Justice report

Justice: Legislative priorities

With the Department of Justice having already enacted a number of significant pieces of legislation in late 2020 and throughout 2021, eolas looks ahead to the key pieces of legislation currently progressing through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

At the end of 2020, two significant pieces of legislation concluded their passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas and were enacted. The Criminal Justice (Mutual Recognition of Decisions on Supervision Measures) Act 2020 gave effect to a European Union Council decision on the application, between member states, of the principle of mutual recognition to decisions on supervision measures as an alternative to provisional detention. Perhaps most tellingly of the times, the second piece of enacted legislation was the Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Act 2020, which put in to law the allowance of special provision and additional enforcement measures on premises which sold alcohol.

This year (2021) has seen the enactment of four bills, namely:

  • the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) (Amendment) Act 2021;
  • the Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Act 2021;
  • the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Act 2021; and
  • the Health and Criminal Justice (Covid-19) (Amendment) Act 2021.

However, a number of significant pieces of legislation have either not been introduced or are currently progressing.

Of the bills which have already been introduced, the longest standing is the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill 2020, initiated in the Seanad on the 6 November 2020. The Bill, which will, when enacted, make it a specific offence to commit a hate crime based on race, sexual orientation, gender, or identity for the first time in the history of the State, sets out a range of protected characteristics, which will now dealt with as specific criminal offences. The general principles of the bill were debated in the Seanad on 6 November 2020, and it received a second reading on 17 November.

The Criminal Justice (Smuggling of Persons) Bill 2021 is the most recently introduced bill. Presented to the Seanad on the 27 August 2021, the Bill entered review stage on the 7 October 2021 and is designed to strengthen Ireland’s regime against the smuggling of persons, and to implement several important international instruments.

Introduced in the same month, the Criminal Justice (Mutual Recognition of Custodial Sentences) Bill 2021 is progressing through Dáil Éireann and is also at committee stage. The Bill seeks to implement an EU framework decision on the mutual recognition of judgements in criminal matters imposing custodial sentences and other measures involving deprivation of liberty. If enacted, the Bill would facilitate the transfer of prisoners between EU member states, where the transfer would enhance the person’s social rehabilitation.

Also introduced in 2021 were:

  • Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2021 (28 Apr 2021): To provide for the repeal of the second or subsequent mandatory sentences in the areas of firearms and misuse of drugs. It also addresses similar mandatory type offences in older legislation dealing with the concealment of stolen goods, illicit distillation, and licensing laws.
    Dáil Éireann. Final stage. Set down for second stage at the Seanad.
  • Criminal Justice (Public Order) (Quadbikes and Scramblers) (Amendment) Bill 2021 (27 Jan 2021): To extend the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2020 to give Gardaí the power to seize and detain quad bikes and scrambler motorcycles when being used unlawfully including in public parks and green spaces and to provide for related matters.
    Dáil Éireann. Second stage completed.
  • Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) (Amendment) (Pets) Bill 2021 (27 Jan 2021): to make specific provision for sentencing for certain offences in relation to pets; and to provide for related matters.
    Dáil Éireann. Second stage.

The Department has set out a number of proposed pieces of legislation, which have yet to be published, in the areas of civil law and criminal law. Some of the proposed legislation is long-standing, for example, the Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill gained government approval for the publication of the Heads of the General Scheme of the Bill in February 2014 and the Criminal Procedure Bill had revised Heads approved by government in June 2015. Others are a lot more recent, such as the Criminal Justice (Garda Síochána Operating Model) Bill, a short technical bill to facilitate the introduction of the new Garda Operating Model, which gained government approval of the General Scheme in March 2021. Below are lists of those Bills the Department has identified as yet to be published:

Criminal Law

  • General Scheme of Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2020
  • General Scheme of European Arrest Warrant (Amendment) Bill 2021
  • General Scheme of the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (Amendment) Bill
  • General Scheme of the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill
  • Criminal Justice (Counterfeiting) Bill
  • Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill
  • European Convention on Human Rights (Compensation for delays in Court Proceedings) Bill
  • Criminal Procedure Bill
  • General Scheme Criminal Justice (Garda Síochána Operating Model) Bill
  • General Scheme of Garda Síochána (Digital Recording) Bill
  • Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill
  • General Scheme Criminal Justice Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2020

Civil Law

  • Summons Printing and Fixed Charge Notice Bill
  • General Scheme of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill
  • Landlord and Tenant Law Reform Bill
  • Sale of Alcohol Bill
  • Family Courts Bill
  • Courts (Establishment and Constitution) (Amendment) Bill
  • General Scheme of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2020
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