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Home > Seanad Eireann debate: Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009: Motion.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate: Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009: Motion. (19 Jun 2014)

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Senator Martin Conway:  I move: That Seanad Éireann resolves that section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 (No. 32 of 2009) shall continue in operation for the period beginning on 30 June, 2014 and ending on 29 June, 2015.  

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy John Perry): The resolution will provide for the continuation in operation of section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 for a 12-month period beginning on 30 June 2014. Let me remind the House of the background to the 2009 Act. It was a response to a number of difficulties that were being experienced and circumstances in which the entire justice system was under serious threat. Organised criminal gangs were behaving as though they were untouchable by the gardaí and the courts. The House will recall certain dreadful crimes where the gangs involved acted in a way that portrayed their willingness to undermine the very operation of our criminal justice system. Hand in hand with the disregard for human life was the intimidation of whole communities to prevent people co-operating with the forces of law and order to bring these thugs to justice. If these people were prepared to intimidate witnesses, why would anyone believe they would not also intimidate jurors?     

It was imperative for the Government, and the Oireachtas, to take the steps necessary to ensure the criminal justice system was robust enough to withstand the assault that was launched upon it through intimidation of and violence towards witnesses and jurors. The measures contained in the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 were designed to tilt the balance firmly in favour of the rule of law and justice and instil confidence in all that criminal gangs were not going to be permitted to frustrate criminal investigations or prosecutions of their activities.     

The Act provides for a limited number of specific organised crime offences to be prosecuted in the Special Criminal Court. The proposal to use the Special Criminal Court for a limited number of organised crime offences removed the possibility of jury-tampering or the intimidation of jurors. Therefore, the purpose of section 8 is to ensure organised criminal gangs cannot interfere with the criminal process to determine the outcome of cases. To this end the section declares that the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice and the preservation of public peace and order in regard to certain offences. The offences in question are the organised crime offences under Part 7 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006. In brief, they concern the following: directing the activities of a criminal organisation – section 71A of the Criminal Justice Act 2006; participating in or contributing to certain activities of a criminal organisation – section 72; committing a serious offence for a criminal organisation – section 73; and liability for offences committed by a body corporate – section 76.  

Section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 makes these scheduled offences for the purposes of Part V of the Offences against the State Act 1939. While this means that the Special Criminal Court will hear prosecutions for the offences in question, the Director of Public Prosecutions may still exercise her power to direct that the offences should be tried in the ordinary courts. Permitting the DPP this discretion maintains the fundamental balance in deciding which cases are appropriate to be tried in the Special Criminal Court…….

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