Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Second Stage
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am delighted to introduce the Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018 to the House today on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, following its passage through the Seanad last month. The Bill is the last legislative action required to enable Ireland to ratify the Istanbul Convention on combatting violence against women and domestic violence, and as such received cross-party support in the Upper House. The main aim of the convention is to protect women against all forms of violence and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence. The convention also aims to ensure the design of a comprehensive framework of policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of such violence. The Bill will create extraterritorial jurisdiction over violent offences committed by Irish citizens or residents abroad.
Deputies will agree that violence against women and domestic violence should not be tolerated in a modern society. However, in a pan-European Eurobarometer survey on perceptions, attitudes and awareness of gender-based violence published in November 2016, 77% of the Irish sample regarded domestic violence against women as either "fairly" or "very" common in Ireland. This is an issue that needs to be tackled on all fronts through awareness-raising, education and tough criminal penalties where appropriate. This is why the Istanbul Convention is important. It is a significant legal instrument in the fight against domestic and sexual violence. The Government agreed at the time of the signing of the Istanbul Convention to an action plan that contained outstanding legislative and administrative actions identified as necessary to enable Ireland’s ratification of the convention. Those actions were incorporated into the second national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, which was published in January 2016. Significant work has been done on those actions to date. The Domestic Violence Act 2018, enacted on 8 May, addresses all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation in a manner that provides protection to victims. That Act was fully commenced on 2 January this year. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 was enacted on 22 February 2017 and introduced a statutory definition of consent to a sexual act. It also addressed a number of evidential issues to protect child and adult victims of sexual assault from any additional trauma arising from the criminal process. Finally the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 was enacted on 5 November 2017, providing for a wide range of measures to protect and inform victims during the progress of their case through the criminal justice system.
Under the Istanbul Convention, Ireland is required to make provision for extraterritorial jurisdiction over convention offences. While there are already some provisions on the Statute Book with respect to murder, manslaughter and some sexual offences, this Bill is necessary to fully extend extraterritorial jurisdiction to all convention offences. This short Bill is a priority piece of legislation for the Government. It complements other recently enacted laws I have already mentioned, which have also given effect to our obligations under the Istanbul Convention. Deputies should note that the provisions of the Bill do not just apply to situations where the victim of a crime is a woman or a victim of domestic violence. While the primary aim of the convention is to tackle violence in these circumstances, this Bill does not limit the scope of extraterritorial jurisdiction in this manner. For equality reasons, the offences under this Bill will apply equally to women and men.
Turning now to the detail of the Bill, I would like to outline its key provisions. Section 1 defines the key terms used in the Bill, the most notable being the term "relevant offence", which is used in the offences created under section 3. A relevant offence under the Bill is defined as assault causing harm, assault causing serious harm, threats to kill or cause serious harm, coercion and harassment under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997; sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault under the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990; rape; or rape under section 4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990. Another key definition is “Convention State”, which is defined as a state other than Ireland that is a party to the Istanbul Convention. Only acts committed in another convention state are covered by the Bill, with the exception of murder and manslaughter which already have limited worldwide jurisdiction.
Section 2 is a technical section, aimed at excluding the provisions of the Bill where section 3 of the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976 applies. This Act deals with certain offences committed in Northern Ireland. The provision is necessary to avoid confusion as to the basis for claiming jurisdiction over an offence committed in Northern Ireland.
Section 3 sets out the offences under the Bill and various provisions relating to double jeopardy and proof of citizenship or residency, as the case may be. Subsection (1) provides that it is an offence for any person to commit a relevant offence on board an Irish ship or on an aircraft registered in the State. Subsection (2) provides that it is an offence for any person to aid, abet, counsel or procure another person to commit a relevant offence on board an Irish ship, on an aircraft registered in the State or in a convention state. The aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring must take place in the State, on board an Irish ship or on an aircraft registered in the State. Subsection (3) provides that it is an offence for an Irish citizen or resident to commit a relevant offence in a convention state, with a requirement that the offence must also be an offence in the place it occurs. Subsection (4) provides that it is an offence for an Irish citizen or resident to aid, abet, counsel or procure another person to commit a relevant offence in a convention state. The aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring must take place in a convention state, with a requirement that it must also be an offence in the place it occurs. Subsection (5) provides that it is an offence for a person who is ordinarily resident in the State to commit murder or manslaughter in any place outside the State. Murder and manslaughter committed by Irish citizens outside the State is covered already by section 9 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Subsection (6) provides that it is an offence for a person to aid, abet, counsel or procure another person to commit murder or manslaughter in a place outside the State. The aiding, abetting counselling or procuring must take place in the State, on board an Irish ship or on an aircraft registered in the State. Where the person who aids, abets, counsels or procures another to commit murder is an Irish citizen or resident, the aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring can take place outside the State. Subsections (7) to (12), inclusive, relate to procedural and evidential matters such as the place that proceedings may be brought, evidence relating to proof of citizenship or residency and double jeopardy.
Section 4 amends the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 to ensure that the provisions of that Act are applicable to the Istanbul convention. Section 5 provides for the Short Title and commencement of the Bill.
This Bill will provide increased powers in the context of investigating and prosecuting crimes committed abroad by Irish citizens and residents. More importantly, it will also enable us to ratify the Istanbul convention as soon as possible. The Minister is committed to doing just that. As already stated, there was wide support for the Bill and for the swift ratification of the convention in the Seanad. I hope Deputies can echo that support and get this important Bill enacted as quickly as possible.
I look forward to the debate and I commend the Bill to the House.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. Fianna Fáil will be supporting its provisions and we hope to see it pass as quickly as possible.
As the Minister of State indicated, the catalyst for the introduction of this legislation is the Istanbul Convention. It is important that we enact this legislation so that we can ratify that convention, which was signed in May of 2011. Some 45 countries signed up to the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women but only countries have been able to ratify it in full. It is disappointing that Ireland has delayed in its ratification. Nonetheless, I welcome the fact that, once this legislative hurdle has been overcome, we will be in a position to ratify the convention in full.
As the Minister pointed out, it is also important to note that the legislation we are debating does not simply apply to violent acts against women. It also applies to any violent acts against men. The Bill defines "a relevant offence" and it is important that we are aware of the offences we are talking about for the purpose of ensuring that those offences can be prosecuted here if it is the case that they are also offences in other convention countries.
Provision is made to the effect the offences covered by sections 3 to 5, inclusive, 9 and 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 are relevant offences for the purposes of the Bill. The offences in question include assault causing harm, assault causing serious harm, threats to kill or cause serious harm, coercion and harassment. I regret the fact that the majority of those criminal offences are committed against women. The latter is the reason the Istanbul Convention expressly provides that criminal acts such as these are criminalised - outlawed - in the countries to which it applies. This extraterritorial provision must be put in place in convention countries.
Other offences are also contemplated. I refer, for example, to sexual assault within the meaning of section 2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990, aggravated sexual assault and rape under that Act or otherwise. Again, regrettably, it is the case that these are offences, whether nationally or internationally, which are committed predominantly and overwhelmingly against women. However, as the Minister of State indicated, although the Bill has as its focus the Istanbul Convention and protecting women from violence, it nonetheless will have application in respect of those offences if they are committed against men or women.
It is important to point out that there is a problem, nationally and internationally, in the context of violence against women. That is regrettable and we should recognise that in this House by looking at domestic statistics in respect of domestic violence against women but also the international context. We know that 25% of all violent crimes reported internationally involve a man assaulting his wife or partner. We know that statistic from the European Union campaign against domestic violence, which was completed in 2000. We know that at least one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. We also know from a British crime survey carried out in 2009-2010 that 7% of women between 16 and 59 were victims of domestic violence in the previous year. It is regrettably the case that all international research consistently shows that a woman is more likely to be assaulted, injured, raped or killed by a current or former partner than by any other person. Regrettably, we know that is the case in this country when it comes to the murder of women. Since 1996, 216 women have died violently in this country and 63% were killed in their own homes. It is the case that there is an international problem and a domestic problem in respect of violence against women. It is appropriate that we send out a consistent message that such violence is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.
One of the great advantages of what has happened over the past 70 years is that there has been increased international co-operation. The finest example of that is the European Union and the Council of Europe but it has also been the case that there has, since the Second World War, been increased co-operation internationally. There have been many successes in the area of trade and in the context of the pacific settlement of disputes. However, another area in which there has been a significant improvement is in the context of the criminal law. We see this with the European arrest warrant and how that is beneficially used to ensure that people who commit crimes in one country in the European Union can be held to account in the country where those crimes were committed, even though they have moved between jurisdictions. That is another interesting and advanced development because it will allow this State to prosecute people who have been involved in the commission of the offences I have just described in other convention countries but they can be prosecuted in this country provided the offences committed are offences in the convention country. It is the case that, predominantly, these are and will become offences in the convention countries because a country cannot sign up to the Istanbul Convention unless it indicates that they will become particular offences.
There are other elements to this legislation which deal with, for example, murder and manslaughter and which will allow us to prosecute in this jurisdiction people who have committed murder or manslaughter elsewhere. This was introduced in the context of Northern Ireland in the 1970s when controversial legislation was introduced which allowed people who committed murder and manslaughter in Northern Ireland to be prosecuted in this jurisdiction. It is also appropriate that we have in our law and that there is an international recognition that murder is so unacceptable that one can be prosecuted in a country where the crime did not occur on the basis of the fact that there is a common interest and recognition in countries to the effect that murder is unacceptable. The same applies in the context of manslaughter.
If the legislation is enacted, we hope it will be the case that if criminal acts which come within the parameters of this Bill are committed in other countries, they will be prosecuted here. That will be difficult for prosecutorial authorities because they will have to ensure that there is evidence available to prosecute the people involved in this jurisdiction. If somebody committed the crime of sexual assault in Greece, prosecuting the case here will give rise to difficulties. We would have to have the witnesses here in order for the case to be proven. In many of these cases, what the legislation will do is give, for example, an Irish victim who is in Greece the ability to have the case prosecuted here. There should be co-operation in that regard. At present, it is always the case that the accused can only be prosecuted in the jurisdiction where the crime has been committed. That places a major burden upon the victims of those crimes. We have seen it here previously when people who have been assaulted or attacked or their loved ones killed have had to travel from abroad in order to have the trial operate effectively in this jurisdiction. It seems to me sensible that if it is possible the place where the victim is based could also be the locus for the prosecution of that crime. That will not reduce the obligation on the prosecution to ensure that the relevant witnesses are here. Those prosecuting will still have to ensure that and they will still be obliged to prove their case beyond all reasonable doubt. However, what is proposed is a sign of increased and improved international co-operation.
It is important to note that at a time when international co-operation is being criticised and at a time when we see in Brexit and the policies of the United States people trying to resile from international co-operation, that the Council of Europe and this House send out a strong message that international co-operation is a positive.
We should also send out a strong message that trying to turn one's back on international co-operation is a regressive step. I know we do not want to interfere in the events of other countries, which are taking steps away from international co-operation, but in this House we can say that it is a regressive step and it is an attempt to hold back the course of history. It is not just all about globalisation but it is also about international co-operation in vital areas such as protecting women from violence around the world and ensuring that we have a system in our laws whereby people can be held to account for their offences, irrespective of where they are committed.
I welcome what the Minister of State said about the fact that this is the last step we have to take before we can ratify the Istanbul Convention. I hope we will be able to ratify it this year but let nobody be in any doubt that this country and the world still face a huge challenge in sending forward a message that violence against women is simply unacceptable. Regrettably, it is the case that certain men, in this country and internationally, seem to think that it is permissible and acceptable to inflict violence upon women with whom one is having a close relationship. It is totally unacceptable and we need to send out that strong message. That message is not just by way of legislation. We need to send out a message to young men who are growing up in an environment which is much more difficult than the environment the Minister of State and I grew up in, where they are now exposed to an assessment and an appraisal of women from what they view on the Internet, which presents women in a malleable and submissive way. We need to ensure that we send out a strong message in this country that just as it is unacceptable to inflict violence upon anyone, it is particularly unacceptable to do it in the context of a relationship which one is in. I will conclude on that point and hand over to my colleague, Deputy O'Loughlin.
I thank Deputy O'Callaghan. Violence against women, in all its manifestations and forms, is a deeply traumatising act, that demands Government action on many different levels. Apart from the physical violence, the emotional and mental impact is also huge.
The Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018, which we have before us, is good on two different levels. The fact this Bill contains the final legislative action required in order for Ireland to ratify the 2011 Istanbul Convention is really important. There have been numerous delays in this process, but Fianna Fáil welcomes the completion of this process as the last step which must be taken before the convention is ratified. When we look at where we are now, a total of 45 countries have signed the convention and of these, 33 have ratified it so far. We want Ireland to be the 34th. Sone 12 countries have signed it, but have not ratified it. We certainly should not delay in bringing it further because the Istanbul Convention is a really important one. It is basically about preventing and combatting violence against women, particularly domestic violence. It is the first European treaty which specifically targets violence against women and domestic violence. Sometimes we need to remember the purpose of the convention, namely, to protect women against all forms of violence; to prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women; to eliminate domestic violence; to contribute to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and promote a substantive equality between women and men, including by empowering women; to design a comprehensive framework, policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of violence against women and domestic violence; to promote international co-operation, for which this Bill is key, with a view to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence; and to provide support and assistance to organisations and law enforcement agencies to effectively co-operate in order to adopt an integrated approach to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence.
My colleague, Deputy O'Callaghan, has outlined the very stark situation in Ireland in terms of the statistics we have on violence against women and domestic violence. It is harrowing and shocking. Barely a week goes by without a woman coming to me in my constituency to seek help, support and advice on what she can do. Many of them are in situations where they are still living with the abuser. It is an awful state of affairs and we need to do more as a country to protect women, who are in this horrific situation, and their children. There are many areas where we can help to provide support. There are still some counties without refuges. Luckily, we have a very good one in Kildare town that gives much support to women and their families but, of course, like any other organisation that is giving really imperative help and support to women and families, it needs more help, particularly with providing counselling to these women and their children. We also need to ensure housing money is ring-fenced for women who have to leave the family home.
This particular Bill seeks to expand extraterritorial jurisdiction over a number of offences, which include assault, harassment, coercion and rape. It certainly is the obligation of the State to address certain forms of criminal behaviour which transcend national borders. As a result, serious crimes committed by Irish people abroad should be liable to be prosecuted in Ireland. Extraterritorial jurisdiction is not a new concept but it is a very important one and it is one we need to sign up to.
Domestic violence is more than a human rights violation and a public health issue. In its report last year, SAFE Ireland highlighted the often forgotten about and ignored consequences of same in terms of exploring its wider economic and social impact. The purpose of this Bill is to create extraterritorial jurisdiction over certain offences contained in the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 and the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990, as well as extending extraterritorial jurisdiction to murder and manslaughter committed abroad by Irish residents which is really important. Extraterritorial jurisdiction is the situation when a state extends its legal power beyond its territorial boundaries. Examples include where a state maintains jurisdiction over its citizens when they are overseas, and where certain criminal offences can be prosecuted in a state regardless of where they were committed, for example, piracy and child sex offences. That is the main overview of the Bill.
As my colleague, Deputy O'Callaghan, outlined, my party of Fianna Fáil supports this Bill. It is an important step in the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. We need to be the next country to ratify it. It is to protect women in very difficult and vulnerable situations because, no matter what the law is, women are in very difficult situations in terms of their health and, indeed, their lives in domestic situations. We need to be able to equip the Judiciary with everything we can to ensure perpetrators of violence against women and domestic violence can be brought to heel, even when they escape and leave the jurisdiction.
Beidh Sinn Féin ag tacú leis an mBille seo. Is Bille tábhachtach é. Táimid ag lorg an Bille seo ar feadh tamaill i ndáiríre chun go mbeidh muid in ann ár n-ainm a chur go hiomlán leis an gCoinbhinsiún Iostanbúl.
I thank the Minister for bringing the Bill forward. It is a welcome Bill that is long overdue. It has been debated during Question Time on a number of occasions in the last two or three years. The Bill will enable Ireland to ratify the Istanbul Convention. Ireland is already a signatory to the convention but has not yet ratified it. Some 45 countries have signed the convention. Of those, 33 have ratified it and Ireland is one of the 12 countries that has signed the convention but not ratified it.
In general, there is an effort to co-operate on a cross-party basis on issues relating to domestic and sexual violence. Some people think we never agree in the House but the example I usually offer is the Domestic Violence Act 2018. That measure only got traction in the media after it became law, but the debate on it in the Houses was constructive and saw significant engagement. It was a good Bill to begin with and there was constructive engagement across the parties. In the Seanad a number of amendments were accepted, to the extent that we have a good law. There are probably ways it can be improved but it is good law. It got no real coverage outside the Houses but it is an example for issues of this nature which are of great importance. That is right and that should be the way to proceed. We must do everything we can to protect women, children and everybody from all forms of violence, and prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and violence against women.
Section 3 is the core of the Bill in many respects. Subsections (1) to (4) provide that it is an offence for a person to commit a relevant offence on board an Irish ship or on an aircraft registered in the State and that it is an offence for an Irish citizen or resident to commit a relevant offence in a convention state. The relevant offences are assault causing harm, assault causing serious harm, threats to kill or cause serious harm, coercion or harassment under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault under the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990, rape and rape under section 4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990. This measure provides for full extra-territorial jurisdiction for these key offences. As the Minister of State pointed out, for Irish citizens murder and manslaughter were already long covered by extra-territoriality but this extends it to somebody who is not a citizen but who is ordinarily resident in the State. Where such a person commits murder or manslaughter outside the State the person can be convicted under the laws of this jurisdiction.
The enabling of international co-operation in this Bill is particularly welcome and necessary. We must also have a more integrated approach between the North and the South. We should work as much as possible on an all-island basis on domestic and sexual violence. That is necessary to address the problem. Adopting good practices both North and South would allow us to tackle the problem in a more meaningful way.
As with many other legislative areas, unless we have the resources to support the actions of ratifying this convention we will continue to fail women, children and men who suffer domestic violence. Everybody accepts that. Clearly, the convention is important but ultimately it will not provide the protection that is required to everyone who is at risk of domestic violence. The number of people who suffer domestic violence is still significant. The Government should look again at the resources available. There were many cuts in this area during the recession and large parts of the country do not have adequate services or resources. In our 2019 alternative budget Sinn Féin committed to investing in services such as domestic violence housing support at a cost of €2.8 million and pledged to treble the funding for Rape Crisis Network Ireland from €60,000 to €180,000 per annum. That is a €3 million investment in specific measures, allowing for the adequate services people so desperately need and which consistently experience underfunding by this Government. It does not take a great deal to fund such services and the great work they do gives a tenfold return on what they receive. They are vital if we are to be taken seriously in our efforts to make Ireland a safer place for people who experience, and are victims of, domestic abuse or domestic violence.
I acknowledged the Domestic Violence Act earlier. Does the Minister have plans to put in place a review of the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act so we can have a sense of how it is being implemented, particularly in regard to the area of training? Garda representative bodies highlighted the issue that many of their members did not feel adequately trained and in that context felt ill-equipped to implement the Act properly. If we could have a quick review of how that is going it would be of value. I take this opportunity to commend the many individuals, NGOs and civil society groups, such as the Irish Observatory on Violence Against Women, Women’s Aid, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, SAFE Ireland, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and all the other groups which advocated and continue to advocate for better policies, resources and legislation to combat domestic and sexual violence in Ireland. They have all called consistently for the ratification of this convention.
For a number of years the Women’s Aid "Change the Conversation" campaign has provided a stark and sobering reminder of how pervasive domestic violence and intimate partner violence are in Ireland. I will outline the extent of that from a variety of reports in recent years. One in five women in Ireland have experienced emotional, physical, sexual and-or financial abuse by a current or former partner. One in every two women murdered in Ireland are killed by a partner or ex-partner. In 2016, there were 16,946 disclosures of domestic violence against women during 19,000 contacts with Women’s Aid direct services. The Women’s Aid 24 hour help line responded to 15,952 calls in 2016. In a 2014 study, entitled "Violence against women: An EU-wide survey", by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights it was reported that 14% of women in Ireland have experienced physical violence by a partner since the age of 15 years. That gives an impression of how widespread and pervasive the problem still is. Tá sé forleathan, tá sé deimhin mar fhadhb, tá tionchar aige ar mhéid mhór mná agus páistí agus fiú tar éis na reachtaíochta seo, tá bóthar fada le taistil againn.
The Istanbul Convention is a Council of Europe convention on violence against women and domestic violence which was opened for signature on 11 May 2011. The convention's aims are prevention of violence, victim protection and to end the impunity of perpetrators in convention states. The full convention is contained in the Schedule. It is the obligation of the State to address it fully in all its forms and to take measures to prevent violence against women, protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators. The convention leaves no doubt that there can be no real equality between women and men if women experience gender-based violence on a large scale and State agencies and institutions turn a blind eye, much like the Ireland of not so long ago. Implementing the convention is an opportunity for us to bring about the systemic and institutional change we need to facilitate the protection of women and the accountability of perpetrators. It is critical to match our response to the scale and complexity of the violence. Once Ireland ratifies the convention we will be examined for compliance with its standards and for that reason we must get our house in order.
I welcome the announcement last year that the CSO is to undertake the collection of data on the prevalence of sexual violence in the form of a sexual abuse and violence in Ireland, SAVI, Il report. It has been 16 years since the last SAVI report was conducted, which is far too long. Poor or outdated data have an impact on the development of policy. Data are very important to developing policy so this report should have been undertaken far sooner. I hope it is available as soon as possible. It is essential for forming an understanding of the problems we face, the prevalence of sexual violence in our society and what actions or policies are needed to address it. Fundamental to combatting this abuse will be the completion of the SAVI Il report providing updated research and data on sexual abuse and violence in Ireland.
Deputy O'Loughlin referred to the need for judges to have this legislation and the domestic violence legislation. I should highlight a point I have made frequently, which is inconsistent sentencing on the part of some judges in respect of sexual violence.
That matter needs to be addressed via sentencing guidelines. I have been in regular contact with the Department in that regard and hope that progress will soon be made. Such guidelines are vitally important in order for the public to be confident that we have consistent and good sentencing.
To conclude, ba mhaith liom a rá arís go dtacaíonn muid leis an mBille seo. Is dócha go mbeidh muid ag féachaint ar leasaithe ach gach seans nach mbeidh leasaithe ar an reachtaíocht seo. I go leor slite tá an reachtaíocht fada de bharr go bhfuil an coinbhinsiún ann ach tá sé simplí go leor i slite freisin. Tá sé luachmhar agus tábhachtach agus tá súil agam gur féidir linn é a chur i gcrích go luath agus go mbeidh sé mar chuid de dlí na Stát seo.
The Labour Party unambiguously welcomes the Bill and acknowledges the work of the Minister and the Minister of State in bringing it before the House. The Bill is clear in what it seeks to achieve. I acknowledge the work of the Oireachtas Library and Research Service and congratulate Ms Liane Reddy, the parliamentary researcher who compiled the Bill digest and raised some very interesting points in the process.
I note that the United Kingdom is one of the signatories to the Istanbul Convention. In the context of Brexit negotiations, has there been any discussion within the Department of Justice and Equality on how Brexit may impact on the interpretation of this legislation vis-à-visour relationship with the United Kingdom given the close ties that exist between the two countries? It is a very theoretical question at this stage. It may be that because the United Kingdom is a signatory to the convention which has a certain date stamp, Brexit will have no implications in that regard. It would be very useful to have that clarified.
Cosc, the national office for the prevention of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, states that a Government action plan to give voice to the Istanbul Convention is in place and relates to issues such as education and training modules for An Garda Síochána, the HSE, Tusla and the Courts Service. Is the Minister of State satisfied that adequate ongoing training and education is in place? Has An Garda Síochána implemented what Cosc describes as the risk assessment matrix? I do not fully understand what constitutes a risk assessment matrix. It would be useful for that to be explained and it clarified as to whether it is ongoing. Is there an integrated 24-hour national helpline to respond to the issues pertinent to the legislation? Cosc also raises the issue of support for child witnesses of domestic or sexual violence. Is the Minister satisfied that programmes, protocols or procedures are in place in respect of those issues?
My party very much welcomes the Bill. I again refer to the Bills digest, which was very useful in gaining a better understanding of the dynamics of the legislation. In respect of the principle of extra-territorial jurisdiction it states:
However, there is a "growing list of situations in which offences committed outside Irish territory are subject to the jurisdiction of an Irish court." This is largely due to the effects of globalisation, and an acceptance by the international community “that it has a common obligation to tackle certain forms of criminal enterprise that threaten fundamental interests transcending national boundaries.” As Ireland assumes obligations under an increasing number of international agreements, the extent to which Irish citizens and those ordinarily resident in Ireland may be prosecuted for acts done outside the State has also increased.
It then refers to sections of Acts such as the Domestic Violence Act 2018 and the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018, and to section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation Act) 2012. The digest also addresses the issue of Irish-registered ships or aircraft, stating:
The fact that a ship or aircraft is registered in Ireland does not automatically mean that it is Irish territory for the purpose of criminal jurisdiction once it leaves Irish territorial waters or airspace. However certain statutory provisions confer that jurisdiction on them where certain criminal offences are committed on board, irrespective of the nationality of the offender.
What is the perspective of his Department on that dynamic? Is this legislation pertinent to such scenarios?
The Labour Party fully supports the Bill.
Independents 4 Change are fully supportive of the Bill. On Leaders' Questions a couple of years ago, I asked when we would to ratify the Istanbul Convention. I am glad that its ratification has come a step closer. Possibly because I am unfamiliar with being in government, I do not understand why it takes so long for such matters to be progressed. In one way, today is a good day. It is welcome that ratification is a step closer but it is disappointing that it is taking so long to get there, particularly given that the convention opened for signature in May 2011 at the Council of Europe.
A couple of Members referred to the potential impact on the Bill of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. My understanding is that as this is a convention of the Council of Europe rather than of the European Union, Brexit will have no impact on it. I ask the Minister of State to address that point. In the context of the wider European debate in Ireland, it is conveniently forgotten by many political commentators who praise the European Union for initiatives that impact on Ireland that it is the Council of Europe that brings through many of those initiatives and our membership of the EU has nothing to do with them. That is the case with the convention. It is very interesting how the political establishment uses that ignorance. This debate is a perfect example of that because Deputies Sherlock and O'Callaghan-----
On a point of order, I was not making a political point. Rather, I was merely asking a question, the answer to which I had anticipated. For the record, I asked the question in good faith and with good intentions.
I accept that. However, Deputy O'Callaghan referred to the impact that Brexit may have on the Council of Europe and on our signing of the convention. As I understand it, Brexit will have no impact in that regard because the United Kingdom is a member of the Council of Europe and that status has nothing to do with its membership of the European Union. I may be wrong in that regard. I ask the Minister of State to outline his understanding of the situation. It is important that it be clarified.
It is important to note that this Bill is the final legislative action that is required to enable Ireland to ratify the Istanbul Convention on combatting violence against women and domestic violence. The main aim of the convention is to protect women against all forms of violence and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence. As such, and in the modern context, it is vital that this also include men. Although domestic violence against men is not as prevalent, it is becoming more common. It is important that this be covered. The convention also aims to ensure the design of a comprehensive framework, policies and measures for the protection of and assistance to all victims of domestic violence.
The Council of Europe convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence was opened for signature on 11 May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. This probably gives an indication of developments in respect of the European Union. The convention's aims are the prevention of violence, victim protection and "to end with the impunity of perpetrators". As of January 2018, it has been signed by 46 countries and, as mentioned, separately by the European Union. Why it has taken so long and why it would take so long to be adopted here are genuine questions that need to be answered. I acknowledge the Department has priorities and that it is a big Department but the priorities of the nation are also important.
It is some time ago since I raised with the Taoiseach the adoption of the convention into Irish law. The convention is based on the premise that no single agency or institution can deal with violence against women and domestic violence alone. An effective response to such violence requires concerted action by many different actors. The convention therefore asks state parties to implement comprehensive and co-ordinated policies involving Government agencies and NGOs, in addition to national, regional and local parliaments and authorities. Unfortunately, we do not have local parliaments or authorities that would have the powers to deal with this.
The aim is to have policies to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence implemented at all levels of government and by all relevant agencies and institutions. That is vital. The experience from countries where this is already being done shows results are improved when law enforcement agencies, the Judiciary, NGOs, child protection agencies and other relevant partners join forces and work together.
Under the Istanbul Convention, Ireland will be required to make provision for extraterritorial jurisdiction regarding convention offences. While there are some provisions on the Statute Book already, in respect of murder, manslaughter and some sexual offences, this Bill is necessary in order to fully extend extraterritorial jurisdiction to all convention offences.
Obviously, we can enact and ratify all we like but, unless we have the resources to back up the actions, we are going to fail those whom the Bill is intended to protect. I encourage the Minister to ensure resources are available in order that this Bill can be implemented in full.
One in five women has suffered intimate partner violence and domestic abuse, and nine out of ten women who are killed are killed by someone known to them, with 56% killed by a partner or ex-partner. That, in itself, shows the importance of this Bill and the need to implement it and the measures in the Istanbul Convention as quickly as possible.
With regard to the convention, the Council of Europe states:
In addition to addressing governments and non-governmental organisations, national parliaments and local authorities, the convention sends a clear message to society as a whole. Every man, every woman, every boy and girl, every parent, every boy/girl-friend must learn that violence - any kind of violence - is not the right way to solve difficulties and live a peaceful life. Everybody must understand that now and in the future violence against women and domestic is no longer tolerated.
That is important.
I thank the Deputies for the broad support for the Bill this evening. Deputy Ó Laoghaire said this is one of the issues on which we can all agree. When I was Chairman of the justice committee, we did a lot of work in this area and there was broad support and constructive debate on this important issue. Pending the passage of Second Stage this evening, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Justice and Equality, Deputy Ó Caoláin, and his colleagues have agreed provisionally to schedule Committee Stage for next week. I am grateful to them for this.
We can agree on this. Eradicating the problems in our society is a shared goal for all Members. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, and the former Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, indicated in this House that Ireland would ratify the Istanbul Convention at the earliest opportunity. An action plan was put in place. Various steps and a range of legislative measures required for ratification have been taken. In many ways, achieving ratification of the convention seems like the final hurdle. In other ways, it is only the beginning.
Once ratification is completed, Ireland joins a monitoring mechanism of independent experts called GREVIO, which will monitor the effective implementation of the convention. It will evaluate implementation in Ireland, determining whether legislation is effective. It will also publish reports on all efforts being made in Ireland to make a difference in regard to violence against women and, as Deputy O'Callaghan stated, men. The convention provides that each government must submit the GREVIO report to the national parliament. Therefore, all such reports on implementation in Ireland will be submitted to the Oireachtas.
As stated, 45 countries have signed the convention so far and 33 have ratified it. Very soon, Ireland will bring the number of ratifications to 34, as Deputy O'Loughlin stated. This Bill was published only in November 2018. It completed its passage in the Seanad two weeks ago and tonight it is commencing its passage through this House. The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, is on the record as saying he would like it enacted by 8 March, International Women's Day. Maybe colleagues could all agree on this. We are on course to achieve that deadline.
Let me turn to some of the issues colleagues have raised. A number of points were made on delays regarding the Bill. It has not really been delayed. The treaty was signed in 2011 and entered into force in 2014. Ireland signed up to the convention in 2015. Since then, a number of actions have been taken by the Government on the convention. The Domestic Violence Act 2018 was passed by the Houses, as were the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2018 is also one of the measures. Therefore, there has been much legislation and work done in order to reach this point. The reason is that Ireland is a dualist state. We ratify international conventions only when we have transposed their various requirements into domestic law. When we ratify, we have the job done. A lot of work is done before that point. Over the past three years, a number of Bills, already referred to, have been enacted to get to this point. This is the final piece and it will allow for ratification as early as possible this year. Much work was done to get to this point. It had to be done; otherwise we could not have ratified the convention. I hope that is accepted by colleagues.
Deputy O'Callaghan referred to the seriousness of murder and manslaughter. Ireland already claims jurisdiction for murder and manslaughter offences committed by Irish citizens anywhere in the world. This is provided for in section 9 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. We are now claiming jurisdiction where a person normally resident in Ireland commits murder or manslaughter abroad. It would be incongruous if Ireland were to claim jurisdiction where murder or manslaughter is committed by an Irish citizen in any country but restrict jurisdiction only to convention states where it involves an Irish resident.
We are not extending jurisdiction to offences committed against Irish residents abroad. This issue was considered fully with the legal advisers. Article 42 to the Istanbul Convention requires a state to endeavour to take necessary legislative measures to establish jurisdiction over any offence established in accordance with the convention where the offence is committed against one of its nationals or a person who has his or her habitual residency in its territory. In the national action plan, first agreed by the Government, it was decided that Ireland would legislate for jurisdiction where the offence is committed by or against Irish citizens or residents abroad. The issue has been further considered by my Department officials and advice has been received from the Office of the Attorney General. Heretofore, Ireland has normally legislated for extraterritoriality according to the active personality principle, which allows a state to exercise jurisdiction over its own nationals who commit offences abroad. Having considered the issue fully, it is now apparent that extending jurisdiction to Irish citizens abroad would be a huge shift in Ireland's approach to this and would require detailed and lengthy deliberations as to how it would work. We would have to claim jurisdiction to prosecute in this country a foreign national for committing a relevant offence in his or her own country against an Irish citizen in residence. There are major issues to be considered concerning extradition to Ireland and mutual legal assistance issues around the transfer of evidence. At this time, the Minister has decided it would be best to limit jurisdiction to Irish perpetrators abroad. The Government agreed to his proposals to do so.
The Government has also agreed that this decision can be reviewed in the years ahead.
To further consider Irish victims now would undoubtedly delay ratification of the convention and the Minister would prefer to move ahead at this point. Once ratification has been completed, Ireland will become part of the Istanbul Convention peer evaluation process, as I said earlier, known as GREVIO. This will be an important learning tool for Ireland and it will put us in a stronger position to know how this issue could be addressed in the future.
Deputy Sherlock asked about a risk assessment matrix and 24-hour helplines and so on. That is to do with the domestic violence legislation and not this particular item but I will try to get responses to the Deputy on those matters.
Deputy O'Loughlin also spoke about the Domestic Violence Act. All the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act were fully commenced on 1 January. Prior to commencement, the key agencies, namely, the Courts Service, the Director of Public Prosecutions and An Garda Síochána, worked hard to put in place the necessary measures, including the preparation of guidance documents and appropriate training, to ensure the successful implementation of the legislation. It is also intended to establish divisional protective services units in each Garda division by the end of this year. These are specialised units which improve services to victims, improve the investigation of incidents of sexual and domestic violence and will improve the identification and management of risk in cases of domestic and sexual violence.
Deputy Sherlock raised an interesting point in asking if Brexit will affect the legislation. It is our understanding that it will not. The UK also plans to ratify the Istanbul Convention although I understand it is a little behind Ireland at this time in terms of ratification. As has been said by Deputies Sherlock and Pringle, this is a Council of Europe convention, not an EU convention, and the UK is not leaving the Council of Europe. Both Deputies strongly made that point.
Deputy O'Callaghan referred to other actions the Government is taking and I mentioned the Garda National Protective Services Bureau which has been established and is led by a chief superintendent. A nationwide network of Garda victim support offices with dedicated staff in each of the 28 Garda divisions has also been established. The Garda National Protective Services Bureau is tasked with improving services to victims, improving the investigation of incidents of sexual and domestic violence and identifying and managing risk.
There is also a domestic homicide review. An Garda Síochána's domestic violence policy intervention unit is currently working with the Garda Síochána Analysis Service in analysing domestic related homicides. Such homicides are examined and any lessons learned are feeding into policy and investigations in this area.
The Minister brought a memorandum to Government on 20 November and the Cabinet approved the undertaking of a national survey, as Deputy Ó Laoghaire pointed out, on the prevalence of sexual violence to be repeated every decade by the Central Statistics Office, CSO, and the publication of the report of the scoping group. The survey will be large scale, complex and extremely sensitive. A completed sample of 5,000 adults, on a wide range of intimate questions on abuse in adult life and in childhood is envisaged. My colleagues can imagine how challenging that will be.
Once the first full national survey is complete, it is envisaged that work will then begin on exploring the experiences of sexual violence abuse by specified vulnerable minority cohorts, for instance the LGBTI+ community, members of the Traveller community, migrant populations and people with disabilities. A memorandum of understanding between the Department of Justice and Equality and the CSO to proceed with this project is currently in preparation.
On the review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, the Minister for Justice and Equality published terms of reference for the review of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences on 7 September. The Minister also announced that Mr. Tom O'Malley, BL, will chair the working group tasked with undertaking it.
Cosc is currently supporting and overseeing the implementation of a uniform national domestic violence intervention programme under the second national strategy for the prevention of domestic sexual and gender-based violence for the period 2016 to 2021. The roll-out of this programme, entitled the Choices programme, began in 2017.
Funding and resources have been mentioned on a few occasions. Under the Child and Family Agency Act 2013, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual or gender-based violence. As such, Tusla is the primary funder of services. In 2018, Tusla allocated funding of €23.8 million to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services, an increase of €3.4 million or 17% over 2015. Following budget 2019, additional funding of €1.5 million will be allocated to these services in 2019.
Of the €1.72 million allocated to victims of crime in 2018, grants totalling €686,000 were awarded to 34 domestic violence organisations for support and assistance and to provide support and court accompaniment to victims of crime. Of the €2.205 million non-pay budget for Cosc, it allocated €950,000 for the national awareness programme, "What would you do?". In 2018, the campaign messaging moved from an objective of raising awareness to one of education. Additionally, €500,000 from the Dormant Accounts Fund, which has been provided under the dormant accounts plan for 2016 and 2017 is being used to provide key additional localisation to the national campaign over its lifetime.
Cosc also allocated €817,000 for the delivery of the uniform national domestic abuse intervention programme entitled the Choices programme. The primary aim of the programme is, while maintaining its support for the safety and well-being of women and children as paramount, to support and challenge men who are engaged in domestic violence to change their abusive behaviours and attitudes towards their partners.
Cosc also provided funding of €22,000 in 2018 to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre for a sexual violence awareness and prevention programme for young people. This funding went towards the running of five four-day body right programme training events in 2018 for staff from Youthreach and other alternative educational settings.
My colleagues can see that there is a lot going on in this hugely important area. One can never really do enough in this challenging area and I was taken again with what Deputy O'Callaghan said earlier, and he said it previously at a different debate on a similar issue, that we are changing in our society. We have much more access to material on the Internet which is, really and truly, not suitable for young people at all and which gives images which are completely wrong and at variance with reality. We have seen more and more reports of the amount of time people spend on screens to the detriment of exercise and other more healthy activities. That is something all of us must reflect on and, in particular, parents will need to reflect on that to ensure that is the case.
I thank my colleagues here for their support this evening and for a constructive debate. This is a sensitive and important area. I look forward to the committee debate hopefully next week, if we agree to progress the Bill this evening, as I anticipate we will. I look forward to ratifying this convention by International Women's Day, as I outlined earlier.