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Minister reveals that he is unaware of extent of jury intimidation – Ó Snodaigh

10 July, 2009 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has revealed that the most basic research to establish the need for the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act has not been carried out by the Minister for Justice. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, in a reply to a parliamentary question, confirmed that neither he nor the Gardaí are aware of the number of instances of intimidation against jurors.

Speaking this morning before the Bill is expected to be passed in the Dáil Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“A parliamentary question reply from the Minister reveals that the most basic research required to establish the necessity or otherwise of the Bill was not conducted by the Minister or the Gardaí. The Minister has confirmed that neither he himself nor the Gardaí are aware of the number of instances of jury intimidation.

“The only figures that the Minister has considered are the combined total number of instances of intimidation against both witnesses and jurors. No distinction has been made between the two.

“In addition his own figures contained in the reply demonstrate a decrease in the number of instances of either jury or witness intimidation from 44 in 2006 down to 16 in 2008 and 7 in the first half of this year.

“In addition to abolishing jury trials the Bill also amends provisions contained in the Criminal Justice Acts of 2006 and 2007 by making already vague and impractical offences vaguer still and by further diminishing the right to silence. Again it is obvious from the Minister's parliamentary question replies that he did not ascertain the number of occasions that attempts were made to use the existing offences before publishing this legislation which declares that the ordinary courts are insufficient in relation to them.

“For the Minister to be rushing through this highly dangerous legislation without even researching the need for it shows a high level of incompetence. Yes there is certainly a huge requirement to tackle serious crime but this legislation will no do that. There are enough laws in place to prosecute criminals. What is required is a proper programme for the protection of witnesses along with practical measures such as extra resources for drugs squads and modern equipment and imaginative initiatives such as the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing free phone line.” ENDS

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