Seanad debates

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

10:30 am

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)

I welcome the opportunity to give clarity on this issue. The amendment put forward by Senators Higgins, Ruane and Flynn seeks to add a subsection to section 2 to provide that the Act will not apply to a residential unit on a licensed premises or a residential unit in the same building occupied by a specified person. I am aware that concerns were raised in the Dáil last week in respect of this very issue and the application of the provisions of this Bill to private homes.

The decision was taken not to put in place any measures to enforce Covid-19 regulations in private residences and this Bill is in keeping with that decision. The provisions of the Bill do not and cannot give An Garda Síochána powers to enter a person's home to enforce penal regulations. The Bill very clearly limits the application of the provisions to a licensed premises and clubs where alcohol is sold or supplied for consumption on the premises.

I assure the Senators that this amendment is not necessary. The licence for the sale of intoxicating liquor is confined to the place expressly mentioned in the licence and identified by a map lodged in court.The Circuit Court Rules 2001 provide that the applicant shall produce a map or plan upon which the premises the subject matter of the application are outlined in red, with the area to be licensed clearly delineated. The plan requires the layout of all floors on the premises sought to be licensed, including areas not intended to be used for business, such as residential accommodation, which do not then form part of the licensed premises and, therefore, the provisions of this legislation will not apply.

Section 18 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 and section 3 of this Bill empower any member of the force to enter a licensed premises for the purpose of detecting an offence under the Licensing Acts or under prescribed regulations in the case of this Bill. It also provides that any member of An Garda Síochána, whether in uniform or not, may enter, without warrant, any licensed premises at any time and there make such inspection, examination, observation and inquiries he or she may think proper for the prevention of detection of offences under the Licensing Acts. Therefore, An Garda Síochána may only enter the licensed premises identified in the licence attached to the premises. This power cannot be used to enter a residential unit, whether or not it is attached to a licensed premises.

I have outlined the reasons the proposed amendment is not necessary. I would also like it to be noted that it is not desirable as it could cause unintended consequences for other legislation where such wording does not appear. On that basis, I urge the Senators not to press the amendment. In my own practice, I have dealt with a number of licensing applications and I can assure the Senators that when making a licensing application it is very clearly delineated what is and what is not a licensed premises. This provision will only apply to the licensed premises section of a building. I assure the Senators that there is no issue but I welcome the opportunity to clarify that. Clarification is welcome and necessary. I also assure the Senators that An Garda Síochána will only ever rely on this legislation, when enacted, as a last resort and it will always work with publicans, as is currently the case.

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