Thursday, 2 March 2017
Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016: Second Stage (Resumed)
I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy David Stanton, to the debate. It will not have the same applause and attention as the announcement last night and I congratulate the Minister of State on that initiative, which was very important.
This legislation is important too. The Bill is welcome but it is belated.
It originates in the EU directive that dates back to October 2012. All member states were required to transpose the victims' directive into law by 16 November 2015. As of December last, infringement proceedings had been brought against 11 member states, including Ireland, for failure to communicate on their implementation of the directive.
I do not blame the Minister for Justice and Equality or, indeed, her Department. Every Minister for Justice produces a considerable portion of legislation and, indeed, a significant chunk of the entire legislative programme of Government. The difficulty seems to be in distinguishing between what is important and what is urgent. Long-standing legislative commitments can be displaced by the need to respond immediately to current developments. That is a pattern in every Department and it is unfortunate that issues sometimes get side-tracked and do not make the progress they need to make. Bills get re-prioritised and, as I know, some Bills go backwards in the priority list. A former colleague introduced a Coroners (Amendment) Act 2005, which was accepted by the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Senator Michael McDowell, now a distinguished Senator, and became law. His officials were slower to agree to its implementation than the then Minister because they said they were already working on comprehensive legislative reform on the coroners' side but we did not see a coroners Bill until two years later. Ten years after that we are still waiting for a comprehensive code. In fact, the coroners Bill is not even on the legislative programme any more.