The government has approved extending the provisions of the Offences Against the State and Criminal Justice Acts for another twelve months.
The move is in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to annually renew the provisions of both Acts.
Following the Cabinet meeting, Minister McEntee said, “The renewal of these laws is very important as they provide safeguards against those who would seek to undermine the democratic institutions of the State and are a key element of the State’s armoury in tackling terrorism and organised crime. They are used regularly and are considered essential by An Garda Síochána.
I am conscious that there remains a real and persistent threat from terrorist activity, from so-called ‘dissident’ republican paramilitary groups and from international terrorism, which remains a stark reminder of the vulnerability of all open democracies.”
The Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 was enacted in the aftermath of the bombing at Omagh to make amendments to the Offences against the State Acts 1939 to 1985 while the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 was enacted in July 2009 to put in place certain additional legislative measures to tackle organised crime.
Among other measures, they provide that certain serious organised crime offences are to be tried in the Special Criminal Court unless the DPP directs otherwise. The purpose of these provisions is to guard against the intimidation of jurors/potential jurors or jury tampering in particularly serious cases.
During the Oireachtas debate in June 2020 on the renewal of the Offences Against the State Act provisions, the Minister indicated that there was a need to keep security legislation under review to ensure that it remains fit for purpose. The Minister proposed that an independent review group be established to carry out a review of the Offences Against the State Acts and this group, chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart, former Judge of the Court of Appeal, was established in February 2021.
Minister McEntee continued, “The Independent Review Group are providing a very valuable service in reviewing the operation of these Acts. Their work is continuing and there has been significant engagement with relevant stakeholders, statutory agencies and civil society organisations.
They submitted an interim report in June of last year and I expect to have their final report in the Autumn. Upon receipt of the report, time will be required to consider any recommendations made by the group.
In addition, the Minister for Justice is required under the Acts to prepare a report, to be laid before both Houses, on the operation of the sections in question in respect of both Acts.
The report must cover the period from the date of the last report to a date ending not later than 21 days before the moving of the resolutions.
Dates for the moving of the resolutions will be scheduled in the Dáil and Seanad in the coming weeks.