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Restorative Justice (Reparation of Victims) Bill 2013: Second Stage [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

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  8 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle] Communities understand what is involved where perpetrators of crime do work within the community to reflect their view that they know that what they have done is wrong.

However, this Bill does things differently, which is welcome, and puts the victim of the crime at the centre of the process. It has been recognised by victims' groups that victims feel left out in the criminal justice process. Upon enactment of this legislation, the perpetrator of the crime will have a direct responsibility to provide reparation to the victims of his or her crime, and that is an important principle to establish.

The Bill provides for a system of pre-trial and post-trial reparation whereby somebody who is due to be tried for a series of burglaries or whatever can, in advance of the trial, start the process of reparation, and this can be taken into account when it comes to sentencing for the crime. There are instances in which a form of reparation such as this may be more appropriate. I refer to young first-time offenders who are caught early. The prison system is not the way to deal with them because in prison they learn how to become real criminals and come out to continue a life of crime, whereas a system of reparation such as this will make them understand the need to compensate their victim and force them to think about the impact of their crime on the victim and the hurt caused. That could play an important role in diverting offenders away from a life of crime that the criminal justice system is not able to play. While prison is supposed to be rehabilitative, it is not. It breeds, rather than rehabilitates, criminals. A system such as this could have the potential in those circumstances to allow offenders to be diverted away from crime in the future.

What is proposed in this legislation is not intended to be a replacement for those who need a custodial sentence for the crimes that they have committed. Along with a custodial sentence, there can be the reparation as well. That is a welcome part of it too. I commend the Bill to the House.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I too compliment Deputy Halligan on bringing forward this Bill and raising it here on Leaders' Questions. He gave plenty of notice of it. If the so-called reforming Minister was interested, he would be here tonight.

It is important that we go out and support the community. At present, the community cannot see any justice out there. People are under siege on a daily basis from robberies, intimidation, all kinds of crime - and, in the city where we are tonight, on a twice-weekly basis, cold-blooded murder. Marauding gangs are roaming the streets, literally making a laugh of An Garda Síochána, which we all must support.

I salute Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch and compliment Muintir na Tíre on the work they do at community level in trying to be a source of support and sustenance to the unfortunate victims. I also salute the restorative justice programme in Nenagh and the work it has done there. There are models out there.

It is time the Government of so-called reform, new agenda, NewERA and new transparency levelled with the people and became honest in one respect, and took on and accepted this Bill. If the Minister graces us with his presence, no doubt he will reject it, just as he rejected the Scrap and Precious Metal Dealers Bill 2011, which I introduced. He told us all he would bring in his own Bill and mine was rubbish, but we still have not seen it, and houses, jewellers' and families' belongings are being plundered on a daily basis. What is wrong is that the figures are being manicured, as with everything else the Government does. I can tell the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, that everything is massaged. There is PR and spin. When the Taoiseach went overseas, the spinning top spun a little, they went off-message a little and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, gave a different spin. Spinning will only go so far before one is found out, and the Government is badly found out at this stage.

On the closure of Garda stations, the Minister closed his own one. I heard on a programme on RTE recently that there was robbery after robbery beside the station, opposite the station and everywhere in the street, but the Minister professed that he did this to be fair to everybody else. The criminals know there are no gardaí on the street. The new roster is a disaster. Sometimes there is a third of my county with one garda in the station and one garda in a patrol car. In the name of God, I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, does that amount to justice or protection of the people? Under the human rights Acts, surely the public is entitled to be protected and not to be at the mercy of these fraudsters. There were three incidents in my area only last week. One man was robbed in the middle of the street, a woman going to Mass was stopped by a pretend garda and robbed, and then the criminals visited a day-care centre containing nothing but nice furniture and wrecked the place looking for money. They did not care and they will not be caught. The crime figures are being massaged. No garda under the rank of sergeant is allowed to update PULSE with ordinary crimes. The crimes are not on it at all. The figures are controlled and contrived. We are not getting the figures. We all know it. There are robberies occurring around us every day of the week. In fairness to what gardaí are there, I salute them. They do their best.

Where is the judicial reform we were promised? As for this so-called reforming Minister, I heard even Labour Party Ministers state they would not call for his head because he was the most hard-working and reforming Minister they had ever seen. Where is the judicial reform? Where is it? It is not there. Where was the fairness in the children's rights referendum when we voted €3 million and €1 million of it was misappropriated? There was no debate in the House on that either. Where was the Minister to be challenged when I challenged him in May last about his behaviour towards gardaí? The Labour Party and Fine Gael backed him, but no doubt that file might re-emerge soon. I challenge the Minister on judicial reform. It has come to my notice often that the public are afraid to walk the streets and the criminals are laughing and jeering at them. If criminals have the money, they can go in and give €5,000, €20,000 or more in cash to a barrister in court to defend them for a couple of minutes. I want to get this reforming Minister to have the Revenue Commissioners visit the courts, especially the Four Courts, to see the cash in these brown envelopes handed over, and the poor victims are left there. I heard of an incident this week in which a peace commissioner was called after signing a summons. He had to go to the court and stand up and face the family and be asked by a barrister, who sometimes acts for the State, whether he had seen this man's mother and whether he knew why the gardaí had searched her house, where drugs were found. Is this justice? The criminals are running the country. It is the lunatics running the asylum.

This reforming Minister is going around the world in the Government jet. He thinks he is some latter-day prince. The Taoiseach even told him he could not have it. The Minister is entitled to that. He is above and beyond us all. He might grace us with his presence tomorrow to rubbish this Bill too.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae First, I thank and acknowledge the Technical Group for allowing me some of its speaking time and compliment Deputy Halligan on bringing what is an excellent Bill before the House. It will be a defining moment in this Government if the Minister tries to reject this Bill, because it would be a mean-spirited person who would try to find fault with what is being put before the House tonight and tomorrow night. It is an excellent Bill that the majority of right-minded people the length and breadth of this country would support and endorse because they would appreciate the sentiment and thrust of it. What Deputy Halligan is saying is correct: those who do harm to somebody else, who invade another person's privacy or who damage property or steal property should be made pay for it.

I respect the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, for being here tonight. I have no difficulty whatsoever with Deputy Perry - he is doing his job - but I will say something about the man who should be sitting in his seat tonight, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter. Of course the Minister should do Deputy Halligan and the Technical Group, who are bringing this Bill before the House, the courtesy of sitting there, listening to the debate and taking it all on board and then coming forward with his own suggestions and proposals. Whether he is going to accept or reject it - and we know he is probably going to reject it - the least the man should do is give them the courtesy of listening to the debate. Unfortunately, when one is dealing with somebody who is so arrogant - beyond belief - that he would not even say hello to one outside in the corridor, one is dealing with an unusual individual. I do not mind saying that on the record because all of my colleagues and his own colleagues know it is the truth. If God made us all the same, I suppose it would be a funny world.

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