Thursday, 28 September 2006
Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)
I welcome the opportunity to comment on this Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill. I drafted this before the June recess and a number of developments have taken place in the debate over security since then. I welcome the legislation and support the fight against crime, including terrorism, and improvements to the security of our people and our country.
In the modern world, one is dealing with extraordinarily sophisticated communications, financial networks and ease of transport from one jurisdiction to another. If crime is becoming globalised, we must also globalise the means of fighting it. This Bill enables us to globalise our fight against crime through co-operating with other EU members states and is to be welcomed. Before the summer there was justified concern over how crime trends were developing and since then there has been a debate on the need for EU member states to preserve their individual sovereignty in crime prosecution and prevention, which I supported. While I am ad idem with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on mutual recognition of criminal law systems, we must preserve our independence in that area. When the draft European constitution was being prepared several years ago, then Deputy John Bruton and I represented the Government on the working party that prepared some of this legislation. Ireland, the UK and some of the new accession countries were in the minority in trying to emphasise the need to preserve our independence in this area.
As has been pointed out, the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill gives effect to seven legal mutual assistance instruments. It builds on an existing legislative framework for mutual legal assistance. It provides for the effective co-operation between member states of the European Union and between states worldwide. This is of increasing importance in recent times. The case for mutual assistance in the provision of police activities is essential. That goes back to the days when Interpol was established and the more recent development, albeit in restricted form, of Europol. It is right that within a more unified Europe, where there is harmonisation within the legal framework, we should assist each other. Criminals do not have regard for frontiers and boundaries but often regard them as a means to escape or delay detection. If we were in doubt about how international crime is evolving, yesterday's hijacking of a private jet demonstrated it. I compliment the international police forces led by the Garda Síochána on how they dealt with the incident and I look forward to successful prosecutions.
As organised crime and terrorism become more sophisticated, it is essential that every technique and support is given to police across the Union to enable them to apprehend and bring to justice those responsible. The 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, intercepting telecommunications across national boundaries. It will cover telephone calls from mobiles and land lines, as well as e-mails and Internet connections. Although there are concerns among certain groups about the latitude allowed by this and other legislation on the retention and preservation of records for significantly longer than some would like, we need to err on the side of caution. While it may be possible to become less restrictive in the future, we are up against significant dark forces to whom we must respond strongly. Monitoring bank accounts will make it easier for member states to confiscate the assets of criminals, especially those who live outside their jurisdictions.
Much of the legislation will concern Irish citizens wanted for criminal offences who have fled the country to reside abroad. This is important. We should not tolerate what the tabloids call the "costa del crime". Wherever people hide, whether elsewhere in Europe or further afield, they should be extraditable and their assets should be retrievable. That will require an element of co-operation that did not exist heretofore. It will require an element of mutual recognition of legislative bases that is not as developed as it might be.
The Criminal Assets Bureau was enabled by legislation to put pressure on drug lords and their organisations and to take on the criminals and fight them effectively. There have been many instances of the success of the Proceeds of Crime Act whereby the ill-gotten gains of these warlords have been confiscated.
It may be necessary to look at the legislation underpinning the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Proceeds of Crime Act to see whether they need to be updated and made more rigorous in the light of experience. I would welcome contributions from the law enforcement agencies on whether tighter legislation is necessary. Even if they suggest this we do not have to adopt it but they are best placed to give us such indicators. The legislation also forced many so-called astute drug barons out of the country, some from my constituency — Deputy Finian McGrath will identify with that experience.
Unfortunately they found their way to sunnier climes in Spain and elsewhere from where they ply their trade and supply the Irish market. Maybe because they are supplying the Irish market the authorities in the Mediterranean and northern European countries take little notice of them. This is unfortunate. I, Deputy Gregory and several others visited the drug enforcement agencies in Holland and elsewhere some years ago and impressed upon them the need to prosecute vigorously the obvious activities of some of the Irish drug barons who are still at large. We need to continue that co-operation.
The legislation helps to track down these individuals and confiscate their ill-gotten gains whether here or elsewhere. This Bill will do likewise. It identifies the main forms of mutual assistance, including sensible and practical arrangements such as the provision of financial information, access to bank accounts and making that information available on request with certain safeguards. This is highly desirable. We need to be careful about the safeguards to ensure that they are as tightly drawn as possible.
I note that the Bill provides indemnity to financial institutions also, which is useful because we have seen how successfully the Criminal Assets Bureau operates by having access to the resources and assets of people who cannot be brought to justice for criminal offences but can be caught for related activities and evidence. Everybody cites the case of Al Capone who was brought to justice in the United States for tax offences rather than for the offences for which people thought he should easily have been prosecuted.
Another Criminal Assets Bureau method, the enforcement of orders for freezing property is a practical and sensible arrangement but it must apply, as far as possible, Europe-wide. We have fairly incontrovertible evidence that many of those who make millions of euro here are making many millions more in other jurisdictions in the European Union and the accession countries. While I welcome the news that Bulgaria and Romania are to accede to membership of the European Union next January, I am concerned about the obvious levels of corruption, especially police corruption, particularly in Bulgaria. There is an onus on us to ensure that abuse of legal systems is stopped. A fundamental tenet of membership of the European Union is that the rule of law prevails. There can be no abdication from, or equivocation about, that.
I welcome the provisions regarding the extension of joint investigation teams, particularly those involving co-operation with the United States. I also welcome the co-operation between the police forces on both parts of this island. There is now a high level of co-operation between the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, and the Garda Síochána. That is an extremely welcome development, which is long overdue. Since we last spoke on this issue we have seen action taken on criminal activity by paramilitary and criminal groups along the Border through co-operation between the Garda Síochána, the PSNI, the Assets Recovery Agency and the Criminal Assets Bureau, and I want that to continue.
There has historically been, and continues to be, a high level of co-operation between the United States and Ireland. It is sensible to introduce joint investigation teams as part of our legal and policing co-operation. Organised crime is very sophisticated and terrorism, which poses a major threat to society, must be tackled with the greatest diligence and global co-operation. This is not the only way to tackle terrorism but is one that manifests itself regularly and obviously.
I note also in the Bill that witnesses can be heard through video link or teleconferencing. That was covered in other legislation and is sensible. We need in the reform of the Garda Síochána to make greater use of video-linked evidence and teleconferencing. The trial in respect of the Omagh bombing, running in Northern Ireland, is a good example of this because the victims can observe the proceedings of the court at a remote location when they choose. The videotaping of evidence was introduced to eliminate the waste of Garda time. It would be foolish not to avail of the technology, which facilitates the improvement of the prosecution and the delivery of evidence, especially when we are trying to make the best use possible of Garda time.
I have spoken before on the need for our law enforcement agencies to be provided with the best equipment and technology in their fight against terrorism and organised crime. I am pleased to see that since we last spoke here the contract for the digital system for the Garda Síochána has been placed and will be rolled out in the coming months. That is acutely important. While anecdotal information is not always the best, it is disturbing that there are times when the key people behind significant and abhorrent crimes arrive on the scene before the gardaí because they have more sophisticated communications technology.
In 1988 when I first visited Dublin's sister city, San Jose, the limousine taking us from the airport broke down and we were taken to our hotel in police cars. That was the first time I saw on-board computers being used. Given the development of ICT, with Blackberries and hand-held units, it beggars belief that on-board computer information cannot be made available to the Garda.
This legislation does much to combat drug gangs and drug crime. I have often referred to the threat drugs pose to our communities. I applaud the good work of the Garda in dealing with drug gangs, especially when we consider that so much crime evolves from direct involvement in drugs or from related activities. My constituency has suffered from the emergence of people who have become very rich at the hands of others, to put it obliquely. It must be a source of huge concern. We regularly hear reports of young lads, who are obviously no angels, being arrested with large doses of drugs in their systems, to the extent that they need to be treated for drug overdoses. It appears that cocaine is the new aspirin for many people who will do anything to manipulate those who are weaker than themselves. We need to keep on top of the problem and this legislation will help to facilitate that. I agree with Deputies who have argued that the drugs problem is not just a law and order issue. We could talk about this aspect of the matter, which is clearly important, for a long time. It is generally acknowledged that just 10% of the drugs coming into this country are detected. Terrorists and drug gangs are co-operating with each other across jurisdictions. This Bill, which enables mutual assistance between member states and allows authorities in another jurisdiction to share information on drugs coming into this country, enhances and supplements the national fight against drug gangs, as well as the existing international co-operation in the fight against organised crime.
I welcome the safeguards which are built into the legislation whereby the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform does not need to accede to a request if it is based on specific grounds relating to sovereignty, security and other interests of the State. As I said at the outset, I strongly support the stand taken by the Government at the Helsinki meeting of the Council of Ministers a number of weeks ago on the need for us to preserve unanimity on reaching decisions on this particular pillar of the European project. This legislation also provides that the Minister does not need to accede if there are grounds to suspect that the request was made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing someone based on their sex, race, religion, ethnic origin, nationality, political opinion or sexual orientation. These good precautions are in line with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. I will add a cautionary note by reminding the House of the hard-hitting speeches which were made in our neighbouring jurisdiction over the summer by ministers there who lectured members of religious communities about their responsibilities and about what their followers might or might not get involved in. It is not helpful to take such an approach to any particular religious community.
I am glad the Minister has taken the views of the Irish Human Rights Commission into consideration in finalising the provisions of this legislation. Civil liberties groups will always question issues in a Bill like this, and quite rightly so. Unfortunately, the loss of certain personal freedoms and the threat to human rights are among the disadvantages we sometimes encounter when we try to take action against organised crime, drug barons, prostitution, child pornography, trafficking and terrorism. Crime bosses and terrorists will always have an advantage in this regard. It is important that we err on the side of being very cautious, which might upset some human rights groups. It will probably be easier to relax the provisions of this Bill in years to come, after it has become law, rather than trying to tighten the situation after the horse has bolted. 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. We must draw a line in terms of what is acceptable to protect the freedoms we have. We must also provide a safe and secure society for the people who live with those freedoms. Ireland has a good record of protecting the rights of individuals, even during times of trouble. We have made difficult decisions when dealing with terrorist activities on this island. We have taken a position of leadership on the international stage at the same time, in areas like human rights, development aid, conflict resolution and peacekeeping. We can provide leadership on the world stage by providing mutual assistance and offering information on how we have addressed problems like these.
This necessary legislation will be welcomed by most fair-minded people. Ireland is playing its part on the international stage by introducing it. Mutual co-operation between criminal groups which use modern technology and business activities for selfish gains must be matched by equally co-operative legislative work, which is what we are doing in this case. I welcome the legislation and thank the Minister for introducing it.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on Second Stage of the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005. As Deputy Carey said, it is important that we should have a debate on this matter. Like many fair-minded people, however, I will take a different position from the Deputy on the details of the legislation. It is important for us to have a balanced debate and for Members to propose sensible ideas and solutions about crime, particularly international crime.
Many citizens and residents of this State have significant concerns about what is going on in this country at present. They are worried about crime, cocaine and shootings on our streets. A constituent of mine, Ms Donna Cleary, was shot dead as a direct result of the drugs war on the north side of Dublin. In recent days, people have been kidnapped and held hostage while money was taken from banks in my constituency. It is all very well for some people, like the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to take the high moral ground when speaking about the victims of these crimes, such as the staff of banks and their families. I commend the staff of the bank in Killester, in particular, on the tough decisions they took in the interests of public safety. They were hounded by certain Ministers and senior police officers in the days after the raid on that bank. The key issue for many of the families in question is that nobody died and the other issues can be resolved at a future stage. I commend the staff in Killester on their bravery and integrity in prioritising the human rights of our citizens.
It is important to reflect on issues of international law as part of this debate. It seems that international law is completely out of control at present. Human rights are being abused by rogue states and presidents of so-called "free democracies", who are making things worse. The pendulum has gone the other way — the international community has gone crazy. We see nothing but abuse of human rights, rather than respect for them. This is an important aspect of the debate on crime and the criminal justice system. It is wrong that some elements of the right wing press in certain countries think that human rights and civil liberties are dirty words. Those who do not understand that respect for human rights and civil liberties is an important part of our criminal justice system are making a fundamental mistake. That is the line I will be taking in respect of this Bill.
I have major concerns about some international states. I spoke recently about the record of the United States on civil liberties and human rights. The Minister for Foreign Affairs should hammer home this point on behalf of the Government at every international meeting. We should not be afraid. We should have the bottle to side with other countries, particularly poorer countries, at United Nations level. It is important for Ireland to work with other countries to promote international peace, to prevent the recurrence of circumstances like those in Darfur, to co-operate on the various important issues and to deal with the drug barons. We should work with the poorer countries which need assistance, in particular. We need to treat them with respect and dignity, but that is not happening at present. Some of the so-called free democracies of the West are treating such countries with a lack of respect and dignity.
I would like to highlight another aspect of this debate. It is all very well to deal with the issue of mutual assistance on matters of criminal justice, as we are doing today, but we also need to be tough on the causes of crime. Any Government, or any Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, that does not wake up and smell the coffee by being tough on the causes of crime needs to get a reality check. It is unacceptable, in a very wealthy country, that everyone is looking the other way while communities are suffering massive and total social exclusion and major economic and social disadvantage. We need to look at resources. The excuse of not having resources is gone. The debate on resources must now centre on how we distribute them to the communities concerned. The poor, working class areas that need investment, housing and social inclusion policies must be the priority in this debate. This is an important element in tackling crime. The education system is another key and strategic element. If young people, particularly those excluded from society, are assisted in their education, it will lead to a positive input in their lives and, in turn, prevent much crime.
In tackling crime, we must face the reality that we need more judges. Preliminary hearings should be held to shorten trials. I want the establishment of a dedicated witness-victim-family liaison officer scheme. Why can the courts not operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? A new criminal court complex for Dublin should be designed to segregate key players such as judges, witnesses, jury members, defendants and gardaí. Most disadvantaged schools must be targeted with extra resources, particularly counselling and family therapy sessions. I welcome the massive investment by Chuck Feeney, the Irish-American multimillionaire, in Dublin's northside. He is working closely with the Department of Education and Science in targeting these resources. I commend him and his organisation for the magnificent work they have done.
We must face the reality that violent and disruptive young people require counselling and family therapy sessions. These are the young people who will end up in Mountjoy Prison in the future if they are not attended to at a young age. On a practical level, more community gardaí on the beat, talking and working with the people in reducing fear of crime are needed. I support the development of Operation Anvil against armed gangs. Some of those in the criminal drugs world can only be dealt with through such operations. At the same time community gardaí are needed on the streets to prevent crime and deal with major issues.
The purpose of the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill is to give effect to provisions in seven mutual legal assistance instruments. These are the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the member states of the European Union, the Second Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters; 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 in criminal matters; the Council Framework Decision of 22 July 2003 on the execution in the European Union of orders freezing property or evidence; the agreement between the EU and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the application of certain provisions of the 2000 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the 2001 Protocol.
The new main forms of mutual assistance provided for in the Bill include the provision of financial information to other states for criminal investigation purposes regarding transactions on bank accounts and the monitoring of such accounts. Mutual assistance will also provide for assistance in accordance with national law on the interception of telecommunications in the context of criminal investigation in EU member states and the hearing of witnesses and experts in other countries by video or telephone conference. This co-operation will allow us to deal with serious criminal matters.
A constant problem I encounter in my clinics is the number of assaults and attacks on people and communities suffering from anti-social and intimidatory behaviour that go unreported. Anti-social behaviour is particularly relevant with young people aged 16 to 22 years. Recently in my area, a group of women in a flats complex cleaned the stairways of dirt and syringes. The following night they were intimidated by some gangs in the area. It is unacceptable. Those who clean up their complexes must be supported by the Garda and politicians. This is not just a political issue but a human rights one. It is about the human rights of the women in the Dublin North-Central constituency who have the bottle and courage to clean their stairways yet are intimidated by thugs involved in the drugs trade.
We need quality police officers who are honest and have the trust of their local communities. They must be seen to be in the community. I challenge senior Garda management, the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Ministers of State on this. In an eight hour shift, how many hours do gardaí spend in the community, walking the streets? They should be there for at least six hours. One cannot blame younger gardaí if they are not in the communities they serve. A culture is in place that must be tackled by management. Many young men and women join the Garda with a vision of helping their communities. Years into the job, they become cynical. This concerns me and every Member is aware of this situation.
Honest and quality policing is needed to tackle crime. An example of good practice is where the community garda goes into certain areas at 11 o'clock on a Saturday night preventing assaults at chippers and pubs. These are the gardaí who should be rewarded rather than the garda who is someone's hack in the job. More respect must be shown to those community gardaí who prevent crime. It is often said that it is not a good career move for a garda to be involved in the community, helping drug addicts and working with the health services. It is better to be involved in the sexy sections of the garda. I reject this because many community gardaí do much to prevent crime.
There must be an emphasis on honesty, integrity and the trust of a community. A garda cannot simply expect a community to respect or trust him or her. If he or she is serious, that respect and trust must be earned. I know that from working in Dublin's north inner city for 20 years. The excellent gardaí, particularly those involved in the drugs squad, did not expect but earned the respect and support of the communities involved. They turned around situations where there was cynicism and mistrust. This approach is needed across the State.
Bad police practice needs to be tackled. On the night before the All-Ireland football final, a group of young women walking down O'Connell Street were intimidated by another group of young women with a knife, apparently high on drugs. Fortunately, the women in the first group talked their way out of the situation. When they rang the Garda, they were asked "what could the Garda do about it?" They could not locate a garda on O'Connell Street. One must question the competence of Garda management when, on the Saturday night before an all-Ireland final, young women are threatened with knives and there is no Garda back-up.
It leads to a loss of confidence in the force when one hears stories such as this. Garda management must wake up and smell the coffee, get its act together and deliver the necessary services. It can no longer hide behind the numbers game because there are more gardaí than ever before in the history of the State. What are the managers, including the Commissioner, doing? These are fundamental questions. The Garda must move beyond claiming its hands are tied. That is utter rubbish. One does the job to the best of one's ability whether one is a garda, fire officer, teacher, medical worker and so on.
The Bill provides for the mutual recognition and enforcement of orders for freezing property based on evidence from other EU member states, obtaining identification evidence for criminal investigations both inside and outside the State, and the establishment of joint investigation teams in co-operation with the United States of America. I have already mentioned my concerns about the human rights record of that country. Co-operation is essential but we must be careful about working with persons who have no respect for human rights.
The Bill includes provision of a legal basis for the restitution of articles obtained by criminal means to their rightful owner and for controlled deliveries in the State and participation in such deliveries in other EU and Council of Europe member states. Provision is made in section 11 for the specification of different versions of a person's name when information about financial transactions is sought from a financial institution on the basis that it is not reasonable to expect the institution to be aware of variants of a name.
A new section 28 has been inserted to provide for the interception of postal packets and telecommunications messages. The Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 applies to interception orders made under the Bill, including the provision of that Act for review by the High Court of interception orders, including related documents.
Section 87 has been amended to provide for specific regulations to give effect to an international instrument to be made under the provisions of this Bill. This has been included on the advice of the Attorney General following a Supreme Court decision that a standard regulation making provision in an Act is not sufficient to make regulations giving effect to international instruments.
These are the technical details of the legislation. It is clear there are sections in the Bill that will strongly further facilitate the detection and prosecution of those responsible for transnational crime. I agree with this simple objective but I have also pointed out the flaws.
It is important that we wake up to reality by rejecting the common false perception that legislation will solve the crime problem. That is not the case. We must remind ourselves that legislation without action will not resolve the problem. Some people in this House and others outside it seem to be obsessed with the notion that legislation will resolve everything. Legislation is only a small, albeit important, tool in the fight against crime.
The main issue is the necessity to deal with the causes of crime by facilitating and supporting those potentially at risk from a young age. There must be economic investment in deprived areas. There is no reason for it and it is unacceptable that there should be parts of Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Galway where people on one side of the road live in four bedroom houses with nice gardens and whose children go happily to school every day while only 500 metres away, families live in conditions of severe economic and social deprivation.
We are deceiving ourselves if we believe it is adequate to debate crime legislation while ignoring the debate on our divided society. We will get nowhere by doing that. It is members of the poorest and weakest sections of society who end up in Mountjoy and Cloverhill prisons. We must confront that truth. We must support people even if that means making tough decisions and prioritising those most at risk by diverting resources from the wealthy.
A news bulletin last night informed us that there is still €1 billion owed to the Revenue in outstanding and uncollected taxes from wealthy persons. This is the official figure and one can only imagine the unofficial amount. What would this €1 billion do for people in disadvantaged communities throughout the State? The Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley is aware of some of the estates to which I refer but I do not wish to name areas in my own or other constituencies. People in such communities need our support and are looking for a break. Recent events have shown the importance of that support.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss this legislation but we must remember that legislation without action will not deal with crime.
I support and welcome the measures in this Bill. Unfortunately, crime has become sophisticated and international — one could almost use the word "cultured". As an island state, we cannot stand back and claim it does not concern us.
The problems of crime have become matters of global concern. An issue of particular concern in this State is the frightening and growing drug trade. Some of these drugs are destined for use in Ireland while in other cases, we are used as a one-stop shop for the transportation of drugs to other parts of Europe and elsewhere. Such activity seems to have increased. Some days ago we heard of a consignment of heroin that was due to be landed at a private airport in Dublin.
Despite the worrying statistics, this trade is not new for us. I come from a part of Ireland where we do not have the same prevalence of drug abuse as that in the localities of other Members such as Deputy Gregory. However, there is no village or town that does not have some problem with drug abuse. My teenage children tell me one can buy an ecstasy tablet for €4 or €5 in my home town. They are not available over the counter but nor are they particularly difficult to find. It is a worrying reality.
In west Cork, including Carbery's Hundred Isles, the hundreds of inlets that make up our sporadic and sprawling coastline were used for many years for the shipment of drugs, particularly from South America. Our south-west coast lies in the path of the world's busiest shipping lanes. We are aware of several success stories involving the interception of drugs off the coast. In one instance, a considerable consignment was jettisoned off Kinsale, of which some was later recovered.
I recently spoke to a retired customs and excise officer from the west who had intimate knowledge of border transactions and so on. He recalled instances where he and his colleagues monitored the landing of drugs throughout west Cork. I believe this still goes on. A farmer who lives near a forlorn, lonesome pier on a headland told me some years ago that he was awoken one morning at 4 a.m. by the sound of the engines of boats, trucks and cars. All this activity ceased before dawn. These people were not landing herring or mackerel. It is obvious there has been trans-shipment of drugs into Ireland.
Unfortunately, criminal law, customs and Garda experts all tell us we are probably confiscating only some 15% of the drugs passing through the State. That is a worrying statistic. I laud the Garda Síochána in its efforts throughout the country, particularly Dublin. In the past six or seven years substantial and valuable quantities of drugs have been confiscated. The relevance to this Bill is that much of this success could not have occurred were it not for Interpol and international policing.
The Garda Síochána has done an excellent job and it is regrettable that the drug issue will not be eliminated. I wish there were zero tolerance but the drug problem in Ireland has grown in the past 25 or 30 years. There are drugs gangs in Ireland today that are prepared to kill. There was a very recent incident in Dublin where a Garda sergeant was shot by a 16 year old. The car involved was driven by another 16 year old and, thankfully they were apprehended. This young generation of criminals is audacious. If I saw a garda when I was 16 I would have been inclined to walk the other way. The statistics today are frightening and we must be vigilant.
Not all drugs trafficked to Ireland come from South America. North Africa, Eastern Europe and other places are involved. These shipments may come by air or boat and it is worrying that they are normally accompanied by state of the art weapons and ammunition including machine guns and automatic pistols. In this regard I welcome the gun amnesty and feel we must get tough on the possession of firearms without a licence. I am not referring to farmers in the west of Ireland who may need a shotgun to protect their property. There are many guns in cities and towns throughout the country. Ten years ago the likelihood is they would have been connected to illegal organisations. Nowadays weapons are added as a bonus to drug shipments of crack, cocaine, heroin, marijuana and so on. This is a frightening aspect of the new criminal gangs that exist in Ireland.
There are proposals relating to mutual legal assistance included in this Bill, but there are other areas in which it is of importance. To track expert, sophisticated criminals it may be necessary for the Garda to intercept their communications by tapping phones and so on. This is a grey area that touches on the right to privacy. However, this Bill includes safeguards. An application must be made to the Garda authorities to tap a phone line or intercept a communication that may contain information relating to criminals. This application must be certified at the highest level, which is a good thing.
Human trafficking has, regrettably, become an international issue. In recent years Ireland has seen the trafficking of women for prostitution. There have been horrific stories and, while it may not be widespread, it is a worrying trend that did not exist ten or 15 years ago. The women are often tricked, bribed or cajoled to come here seeking a better lifestyle. On arrival, in many instances, their passports are taken, they are hidden in houses and they are used, abused and ill treated. Sometimes they do not see the light of day. If this type of legislation, through co-operation with Interpol, the British police, American agencies and so on, led to such a woman gaining freedom and winning back her life it would serve a good purpose.
We are aware that paedophile rings have been successful in trafficking children into countries such as Italy. Thankfully this does not appear to be prevalent in Ireland. These children may be infants bought in Eastern Europe for a few dollars and trafficked as part of the sex trade. The boys and girls may be five or six years old up to 12 or 13. In many instances they will have been used in paedophile images and films. All human trafficking should be condemned, but we must be especially vigilant regarding children, the most vulnerable members of society. Were it not for the international exchange of classified information, whether with the FBI, CIA or Interpol, crime in Ireland would be far worse.
I recently watched a documentary on the events of 11 September 2001. There was a breakdown in communication between the various security agencies in the United States. The suicide bombers involved were living in the country in places like Los Angeles and San Diego. One agency knew this and did not inform other agencies. I do not wish to start an international argument with the United States, but had they been more vigilant and listened to repeated warnings from experts the twin towers would still stand. That is a clear instance where information gleaned by international agents, working for the security of the United States of America, was not fed from one body to another. The information was not correlated and what happened was appalling. However, that is another day's work.
In recent years, through legislation, this country has set out to achieve, in so far as possible, total co-operation within Europe. Ireland is just one of 25 countries within the EU and it is essential that we have the highest quality of intelligence within the Garda Síochána. The force has suffered recent setbacks with the Donegal and Abbeylara debacles, which were appalling, damaged morale and did no favours for the status of the Garda. The Garda Representative Association also became political on the issue of policing and the reserve force. However, despite those obvious setbacks, I have great faith in the Garda Síochána. By and large, its members do an excellent job and enjoy good success across the board.
I am fortunate to live in an area where there is not a lot of serious crime. The most worrying serious crime that was committed in my constituency in the last 30 years was the murder of the French woman, Ms Sophie Toscan du Plantier, ten years ago. That crime has not been solved but leaving that aside, there are problems from time to time in the area, but we are reasonably fortunate in terms of levels of serious crime.
Members of the Garda Síochána should live within the communities they serve, particularly in rural areas. There was an enormous furore recently in Dunmanway concerning the building of a new Garda station or the refurbishment of the existing premises, where there was an access problem. The matter is still not fully resolved. I have worked hard to find a resolution and am hopeful now because we have been given the orange light, if not the green light on the issue. There are six gardaí in Dunmanway, all of whom are fine individuals. However, somebody pointed out to me that none of them lives in the town. Indeed, some of them travel 20 or 30 miles to work there. I feel strongly that if a garda is stationed in a town or village for a number of years, he or she should live there. I have heard complaints that if a superintendent or inspector is appointed in a rural area, he or she commutes 40 or 50 miles. Perhaps such people are expecting further promotion, but they do not live in the community. One cannot get a proper understanding of the problems in a town or village — I am using Dunmanway as an example and am not being disparaging about the town — unless one lives there. When gardaí are living elsewhere it makes it difficult for them to provide the proper community policing that people deserve. There is nothing nicer than walking through a town, for example, Bantry, on a Friday or Saturday at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. and seeing a squad car doing a tour of the town or a couple of garda officers walking around. Perhaps I am old fashioned, but that type of presence gives a sense of security.
This legislation must be welcomed. There are many technical aspects to the Bill which have been dealt with by other speakers. Some provisions have been dealt with by the courts, having been previously shot down as being ultra vires. Regrettably, the legislation is necessary. These issues must be dealt with and doubtless will still arise in ten years' time, regardless of who is in Government. Criminal justice is a fluid area.
In the context of the European and global situation, the proposed European constitution, which is currently parked, is important. I am chairman of the All Party Committee on the Constitution and hold the view that a European constitution will be very hard to impose on 25 different countries. A constitution is the sole possession of a country. Bunreacht na hÉireann, for example, is our exclusive possession. Conventions or protocols can work but I have grave doubts about a European constitution being accepted by the Irish people in a referendum.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005. I am encouraged to speak more widely about the criminal justice system, given what I think is the appropriate philosophical tolerance that was given to Deputies who spoke earlier, and rightly so, as they are concerned about crime and the response to it in contemporary conditions. Nevertheless, I will try to stay within the terms of the Bill.
It would be a great pity if, in discussing this legislation or any other that emanates from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, we were invited to make a distinction between human rights and good law. Human rights is not soft law but is the bedrock of good law. We should not be invited to make a choice between enforcement on the one hand and the protection of human rights on the other. It is important to stress this point because there was a suggestion in some of the speeches that this Bill, along with others, is a sufficient response to contemporary conditions and that one can return to it, as it were, in better times. This is not an appropriate view, frankly. All temporary legislation of the criminal law kind is bad legislation in the end. It may be justified at times in the name of emergency legislation but we have quite an inglorious record of allowing emergency legislation to exist for half a century or more. One then wonders if one's normal condition is one of continuing emergency or one of being able to have law based on fundamental principles.
I wish the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform well because it is responsible for approximately one third of the proposed legislative programme. If one examines the recent proceedings in Geneva with regard to other legislation that will be required of the Department in such areas as the protection of the child, the Department will be even busier than heretofore. The long list of unratified United Nations conventions, which the State has yet to legislate for also falls as a burden on the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. All of this makes one wonder if sufficient resources are available to enable it to meet its legislative obligations. Legislation is insufficient with regard to the protection of the child, as the Geneva meeting pointed out this week.
As a former member of the McBride commission which examined Irish prisons, one of the sad aspects for me of speaking on this area is that referring to rights in prisons has become unfashionable. It is perceived by many Members in this and the other House as unimportant. There are no votes in it and thus it has become a matter of rights that can be let go. The conditions in our prisons are a scandal. We had the McBride report, although the commission was referred to as a self-appointed group by the Minister of Justice of the day. It was succeeded by the Whitaker report. We have been promised fundamental autonomous administration of the prisons but what is taking place is a scandal. Where there is multiple occupancy, there is little control over drugs and there are few guarantees regarding personal health and very poor remedial programmes. The suspension of work training programmes must also be considered and all these issues comprise the practical reason I say the conditions are a scandal. It is also a kind of scandal that we are not able to have this discourse publicly because it is assumed this is a subject about which one should not speak.
Deputy after Deputy spoke about the importance of having transparent, accountable and adequate policing in the community and they were correct in doing so.
On the question of young people, the fact the juvenile liaison scheme did not enjoy sufficient status within the thinking of the Garda Síochána is a matter for concern. At another time and in another way, I will raise the matter of an investigation into the terms according to which a scheme aimed at young offenders was suspended in my constituency more than a year ago. An investigation was carried out into why this occurred and a report was prepared but we are now told by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that it is not to be published. This again demonstrates a scandalous lack of transparency. I refer to the Bris project in the west side of Galway city.
I notice very little concern, at public or departmental level, over the implications of large numbers of unaccompanied minors simply going missing after coming to Ireland. I remember dealing with some of these young people, who were being allowed education but in the knowledge that as they prepared for the leaving certificate they qualified for consideration for deportation. A number of the unaccompanied minors have gone missing and it would be useful if the Minister, in replying to this debate, outlined the procedures instituted to protect them. The number of unaccompanied minors can be calculated simply on the basis of the number originally in the care of different health authorities.
Let me turn specifically to the Bill. With its nine parts and 89 sections, it raises a number of issues. It is correct and appropriate to have mutual assistance in combating criminality. It is sometimes not acknowledged by those advocates of globalisation that the real beneficiaries of the electronic age are those in the drugs industry and international finance, as is evident from Manuel Castell's three-volume work on the subject. Money can be moved in real time and the speeds of movement of hot money and migrants have been entirely different. This raises interesting international legal issues, such as the manner in which one responds to the fact the drugs industry and those who handle hot money are always ahead of the international enforcement agencies.
Let me be positive and say I support such legislation as would enable the balance to be redressed in this regard. However, I note the associated problem. The views of those who seek from us our co-operation in bringing new legislation into being are entirely misplaced if they contend that because we suggest such legislation be crafted within the context of international law, we are somehow being tardy or less than full in our support.
If one considers human rights law, which emerged particularly strongly from the end of the Second World War when it responded to the nadir to which human behaviour fell, and the international conventions, even those of the 1990s, to which we subscribe, one will note we are not talking about separate streams but about something which is very worthy, that is, the attempt to try to find universal principles to which people with different legal systems might subscribe and which, ultimately, might lead to some principles of universality.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform subscribes to some of what I am saying but regards the Irish Constitution as the boundary beyond which he will not go. He is inclined occasionally to posit the superiority of constitutional protection over international legal protection. This arises in one circumstance after another and there is no doubt it will be repeated when we come to consider the request being made that Ireland have adequate constitutional protection of the rights of the child.
I can be specific in respect of different sections of this legislation and we can discuss them in detail on Committee Stage. One section refers to the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Last Monday week, a White Paper on overseas development aid was launched and it correctly makes the point that aid donors are anxious that their aid not be abused by corrupt recipients and so forth. However, there is not a single line in the White Paper that commits Ireland to ratifying the United Nations Convention against Corruption. It is in the legislative programme circulated this week and it is listed for 2007.
The ideological argument people make about this matter is that one should get on with the business of ratifying these conventions. In the speech introducing Second Stage of this legislation, it is assumed there is no great difficulty in preparing the necessary compliance legislation. If this is the case, one must ask why there is a delay in ratifying the convention. These matters will no doubt feature in the reply to this debate.
The balance that I suggest should exist between the rights of the citizen and international legal co-operation and mutual assistance is very important. In the later sections of this voluminous Bill, there is a reference to the Ireland-United States agreement. Section 3 offers a definition of "torture" in which it is suggested it has the meaning given to it by the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000. I am not sure whether reference is made to the optional protocol. We can consider this on Committee Stage. It is very clear that in the United States, Senator McCain and others have made a very fine defence of the definition in the UN convention, but it is clear there is no agreement within the current Administration of the United States and the European Union regarding what constitutes torture.
Reference is made in the Bill to the European Union-US agreement. We must consider this on Committee Stage because it is not at all clear what has been agreed by way of final content in respect of international protections of the person. There are issues of compatibility to be considered and they run far deeper than the textual references I have made. I refer to entirely different systems from different streams of jurisprudence. For example, the investigative procedures on the Continent regarding many different countries, whereby a person can be detained indefinitely without such guarantees as exist under the Irish Constitution, are obvious.
It is very clear the relationship between mutual assistance and the system that prevails in Britain has been one of the black negatives in the record of outgoing Prime Minister Blair in that he and his Administration have systematically sought to erode the protections of rights under the European Convention. A lay person considering this might ask the nature of that to which we are being required to give assent by mutual assistance. Do they ask us to share intelligence with those who refuse to offer absolute guarantees under international conventions regarding the degrading or inhuman treatment of prisoners? Do they ask us to share intelligence regarding matters of arbitrary detention without trial? Regarding the drafting of this legislation, the concept of a judicial review of some sections was conceded under pressure in the Seanad. We must be very careful how we approach this legislation.
I say all that to be of assistance. I hope we will eventually reach a point where we have restored the relationship between human rights and law. It is deplorable that those who make human rights cases are somehow regarded as being soft on crime when nothing could be further from the truth. What we want is something that precedes the human rights movement in law, namely, certainty. We can have that when we have principles shared across different legal systems and states.
I found it interesting that the last speaker from the Government side, Deputy O'Donovan, should suggest that he has almost an ideological difficulty with the concept of a constitution other than our own. While its content is important, widespread acceptance of shared European — or universal — human rights principles would be very welcome. That will be very difficult to achieve. For example, regarding rights, does one argue for them based on a rational tradition regarded as the Western, post-Enlightenment system, or does one take into account the revealed source of human rights, which is the position in many Islamic countries? I am aware of the difficulties in those debates, but human rights are not a concession. They are at the very root of good law, domestically, at European level, and internationally.
I need to say that because of we are in an atmosphere to which the Government spokesperson on Second Stage did not refer. In international law, the principle of pre-emption has been accepted regarding, for example, the disciplines imposed by the United Nations in that one may play fast and loose with the notion of defence and reasonable preparation in anticipation of an attack. The Bill defines such matters as extradition in section 2. We have witnessed a period of the most widespread abuse through extraordinary rendition.
We can go into this in detail on Committee Stage, but practically what I ask is why there are not prefatory statements before sections indicating that whatever is proposed will occur within the context of international law. It is occasionally stated. I believe that the Minister of State, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, in introducing Second Stage, referred to protections under the European Convention on Human Rights. However, we need specific guarantees that regarding enabling provisions, the process, or the consequences of sections of this legislation being implemented there will not be any departure from full compliance.
What is compliance? That question arose in the questionnaire on extraordinary rendition sent by the Council of Europe to the Government. We sent a very complete response, including all the enabling legislation, such as the Traffic Acts and Air Navigation and Transport Acts. However, we did not give the Council of Europe perhaps the most important relevant information, namely, that while we had the Air Navigation and Transport Acts and other legislation, we had not exercised any enabling power thereunder. On that matter, we were silent.
We need certainty, and this legislation will have my support. We should all co-operate and must not do anything that will tip the balance in favour of international criminals. I listen to such people as Deputy Gregory and agree that there are armchair beneficiaries of the appalling drug trade. I am in favour of taking action against those who visit such misery on communities, families and individuals, since a case can certainly be made for that.
However, my other point is that we must achieve certainty by inserting into the text the fact that we operate within a framework of international law, particularly because of the abuse of intelligence systems. We will revisit a real difficulty on Committee Stage regarding under what circumstances and to what degree it is appropriate to use an exchange of intelligence. For example, what questions does one put to the requesting authority to allow the guarantees of which I speak? It may well be that a Government or Minister must ultimately exercise discretion regarding where to strike the balance. However, the principles on which a balance is sought should be absolutely clear.
I welcome this Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill 2005 and share the sentiments that Deputy Michael Higgins expressed in his contribution.
I have only a few brief comments. It is particularly appropriate that we should discuss mutual assistance among crime prevention departments in the EU and so on the day after a major operation in Belgium in which a privately owned jet from this country landed to pick up €10 million of heroin. That type of operation, probably more than most other aspects of crime today, requires a great deal of the mutual assistance provided for in the Bill.
In saying that, I congratulate the law enforcement authorities, Belgian and Irish, involved in taking that huge quantity of heroin out of circulation and ensuring that it does not cause the kind of misery to which Deputy Michael Higgins referred. It is virtually unprecedented, although a few months ago there was a similar seizure of heroin worth €7 million in Ratoath, County Meath. That probably demonstrates the changes in Afghanistan and the huge crop of heroin that has become available as a result. It should come as no surprise to any of us that such vast quantities are heading to this State. However, one can only imagine the human damage that such great amounts of the drug are causing here.
The other aspect to yesterday's operation is the almost "Miami Vice" style international involvement and a private executive jet being used to collect the drugs and bring them back to this country. That is how the international drugs trade operates and why law enforcement authorities have to be able to respond at that level. They have to work together to stymie today's €1 billion drugs trade. Having said that, there were a number of worrying aspects. Apart altogether from the type of drug and the enormous quantity involved, it is quite incredible that the jet involved could fly out of an airfield in this country and return without anyone examining it to find out whether it had a cargo, who the passengers were or what they were bringing with them. Yet it has been raised in this House in the past. The Independent Deputy for the area in which Weston Aerodrome is based, Deputy Catherine Murphy, raised it within the last few months and tabled a Dáil question this week highlighting the fact that no customs, Garda or any other type of checks are carried out on private aerodromes such as Weston. In the reply given to Deputy Catherine Murphy, the Minister for Finance, who has responsibility for the customs operations, acknowledged that there should be regular checks of Weston and similar aerodromes, particularly in the context of the international drugs trade. Yet those regular checks are not being carried out.
In 2005 a total of ten planned customs checks were carried out at Weston and six unplanned checks. Those statistics were given by the Minister in replies to Deputy Murphy. It seems extraordinary to me but apparently jets can land at Weston, the passengers can descend and get into a taxi. They do not even go through the buildings in the place. The buildings, of course, do not have planning permission in Weston, which is another worrying aspect. The owners and those involved at Weston do not appear to have any regard whatever for the laws of this land. That is the context. There is a blatant flouting of the planning laws in this place and now jets are flying in and out.
Presumably this was not the first occasion drugs were flown into this country. It would be an enormous coincidence if that were the case. The likelihood, however, is that it was not. If people are running an aerodrome with no regard for the laws of the land and the State is failing in its responsibilities to ensure proper customs and Garda monitoring takes place at these aerodromes, it is inevitable that the type of operation that was being carried out yesterday will happen. This issue has been addressed in the past in the House and has not been responded to in any positive way. I hope, following yesterday's activity and the reality of what can happen in that type of situation, action will now be taken and that proper customs and Garda monitoring will take place as regards air traffic operations from this private aerodrome at Weston or any other. If not, we might as well forget about the war on drugs or our attempts to deal with the importation of drugs into this State.
I have a further question I want investigated. I should like to see everybody involved or connected with that drugs operation yesterday thoroughly investigated by the Criminal Assets Bureau. As regards the property or land associated with people who were involved in that operation, it should be clarified whether this was the first time a drugs consignment was found there. The Criminal Assets Bureau has a major role to play in a follow-up of all of those connected with what could have been a disastrous drugs importation into the State. Incidents such as that show the relevance and necessity for the type of legislation we are discussing. However, there is little point in discussing legislation, ratifying conventions and involving ourselves in mutual assistance pacts if we do not take the basic steps on the ground to counter international drugs crime in this country. It is very basic that aircraft cannot be allowed to fly in and out of the State with people unknown to anyone, checked by no one and carrying unexamined luggage. That makes absolute nonsense of the term mutual assistance. That said, I do not want to end on a negative note.
The reality is that yesterday a consignment of heroin was seized by the Belgian law enforcement authorities. That is to be lauded. If the Irish national drugs unit was involved in any way in providing information that facilitated this to happen, it is to be congratulated. However, we cannot gloss over the fact that the most basic steps are still not being taken in this State to prevent this type of international drug smuggling. Of course it could involve all types of other smuggling as well. I hope, however, this will be a wake-up call and that what happened yesterday will ensure steps are taken to prevent any recurrence.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is not present in the Chamber. He was in the Seanad earlier and I am sure he has a busy schedule. I hope, however, that he will address these matters and that they will be brought to his attention. I hope they will be brought to the attention of the Minister for Finance, who has responsibility for customs. I hope my call for a thorough investigation by the Criminal Assets Bureau into all of those connected with the drugs importation yesterday will be acted on and carried out.
I thank Members for the constructive debate on this Bill and the suggestions made.
It is a good thing that many Deputies have reacted in a positive way and share the view that this is an important Bill which will strengthen our hand in the fight against terrorism and transnational crime. Effective co-operation between member states of the European Union and between states worldwide is of increased importance in recent times. Organised criminal groups exploit modern-day phenomena such as globalisation, an increasingly border-free world and rapid technological advances in computers and communications. Organised criminals have become increasingly sophisticated and regularly use international networks to carry out their activities. Faced with this reality, organised crime can no longer be effectively tackled on a national level. As Deputy Coveney noted in his remarks in June, crime does not respect borders. In this context, it is important that Ireland takes its place on the international stage as a partner for mutual legal assistance purposes.
Reference was made during the debate to the amendments to be brought forward on Committee Stage to give effect to the mutual assistance aspects of the UN Convention against Corruption and the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. The reason for this is that the advice of the Attorney General on the legislative measures required to give effect to the instruments was received since this Bill was published. The Bill provides an ideal vehicle for dealing with mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, which are limited.
Concerns were raised by Deputy Gerard Murphy and Deputy Catherine Murphy concerning the technological resources available to the Garda to implement this legislation. It is intended that the Garda will have at its disposal the latest state-of-the-art information technology and telecommunications systems to compare with the most modern police forces throughout the world. This is demonstrated by a significant increase in the information technology and communications budgets for this year. The capital allocation for IT in 2006 is over €33 million, representing an increase of 18%, or over €5 million, compared to 2005. There is a particular commitment to replace the current radio systems with a state-of-the-art digital radio system as quickly as possible. The strength of the force on 7 September was 12,770, representing an increase of 2,068, or 19%, since June 1997. The commitment to increase the strength of the Garda to 14,000 by the end of this year is fully on target.
Deputy Howlin queried the enforceability of the provision in section 14(2)(b)(i) that material supplied in response to a request may not be used for any other purpose without prior consent. This provision also features at section 60(5)(a). In fact, it is nothing new and mirrors section 52(6) of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, which has been in operation for some considerable time. With regard to Deputy Howlin's query on how the judicial oversight of interception authorisations would actually operate, I refer him to the provisions of the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993. Section 28 of this Bill merely extends the review provisions of section 8 of that Act to cover interception authorisations carried out under this Bill. That review is generally retrospective and is carried out by a judge of the High Court.
Questions have been raised about Parts 5 and 6 of the Bill. In effect, they are a re-enactment of sections of Parts 3 and 7 and of the 1994 Act, with some amendments in the light of operational experience and they take account of the provisions in the instruments encompassed by the Bill. Sections 51(3) and 52(2) provide for the written consent of the prisoner to the transfer to another state to give evidence or assist in investigations, and these are new provisions. It is necessary to give effect to provisions in the 2000 convention and in the second additional protocol. Provision for the taking of evidence by television and telephone link is also new. Deputy Howlin also referred to the fact that "requesting authority" is not defined in Part 6. He is correct, but a definition is not required here as section 2 of the Bill contains general definitions applicable throughout the Bill, and that section clearly defines "requesting authority".
Deputy Howlin also mentioned sections 69 and 70, dealing with restitution. The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 deals in section 56 with restitution within the State only. Section 69 of this Bill enables restitution orders to be made with respect to property in a designated state and section 70 makes this reciprocal. In regard to the examples the Deputy used, restitution of property can only be made where there is a criminal conviction, and a court must order such restitution. The Deputy raised a scenario of artifacts in an Irish museum allegedly stolen from their rightful owners by the Nazis. In order for this section to operate in such a context, it would need to be proven that an offence had been committed and that the property had been obtained by criminal means. It is not as simple as merely asking for objects to be returned. The Deputy is correct, however, in his interpretation that no specific time limit is in place with regard to applications for restitution. Article 8 of the 2000 convention and article 12 of the second additional protocol, on which this section is based, do not contain time limits.
With regard to the Ireland-US Agreement, in addition to the Oireachtas scrutiny of this measure which has already taken place, motions under Articles 29.5 and 29.4.6 of the Constitution will be brought before this agreement can be ratified. This will be done following enactment of this Bill. Deputy Howlin also mentioned joint investigation teams. Sections 3 and 4 of the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Act 2004 detail the circumstances in which a joint investigation team may be established.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh mentioned the obligation to transpose EU instruments into law and noted that such instruments only come before the Houses following negotiation. This has indeed been so in the case, but following the introduction of EU Oireachtas scrutiny measures, Oireachtas Members now have ample opportunity to examine proposed measures in advance and make inputs if they wish. Deputy Ó Snodaigh made a suggestion that judicial oversight take place before interception of telecommunications messages is made. However, this is not possible under the terms provided for in Article 20.2(b) of the 2000 convention or under the existing arrangements provided for in the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993.
Deputy Catherine Murphy referred to section 4, which empowers the Minister for Foreign Affairs to designate certain states. The terms of section 4 are not new. Precedent may be found in section 3 of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 and section 37 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. Deputy Murphy also queried certain provisions of the Ireland-US Agreement. A resolution approving the terms of the Ireland-US Treaty to which she referred was passed by Dáil Éireann on 29 November 2001.
In today's debate, Deputy Gregory spoke about the recent drug seizures. As there are ongoing investigations, it is not appropriate to make comments here. The full resources of the various enforcement agencies are being applied to the investigation. Any lessons that can be learned will be taken on board and I agree with his comments about the extent to which these drug barons are prepared to go to get heroin into this country. When we see the growth of heroin use in places like Galway, it is becoming a major source of concern. There is a growth in heroin use, which has major social effects including an increase in crime, at a time when vast resources are being used to deal with the problem in Dublin.
I assure Deputy Higgins the Bill is not temporary legislation. It will build on existing mutual assistance co-operation and will enable us to comply with our international obligations.
While the issue of unaccompanied minors comes under the remit of the Office of the Minister for Children under the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, and the Health Service Executive, I will convey the Deputy's concerns to the Minister. The Deputy mentioned the UN Convention against Corruption. At present, its provisions are under examination in the Department to ascertain any further legislative requirements.
Deputy Finian McGrath expressed concern on human rights. The Irish Human Rights Commission received an early draft of the Bill for its consideration and responded in May 2005 with a number of recommendations. The great majority of them required no amendments to the Bill, as the suggested changes had already been incorporated in the Bill during drafting. A number of further amendments were included on foot of the Irish Human Rights Commission's recommendations. As for the new criminal court complex, proposals are already under way within the Department in this respect.
Unfortunately, during a Second Stage debate it is not possible to go into significant detail about all measures in a Bill, particularly in the case of one as lengthy as the proposed legislation. Undoubtedly, detailed discussions on this legislative measure will take place on Committee Stage. I again thank all Members who contributed to this debate and I commend the Bill to the House.