necessary. Legislation must be updated constantly and the resources available to those who fight crime on our behalf must be reviewed constantly. The Criminal Assets Bureau and the proceeds of crime legislation, both of which concepts originated with the previous Government, are to be welcomed. We have already witnessed their necessity and effectiveness.
The Minister referred to zero tolerance and I was glad to hear him flesh out what appeared an empty promise in an election context. He said that the concept of zero tolerance is “… directed at positive action against serious criminals …” and that his “… objective is to provide the Garda with the means, equipment and manpower to investigate all crimes”. I welcome that commitment. The Minister also told us that he takes seriously the duty of the State to protect the right to live in peace, free from the fear of criminal intrusion. He said his approach to zero tolerance involves action on the ground and legislation to curb drug dealers and other serious  criminals. He said the citizen demands that and is entitled to it. He wants zero tolerance to meet that demand in full and he set out the Government programme in that regard.
However, the definition outlined by the Minister falls far short of what it should be because zero tolerance of crime must include zero tolerance of its causes. Legislation, more gardaí on the streets and more prison places will never get to the root of crime or eliminate it, they will only contain it. Strengthening the powers of the Garda against drug pushers is only one step. Where are the comprehensive treatment centres for drug users which are required? Where is the multifaceted strategy for dealing with the disadvantage and alienation of the victims of drug pushers? Drug dealers can do almost what they like in vulnerable communities which feel abandoned. Where in the Minister's policy is the plan to assist those communities? There is no easy answer to this issue but I want to hear the Minister talk about zero tolerance against poverty and deprivation and the powerlessness which such communities feel, particularly in the face of the power of drug pushers.
It was said earlier that crime is a cancer. I agree with that but the zero tolerance policy outlined by the Minister is only sticking plaster when much more radical treatment is required. It is correct to declare war on crime, but that really means declaring war on poverty, disadvantage and exclusion. These phrases have become clichés but Members understand what they mean because these problems do not only affect urban communities.
In some communities an increasing number of children start life with little opportunity for a good education. Their parents may be already under pressure due to community or personal problems and the community and schools cannot provide the necessary support mechanisms. Such children do not look forward to secure jobs, careers or futures. These children are vulnerable to the drug barons. Dealing with the supply of drugs is only one side of what I concede is a very complex problem. In this time of economic plenty, we should not forget those communities. When we have money to invest we should put them first because that investment will pay off in the long term.
The fight against crime cannot be won overnight. It is a long-term struggle against disadvantage and exclusion. It involves putting money into schools and not only towards extra prison places and more gardaí on the streets. It is about more remedial teachers in schools and communities feeling better about themselves and feeling part of society. This gives them the strength to fight criminals and drug barons. Such communities would be better served if we took time out to consider the long-term, multifaceted strategic approach which is required to support them.
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue) Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue)
 Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I thank all who contributed to this good debate. Before responding to the points raised, I wish to make some general comments on the Bill and the measures the Government is taking on the domestic front to deal with serious crime.
The Bill is the first to be introduced in the Oireachtas concerning a convention drawn up within the structures provided for in Title VI of the Treaty on European Union. I am pleased to be associated with it because it marks the beginning of a strengthened statutory approach to law enforcement co-operation between Ireland and our EU partners. We know that today's criminal organisations do not confine their activities to any one country. We are also aware that national measures no longer suffice on their own to stem the tide of illegal drug trafficking and other pernicious forms of organised crime. A joint strategy at European level, encompassing exchange of tactical and strategic information on organised criminals, is a crucial weapon in the fight against this modern day scourge.
The convention has as its legal basis Title VI of the Treaty on European Union which establishes the framework for co-operation between EU member states in the fields of justice and home affairs. Article K.1(9) of Title VI lists as one of the areas of common interest police co-operation for the purpose of preventing and combating terrorism, unlawful drug trafficking and other serious forms of international crime, including, if necessary, certain aspects of customs co-operation in connection with the organisation of a Union wide system for exchanging information within a European police office, Europol.
Under Article K.3(2), the Council may draw up various instruments, including conventions, which it shall recommend for adoption to the member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. Of the various instruments capable of being drawn up under Article K.3(2), the conventions are by far the most legally binding on member states. The existence of the Europol convention is an important control in relation to the activities of Europol. It sets out in detail the functions of Europol, liaison officers and member states. It also provides a number of important controls on various aspects of Europol such as on its activities generally, its computer system and finance. The management board which will be composed of one representative of each member state will, inter alia, unanimously agree the Europol implementing regulations, exercise control regarding Europol's computer system and take part in drawing up Europol's annual budget. The management board will also oversee the performance of the directors' duties and take part in the appointment and any dismissal of the director and deputy directors.
The convention contains detailed rules designed to prevent any abuse of Europol's computer system, including rules on security of data and rectification of incorrect data. In addition to  a national supervisory body in each member state which will monitor independently under national law the communication of personal data from Europol, the convention provides for an independent joint supervisory body which shall have the task of ensuring that the data protection rights of individuals are not violated. With regard to finance, Europol's annual budget must be approved unanimously by the Council and an annual audit will be carried out on expenditure by a joint audit committee comprising three members appointed by the European Union Court of Auditors.
The EU Court of Justice will have jurisdiction in almost all member states including Ireland on the interpretation of the convention by way of preliminary rulings. Persons affected by any operational activities of law enforcement officers of member states which may arise from the work of Europol will be able to take a case in the national courts. As I pointed out, Europol is a non-operational team. The convention, therefore, provides extensive safeguards in relation to the important task it entrusts to Europol. Early ratification of the convention by Ireland will send out a clear signal to our EU partners of the importance we attach to co-operation in the fight against drugs and organised crime. It is only fitting that the convention should be ratified by us without delay because successive European Councils have underlined the need to step up the fight against organised crime. As a practical step in that regard, I urge ratification, at the earliest possible date, of the convention. In June this year the European Council in Amsterdam stressed the key role to be played by Europol in the fight against organised crime and reiterated the priority it attached to the ratification by all member states of the convention and its protocols before the end of 1997. Domestically, the Government is taking the tough measures needed in the fight against organised crime in line with the policies set out in the Action Programme for the Millennium. My Department and I are engaged in ongoing consultations with the Garda Commissioner and other interests to see that the Government's action programme is realised as quickly as possible. This will involve a combination of action on the ground and legislation.
The recently published crime figures show an increasingly effective and efficient police force. The figures for last year show a drop of 2 per cent in the number of indictable offences, a continuing fall in the level of armed crime and an increase in the detection rate. The tough new legislative measures, in particular the Proceeds of Crime Act, which I initiated last year while in Opposition, the consequential establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau and the work of the Garda national drugs unit and Garda bureau of fraud investigation have collectively contributed to the first reduction in the crime level in seven years. The significant drug seizures last weekend are an example of the valuable work being done.
 The fight against crime is a relentless one, and this Government will not let up on it. We will ensure that resources are applied in the optimum way within the Garda Síochána so as to enable the successful implementation of the strategies set out in the action programme. We will not hold back in allocating resources where they are necessary. I formally inaugurated the Garda support unit and its establishment marks the achievement of a technical objective for the force in meeting the challenge of organised criminals. The unit is equipped with the latest flying aids, a twin-engine helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft, at a cost of £5 million to assist in implementing strategies to combat organised criminal gangs, drug trafficking and other serious crimes. I also recently authorised a new witness security programme which is being put in place immediately. This will afford the criminal justice system the opportunity of obtaining crucial evidence from first-hand witnesses.
Regarding prisons, I am providing an additional 1,000 prison spaces in accordance with our programme so that persons convicted in the courts can expect to serve their sentences. I have obtained Government approval for the construction of a new 400 place prison at Portlaoise. My Department is now assessing submissions of interest for the design, building and finance package for that new prison. The involvement of the private sector in the planning, construction and financing of this facility is a welcome innovation which the Government believes will guarantee the taxpayer gets the best possible value for money. I am confident the new prison will be completed within two years so as to reach the target of 1,000 extra prison places to which we committed ourselves. Work is proceeding as quickly as possible on other prison building projects such as the construction of 55 places at Limerick Prison's D Block, 137 places in Castlerea Prison, 400 places at the new remand prison at Clover Hill/Wheatfield and 80 places at the new women's prison at Mountjoy.
Senator Connor suggested we go further with co-operation in the fight against crime and make provision for hot pursuit. In addition to the Europol convention, work is being done on the Naples 2 convention to enhance co-operation between customs authorities in member states. Discussion is also taking place on enhanced mutual assistance between police and judicial authorities in member states. In addition, two extradition conventions have been signed at EU level in order to facilitate and improve the extradition arrangements provided for in the 1957 European Convention on Extradition. The first of these, the EU Convention on Simplified Extradition Procedure, was formally adopted by all member states on 10 March 1995. It deals with the procedure to be applied when a person consents to extradition. The second convention, the EU Convention Relating to Extradition, was formally adopted by all member states on 27 September 1996. This convention improves and simplifies extradition  arrangements between member states. Work on the preparation of legislation necessary to enable Ireland ratify these conventions has begun in the Department, and I will bring these proposals forward as part of my legislative programme as quickly as I can.
Senator Connor expressed concern about those who have committed fraud and who have escaped the court system both in this country and in the country in which they live. I will deal first with extradition in respect of EU countries and other countries. Ireland's extradition arrangements with Britain and Northern Ireland are governed by the simplified extradition procedures in Part III of the Extradition Act, 1965, while our extradition arrangements with countries other than those are governed by Part II of the Extradition Act, 1965. In addition, Ireland is party to the 1957 European Convention on Extradition and to a number of other conventions, mainly in the aviation field, which provide for extradition for specific offences comprehended by those conventions.
Apart from our arrangements with Britain and Northern Ireland under Part III of the Extradition Act, 1965, an order was made applying Part II of that Act to the following countries, which were parties to the European Extradition Convention: Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. With regard to countries not party to the European convention, orders have also been made applying Part II of the 1965 Act to the USA and Australia following the negotiation of bilateral extradition treaties with those countries. I recently approved an amended draft of an extradition treaty with Canada which has been submitted to the Canadian authorities. I have also conveyed my approval of the opening of negotiations with the Republic of South Africa on a draft extradition treaty between our countries. A new draft order to apply Part II of the 1965 Act to a number of additional European countries which have become party to the 1957 European Convention is being prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The countries concerned are Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
It should be borne in mind that before extradition is sought, a suspect must have been charged with the extraditable offence, convicted of such an offence or there must be sufficient evidence to justify charging the person with an extraditable offence. The decision to proceed with making an extradition request for the purpose of bringing a person before the courts on criminal charges is one for the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is independent in the exercise of his functions. I understand that among the issues considered by the DPP in each case is whether sufficient evidence exists to enable criminal proceedings  to proceed should that individual's extradition be secured.
With regard to fraud offences, to which Senator Connor referred, work is underway on legislative proposals to deal with the substantive law of fraud. This is a fundamental and far-reaching reform of the law on fraud and dishonesty generally which will consolidate and update existing offences, develop new ones and ensure that this vital area of criminal law fully reflects modern conditions, which it is clearly very important that our law on fraud does. That must be a chief objective of legislation. The fraud legislation will also enable the EU convention on fraud against Community funds to be ratified.
Senator O'Donovan asked if Europol will assist the Garda and the customs authorities in protecting our coastline against drug importation. Europol will result in significantly improved intelligence and information, which is the key to the detection of drug importation. As we saw from the major seizure of amphetamines, cocaine and Ecstasy tablets last weekend, good intelligence enables law enforcement authorities to target their resources and cut off trafficking routes.
Senator O'Donovan and other Senators referred to the green man system in Garda stations. The green man is a communications system that consists of a unit outside Garda stations which are not open 24 hours per day. If people come to the station when it is closed, they will be able to use the communications system to get in contact with a Garda station which is open. The green man was never intended to replace gardaí - it is merely a communications system. I would also disabuse Members of the notion that the green man is a Martian.
Senator Norris expressed concern about the lack of a role for the European Parliament in relation to the Europol convention. It is worthwhile referring to the provisions in the convention regarding the European Parliament. Article 34 of the convention provides that the Council presidency will forward a special report to the European Parliament each year on the work of Europol. The European Parliament shall be consulted should the convention be amended in any way. The Council presidency or its representatives shall, with respect to the European Parliament, take into account the obligations of discretion and confidentiality.
In addition, the provision in Article K.6 of the Treaty on European Union will apply. Under this article the presidency and the Commission are required to regularly inform the European Parliament of discussions in the areas covered by Title VI of the treaty, that is, co-operation in the fields of justice and home affairs. The presidency is obliged to consult the European Parliament on the principal aspects of activities in these areas and, indeed, ensure the views of the European Parliament are duly taken into consideration. The European Parliament may ask questions of the council or make recommendations to it. Each  year the European Parliament holds a debate on progress made in the areas covered by Title VI.
Senator Norris also expressed concern about the right of access to data, the danger of incorrect data being held and the type of information being held, including information on race, sexuality, etc. I will first address the safeguards to ensure the system will not be abused. Europol provides for many safeguards to ensure its computer system will not be abused. These relate to the standard of data protection, restrictions on access to data by users of the system, rules regarding the use of data, time limits for storage and deletion of data files, security measures to prevent unauthorised access and an arrangement whereby each national supervisory body has an overseeing role. An independent joint supervisory body will have the task of ensuring that the rights of the individual are not violated.
As regards the standard of data protection, each member must ensure a standard of data protection which at least corresponds to the principles of the Council of Europe Convention of 28 January 1981 on the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (Convention 108) and which takes into account Recommendation No. R (87) 15 of the committee of ministers of the Council of Europe of 17 September 1987 concerning the use of personal data in the police sector. There can be no communication of personal data to or from a member state which does not have these data protection rules in force. Europol is also obliged to take account of these principles.
Access, access to the information system will be restricted to the national units, liaison officers, the director, the deputy directors and other empowered Europol officials. More restrictive rules apply to the analysis files under Article 10 of the convention where only Europol's analysts will be authorised to enter data into and retrieve data from these files. Under no circumstance can Europol's systems be linked to computerised systems other than those of the national units.
On the rules on the use of data, personal data retrieved from the system may be transmitted or utilised only by the competent authorities of member states in order to prevent and combat crimes falling within the competence of Europol and to compact other serious forms of crime. Europol may utilise such data only for the performance of its task as referred to in Article 3 of the convention.
As regards the time limits for the storage and deletion of data files, data, whether computerised or manual, will only be held by Europol for as long as is necessary for the performance of its tasks. The need for continued storage will be reviewed no later than three years after the input of data. A decision can be taken to continue storage otherwise the data in question will be automatically deleted.
As regards data security in respect of automatic data processing at Europol, each member state  must implement the data security measures specified in Article 29 of the convention to ensure the integrity of the system so there is no unauthorised access to it, etc. These measures specifically provide for control in relation to equipment access, data access, data media, storage, users, communication, data input and transport. In addition, member states must provide for recovery in case of system failure and ensure that the system functions without fault and operates in such a way as to preclude the corruption of data.
Each member state shall designate a national supervisory body to monitor independently, in accordance with its respective national law, the permissibility of the input, retrieval and communication of personal data by a member state to Europol and to examine whether this violates the rights of the data subject. In addition, an independent joint supervisory body shall have the task of reviewing the activities of Europol to ensure that the data protection rights of individuals are not violated.
As regards the collection of data and the ethnic origin, political and religious views, health and sexuality of individuals, the Europol convention provides for the collection, storage and processing of data necessary for the performance of Europol's tasks only. Article 10.1(5) of the Europol convention states that personal data relating to racial origin, political opinions, religious and other beliefs as well as personal data concerning health or sexual life as listed in Article 6 of the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, 1981, will not be collected, stored or processed unless strictly necessary for the purposes of the file concerned and unless it supplements other personal data already entered on the file — in other words, personal data as listed in Article 6 of the convention on data protection will not be held on file unless data is already held on a particular individual which relates to a criminal offence for which Europol is competent and unless such additional information is considered strictly necessary to the task of combating, analysing and preventing a criminal offence which falls within Europol's remit.
On access to information being refused, the position is that, in accordance with Article 19 of the convention, any individual wishing to establish whether Europol has data relating to him or her or to have such data checked can do so by making a request, free of charge, to the national competent authority in any member state. The request will only be refused where it is considered that such a refusal would be necessary to enable Europol fulfil its duties properly, to protect security and public order in the member states, to prevent crime or to protect the rights and freedoms of third parties — in other words, considerations of such a serious nature that they cannot be overridden. This provision is similar to Article 5 of our Data Protection Act, 1988, which provides for restrictions on access to data kept for the purpose of preventing, detecting or investigating  offences in any case in which the access to such data would be likely to prejudice the matter.
I will now address how a person can get data rectified. If it emerges that the data held by Europol is incorrect or that the storage of such data is in contravention of the convention, it must be corrected or deleted. Member states which are recipients of such data will be informed and obliged to correct or delete the information accordingly. An individual can also ask Europol to correct or delete incorrect data concerning him or her and Europol must delete or amend such data and inform the inquirer accordingly. Where the inquirer is not satisfied with Europol's reply or where a reply has not been received within three months, he or she may refer the matter to the joint supervisory authority. If it emerges that data contained in Europol paper files is incorrect, Europol is also obliged to correct it. As with automated data, an individual has the right to ask Europol to correct or destroy paper files concerning him or her. In addition, the inquirer can also object to the inclusion of a note.
Senator Norris referred to Europol not being amenable to the European Court of Justice. The European Court of Justice has an interpretative role in respect of the Europol convention. It does not have a role in relation to any EU institutions or staff similar to the role national courts have in respect of national institutions and their staff. It should be borne in mind that the convention provides that the immunity of Europol and its staff from national jurisdiction shall be lifted in certain circumstances. It should also be borne in mind that the Europol convention does not give Europol an operational role. I note that Senator Norris agrees with my view that burglaries, etc., are not trivial. However, he thinks the offenders should not go to prison but should do something positive, such as community service.
As a corollary to my prisons building programme, I am considering a number of initiatives for the greater use of alternatives to custody in cases where this is appropriate. The introduction of legislation providing for the attachment of earnings in the case of non-payment of fines and debts and the expansion of the community service scheme are two such initiatives which warrant active examination.
I am open to considering all appropriate solutions and I am anxious to harness all views in tackling the crime problem, including those of people working in the field and ordinary law abiding citizens. That is why I recently announced the setting up of a crime forum which will facilitate an open and public debate involving all sectors of our society on the reality of crime, its causes and remedies. It will assist the community in contributing to the formation of crime policy and the establishment of a broadly based crime council. I will shortly announce the composition of the forum, its format and when it will take place.
Senator O'Donovan referred to the poor condition of Bantry Garda station. Considerable  work is under way on the improvement of Garda stations and I will take note of the Senator's concerns regarding Bantry. A sum of £3,441,000 is provided in next year's Estimates for the maintenance of Garda stations. This is in addition to the provision in the Vote of the Office of Public Works for building new stations.
I agree with Senator Quinn on the importance of Europol and this Bill. I also agree with Senator Henry and Senator Haughey that there must be co-ordination between Interpol and Europol. This matter is being addressed by the EU to ensure there is no duplication between both organisations. Senator Henry also raised important issues regarding the trafficking of children and women. This type of crime is within Europol's remit and Europol's role will not be limited to the importation of such persons into the EU. It will also deal with the trafficking of women and children out of the EU.
Senator Coghlan expressed concern about the security of the Europol system as regards hacking. However, the Europol convention contains specific provisions to ensure the integrity of the data system and that there is no unauthorised access to it. These measures include preventing unauthorised persons from reading, copying, modifying or deleting data stored and ensuring persons only have access to data covered by their authorisation.
Senator Haughey asked about funding for Europol. In accordance with Article 35 of the convention, the sharing of the cost of Europol between member states is determined according to the ratio of a member states' GNP to the total sum of the GNPs of all the member states. The ratification of the convention will facilitate the provision of a sophisticated new computer system for Europol and the expansion of its remit to include terrorist activities within two years of the entry into force of the convention. Any other crimes agreed on unanimously by the Justice and Home Affairs Council in accordance with Article 2 of the convention would also impact on the cost of Europol.
Article 2 provides that where it is proposed to include additional crimes other than terrorist activities in Europol's remit, the management board of Europol must first set out the budgetary and statutory implications. While increased expenditure will be incurred on Europol following ratification of the convention, Ireland will be liable for only 0.7 per cent of it based on the current proportion of GNP. Ireland's contributions to date to the EDU are as follows: in 1994, £9,810, in 1995, £17,008, in 1996, £31,379 and in 1997, £36,190. Since 1996, all member states have contributed to the setting up of Europol's computer system. Ireland's 1996 and 1997 contributions to this system are £5,629 and £10,870, respectively. In addition, Ireland bears the cost of the Garda liaison officer with Europol and the cost, apart from salary, of another member of the Garda Síochána who is employed by Europol as a systems development officer.
 Senator Henry expressed the view that the provisions in the Bill, as described in the explanatory memorandum, relating to the appointment of Customs officers to the national unit and as liaison officer to Europol, were cumbersome. I agree with the importance of the role which Customs officers will play in relation to Europol. I introduced amendments to the relevant sections of the Bill to deal with the concerns of the Revenue Commissioners. I will give attention to the appointment of a Customs and Excise officer to the national unit as soon as this legislation is passed. I hope this satisfies the concerns of Senator Henry and other Senators. The appointment will come into effect as soon as the convention comes into operation.
Senator O'Meara asked that resources be made available for the data protection commissioner's office. Staffing of that office is subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance, but I assure the Senator that if, following the entering into force of the convention, extra resources are required in the office, I will do what I can to ensure they are made available.
Senator Lydon expressed concern about the provisions in the convention for the Europol computer system. I have already pointed out the safeguards in the convention as regards data protection. Europol's information system is the backbone of the Europol computer system. It holds records relating to individuals who have been convicted or suspected of having committed criminal offences within Europol's competence or who give serious grounds, under national law, to believe they will commit such an offence. Data held includes personal data of a limited nature and additional data which can include details of criminal offences, alleged crimes, suspected membership of criminal organisations and convictions relating to criminal offences in Europol's competence.
In addition to the information system, Europol allows for the creation of temporary work files which can be set up for variable periods of time for the purpose of analysis only. Analysis is defined in the convention as the assembly, processing or utilisation of data with the aim of helping a criminal investigation. These files can contain more comprehensive data. However, data will not be held on file unless they specifically relate to a criminal offence for which Europol is competent unless such information is considered strictly necessary to the task of combating, analysing or preventing an offence which falls within the remit of Europol. Member states communicating data to Europol can only do so where the processing of such data is also authorised by national law. Data will not be held if it is not considered necessary for the performance of the tasks for which Europol has been established and will only be held for as long as is necessary for the performance of such tasks.
Senator McGowan and Senator O'Meara referred to crimes against the elderly and against  women in domestic circumstances. While this is not an omnibus Bill, I join with them in unreservedly condemning such crimes. I take this opportunity to advise those who might be considering taking advantage of long winter nights to attack vulnerable elderly people in their homes that if they are convicted of such an offence they will serve the full term of imprisonment imposed by the court, excepting remission. There will be no temporary releases for such people, although there are difficulties in relation to prison accommodation. If people attack vulnerable elderly people in their homes, there will be serious consequences if they are convicted and sentenced in the courts.
As regards the need for additional gardaí to which Senator McGowan referred, there is a commitment in the programme for Government to provide an additional 1,200 gardaí over a five year period to ensure there will be an adequate Garda presence throughout the country.
I hope I have dealt comprehensively with the points raised by Members. I thank them sincerely for their courtesy, efficiency and worthwhile contributions on Second Stage. I look forward to any suggestions on how to improve the legislation on Committee Stage.
Question put and agreed to.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?
Mr. O'Donovan Mr. O'Donovan
Mr. O'Donovan: Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 13 November 1997.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: When is it proposed to sit again?
Mr. O'Donovan Mr. O'Donovan
Mr. O'Donovan: Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
Seanad Éireann 152 Europol Bill, 1997: Second Stage (Resumed).