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Crowe calls for "overwhelmingly regressive Bill" to be withdrawn

28 March, 2006

Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has called for the Criminal Justice Bill to be withdrawn saying the time allowed to comment on the new sections was "grossly inadequate". Deputy Crowe made his comments at the beginning of the two-day debate on the bill, necessitated by opposition to the Minister for Justice's attempts to force through over 200 substantive amendments to what the Sinn Féin TD said was an "overwhelmingly regressive Bill."

Deputy Crowe said, " This government is inserting over 200 substantive amendments into a Bill with just 38 sections. The time allowed to comment on the new sections and even to digest them at all has been grossly inadequate.

"The Minister's 'War on Fundamental Rights' is at the heart of this overwhelmingly regressive Bill and at the heart of the process surrounding its introduction. The Bill should be withdrawn."

Dealing specifically with Parts 11 and 13 of the Bill, which cover the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders the Dublin South West TD said, "ASBOs are flawed in that they are contrary to fundamental human rights and they don't work.

"Sinn Fein opposed the introduction of ASBOs to the six counties and will continue to oppose their introduction here. The Irish Youth Justice Alliance, a coalition of organisations and individuals who work towards reforming the juvenile justice system, have outlined many of the problems with ASBOs.

"Including the disproportionate interference with personal and private rights and civil liberties they may represent; the imposition of penal sanctions in a manner which are inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights; the criminalising of individuals for breaching an ASBO when the original order was based on rules of evidence government by civil law; and the fact that ASBOs run contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and to international standards and guidelines on youth justice.

"In particular, the government's proposals run counter to the central logic of the Children Act 2001 which by the Minister of State for Children's own admission is an Act that "is regarded as setting a framework for a modern and progressive youth justice system [and] reflects best international practice". The Children Act 2001 was thirty years in the drafting. We have seen over the last 5 years this government failing to operationalise and resource the Childrens Act.

"While the definition of anti-social behaviour employed by the Minister is a marginal improvement on that used by the British it is still too vague and the core problems outlined above still stand. In addition, the stages prior to the application for an ASBO on a child suffer from an unfettered assumption of Garda infallibility. This is neither in the interests of children nor in the interests of the Garda Siochana and public confidence in it.

"The government are attempting to legislate away complex problems that, by contrast, Sinn Fein recognises require the resourcing and implementation of existing laws and investment in communities.

"This Bill, old and new, amounts to a grave and disproportionate assault on fundamental human rights." ENDS

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