Minister McEntee appoints Independent Review Group to examine the Offences Against the State Acts

 

-          Mr Justice Michael Peart, former Judge of the Court of Appeal, will chair six person expert review group

 

16 February 2021

 

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has appointed a group of six experts to review the Offences Against the State Acts - Ireland’s primary counter-terrorism legislation. 

 

The Group will be chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart, former Judge of the Court of Appeal and will examine all aspects of the legislation, taking into account the current threat posed by domestic and international terrorism and organised crime. 

 

Minster McEntee said:

 

The Offences Against the State Acts have been a vital component in our response to the anti-democratic and criminal forces that have sought to undermine the integrity of our State through violence and intimidation. 

 

“I am firmly of the view that the Offences Against the State Acts and Special Criminal Court have served the State well in tackling subversives and organised crime gangs and have long been a necessary part of the State’s arsenal in this regard. However, it is important to occasionally review the operation of our important legislation.

 

“A comprehensive and independent review was previously published in August 2002 by a committee under the chairmanship of former Supreme Court Judge, the late Mr Justice Anthony Hederman.

 

“This current review is timely and will complement the advanced work in my Department to deliver on the Programme for Government commitments regarding the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.”

 

The Group will draw on the wide experience and expertise of its Chairperson and membership. The other members of the Group are:

 

o   Dr Alan Greene, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham;

o   Ms Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, Barrister;

o   Ms Caitlín Ní Fhlaitheartaigh, former Advisory Counsel at the Office of the Attorney General;

o   Professor Donncha O’Connell, School of Law, NUI Galway;

o   Mr Ken O’Leary, former Deputy Secretary General at the Department of Justice.

 

The Minister added, 

 

“The Review Group will engage with relevant stakeholders in line with current public health guidelines, and I will be requesting an interim report within three months with an indication of the timescale required to complete its work.

 

“I would like to thank Mr Justice Michael Peart and the members of the review committee for undertaking this important task and I look forward to their report.“

 

ENDS…/

 

Notes for Editors:

 

Biographies of Members:

 

Chairperson – Mr Justice Michael Peart

Michael Peart is a former judge who served as a Judge of the Court of Appeal from 2014 to 2019 and a Judge of the High Court from 2002 to 2014.

 

Dr Alan Greene

Alan Greene is a Senior Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, specialising in constitutional law and human rights. His research focuses on the limits of constitutionalism, judicial review and the role of courts in vindicating the rule of law. He explores these themes in the context of emergency powers, counter-terrorism, constituent power, and the judicial protection of human rights more generally.

 

Ms Anne-Marie Lawlor SC

Anne-Marie Lawlor is a barrister specialising in criminal law.  She was called to the bar in 2000 and made a senior counsel in 2017. 

 

Ms Caitlín Ní Fhlaitheartaigh

Caitlín Ní Fhlaitheartaigh recently retired from a senior position as Advisory Counsel in the Office of the Attorney General.

 

Professor Donncha O’Connell

Donncha O’Connell is an Established Professor of Law at NUI Galway. He was a member of the Law Reform Commission from 2012-2020 and of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland from 2017-2018. He also served a term on the Legal Aid Board. From 1999-2002 he was the first full-time Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

 

Mr Ken O’Leary

Ken O’Leary is a former Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Justice.  During the course of a lengthy career in the Department he worked in a wide range of areas including prisons, law reform, crime, security and Northern Ireland. 

 

Offences Against the State Acts (OASA) 1939 to 1998:

 

-          The main body of counter-terrorism legislation in Ireland is the Offences Against the State Acts 1939 to 1998. This legislation sets out a range of substantive offences relating to the security of the State, and the powers of search, arrest and detention relating to those offences. In addition, the Special Criminal Court was established by the OASA 1939. These Acts have been cast primarily to address the domestic security threat but their provisions have application to other sources of terrorist threat.

-          In its report of September 2018, the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland recommended a “comprehensive and robust review of the legislative framework within which police and other agencies operate in the area of national security - what powers they should have, how they exercise those powers so as to respect fundamental rights, and what safeguards are in place against abuse or misuse.”

-          It is intended that this recommendation would be given effect in part by a number of discrete projects already underway including the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2020, proposed legislation on the recording of images legislation and new data retention legislation provisions, and the establishment of the Independent Examiner of Security Legislation.

-          There is a requirement to renew certain provisions of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 by way of motions passed before both Houses of Oireachtas.

-          During the Oireachtas debate in June 2020 on the renewal of the OASA provisions, the Minister indicated that an independent review of security legislation is to be carried out having regard to the recommendations of CoFPI, and that it seemed prudent that the provisions which were the subject of the debate be part of that review.

 

Hederman Committee:

 

-         The last comprehensive review of the Offences Against the State Acts 1939 to 1998 was carried out by a committee under the chairmanship of former Supreme Court Judge, the late Mr Justice Anthony Hederman. The Committee’s final report was published in August 2002.

-         The Hederman Committee was tasked with examining all aspects of the Offences Against the State Acts and comprised of independent legal experts and representatives from Government Departments, Offices and agencies.

 

Terms of Reference:

 

Terms of Reference of the Review Committee

 

Recognising the comprehensive review carried out by the Hederman Committee in 2002, the Review shall examine all aspects of the Offences against the State Acts 1939 to 1998, taking into account:

 

 

The review will be undertaken in consultation with the relevant stakeholders, statutory agencies and civil society organisations.

 

The Review will provide its intended plan of work to the Minister for Justice within one month of being commissioned.

 

The Review shall submit an interim report to the Minister within three months of being commissioned, including an indication of the timescale required to complete its work.