Minister McEntee to lead government plan to tackle white collar crime
- Greater powers for investigating agencies to tackle economic crime and corruption following Hamilton Report
- Hamilton Review recommends Ethics Acts be strengthened and reformed to address instances where breaches of ethical obligations come to light after Oireachtas members have left office, among other measures
- Search warrants to allow An Garda Síochána access to passwords to electronic devices
3 December, 2020
A new cross-government plan to tackle economic crime and corruption is to be spearheaded by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, following the publication of the Review of Structures and Strategies to Prevent, Investigate and Penalise Economic Crime and Corruption. The review was led by Mr James Hamilton, the former Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Minister said:
“Corruption and ‘white-collar crime’ damages our economy, breeds cynicism in our society and is a threat to our international reputation.
“My plan for the implementation of the Hamilton Review recommendations will require collaboration across Government, with Cabinet colleagues and with State agencies and will be complimented by other anti-corruption initiatives such as the forthcoming report of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate on Countering the Threat of Internal Corruption.
“The State and its agencies must have all the powers available to clamp down and prevent white collar crime.
“Ireland has a hard won reputation as an attractive destination for foreign direct investment and as an international business hub, and stepping up our efforts to tackle white collar crime will show we are serious about maintaining and building upon that reputation.
“Businesses large and small must be confident that they can operate safely and securely, particularly as more and more economic activity goes online, a trend we have seen accelerate with Covid.
“But it is not just about businesses: consumers too should know they can safely pay their bills, shop and do so much more online.
“Perpetrators of such crimes can be sure we will spare no effort in preventing them committing such offences – and will bring them to justice if they do.”
The findings of the Hamilton Review are based on the practical experience and expertise of the members of the Review Group.
Implementing new anti-fraud and anti-corruption structures informed by the work of the Review Group is a Programme for Government commitment and Minister McEntee has received cabinet approval to bring forward an implementation action plan for the report’s recommendations. This will include set timelines for the introduction of a series of reforms to strengthen the State’s capacity to prevent and prosecute white-collar crime.
Minister McEntee has already begun work across government to develop this action plan to tackle economic crime and corruption.
In line with its terms of reference, the Hamilton Report focuses primarily on legislative, structural and resourcing measures to enhance agency and multi-agency enforcement and prevention capacity in the criminal justice sphere.
Among the recommendations are:
- Amend Criminal Justice legislation to allow for standalone search warrants that will allow An Garda Síochána to require persons subject to arrest warrants to provide the passwords to electronic devices owned or controlled by them.
- The establishment of an Advisory Council against Economic Crime and Corruption to make proposals to Government on strategies and policies to tackle economic crime and corruption;
- A permanent forum of senior representatives from State agencies to facilitate greater collaboration and information sharing;
- Greater resourcing for SIPO, DPP, Garda National and Economic Crime Bureau;
- Continuous training for investigators of economic crime and corruption;
- Engagement with the judiciary on the development of training for economic crime/corruption cases and the potential for judicial specialisation in the area;
- Consideration to be given to strengthen criminal law in the area of public sector ethics, including creating new offences such as nepotism;
- Amend legislation to address situations where former members of Oireachtas may have contravened their obligations under the Ethics Acts and the matter only comes to light after the member has left office;
- Provide for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in their investigations to obtain evidence using covert means, in line with An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners;
The Ministers’ plan will identify priorities that can be implemented in the shorter term, such as the enactment of the Criminal Procedure Bill, which is on the current legislative programme for enactment.
Notes for Editors:
The full report of the Hamilton Review Group can be viewed online at: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Hamiliton_Review_Group_Report.pdf/Files/Hamiliton_Review_Group_Report.pdf
In November 2017, the Government published a suite of regulatory, corporate governance and law enforcement measures – the ‘White-collar crime package’ – aimed at enhancing Ireland’s ability to combat corporate, economic and regulatory crime. This included a commitment to “review and strengthen anti-corruption and anti-fraud structures in criminal justice enforcement”.
To that end, the then Minister appointed Mr James Hamilton to act as independent chair of a multi-agency Review Group. The Review Group’s membership comprised of Government Departments and the key State agencies with responsibility for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of economic crime and corruption as well as a small number of experts from outside the public service. The Review Group met on a number of occasions and held extensive discussions including a public consultation.
The Group makes a number of recommendations in its report. The Recommendations can be broadly categorised into; (i) Structural/Systemic (ii) Resourcing, and (iii) Legislative.
The Review Group prefers to use the term “economic crime” rather than “white-collar crime” as it is a more comprehensive collective term for corruption offences and the various forms of fraud and related offences such as money-laundering and cartel activity with which the report is principally concerned.