Dáil debates

Thursday, 6 April 2006

Adjournment Debate.

Crime Prevention.

5:00 am

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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The Minister will be aware of the daylight robbery of €1.5 million cash in transit in the past three weeks and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform wringing his hands in dismay at the failure of his nonsensical voluntary code to prevent it happening. It is totally unacceptable that there is no statutory code in place to regulate the delivery of large sums of money by private security firms. Many of the large private security firms operating here are not even licensed to operate here.

The Private Security Services Act was passed in 2004, the purpose of which was, first, to licence the private security industry, which we all know to be a burgeoning industry with numbers far in excess of the combined Army and Garda, and, second, to establish proper standards for the industry. However, the Minister's intervention and meddling in the work of the Private Security Authority has resulted in a voluntary code of practice being established which is honoured more in its breach than in its observance by the security firms. The security firms have been laughing all the way to the bank. The €1.5 million has been stolen with ridiculous ease because none of the "gentleman's agreement" with the Minister was implemented by the firms delivering the cash. They agreed the agreement but they did not bother to implement it, and the Minister did nothing to ensure they would implement it.

Likewise, the Minister's stewardship of the Garda has been just as haphazard and inefficient. There was no Garda escort on any of the three recent large deliveries amounting to at least the €1.5 million which was stolen. Just as it might be in "Keystone Cops", the local gardaí where the large sums of money were being delivered were not informed about the deliveries in their area of jurisdiction. They were totally ignorant of the delivery. Once again, the Minister's ineptitude and arrogance has put the lives of security personnel at risk and given another victory to the criminals.

The Private Security Authority, which is up and running for some time, is obliged under the law to provide a strategic plan and lay it before this House. As this has not been done, the authority is in breach of its own statutory requirements. We have been working on this legislation since 2001. I had to raise the matter with the Taoiseach on a couple of occasions to get the Minister to move on it. Eventually it was passed in 2004. It took the Minister until 2005 to set up the authority, and having done so, he provides a voluntary code rather than the statutory code provided for under the legislation. Nothing has come before this House in terms of the plan of the authority in regard to licensing practices and standards that must be implemented. It appears that we are passing legislation in this House, the Minister is bypassing it and the body set up to ensure the matter came before the House once the plan had been drawn up has not done so. We must have answers as to what is happening in this area before more lives are put at risk and more cash is stolen.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I am giving this reply on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell.

The Minister shares the Deputy's concern and that of the public in general, with regard to the recent robberies of cash-in-transit. He condemns utterly the three recent robberies. Deputies may be aware that another robbery was attempted on a security van in north Dublin this morning, which the crew were thankfully able to foil. The gangsters who perpetrate these acts cannot and will not be allowed to commit such crimes with impunity. Deputy Costello went a little far in suggesting that the Minister shares some culpability with regard to these events.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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He does. He is the Minister.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister was not involved in these events. Others were.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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Has he witnesses?

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister utterly condemns what they do. He welcomes the opportunity initiated by Deputy Costello to state the present position regarding standards within the cash-in-transit industry, and the moves that have been and are being made to ensure that such incidents will not succeed in the future.

Last year the Minister called on the main players in the cash-in-transit sector of the industry, which included the financial institutions, security companies, the Garda Síochána and the Central Bank, to draw up an agreement on a voluntary basis for handling cash deliveries in a safe, secure and efficient manner. The agreement was signed last June and the Minister understands that progress towards implementation had been made in the course of the past year. This code of practice represented a major step forward in this area and set out an integrated end-to-end solution for major cash movements in the State.

On Monday, in the wake of the recent robberies, the Minister met Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy and the chief executive of the Private Security Authority, Geraldine Larkin. While noting that progress has been made in terms of implementing the code of practice, the Minister expressed his deep concern that recent robberies highlighted the fact that procedures within the code appeared to have been flouted by security companies. The Minister finds these lapses in standards completely unacceptable. These incidents raise serious questions about how the cash-in-transit business is to be managed and regulated in the future. Having heard the Garda Commissioner's report on these recent incidents, it is clear to the Minister that a voluntary code, which encompasses standards of safety and good practice, is not working.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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That is what it was set up for.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister called on the Private Security Authority to press ahead with its plans to introduce licensing for security companies operating in the cash-in-transit sector. Adherence to the provisions in the code of practice will form an integral part of any licensing regime. Any company not in compliance with the standards in the code will not be licensed to operate within the cash movement sector.

The Private Security Authority established in 2004 puts the regulation of the Irish private security industry on a statutory footing for the first time. It is already an offence for unlicensed companies to operate in sectors such as door security and security guarding, and the authority continues to roll out licensing on a phased basis for companies involved in other parts of the private security industry.

There is provision within the Private Security Services Act 2004 for mandatory licensing of the cash-in-transit sector. It was intended to introduce licensing of the sector at the end of a voluntary compliance period where the industry would be given time within which to bring its standards up to the requisite approved standards, which would form the basis for licensing. The Minister finds now that radical lapses in standards have occurred and, as a result, he has been advised by the chief executive of the Private Security Authority that she will bring forward proposals for the introduction of mandatory licensing as soon as possible.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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That was the whole purpose of the legislation.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy knows, the legislation provided for other matters too.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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It was for licensing.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister has further called a meeting with key stakeholders including the major banks, the security companies and the Garda for tomorrow morning, which he hopes will show that a continuous strategy of improvement is under way. This meeting will give various stakeholders an opportunity to report on progress in implementing the code of practice and to flag particular areas of difficulty. The Minister is willing to listen to what the industry has to say but is not willing to accept any shortfall in standards of the kind witnessed in recent robberies. He has asked me to reassure the House that he knows only too well that the proceeds from these robberies go on to fund further organised crime. These crimes cannot be regarded as victimless as they represent a tangible threat to the stability of both civil society and our economy. The Government, through the new measures being put in place, will play its part in ensuring that such crimes become a thing of the past.