The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern T.D., today announced that he has received Government approval for the drafting of new legislation dealing with white collar crime.

The Government go-ahead for the drafting of the Criminal Procedure Bill follows a review of the law. The Minister is proposing to amend the criminal law to improve certain procedural matters and strengthen important Garda investigative powers.

Minister Ahern said: "These proposals include a new system to make more effective use of detention periods. Under the new system, it will be possible for persons detained and arrested for questioning to be released and their detention suspended so that further investigations can be conducted during the suspension period. 

"I am also proposing a range of powers to require persons to answer questions and provide information. I also want new measures relating to how detailed information is to be provided to assist in the investigation and prosecution of complex crimes.

"Our laws must be robust and when they require change they must be changed. Last year we significantly altered laws relating to gang crime. Today we are focusing on Garda powers required to tackle very complex crime. This new law follows my request this summer to the Garda Commissioner to give me proposals in relation to new laws he believes are required on foot of the current Garda enquiries in relation to bank fraud and financial irregularities."

"I believe this proposed Bill, although largely procedural in nature, will be of assistance in facilitating the investigation and prosecution of crime, in particular white collar crime."

16 December 2010

Note to Editors

Detention for Questioning
The existing law whereby a person may be detained for questioning by the Gardaí for a specified period would be amended to allow the period of detention to be broken into segments and the person released on station bail in the intervening periods. The Gardaí would be able to detain and question an individual for part of the period, release that person while the Gardaí made further inquiries into what was said and then re-arrest the individual to continue questioning at a later stage. The extent of data and the complexity of recent investigations have shown that it is not possible to complete questioning and check facts in one period of detention.

Requirement to make a statement
There has been a reluctance for potential witnesses to make statements assisting the Gardaí in their current investigation. It has been suggested that there be a statutory obligation to make such statements and failure to make a statement would be an offence. Such a provision can only apply to witnesses, not suspects, as a suspect cannot be required to give evidence that might be used against him or her. The Minister will provide for such a power in relation to arrestable offences. Arrestable offences are offences punishable by imprisonment for a period of five years or more.

In addition, while section 9 of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 makes it an offence to withhold information in relation to certain serious offences, there is a doubt as to whether this applies to certain serious white collar offences. A new provision that will apply section 9 to the withholding of information in relation to all arrestable offences is being considered.

Documentary Evidence
During recent investigations, large numbers of documents have been provided to the Gardaí without any effort to index the material or to certify the material in a manner that would allow their admissibility in court as evidence without the need for witnesses to prove them. The sheer volume of documentation to be sifted has been a source of delay. The Minister is proposing that a legal obligation be imposed on banks and other institutions so that not only must they produce the material but it must also be accompanied by an appropriate certificate/statement of evidence identifying and indexing the relevant documentation and allowing for its admissibility as evidence.

Legal Privilege
When the Gardaí propose to seize large quantities of documents, access to documents can be severely delayed by claims of legal privilege. To avoid unnecessary delays, legislative deadlines would be imposed so that claims of legal privilege have to be finalised within a specific period