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Increased Garda powers unnecessary

17 February, 2005

Speaking during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill (2004) Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh described the Bill as 'draconian' and said some of the Minister's proposals "may violate constitutional rights and European and international law."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "At the core of this Bill is the significant extension of Garda powers. It extends their power of detention. It extends their power to compel bodily samples without consent. It extends their power over the issuing of search warrants - just one step away from introducing a warrantless search.

"The Bill is another in a series of draconian legislation the PDs have introduced since assuming office. And as with all his policies, he (the Minister) does not feel any compulsion to provide evidence that the extension of such powers are either necessary or effective.

"In fact some of the Minister's proposals may violate constitutional rights and European and international law. As a consequence the Human Rights Commission has not only raised its concerns as usual, the Commission has clearly rejected the Bill. But the Minister has ignored them yet again. The fact that this Minister can ignore the Human Rights Commission, actively preach social inequality, and still continue to hold his portfolio says everything about the Taoiseach you really need to know.

"Sinn Féin supports measures that are tough on crime, but we have too many concerns about the Minister's proposals to support this particular Bill.

"We don't need more Garda powers. What we need is more effective and strategic deployment of Garda resources and Garda reform to ensure that Gardaí are made accountable to the communities they serve. In other words, we need better use of present Garda powers. We need more resources devoted to crime prevention, targeted to deprived areas as recommended by the National Crime Council and as demanded by Sinn Féin. I urge the Minister to get off his high horse for once and instead of peddling false claims of his compliance with civil liberties requirements, to respond positively to the grave concerns outlined by the Human Rights Commission and Irish Council for Civil Liberties by introducing a practice of human rights-proofing this and all other Government legislation as I and others have called for." ENDS

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