Thursday, 23 June 2005
Garda Síochána Bill 2004 [Seanad]: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.
Joe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
I fully agree with Deputy O'Keeffe's amendment. We discussed it on Committee Stage, when I believed that the Minister was interested in what was being said on the matter. It is a problem which we currently face with regard to the Garda. We have received complaints on mobile communication as well as in terms of the PULSE computer data and delays on the inputting of material and the management of that. The significant problems experienced with the roll-out of CCTV will be addressed in this legislation. However, it has dragged on for a long time. We saw the incredible situation in Donegal, where gardaí did not preserve the scene of the crime and did not seem to realise the importance of doing so. Even where hair, skin and blood was found, they simply walked or drove away from the situation.
Yesterday, Deputy Cowley described similar deaths, in counties Donegal and, I think, Mayo, where the crime scenes were not preserved for some reason. This was possibly because a traffic accident was involved. Whether it was a crime is another day's work. However, if the scene is not preserved, it is impossible to determine this. I have questions on the area of forensics. For far too long the Garda Síochána has relied on statements made by suspects to determine the outcome of crimes. In many cases this is the main evidence available and presented in court. Statements made by suspects should be down the list of importance of evidence. We should now be at the cutting edge of technology in forensic examination of a crime scene. We see daily on our television screens the extent to which the FBI can solve crimes throughout the United States. Every piece of information found on a crime from Alaska to Honolulu is packaged away and sent to the FBI who examine it so carefully and minutely that they are able to develop trends and strands and solve many crimes.
We have much to learn. Forensics is at a basic level here. We should have moved away from having trials within trials whereby after a jury is empanelled, it must wait a week or two while a judge hears argument on whether material such as confessions and statements is admissible in court. This should not happen as it delays trials, takes up people's time and causes expense.
There is too much reliance on the extraction of evidence or confessions during questioning of suspects. Perhaps that will all change when we have audio and video recording in all Garda stations and I was heartened to hear the Minister state we are at approximately 90%——