Fianna Fáil will support white-collar crime Bill

 

FIANNA FÁIL has pledged to support the newly published Criminal Justice Bill on white-collar crime, which the party maintains is largely based on proposals it had brought forward previously in government.

“The new Government has benefited from a wide and detailed examination of what is needed and Fianna Fáil will assist in ensuring this legislation is passed in the Dáil as soon as is possible.”

He added: “On February 1st this year, the then minister for justice Brendan Smith announced that the government had approved the text of the Bill. However, the Dáil was dissolved that week.”

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Jonathan O’Brien TD also welcomed the Bill, but with some reservations.

“Sinn Féin has long been calling for measures to tackle white-collar crime and with that in mind I cautiously welcome this Bill.

“There are some measures included in the Bill which my party takes issue with, but we will deal with these by way of amendments,” he said.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter said in a statement: “It is a vital objective to complete enactment of this groundbreaking Bill prior to the summer recess.”

He added: “I am introducing this Bill to deal with issues that are currently causing problems and delaying, or potentially delaying, the investigation and prosecution of white-collar crime.”

Mr Shatter said the Government was committed to restoring people’s faith in our legal system “by ensuring that action is taken to end the perception of impunity for the white-collar criminal”.

The Bill is targeted at specified “serious and complex” offences attracting a penalty of at least five years’ imprisonment, in such areas as banking and finance, company law, money laundering, fraud, corruption and cyber-crime.

Once it is enacted, the legislation can be used in current investigations in respect of which no prosecution has as yet begun.

The existing 24-hour maximum period for Garda questioning will be broken into segments and allow for further investigation while the suspect is released.

The extent of data and the complexity of recent investigations have shown that it is not always possible to complete questioning and check facts in one period of detention.

There has also been a reluctance on the part of potential witnesses to make statements assisting the Garda in its current investigations.

Consequently, the Bill provides for Garda applications to the District Court requiring witnesses (companies as well as individuals) to provide information, answer questions and make statements.

Another source of delay has been the lack of indexing and certification of the vast amount of documentation supplied.

The Bill provides that the District Court may issue an order that documents be identified and categorised.

Access to documents can also be severely delayed by claims of legal privilege.

The Bill provides that an application may be made to the District Court to resolve that issue.

There is a new offence whereby failure to disclose information to the Garda on a relevant offence will be punishable by a fine or five years’ imprisonment or both.

“Relevant offences” are those punishable by imprisonment for a period of five years or more which are specified in the schedule to the Bill, or by ministerial order.

The Bill is available on the Oireachtas website at oireachtas.ie.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE BILL MAIN POINTS:The 24-hour period for questioning suspects can be broken up into segments to allow for further investigations.

Garda powers to apply to the District Court to require any person with relevant information to answer questions and provide information.

District Court powers to order indexing and categorisation of large volumes of documents supplied to an investigation.

Investigators can apply for court ruling where a person refuses to supply documents on basis of legal privilege.

Failure to report information on relevant offence to the Garda punishable by fine and imprisonment for up to five years or both.