Criminal Records (Exchange of Information) Bill 2019
First Stage: 17 Dec 2019
Oireachtas Link: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad/2019-12-17/11/#spk_74
Second Stage: 17/12/2019
I welcome the Minister. On behalf of the Labour Senators, I support this important Bill, which will put into effect the EU-required framework decision on the organisation, content and exchange of information and Council Decision 2009/316/JHA. If one considers the parliamentary history of this Bill, it should have been before us much sooner. The Minister and others have raised the issue of delay. The Commission issued Ireland with a reasoned opinion in July on account of the delay in notifying measures for the transposal into our national law of this framework decision. The Minister said the transposition was delayed due to domestic legislation which was a greater priority at the time, but that can always be said.
I looked at the legislative history of this Bill and given that we have all welcomed it, with, I believe, no opposition or voices against it here or in the Dáil, since it is an important Bill that will enable the exchange of information on criminal records between EU member states, it is extraordinary that it is coming to us to be taken through all Stages in the Seanad on our second last sitting day this session. It received Government approval on 31 July; the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality decided that there would be no need for pre-legislative scrutiny because it was largely technical and it did not have any difficulty with its provisions; and it was on Second Stage in the Dáil on 25 September, at which point general support was expressed for it. It seems odd to me that it is only now, on 17 December, coming to us to pass all Stages in the Seanad. Unfortunately there has been a pattern over many years, though not particularly under the Minister's watch, of Department of Justice and Equality legislation being rushed through in the final sitting week of December and July. It is a pity to see that happen here too.
Senator Ruane has tabled amendments that she will raise. The issue of spent convictions and their relationship with this legislation was raised in the Dáil. I am glad that her amendments will give us an opportunity to debate that issue again.
Finally, as others said, Brexit has clear implications for the substance of this Bill. We all have concerns about how the British Government's stated intention to leave by 31 January will impact on exchange of records, especially with regard to the UK's connection to ECRIS. We all have that concern and I do not imagine that, at this stage, anyone in the Government can answer the question on that. It is a matter for the British Government. It needs to be said and it underlines the importance of legislation such as this and of EU instruments because they are designed to facilitate a more streamlined criminal justice process on a transnational basis across member states. I support this Bill but, like others, I raise the question as to why it has taken so long to come to this House, why there was such a delay in bringing it into the parliamentary process in the first place and, once it came into the Dáil in September, why it took so long to come to us in the Seanad and it needs to be taken on all Stages on the second last sitting day.