Wednesday, 5 July 2023
Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022: Report and Final Stages
I welcome the Minister, Deputy McEntee, back to the House. She was here only yesterday.
Recommittal will be necessary in respect of amendments Nos. 1, 2, 7, 12 and 20. I ask Members to note that by agreeing to the motion to recommit, the House will allow a Committee Stage-style discussion on those amendments and, therefore, they may speak more than once on each of these amendments. In respect of other amendments, I remind them that they may speak only once on Report Stage, except for the proposer of an amendment, who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. On Report Stage, each non-Government amendment must be seconded. There is only one non-Government amendment.
As this is a new amendment, it is important to lay out what we are doing here. In essence, these amendments will provide a mechanism for Ireland's co-operation with the European Public Prosecutor's Office, EPPO, an independent EU body established in 2017 as an enhanced co-operation measure. It has responsibility for investigating and prosecuting crimes against the financial interests of the EU and participating member states. It commenced its operations in 2021.
The development of a supranational body with responsibility for both the investigation and prosecution of offences presented particular challenges in the context of Ireland's common law legal system, and Ireland initially decided not to opt in. This decision is under review and how we could opt in is being actively considered. In the interim, however, we have been clear that we fully support and wish to co-operate with EPPO. We have been working closely with participating member states and EPPO to see how this can be achieved.
Establishing a sound legal basis for co-operation is not straightforward. The relevant international co-operation instruments are established on the basis of state-to-state requests and were not created with a supranational body such as EPPO in mind. This issue was identified early in the development of EPPO and Ireland argued for the development of a separate EU legal instrument to facilitate co-operation. In fact, such a new instrument was foreseen by the EPPO regulation, which invites the Commission, if appropriate, to submit proposals in respect of it. To date, however, no such instrument has been progressed. In the absence of such an instrument, Ireland has sought to be pragmatic and has emphasised that it can respond to requests for co-operation if those requests are made through the participating member state authorities.However, to allow requests to be made directly by EPPO, legislative changes are required and these are the changes I am bringing forward today. Given the difficulties arising from using existing international agreements, the Office of the Attorney General has advised that the only sound approach to co-operation with EPPO is to unilaterally provide for that assistance in domestic law.
Accordingly, the approach taken is to amend the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 with a new Part 7B to be inserted into that Act. This makes general provision for co-operation with EPPO and specifies section by section the modifications that apply when dealing with EPPO requests. Requests from EPPO will generally be dealt with in a similar way to requests by EU member states. When it is necessary to determine any question by reference to the law of the requesting state, this will be done by reference to the law of the member state where EPPO is conducting the investigation. There are particular cases where specific provision must be made, for example, around the documentation to be provided for external freezing orders or for assurances to be given with regard to the law of the relevant EPPO member state. A regulation-making power is provided to enable specific details to be addressed with regard to particular types of requests.
In general, Ireland will rely on EPPO acting within its competencies. Ireland will not look behind a request to determine, for example, whether it is EPPO or the member state authorities in question that should be investigating the offence in question. The EPPO regulation provides that such matters will be dealt with by the authorities of the other member states or in the Court of Justice of the EU as it may be. While the amendments are complex and a significant amount of work has gone into this, for which I thank my officials, this reflects the application of the approach I have outlined to the many different types of requests that may arise.
With regard to the investigation and the court, where does jurisdiction lie with regard to the likes of EU countries and countries outside the EU such as the UK? Can the people who are being investigated or brought to court move jurisdiction to another state outside the EU such as the UK and look for his or her case to be moved to that state if he or she is being prosecuted in an EU state? Can a person from the UK who is being prosecuted in an EU state move the case to his or her own jurisdiction, which is the UK?
Where EPPO undertakes the investigations, it is specific to member states that are signed up. We have not signed up officially but we are putting in place a mechanism to allow for that exchange of information. The UK has engaged with and is working to ensure that there is no loss of ability to exchange information now it is outside the EU. Depending on where the incident happens or the case is taken, that is where the case will be heard. For example, there are a number of cases at the moment, one of which is in Italy. That case is being heard in Italy because that is where the crime was committed so that is what we are generally talking about here. The case will be taken wherever the crime took place but where there is a need to engage with other relevant authorities, this simply allows through the public prosecutor's office that information and that exchange to take place on a sound legal footing or a legal footing as they are requiring. Beyond that, when it comes to the UK, as is the case with a lot of different justice strands, engagement was happening with the EU to make sure that where possible, there can be that close alignment and co-operation when it comes to criminal justice matters.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 16, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:
“Amendment of Act of 1997
23. The Act of 1997 is amended by the insertion of the following section after section 9: “Non-intimate partner coercive control9A. (1) A person commits an offence where he or she knowingly and persistently engages in a course of conduct that consists of abusive behaviour that—(a) is controlling or coercive,(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a person’s behaviour has a serious effect on a relevant person if the behaviour causes the relevant person—
(b) has a serious effect on a relevant person, and
(c) a reasonable person would consider likely to have a serious effect on a relevant person.(a) to fear that violence will be used against him or her or another person, or(3) Abusive behaviour for the purposes of this section includes engaging in or threatening to engage in the following:
(b) serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on the capacity of the relevant person to engage in some or all of the relevant person’s usual day-to-day activities.(a) behaviour that deprives the relevant person of liberty, restricts the relevant person’s liberty or otherwise unreasonably controls, regulates or monitors the relevant person’s day-to-day activities,(4) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is liable—
communications or movements, whether by physically following the relevant person, using technology or in another way;
(b) undermining of the relevant person’s independence;
(c) imposing or making decisions on behalf of the relevant person without his or her consent or without the legal authority to do so;
(d) behaviour that is degrading, frightening, humiliating, punishing or shaming;
(e) behaviour that is intimidation;
(f) behaviour that is verbally abusive;
(g) behaviour that isolates the relevant person and preventing contact with family and friends and other supports;
(h) behaviour that causes harm to the relevant person, or to another person, if the relevant person fails to comply with demands made of the relevant person;
(i) behaviour that damages or destroys property;
(j) behaviour that is economically or financially abusive.(a) on summary conviction, to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both, or(5) In this section, a person is a ‘relevant person’ in respect of another person if he or she is the subject of abusive behaviour.”.”.
(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or both.
This amendment seeks to insert a new offence in the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 modelled on the existing coercive control offence in the Domestic Violence Act 2018. However, this new offence would apply to everyone - not just intimate partners. People working with people at risk of abuse, coercion and exploitation understand that coercive control does not just happen in intimate relationships. I know the Minister understands this and I appreciate her considered response to me on Committee Stage and for meeting with me on this issue. She expressed her view that the issue needs to be addressed but stated that more work needs to be done to define a new offence and not just extend the existing offence. I understand all that and that the Minister is very cautious on this issue but I must talk about the fact that those who are campaigning on the issue, particularly with regard to adult safeguarding, have reason to be sceptical of caution and delay from Government figures. My Civil Engagement Group colleague former Senator Colette Kelleher introduced a comprehensive adult safeguarding Bill way back in 2017 that was shelved due to an over-abundance of caution and that is the concern here. The Government promised its own version and six years on, we have yet to see it. In the meantime, many people have been harmed. Some of the stories have been horrific. They have had their dignity and autonomy violated by bad actors who could have been stopped by adult safeguarding legislation.
This is a dual issue. On the civil side, we need comprehensive adult safeguarding legislation to create systems that protect people from being made vulnerable while on the criminal side, we need an offence that adequately captures the coercion and control to which people are made subject by abusers who are not intimate partners. Delay can create harm. I am worried about that so with that in mind, I think the best way to mitigate that harm is for the Minister to accept this amendment and to pass and enact Senator Kelleher's Bill. If this is not considered possible, organisations campaigning on the issue of adult safeguarding like Safeguarding Ireland, Sage Advocacy and the Irish Association of Social Workers deserve a clear and firm timetable for when these legislative changes will be introduced in Government legislation. That is my ask today. I ask the Minister to meet with those organisations and to move more quickly than has been the case. I know this is something the Minister is willing to do, which I am really happy to hear. These organisations have been fighting very hard and people have been waiting too long to be continually left in the dark. I thank the Minister for her consideration. I appreciate it.
I thank the Senator for her contribution and what she is trying to address here. I have met with Safeguarding Ireland and I understand that there are a lot of vulnerable people who need further protection in two ways - looking at it from a criminal justice side and making sure all the right rules, regulation and oversight are in place where you have vulnerable people. It is not just in certain settings. It can also extend to the home where you might have a parent-child relationship or vulnerable people interacting with other adults.
The coercive control legislation was brought in in recent years and was very specific to that intimate partner relationship. A lot of work was done with An Garda Síochána, victims and others to make sure that, as was set out, it was clear and it worked. The fact that we are starting to see convictions is very positive and, hopefully, will encourage more people to come forward. I agree fully with the Senator that coercive control does not just apply to those in partner relationships be they married couples or partners. It can and does happen beyond that.
While I cannot accept the amendment today because I believe we need further engagement with An Garda Síochána, the DPP and other organisations that work in this space, including Safeguarding Ireland, what I can commit to is that we will start that process - engaging with An Garda Síochána first, looking at the work that has been done because a huge amount of work has been done through Safeguarding Ireland and others and seeing how we can progress this and where there are gaps because some of the behaviours mentioned in the amendment are already covered in what we are doing here for harassment and stalking. I thank the Senator for her amendment and look forward to working with her on this over the next few months.
I accept why the Minister cannot accept this amendment today and I look forward to working with her along with Safeguarding Ireland and other organisations.The only thing I ask is time. We really need to do it sooner rather than later, and I do not want it to be delayed like the adult safeguarding legislation has been delayed. There are huge concerns and more and more people are being hurt, damaged and violated. It has been a nightmare, particularly for Safeguarding Ireland, which is working on those issues. I accept the point made today and I thank the Minister.
When a person is convicted of stalking or harassment offences, essentially, the court will have the power to make a no-contact order prohibiting any type of communication or that person going within a certain distance of the other person's residence, education or employment, and if that person is in breach of such an order, it is a very serious offence. What these amendments do is complement that provision and ensure such orders are properly notified. It means that when this order is made, it is notified in writing to the relevant parties, which includes the victim and local gardaí, and this obviously helps with the enforcement but it also makes it much clearer when there is a potential breach in regard to a prosecution.
I know this is an issue that has been raised by victims. I acknowledge Eve McDowell and Una Ring, who are in the Visitors Gallery today, and who have campaigned for this but, more broadly, for the introduction of the standalone stalking offence. It is important when we are doing this that we cover all bases and that, where possible, all scenarios are covered to ensure that when a non-contact order is put in place, everybody who should know is aware of that and it is made readily available in the first instance. That is what this amendment will do.
I also want to acknowledge Eve McDowell and Una Ring for the work they have done as campaigners, working with myself and others, including the Minister, Deputy McEntee, for most of the last two years. It has been a long road but we are nearly there. We had thought the Bill might conclude today but these amendments are there to enhance the legislation. As we have heard from the Minister, the intention behind the amendments is to strengthen the Bill, putting victims at the centre and making sure that we give as much protection as possible to other people who might find themselves in a similar situation to Una and Eve. It is very welcome.
It is not very often that citizens get an opportunity to change the law. As politicians, we ourselves find it difficult to make changes to legislation, but it is rare that citizens through their own campaigning bring about a change to legislation, which is what Una and Eve will achieve when this Bill passes all stages in both Houses, and it will go back to the Dáil next week. I take this opportunity to thank both women and their families for the work they have done, and they are joined in the Visitors Gallery today by their supporters and family. I know that since bringing this issue to light almost two years ago, they have become a point or a source of information and support for other victims and they are consistently having contact with and taking phone calls and emails from other victims who are trying to navigate what is a complicated and complex system. They can both be very proud of what they have achieved. It has been an honour and a privilege to work with both of them in getting us to where we are today, with the Minister as well. We are fortunate to have a female Minister for Justice who understands these issues and who has made sure that women's safety is top of the agenda in the Department of Justice. It has been a team effort but, ultimately, it has been down to the work of both Eve and Una. I thank them for that.
This amendment provides for restrictions on the publication of the identity of alleged victims of harassment and stalking offences under section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. It provides that it is an offence to publish or broadcast information, photographs, depictions or representations of physical likeness that are likely to lead to the identification of the alleged victim. Harassment and stalking offences tend to involve a serious invasion of a victim's privacy. There is a high risk that publication of the victim's identity may subject them to further distress, as well as secondary or repeat victimisation. This provision on the restriction of identification will, therefore, be an important element of victim protection in these types of cases. The restrictions provided may be waived by the alleged victim, of course, or may be disapplied by the courts where they feel it is appropriate.
Amendment No. 11 introduces a similar provision for cases involving the breach of a civil order under section 27. The provision places restrictions on the publication of the identity of both the complainant and the defendant in such cases. It provides that it is an offence to publish or broadcast information, photographs, depictions or representations of physical likeness which would likely lead to identification of the victim or the person charged. Again, breaches of section 27 orders tend to involve a very serious invasion of a victim's privacy and there is a high risk that publication may subject them to further distress, trauma or victimisation. This provision represents a very important safeguard for victims overall and, in most of what is in this legislation, that is what we are trying to achieve.
Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 provide for consequential amendments to the Broadcasting Act and other media regulation Acts arising from these new anonymity provisions in regard to harassment and stalking offences and breaches of civil orders. They follow the pattern in the Act of scheduling matters that might be subject to regulation of online media. The effect of these provisions will be to allow the Online Safety Commissioner, working under Coimisiún na Meán, to develop online safety codes which will require certain online platforms to minimise at a systemic level the availability of online content by which a person breaches the new anonymity provisions. These codes may also set out standards that an online platform must follow in regard to user complaints relating to this type of content. Basically, as we move to update our laws, we need to make sure that we apply this to all technology that is available to people where they can use this as a further form of abuse.
Amendments Nos. 8 to 10, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Government amendment No. 8:
In page 20, line 13, to delete “An application” and substitute “Subject to subsection (7), an application”.
These amendments provide for the making of civil restraining orders under section 20 on an urgent basis.
As Senators pointed out on Committee Stage, an immediate risk may exist to a person from stalking behaviour and delays may arise placing a person on notice. The amendments provide for an application for an order to be made ex parteand for the grant of an ex parteapplication where there are reasonable grounds to believe there was an immediate risk to the safety and welfare of the applicant. An order made ex partewill be valid for up to eight days. This allows for protection to be put in place immediately while placing the respondent on notice. The orders will also be available where an application is made on notice but is not immediately determined. This essentially allows the court to make a temporary order pending the determination of the overall application.
Taken together, what we want to ensure is that there is urgent relief available where victims need immediate relief and, obviously, we need to ensure that we safeguard them from any type of ongoing offending behaviour as they await a final determination of their section 27 application. Again, this is to make sure there is absolutely no gap where somebody needs that immediate assistance and help. I believe this ensures that.
94AM. For the purposes of this Part, section 78 shall apply subject to the following (and any other necessary):
modification, as if the following paragraph were substituted for paragraph (e) of subsection (1):
Amendment of section 109 of Act of 2008‘(e) in the case of an EPPO request for the DNA profile of a person who is suspected of having committed the offence concerned whose DNA profile is not in the possession of the Garda Síochána—(i) a warrant or order issued by EPPO or by an appropriate authority in the relevant EPPO member state on the request of EPPO requiring a person to have identification evidence, other than fingerprints, palm prints or photographs, taken from him or her for the purposes of a criminal investigation, or criminal proceedings, in that member state, or
(ii) a statement issued by EPPO or by an appropriate authority in the relevant EPPO member state on the request of EPPO confirming that the requirements for the taking of a DNA sample from the person under the law of the relevant EPPO member state would be complied with if the person were in that state.’.Application of section 79 for purposes of Part
94AN. For the purposes of this Part, section 79 shall apply subject to the modification (and any other necessary modifications) that the reference in subsection (10) to the requesting state shall be construed as a reference to the relevant EPPO member state.
Application of section 79A for purposes of Part
94AO. For the purposes of this Part, section 79A shall apply subject to the following (and any other necessary) modification, as if the following were substituted for paragraph (a) of subsection (1):Application of section 79C for purposes of Part‘(a) is an EPPO request, and’.
94AP. For the purposes of this Part, section 79C shall apply subject to the following and any other necessary modifications:(a) a reference to a request made pursuant to Article 7 of 2008 Council Decision or that Article insofar as it is applied by Article 1 of the 2009 Agreement with Iceland and Norway designated state shall be construed as a reference to an EPPO request,
(b) in subsection (2), as if paragraph (d) was deleted, and (c) as if subsection (8) was deleted.CHAPTER 7Application of section 82 for purposes of Part
Modification of Part 6 for purposes of Part
94AQ. For the purposes of this Part, section 82 shall apply subject to the following and any other necessary modifications—Application of section 83 for purposes of Part(a) in subsection (1)(b), the reference to a prosecuting authority shall be construed as including a reference to EPPO,
(b) a reference to issuing authority shall be construed as a reference to EPPO,
(c) in subsections (8) and (9), the reference to that state shall be construed as a reference to the relevant EPPO member state,
(d) in subsection (10)(a), the reference to judicial authorities shall be construed as including EPPO, and
(e) in subsection (11)(b), the reference to law of the state where it was issued shall be construed as a reference to the law of the relevant EPPO member state.
94AR. For the purposes of this Part, section 83 shall apply subject to the modification (and any other necessary modifications) that a reference in subsection (1) to—Application of section 88 for purposes of Part(a) the appropriate authority in the designated state, and
(b) that authority, shall be construed as a reference to EPPO.
94AS. For the purposes of this Part, section 88 shall apply subject to the following and any other necessary modifications—(a) in the definition of ‘competent authority in a designated state’, the reference to a person or body in that state appearing to the Competent Authority in the State to have the function of receiving or making the request shall be construed as reference to EPPO, and
(b) in the definition of ‘controlled delivery’, as if ‘in accordance with the relevant international instrument’ was deleted.CHAPTER 8Application of section 97 for purposes of Part
Modification of Part 8 for purposes of Part
94AT. For the purposes of this Part, section 97 shall apply subject to the following and any other necessary modifications, the reference in subsection (1) to—Application of section 99 for purposes of Part(a) the designated state concerned, and
(b) a representative of the authority concerned in that state, shall be construed as a reference to EPPO.
94AU. For the purposes of this Part, section 99 shall apply subject to the modification (and any other necessary modifications) that the reference to in accordance with the relevant international instrument shall be construed as a reference to with the consent of EPPO.
Application of section 102 for purposes of Part
94AV. For the purposes of this Part, section 102 shall apply subject to the following and any other necessary modifications—Application of section 103 for purposes of Part(a) in subsection (1)(a)(ii), the reference to made or issued by a court, tribunal or authority in a designated state shall be construed as including a reference to made or issued by EPPO,
(b) in subsection (4), the reference to certified by or on behalf of the court, tribunal or authority issuing it shall be construed as including a reference to certified by or on behalf of EPPO,
(c) in subsection (5)—(i) in paragraph (a), the reference to given by or on behalf of a court, tribunal or authority in a designated state shall be construed as including a reference to given by or on behalf of EPPO,(d) as if subsection (6) was deleted.
(ii) as if paragraph (b) was deleted, and
(iii) the reference to such a certificate or seal shall be construed as a reference to such certificate, and
94AW. For the purposes of this Part, section 103 shall apply subject to the following and any other necessary modifications—Application of section 104 for purposes of Part(a) the reference to a competent authority in that state shall be construed as a reference to EPPO, (b) in subsection (1)—(i) as if ‘in accordance with the relevant international instrument’ was deleted, and(c) in subsection (3), as if ‘having had regard to the provisions of the relevant international instrument’ was deleted.
(ii) as if ‘within the meaning of that instrument’ was deleted, and
94AX. For the purposes of this Part, section 104 shall apply (subject to any other necessary modifications) as if ‘, and shall if so required by the relevant international instrument,’ in subsection (1) was deleted.”.
51. Section 109 of the Act of 2008 is amended by the insertion of the following subsections after subsection (1A):Amendment of“(1B) Without prejudice to section 94K, the generality of subsection (1) and subject to the provisions of this Act concerning particular requests, regulations (in this Act referred to as the ‘Part 7B Regulations’) may be made by the Minister for the purposes of Part 7B and in particular such regulations may make provision for—(a) the limitations, restrictions or conditions applicable to EPPO requests,(1C) Regulations under subsection (1B) may be made by the Minister for the purposes of requests by the State to EPPO and paragraphs (a) to (g) of subsection (1B) shall apply mutatis mutandisto such requests.”.
(b) the form of EPPO requests and the information such requests are to provide,
(c) the action that may be taken where the information provided is not sufficient to enable the request to be dealt with,
(d) without prejudice to section 3, the grounds for refusal of EPPO requests,
(e) the requirements relating to the protection, disclosure, use or transmission of information or evidence received under EPPO requests,
(f) the formalities and procedures in dealing with EPPO requests, and
(g) the transmission and mode of transmission of EPPO requests, including, transmission via the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) in urgent cases, and
52.The is amended— (a) in section 1—(i) in subsection (1), by the insertion of the following definition:“ ‘EPPO’ means the European Public Prosecutor’s Office established under Article 3 of Council Regulation (EU) 2017/1939 of 12 October 2017 implementing enhanced cooperation on the establishment of theEuropean Public Prosecutor’s Office, as amended by Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/2153 of 14 October 2020;”, and(ii) by the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (1):“(1A) This Act shall apply and has effect, subject to the following and any other necessary modifications—(a) as if a reference to a competent authority included a reference to EPPO, and
(b) as if a reference to another Member State or other such States included a reference to a relevant EPPO member state (within the meaning of the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008).”,and(b) in section 9(1)—(i) in paragraph (c), by the substitution of “European Communities,” for “European Communities, or”,
(ii) in paragraph (d), by the substitution of “Act 2008, or” for “Act 2008,”, and (iii) by the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (d):“(e) one or more officers designated by EPPO.”.”.
These amendments are technical. They provide for consequential changes to a number of other enactments arising from the new section 3A, covering non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation offences, and section 4A, which covers non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation causing serious harm offences. The effect of these is essentially to extend existing provisions, which are currently applicable to the existing section 3, that is, assault causing harm offences, and section 4, that is, assault causing serious harm offences.They will now also cover sections 3A and 4A.
The Mental Health Review Board is a quasi-judicial body responsible for the review of the detention of patients in the Central Mental Hospital. Currently, Schedule 1(1) of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 outlines the requirements of the membership of the board. There must be a chairperson and such number of ordinary members as determined by the Minister in consultation with the Minister for Health. As it stands, the chairperson must have ten years’ experience as a practising barrister or solicitor or be a judge or former judge. Should the chairperson be incapacitated or unavailable, there is currently no means to provide for a substitute. This presents a risk, given the strict time limits available for such reviews.
The amendment will establish a deputy chairperson role on the board with the same qualification requirements as the chair and will require the deputy chair to act as chair where the chair is not present. This will ensure that the reviews that are due to take place will still be able to do so even if the chairperson is unavailable. Should it arise that both the chair and the deputy chair are unavailable, the Minister may appoint a suitably qualified individual to act on a temporary basis. An amendment to this effect to Schedule 1 of the Act has been introduced already.
This is the final group of amendments. They are amendments to the Communication (Retention of Data) Act 2011 to correct drafting and cross-referencing issues in the amending Act that was passed last year. Under the 2022 Act, applications for data must be approved by a judge. They are made on an ex parte basis with the relevant agency present, for example, An Garda Síochána. They must be also heard otherwise than in public - essentially, in private. This prevents a risk of any persons disposing of evidence or otherwise frustrating any investigation.
There are four other sections of the Act that permit a superior officer to sign off on applications for data in urgent cases. This would apply if there were immediate risks of data being destroyed or a risk to life, to national security or to a criminal investigation in general. A superior officer must apply to a judge within 72 hours for affirmation of an urgent order. The judge reviews the case and assesses whether the order should have been made. This safeguard is a requirement of the European Court of Justice rulings.
Currently, the Act provides that an application to a judge for affirmation of an urgent order must be on an ex partebasis, but it does not state that the application must be heard in private. The amendment confirms that these applications must be heard in private. They will prevent any risk to the operation of these sensitive data applications and will ensure that there are consistent rules across the Act for applications to judges.