Gardai urge stiff bail laws for white-collar crime suspects
THE Government is considering a radical overhaul of garda powers to give officers more time to question white-collar crime suspects.
The unprecedented move is designed to give a significant boost to garda prospects of securing prosecutions in complex inquiries such as the current investigation into Anglo Irish Bank.
Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy has recommended the introduction of police bail, effectively giving officers a second chance to question a suspect.
The measure would allow a suspect to be released after questioning but given a fixed date to return for further interview.
Conditions could also be imposed on the bail to ensure that a suspect could not leave the country until further questioning had been completed.
Gardai also need new evidence if they want to question a white-collar suspect for a second 24-hour period.
Gardai believe it is impossible for officers involved in detailed inquiries like Anglo to put all of the allegations under investigation to a suspect in such a short timeframe.
The recommendation is contained in a detailed submission from the commissioner, requested by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern in response to his proposals to carry out a major overhaul of the law.
Police bail already works well in the UK and senior officials in the Department of Justice are understood to be reviewing its success rate in other jurisdictions.
The commissioner's submission was lodged with the department last week.
Officials have now written to Attorney General Paul Gallagher and other relevant government departments seeking their observations.
Fraud bureau officers are already aware that it would be extremely difficult to bring charges against Anglo suspects, if sufficient evidence existed to warrant a charge, unless they were able to question them and put all relevant allegations to them.
In similar investigations, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has indicated that a response from a suspect to the allegations should be incl- uded in the file sent to his office.
The time difficulties were also highlighted at the weekend in a discussion document published by Mr Ahern as part of a consultation process before the Government issued a white paper on crime.
Mr Ahern announced his proposal to overhaul the law during the summer when he said he would seek approval from the Cabinet to update and consolidate existing anti-corruption laws into a single piece of legislation and this would be introduced before the end of the year.
He said his strategy would be similar to the approach taken in strengthening knife-crime law.
Mr Ahern said he believed the changes would enhance the ability of the force to investigate suspected breaches of the law by offenders in suits and he also intended to ask the DPP, James Hamilton, to provide his detailed views on reform.
Mr Hamilton has already suggested a number of controversial changes, including the setting up of non-jury courts for complex financial cases.
He said the introduction of special panels, comprised of judges or specialists, "needs to be looked at" because the public could not always deal with complex cases.