This evening (Wednesday), the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan T.D., introduced the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017 into the Dáil for second stage debate.

This major piece of legislation was a key component of the comprehensive package to measures to tackle White Collar Crime, which the Government published earlier this month.

Minister Flanagan said:

Having published this Bill a fortnight ago, I am pleased to have an opportunity to debate its provisions so soon on the floor of the Dáil.  This major legal reform involves not just an overhaul of legislation dating back to Victorian times, it introduces new offences, proposes stronger penalties for those convicted of corruption and makes provision for many recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal.  

One of the new offences contained in the Bill is ‘trading in influence’.  Required by the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, it criminalises bribing a person who may exert an improper influence over the decision-making of a public or foreign official.  

The Bill provides for six recommendations from the Mahon Tribunal. For example, as recommended by the Tribunal Report, an Irish official who uses confidential information obtained in the course of their work for corrupt purposes shall be guilty of an offence.

The Bill addresses corruption in both the public and private sector. As proposed by the Mahon Tribunal, the OECD, the Council of Europe and the United Nations, a new strict liability offence for bodies corporate is being introduced. This offence states that a corporation will also be liable for the actions of directors, managers, employees or agents who commit a corruption offence for the benefit of the corporation.  This offence is designed to prevent corruption in bodies corporate and should encourage them to train their officials appropriately.  If they do so, it shall be a defence for a company to prove that it took all reasonable measures and exercised due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence.

This Bill will help to meet Ireland’s commitments to various international anti-corruption instruments, such as EU Council Decisions, the United Nations Convention on Corruption, the OECD Convention on Bribery of foreign public officials and the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption.  

The Bill provides for a range of penalties including unlimited fines in certain circumstances and imprisonment for up to 10 years following conviction on indictment. The Bill gives discretion to a court to order that a public official found guilty of a corruption offence be removed from their public office or position. This can apply to members of the Dáil, Seanad, European Parliament and local authorities.  However, certain officials whose office is by appointment of the President or where provision is made by the Constitution or statute for their removal for misconduct are not subject to this. The Court will also have the discretion to prohibit those convicted of corruption offences from seeking certain public appointments for up to ten years.

In conclusion Minister Flanagan said that: “This Bill forms part of a larger suite of measures aimed at tackling economic and regulatory crime in Ireland. These measures will collectively increase transparency and strengthen our response to white collar crime in this country.  As part of the new Government initiative, my Department will carry out a comprehensive review all state bodies who have a role in the detection, prevention, investigation and prosecution of fraudulent and corrupt activities.  Further, we will introduce a Garda-led Joint Agency Task Force which will focus on payment fraud as a pilot.  This initiative will feed into the overall review of the effectiveness of State bodies.

“I look forward to the early passage of the  Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas.”