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 Header Item Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 796 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan] It is even possible to detect the activity of those who remove the monitor and hang it on a cat's neck or a dog's paw. As the Minister well knows, in the past with some of these monitors, it was noted there was an acceleration in movement which did not correspond with normal human abilities. The contention was that the monitor had been passed to a four-legged friend. Modern technology is helpful in such cases.

I have spent much time over the years looking at access to training in prisons. If one puts down a parliamentary question inquiring what training courses were offered to an individual serving six months to a year, the reply will state they were offered but were not successful. However, those incarcerated for five to ten years or even to 30 years have no problem getting access to training. What is that training for? Is it to perfect their techniques? Will they learn safe-cracking? I would question the validity of training in those circumstances and, instead, I would devote more resources to the training and rehabilitation courses for the first-time offender.

There has to be recognition by offenders that they must pay for a criminal offence. We all know of instances when the Probation Act has been applied on 30 occasions. How can it be probation if offences are repeated? The probation service in the United States works somewhat better and tends to be much more in one's face. It follows up on the convicted person, monitors them regularly while social workers and probation officers ensure they do not leave the jurisdiction. We have all heard how much of a battle fighting crime is in the United States but the probation service there seems to work better than the one here. It is like company law which works much better in the States. For instance, cases of misfeasance and malfeasance do not seem to arise in this country or in Europe. In the United States, it is a fearful crime and people pay the price for it straight away with sentences of up to 99 years or more. We can learn much from how authorities in the United States deal with criminal elements.

How do we discourage young people from taking the route of crime? Due to the hero worship of and reverence shown to criminal gangs, it is very difficult, especially at times of high unemployment levels, to tell young people to stay away from that kind of nonsense and keep it straight as matters will only get better. There are many competing demands, one of which is the issue of profits from the proceeds of crime. I do not believe we spend enough time illustrating how misleading this can be.

This Bill is progressive and could be instrumental in dealing with crime, the levels of prison occupancy, as well as the associated costs to the Exchequer, if its provisions are properly monitored and supported.

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Sean Sherlock): Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock I am standing in for the Minister for Justice and Equality who is abroad on business. Both he and I have been greatly encouraged by the level of support expressed by Members for the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012. It is historic legislation that is at one with other initiatives aimed at making our criminal justice system work better for society. We want to reduce crime, see offenders caught and brought to justice. We want them to undergo whatever sanctions the courts impose, not from desire for revenge but to ensure those who offend against society pay their debt to society for doing so.

Many issues were raised during Second Stage which I am confident will be dealt with by the Minister, Deputy Shatter, on Committee Stage. Deputy McNamara raised the issue of the T case of which the Department of Justice and Equality is aware. However, it is our understanding that the UK Government will appeal it to the Supreme Court. The Department will consider the implications, if any, of the final determination of that case for our vetting arrangements and for this Bill. The UK system of vetting is very different to ours and direct comparisons are not necessarily correct. This can be revisited on Committee Stage.

On the point raised by Deputies Catherine Murphy and Ryan, the Bill was amended in the Seanad to provide for the situation they outlined. Where a person is convicted for more than one offence regarding one incident, it is to be treated as one order of conviction under section 2(4).

I thank Members for their contributions. The Minister and I appreciate the general welcome given to this Bill. All the suggestions as to how it could be improved will be considered on Committee Stage.

  Question put and agreed to.

Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Sean Sherlock): Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock I move:

That the Bill be referred to the Select Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality pursuant to Standing Order 82A3(a) and 126(1) of the Standing Orders relative to Public Business and paragraph (8) of the Orders of Reference of Select Committees.

  Question put and agreed to.

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