Owen to modernise Garda powers of arrest


THE Minister for Justice is shortly to publish legislation placing the powers of arrest for members of the Garda on a modern statutory basis.

Mrs Owen said she was also planning to introduce a Bill on non fatal offences against the person, a juvenile justice Bill and a fraud Bill. She was responding to the Fianna Fail spokesman on justice, Mr John O'Donoghue, who criticised the Government's performance in tackling crime when introducing Fianna Fail's Private Member's Criminal Procedure Bill.

But Mrs Owen insisted that much of the work on law reform undertaken since she had become Minister, was now coming to fruition.

Earlier, Mr O'Donoghue said delays in the court system had become endemic, adding that the growing body of jurisprudence dealing with the rights of accused persons had all but eclipsed the rights of their victims.

Claiming that the Fianna Fail Bill would prevent pre trial delays, he said it provided a special fast track procedure for specific serious offences such as rape, serious sexual assault and robbery.

The "ineffective and costly" preliminary examination, which currently took place in the District Court, would be abolished and replaced by an immediate return to the court of trial.

Mrs Owen said the Government was not satisfied the case had been made for the complete abolition of preliminary hearings in the District Court and such an approach would contradict the consistent advice received down through the years from the committee on court practice and procedure. What was being proposed might actually hamper the prosecution of offences, while the Bill's other proposals, far from alleviating court delays, could in practice add to them.

In the circumstances, the Government had no option but to oppose the second stage of the Bill.

Debate continues tonight.