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McDowell’s gimmicks amount to an attack on civil liberties – Ó Snodaigh

13 March, 2007

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has described the Criminal Justice Bill 2007 as an assault on civil liberties. Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Bill attempts to remove the right to a presumption of innocence and the right to remain silent.

He said, "The Criminal Justice Bill 2007 amounts to yet another serious assault on civil liberties from Minister McDowell. Many of the provisions within the Bill are ill-thought out, irresponsible and destined to failure.

"The proposal to electronically tag criminal suspects amounts to a dilution of the right to a presumption of innocence before being proven guilty and the Minister has also attempted to remove the right to remain silent by introducing a new Garda caution that refusal to answer questions 'may be taken into account when determining guilt or innocence'.

"While I would have no problem with stiff sentences for serious drug dealers, mandatory sentencing has never been proven anywhere in the world to work as a deterrent to serious crime. In fact they have proven to be expensive failures in other jurisdictions. Mandatory sentencing takes away the discretion of judges who have listened to the case and studied the evidence before them.

"International evidence shows that it is in fact the fear of being caught that acts as the most affective deterrent to criminals. Therefore we need to see a radical retargeting of Garda resources into the fight against crime. The redeployment of special branch detectives to criminal detectives and the introduction of a civilianised Traffic Corps would free up many fully trained Gardaí to be redeployed in crime fighting. This coupled with the use of existing laws and sanctions would prove far more effective in the fight against crime than McDowell's gimmicks.

"This legislation is just another in a long line of legislative gimmicks proposed by this minister who has more interest in making headlines than he has in tackling crime. I will attempt to introduce amendments to the Bill however, with just five hours of debate scheduled and having only received the Bill last night it is obvious that the Minister is not interested in listening to opposition or scrutiny and is determined to push this through to the detriment of many communities of which he and his party do not represent nor want to represent." ENDS

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