Thursday, 11 July 2019
Parole Bill 2016: Committee and Remaining Stages
I thank Senators Ruane and Black for tabling the amendments. As has been stated, section 12 deals with the circumstances where members of the board are to be removed, disqualified or become ineligible to hold office. Subsection (4) of section 12 provides that a member of the board ceases to be qualified and ceases to be a member of the board if that person is convicted on indictment of an offence or of a fraud or dishonesty offence, or has a declaration or disqualification under the Companies Act made against them. The amendment seeks to give the High Court the power, where a person disqualified by this section applies to the court, to override the section and make an order that the person may be appointed to the board while leaving the section itself in force.
Subsection (4) is standard in this kind of Bill. It does not disqualify every person who has committed any offence whatsoever, as Senator Bacik said. It is limited to those who are convicted on indictment and those convicted of fraud and dishonesty offences. I am sure we all agree that honesty and integrity are essential for persons who are to be making these kinds of decisions. Of course, the High Court does not and should not have a role in appointing persons to State boards, except of course in circumstances where the court already has the power to review a decision of the Minister on such an appointment where it finds it has been arrived at arbitrarily or unfairly.
I am satisfied that subsection (4) is proportionate. Of course, as Senator Bacik said, we must always keep legislation under review. If, in time, a clear problem identifies itself and, for instance, this provision is demonstrably precluding suitable persons from being appointed, then we can look at it and consider whether any future legislative reform might be needed. I know the matter of spent convictions is one close Senator Ruane’s heart, and I commend her on that. We did a lot of work on that in the justice committee when I was a member. However, these matters are being looked at separately.
I am of the view that this amendment is not necessary or wise at this time. I would ask the House, therefore, not to support it. We will keep the legislation under constant review. We are breaking new ground here to a certain extent and the Senators’ point will be kept in mind when we are looking at this in the light of experience.