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03/11/2021 12:00:00 AM


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McEntee, Helen

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Bills

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Criminal Procedure Bill 2021

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Report and Final Stages

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1005

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Criminal Procedure Bill 2021\Report and Final Stages
Bills\Criminal Procedure Bill 2021\Report and Final Stages

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Amendment No

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B4a

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Criminal Procedure Bill 2021

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Report and Final Stages

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Not applicable

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Senator


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Deputy Helen McEntee

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Deputy Helen McEntee

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HelenMcEntee

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Helen McEntee

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03/18/2021 03:01:14 PM

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Snippet Contents:

I again want to thank the Deputy for putting forward this amendment. I appreciate the spirit in which it has been tabled, but unfortunately because the amendment, as proposed, specifically relates to ensuring there are greater efficiencies and avoiding disruption, in a sense it ties the hands of the court, in particular where issues arise where there is an interest of justice that needs to be looked at where emerging evidence has arisen.
It is always within the scope of a judge to accept or reject a request for this type of questioning. That is for a judge to decide. The intention of the Bill is that these types of issues would be dealt with at the preliminary trial hearing, do not have trials stopping and starting, do not have juries that have been sworn in having to be sent away and come back and do not have vulnerable persons and victims being retraumatised by having to start and stop a trial two, three or four times, something which often happens.
The Bill sets out very clearly what issues can be raised at the preliminary trial hearing. Section 6(7) sets out the number of matters the court may assess at the preliminary trial hearing.
Section 6(8) refers to amending or serving an indictment, providing for additional jurors, accepting evidence by written statement or formal admission applications, questioning victims about prior sexual history, providing for practical measures like allowing testimony from behind screens, allowing a witness who is in fear or is subject to retaliation or intimidation to testify via video link, anonymity for certain categories of witnesses, allowing evidence via video link by a witness outside of the State, leave to call an expert witness, whether to allow questioning about the private life of the victim where this is necessary or in regard to the trial allowing video link evidence, a relevant order, which is very much the crux of this Bill because it relates to the admissibility of evidence, or any other order that the court may make in the absence of the jury. A significant amount can, will and should be dealt with in the preliminary trial hearings.
Section 6(17) states: The Bill very clearly states that the intent is that any of the issues I have outlined would be brought to the court's attention as early as possible. They would then be dealt with in the preliminary trial hearing. It is very difficult for us to tie anyone's hands. The two issues Deputy Kenny outlined refer to terms like "efficient" and "least disruption". We have sought legal advice, and spoke to the Attorney General and DPP. The advice is that the amendment ties hands and it is not something we can do in this instance. I fully appreciate the intention behind the amendment. We are bringing in this legislation to support vulnerable persons, but we have to make sure that we get the balance right.