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03/11/2021 12:00:00 AM


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Criminal Procedure Bill 2021

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Report and Final Stages

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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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Criminal Procedure Bill 2021

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Report and Final Stages

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Deputy Mattie McGrath

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Mattie McGrath

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Snippet Contents:

I also support the amendment. The Minister's response was that the period will be one year. A day is a long time in politics, as is a week, but a year for the Courts Service could be minuscule. I have personal experience of being in and out of court. The Circuit Court in Tipperary only sits three times a year, when it sits for eight days in a fortnight. My case could not be dealt with in eight days so it was put off until the next sitting, and the next one and the one after that. It could have gone on for five years except that I demanded a special hearing and was fortunate to get it. A year in that context is nonsensical. We are dealing with sexual crimes and other heinous crimes. We all support the aim behind the Bill but I am shocked - not surprised - to hear what Deputy Pringle discovered when he made inquiries and the information Deputy Howlin garnered as a result of checking matters.
Legislation is dealt with here in good faith. There are amendments, people spend a lot of time on them, and there is pre-legislative scrutiny. The Ceann Comhairle noted this morning at the meeting of the Business Committee - he has done so at every meeting we have had this year - how there are requests to waive pre-legislative scrutiny and how important pre-legislative scrutiny is. As far as I can see, however, there is no post-legislative scrutiny. Once legislation is passed, parts of it may never be enacted. I was aware of that long before today. A Minister or his or her officials may not like certain parts of an Act and they would never have the statutory instruments or whatever signed to commence them. Gardaí are meant to understand the legislation. We have an understanding of the legislation we pass but it might not be enacted even after due process, going through the various Stages and being adjudicated on by the President, signed and prepared for the enactment orders to be made.
Deputy Catherine Murphy made an important point about this year. The year is gone - it is one year to the day since Covid's impact was first really felt here - and another six months will be gone. The courts are not even sitting - they have very limited time on Zoom. When there is limited time, a trial could go on for five, six, eight or even ten years or it might never be heard. The Minister says that it has to go to the Uachtar√°in and be signed but we have no idea and no way of tracing whether the various parts are enacted. We need a period of at least three years. The Minister said that five years is too long but I do not believe it is. There are cases that are languishing in the courts. A judge might ask well-informed barristers to indicate how long they think a case will take and they might say ten days. With sessions comprising only eight-day sittings in several regions three times a year, a case might never be heard. My case took 17 and a half days, so it would never have been heard. One would be in and out of court and then there is the cost involved and the delay in getting justice. The cost to me of that case, and to anyone who does not receive free legal aid, was enormous. It is a costly justice system.
It has been suggested that we have the avenue of parliamentary questions. We are ridiculed in sections of the media for asking, as they see it, frivolous parliamentary questions.