Seanad debates

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Communications (Retention of Data) Bill 2009: Committee and Remaining Stages


11:00 am

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)

I thank Members for their contributions. This is a matter of judgment and balance. I could easily foresee relevant investigations, particularly of white collar crime, which is perpetrated through the Internet and use of e-mails or other digital technologies. I envisage that prosecutions in this area would be compromised if the period for data retention was as short as proposed in the amendment. While it is not wrong to have a view on this matter, it would be wrong if our reputation as a good place in which to do business was to be damaged because short retention periods made it impossible to prosecute white collar criminals.

Every country takes a different approach to white collar crime. Ireland is frequently criticised because it is much more difficult to prosecute those who commit crimes such as fraud. Other cases under investigation have also been criticised. The reasons for having prolonged investigation periods are the nature of our jurisprudence and investigative procedures and the rights afforded under the Constitution. While the nature of our system results in lengthy investigations, it does not mean outcomes are unsatisfactory. The constitutional rights of citizens are also protected. To retain data, especially Internet data, for a period of only six months from transmission would prevent gardaĆ­ from accessing details regarding the transmission of data after that period and clearly prejudice investigations.

I am also conscious of Ireland's status as an e-commerce hub, an issue on which Senator Quinn's views are well known. No one wishes to introduce legislation that would place us at a disadvantage, especially in the current economic climate. I refer the Senator to figures for average retention periods for Internet data in European Union member states. Across the Union, the average period is 12.3 months, which is greater than the period proposed in the Bill. The proposal does not put Ireland at a competitive disadvantage. The decision of a global or international company investing here would be based on many factors other than the provisions of data retention legislation. Notwithstanding this, I accept the Senator's point in that regard.

As the case under the 2006 directive to which Senator Bacik referred is still before the courts, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the matter at this stage. I understand, however, that it does not relate specifically to the provisions of the Bill.


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