Thursday, 22 June 2017
Criminal Justice Bill 2016: Committee and Remaining Stages
Can I join with the Cathaoirleach in extending a welcome to the newly-elected Lord Mayor of Cork. I wish him every success in his term of office. I had the opportunity of meeting the Lord Mayor briefly. I understand his interest in justice matters and in particular crime and security. I would hope to have the opportunity of visiting Cork in the course of my tenure and perhaps we could resume our discussions on matters of importance to Cork. I wish him every success as Lord Mayor of that great city.
I acknowledge the contribution of Senators. I welcome the all-party approval for this important legislation, seeking to improve the operation of the bail system and making the criminal law as effective as possible in protecting the public against crimes committed by persons on bail, while also, of course, being mindful of the need to safeguard the rights of individual citizens.
This Bill will give greater guidance to the court in determining whether it is necessary to refuse bail to prevent an accused person from committing a serious offence. It provides new protections for victims and for the public and it marks another important step on the way forward in preventing the matter of persistent offending in our community. It is important legislation and carefully balances the protection of the public with the right to liberty. I thank Senators for supporting it and the Cathaoirleach for presiding over the Committee and Remaining Stages of this important Bill.
Our party supported the Bill. We welcome the passing of the Criminal Justice Bill 2016. It is appropriate that we would congratulate the Minister on his appointment to the Department of Justice and Equality and wish him well in his new role and thank him for his efforts in his previous role as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
I welcome the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, to the House. I congratulate him on his appointment to the Department of Justice and Equality. As the Fine Gael spokesperson on justice I very much look forward to working with him. I know he has a deep interest and life experience in terms of working in law. It is a natural bedfellow in terms of suitability for the role. The Department of Justice and Equality has faced challenges in recent years. The Minister is taking over a complex, challenging and difficult Department but I have no doubt that he will leave it in a far better state than he found it. We wish him well and look forward to working with him in achieving that.
There has been a narrative about bail and repeat offenders in the public domain. There has been a chorus calling for something to be done about it. While the legislation is not the panacea to resolve all of the issues pertaining to bail, I believe it is significant and a positive incremental step in the right direction. I welcome it. It would be remiss not to pay tribute to the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, for initiating this Bill.
I thank my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party and in particular their spokesperson on justice, Senator Clifford-Lee, and other colleagues for their co-operation on this Bill. Members understand and recognise the necessity for this legislation. I believe it is balanced and appropriate. Like all legislation it is evolving. If it needs to be altered, amended or change, that will happen.
I wish Deputy Flanagan well in the Department of Justice and Equality. We look forward to working with him.
I apologise to the Minister for Justice and Equality for not being present and am glad my colleague, Senator Devine, was here to cover for me. This is important legislation. By and large Sinn Féin has supported its passage through the Oireachtas. We have had some concerns on the issue of bail, and in particular the potential privatisation of tagging. We have flagged this in good faith in the course of our contributions on the Bill. I believe overall the positives outweigh the negatives. It is an important Bill and it has been useful to engage, observe and listen to the various opinions on the more nuanced aspects of the Bill. Senator Conway readily acknowledges that all of this must be up for consideration and review as it takes effect. I have no doubt that under the fresh leadership of the Minister in the Department of Justice and Equality, he will want to ensure that is the case.
Sin an méid, go raibh maith agat.