Seanad debates

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Criminal Justice (Mutual Recognition of Decisions on Supervision Measures) Bill 2019: Second Stage


Question proposed: That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

10:30 am

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I am very pleased to introduce this Bill to the House. This is a detailed and technical Bill. It is, however, a straightforward and faithful transposition of EU Council Framework Decision 2009/829/JHA on the cross-border recognition of decisions on supervision measures as an alternative to provisional detention. This Bill has been a long time coming and, at this stage, is well overdue. The necessary provisions to transpose the obligations imposed under the framework decision into Irish law should already have been finalised by 2012. Any further delay on our part is likely to result in referral to the European Court of Justice, so there is a certain urgency to the passing of this legislation through the House. I do not wish to anticipate the approval of Senators but I hope that it will receive general support here.

This legislation has a simple objective, namely, to enable someone who is the subject of a supervision decision in one EU member state but lives in another to return home and continue his or her supervision there. These measures recognise the paramount importance of the presumption of innocence in our criminal justice system and aim to ensure that a person who is charged with an offence in another member state will not suffer a disproportionate interference in his or her life before facing trial on those charges. This Bill constructs the legal framework to facilitate the return of a supervised person to his or her home country while ensuring that the necessary supervision measures continue and also that the legal consequences for failing to engage with that supervision can be enforced if need be. This ensures that the necessary protections for the public are in place.

The Bill applies to individuals who are charged with an offence while temporarily in another member state, for example on holiday, or working or studying abroad. For instance, if a person living in Ireland goes on holiday to another member state and becomes subject to criminal proceedings and subsequently to obligations or supervision while awaiting trial, he or she would have to stay in the trial state, potentially for months, to see through the supervision. The consequences could be quite considerable for the supervised person, even where an alleged offence is relatively minor. He or she could be separated from family, or perhaps lose a job, college place or accommodation. Under the provisions of the Bill, a person could have his or her supervision transferred to Ireland. The person could return to the State, carry on working and living with family, and be subject to supervision, monitored by An Garda Síochána. If a person fails to comply with the supervision measures, the Garda Síochána can enforce the order endorsing the supervision decision through the Irish courts, so the protection of the public is ensured. The Bill also provides for the reverse scenario. Supervision decisions imposed by the Irish courts on individuals who are not normally resident in the State can be transferred back to that person's home state if he or she wishes to return. The Bill cannot be used to remove someone from one state to another if he or she is unwilling. Such an arrangement has obvious benefits and is likely to encourage compliance with the supervision decision. Ultimately, the public is safer when supervision is successful.

I will now turn to the provisions of the Bill and outline what is proposed in more detail. This legislation consists of 38 sections. The Bill is highly prescriptive: it sets out in great detail the step-by-step procedures by which transfers of supervision measures can be executed. I will outline some of the most pertinent sections of the Bill. Section 5 specifies that the Minister for Justice and Equality will be designated as the central authority in the State for the purposes of this Bill, but also states that the functions of the central authority can be delegated by order.

Sections 8 to 22, inclusive, set out the rules and procedures that will apply where Ireland is the issuing State, meaning that it is an Irish court making a decision on supervision measures, in other words, a decision to grant bail subject to conditions, to a resident of another member state, the executing state. These procedures include obligations and provisions such as obliging the Irish central authority to consult with the executing state on various aspect of the supervision decision. This can include if the supervised person commits a serious breach of the decision. Section 10 also compels the central authority to bring to the attention of the court any risk to the public, giving the court the power, in section 11, to make a supervision decision in certain circumstances. This section does not impede the court's power to refuse the accused person bail on any existing ground.

Sections 12 to 18, inclusive, detail the various procedures and processes that the issuing state and the executing state must adhere to or can rely on such as: outlining, at section 12, the application process for a supervision decision for a person who has already been granted bail in the state and wishes to return to another member state pending trial; providing, at section 15, for the potential responses from the executing state to a forwarded supervision decision, for example, rejecting the supervision measures, delaying the decision-making process or adapting a supervision measure, notifications that must be given, in sections 16 and 17; and dates of expiry and extension of supervision decisions, in section 18.

Sections 19 to 21, inclusive, give powers to the court to make decisions on revoking and renewing supervision decisions and issuing arrest warrants where the supervision measures have been breached. Section 22 makes provision for the supervised person in the other member state to appear before the court at certain hearings via live television link.

Part 3 comprises sections 23 to 38, and sets out the rules and procedures that will pertain where Ireland is the executing state, in other words, where a decision on supervision measures is issued in another member state and forwarded to Ireland to be recognised here. This includes consultation with the issuing state on various issues around the supervision decision, in sections 25, 28 and 29, obligations on reporting regarding supervision measures and their conditions, in section 27, as well as outlining the definitions of what constitutes an offence under Irish law, in sections 26 and 30.

Sections 31 to 34, inclusive, and 37 and 38 set out the Irish courts and central authority's obligations and powers regarding supervision decisions from other member states. Sections 35 and 36 state that the other member state will retain competence to renew, modify or revoke the supervision decision and provide for the extension of the monitoring of the supervision decision if necessary and requested by the other member state. We will of course have the opportunity to discuss all sections of the Bill in more detail on Committee Stage. However, as I have already stated, this legislation is long overdue. The European Commission is currently reviewing the implementation of the Council framework decision and failure to enact the necessary legislative provisions would likely result in referral to the European Court of Justice. I ask Senators therefore to support the passage of this Bill through the House.

As Members can see, this Bill is detailed, technical and prescriptive, but its aims are straightforward. The Bill establishes a system and sets out step-by-step procedures for returning non-resident persons, subject to supervision measures, to their home country. It does that in order to prevent an unreasonable interference in the life of the accused before trial and it guarantees that the necessary enforcement options are available to national authorities to safeguard the public. It is difficult to estimate the number of people who may wish to transfer their supervision measures under an instrument such as this but it is likely to be minimal. However, for those individuals who find themselves abroad, away from family and community supports, it will be a valuable tool with the ultimate goal of ensuring safer societies. I commend this Bill to the House and I hope Senators will support it.

Photo of Aidan DavittAidan Davitt (Fianna Fail)
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I have been well briefed on the Bill by my colleague opposite, Senator Conway. It is an important piece of legislation. As the Minister of State outlined, the purpose is to transpose Council Framework Decision 2009/829/JHA, which we have been slow in implementing. Fianna Fáil has discussed the Bill and we are happy to support it. I will not delay the House today on the matter.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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This is a largely technical piece of legislation to fulfil our obligations under EU law. It transposes a directive into law. It is good and it is very important for families who find themselves in such a situation. I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive explanation. I am delighted that my colleagues are supporting the Bill.

Photo of Maire DevineMaire Devine (Sinn Fein)
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We welcome the Bill. We have no objection to it. It will have the effect of allowing an Irish resident who is sentenced to a period of probation while temporarily in another member state to be supervised by the Probation Service. It is important that the right of accused persons charged with offences abroad are protected.It is just as important the victims be protected by ensuring that the non-resident accused person fulfils the bail conditions. It is also preferable to reduce the detention of a person before his or her trial in this jurisdiction. Accordingly, we will support and welcome the Bill.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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I am delighted the Senator will support the Bill and I thank her for her consideration of this relatively technical, albeit practical, legislation. As I stated, its primary purpose is to give effect to the provisions of EU Framework Directive 2009/299/JHA on the application among member states of the EU of the principle of mutual recognition of the decisions on supervision measures as an alternative to provisional detention.

While the Bill's drafting was complex, its purpose is simple, namely, to enable a person who is the subject of a supervision decision in one member state but lives in another to return home and continue his or her supervision there. The proposals in the Bill will protect the rights of accused persons who face charges in other member states while ensuring that victims and communities are protected through the enforcement of supervision measures. This will allow the supervised person to maintain ties with family and to continue employment or education while awaiting trial. The Bill is based on consent. A person cannot be transferred from one country to another without his or her consent.

The legislation will not affect many people but it will have a great impact on the lives of those it does affect. For that reason, it is important legislation and I thank Senators for supporting it. I look forward to debating their proposals in more detail during its passage through the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Photo of Maria ByrneMaria Byrne (Fine Gael)
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When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Next Tuesday.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 8 October 2019.

Sitting suspended at 2.50 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.