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Criminal Justice Bill regressive, disproportionate and unnecessary - Ó Snodaigh

27 June, 2006


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has described the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 as "regressive, disproportionate and unnecessary." He said the Bill is "yet another attack on civil liberties in the Minister's war on fundamental rights and it will not address serious crime and anti-social behaviour." Deputy Ó Snodaigh has tabled 179 substantive amendments to eliminate the worst aspects of the Bill and said if the Government refuses to accept the amendments "Sinn Féin will continue to oppose the passage of this Bill."

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "The Criminal Justice Bill 2004 is Minister McDowell's response to crime and anti-social behaviour. It is regressive, disproportionate and unnecessary. It is yet another attack on civil liberties in the Minister's war on fundamental rights and it will not address serious crime and anti-social behaviour. The Bill, if passed in its current form, will extend the powers of the Gardaí without safeguards or measures to ensure transparency and accountability.

"I have tabled 179 substantive amendments to eliminate the worst aspects of the Bill and if these are not accepted by the Government Sinn Féin will continue to oppose the passage of this Bill.

"Some of the few positive elements of this Bill, that the Minister has been announcing recently, are already provided for in existing legislation, particularly the Children's Act 2001. Questions must be asked of McDowell as to why this Act has not been fully implemented already.

"What is required from the Minister is the implementation of existing laws; reform, restructuring and targeted resourcing of the Gardaí; and investment in communities.

"This Bill includes the extension of Garda powers of detention; powers to issue their own search warrants; and to take intimate bodily samples without consent. It would provide for the admission to court of witness statements that cannot be verified and have since been denied as evidence of the facts stated therein and new offences in the area of organised crime based on part of the Canadian Criminal Code that has already been found by their Supreme Court to be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. The Bill would move us further in the direction of internationally discredited mandatory minimum sentencing. It would establish a drug offenders register the purpose and value of which is unclear; electronic tagging which has also been proven in other jurisdictions to be less cost effective than the traditional Probation and Welfare services which until now the Minister has refused to resource; ASBO's for adults and children which breach fundamental human rights and which have been proven in Britain to fast-track children into prison. It includes a major roll-back of the child protection commitments provided for in the Children's Act 2001 including in particular the age of criminal responsibility. It would introduce on the spot fines which would allow Gardaí and potentially McDowell's under trained unaccountable volunteer reservists to act as judge, jury and executioner on the spot.

"Our amendments took into consideration the views of the Human Rights Commission, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Irish Youth Justice Alliance, the Irish Penal Reform Trust, the National Youth Council of Ireland, the Office of the Ombudsman for Children, the Law Society of Ireland and others." ENDS

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