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 Header Item Companies Bill 2012: Report Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Restorative Justice (Reparation of Victims) Bill 2013: Second Stage [Private Members]

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

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Deputy Sean Sherlock: Information on Seán Sherlock Zoom on Seán Sherlock I move amendment No. 151:

In page 381, to delete lines 27 to 41, and in page 382, to delete lines 1 to 10 and substitute the following:
“(6) If rules are made under section 126 of the Registration of Title Act 1964 or, as the case may be, section 48 of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006—
(a) replacing a form that is referred to in subsection (4)(a)* or (b), as appropriate, the reference in that provision to the form shall be read as a reference to the form as so replaced, or

(b) amending a form that is so referred to, the reference in that provision to the form shall be read as a reference to the form as it stands so amended.".

As the Bill stands, the reference to form 112 is incorrect since the Land Registration Rules 2012 came into effect. The relevant form is now form 60. The purpose of amendment in deleting subsection (6) is to clarify that the priority of judgment mortgage is governed by the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009. Closer inspection has shown that in order to achieve the desired result, subsections (7) and (8), both of which relate to subsection (6), also needed to be deleted.

  Amendment agreed to.

Debate adjourned.

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

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill seeks to introduce a requirement for offenders to make reparation for damage caused by crimes. The reparation can relate to medical costs for victims or damage caused to property. The Bill also provides for recognition to be afforded to offenders who voluntarily make reparation prior to trial. It also provides for the making of reparation orders by a court for the purpose of compelling an offender to make reparation.

Before speaking on the Bill I should make it quite clear that the Bill has absolutely nothing to do with sentencing, and I will not speak about mandatory, minimum or maximum sentencing. I have gone into great detail in introducing this Bill, as I have spoken with gardaí, who were extremely helpful, and a legal team which was very good in giving information and contributing to the layout of the Bill. I have also spoken to community groups and people who deal with victims of crime. Some of those groups were represented at a press conference this morning.

Between 2004 and 2012 the rate of home burglaries in Ireland increased by an average of 13%, with the increase as high as 40% in some parts of the country. Current statistics indicate that one in every 222 people is a victim of burglary every year. Based on Central Statistics Office, CSO, information for 2012, 75 burglaries are reported daily nationwide, equating to one burglary every 19 minutes. In rural areas in particular, the incidence of burglary has increased, and this has been compounded by the closure of rural Garda stations and the improved road network, which gives urban gangs ready access to rural areas.

The average value of goods taken in a burglary has been estimated at €1,868, but the consequences for victims go far beyond a missing television or laptop. The American use of the term "home invasion" to describe a burglary sums up the nature of a domestic burglary to a victim. A report by Eircom Phonewatch indicated that one in five victims rated burglary as being as upsetting as losing a job, and there is a growing body of international research on the health impacts of burglaries for victims. A study by a North Carolina school of medicine on different types of crime revealed that burglary victims compared the experience to being personally violated. Many victims also have anxiety disorders and problems with sleeping months after the burglary. Children may also be negatively affected by burglaries, especially if they see how hard it is for parents to deal with burglary.

Home burglaries maim and traumatise victims for the rest of their lives. They also induce a feeling of violation for the victim in the very place in which they are entitled to feel most secure. There is no doubt every Deputy sitting here is aware of a case in which a victim of home burglary could not settle into a house after the event, and many have had to leave their homes. The entire country was horrified to read about the shocking case in west Clare recently in which a 68-year-old man abandoned his home and checked into a nursing home after being terrorised.

Recently, the Irish legal process has become increasingly effective in listening to the voices of victims of crime, and for that it should be commended. The victims' charter marked an important development by firmly establishing that throughout the system victims have needs which must be addressed. The fact that the State funds voluntary organisations in supporting victims of crime is also welcome. However, although victims are increasingly considered a stakeholder in the criminal process, many of the needs of victims are not met. Over a third of criminal offences heard in the Circuit Court every year relate to fraud, theft and burglary, and there is no minimum or mandatory sentence for burglars. Two out of the three people brought to court in connection with the case of Mr. Michael McMahon in Ennis walked free, and I know of cases in which people with 100 convictions have been freed. Only a fifth of burglary convictions lead to jail terms of more than five years, and almost half attract sentences of three years, or far less at times. Adding insult to injury, many robberies are carried out by repeat offenders, and half of the convicted burglars who serve sentences in the community reoffend within three years, according to CSO and Probation Service figures. The Minister for Justice and Equality has indicated that the rate is far too high.

Criminals know there are fewer gardaí on the roads and as a result they know there is less chance of being caught. I am proposing a deterrent of a different nature, as it puts the victim first. Last year calls to the national crime victims' helpline relating to property crime doubled. Victims of a burglary or robbery accounted for almost a quarter of all contacts during the year and representatives of the helpline indicated that these burglaries had a major long-term effect on people in an emotional and financial sense. On top of this stress, victims face layers of red tape with insurance companies in trying to recoup some losses, which is not right.

Compensation for victims of crime has been established as a key right in a number of jurisdictions. The European Council directive on compensation to crime victims, into which this Government has opted, requires all member states to have a national scheme guaranteeing fair and appropriate compensation to victims of crime. There are other pieces of EU law facilitating the provision of compensation from the offender to crime victims. There is a regulation on jurisdictional enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, which provides that a victim may sue an offender for damages in the same court which deals with the criminal proceedings if possible under national law. In this country, neither the criminal injuries compensation tribunal nor section 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 applies to victims of burglary.

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