The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Michael McDowell, T.D., today announced the publication of the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill, 2005.
The Minister described this legislation as building on the existing legislative framework for mutual legal assistance. He said "The Bill will enhance and supplement existing international co-operation in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. Effective co-operation between Member States of the European Union, and between States worldwide, is of increasing importance in recent times. This Bill will help to further facilitate the detection and prosecution of those responsible for transnational crime and terrorism and is of crucial importance in building a safer society for everyone."
The Bill will give effect to seven mutual legal assistance instruments, as follows:
- the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the EU
- the Protocol to the Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the EU
- the Second Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters;
- the mutual legal assistance aspects of the Agreement between the EU and the United States of America on Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance;
- the Council Framework Decision on the execution in the European Union of orders freezing property or evidence;
- the Agreement between the EU and the Republic of Iceland and the Kingdom of Norway on the application of certain provisions of the 2000 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the 2001 Protocol thereto.
- The mutual legal assistance aspects of the Schengen acquis.
The Bill will also provide for certain amendments to the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 and transpose the Criminal Justice Act 1994 (Section 46(6)) Regulations, 1996 into primary legislation.
The main new forms of mutual assistance provided for in the Bill, in respect of which Ireland will be taking part, are as follows:
- The provision of financial information to other States for criminal investigation purposes in relation to transactions on bank accounts and the monitoring of such accounts;
- The provision of assistance, in accordance with national law, in relation to the interception of telecommunications in the context of criminal investigations in EU Member States;
- The hearing of witnesses and experts in other countries by videoconference or by telephone conference;
- The mutual recognition and enforcement of orders for freezing property or evidence from other Member States of the EU;
- Obtaining of identification evidence for criminal investigations both inside and outside the State;
- Provision for the establishment of joint investigation teams with the USA;
- Provision of a legal basis for the restitution of articles obtained by criminal means to their rightful owner and for controlled deliveries in the State and participation in such deliveries in other EU and Council of Europe member states.
The Minister has taken into consideration the views of the Human Rights Commission in finalising the provisions of the Bill.
The Bill and the Explanatory Memorandum will be published this afternoon on the Department's website (www.justice.ie).
5 December 2005.
Note for Editors
A brief description of the instruments to which the Bill is giving effect is set out below:
The Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union supplements and builds on the 1959 Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters by developing and modernising existing provisions governing mutual assistance between Member States of the EU.
The Protocol to the 2000 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European Union provides for mutual assistance in relation to requests for information on bank accounts and banking transactions. Provision is also made for monitoring of banking transactions.
The Second Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters improves and supplements the provisions of the 1959 Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and its additional Protocol.
The Agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters improves, supplements and facilitates further co-operation between these countries in relation to both mutual legal assistance and extradition.
The EU Council Framework Decision of 22 July 2003 on the execution in the European Union of orders freezing property or evidence establish the rules under which a Member State of the EU shall recognise and execute in its territory a freezing order issued by a judicial authority of another Member State in the framework of criminal proceedings.
The Agreement between the EU and the Republic of Iceland and Kingdom extends the provisions of the 2000 Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the 2001 Protocol thereto to those states.
Articles 49 and 51 of the Convention signed in Schengen on 19 June 1990, implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June, 1985, which deal with mutual legal assistance in relation to criminal matters, are also given effect to in the Bill.