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Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Continued)

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton]  Section 4 amends the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 to ensure that the provisions of that Act are applicable to the Istanbul Convention. Section 5 provides for the Short Title and commencement of the Bill.

This Bill will provide increased powers in the context of investigating and prosecuting crimes committed abroad by Irish citizens and residents. More importantly, it will also enable us to ratify the Istanbul convention as soon as possible. The Minister is committed to doing just that. As already stated, there was wide support for the Bill and for the swift ratification of the convention in the Seanad. I hope Deputies can echo that support and get this important Bill enacted as quickly as possible.

I look forward to the debate and I commend the Bill to the House.

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. Fianna Fáil will be supporting its provisions and we hope to see it pass as quickly as possible.

As the Minister of State indicated, the catalyst for the introduction of this legislation is the Istanbul Convention. It is important that we enact this legislation so that we can ratify that convention, which was signed in May of 2011. Some 45 countries signed up to the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women but only 33 countries have been able to ratify it in full. It is disappointing that Ireland has delayed in its ratification. Nonetheless, I welcome the fact that, once this legislative hurdle has been overcome, we will be in a position to ratify the convention in full.

As the Minister pointed out, it is also important to note that the legislation we are debating does not simply apply to violent acts against women. It also applies to any violent acts against men. The Bill defines "a relevant offence" and it is important that we are aware of the offences we are talking about for the purpose of ensuring that those offences can be prosecuted here if it is the case that they are also offences in other convention countries.

Provision is made to the effect the offences covered by sections 3 to 5, inclusive, 9 and 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 are relevant offences for the purposes of the Bill. The offences in question include assault causing harm, assault causing serious harm, threats to kill or cause serious harm, coercion and harassment. I regret the fact that the majority of those criminal offences are committed against women. The latter is the reason the Istanbul Convention expressly provides that criminal acts such as these are criminalised - outlawed - in the countries to which it applies. This extraterritorial provision must be put in place in convention countries.

Other offences are also contemplated. I refer, for example, to sexual assault within the meaning of section 2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990, aggravated sexual assault and rape under that Act or otherwise. Again, regrettably, it is the case that these are offences, whether nationally or internationally, which are committed predominantly and overwhelmingly against women. However, as the Minister of State indicated, although the Bill has as its focus the Istanbul Convention and protecting women from violence, it nonetheless will have application in respect of those offences if they are committed against men or women.

It is important to point out that there is a problem, nationally and internationally, in the context of violence against women. That is regrettable and we should recognise that in this House by looking at domestic statistics in respect of domestic violence against women but also the international context. We know that 25% of all violent crimes reported internationally involve a man assaulting his wife or partner. We know that statistic from the European Union campaign against domestic violence, which was completed in 2000. We know that at least one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. We also know from a British crime survey carried out in 2009-2010 that 7% of women between 16 and 59 were victims of domestic violence in the previous year. It is regrettably the case that all international research consistently shows that a woman is more likely to be assaulted, injured, raped or killed by a current or former partner than by any other person. Regrettably, we know that is the case in this country when it comes to the murder of women. Since 1996, 216 women have died violently in this country and 63% were killed in their own homes. It is the case that there is an international problem and a domestic problem in respect of violence against women. It is appropriate that we send out a consistent message that such violence is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.

One of the great advantages of what has happened over the past 70 years is that there has been increased international co-operation. The finest example of that is the European Union and the Council of Europe but it has also been the case that there has, since the Second World War, been increased co-operation internationally. There have been many successes in the area of trade and in the context of the pacific settlement of disputes. However, another area in which there has been a significant improvement is in the context of the criminal law. We see this with the European arrest warrant and how that is beneficially used to ensure that people who commit crimes in one country in the European Union can be held to account in the country where those crimes were committed, even though they have moved between jurisdictions. That is another interesting and advanced development because it will allow this State to prosecute people who have been involved in the commission of the offences I have just described in other convention countries but they can be prosecuted in this country provided the offences committed are offences in the convention country. It is the case that, predominantly, these are and will become offences in the convention countries because a country cannot sign up to the Istanbul Convention unless it indicates that they will become particular offences.

There are other elements to this legislation which deal with, for example, murder and manslaughter and which will allow us to prosecute in this jurisdiction people who have committed murder or manslaughter elsewhere. This was introduced in the context of Northern Ireland in the 1970s when controversial legislation was introduced which allowed people who committed murder and manslaughter in Northern Ireland to be prosecuted in this jurisdiction. It is also appropriate that we have in our law and that there is an international recognition that murder is so unacceptable that one can be prosecuted in a country where the crime did not occur on the basis of the fact that there is a common interest and recognition in countries to the effect that murder is unacceptable. The same applies in the context of manslaughter.

If the legislation is enacted, we hope it will be the case that if criminal acts which come within the parameters of this Bill are committed in other countries, they will be prosecuted here. That will be difficult for prosecutorial authorities because they will have to ensure that there is evidence available to prosecute the people involved in this jurisdiction. If somebody committed the crime of sexual assault in Greece, prosecuting the case here will give rise to difficulties. We would have to have the witnesses here in order for the case to be proven. In many of these cases, what the legislation will do is give, for example, an Irish victim who is in Greece the ability to have the case prosecuted here. There should be co-operation in that regard. At present, it is always the case that the accused can be prosecuted only in the jurisdiction where the crime has been committed. That places a major burden upon the victims of those crimes. We have seen it here previously when people who have been assaulted or attacked or their loved ones killed have had to travel from abroad in order to have the trial operate effectively in this jurisdiction. It seems to me sensible that if it is possible the place where the victim is based could also be the locus for the prosecution of that crime. That will not reduce the obligation on the prosecution to ensure that the relevant witnesses are here. Those prosecuting will still have to ensure that and they will still be obliged to prove their case beyond all reasonable doubt. However, what is proposed is a sign of increased and improved international co-operation.

It is important to note that at a time when international co-operation is being criticised and at a time when we see in Brexit and the policies of the United States people trying to resile from international co-operation, that the Council of Europe and this House send out a strong message that international co-operation is a positive.

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