Thursday, 8 June 2006
Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005 [Seanad]: Second Stage.
Batt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
The Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005 is a significant legislative proposal. It gives effect to seven international instruments, which build on and supplement the existing legislative framework for the provision of mutual legal assistance. Part VII of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, which deals with international co-operation in the context of mutual legal assistance, is being repealed and its terms re-enacted with amendments and additions to take account of operational experience gleaned over the past ten or so years and to take account of the provisions in the instruments to which effect is given in the Bill.
Mutual legal assistance, in simple terms, enables one state to provide, within its jurisdiction, a service to another state related to the administration of justice in the latter. The type of assistance may concern such matters as the investigation of serious international crime, including the gathering of evidence for use abroad or the service of documents issued by a judicial authority.
The seven instruments to which this Bill gives effect are the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union agreed at Brussels on 29 May 2000, which develops and modernises existing provisions governing mutual assistance between member states of the EU, and the protocol to that convention done at Luxembourg on 16 October 2001; the agreement between the EU and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway; the EU Council framework decision of 22 July 2003 on the execution in the European Union of orders freezing property or evidence; the Second Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, which improves and supplements the provisions of the 1959 Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters; the necessary provisions to give effect to articles 49 and 51 of the convention signed in Schengen on 19 June 1990, implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985; and the mutual legal assistance aspects of the Council decision concerning the signature of an agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance, done at Brussels on 6 June 2003.
I take this opportunity to advise the House that some amendments will be brought forward on Committee Stage to give effect to the aspects of the mutual legal assistance provisions in the UN Convention against Corruption and the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, which the Attorney General has advised require legislative amendment. The range of issues which require legislative amendment arising from the mutual legal assistance provisions in these conventions is limited.
Turning to the Bill, Part 1, which encompasses sections 1 to 10, defines key terms used in the Bill and sets out the restrictions to apply to providing mutual legal assistance. Mutual legal assistance will be refused where granting such assistance might prejudice the sovereignty, security or other interests of the State, or where there are grounds for believing that the request was made to prosecute or punish a person on the grounds of sex, religion, race, nationality, ethnic origin, political opinion or sexual orientation. A request shall also be refused if it appears that providing assistance might result in the person being subjected to torture or if it would contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.
Section 5 gives direct effect to articles 4 and 6 of the 2000 convention and articles 4 and 8 of the second additional protocol. These articles lay down the formalities and procedures to be followed when requests are being transmitted and executed and deal with channels of communication. Provision is also made in this Part for the designation of states for the purposes of the Act and for the designation of a central authority in the state.
Article 7 of the 2000 convention and article 11 of the second additional protocol, dealing with the spontaneous exchange of information on criminal matters without the need to receive a request beforehand, are given effect in section 9. Section 10 repeals the listed provisions of other Acts.
Sections 11 to 20, which comprise Part 2 of the Bill, provide a basis for dealing with requests for financial information for criminal investigation purposes, including the monitoring of bank accounts and obtaining information on such accounts. This Part gives effect to the provisions of the 2001 protocol and enables Ireland to give effect to article 4 of the EU-US agreement on mutual legal assistance, which deals with identification of bank information.
Section 11 was amended on Committee Stage in the other House. In light of further discussions with the Irish Bankers Federation and the Garda Síochána following publication of the Bill, the use of the phrase "reasonable time" for compliance with account orders was removed and the definition of account information order was amended to clarify timescales for compliance. This section has also been amended to ensure that variations on a person's name will be included in an order as it would be unfair to expect a financial institution to be aware of variants of a name.
Procedures for obtaining an account information or account monitoring order are set out in section 12. Such an order may be made only by a judge of the District Court who must be satisfied that an offence has been committed or that the person concerned has assets deriving from criminal conduct and that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the specified financial institution has information that is required in the investigation. Provision is also made in this Part for Ireland to request information on banking transactions from another state.
Section 12(6) was inserted on Committee Stage in the other House. The amendment allows for an account information or monitoring order to be modified by narrowing the information sought to that which, further on in an investigation, is considered to be specifically relevant to the investigation. In sections 14 to 16, provision is made for a request to be received from another state for information on financial transactions.
On receipt of such a request, the Minister may authorise an application to be made to a judge for an account information or account monitoring order. The procedures to be followed and the information required for such an order to be made are laid out in section 16. The Part also provides for transmission of the information to the requesting state and that non-compliance with an account information or account monitoring order is an offence.
Part 3, comprising sections 21 to 29, deals with the interception of telecommunications messages between member states of the EU for criminal investigation purposes, which is provided for in Articles 17 to 22 of the 2000 convention. Section 22 of the Bill sets out the circumstances in which Ireland may request the assistance of another member state in intercepting telecommunications messages. Such a request can be made only where the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has given an authorisation for interception under the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993.
The person whose messages are to be intercepted must be present in Ireland or in a member state and the technical assistance of a member state must be necessary to intercept. The information to be transmitted when a request is being made is also set out. In addition, the Part provides for Ireland to receive requests for interception from other member states in certain circumstances and lays out the procedures to be followed when such requests are received.
Section 24 provides, inter alia, that if the person whose messages are to be intercepted is physically in the State, the Minister may authorise interception only on foot of a request from a member state if the conduct under investigation would constitute a serious offence within the meaning of the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 and would justify the making of an interception authorisation. The section also sets out conditions which may be applied and deals with the transmission of the messages to the requesting state.
Sections 25 and 26 of this Part deal with interception where the technical assistance of another member state is not required to carry out the interception. Where the Minister has authorised an interception, the telecommunications address of the person is in another member state and the assistance of that state is not required to intercept, section 25 provides that the Minister will notify the member state that the person concerned is on its territory.
The member state concerned may consent or not to the interception. Interception may continue while that decision is being made, but any information obtained from interception prior to consent being given may not be used unless agreed with the other member state or for the purpose of preventing an immediate and serious threat to public security.
Section 26 applies the same provisions to the situation where another member state does not need our assistance to intercept messages, but the telecommunications address of the person concerned is in this State. Under such circumstances, the Minister shall be informed and must decide whether to allow the interception. The section provides that interception shall not be allowed if it would not be possible in a similar domestic context.
Section 27 provides an obligation for an authorised undertaking, in other words, a telecommunications company or service provider, to facilitate interception where the person is present in the State, authorisation has been given for interception but the messages cannot be directly intercepted in the State. In such circumstances, if the telecommunications provider can access equipment in another member state to facilitate interception, it shall do so. Where a telecommunications provider here has equipment to facilitate interception, the person concerned is in another member state and the messages cannot be intercepted directly from that state, but the telecommunications provider here can assist that state in interception, the provider is obliged to facilitate the interception. A new section 28 was added on Report Stage in the Seanad to allow for a review of the interception provisions in this Bill by a judge of the High Court, as is provided for in section 8 of the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993.
The amendment also extends to this Bill section 9 of the 1993 Act, which provides for a complaints referee, who will be a Circuit or District Court judge or a barrister or solicitor of ten years' standing appointed by the Taoiseach. He or she may review complaints from individuals regarding certain aspects of the Act. The oversight envisaged under sections 8 and 9 will not, either implicitly or explicitly, allow the designated judge to enjoy any degree of extra-territoriality. In other words, the oversight role would be confined to the decisions and actions taken domestically, by the Minister or the Garda, for example, and would not extend to non-national decision-making. Section 29 amends the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983 by providing for fines for non-compliance.
Part 4, comprising sections 30 to 39, gives effect to the terms of the Council framework decision on the execution in the EU of orders freezing property or evidence. Section 31 sets out procedures to be adhered to when an order is made to prevent the destruction, disposal or transfer of property that could be evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation. Sections 32 and 33 give effect to Articles 4 and 9 of the framework decision.
Section 32 provides for a freezing order and for the standard certificate, provided for under article 9 of the framework decision, to be transmitted to a member state for enforcement and sets out the procedures for so doing. Section 33 sets out provisions for transmitting a freezing order and certificate to Ireland from another state. The procedures to be followed when we receive such a request and provisions for the making of a freezing co-operation order by the High Court to execute the external order are set out in section 34.
The remainder of this Part deals with the length of time a freezing co-operation order may remain in force, its variation and termination, amendment or postponement, and the conditions under which the making of a freezing co-operation order may be refused. Article 10 of the framework decision, dealing with the treatment of frozen property, is given effect to in section 39.
Part 5, comprising sections 40 to 46, deals with orders for the confiscation and forfeiture of property. Under section 41, Ireland may make a request to a designated state for confiscation of property if a confiscation order has been made here. Provision is made in sections 42 and 43 for a designated state to transmit a confiscation order to this State and for a confiscation co-operation order to be made to execute the external order. A confiscation co-operation order can only be made on foot of an application to the High Court and the Minister must consent to such an application. Provision is also made for any person claiming to own or hold an interest in the property to make representations as to why the confiscation order should not be made.
Sections 44 to 46 deal with forfeiture orders, both in a designated state and here. The information necessary when a forfeiture order is sent here by another state is laid out and the procedures to be followed for the execution of an external forfeiture order are in place. Again, an application for a forfeiture co-operation order may be made, with the Minister's consent, to the High Court. Provision is made for any person claiming to own or hold an interest in the property to make representations and for the disposal of the property for the benefit of the Exchequer once a forfeiture co-operation order has been executed. This Part updates the provisions for confiscation and forfeiture orders in the Criminal Justice Act 1994.
Part 6 of the Bill, incorporating sections 47 to 65, deals with the taking of evidence. Section 48 is based on provisions in section 52 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and sets out procedures for obtaining a statement of evidence from a person in a designated state for use in criminal proceedings. Provision is made in section 49 of the Bill, based on section 51 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, for evidence to be taken on request from a witness here and used in criminal proceedings abroad. This Part also deals with the privilege of witnesses and makes it clear that a person cannot be compelled to give evidence to assist in a criminal case abroad where he or she could not be compelled to give evidence in criminal investigations here or in the state concerned. If a claim for privilege is upheld, any evidence taken from a person cannot be sent to the requesting state.
Sections 51 and 52 deal with the transfer of prisoners to and from Ireland for the purpose of giving evidence or assisting in criminal investigations. These provisions are broadly based on those in sections 53 and 54 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. They have been amended to take into account Article 9 of the 2000 convention and Article 13 of the second additional protocol.
Sections 53 to 58 provide for evidence to be given by means of a television or telephone link. They give effect to Articles 10 and 11 of the 2000 convention and similar provisions in Articles 9 and 10 of the second additional protocol. Under section 53, where a witness is in a designated state and it is not desirable or possible for a witness to give evidence in person here in Ireland, a letter of request for the person to give evidence by means of a television link may be issued by a judge.
Sections 54 to 56 provide for a request to be made to this State for a witness to give evidence abroad by means of television link and for the Minister to request the president of the District Court to nominate a judge to summon the witness to attend for the purpose of giving evidence. Section 56 lays out the procedure for taking the evidence and provides, among other things, that the evidence must be given in compliance with the laws of the requesting state in so far as they are compatible with the fundamental principles of law in this country. The evidence may also be taken in private. Sections 57 and 58 provide for a request to be made for a witness present in the State to give evidence by telephone in criminal proceedings in another country and lay down the procedures to be followed in such cases.
Part 6 also deals with procedures for searches for evidence and makes provision for a request to be made to another state for evidence. The provisions are based on sections 52 and 55 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. Section 60 deals with requests from other states for evidence to be obtained here for use in criminal proceedings or investigations in the requesting state. Such requests can only be dealt with where a search power exists under domestic law for the offence concerned. Searches for evidence on foot of such a request are limited to cases where the offence concerned is punishable under both our law and that of the requesting state by at least six months' imprisonment or cases where the offence is punishable under Irish law by at least six months' imprisonment and is being prosecuted in the requesting state by administrative authorities whose decision may give rise to criminal proceedings. The procedures to be followed when a request for evidence is received are set out in sections 60 and 61, as are the requirements which must be met for a judge to issue a domestic search warrant in order for a request to be executed.
Chapter 2 of Part 6 of the Act lays down provisions relating to the obtaining of identification evidence for use within and outside the State. Section 65 sets out the procedures to be followed when a request to obtain identification evidence is received and provides that identification evidence may be taken from a person only with consent if it is not already in the possession of gardaí. Intimate bodily samples may only be taken by a doctor and dental impressions by a doctor or dentist. Provision is also made for the destruction of identification evidence. This Part is included at the request of the Office of the Attorney General following a court case where, due to a legal lacuna, the State was unable to assist another state with the provision of identification evidence. It extends the legal provision for the taking of types of identification evidence to bring Ireland's legal provisions in such cases in line with those of other states.
Part 7, which contains sections 66 to 77, covers the procedures for serving documents within and outside the State and provides for the restitution of property to its rightful owner. Sections 66 to 68 deal with the service of documents and are based on sections 49 and 50 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. They have been amended for the purpose of giving effect to Article 5 of the 2000 convention and Article 16 of the second additional protocol. These sections provide that documents issued by a court in this country in the context of criminal proceedings may be served on a person present in another state and that similar documents from another state may be served on a person in this country. The main change to the existing provisions is to provide for service by post.
Chapter 2 of this Part, which contains sections 69 to 73, dealing with the restitution of stolen property gives effect to Article 8 of the 2000 convention and Article 12 of the second additional protocol. This chapter allows for an order to be made in the State for the restitution of property situated in another state. Likewise, another state may request Ireland to place property in the State obtained by criminal means at the disposal of the requesting authority. The procedures to be followed on receipt of a request are set out. Following receipt of an application for restitution, the District Court may make an order for the property concerned to be delivered to the Garda. Provision is made for a person claiming to own or have an interest in the property to make representations as to why the order for restitution should not be made.
Chapter 3 of Part 7 of the Bill provides for controlled deliveries for criminal investigation purposes and gives effect to Article 12 of the 2000 convention and Article 18 of the second additional protocol. Provision is made for a request to be made to a designated state to allow a controlled delivery to be made in that state and for specified persons, including members of the Garda Síochána and Customs and Excise officers, to take part in the controlled delivery. Other states may also request that a controlled delivery take place here and for persons from that state to take part in it. Any controlled delivery made in this country will, however, only be made under the direct control of either the Garda Síochána or Customs and Excise officers, as appropriate.
Part 8, which contains sections 78 and 79, gives effect to the Ireland-US treaty on mutual assistance, as amended by the EU-US agreement on mutual assistance.
Part 9, which contains sections 80 to 89, inclusive, deals with a range of miscellaneous issues. It amends section 9 of the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Act 2004 to allow participants from third states that have been designated for mutual assistance purposes to become involved in joint investigation teams in this country if the competent authority of the country that established the team with Ireland so agrees. This will remove the need for orders to be made and laid before the Oireachtas every time this issue arises in respect of a particular joint investigation team. The amendment will not in any way change the role of participants in such teams, which is primarily intended to be of a supportive or advisory nature unless the states which established the team agree otherwise. Some of the other miscellaneous provisions in this part include the section that provides for penalties in the case of disclosure prejudicing an investigation, the provision of liability of the officers of a corporate body and data protection provisions.
Section 87 was amended on Committee Stage in the Seanad to allow for regulations to be made to give effect to international instruments. This section was included on the advice of the Attorney General following recent judgments in two Supreme Court cases in which it was found that regulations giving effect to EU law and policy obligations were ultra vires the parent Act if made under a standard regulation-making provision in that Act. As the Bill before the House gives effect to seven international instruments, it is important that the regulation-making provision encompasses the power to give effect to international and EU law.
This legislation will assist in enhancing existing mutual assistance provisions. It will provide for wider and more efficient co-operation in fighting transnational crime. The increased mutual assistance powers provided will be of use in detecting and prosecuting criminals. It is an essential item of legislation in a world where crime knows no borders. l commend the Bill to the House and look forward to hearing the views of Deputies on it.
The Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005 gives effect to seven mutual legal assistance instruments. I read the explanation given in the Seanad by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform as to why it took so long to bring this Bill before the Oireachtas.
As a member of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, I understood his explanation well. More than half of the legislation that is going through the Dáil originated in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It does not all come in the form of Bills, as many changes are made by means of amendments being added to Bills by the Minister, Deputy McDowell. This Bill is no exception in that regard. The Seanad will have a better understanding of this system of legislating by the time it has completed its adjudications on the Criminal Justice Bill 2004.
The Minister said that we need to prioritise, but what can be more important than clamping down on child pornography and the trafficking of children and women and the new phenomenon known as the war on terror? Society is changing rapidly. Child pornography and people trafficking are big international businesses in which profits of billions of euro are being made. Crime syndicates are being operated by most ruthless people who are willing to kill and maim to maintain their empires. Such savage people have the money to buy and create technology systems to protect themselves and their rackets in ways we cannot imagine.
While the Minister might be right to take steps in this regard, I cannot understand the rush to bring these instruments into Irish law before we have the resources or expertise to implement them. The Garda Síochána does not have a satisfactory radio system. It does not have a computer system that functions for basic uses, let alone technological systems. It cannot communicate with or interpret systems being used by other states. It cannot deal with the sophisticated systems being used by those involved in organised crime. Do we have a specialised technology unit? How is it resourced? Does it have enough qualified personnel who have expertise in the varied and advancing technology? Are expert personnel being employed to deal with changing ways?
Irish children are using simple systems such as text messaging to code their conversations. Does the Garda have a specialised decoding section? As I have said, half of the Bills that are going through the Oireachtas were initiated by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Most of them deal with domestic law, but none of them has had any real effect as a consequence of the Garda's lack of resources. The Garda needs proper radio and computer systems and modern cars, which are the basic elements needed to fight crime.
The problems to which I refer mean that we will be able to implement the international co-operation measures being introduced in this Bill at the most basic level only. I accept that we are coming from a fairly low base in this regard. Many of the crimes we are fighting are organised by worldwide criminal organisations. While this is a relatively new problem in Ireland, we can catch up quickly by putting properly resourced systems in place to deal with the increasing threats we will face in the future. It is clear that co-operation between EU member states and other like-minded countries will be a key element in this fight.
While it is essential for Ireland to transpose these seven instruments into law, the required effect will not be achieved if we do so without providing additional resources. The transposing of the instruments into Irish law will help this country to build on the success of the Criminal Assets Bureau, which has been the biggest achievement of our criminal justice system over recent years. The success of the bureau has helped Ireland to take spectacularly effective action against home-grown organised crime. Ireland's inability to pursue the same kind of action in other European jurisdictions has, however, been a problem. The enactment of this legislation will help us to take our successful action against organised crime to an entirely new level. It will mean that the ill-gotten gains of crime bosses will be tracked down in Europe and other parts of the world. I hope other countries that have not yet understood the effectiveness of the Criminal Assets Bureau or developed similar structures of their own will take the Irish example on board.
The loss of certain personal freedoms and the threat to human rights are, unfortunately, among the disadvantages we encounter in certain instances when we try to take action against organised crime, drug barons, prostitution, child pornography and terrorism. Crime bosses and terrorists will always have an advantage in this regard. Civilised society must balance the need to fight evil with the need to show respect for personal freedoms, civil liberties and human rights. While that is not always easy, we must be vigilant. The Minister's decision to refer the heads of this Bill to the Irish Human Rights Commission before it was published is to be commended. I understand that most of the commission's recommendations have been taken on board. However, the Government and the State must avoid being drawn into conflicts which are not of their own making with allies which generally subscribe to the objectives of this Bill, but which, like the United States, can be accused of being in breach of those standards which the Bill seeks to uphold.
The Government's unqualified support for Bush and his war in Iraq, the questionable use of Shannon Airport and the undue demands made by the Bush-led superpower on other nations while itself failing to honour the most basic of human rights, as well as world and UN conventions, undermines the commitment of the Government and the free world to fight terrorism. This undermines Ireland's commitment to justice and human rights. Members should reconsider their position, as the American people are doing at present. The indications are that they will punish the Bush Administration in the mid-term elections for its handling of the Iraqi war.
When the chairman of the Irish Human Rights Commission publicly states that Ireland must find a better way to ensure that Shannon Airport is not illegally used to facilitate the transportation of alleged terrorists, Members must listen. Mere unquestioning acceptance of the word of the Bush Administration is no longer sufficient. True friends and allies, like Ireland and the United States, should be able to facilitate each other by proving that Ireland's co-operation with the United States respects international standards. It should be in our mutual interests to put this question beyond debate and doubt.
Our law enforcement agencies must be provided with all the requisite legitimate laws. They must be provided with the best equipment and technology and must co-operate to fight the great threats of terrorism and organised crime. It must also be remembered that it is all to no avail if human rights, civil liberties and justice are ignored because the basic human standards for which we fight will be lost.
As part of Europe and as a civilised nation, Ireland must always keep to the forefront the idea that laws, police forces and armies alone will not win this fight. While these problems may be contained with good laws, armies and police forces, ultimately we will never be successful without tackling the underlying inequality, prejudice and injustice that exists throughout the world.
There has been some criticism of this Bill from eurosceptics who believe the entire principle of subsidiarity is undermined by this type of Europe-wide legislation. When one considers the enormous challenges we face, such concerns are unfounded and unrealistic. Most legislation and regulations coming from Europe have transformed Irish society for the better. I refer in particular to social and equality legislation. If such progress is to be maintained, it must be realised that the only way to succeed is through total co-operation and, to a great extent, integration.
Ireland has experienced significant changes to a greater extent than most other countries. Most Irish people travel throughout Europe and the world and many Irish people own property or live in other countries. Similarly, many Europeans and others live and work in Ireland. New situations demand new solutions and to deal with such trends and threats, more co-operation will be required in all facets of life. Fine Gael has always been the most pro-European party and has always embraced change which would improve the security of our citizens and that of our fellow Europeans. However, this should not be done at any cost. Ireland must honour its traditions, laws and, above all, Constitution.
The Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill covers diverse areas such as accessing bank accounts in all EU states, collecting and transferring evidence, setting up joint investigation teams, producing prisoners to give evidence in other European jurisdictions and most importantly in the modern world, interpreting telecommunications across national boundaries. It will cover telephone calls from mobiles and land lines, as well as e-mails and Internet connections. The monitoring of bank accounts will make it easier for member states to confiscate the assets of criminals who live outside their jurisdictions.
In general, Fine Gael has welcomed all legislation introduced by the Minister to combat terrorism and crime. However, it has repeated continually that passing legislation without resources has a limited effect on a serious situation. While the Minister's record in introducing legislation is impressive, his record in providing resources is extremely poor. It will be an extremely expensive matter to make this legislation work. The requisite information technology and expertise will demand enormous resources. While the legislation will be passed, the major question will be whether the law enforcement agencies, including the Garda Síochána, will receive the specialised manpower and equipment to do the job.
It goes without saying that crime lords and terrorists will always have an advantage. To an extent, adherence to the maintenance of basic human rights and civil liberties in the laws drawn up by the EU and the free world in general will make law enforcement less effective. Hence, unlimited resources must be placed at the disposal of specialised law enforcement agencies. Although Ireland probably needs to establish several sections with varied specialties, we have not yet begun to examine the matter.
The EU member states and the free world must realise that even with unlimited resources, as well as the best technology and expertise that money can buy, the best they can hope to achieve is to contain the situation. It must be realised that the only long-term solution is for these nations to seriously tackle the injustices, inequalities and prejudices which are rampant throughout the world.
I accept the Government's view that this Bill is important. It is certainly large legislation and, for that reason, I regret the manner in which it was introduced. To be blunt, it was introduced by a Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government who read a script and then left immediately. He was replaced by a Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children who was replaced within an hour by the current incumbent, the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon.
If there is to be an engagement with Parliament, a Minister should attend the House who is in a position to listen to arguments and respond to them on Committee Stage. Otherwise, one is left with Members reading pre-prepared speeches on important legislation.
Last Thursday, a different filler Bill from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform was placed on the Order Paper. It was not reached and this week another Bill has been placed before the House. As the previous speaker noted, half of the legislation to come before the House emanates from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. There should be some decent co-operation with Opposition spokespersons to ensure the House does its job, to properly examine, scrutinise and debate to make good law. Deputy McDowell is a Minister who is particularly good at listening, although he will probably faint when he hears I said something positive about him, but at least he is capable of absorbing a good argument and changing his view. For that reason, I regret he is not present and that justice matters are not scheduled so that we can have proper debates.
Then an alternative arrangement should have been made to dispose of justice matters, especially since two Ministers of State are assigned to the Department.
The legislation is important because we live in a globalised world. The main plank of the European Union is the free movement of goods, services, people and capital, and this impacts increasingly on the way we live. We no longer think in narrow national confines and, by and large, that is good. We are socially and culturally enriched by the free movement of new ideas, cultural inheritances, music and so on. Ireland has been enriched by the movement of labour, which has fed the dynamic Celtic tiger, and capital. New structures in an integrated Europe are being built as a result of the freedom of movement.
Unfortunately, crime has always been globalised and it has always been a step ahead of globalisation. While a structure is in place within the Union to facilitate the free movement of services, for example, crime is not hindered by such encumbrances. The structures that are put in place must be robust to ensure criminality is faced down and tackled in a co-operative manner within Europe and beyond by like-minded countries based on principles of democracy and justice. I accept the importance of co-operation in policing and criminal justice matters generally and I support such co-operation wholeheartedly on behalf of the Labour Party.
The earliest form of European co-operation on these matters was based on a Council of Europe concept. I was privileged to serve as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The bedrock of the Council was the European Convention on Human Rights but it took Ireland 50 years to transpose it. The argument put forward by successive Governments during that time was that fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Constitution were more robust than those provided in the convention. However, the reasons were more complicated than that. Notwithstanding that, the co-operation between countries anchored in the European convention evolved through other conventions over time, including the 1959 Convention on Mutual Assistance and Criminal Matters, which is a precursor to this legislation, while a series of developmental protocols in justice co-operation were introduced subsequent to the Treaty of Rome.
I refer to controversial issues such as extradition. Those of us who have been Members for a long time will recall heated debates on such issues. The need to ensure international co-operation should be anchored in principles of justice and law. This week, we have been reminded of unlawful rendition of so-called suspects to places of detention or interrogation. The concept of extraordinary rendition is the antithesis of proper legal extradition based on constitutional laws and principles to which we, as a nation, subscribe. For that reason, it is important in implementing a framework for legal co-operation that we are clear and robust about not co-operating with illegal activity, for example, by facilitating it through direct compliance or indirect advertence of eye to practices such as this. I hope the principles enunciated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the past 24 hours and the Minister for Transport in the House yesterday will not be sops to this principle. Proper inspection of aeroplanes passing through Irish airspace or airports should be required. The Government should, therefore, not only accept assurances that no act is being carried out to which the State could not be a party, but ensure it is so through proper inspection.
In the post-9/11 world, there has been a new focus and alertness regarding global security issues. Laws enacted in a number of countries, such as the Patriot Act in the US, would not have been accepted in different times and, thankfully, they would not be accepted in this jurisdiction even now. We have experienced threats to the security of the State. There were times the threat to the survival of the State was much more real than the threat that manifested itself in the US post-9/11. We did not always succeed because we went too far sometimes but governments always sought to ensure there would be no heavy gangs or laws that would infringe constitutional rights and privileges. The work of the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Judiciary, in particular, preserved constitutional rights even in the face of peril over time. That principle should be maintained in the frenzy of the new focus on international security.
The Union, particularly during the Finnish Presidency, also developed new legal bases for shared co-operation on intelligence and security matters. We always need to strike a calm balance in our minds between the need for security and the protection of the individual citizen and the protection of the State and to preserve the basis of the State, which is the rights and freedoms of the citizen.
I refer to the provisions of the legislation, which is lengthy, although much it of comprises a recitation of various protocols and the Irish-US treaty. However, a number of provisions will require scrutiny on Committee Stage, to which I look forward, and I will preserve some of my careful consideration for that Stage. Part 2 deals with provision of information and monitoring arrangements for financial transactions. It is important, having regard to Ireland's position as a centre for international financial services, that we should not only have robust law in this area but that the international investor community should understand we have clarity in these matters. International financiers should have confidence in the way we manage our affairs and Ireland should not have a reputation, for example, for being a bolt-hole for hot or tepid money because moneys are traded transparently through our financial institutions
Scrutiny should be robust so that criminal behaviour can be effectively identified and speedily eradicated. If we are to have a future in international financial services, that principle needs to be anchored to the financial services and criminal monitoring legislation enacted in these Houses.
The Bill contains a lovely new phrase, "account monitoring orders". In recent years, the tribunals of inquiry have been engaged in their own account monitoring orders, with some interesting results. In the past 48 hours, I read that an individual before a tribunal claimed to be shocked at the amount of money unearthed by such monitoring.
Section 14 deals with requests from member states for information about financial transactions and sets out the procedures to ensure compliance with such requests. We need to ensure that requests from other member states for information about financial transactions by individuals who are citizens of or resident in this State are made with clarity. Section 14(2)(b)(i) states: "any information that may be supplied in response to the request will not, without the Minister's prior consent, be used for any purpose other than that specified in the request". How will that be guaranteed? Having read the provisions as carefully as I could in the time available to me, I am unsure as to how we can achieve that stated legal purpose. How can we know whether the information is being used for other purposes or take effective action if the information is so used, given that the information would by then have been passed on? These matters will require detailed analysis on Committee Stage.
If a Deputy has served here long enough, many issues remind him or her of past events. Part 3 of the Bill deals with the interception of telecommunications and messages. The behaviour of a previous Government should make us want to develop robust structures to ensure that communications are monitored in accordance with law. The legislation that governs the interception of such communications was introduced by a coalition Government as a result of the events of that time. Clearly, these provisions will need careful scrutiny. Section 22 sets out the mechanism to deal with situations in which we want to monitor the transmission of communications in another member state, while section 23 deals with requests made to us on interception. In order for us to comply with a request from another member state, the request would have to be subject to the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993. In other words, the offence being investigated would have to be an offence in this jurisdiction and the request would have to conform to the Constitution.
I welcome the fact that an amendment was accepted on Report Stage in the Seanad on judicial oversight because I was alarmed to find that the Bill as amended on Committee Stage did not provide for this. I am unsure as to the stage at which judicial oversight is involved but the Minister of State may inform us of that.
Part 4 deals with freezing orders. Given the current climate, a freezing order may seem a good idea. The provision for a legal mechanism to freeze extraterritorial property and evidence is welcome.
Part 5 deals with confiscation and forfeiture orders. I presume this Part provides for an international version of the Criminal Assets Bureau, which is the most useful criminal justice agency to have been established in this State in recent decades. It is a useful and effective force for reaching to the heart of criminality by depriving criminals of the proceeds of their offences. The procedure by which CAB is to be internationalised will have to be clarified because we have already encountered constitutional issues in that regard.
Part 6 deals with the provision of evidence, including the potential transfer of prisoners to give evidence or assist in criminal investigations. This matter will also need further examination because I do not know whether people placed in custody or convicted in Ireland could be moved to another jurisdiction to aid an investigation. While legislation provides that sentences can be served in other jurisdictions, clarification is needed with regard to how somebody could be transferred for investigative purposes. I am happier with the provisions in the Bill which provide for video and telephone evidence.
Section 48 provides that an Irish judge may issue a letter of request to seek assistance in obtaining evidence from a person in another member state. I am confident that our system of judicial oversight is adequate in that respect.
In section 49, which provides for requests made to this State, "requesting authority" is not clearly defined for me. I refer to subsection (3) which states: "The Minister shall not exercise the power conferred by subsection (2) unless an assurance is given by the requesting authority that any evidence that may be supplied in response to the request will not, without the consent of the nominated judge or the witness, be used for any purpose other than that permitted by the relevant international instrument." I do not want to rehearse this State's judicial mechanism for processing applications from other member states under letters of request, but requesting authority is not defined in Part 6, although it may be defined elsewhere.
An issue arises with regard to the various judicial investigative structures in the European Union. The French and Italian investigating magistrate system, under which inquiries are conducted by judges who can cause a person to be held in custody during the course of an investigation, is different from our system, in which the police conduct the inquiry and the accused is held in custody at the behest of the courts, with the presumption of a right to bail. Who would be the investigating authority? Would it be an investigating magistrate? Would it be the police? Are there any circumstances in which a request would be made by the police to aid in an investigation or are we talking about presiding judges in a subsequent trial of an individual? That was unclear on my reading of requests being made to the State for co-operation on this. I may have overlooked the definition in another section of the Bill.
Part 7 of the Bill deals with other forms of assistance, for example the service of documents. It outlines a procedure which seems fine and good in that it requires translation to be provided to people whose base or original documents are in a language not known to them. It also deals with restitution of stolen property. I had not time this morning to reread the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001, which is the guiding enactment for the restitution of stolen property provision in this Bill. Under section 69 of the Bill a request would be made to Ireland for restitution of stolen property and the procedure to deal with that is laid out. The section stipulates that a request to the State for the restitution of stolen property shall be in writing and shall include or be accompanied by:
(i) a description of the property;
(ii) its location;
(iii) the name and address of its owner; and
(iv) any other information likely to facilitate compliance with the request.
I am not sure whether this is a new provision or if there was always a possibility in law for a member state or another international body to make an application to the State for the restitution to it of property it claims was stolen. I am mindful of the ongoing debate on property looted by the Nazis. It has caused serious and widespread litigation in other jurisdictions. In Germany elaborate base law exists to ensure looted or stolen property can be identified and returned. Members will recall last year's controversy when allegations were made that some of the artifacts on display in a venerable and respected Irish museum were Nazi-looted and should be restored to the descendents of their rightful owners, the victims of Nazi tyranny. I wonder how that sort of charge would be played out on the provisions of section 59.
Section 70 lays out the action that is to follow on request:
(1) On receipt of the request the Minister may, if of opinion that the request complies with section 69, cause an application to be made to the District Court...
(2) The Court shall provide for notice of the application to be given to any person who appears to be or is affected by such an order unless the Court is satisfied that it is not reasonably possible to ascertain the person's whereabouts.
It then goes on to run its course. Is there a time limit on allegations of property being stolen? Are we to go back in history or does the normal Statute of Limitations apply?
Part 8 deals with mutual assistance in criminal matters between Ireland and the US. We can see that the provision in Part 8 is to transcribe into our domestic law the original Ireland-US treaty, which is recited as an appendix to this enactment in Schedule 8. The original treaty was enacted before 9 September 2001 but was modified by the US-EU treaty of 2003. Any co-operation agreement with any authority should be examined carefully and how this will manifest itself must be dealt with in great detail and with great care. It strikes me that profound matters are dealt with by international treaties but are seldom scrutinised by these Houses. We do not have the resources and I take some responsibility as a member of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission for saying we do not have the resources to adequately, from a political and a public perspective, debate the import and impact of international treaties such as this. They seem to be a specialist area for officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs, and are rubber stamped by politicians and seldom given the scrutiny they deserve.
One of the changes envisaged in the treaty and which is transposed into our domestic law in section 78(4) of this Bill is the notion of the operation of joint investigation teams:
Section 7 (operation of joint investigation teams) of the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Act 2004 applies in relation to a joint investigation team established under Article 16 ter and operating in the State as if it were a joint investigation team established under that Act.
What is envisaged in these joint investigation teams between Ireland and the US? Where an asylum seeker or an Irish citizen resident in Ireland is on a list as a potential al-Qaeda member would that trigger a joint investigation? It is not clear how that would operate. We would always want to ensure full protection for Irish citizens.
One could speak for a long time on this Bill and I hope we will have the opportunity to do so on Committee Stage. Ministers are busy, particularly the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. However, for this House to hold and regain the respect of the people as a House of scrutiny on their behalf, we must ensure that full respect is given to the Members, the debates and the analysis we bring to any legislation, which we alone, under the Constitution, have the right to enact into law.
Tá mé ag iarraidh mo chuid ama a roinnt leis na Teachtaí Catherine Murphy agus Cuffe.
Ar dtús báire, ba mhaith liom aontú leis an méid deireanach a bhí le rá ag an Teachta Howlin. Ba chóir go mbeadh an tAire ag deileáil leis an chuid seo den díospóireacht. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an tAire os ár gcomhair nuair a shroicheann an Bille Céim an Choiste.
Aithníonn Sinn Féin go bhfuil sé tábhachtach go bunúsach go bhfuil comhoibriú idirnáisiúnta idir póilíni agus an córas dlí ar mhaithe le cearta na híobartaigh agus chun coireanna a stopadh. Is ceart bunúsach daonna í an ceart do phríobháideachas, áfach. Dá bharr sin, is gá go mbeadh aon foráil a chuireann an ceart sin ar athló réasúnta, go mbeadh gá leis agus go raibh gá leis, agus nach mbeadh sé thar fóir. Chomh maith leis sin, is ceart go bhfuil agus go mbeadh cosaintí ann mar chothramaíocht ar an cheart sin a bheith curtha ar athló. Ní creidim go bhfuil an Bille seo ag dul leis an méid sin. Dá réir sin, beimid ag cur ina choinne.
The measures included in this Bill further consolidate the fast-advancing, anti-democratic and subversive agenda of Big Brother fans such as the Minister for injustice. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will not tolerate invasions of his privacy — remember gardaí leaking a story about his son — but he has led the charge assaulting the right to privacy in Europe. Typically, there is one law for the Minister and another for everyone else.
This Bill will increase e-mail surveillance and phone tapping in the State, adding to the vast bank of information on private individuals available to so-called intelligence services and governments. In the absence of adequate safeguards, this will create further opportunities for people such as the Minister to subvert the judicial process, trample on the fundamental rights of citizens and engage in political policing to serve his own narrow agenda and self-interest. The Minister's actions in respect of Frank Connolly and the Centre for Public Inquiry — leaking confidential Garda information to a drinking buddy — demonstrates the threat the former poses to the democratic fabric of our society.
Law enforcement authorities are fallible. Last month in England, it emerged that 1,500 people were incorrectly listed on the criminal record bureau, affecting job and study opportunities. Intelligence may be fabricated and is frequently used and abused by those in power to justify their actions. The invasion of Iraq on false premises and the police shooting of a 27 year old Brazilian in the wake of the London bombings are just two examples.
Nearer home we can consider the revelations of the Morris tribunal, the Kerry babies saga and the Sallins set-up. Safeguards against, and remedies in the event of, such abuse are glaringly thin on the ground. Such protection should be prioritised. Debate at this stage is futile because the instruments to which this Bill gives effect were passed at EU level six years ago following cursory, insufficient debate. We are obliged to transpose them into domestic law. It is ludicrous that the formal stages of legislative debate are being conducted after any possibility of amending the Bill has passed.
I concur with the statement of the Irish Human Rights Commission that "any consideration of the human rights issues raised by this legislation at this point cannot compensate for inadequate consideration of these issues in the course of drafting the source EU legislation". One of the principal measures to which this Bill gives effect is the EU Convention on Mutual Assistance and Criminal Matters 2002. Regarding that convention Statewatch observes that concerns about serious crimes and the need for increased powers of police surveillance on the one hand must be balanced by the need to provide for scrutiny, accountability and safeguards for the rights of citizens on the other and suggests that it is difficult to see how this measure would pass that test.
Inadequate Oireachtas input has become the Government's modus operandi for introducing such measures. It was described as purposely defective in an article in The Irish Times recently, an assessment with which I agree. In one of the last acts of the previous Government in June 2002, the Cabinet secretly introduced data retention measures beyond those in any other country. Once this was disclosed, civil liberties groups criticised the Government and questioned the constitutionality of the action. Last year the Minister made an amendment confirming a mandatory three-year data retention to the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act. In light of guarantees that any measures on data protection would be part of a separate Bill, preceded by a focused Oireachtas debate, this was an unexpected move in the final hours when few Deputies were in the Chamber. This demonstrates premeditation on the part of the Minister, who is eager to develop a bank of information on citizens.
Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party seem content to allow the Minister to proceed in this manner. Two weeks ago, an EU measure on the obligatory exchange of information and intelligence between member states was scrutinised by the Oireachtas committee with responsibility for justice. After the wrong document was initially circulated, the correct document was received by members at 6.30 p.m. the day before the meeting at 9.30 a.m. The members were not concerned by this and refused an offer of more time to study the correct text. I conclude that they do not bother to scrutinise EU legislation before recommending its adoption.
I also have more specific concerns, the first of which deals with the designation of countries for the purpose of this Bill. The Minister has absolute power for this decision and the Bill fails to provide for criteria governing this decision. Section 4 does not provide that the country must respect fundamental human rights, including privacy and freedom from disproportionate interference from the State in the form of unnecessary surveillance or harassment. Criticisms similar to those levelled at the EU's contentious white list of safe countries may apply to the designation of countries for the purpose of this Bill. This Bill must be amended to include criteria that countries must meet to be included on the list and to provide for an independent mechanism by which a country will be evaluated and monitored. The Bill should be amended to provide for Oireachtas oversight of ministerial decisions.
I am concerned by the weakening of the dual criminality safeguard and the inadequate judicial oversight. The Bill should amend the 1993 Act, which governs the interception of communications by introducing a requirement of judicial authorisation of the Minister's decision to allow phone taps in advance of them being placed. In April the Data Protection Commissioner stated that hundreds of private telephone records are examined by the Garda Síochána every month. He argued that legislation should be amended to ensure that telephone records are made available only in the investigation of serious crime.
It is paradoxical to sign an agreement of this nature with the United States when it continues to refuse to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. It is paradoxical to sign and give effect to such an agreement with the United States when its law enforcement authorities and security agencies breach the human rights of thousands. This includes breaching the right to justice by carrying out extraordinary renditions, with which this State colludes according to the Council of Europe. Other breaches include torturing prisoners and holding them indefinitely without charge in camps such as Guantanamo Bay and Bagram, Afghanistan.
Mr. T. J. McIntyre, law lecturer at UCD and director of Digital Rights Ireland, argues that international law agencies are playing on global terrorism to bring about what they sought, an extreme regime of surveillance and data retention. We must safeguard democracy against the establishment of the big brother states, which has been sought. My party and I will, therefore, oppose this Bill on all stages unless, even at this late stage, safeguards are introduced.
The primary aim of the Bill is to give legal effect to the agreements that have been entered into under various treaties and conventions. In principle, I do not have a difficulty with mutual assistance. We are clearly living in changing times, and many crimes, such as those relating to the drug trade, terrorism and human trafficking, have taken on an international dimension. These are areas where there is a clear need for co-operation and exchange of information. It is not only desirable, but required.
The Bill allows for money trails to be pursued. This proved to be of key importance with the Criminal Assets Bureau. The Bill also allows for the freezing of assets and the interception of telecommunications messages. It allows for the compelling of witnesses and permits requesting authorities to detain witnesses at their discretion, without a requirement to due process. Mutual assistance is a soft description. This is a significant item of legislation that requires careful scrutiny.
The argument that if people have nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear, has often been advanced as a reassurance to the public when tough criminal law is being enacted. There are high-profile examples, such as the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four, which prove that this is not necessarily the case. The principle of this legislation is fine, but it is important for us to pay very close attention to the detail.
The Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union seems strong on law and specifics, unlike, for example, the mutual assistance agreement between this State and the United States of America in respect of tackling criminal matters. There are many ambiguous areas in that respect, to some of which I will refer.
We cannot afford to ignore the significant difference in culture with regard to law enforcement between Ireland and the US. There is a high incidence of incarceration of citizens in the US, as opposed to a more tolerant approach for minor crimes here. I visited the US some years ago and somebody in a prison informed me that approximately one person in ten will have spent a night in prison at some stage. I was quite shocked, but it shows that minor crimes tend to draw more punishment and that there is a different culture of law enforcement.
This Bill includes a bilateral agreement with a country which is not operating within the terms of international law and which does not even recognise international law. That country has no regard for the rules of war or the Geneva Convention. The United Nations recently denounced the operation of the camp at Guantanamo Bay and has sought that prisoners there be either charged or released.
We must remember that the UK is a partner in the war in Iraq with the US. Two British citizens were released, without charge, from Guantanamo Bay after being held there for two and half years. There is every reason for us to proceed with extreme caution and consider the matter in great detail.
Section 4 of the Bill allows for the designation of a state other than a member state. There does not seem to be any guiding principles in terms of limiting the states with which information can be exchanged. The section should include some formulation of words, such as "provided that the state recognises and operates its laws in accordance with international law, and human rights law", that would restrict the provision. Otherwise, the Government could theoretically deal with any state in respect of these matters.
Some sections of the treaty between Ireland and the US are as follows. Article 1.2 states that assistance shall include "such other assistance as may be agreed between the Central Authorities." If we pass this legislation this month, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the US Attorney General, Mr. Gonzales, will decide matters between them. There are no limiting words such as "such other assistance as may be agreed between the Central Authorities provided that this assistance is in accordance with domestic and international law". It is very broad and gives unlimited scope with regard to information gathering and sharing.
Article 1.3 states:
Except when required by the laws of the Requested Party, assistance shall be provided without regard to whether the conduct that is the subject of the investigation, prosecution, or proceeding in the territory of the Requesting Party would constitute an offence under the laws of the Requested Party.
Regardless of whether such conduct is criminal here, the US can still request assistance.
Theoretically, we may be asked to provide information or seize the assets of someone who has not committed any offence under Irish law. This may have constitutional implications, considering the importance of the presumption of innocence. It has the potential of locating or identifying people or providing articles or evidence on persons and seizing property, where the person has never committed any crime in this jurisdiction. There are far more safeguards where seizure of assets or property is concerned and I would have expected equal or additional safeguards for people, including Irish citizens.
Under Article 3, assistance may be denied even where a requested party is of the opinion that the request, if granted, would impair its sovereignty, security or other essential interests, or would be contrary to important public policy, or where the persons concerned has already been acquitted or convicted of the crime in question, the two can still come to a compromise so that the assistance is granted. This means that there is no certainty before the law and that an acquittal does not even protect a person who has been through the courts and proven innocent if the two Governments agree to a compromise.
Article 7 states that the requesting party may use any evidence or information obtained from the requested party "for preventing an immediate and serious threat to its public security." Is this not the rationale used for detaining persons at Guantanamo Bay as a means of preventing attacks on the USA? I imagine that it means something completely different to the US Government than it does to people here. It is this to which I referred with regard to an emphasis on culture. That must be taken on board.
Article 10 states that a person who has been compelled to be a witness in the requesting party's country can be denied due process or detained or subjected to any restriction on their liberty at the discretion of the Government that requested his or her presence. This is not the section that deals with persons in custody and, therefore, a non-detainee can be locked up and forced to give evidence in respect of an offence that is not even criminal in Ireland. It is down to the central authority in the requesting state to tell the state of which the request is being made when it has finished with the witness and specified timeframes are not set down. This could be used as a form of detention. Article 10 also indicates that it is the responsibility of the country requesting a witness to appear in its jurisdiction, regardless of whether it holds the person in custody. These are some of my concerns relating to that specific treaty and they are not exhaustive.
With regard to the Bill, we have been informed that it is not possible to quantify the available finance. I am concerned that we are imposing further obligations and tasks on our police force and expecting them to be carried out with existing resources. If this results in cuts, it is certain that the latter will occur from the bottom up. Community policing or the traffic corps will suffer. We must be careful. If the finance cannot be quantified, it is not possible to state that it will be resource-neutral. For example, I imagine that it will require some gardaí to travel in order to meet members of other forces and carry out joint investigations, both here and in other countries. The resourcing issue must be considered. I have serious concerns about this legislation.
I am dubious about the Bill. There are significant concerns regarding Ireland's role in the wider world in addressing terrorist and development issues. Looking back 40 or 50 years, there was a time when people in Ireland could hold their heads high. We were proud of our foreign policy and people such as Frank Aiken, Seán Lemass and others could go to the UN and pledge that Ireland would be a non-aligned, strong voice in the world for developing nations.
Yet we are not meeting the commitments we should be meeting as Ireland develops. The Taoiseach makes solemn commitments at the UN and then breaks them. We are standing idly by while the US brings detainees to Guantanamo Bay and China kills thousands of its citizens every year. It is not good enough to forget about human rights concerns for the sake of our economy when we see clear and flagrant breaches of Ireland's international commitments. I will say that about the US, China, Poland or any country that is directly or indirectly facilitating the abuse of human rights, be it in Chinese labour camps, Guantanamo Bay or US prisons where hundreds of people are put to death each year.
The Government is curiously silent on these issues. The Progressive Democrats Party is also curiously silent on the human rights issues out there. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will tell us that he has mentioned concerns about Guantanamo Bay, but I can imagine him saying this under his breath at a meeting held to facilitate foreign investment into Ireland. It is not enough to mention these concerns, it is important to do something about them. We must address concerns about terrorism and we must have procedures and protocols in place to ensure the sharing of information. However, if we are doing that on the one hand, we must speak out about human rights issues on the other. I am not convinced that the Government is doing enough about these issues abroad.
There is a darker side to EU mutual assistance. Many of the European countries involved have directly facilitated the carriage of persons on extraordinary rendition flights. It is not good enough for us to state that we will share information on terrorists when other countries in Europe are directly facilitating the US in taking prisoners to countries such as Egypt and beating the life out of them. It is not good enough for the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to talk about terrorism and not talk about the abuse of human rights by sovereign governments, be it the US, China, the UK, Poland or others.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs sounded great defending his record on "Morning Ireland" this morning. He was the first EU Minister to call for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and the first to raise the issue of extraordinary renditions at EU level. However, if he really believes that detention at Guantanamo Bay should be brought to an end and that extraordinary rendition is fundamentally wrong, why is he against putting in place a set of procedures to ensure that Ireland is not complicit in this odious activity?
The chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Dr. Maurice Manning, called for an urgent investigation yesterday. His call was echoed by Deputy Gormley, who said that a new inspection and monitoring system is urgently needed for military and CIA flights that stop over in Ireland. He said the only effective way of ensuring we do not become complicit in dispatching people to be tortured or ill-treated is through establishing an effective process of monitoring and inspection. However, let us look at what is happening in Shannon Airport. One week, US helicopters are in the hold of a plane being dispatched to Iraq and the next week Russian helicopters are in the hold of a Russian plane heading off to deal with a trouble spot around the world. We are wearing a blindfold when it comes to the import and export of arms and possibly prisoners. That is not good enough for the Government nor for the legacy of our early participation in the UN, when we strongly committed ourselves to safeguarding, protecting and upholding human rights around the world. The Government can hold its head low when it comes to these issues.
Every time we talk about terrorism, we feed into the so-called "war on terror", which may be the way George Bush and others see the world, but which should not be good enough for Ireland in 2006. We should be doing more to facilitate development aid. We should check aircraft that enter our airspace to make sure that they are not carrying weapons. We should do what some of our EU partners, such as Austria, are doing and make sure that military flights on the way to an illegal war are not permitted in our airspace. This is what we should be debating in this House today, rather than feeding into George Bush's overly simplistic view of foreign affairs in the 21st century.
Of course we need protocols on terrorism and we need to exchange information. My concern relates to the whimper from Government benches when it comes to facilitating a bloody, dirty war that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and that is essentially a war for oil. I want to see the Government show leadership, but I see no sign of it today. I implore the Government to join Dr. Manning in urging the establishment of a process of monitoring and the inspection of suspect aircraft so that we can meet our human rights obligations.
Senator Dick Marty called for an extended dialogue between the EU and the US on how terrorism might be fought within the rule of law, by ensuring that human rights are enhanced and not ignored. All I want to see here is for us to enhance our human rights record and not to ignore the human rights abuses of other countries.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005. I understand that this Bill has already been discussed in the Seanad and is now coming before this House for discussion on Second Stage. There already have been some improvements and refinements to the Bill following discussion in the Seanad, and I am sure there will be more before this Bill is enacted.
This is a mutual assistance Bill and that means that different states can provide assistance for each other in the administration of criminal justice legislation in each country. The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the provisions of seven mutual assistance instruments. The first one is the Convention on Mutual Assistance and Criminal Matters between Member States of the European Union. The second instrument is a protocol to the convention signed in Luxembourg in 2001. There is an agreement between the EU and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway and the application of certain provisions of the Convention on Mutual Assistance and Criminal Matters between Member States of the European Union. It is clear that some of these instruments go beyond the EU.
The Bill also deals with a Council framework decision on the executing of orders freezing property or evidence. It also deals with the second additional protocol to the Convention on Mutual Assistance and Criminal Matters between Member States of the European Union. Article 49 deals with implementing certain aspects of the Schengen Agreement. The Bill contains the mutual legal assistance aspect of a Council directive concerning the signature of agreements between the EU and the US on extradition and mutual assistance in criminal matters. That agreement was reached in Brussels in 2003 and is known as the EU-US Agreement.
I welcome these provisions and the Bill which will give effect to them. However, I take the opposite view to what is being said by most Members as I do not think the legislation goes far enough. The majority of these provisions deal with matters within the EU, but much crime is not confined to the EU. This is one of the first baby steps for states co-operating in fighting international crime. Many of the country's major crimes have a connection with international events. Much crime is international, it spills into various jurisdictions and requires an international response. I recall comical scenes from films and television I watched when I was younger. One saw in the United States a sheriff chasing a fellow in a car trying to get to the county boundary before he was arrested.
Exactly. Once he got over the boundary he was safe as there was no FBI to get him. It was great entertainment but a ridiculous way to catch criminals. In effect, that is what we have here. Once a criminal goes from one jurisdiction to another, he or she is free unless international agreements pin him or her down and make him or her face the penalties for his or her crime.
We are only scratching the surface today. When we examine this issue in its entirety, we will see a strong demand exists for a body such as the United Nations to come up with a far more sophisticated and extensive set of protocols to deal with international crime and the administration of justice internationally. It cannot be done at EU level. It must move beyond that. Before long I can see Ireland pushing this at UN level through the EU. Some steps to deal with international crime can be taken at EU level and I will deal with them shortly. These are to be welcomed although they may be rough around the edges and may need to be refined. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction.
We can all be victims of crime. It is grand for us in the safety of an island off the west coast of Europe to give out about what practically every other country in the world does and the various abuses that take place. However, we are isolated from some of the difficulties that happen in other countries and it behoves us to take a broader view and consider it in a world context and not a local one. International crimes which impact at local level in Ireland as in most countries include drugs, international terrorism and people trafficking.
Whether the route for drugs goes from Colombia to Amsterdam or Morocco in ships, trucks and containers, it is essential that all police agencies in the world have the authority to work together on surveillance, arrests, communications and prosecutions. Drugs come from where they are grown in Colombia or Afghanistan to the streets of Dublin and every village in Ireland. Every village and street in Ireland has a problem with drugs. If people here do not accept that, they are not in touch with what is happening with teenagers and people in their 20s. These drugs come from an international source in the first instance, through many of the crime gangs operating in Dublin and other large urban areas.
The level of drugs now coming into the country is such that the Garda Síochána inevitably must concentrate on major seizures worth €10,000, €20,000, €50,000 or even more than €1 million. Although they see small amounts being dispatched from one town to another or to a village through couriers with mobile phones, they must concentrate on where the volumes of crime are larger. I will return to the importance of intercepting telecommunications in dealing with crime internationally. Drugs are extremely widespread and it is incumbent on us to in some way try to cut off the supply of drugs into the country. Nobody can disagree with that.
I do not know how many times I have heard that much of the crime committed in Ireland is drug related. People rob, break and enter and commit burglary and larceny to obtain money and property to sell at a reduced price for cash to feed their drug habits. The drug problem is an international one which affects us all at local level, and it can only be handled, dealt with and rooted out at international level.
For anyone to remotely suggest that international terrorism can be dealt with inside country boundaries is foolhardy in the extreme. When I prepared my notes for today, I saw that within a couple of days of the bombings in London last year, one of the suspects was picked up in Rome. He had been tracked through his mobile telephone across France and Switzerland to the train to Rome. When he arrived he was arrested. That was only possible through co-operation between the police authorities across Europe and the mobile telephone companies which were able to track the signal from the telephone and see where calls were being made and to where he was moving. I fundamentally disagree with anyone who considers that a retrograde step.
I listened to people in this House complain about privacy and data protection rights. I agree with that. Nobody on this side of the House wants to infringe on normal law-abiding citizens. However, if this can help us catch international terrorists and allow us to catch within a few days people who indiscriminately place bombs in tube stations or on double-decker buses and blow people up, I am in favour of it. I am delighted to see that police are catching up at long last. It is now also possible to track the more expensive cars. Those of us who watch "Crime Scene Investigation" see how they are able to track the movement of large cars from satellite. It will be of help to see where criminals are moving.
Trafficking of people means people from poorer countries are taken to wealthy countries for illegal activity and commercial gain for those involved in the trafficking. It is disheartening, upsetting and difficult to cope with seeing dead people in containers, where they were left in a shipyard for a weekend and suffocated in the heat. These containers are the equivalent of the coffin ships which Ireland knows about from years ago, when people had to leave due to poverty to find a better life for themselves in another country. This is also why those who are trafficked leave their countries.
It does not affect us to an extent, in that wealthy countries do not have to worry about it. It involves poorer people from poorer nations seeking to get to better off countries such as Ireland and other EU countries. Some of them die or are killed in the process. It is a fallacy for anyone to suggest that international co-operation should not take place between all the various police authorities, justice administration, court and prosecution procedures and Ministers with responsibility for justice.
I listened to other contributions before I spoke and speakers complained about the protection of human rights in every part of the world. We have a duty to protect human rights in the part of the world in which we live. When we see people dying in containers we have a duty to ensure those responsible for the organised trafficking of people for profit are prosecuted the entire way back to their home countries.
A great deal of crime is controlled at international level. It is even suggested in media reports, although there is no hard evidence, that the recent occupation of a church in Dublin was masterminded through mobile telephones from Afghanistan. That may or may not be true but it is possible. It is plausible although it may not be factual. It gives an indication of what can be done and what happens in some situations. I disagree with anyone who has a difficulty with us intercepting telephone calls to deal with such situations.
A major aspect of the Bill deals with the roles of banks and financial institutions and the freezing and seizing of money in bank accounts throughout the world. I am Chairman of the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service and this issue has often been discussed at meetings of that committee. In recent years dozens of statutory instruments have passed through this House to deal with the freezing of accounts, for example, the accounts of people connected to bin Laden and his various associates. We may pay no heed to some of the small print we see on the Order Paper but I have seen statutory instruments of this nature referred to the Committee of Public Accounts time and again. The international agreements in question are reached on foot of the intervention of the United Nations. Some of the requests to freeze funds of international terrorists have been initiated at UN level rather than EU level and it is important they are not just internal to the European Union.
The Central Bank and the financial regulator told me that when some of these statutory instruments were passed, the authorities notified the various banks that the accounts of all those with a particular name were to be frozen, which has led to the freezing of thousands of accounts in Ireland in recent years. It is therefore not an academic exercise. I am pleased the legislation will deal with the issue of variations in surnames, which the Seanad has considered. Variations in surnames may exist on computer databases and the banks and financial institutions cannot be expected to know about them, especially if they are foreign names with which we are not familiar. There are refinements in the Bill to deal with this.
I presume the Irish Bankers Federation was in contact with the Department and the Seanad on this matter and they have responded to the federation to tighten the provisions. Inevitably, some of the statutory instruments were a little rough around the edges and citizens who have been getting on with their lives and business here for many years were caught up in investigations merely because they had a surname equivalent to that of an associate of bin Laden or others. I hope most of these problems have been sorted and that they will not recur. I am happy the issue has been dealt with and that the legislation has been refined completely.
There are two or three principles I would like to stress in respect of this legislation. We will not co-operate in any international agreement if it compromises or prejudices our sovereignty. Our sovereignty is one reason we often have difficulty with international agreements and conventions. We have a written Constitution that guarantees our sovereignty and when ratifying EU treaties etc. we have always taken the safe option of ascertaining the view of the people in a referendum. The Oireachtas must respect the wishes of the people as they, rather than this House, are the sovereign governors of the country. We have always respected this and we will not co-operate in the ratification of any international agreement that prejudices our sovereignty.
If any of the investigations carried out under any convention pick on people because of their race, colour, religion or sexual orientation, the Irish Government will not co-operate with them. If evidence or information provided to another country by Ireland under any convention were to lead to the torture of a person, the Government would not co-operate. We have heard speech after speech on Guantanamo Bay and if torture is being carried out in such places Ireland is precluded from co-operating in any investigation that might result in it. We have heard talk on the use of Shannon Airport and scaremongering regarding rendition flights but even the media commentators who are not prone to or noted for being on the Government side have been saying all morning that the recent report, issued by a Swiss gentleman at European level, is long on hearsay and short on everything else.
On the interception of telecommunications, I referred to the interception in Rome of one of those responsible for the bombings in London. Under the international legal instruments in question, states can force telecommunications providers to provide direct assistance when it is not possible to provide it by working through another state. When a person's telephone is registered in a country in which he is not resident during an investigation, the assistance of the third country might not be of any benefit. In this case, the relevant government has the power to approach the telecommunications companies directly to provide assistance in tracking the person. There is a complaints procedure outlined clearly in the Bill relevant to those who feel this is going over the top.
Some other countries could learn from Irish legislation, such as the proceeds of crime legislation, and from our use of the Criminal Assets Bureau. It is recognised internationally that we have been one step ahead of the posse in this area and we have developed legislation in this context very extensively. Other countries are examining it.
It is good to see that there is a facility to transfer prisoners from country to country to assist with investigations. Telephone and television links can be used for the taking of evidence. Part 6 deals with identification procedures whereby members of the Garda, with the assistance of medical professionals, including doctors or dentists, can take blood or DNA samples to be used for identification purposes in other countries. A loophole existed in this regard but the legislation has closed it.
I commend the legislation to the House and hope it will be passed swiftly. We want it to contain all the safeguards suggested on the other side of the House. The Bill is the first of many to deal with international crime, which can be solved only through co-operation between countries on a worldwide basis.
I am glad of the opportunity to speak on this legislation. I have tabled quite a few parliamentary questions on the subject over the years and, coincidentally, I have tabled one or two questions today.
This legislation is a balancing act and it is necessary to meet the threat presented to us. I am referring to crime levels and the degree to which organised crime can seemingly operate with impunity, to which organised criminals can thumb their noses at the authorities and are blatant in the way they display themselves, and to which they have resources at their disposal and can launder those resources. I refer also to the number of locations in which they can launder them. It is not always in underdeveloped countries that this occurs. We must balance our considerations against constitutional rights, first against those that obtain in this country and then against those observed by the countries with which we are dealing and which are cosignatories to the legal instruments.
Let us consider the necessary steps we must take. The drug barons have control over an industry worth many millions of euro or dollars. They have achieved a certain degree or respectability and are now recognised as half-legitimate players in the business sector. They can invest in real estate and are doing so regularly. Using modern technology they can, within seconds, transmit their money electronically to countless locations throughout the world. They have been doing that regularly for some years. They even managed to gain information by intercepting their own transmissions. They intercept the authorities' transmissions, including those of the Garda, very effectively. We all depend on mobile phones and sadly they are being used by criminals as tools of their trade. They rely on them heavily because they facilitate instantaneous, handy, easily available and high-tech communications. Mobile phone technology is improving all the time. Why should they not resort to mobile telephony? Some means must be found to deal with them.
As stated previously, their activities can, in my view, be countered through the technology, as well as via the home affairs or the justice areas. The development of the technology is advancing at such a pace that it is easier to develop the mechanisms through the technological area than through interceptions at a later stage. This can be developed into the area of the Internet in the context of child abuse and everything else. Incidentally, that is another area where there is also major organised international abuse. However, I will return to the trafficking of people.
Based on my reading of the issues involved, it is not sufficient to rely on the enforcement or justice area, that is, the policing of the work. It is much more effective to intercept at the technological level and to be able to provide a system that is not so readily accessible from the viewpoint of those who should not have access to it. In other words, some type of registration system must be devised to throw these particular clients off the track. Not only are these criminals organised, they are also heavily armed. They tote their guns about on a regular basis and shoot each other up in the streets. They travel up and down motorways shooting at each other. We have become very complacent as regards how matters have developed in this jurisdiction in recent years. It is fine to talk about the legislation that is needed. We can have as much legislation as we like but if it is not enforced visibly on the streets, nothing will happen. The time has come when innocent citizens going about their normal business are at risk and in fear of their lives. It is not unusual to meet constituents who will readily express their fear to one. Such fear is generated by thugs with guns and sometimes those without them. They extort, intimidate and threaten and they behave that way all the time.
There was never as much intimidation of witnesses, for example, as is the case at present. That undermines the entire system of law and order. There are protection rackets, which are quite evident in this city and several others, where thugs, again with or without guns, visit businesses and offer so-called protection for a price. I do not know whether everyone in the country knows what is going on. I presume that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister are aware of what is happening. Certainly, the Minister has talked about it a good deal in flamboyant terms. The time has come to take issue with some of these matters because the rights and entitlements of ordinary citizens are being undermined and put at risk. I am conscious of people's entitlements in terms of civil and human rights.
I recall being apprehensive years ago when the Criminal Assets Bureau was being set up lest it be abused. It was not abused, actually, and probably should have been introduced a couple of years earlier. I fully recognise and accept that my fears at the time were without foundation. Now, however, there is a much more serious threat. Not only does it exist in Ireland, it is widespread internationally. We must be careful not to get mixed up between anti-terrorism, which is also rampant worldwide, and what I have dealt with as regards the ordinary common or garden criminal who is working and living here and who takes his or her family on occasional holidays to very exotic places. They would that claim such adventures occur at no expense to the taxpayer, but boy do we pay for their holidays.
Intimidation is quite common in this city and in several others throughout the country. A previous speaker referred to the growth of the drug industry. He was quite right in saying that no one can evaluate the full extent to which it has grown in Ireland in recent times. It so serious and so few resources are being deployed to confront it. This is particularly worrying. If one speaks to any garda working on the ground, he or she will indicate how slender are the resources available for overt or covert reaction to the drugs problem. It is nothing by comparison with what is required, particularly when one considers the magnitude of the problem. Due to the fact that big money is involved, the drug problem will continue to grow. I am not one of those who proposes the legalisation of various forms of drugs. I know the notion was trotted out years ago that legalisation would remove the problem. Prohibition in the US is often quoted in this regard by enthusiasts. They are wrong, of course, because the consumption of alcohol increased by 5,000% when prohibition ended. It was the way it was controlled, and big money was involved. We should be absolutely clear about this nonsense. I do not go down that route at all.
In my opinion, the international community must tackle the problem at source. The way the European Union has dealt with set aside should be the model to be employed for dealing with the production of the types of drugs coming into Ireland from Colombia, Afghanistan or wherever. That is the only way to deal with the problem. The people who are producing should be paid not to produce. It is a tough solution and it would cost money. However, that is what the international community will be obliged to do if it wants to deal with the problem. If we do not face reality, the problem will get worse.
It can come as a shock to learn that even a person one knows quite well, and who might never have been involved in misdemeanour, could have a serious drug problem. Such a person, as an addict, can be used by drug pushers to ensure that not only does his or her habit continue, but that it is spread. It is a type of pyramid system that is self-serving and contains clear objectives. This undermines the entire fabric of our society. We had better challenge that and we must use every means at our disposal to do so. We have a written Constitution and we must observe that. Other countries have written constitutions and some do not. Regardless of whether we like it, in so far as we are concerned, we should ensure that the countries with which we have agreements recognise and fully accept the problem with which we must deal and their obligations to co-operate with this jurisdiction. It is not just one-way traffic. They must co-operate with us as well. If they do not do so to the fullest possible extent, there is no sense in having the legislation in place.
My colleague, Deputy Coveney, who is a member of the European Parliament, will also contribute to this debate. I remember quite a frenetic debate that took place at a meeting of a sub-committee of the European Parliament many years ago at which I was a member of a delegation. I recall that some countries had rigid laws but few rules as to how they dealt with various crimes, petty crime in particular, and they were involved in the pursuit of offenders across borders. The participants in that debate were not prepared for the debate that ensued. Criminal activity across borders creates major problems. Notwithstanding the legislation and the agreements in place, irrespective of how important a case may be, if such legislation and agreements do not stand up constitutionally, the case falls.
The most likely people to bring a case challenging legislation are those with resources, as opposed to an innocent citizen. Those who have resources can afford to go to court to fight a constitutional case. They can do everything possible to ensure that the criminal gets his or her rights, but the same rights may not necessarily be available to the ordinary private citizen who may accidentally have come down on the wrong side of the tracks and be guilty of having committed a misdemeanour.
I wish to refer to what I regard as misdemeanours. In some jurisdictions in Europe and in some states of the US a serious attitude is taken to petty crime offences. There is a theory — it was known as zero tolerance here a few years ago and there were high notions about how it would operate — that, for example, if the person who throws a cigarette butt on the footpath is punished severely, all crime will cease, but life does not work that way. The serious message that must be put across is that crime does not pay. To ensure that, we need to start by taking on the big guys at the top and working down from there. It is not as if their operations are not big or not visible. They are well established. Dealing with those operators in an effective fashion will send a message down the tracks, as has happened in other jurisdictions. Those authorities in those jurisdictions also pursued minor criminals involved in petty crime. However, they hit the real targets in terms of criminals.
In the ten months from 1 January to 1 October 2005 €7.5 million was taken in armed robberies here, of which €38,000 was recovered. Risk assessments are readily available from various financial institutions, including insurance companies. An evaluation of the risk involved in such criminal activity would conclude that there is a fairly good risk that the person involved in such crime will not be caught and will not have to pay the price for it. That is the message being sent to the people on the street and to criminals throughout the country.
This kind of legislation, if properly used, can be effective. There is no point burying our heads in the sand and pretending we do not have a crime problem. We also have an international crime problem, and it is increasing at an alarming rate. It is up to us as to whether we will deal with it. If we continue to focus on the rights of the criminal, we will not resolve the problem. It will come down to the effectiveness of the legislation when its provisions are implemented on the streets.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak on the Bill. I did not realise it was ordered for today until I arrived here this morning. The debate on the Bill presents a good opportunity to raise a number of issues of concern which are appropriate to mention on Second Stage. The Bill is welcome. However, when one reads the seven protocols and agreements which it will transpose into Irish law, one realises the length of time it often takes the Government to reflect in Irish law what has been agreed at European level. That poses problems, a point to which I will return later. Bringing forward the legislation at this point is welcome.
The reality is that crime does not respect borders. If we are to have a truly common and open market in the European Union, which is what the three or four main parties in this House are striving for, we must recognise that type of open market poses problems in terms of the criminal world. If we remove borders for trade, we open borders for international crime, and the criminals are taking advantage of that. That is the reason a sluggish response from the Irish Government in transposing European legislation in the criminal law area is not acceptable. When agreements are made at European level, we need to ensure they are quickly transposed into Irish law, whether they deal with the crime of trafficking in human beings, drugs or fraud.
I wish to raise a number of specific issues related to crime in Ireland and to deal with the aspect of the Bill which refers to developing mutual assistance with the US. In regard to the EU, previous speakers referred to the growth in the availability of drugs in Ireland. We can introduce all the national drug strategies we like, but unless the European Union collectively tries to grapple with this problem and unless we try to grapple with it globally, there will always be excess supply over demand of the major so-called fashionable drugs. The most dangerous drug here is cocaine and its availability is rapidly growing. There is a heroin problem in Dublin in particular and that problem has increased in parts of the country outside Dublin for some time. Those involved in implementing the national drugs strategy are genuinely trying to deal with that problem. We could endlessly debate whether that strategy is as successful as it should be. However, the Government has not sufficiently recognised the extent of the cocaine problem here. Cocaine has become incredibly common in almost every large town and city. It is treated with the lack of respect that means it is becoming a frequently used party drug. We need to take a much stronger stand on that problem at home and we also need to try to cut off supply of that drug. The only way that can be done is through mutual assistance.
I have been involved in the European Parliament in dealing with the issue of human trafficking. The "Prime Time" programme a number of weeks ago that was broadcast on consecutive nights woke up the Irish nation to the relevance of the issue of human trafficking to Ireland. Many people assumed that the slave trade happened in the developing world and was not something that we, as a member state of the EU, would tolerate. Of the 11 top source countries for forced prostitution and the trafficking in women for that trade, four of them are on the Continent of Europe and one is a member state of the EU. We need to wake up and recognise that problem. The European Union has been taking some action to address it and is planning to take more. There is a Council framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings. This is the only country in the European Union that does not specifically outlaw the crime of human trafficking, despite signing up for mutual assistance in a range of legal and criminal areas. Irish legislation neither defines nor deals with this crime although it covers the situation of a child trafficked into Ireland and put into forced labour or prostitution. I would be pleased to be proved wrong, but am fairly sure I am right in saying Irish law does not recognise the crime of trafficking in persons.
The Government needs to address this and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform says he will address it but we have heard little about this since. Senator O'Rourke said she personally would introduce a Bill but we have not yet seen it.
This is important especially when one considers the Government's emergency response to the difficult situation that arose last week regarding statutory rape. All 24 EU countries with which we are agreeing mutual assistance have defined human trafficking in their national legislation. I urge the Government to introduce legislation in that area, otherwise the Opposition will, although the Government has more resources for that.
The problem of human trafficking has been underestimated here. The International Labour Organisation has estimated that up to 12.3 million people are victims of forced labour each year, of whom 2.4 million have arrived as a result of trafficking. The US department of state for trafficking in persons estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across borders each year. Of those 100,000 are trafficked across borders within or into the European Union. According to UNICEF, 1.2 million children are trafficked within countries or across borders each year. Human trafficking is the third largest source of income for organised crime internationally, exceeded only by the arms and drugs trades. The UN office for drugs and crime estimates that each year trafficking in people generates $7 billion.
This is a big business run by organised, dangerous people, many of whom have switched from the drug trade into trading in people because it is less risky and the laws in the area, as exampled by Irish legislation, are not sufficient to deal with their activity. They aim at vulnerable countries, such as Ireland, where demand in the sex trade is growing. Many young women come from eastern Europe to lap-dancing clubs or brothels in Ireland. I commend the work of Ruhama which has been driving the agenda to raise awareness of this problem, including appearing on the "Prime Time" programme.
While some members of the European Parliament are involved in two international campaigns, Stop the Traffik and Business Travellers against Human Trafficking, governments ultimately will make the difference. There should be a more co-ordinated approach to human trafficking within the European Union, starting with a recognition that it exists. For example, the World Cup starts tomorrow and we are excited about that, although Ireland is not playing. Many women have been trafficked into Germany to fill the market for prostitution created by the World Cup. It was a mistake for Germany to legalise prostitution. During the World Cup many young girls will be forced into appalling situations from which it is almost impossible to escape. They will be afraid to go to the police because they are illegal immigrants, and they fear repercussions from the traffickers. This is a major issue which needs to be tackled through mutual assistance at European level and further afield.
I support the section concerning mutual assistance with the United States. There are many who, when we do anything with the United States use it as a political opportunity to beat the Government. This implies that our only contact with the United States should be to reprimand it for Guantanamo Bay or rendition flights. Europe, and especially Ireland, has a special relationship with the United States. We are right to develop mutual assistance in areas of mutual concern whether fighting terrorism, drug or human trafficking, or any other form of organised crime.
If, however, we are developing closer legal relationships with the United States we should also be able to raise issues of concern that are not consistent with a growing mutual working relationship between the United States and Europe. We need to address the inconsistency of trying to work together to minimise terrorism while facilitating rendition or extraordinary rendition flights in European countries, whether knowingly or not.
I am a member of a temporary committee of investigation in the European Parliament into the rendition flights issue. It is my view, although it does not suit me politically to say so, that the Government most probably did not know that privately chartered aircraft refuelled in Shannon Airport on their way home from the most high-profile rendition mission, bringing Abu Omar to Cairo. Whether we like to admit it or not, Shannon Airport has played a role as a pit or fuel stop in rendition missions such as that mission, which flew from Milan through Germany to Cairo where Abu Omar was dropped off. It is unrealistic, however, to say the Irish Government knew that was the case at the time. The assurance it has received regarding the transport of detainees through Shannon Airport from the US authorities is probably valid. I do not believe the detainees have been transited through Shannon Airport but we need to look for a new assurance from the United States along the lines of ensuring that CIA-chartered private aircraft are not landing and taking off there on their way to or from rendition or extraordinary rendition missions.
This also affects public confidence. It would be helpful for the Government to work with other European governments to develop a common standard for the treatment of privately chartered aircraft flying through European air space and airports. It would be reasonable to propose for example a system of random inspection and to seek passenger and crew lists of planes before they arrive.