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Ó Snodaigh welcomes Criminal Surveillance Bill

30 April, 2009 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD welcomed the Criminal Justice Surveillance Bill 2009. However Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Bill must not be seen as a grand solution to crime and there is still a need for old fashioned police work involving the use of witnesses and a proper, safe witness protection programme.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said he will be tabling progressive amendments to the Bill to enhance human rights safe guards but without interfering with the purpose of the Bill.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "I welcome the publication of this bill. It will move us some way toward compliance with our human rights obligations and at the same time provide for related evidence to be used in court thereby increasing the likelihood of successful prosecution in some cases.

"The bulk of surveillance conducted by law enforcement agencies to date has been unlawful and hence automatically falls foul of the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition evidence gleaned from surveillance has, therefore, not been used to assist prosecutions. We have the worst of both worlds.

"I am concerned at attempts by the Minister to sell this Bill via the media as some sort of grand solution. The Bill is welcome as I said but it will not eliminate the need for eye-witness testimony and for good old-fashioned garda investigative work, and community policing.

"In the bulk of cases witness testimony by members of the public will still be required. Therefore, much more must be done in the area of witness protection. Witnesses must feel safe and confident that they and their families will be protected. No expense can be spared to this end. The legislation before us today will not do that job.

"The repercussions of the recent murder of Roy Collins in Limerick are grave in the extreme. This murder is believed to have been retribution for the fact that a member of his family testified successfully against a gangland hood some years back. Intimidation of the Collins family continues and his father Stephen Collins was attacked by a gang of 25 criminals last week. These horrific crimes raise questions around the inadequacy of protections available to witnesses and their families.

"Recent events in my constituency in Dolphin House have highlighted the links between state neglect, social exclusion, and deprivation, drug dealing, crime. The failure of the Celtic Tiger to visit the complex, the failure of successive governments to address the problems, social and housing in particular in this estate and in others working class estates, has left them open to the type of activity that occurred last weekend.

"So as Justice Morris concluded we, the legislature, have a job of work, the Minister has a job of work and the Gardaí themselves have a job of work to do. And I’m glad to see that all in this house are eager to get on with it. I will highlight during Committee stage a number of areas where without interfering with the purpose of the Bill, or compromising its objectives, the Bill could be improved." ENDS

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