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Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages (Continued)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 887 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy James Reilly: Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly] The effect of the amendment as drafted would be to impose a maximum period of remand in custody of three months for all children. This would create a blunt rule which would apply in all cases relating to children in the criminal justice system, irrespective of the circumstances where a remand in custody may be considered necessary by the courts. This should not occur in the case of minor offences but if a 16 or 17 year old is accused of murder or manslaughter and the Deputy wants to impose a maximum remand of three months when court hearings are not within our control and it is necessary to have a Garda investigation to gather evidence, I do not believe this is wise. For these reasons I am not accepting the amendment.

I want to emphasise another point the Deputy alluded to, which might be the subject of further amendments. We absolutely want to ensure that detention, whether remand or otherwise, is the course of last resort and should never be because Tusla's assistance is required and awaited or because there are child protection issues. That would not be appropriate and will not occur under this Bill.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly The measures the Minister outlined that are available already to young people are welcome. I do not object to them. I broadly welcome this Bill. We are trying to make it better. We are not outlawing the possibility of a young person's being remanded in custody. We are trying to ensure the State is forced to act and the onus is on it to expedite the trial. If a young person is accused of a very serious crime, the Minister says the Garda might need time to get the evidence. If that young person's liberty has been taken and he or she has been brought before the courts and charged, I should hope the Garda already had a significant body of evidence. All the amendment states is that the person should be brought to trial and, by all means, if the court decides the person's liberty needs to be taken and he or she needs to be detained, that should be done, but recommendation 20 of the Council of Europe 2003 states that young people should be remanded in custody for no longer than six months before the commencement of their trial. This happens in England and Spain, and in Portugal it is three months. There is nothing bizarre, outlandish or revolutionary about what is being done here and it is in compliance with the idea of expediting trials, which we should strive for. The Minister says everybody has a right to an expeditious trial. They do but that does not always happen. Making it unlawful to detain a young person on remand for longer than three months and specifying that in law will help because those cases should be processed more quickly given the age of the young person.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly We all want the best outcomes for children. We do not want children to be detained unless it is absolutely essential. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, my focus is on children. As a politician, however, I, like the Deputy, have to take into consideration the victims. If a person who lost a loved one through manslaughter or murder saw the perpetrator get off on the basis of the technicality of three months being the law, there would be a very serious situation on our hands. I would hope that in practice there will be very short periods of detention for remand. The evidence points to the fact that we see it as the very last resort because so few people who are on remand are convicted because other methods are found to deal with their situation.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly It is not a question of the perpetrator of a crime getting off on a technicality. That is the wrong issue. It is a question of somebody who has been charged with a crime having a right to an expeditious trial in order that the courts can then decide if the person is guilty. It is a question of people being held at a time when they have not been convicted and we do not know whether they are guilty because the courts have not adjudicated. This happens as a matter of course in many European countries and is recommended by the European Council.

Amendment put:

The Dáil divided: Tá, 40; Níl, 68.

Information on Bobby Aylward   Zoom on Bobby Aylward   Aylward, Bobby. Information on James Bannon   Zoom on James Bannon   Bannon, James.
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  Information on Dinny McGinley   Zoom on Dinny McGinley   McGinley, Dinny.
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Tellers: Tá, Deputies Clare Daly and Sandra McLellan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

Amendment declared lost.

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