Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 113 & 116 - Revenue Commissioners resources & powers [38510/16 & 38513/16].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 113 & 116 - Revenue Commissioners resources & powers [38510/16 & 38513/16]. (06 Dec 2016)

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113. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the current level of resources which the customs division of the Revenue Commissioners has at its disposal to detect drugs at airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38510/16]


Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Revenue has primary responsibility for the prevention, detection, interception and seizure of controlled drugs intended to be smuggled or illegally imported into the State but there is a high degree of cooperation between all of the enforcement agencies of the State in the fight against the importation of illicit drugs. In particular, Revenue attaches importance at national level to having good working relationships with the Garda Síochána and the Naval Service. A Joint Task Force arrangement is in place to enhance and support these relationships and there is regular contact and cooperation between these agencies.


I am advised by Revenue that the number of their officers assigned permanently to airports represents only a small part of the overall effort made by them in conjunction with the other State agencies. Revenue places a strong emphasis on a strong intelligence-led risk analysis focus at regional, national and international level and it deploys whatever resources are required to the areas of highest risk. The Joint Task Force fully supports this flexible approach.


In line with best practice in customs administration worldwide, Revenue regards the development of information and intelligence as critical to the detection of evasion and smuggling, including drug smuggling. This is very important in the case of Ireland and other EU Member States where the operating environment for Customs has been shaped to a significant degree by the introduction of the Internal Market and the related principles of freedom of movement within the EU. Of specific relevance are the abolition of routine and systematic Customs checks on goods and passengers moving within any part of the EU. The approach has of necessity been to balance the freedom of movement principle in regard to people and goods with the need to control smuggling.

Revenue has assigned a Europol Liaison Officer to Europol Headquarters, a Revenue attaché in London and a Country Liaison Officer to the Maritime Operations and Analysis Centre Narcotics in Lisbon. At national level Revenue has signed over forty-three Memoranda of Understanding with various organisations and with international travel and trade service providers.


This pooling of intelligence between the agencies at national and international level accords with best worldwide practice and enhances the focus on counteracting drug trafficking and the dismantling of drug organisations. Revenue has a permanent resource at the main airports comprising officers, trained sniffer dogs and technological supports such as scanners. These are supplemented by specialist staff and supported by Gardai as required. At regional airports and smaller airfields, there are regular, random and targeted interventions, based on information from the intelligence network described above. Overall, Revenue staff are flexibly deployed to airports and other demands as needed, so that the effective resource is much larger than the 214 staff who are permanently assigned to the main airports. Revenue is satisfied that their staffing and organisation are satisfactory and are effective to the highest international standards.




116. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Finance the procedures which are applied by the customs division to detect ingested drugs on passengers arriving here via ports and airports, further to the Supreme Court ruling which found that passengers cannot be asked to provide a urine sample; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38513/16]


Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan):  I am advised by Revenue that suspicion of ingestion of drugs would be based on direct indicators such as intelligence, interview with the passenger, or obvious illness or discomfort.  Supplementary and indirect indicators would include searches of baggage or the person, baggage scans, detector dogs, profiling and passenger behaviour.  If the level of evidence-based suspicion is high, the Gardai are invited to consider whether the person should be arrested on suspicion of having ingested drugs.  Any necessary further tests are then carried out by the Gardai at a suitable place of detention.


The relevant Supreme Court Judgments (DPP v Gormley and DPP v White, judgments delivered together on 6 March 2014 by Mr Justice Clarke, Supreme Court record numbers 107/11 and 92/12) significantly clarified the rights of suspects both in interrogation after arrest, and in the taking of samples after arrest. Revenue reviewed the judgments, and considered that the rights of the individual would be best protected by ensuring that any samples are taken under specific legal authority and after the suspected person has been arrested.  Accordingly an agreed procedure was put in place with the Gardai.


Revenue is satisfied that its procedures are effective for the detection of drugs, while ensuring respect for the rights of the individual.

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