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Shatter dismisses calls to repeal crime laws following Supreme Court ruling

Alan Shatter dismisses calls from Sinn Féin to repeal the Offences against the State Act after last week’s ruling.

Alan Shatter has dismissed calls to repeal the Offences against the State Act.
Alan Shatter has dismissed calls to repeal the Offences against the State Act.

THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, Alan Shatter, has dismissed calls to repeal the Offences against the State Act following last week’s Supreme Court judgment that part of the State’s legislation was unconstitutional.

The court had ruled that Section 29 (1) of the Offences against the State Act 1939, as amended by later acts from 1976 – the laws under which many warrants for home searches are issued – was repugnant to the provisions of the Constitution.

The law had allowed Gardaí to issue search warrants which could then be used by other members of the force – a situation which the court rejected, as a Garda who was part of an investigating team was not an independent authority on those matters.

The clause is thought to be responsible for warrants which led to a number of cases currently awaiting hearing at the Special Criminal Court.

Today in the Dáíl, Sinn Féín justice spokesman Jonathan O’Brien called for a full repeal of the Offences against the State Act, saying a growing number of organisations had begun to describe some of its provisions as “very draconian”.

A number of other amendments made in recent years, intended to strengthen the ability to prosecute gangland crime, had not yet been invoked.

“If you look at the Offences against the State Act in its entirety, there’s no doubt in my mind that there are aspects which are just not working,” O’Brien said.

Shatter dismissed the calls, saying the laws were a necessary part of stopping dissident republicanism and organised crime in this country.

“This State continues to need to have available to it the mechanism of the Offences of the State Act to deal with those still intent on murder and mayhem for their own perceived political reasons,” Shatter said.

“We need to ensure that an Garda Síochána have all the necessary legislative backup.”

Shatter said that while the government was willing to consider amendments making the legislation as effective as possible, “as Minister for Justice I certainly won’t be repealing it.”

The minister declined to suggest the number of outstanding cases which could be affected by last week’s Supreme Court ruling.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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