Estimates, 1984. - Vote 22: Office of the Minister for Justice (Revised Estimate).

, Limerick East): I move:

That a sum not exceeding £14,274,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1984, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Justice, and of certain other services administered by that Office, and of the Public Record Office, and of the Keeper of State Papers and for the purchase of historical documents, etc., and for payment of a grant-in-aid.

Perhaps I should mention that responsibility for the Public Record Office was transferred from me to An Taoiseach by Government order dated 27 January 1984. Arrangements have been made between officials of the Department of the Taoiseach and my Department concerning the mechanics of the transfer. In any event, my reference just now and the reference in the heading to the Justice Vote, to that office and to the purchase of historical documents is the last such reference. In 1985 and subsequent years these items will be carried in the Vote for the Department of the Taoiseach.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose that all the Votes for which I am responsible be taken together but I shall endeavour to answer any questions on any particular Vote.

The total Estimate for all the Votes for which I am responsible is £296,054,000, an increase of 8.5 per cent over the expenditure of £272,845,700 for these Votes in 1983, exclusive in each year of expenditure on the Public Record Office from 27 January to 31 December. The 1984 Estimate is made up as follows: Vote 22, Office of the Minister for Justice, £14,274,000; Vote 23, Garda Síochána, £220,988,000; Vote 24, Prisons, £46,168,000; Vote 25, Courts, £8,769,000; Vote 26, Land Registry and Registry of Deeds £5,745,000; Vote 27, Charitable Donations and Bequests, £110,000.

The element of expenditure which is greatest is pay and allowances etc., which account for 74 per cent of the total estimates and show an increase of 13 per cent compared with 1983.

The recently published 1983 Report on Crime of the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána shows that 102,387 indictable offences were recorded. Of this figure of indictable offences, 2,306 were in respect of offences against the person, 41,364 were in respect of offences against property with violence, 58,283 were in respect of larcenies etc,, and the remaining 434 were in the miscellaneous category. The largest increase was in the category of offences against property with violence where 4,904 extra offences were recorded — an increase of 13.5 per cent. Offences against the person increased by 31 — a 1.4 per cent increase. Overall there was a 4.9 per cent increase in reported indictable crimes. The rate of increase, however, continues to show a reduction. The figure of 4.9 per cent for 1983 compares with 9.2 per cent in 1982 and 22.8 per cent in 1981. This is a very welcome trend and is an encouragement both to the Garda and to the general public alike to strive towards an even greater improvement in the future.

I emphasised during my contribution to the budget debate earlier this year that the need for most of the money provided in my area in the Estimates for 1984 arises from the existence of crime. At a time when scarce resources are needed for the health and welfare of our people, and for the provision of much-needed jobs, it is disheartening to have to say that the cost to the Exchequer of the various State services involved in the crime area is continuing to increase.

It is important to remember at the same time that it is only a minority that is contributing to crime and vandalism. The vast majority of our people are decent, law-abiding citizens who want to be able to live and work in peace free from any threats of violence to themselves, their families or their homes. Their basic right to do so has been increasingly challenged by criminal elements in recent years. I want to say very firmly, however, that this Government have a positive commitment to ensuring that everything necessary is done to maintain standards of law and order and that those who disregard the law will not be allowed to have their way.

The Government consider it a top priority that people should be able to go about their everyday business safe and secure in the knowledge that they and their property are protected in their homes and in the streets. We should remember, of course, that the protection of the public peace is the concern of all citizens and that there is an obligation on each and every person to assist and co-operate with the Garda in their efforts to prevent crime and vandalism. It is up to us all to take reasonable and sensible precautions to protect our property. The Garda are doing all they can in the fight against crime and lawlessness but they need the help and continuing support of the general public. I am quite satisfied that an increased awareness by the public of their duty to uphold the law and to protect themselves and their property would make a valuable contribution to tackling the crime situation. Needless to say, however, the first requirement is a well-manned, well-trained and well-equipped police force and it is my firm determination and that of the Government to ensure that the Garda Síochána have all the resources they need to uphold the law and to protect the citizens from those who continue to commit crimes and inflict injury.

The overall provision for the Garda Síochána in 1984 is £220,988,000. The major items included in this figure are £170.65 million for salaries and allowances, including overtime; almost £28 million for the pensions of former members and widows of former members of the Garda Síochána; £8.1 million for travelling and subsistence expenses, training, compensation and a range of miscellaneous expenses; almost £6 million for Garda transport; and a total of almost £3 million for radio, computer and office equipment.

The sum of £11.1 million provided for overtime compares with expenditure of £10.9 million in 1983. The amount for salaries and allowances provides for the continuation of the Garda recruitment programme to bring the strength of the force up to 11,400 and maintain it at that level. Additional manpower is one of the measures necessary to deal with the crime situation and, in the light of the continuing need to bring about a substantial reduction in the incidence of crime, the current restrictions on recruitment to the public service generally are not being applied to the Garda Síochána. So far this year, 270 gardaí have been recruited and, having regard to the present level of wastage, I expect that total recruitment in 1984 will be of the order of 350. The actual strength of the force on 31 May 1984 was 11,374 including 226 members in training. Of course, the provision of extra gardaí is not the only measure necessary to combat crime. We have had a very substantial increase in Garda strength over a short period and the time is opportune to stand back and review the utilisation of resources to see where improvements can be made. We have a duty to see that the resources of the community are used as effectively as possible in dealing with the crime problem and providing an environment in which the public can go about their daily business without fear of attack on their person or their property.

Measures to deal with the criminal aspects of drug abuse are being kept under continuing review by the Garda authorities. There are permanent units of the Drug Squad in Dublin, Cork and Limerick and special emphasis is being placed on the role of all members of the force in the prevention and control of drug abuse. Apart from the training given to new recruits in anti-drugs work, about 1,600 members of the force, representative of all Garda divisions, have so far completed a special training course, which has been operating for over three years, and which is designed to ensure that participants are fully informed on various aspects of drug abuse, preventive measures and the special skills needed in investigations. Also, the use of dogs in drug detection work has been the subject of further examination by the Garda authorities. As present, there is only one dog in the Garda dog unit trained in drug detection work but three additional dogs have recently been acquired for such work. Three members of the force have been selected for training as dog handlers and the necessary training is under way. It is envisaged that these extra dogs will be used in Dublin and it is also proposed to acquire a dog for drug detection work in Cork.

As I indicated in my contribution to the budget debate on 2 February, there are two very important areas covered by the Garda Vote which show reduced allocations for 1984 as compared with expenditure in 1983 — transport and equipment. This situation does not reflect any decision to reduce expenditure on these items. The main reasons for the reduced provision in respect of transport are the advance purchase in December 1983 of cars planned for purchase in 1984 and the purchase in 1983 of Garda cars from funds originally earmarked for ministerial cars. The reduction under the heading of equipment arises because of the substantial investment of about £3.2 million in radio equipment towards the end of 1983 which enabled some equipment to be purchased outright rather than leased, as had originally been intended.

The increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána and the consequent increase in the cost of Garda manpower to the State make it all the more essential that we ensure that the Garda are organised and deployed in such a way as to provide the most effective police service possible. A new system of policing has been tried out on a pilot basis with a good deal of success for some time in two rural Garda Districts and the desirability of extending this system to other rural areas is being considered. No decision has yet been made to do so.

Approximately £6 million has already been spent on the new Garda communications network. It is expected to have the network operational in all Garda Divisions outside the Dublin Metropolitan Area within the coming months. The network for the Dublin area will include a computer-aided system to direct and control the most efficient use of all gardaí and patrol cars on operational duty. Tenders for the supply of the network for Dublin are being evaluated at present and the placing of a contract should be possible in the very near future. I have already drawn attention to the fact that the Estimate provision for radio equipment in 1984 is less than the expenditure last year. The reason for this, as I said, is that towards the end of 1983 it was possible to make funds available which enabled about £3.2 million worth of radio equipment to be purchased outright. This in turn meant that a reduction could be made in the amount required to finance the project during 1984, without in any way affecting the rate of progress on the network or slowing down momentum in any way.

The provision for Garda computer equipment for 1984 is also sufficient to permit a significant expansion in the computer network available to the force. Tenders for the supply of equipment to link a further number of stations to the Garda computer are under consideration at present and it is intended to place a contract shortly.

I wish now to refer briefly to the system of promotion within the Garda Síochána. Sound personnel policies are essential for the success of any organisation. Having regard to the size of the Garda Síochána, its complexity as an organisation, the vital nature of the duties entrusted to it and the ways in which these can impinge on each and every one of us, it is of particular importance that the Garda Síochána should have an enlightened and effective promotion policy and system. It is essential that the system should succeed in selecting the most able officers to provide first class leadership and that it should enjoy the confidence and support of the general membership who will be aspiring to promotion. I am very pleased, therefore, to have been able to approve of the introduction of a new promotion scheme for the Garda Síochána, which is designed to achieve these twin aims and which has the full backing of the Garda Commissioner and of all the Garda Staff Associations. The operation of the scheme is being monitored by a Promotions Advisory Council, which includes suitably qualified persons from outside the force, and I am confident that under its general direction the new scheme will contribute in a very real way to the general well-being and efficiency of the force.

Training is another area of vital importance to the success of the Garda Síochána. Certain proposals relating to the review and improvement of Garda training generally are at present under discussion, but I do not propose to make any public statement about the matter at this stage. I can say, however, that the financial resources provided for Garda training are adequate to meet all present requirements.

I propose now to make some comments on prisons. The total net allocation on the Prisons Vote is £46,168,000, an increase of almost 10 per cent on the 1983 net outturn of £41,973,000. The main portions of this allocation are devoted to expenditure on salaries, wages and allowances and to capital expenditure on the Department's building programme for new prisons and places of detention — 55 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

Expenditure on prisons overtime in 1983 was £7,305,000. The provision for prisons overtime in 1984 is £6.5 million. This represents an 11 per cent reduction on the overtime outturn for 1983. Measures have been taken recently which will lead to a reduction in overtime working in the prison service. Further measures which will have to be taken if expenditure is to be kept within the £6.5 million allocated will require careful consideration.

The allocation of £11.490 million made to prisons capital programme for 1984 is the same amount as was allocated in 1983. The main thrust of the programme will be directed towards a place of detention and a prison planned for Wheatfield, Clondalkin, County Dublin, where, to cope with the need for additional custodial accommodation, places are being provided for over 450 offenders. It is hoped to commence building the larger of the two very shortly and to make a start on the second later this year. Consideration is also being given to whether it may be possible, within the confines of the programme, to bring design work to completion this year on new custodial accommodation in Cork for about 200. Actual construction work would take about three years to complete and would have to be staged to correspond with the availability of finance for the total capital programme over the next few years.

Work will continue in 1984 on the provision of facilities for work, work training, education and recreation for offenders at Limerick Prison and on consolidating the perimeter wall of Mountjoy prison. Work will commence soon on the extension of the women's prison in Mountjoy and I hope that similar work on the women's prison in Limerick will be feasible later in the year. These extensions will provide much needed extra recreational and occupational facilities for women prisoners, as well as extra custodial capacity.

On 1 June there were two fillable vacancies for prison service grade staff on an authorised establishment of 1,562. Thus, 1,560 staff were supervising 1,643 offenders, a ratio of 0.95 staff to one offender. The ratio of staff to offender varies from institution to institution and is determined by the needs of the individual institutions having regard to security, services, regimes, etc. The staffing needs of a high security prison are obviously much greater than those of, say, the open institution.

The Estimates also make provision on the non-pay, non-capital side for a daily average of 1,578 prisoners in custody. This projection represents an increase of 11 per cent on the 1983 daily average of 1,418. In fact, it appears that it will be very much on the low side as the number in custody at present is regularly well over 1,600. The higher numbers in custody obviously add to expenditure as prisoners must be clothed and fed and provided with various services. The estimates on the non-pay non-capital side show an increase of 16 per cent on the 1983 provision and I am satisfied that this is as small an increase as can be achieved taking into account increases in the cost of living and the increased numbers being accommodated in the prisons.

The continued pressure on accommodation shows no signs of easing. I am constantly looking at ways of further increasing the available accommodation in the prisons and places of detention. Despite the considerable increase in the daily average being catered for, there is unfortunately a continuing need to "shed" prisoners in advance of their normal release date. I dealt with this matter in my contribution to the budget debate and all I can do now is repeat that everything possible is being done to minimise the practice. Towards this end a re-organisation of some probation and welfare officers' case-loads took place towards the end of last year and this has enabled a significantly greater number of prisoners to be released under supervision. This is a practice which benefits both the prisoner and society and at present the number under such supervision in the community is 339.

In the long term I believe that only the wider use of alternatives to imprisonment will stem the flow of committals to custody. The Criminal Justice (Community Service Order) Act, 1983, which gives the courts power to make community service orders will be brought into operation as soon as the necessary probation and welfare service staff are recruited and trained. Regulations under the Act and Rules of Court are currently being prepared.

Speaking of the probation and welfare service I should point out that at present about 2,200 offenders are on probation and under other supervision from the courts. This is a significant number of offenders and it is the policy of my Department to develop probation as a viable alternative to imprisonment. Towards this end my Department, through the service, is actively encouraging the establishment in various parts of the country by voluntary community groups of hostels, day-centres and workshops to which offenders, especially young offenders, can be referred. Already several such centres have been established and more are planned. The total provision in the Estimates for probation hostels and workshops is almost £1 million.

The Estimates also make provision for education and work training programmes in the prisons. I attach great importance to these programmes as it is through them that efforts are made to improve the prisoner as a person and give him skills which he did not have before. On the education side over 80 teachers, mainly from local vocational education committees, provide tuition for offenders in all the institutions. General school subjects are taught but the more typical subject areas are literacy, social education, art, physical education, languages, woodwork, drama and music. It is interesting to note that the prisons education programme is the largest single adult education sector in the country and I am anxious to see it continuing to develop so that it can adequately respond to the educational needs of prisoners.

Improvements are planned for this year, and this applies particularly to library facilities and the continued improvement of library stock. I would like to take this opportunity to place on record my appreciation of the co-operation my Department have received over the years from the various vocational education committees, who pay the teachers' salaries, the local library authorities in the development of the education and library services in the prisons, and the many other individuals and organisations involved in the education programme.

On the work-training side, the programme consists of intensive industrial training on AnCO lines at the Training Unit, Glengarriff Parade, and occupational work at all institutions to meet the needs of offenders for occupation and training. There are plans to develop this programme by expanding industrial training in engineering and electronics and by introducing construction and catering training. This development is being helped by support being obtained from the European Social Fund. Workshop activities are also being developed to provide occupation for offenders, and emphasis is being placed on using workshop resources to help disadvantaged persons in the community. I would like to place on record my appreciation of the help secured from AnCO in the development of the work-training programme in the prisons and places of detention.

The House will be aware that I have recently established a Committee of Inquiry into the Penal System under the chairmanship of Dr. T.K. Whitaker. The committee's terms of reference are such that the committee will be able to carry out a thorough investigation into the penal system. I am sure that Deputies will join with me in wishing this committee well. I can tell the House that the committee have already made considerable progress with their formidable task. Their report is likely to be a blue print for policy in the penal area up to the end of the century and beyond.

I come now to the area of my Department's responsibilities relating to the courts, the overall provision for which is £8,769,000 in 1984, an increase of 14 per cent on the 1983 provision. Broadly outlined these responsibilities range from the preparation and promotion of any necessary legislation governing the establishment, constitution, jurisdictions, and functioning of our courts to ensuring that, as far as practicable, all courts and court offices are enabled to function effectively. A matter of particular concern to me at present is the delays which in recent years have developed in relation to the hearing of High Court jury actions and criminal and civil business at a number of Circuit Court venues.

In relation to the High Court in Dublin, the problem of delay can best be dealt with by having a sufficient number of jury courtrooms at the Four Courts to deal with the volume of cases being entered, and I am hopeful that this situation will shortly come about. Work has recently commenced on the provision of two extra courtrooms for the High Court in accommodation which was freed by moving some High Court Offices out of the Four Courts Building to an office block at Dolphin House, the former Dolphin Hotel, in Essex Street. One of these courtrooms will have jury facilities, and I expect that they will both be ready for use in the near future.

A further encouraging factor is that the statistics for the 1983 legal year, that is, the year ended 31 July 1983, show some significant improvements in the state of High Court business. The main features are: (a) an increase of 33 per cent in the number of jury actions disposed of during the year — 3,107 as compared with 2,328 in the previous year, (b) an increase of 61 per cent in the number of non-jury common law actions disposed of — 503 as compared with 312 in the previous year, (c) a reduction from 22 months to 20 months in the average delay from the date of setting down to the date of hearing in the case of jury actions and from 15 months to 13 months in the case of non-jury actions.

While these improvements can be attributed to several factors I think it appropriate to pay tribute to the President of the High Court for his special efforts, and also to the judges and court officers concerned, whose co-operative approach in this matter has been very significant.

In Cork the delay in hearing High Court jury actions has, in recent times, become somewhat more serious than elsewhere and, as a result, the President of the High Court has increased the number of sitting days in Cork by some 50 per cent during the present legal year, which commenced on 3 October last. It is my earnest hope that the extra sitting days will reduce the arrears to a more acceptable level, and in this connection I would appeal to the local practitioners to give some consideration to the views expressed at a symposium held by the Law Society on "Courts and Courts Administration" at which more than one speaker attributed the delays in the High Court in Cork to the unwillingness of practitioners there to settle cases. While there are some delays in hearing cases at other major centres at which High Court jury actions are held they are not as serious as the delays in Dublin and in Cork.

In relation to the Circuit Court I am aware that there are serious delays in some circuits, and the Government recently appointed an additional circuit judge whose services will be available where necessary. At present he is sitting in Cork, where the arrears are heaviest.

As far as the District Court is concerned considerable progress has been made in clearing the backlog of civil and family business which had accumulated during the District Court clerks dispute.

A computer system in the Dublin Metropolitan District which has been issuing Garda summonses for the city Garda stations has been extended so that Garda summonses and court lists for all of Dublin city and county are now computerised. This has led to a substantial saving in time both for the courts staff and for the Garda Síochána.

As regards the operation of the courts, one of the greatest problems continues to be accommodation. Responsibility for the provision and maintenance of court accommodation, with certain exceptions in the Dublin area, is vested by law in local authorities. This has given rise to particular problems in a number of areas, and most Deputies will be familiar with problems of this kind in their own areas. However, there have been improvements in a number of cases. The reinstatement of Waterford courthouse was completed in autumn 1982 and the new courthouse which Wicklow County Council is providing in Bray is expected to be ready for use very shortly.

Carlow and Laois County Councils have carried out quite extensive repairs and improvements to Carlow and Portlaoise courthouses. Other local authorities are dealing with less extensive works on an ongoing basis, but naturally progress in this area is affected by the current financial situation. Restoration of the fire-damaged courthouse in Monaghan is expected to begin this year, and I am hopeful that Cavan County Council will be able to make a start this year on the major works required in Cavan courthouse.

In Dublin work has started on the development of the Four Courts Hotel site as an office block to accommodate the various court offices at present housed in the Four Courts building, thus freeing further areas there for development as additional courtrooms and ancillary accommodation. The office block project should be completed within three years, and conversion of the office space in the Four Courts will be put in hands as soon as possible after that.

The situation of the Children's Court in Dublin is a matter of some concern. The accommodation available to the court has been unsatisfactory for some years now, and the position deteriorated in November 1981 when the Dublin Castle premises were declared unsafe. The court is at present accommodated on a temporary basis in the Morgan Place wing of the Four Courts, but this is proving unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. The Office of Public Works explored the suitability of a number of premises as permanent accommodation for the Children's Court without success. They now propose to adapt two houses at Smithfield to provide temporary accommodation for the court pending the provision of a purpose-built courthouse on an immediately adjoining site. I expect the temporary accommodation to be ready for use later this year and the purpose-built accommodation to be available by the end of next year.

Deputies will be aware that the money necessary to build the permanent Children's Court is being provided from the dormant funds of suitors in the High Court under a Bill — the Funds of Suitors Bill, 1984 — which recently passed all stages in this House. The new Children's Court complex will provide generous waiting and consultation facilities, with conference and duty rooms for probation and welfare officers. This will ensure that all who are concerned with the welfare of children appearing before the courts will be adequately facilitated. The plans will include separate waiting areas for gardaí, witnesses and for members of the public. There will be two courtrooms and judges' rooms. In addition to two consultation and welfare officers' rooms, a retiring room for solicitors will be provided.

The 1984 provision for civil legal aid is £1.34 million which represents a small increase of £40,000 on the total grant paid to the Legal Aid Board in 1983. This increase, however, will not allow for any significant expansion of the board's services and I do not expect that the board will be in a position to open any new law centres during 1984 from this allocation.

I am very concerned about the difficulties which face the board at the present time arising from the current staffing embargo in the public service, which is having a serious effect on the level of service which the board can offer to the public. As a result of recent discussions which I have had with the Minister for the Public Service, the Legal Aid Board are proceeding to fill some solicitor vacancies which are currently embargoed, and I hope this will effect some improvement in the overall situation.

The 1984 provision for criminal legal aid shows no increase on last year's allocation of £1.85 million. Included in this amount is the cost of paying value-added tax, currently at 23 per cent on legal fees payable under the scheme, which is ultimately recouped to the Exchequer. I might add that my Department are proceeding with an examination of the scheme to see what changes may be needed in the present arrangements for providing criminal legal aid, including changes needed to eliminate possible abuses of the scheme.

Deputies will be aware that the Minister for Justice has a special position in relation to the law and its reform, more so perhaps than any other Minister of the Government, since I have responsibility for a fairly wide area of the law. However, as I explained on this occasion last year, a particular difficulty presents itself here, one to which my predecessors have drawn attention before. As the Ceann Comhairle will confirm, it is not in order for a Deputy to advocate legislation in an Estimates debate. Accordingly, even if it were within the rules of this House for me to make a statement in relation to any particular item of legislation for which I have responsibility, it would be inappropriate since Deputies would not have the opportunity to deal with the matter. I will, therefore, say no more on the subject of law reform other than that legislative proposals which I have under consideration will be brought to the notice of the House in the usual way when I am in a position to announce them.

Another area for which I have responsibility is the work of the Land Registry and the Registry of Deeds. The main bulk of the 1984 provision of £5,745,000 for the registries — over 87 per cent — is in respect of salaries. The provision for overtime in 1984 is £100,000, or 1.9 per cent of the total pay provision. This represents a further step in a pattern of diminishing overtime in recent years. For example, expenditure on overtime accounted for 8.8 per cent of the total expenditure on pay in 1978. The corresponding figures for 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983 were 4.6 per cent, 4.1 per cent, 3.5 per cent, 2.7 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively. Most of the expenditure on overtime is incurred in the Land Registry. The total number of applications in the main categories of work lodged in the Land Registry in 1978 was approximately 185,000. The average lodgment during the years 1979 to 1983 was just over 212,000 with the lodgment for 1983 being 232,000 — an increase of 25 per cent compared with 1978. On the other hand, the staffing in 1983 for the same categories of work showed an increase of only 3 per cent over the 1978 establishment.

The Land Registry is required to be self-supporting under section 14 subsection (2) of the Registration of Title Act, 1964, which came into operation on 1 January 1967. Regular analyses of income and expenditure and adjustments of fees are carried out to ensure that this legal requirement is fulfilled. The most recent change in the fees structure became operative on 1 March 1984. In my contribution to the budget debate in February I gave details of the fees and how they compared with the fees operative in 1967. The comparison showed that the 1984 fees would have been significantly higher had the 1967 fees been used as a base and the fees been adjusted regularly in the meantime in accordance with the rate of inflation. I also provided details of delays in the main categories of work which showed that the registry was continuing to provide a reasonable public service in most areas.

It is fair, I think, to conclude that the Land Registry is giving its fee-paying public good value for money. That is not to say that there is not room for improvement; I am well aware that there is, particularly in the areas of first registration and cases involving extensive examination of title such as applications for the registration of title acquired by possession, in which there are long delays at present. Proposals have been prepared for some time which would involve a rearrangement and speeding up of the way these cases are processed in the Land Registry but as the implementation of the proposals would require a certain amount of staff restructuring it has not been possible to proceed with them because of the general Civil Service staffing embargo. However, even if there were no staffing restrictions and no matter what rearrangement or restructuring is carried out there are unavoidable delays built into the processing of these applications; for example, notice has to be served on possible interested parties in many cases and the notices may occasion objections or replies which can lead to time-consuming correspondence.

I have to say, also, that delays are often caused by the manner in which applications are presented to the Land Registry. Here I must give credit to the Incorporated Law Society for having organised during 1983, with the co-operation of the Land Registry, a series of seminars for solicitors which were addressed by Land Registry officials with the aim of minimising the need for queries on applications, thus reducing the time taken in dealing with them. Seminars were held in Cork, Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo and Sligo during 1983 and I am sure that further seminars will be organised if there is perceived to be a need for them.

The central office of the Land Registry is at present located in three buildings — in Chancery Street, in the Setanta Centre and in Bow Street. Efficiency would be improved if all the staff could be accommodated in one building. However, unfortunately this is a long-term prospect.

The computerisation of the Land Registry folios which commenced in December 1982 is proceeding although at a slower pace than I would wish because of losses of staff under the embargo on the filling of vacancies. Nonetheless, it is now expected that all the Dublin folios will be computerised in less than a year's time. It was decided to start with the Dublin folios because there are no duplicate folios available for Dublin as there are in the local offices of the other counties. A decision will be taken in the next few months as to the manner in which the programme will be extended into the rest of the country. The computerisation of the folios is a very big step forward for the Land Registry in this age of rapidly-developing technology. When the through-put of over a quarter of a million applications a year is taken into account, the retrieval of documents has been a huge and ever-increasing problem for the registry — and, of course, its customers — over the years. The significance of the fact that a document will be available for inspection, or as a copy, at literally the push of a button cannot be over-rated.

While proposals for major improvements in both the Land Registry and the Registry of Deeds are at present in abeyance because of the embargo, the organisation and procedures in both offices are being examined on a continuing basis and every effort is being made to increase efficiency within the existing constraints. One particular initiative which I think worthy of mention is the setting up of an Image Committee in the Land Registry in July 1982. The membership of the committee is representative of most sections of the staff and its terms of reference were to activate and promote interest among the members of the staff in the improvement of the overall image presented by the registry in its daily dealings with the public and the service it offers them. Several recommendations have been made by the committee some of which it has already been possible to implement. The committee will be a continuing feature of the Land Registry operation in its efforts to provide as participative and effective an answer as possible to the challenge of public service.

The remarks which I have made in the course of this address do not, of course, constitute an exhaustive description of all the work and services provided for in Votes 22 to 27, inclusive. I welcome Deputies to comment on any aspects of the Votes, however, and, as I said at the start of my remarks, I shall endeavour to answer any questions raised.

I welcome the Estimate and I wish to offer our praise to the Garda for the work they are doing in difficult circumstances, to the members of the Judiciary and the courts and to members of the prison service. Each of these groups has a vital and important part to play in the life of the community and sometimes it is forgotten that their work is so essential. I have pleasure in stating here the total support of my party for the Garda, the courts and for members of the prison service who carry out perhaps the most difficult job in that they have to hold on to prisoners for long periods and in fairly difficult circumstances.

The Minister referred to the crime report for 1983. Fortunately that report is available to us at this stage. I should like to congratulate the Commissioner on having it available a little earlier this year and in time for discussion of this Estimate because it is very helpful to us in considering the position in relation to crime.

The Minister said that the rate of increase in crime is dropping and we welcome that. He pointed out that it is down to 4.9 per cent for 1983. In 1981 fairly drastic action was taken to deal with crime which continued in 1982 and 1983 and there has been a reduction in the rate of increase. That would be fine if the debate were confined to us in this House but, unfortunately, on the streets the reality is that the overall level of crime is increasing. As the Minister said, crimes connected with housebreaking, burglary and larceny are increasing at an enormous rate.

The citizens find the present position totally unacceptable. Housebreaking is now virtually out of control and citizens are fed up with the repeated break-ins. I was talking to a man today who said they did not break into his house any more because there is nothing left for them to take. The rate is still rising and is far too high. To the man in the street the remedies are not working although we know, from overall statistics, there is a drop in the rate of increase.

We must consider the steps we are taking and how strong they are in relation to the problem. The Minister must take very urgent action to deal with the continuing rise in crime and vandalism. I was interested to note that the Minister took this aspect as his first topic and that he then mentioned the drug problem. That is the way I would have approached the Estimate, putting these as the two foremost problems. The report for 1983 shows that the number of indictable crimes recorded has, for the first time, passed 100,000. Even more frightening is the fact that by far the greatest increase was in burglary and larceny. The Minister referred to the number of indictable crimes, but if you look at the value of stolen property, you will find that it has increased from £29 million in 1982 to a staggering £43.7 million in 1983, an increase of 50 per cent. This must make 1983 the year of the burglar, when the security of people's homes, cars and other possessions was at an all time low. Notwithstanding the gains made in other areas, we must address ourselves to this problem very urgently.

We are now facing into another summer of rampant vandalism in city areas, of robberies, housebreaking and car stealing. I feel very strongly about this because in the last couple of weeks several people have mentioned their worries with regard to what will happen during the summer in certain city areas. I was speaking to a garda the other night who has hit by a joy-rider, but, fortunately, he was not seriously injured. Already, communities in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford are crying out for protection as the summer epidemic of urban crime and vandalism hits our homes and streets. Children's lives are at risk in certain well known urban areas. Free from school they are particularly vulnerable to joy-riders, and I am fearful for their safety as summer approaches.

Elderly people are in danger all the time, and the Minister has often referred to that problem. There is a solution to this frightening rise in crime. The 1983 crime report recognises what we all know — that increased patrolling by uniformed members of the Garda in the more densely populated areas has led to a reduction in crime. That is brought out very clearly in the report. The garda on the beat with knowledge of his area is contributing to peace, security and safety in the community. We can see the measures which are having an effect, we should recognise this and take action accordingly. I call on the Government to stop the penny-pinching policy of gradualism where crime is concerned, to put the extra men on the streets where they are needed, to appoint the extra 600 men and women who have been authorised and bring the Garda strength up to the 12,000 level which was set by Fianna Fáil. They should set aside the limitation in the Estimate of 11,400 by the end of 1984. The candidates have been examined and are ready for call-up. Do not leave them standing idly by drawing the dole. Put them to work now as they are badly needed on the streets of our major cities. Indeed the Minister has very clearly stated the figures, of which I was aware. He said that the strength of the force will be brought up to 11,400 and maintained at that level until the end of the year. He also said, in answer to a parliamentary question, that it is the intention to have the number at 11,400 at the end of 1984 and to work on that basis. He has said that again quite clearly here. He pointed out that at 31 May 1984 the number was 11,374 with more members in training. There are also gardaí leaving continuously because of retirement or other reasons.

There is a firm decision here to maintain the level at 11,400. If we look back at the figures we find that on 31 December 1981 the number was 9,943. There was a positive decision taken at that stage to increase the strength by 2,000. That was continued by the incoming Minister and he attempted to bring it up to the level which was intended to be 12,000 but stopped short at 11,400. That is a serious mistake. I know the Minister will say he is redeploying gardaí and trying to spread people around. However, I believe that would be needed in addition to the 12,000 who were authorised in the first instance to make any impact. We still have an emergency notwithstanding the excellent progress which has been made in certain areas over the last few years. In 1982 we authorised the appointment of the extra 2,000 gardaí above the then approved strength of 10,000 gardaí. It was in response to an urgent problem. Few will disagree that where these extra gardaí have appeared on the beat the effect has been dramatic. In the Coolock area the level of crime was reduced by 25 per cent in 1983. I am very familiar with that area and I know there is a high rate of crime there.

One of the effects starting late in 1982 was for more gardaí to appear on the beat in those districts and to continue to appear since that date. It does not matter who sent them there, they are very effective in protecting the community and in getting results. I should like to pay tribute to the gardaí in the different areas who have been doing this work happily and cheerfully. The Government continued this policy with further beneficial effects, but the heavy hand of the Minister for Finance has stopped this progress by cutting the Estimates for 1984 and leaving 600 potential recruits idle on a frozen panel. The key to the problem lies in the Estimates. Give the Garda the men and resources and they will reverse the rise in crime and vandalism. They have shown that they can do so and there is a duty on us to give them the manpower to do so. It is a matter of great urgency now.

With regard to community policing, while the Garda need the extra numbers promised, they also need a fundamental reorganisation of their methods of operation, their deployment and relationship with the community. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors made their proposals for community policing at the end of 1982. The Joint Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism have already produced an initial report on the neighbourhood watch system and on the operation of community based crime prevention committees, a report which the Minister welcomed in the House. They will shortly furnish a further report on other aspects of community policing. The Commissioner has begun pilot studies on neighbourhood watch. However, all these desirable developments will be of little value if we do not have a community policing budget. We want to see specialised gardaí operating on the same beat within a community and integrating with the community in its life and activities. The Estimates should clearly cover an allocation for this purpose. The Minister when in preparing next year's Estimates should consider having a clear allocation for community policing. Dramatic results have been obtained in other countries where community policing methods have been introduced. We cannot afford to delay in our approach to these new methods of deployment, which in many respects are a return to the wiser methods of days gone by where the local garda knew his beat and his community.

The residents of our vast new urban and suburban areas are crying out for this support. If the Garda are to continue to be relevant to them then they must be heavily deployed in these communities. An important aspect in regard to the Estimate concerns the Garda, their deployment and the contribution they can make. There is an onus on us to ensure that the numbers provided are adequate and that the members of the force are given the training and support they require. If they get that I believe we can curtail the problem.

I should now like to deal with the question of drug abuse. The time for dealing leniently with those involved in the sale and distribution of illicit drugs is long gone. We in Ireland have for the last few years been viciously exploited by hardened criminals involved in international drug trafficking. These criminals have found willing accomplices in the Irish market who are prepared to profit unscrupulously on the vulnerability of our youth. The Minister will have our full support in any measures he takes to deal with the problem. Any doubts which Irish society may have had about the seriousness and extent of the hard drug problem were dispelled by the results of the survey carried out in Dublin's north inner city at the end of 1982. This showed that 12 per cent of young people between the ages of 15 and 19 were addicted to heroin. Since then it has become clear that many other communities have been afflicted by this scourge.

As an island community we have a special opportunity and a duty to put an end to this menace. While the work of education in relation to the dangers of drug abuse and the rehabilitation of abusers is of prime importance, we also need to crack down on the pushers and dealers and cut off their supplies. We must commit ourselves to root out the drug pushers and to deal harshly with them. If the courts do not impose proper sentences then we will have to make them do so by introducing minimum sentences for pushers and distributors as is the case in some other crimes.

Early last year I called for a crack down on the traffic in drugs and the treatment of those who supply hard drugs as subversives, because they are subverting the very life blood of our nation—our youth. I said that those who deal in heroin should be dealt with by the Special Criminal Court under the Offences Against the State Act. I am now again calling on the Government to take this effective step for a three-year period as part of a crash programme on drug abuse. So far the Government's proposals do not go far enough. The following are some of the further measures which should be taken urgently:

1. Make the trafficking and dealing in heroin and other hard drugs a scheduled offence under the Offences Against the State Act.

2. Do not allow alleged distributors of illicit drugs to be granted bail except by permission of the High Court.

3. Introduce a mandatory minimum sentence for drug pushing of three years. The present maximum is 14-years, and the Government propose to change this to "life" which to date has meant eight to ten years. The Government have refused to introduce mandatory minimum sentences.

4. Provide for the confiscation of the property of distributors of hard drugs, other than the family home as defined in the Family Home Protection Act.

5. Provide for supervised compulsory treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers who appear before the courts.

6. Provide emergency police support and civilian patrols in conjunction with the Garda in communities where drug abuse and pushing is a major problem. Finance, Garda manpower or overtime should not be spared in such communities to stamp out the pushers. It is not sufficient for the Minister to criticise, howevery rightly, some of those, for example, Sinn Féin groups, who become involved in such communities. He must provide the manpower and facilities to tackle the problems whatever the cost.

7. Ensure that the drugs squad have the necessary manpower, mobility and resources.

8. Tighten security against the import of drugs through harbours, airports and Border posts by extending the powers which the Garda have under the Misuse of Drugs Act to the 700 customs officers. Sections 23, 26, 27 (1) and (3), 28 and 29 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977, should be extended to officers of the Customs and Excise Service — the powers relate to searching, the issue of warrants and the adequacy of penalties.

9. Establish a customs drugs squad of specialised members and provide intensive training and action programmes for the detection of drug imports. Supply detection and other equipment to enable the whole customs' staff to play a more effective role in combating the import of drugs. They work closely with the Garda but the measures suggested would improve their efficiency.

10. Develop teams of drug sniffing dogs to help Garda and customs officers in detecting hidden supplies of drugs especially at customs points and in parcel post. The first dog is now in training.

That was mentioned by the Minister and I am glad to hear he is getting on well. I believe the decision to develop such teams arose from calls in the House.

The battle against drug abuse is one which is shared by Irishmen and women on both sides of the Border. It is in our mutual interest to crackdown on trafficking through all ports and airports, North and South. Close co-operation between police authorities and customs agents on both sides of the Border in drug surveillance should be encouraged. The aim should be to rid the whole island of imported illicit drugs by smashing the supply lines. In the interests of our youth we should try to make all the island of Ireland a drug free zone.

There are many facets to the whole problem of drug abuse which are in need of urgent attention and action. Some of these have been highlighted over the last few years, but, there is one aspect which so far has received little attention. It is well established that a high percentage of crime, especially in Dublin city and its suburbs, is drug-related. Suggestions have been made that the drug network and supply has moved to the suburbs. It is possible that that is a result of the crack down in the centre of the city. The Minister, and the Garda Commissioner, will have to keep that under surveillance. Drug abusers need money to feed their habit. A recent survey of drug abusers in Dublin committal prisons carried out in September 1981 showed that of 22 drug abusers committed to Mountjoy Prison only two had served any sentence prior to taking drugs. The majority, 70 per cent, were convicted of larceny from houses, persons or cars to provide money for drugs. It is significant that there has been such a big increase in larcenies and burglaries.

The scale of this problem can be measured by the fact that by September 1982, over 8,000 people had come to the notice of the Garda because of their involvement in the misuse of drugs.

During the month of September 1982, prison based probation officers identified 92 drug abuser inmates of Mountjoy and St. Patrick's Institution, with 54 of these residing in St. Patrick's. The trend is clearly towards an increase in these numbers. It is worth noting that in New York, 68 per cent or two-thirds of all inmates of correctional facilities in 1983 has a history of substance abuse. That is an indication that there is an onus on us to look closer at the relationship between drugs and crime and those committed to prisons.

Closer examination of the position here may well reveal that a very high proportion of our crime is also related to substance abuse. If we want to reduce crime, we will have to deal with the causes. This we are not doing at present. In the 1981 survey of drug abusers in Dublin prisons it was shown that:

1. The majority of drug abusers were sentenced in the District Court and will serve only a maximum of nine months.

2. Coolmine, with its 12-month intensive recovery programme, is not an attractive alternative to prison.

3. Prison sentences, as served at present by drug addicts do nothing for their problem except to keep the abuser alive a little longer.

4. It was considered unlikely that enclosed exposure to treatment would be provided in the foreseeable future by any agency outside the prison system.

The Minister should concentrate more resources to this area. I accept that there is a greater awareness of the problem.

A study by Fr. Brian Power in Dún Laoghaire in 1983 has shown that in a sample of 75 heroin users, 59 had served sentences in prisons or juvenile institutions, while 13 others had appeared in court on charges. In total, 72 out of 75 had come before the courts. This further emphasises the need for separate treatment centres for drug addicts who are serving sentences. This treatment must be provided in separate facilities within the prison system.

Stopping crime means stopping drug abuse, and this demands that we provide treatment and rehabilitation for inmates with a history of drug abuse while they are still in our prisons. We can break the cycle for many abusers if we provide treatment programmes in our prisons to which the courts may refer abusers who have become involved in crime. It is never too late to start. A high proportion of city and suburban crime is drug-related. Many of these abusers end up in prison where present treatment facilities and programmes are totally inadequate. Drug addiction can be broken during a period of imprisonment, certainly for a percentage of those imprisoned, and a subsequent life of crime averted. This can be done by providing separate confinement and a recovery programme for substance abusers. We owe it to those afflicted by drug abuse to help them to rescue their lives. We owe it to the community to break the cycle of drug-related crime. The Government should now make arrangements to provide recovery programmes for abusers, especially those young people in St. Patrick's Institution, to help them stay out once released.

There are international aspects to this problem. Drug trafficking and drug abuse are problems which span international and inter-continental boundaries. We must give our total support to international efforts to stem the supply and traffic in illicit drugs. Our voices must be to the forefront in international fora in promoting and assisting such international co-operation. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has a special responsibility for this co-operation. On a visit to Garda headquarters we saw that they keep a very close eye on the international movements of people involved in the drug trade.

Our recently elected members of the European Parliament have an opportunity to make the Community's social programme more effective and relevant to our drug problems. Measures which should be pursued include the establishment of a European network to exchange information on the supply and availability of illicit drugs and the extent of racketeering, as well as information about what is being done in each country by way of education and treatment. There should also be a tightening of controls at Community frontiers where drug trafficking is known to take place. We must promote close customs controls and checking of goods and persons travelling into and within the EEC to reduce the availability of illicit drugs. There could be European sponsorship of education programmes on drug abuse in schools and youth clubs and assistance from the European Social Fund for the development of rehabilitation clinics and pilot projects in areas of special need such as Dublin City.

The whole question of drug-related crime is one to which we need to give a great deal more attention. It became obvious in discussions on crime in the city centre that the level of drug-related crime was quite a high percentage of the total.

I now refer to the question of security and the task forces. As part of the savings in Garda pay and overtime the Minister set about systematically disestablishing the security and intelligence networks which had been established by his predecessors. They had proved to be highly effective in dealing with serious crime and subversion. In our view the Minister for Justice made a serious mistake when he totally disbanded or disestablished the Divisional Task Force and greatly restricted the activities of the Special Task Force based in Dublin. There was a clear need for re-organisation of the Divisional Task Force, but to disband the 45 units comprising 300 members strategically placed was to incur an unacceptable level of risk, especially along the Border.

It has now become clear that outside Dublin the Special Branch and Divisional Task Force have been amalgamated into the "Detective Branch Country Division." It is probably an apt name. Is the Minister aware of what is happening on the ground? These specially trained, armed and specialised men are being returned to ordinary detective duties. They operate even in Border areas only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., except in emergency situations when overtime is worked. This leaves a yawning gap in Border security between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m. It is my duty as Opposition spokesman to point out that these men are now spread too thinly in Border areas, especially at this time when there are increased movements of subversives due to conditions in the North of Ireland.

I ask the Minister to re-examine his policy in this respect. There is a need for a regional task force which could evolve from the former divisional force. I understand that their high-powered vehicles are not being replaced. This is an unwise economy. I also understand that post office robberies are starting to increase again. I would appeal to the Minister not to take risks with security and intelligence gathering, and also to go ahead with the plans to purchase two helicopters. These should be deployed mainly at the Border and in the Dublin region. Prevention and intelligence are the first steps in providing security. The economies being made at present in this area may be counter-productive and dangerous. The Minister would be well advised to review his strategy in this respect.

The Minister mentioned the rural policing system, and I would ask him not to reduce manpower. In some rural areas we have a very low level of crime, and this may be due to the presence of the gardaí and their involvement in the local community.

I very much welcome the communications network. I will not repeat some of the things which can be heard on the radio in the Dublin area about the activities going on. Those who are skilled in crime hear them long before we do.

I welcome the system of promotion which I understand has been planned for some time. I hope it is successful.

Regarding the prison programme, the 1983 Estimate provided £17.6 million but that was reduced last year by the Minister for Finance to £11.498 million and the allocation for 1984 is the same. It is still £6 million below the amount we had planned to provide. The £6 million last year and the further £6 million this year would have enabled work at Clondalkin to proceed much more rapidly. We welcome the move towards completion.

The Minister mentioned the probation and welfare services. It looks as if there is a 49 per cent increase in the Estimate as against the outturn for last year which was £685,000, but my recollection is that the figure originally allocated was £960,000. This means that there was a very substantial cutback last year and there were complaints about the operation of the service. It is now back up to £1.024 million, which is slightly above the level we had intended originally last year.

I also welcome the establishment of the committee of inquiry into the penal system and we look forward to their findings. I welcome the steps being taken to remove delays in court hearings. The Minister has gone very comprehensively into the work being done there. The Funds of Suitors Bill came in nice time for the Estimates and enabled the Minister to provide extra finance for the Children's Court.

The Minister mentioned the computer system in the Dublin Metropolitan District. When dealing with Garda summonses I have always found the staff there particularly helpful. We public representatives have to approach them from time to time about people who may have become somewhat confused about fines or who have sold a car and start receiving fines on a car they thought they had finished with. It crossed my mind to suggest that the Minister might look at the situation in which people do not respond. If they respond in time with regard to fines then they will be cleared up without going near the courts. That is a big help in alleviating the burden on the courts. But there is a fixed date and once that is passed one is into court and that is it. That is something that should be examined. Perhaps there should be some nominal late entry fee in respect of the time lapse between the levying of the fine and the court hearing which would obviate the necessity of people having to go to court. In many cases I have come across people who have not been available to deal with it, perhaps being absent on holiday or for some other reason. The people in the fines office are exceptionally helpful and courteous, but once the date is passed it is then into the courts system. It might be possible to devise a system in which a nominal late fee would be applicable in such cases and which would save the time of the courts.

There is a very serious problem obtaining at present in relation to civil legal aid. We public representatives come across many cases now where there is hardship entailed, where the lists have been closed and, although people are seen to be eligible, legal aid cannot handle their poblems. I had a tragic example recently of a man whose wife had gone to England with some of their children. There was not much more than a row involved. He needed somebody here to take action on his behalf — he was eligible — but they could not do anything for him. He was told he could go to the English courts and defend his case over there. But he felt he would have been at a great disadvantage in so doing because his rights were here. He felt he should be able to have a habeas corpus application here demanding that his wife produce the children and have it dealt with in court here. In fact he did not get the necessary legal assistance, which is very serious when one finds oneself in such a situation. I was able to manage to get somebody to advise him. But there are real problems like that being encountered. Certainly the Minister will have our full support in endeavouring to meet that situation. I welcome his negotiations in getting some extra staff — I notice that there was a reduction of staff there — and it is quite obvious he is doing his best to improve the situation. It is clear that there is a serious problem obtaining, one to which more resources will have to be allocated. It is unlikely that any such resources would be wasted because they are so scarce in any event.

There are many other areas which the Minister said he would like to cover and I feel similarly. I should particularly like to say something about the juvenile liaison system which is a very valuable scheme and worthy of greater support. The Minister mentioned the Community Service Orders Act and the fact that he hoped shortly to bring its provision into operation. This is one of the problems of our parliamentary system that frustrates people outside — the time lag between passage of the legislation and its implementation on the ground, which in most cases is far too long. I am not blaming the Minister for that. The time taken for the legislation to work its way through is unduly long. Certainly the Community Service Orders Act is an example of this because its provisions are urgently needed in relation to pressure on the prisons, the handling of offenders and so on, which the Minister fully recognises.

Perhaps the most urgent matter facing public representatives, now that we are into summer, is the problem presented by vandalism and crime, with considerable risk to children and young people on our streets. I would ask the Minister to go back to the Cabinet in this respect in relation to this Estimate and say that we need the 600 extra Garda personnel approved, that we need the strength of 12,000. I believe that is the problem which needs to be tackled most urgently and I would ask the Minister to do that following on this debate.

We are happy to support him in the work he is doing and in the Estimates he has presented.

It is sad that Ireland has to spend approximately £300 million on the enforcement of law and order in one year, particularly when one remembers that we are small country with a population of less than four million. It will be realised then that there must be something radically wrong and it is about time we took an honest look at ourselves.

Looking at the criminal or vandal in isolation will not solve the problem. We must take collective responsibility and blame for the situation obtaining. The Minister for Justice alone cannot, nor can the Garda alone, nor any other body of people alone, solve this problem. It needs the collective will and determination of all our people if we are to find solutions, which are not easy, but this should not deter us from endeavouring to do so.

One of the most shocking reflections of our society in recent times was revealed in last Sunday's Independent where it was reported that the Lansdowne Market Research Unit had carried out a survey in which 50 per cent of the people surveyed considered the Taoiseach to be an honest man and 13 per cent of those surveyed considered the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party an honest man, yet the conclusion of the survey was that the Leader of the Opposition was four points ahead. This is a sad indictment of public morality. I only hope that it is not representative of public morality as a whole.

This country has strayed far from being the island of saints and scholars to one in which ruthlessness is seen to prosper and honesty to be wrong. To the ordinary man in the street honesty appears no longer to matter. It has appeared to me that in many instances in recent times the ways of the ruthless seem to succeed over those of the just and honest. This situation will have to be corrected. The fact that everybody does it, or that everybody is seeking a scapegoat, is not good enough. We, as politicians, owe it to the people to stand up and be counted. Unfortunately, we all operate double standards; politicians operate double standards as do the rest of our people. We will have to take a clear look at ourselves, examine what we are at and where we are going. On the one hand we want peace and justice, law and order, while, on the other, we have not got the guts or determination to see that justice and peace prevail.

Take a look at our taxation system. It does not encourage a man to operate in an honest fashion. It has encouraged many men and women who were once honest workers to opt out into the black economy where they can attain a higher standard of living without fear of detection to the detriment of the Fxchequer and other taxpayers. When such injustices are seen to exist we cannot hope for a peaceful, law-abiding people.

All of these problems must be tackled courageously if we are to decrease the Estimate of £300 million for the Department of Justice. Tonight I am not going to suggest solutions to all those problems, I am going to suggest just one solution. The Minister in his speech extended an invitation to us all when he said:

Of course, the provision of extra gardaí is not the only measure necessary to combat crime. We have had a very substantial increase in Garda strength over a short period and the time is opportune to stand back and review the utilisation of resources to see where improvements can be made.

I am taking up this invitation now. It is a pity that the Opposition spokesman has gone, because I got the impression when he was talking that Dublin was Ireland, that crime was synonymous with Dublin and that there was no crime elsewhere in the country. I tell him that we have crime all over this country in 1984. The lack of security is affecting not just Dublin and the cities, it is affecting the villages and every mile of roadway in this whole nation. The lack of security in rural Ireland could be overcome if the Minister would open up again the small rural Garda stations. Years ago when they were being closed down people objected but little notice was taken because the trend was towards centralisation in all spheres, in the Department of Health, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice. Everything could be done bigger and better from a central unit. We have learned to our cost not only in the Department of Justice but also in the Department of Health, the Department of Social Welfare etc. that centralisation is not the ideal solution that we all thought it would be. We need to decentralise our form of Government and all our Departments once more. The Minister for Justice should consider decentralising the Department of Justice to every village in this country. The many gardaí who have been recruited over the years have been deployed largely to the cities, particularly to Dublin, although Cork and Limerick have a few of them, but no gardaí have been deployed to rural Ireland. For three and a half years I have continually made representations to three Ministers for Justice for an extra garda in Carrigtwohill Garda Station. Carrigtwohill, once a village now a satellite of Cork, has a Garda station and two gardaí. My representations were without success. When Dominic McGlinchey was in Carrigtwohill the two gardaí in the barracks there went on the search for him and were caught for that night. If a third garda had been in the station he would have known that the other two were missing and he could have sent somebody in search of them and perhaps McGlinchey would have been apprehended on the way.

A Deputy

He would have got a fresh pair of pants.

However, we had to wait until 17 March before McGlinchey was caught. How much taxpayers' money had to be spent during that few months to ensure that he was caught? We would have been better off with a third garda in Carrigtwohill and perhaps we would have saved a great deal of money as well as alleviating fear of that man when he was on the run. In another instance the need for a rural Garda station was underlined by a recent murder in my constituency in Dungourney. The nearest Garda station to that village is 13 miles away in Fermoy and there are two small Garda stations in the eastern part of east Cork. While I must say in all fairness that the gardaí did an excellent job in apprehending the criminals it would have meant a great deal to the people of that area if they had had their own garda there at the time. There is no centre of security in the locality and the people there are in tremendous fear.

The gardaí in the local stations would serve many functions, not least the presence of security in the area. One garda living in the community, interacting with the people and getting to know them, would boost morale and confidence. The people of rural Ireland are entitled to Garda representation as well as are the people in the cities. I am not for a moment trying to underestimate in any way the grave problems in the cities, but I suggest to the Minister that, due to lack of security in rural Ireland and the problems that have emerged in recent times, he should take crime in rural Ireland seriously.

The whole area of traffic should be taken out of the hands of gardaí because they have more important and pressing work to do. Many traffic wardens are doing their job very successfully but much of the time of the gardaí is spent on traffic duty and they have no option but to do it. The hours and days of many gardaí are taken up in giving people "fivers" as they say. Not alone is their time wasted but the gardaí are antagonising people, and often they have antagonised me. For parking outside one's own door on some days — on other days you are all right — you get a £5 fine. People in general tell me that if they go into the city for a day and get a parking fine and are law-abiding apart from that, if they meet a garda he usually succeeds in antagonising them. In other words, the gardaí are losing the goodwill of the ordinary, decent citizen for having to impose these £5 parking fines. That traffic work would be best met by a broadening of our network of traffic wardens, and more important work should be left to the gardaí

What I have to say is more in the nature of an intervention than a contribution. I appreciate that there are other speakers anxious to at least ask questions. I am glad to note that the Minister and our spokesman, a future Minister, notwithstanding the severe demands on them in the past week or so, have remained in such good form and have been doing such good work in the matter of the Criminal Justice Bill.

There are a couple of points I wish to make. I have referred the Minister already to a situation in my constituency where his powers and the powers of the Garda are being challenged, where CIE have not been running the normal bus service after 7 p.m. for more than three years. The reason they give is that the service cannot be provided in the absence of Garda protection or interest. There is an obligation on the Minister to challenge the veracity of that claim. If it is true he must do something about it but if not he must ask CIE on what basis they make that charge. The Minister will appreciate the psychological effect of this position. It is well known in that area of Finglas that people have challenged the right of the buses to run, call these people subversives or whatever, and that the Garda are not co-operating with CIE in the matter of the provision of a bus service.

Perhaps there is some influence in CIE which is responsible for the charge being made, but can the charge be substantiated? The situation is appalling. If the powers of the Government and of the Garda are being challenged on this issue, one is entitled to ask what they will be challenged on next. The Minister is aware of the different parts of this city in which certain elements are involved in challenging the lawful powers of the State. The problem in Finglas is a manifestation of that challenge. It must be attended to immediately.

My second point relates to an entirely different matter. The Minister referred to payment of £11.1 million in respect of overtime. Last year the corresponding figure was £10.9 million. When we were in Government various substantial amounts were also provided under this heading. I appreciate that at times it is necessary that the Garda perform overtime duties, but this is not desirable because any member of the force who has been on duty for eight hours would not be likely to be in very good form for another eight-hour stint. It would be far better to have a man going on duty who is refreshed physically and mentally.

The Minister hopes to recruit 350 new members to the Garda. Throughout the country there are the finest of young men and women who are anxious to join the force. Let us consider the economics of recruiting twice the number proposed. Taking an average salary of £7,500, which is fair enough in the initial years, the recruitment of yet a further 350 people would cost only £2,500,000. The Minister would still have £8,500,000 for overtime. That is a very fair proposition and one to which the Minister might ask his officers to apply themselves. Apart from the fact of absorbing these 350 people, there would not be such collossal amounts needed to pay for overtime.

I trust the lady present will not consider me condescending when I draw attention, on humane grounds, to something I have noticed within the precints of this House. From time to time I see five or six big able-bodied gardaí reclining on a couch while at the same point there is one young ban garda who, according to regulations, is obliged to remain standing.

Perhaps she looks better standing.

That situation should be changed.

In the short time at my disposal there are just a few comments I wish to make, and the first is that in a country of fewer than four million people we must spend almost £300 million in attempting to restore law and order. It is a damning indictment of the country which used to rejoice in the title of the land of saints and scholars that this should be necessary. Apparently the scholars have all gone and many of the saints have turned to crime. Undoubtedly crime is one of the few growth businesses in the country. The only way we can keep crime within reasonable balance is by the creation of deterrents, and in that respect I consider the moneys being sought in this Estimate to be justified. In the coming years I expect that it will be necessary to make even further moneys available to help in the fight against crime.

I welcome particularly the additional moneys being spent on drug units in the Garda. The drug scene has reached horrific proportions. In recent weeks a certain air of satisfaction has been expressed in the House during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill in that the level of crime has decreased, but I would warn against complacency in that respect because I consider the fall-off to be only temporary. However, it is very welcome.

Commenting on the recently published crime statistics, the Commissioner of the Garda indicated that there is only a 30 per cent detection rate. That is a statistic we must seek to improve.

Another welcome step is the provision of sniffer dogs for the Drugs Squad. One might ask how much of the drugs brought in illegally through Dublin Airport or through any port in the country could have been detected if sniffer dogs had been available.

I should like the Minister to consider, too, the setting up of a Customs drug unit that would augment and complement the work of the Garda. Knowing the Border area well I am confident that a considerable amount of drugs are coming into the country by that route. The Customs men have the expertise and the knowledge in the area of dealing with smugglers to enable them to help curtail this horrific trade.

I welcome the 25 per cent increase in the building programme for prisons. We will need a continuous prison building programme in the years to come, but we ought to think in terms of making economies in respect of such items as snooker tables and colour TV sets. I wonder how much of the budget is expended in this manner. I echo Deputy Barry's remarks. While we accept that urban areas have more serious crime, rural areas also need increased surveillance. I ask the Minister to look at the possibility of reopening rural stations.

Time is against me for the second time today. The public believe we are failing in our duty to tackle crime and that criminals are now deciding how the majority live in our community. This is a sad state of affairs. The battle against crime is being lost.

We referred to the cost of crime. There are many factors which contribute to this. It appears clearly to the criminal that it pays to commit crime. Last week in Cork a young person who caused £1,100 worth of damage to cars was fined £50 and let go free. Another week a man was sent to prison because he did not pay parking fines. I am not saying that he should not pay them but justice must be seen to be done in the courts. The courts are bringing the laws into disrepute through lack of consistency. This is of major concern.

The Minister referred to the training of gardaí. I hope this will be dealt with as quickly as possible. Some duties the gardaí are performing are not really their duties. Deputy Barry referred to the matter of parking fines. This creates a barrier with the community. Gardaí are seen as people who cannot be approached and there is a barrier between them and the community. This problem must be tackled. Mention was made of drugs. I am glad the numbers in the drug unit were increased. The airports and sea ports are not properly controlled. Customs officers must be brought into this area.

The Minister referred to court delays. The Circuit Criminal Court in Cork has a huge backlog of work. I know a second judge was appointed recently but there is a need for another one. People are let out on bail and they continue to commit crime in the full knowledge that they will not be brought before the court until their case comes up. Unless we tackle the areas where the law is being brought into disrepute the money allocated to the Minister will go down the drain. There are many social and economic contributory factors. The Minister is responsible for ensuring that people can walk the streets in safety. They cannot do that at present. We must face reality.

Just three specifics: Cavan courthouse, the Land Registry and a sergeant for Finnea. The Cavan courthouse is an old castle building which was built at the beginning of the 19th century and is in a very bad state of repair. The court is being held in Bailieborough. Jurors and litigants have to come from as far west as Blacklion and Belcoo through the Cuilcagh Mountains. This is a severe hardship on them. An order mandamus is being sought to get the Minister to direct OPW to provide Cavan town with a courthouse.

I ask the Minister to recruit more civil servants to the Land Registry. It is self-financing. There is no reason why the Minister for Finance should not sanction the appointment of more civil servants. There is a big backlog of work there.

Deputy Barry asked for a boy in blue for Carrigtwohill. I want one with white stripes on his arm for Finnea.

, Limerick East): I thank all Deputies who contributed. I should have liked more time to deal with the specific points made. I thank Deputy Woods for his constructive speech, most of which I agree with. As regards increasing the full establishment of the force to 12,000 two issues arise. One is whether we should not be talking about the manner in which gardaí are deployed and the way they interact with the community rather than looking at an overall figure. There are almost 11,400 members in the force now and that number will be kept up for the remainder of the year. That represents a lot of gardaí per capita. It is up to the level of policing in other European countries and probably ahead of most of them. Whether 12,000 or 20,000 would do the job more effectively is debatable. We tend to think that if the numbers are increased it will have a major effect. It might. If there was extra money available 12,000 might not be a bad figure to settle on. But if we brought the force to 12,000 would there not be an argument to increase it to 13,000?

As regards having a separate subhead for community policing, I do not believe that would be a help. If I got an overall increase under the existing subheads there would be more flexibility as regards the spending of it. A separate subhead for community policing would put a restriction on the spending of the money. However, I take the point. I would like more movement towards community policing and an expansion of neighbourhood watch pilot schemes. I understand they are proving effective.

As regards drug abuse, Deputy Woods read out a number of specific recommendations. Some of them I agree with and others I have dealt with before. I am not convinced that scheduling drug related offences and trying them in the Special Criminal Court would be correct. I am not arguing its efficacy but there could be a constitutional problem. While drug abuse subverts youth it is not necessarily a subversive crime in the way we speak of subversive crime in this country and in the way the Offences Against the State Act was enacted to deal with subversive crime. Everyone knows what was meant by subversive crime in that context.

I do not think minimum sentences are a good idea. In the Department if one envisages a situation, it usually happens sooner rather than later. If I moved towards minimum sentences I am sure that one of the first cases would be a hard case and there would be appeals and petitions on my desk to let the poor unfortunate off. The court would not have any discretion to deal with him leniently. I do not like the idea of mandatory minimum sentences. However, I will keep the point in mind.

The House is aware, of course, that the drugs legislation is being amended at present and has passed through Second Stage in the House. I welcome the appreciation of sniffer dogs as a solution to the drug problem. However, with the use of these dogs there are certain difficulties of which Deputies may or may not be aware. It is not simply a matter of a dog being able to identify every substance that comes through the port. It does not work that way.

Deputy Woods referred to the relationship between drugs and crime, and there seems to be a direct link. He was designating 1983 as the Year of the Burglar on the basis that the value of property stolen that year came to £43,800,000 as against £29 million in 1982. However, that statistic conceals something. The kidnapping of Shergar accounts for £10 million of that increase. If we leave Shergar out of it, we are talking about £29 million increasing to £33.8 million, which is a more realistic increase. That is how it should be looked at. There has been no dramatic jump in the value of property taken from cars and houses, although the raw statistic would suggest otherwise.

Perhaps there should be subheads for animate and inanimate objects.

(Limerick East): Those that walk and those that are helped to walk. Regarding the security task force, I have the old quarrel with Deputy Woods. There was no question of cutbacks there at all. I refer the House to a statement which I made in the House on 24 January 1984 as follows:

As I have already informed the House in response to parliamentary questions, the Garda authorities decided last year on certain organisational changes under which the members of the divisional task forces were integrated with the detective units in the various Garda divisions in which they had been operating. I would once again like to stress that these changes were made by the Garda Commissioner solely in the interests of better Garda organisation and efficiency. The moves were in no way made necessary because of any financial restraints. There was also no question of reducing the detective strength. The members of the divisional task forces were already of detective rank and remaind so.

The Garda authorities are also satisfied that the service provided by the Garda Síochána is more effective as a result of the changes.

There is not much point in going over the old arguments again. Task forces down the country were supposed to combat armed crime. Whatever form of words they used, the change in the way in which they have been organised took place very early in 1983. In the commissioner's Report on Crime for 1983, at the fourth paragraph it is stated:

Firearms were used in the commission of 84 robberies and 341 aggravated burglaries, showing an increase of 35 armed crimes over the combined figures of 390 for the previous year. Outside the Dublin Metropolitan Area there was a decrease in this type of armed crime from 119 in the previous year to 102. There was a decrease in armed bank robberies from 21 in the previous year to seven and in post office robberies from 56 in the previous year to 36.

I am not saying that the way in which the task forces have been organised has resulted in that drop, but certainly the argument that the change in their organisation has led to an increase in armed crime in the country and to bank and post office robberies is not correct. Bank robberies went down from 21 to seven and post office robberies from 56 to 36.

I was careful to take these statistics into consideration in my submission. The danger is that they are very likely to increase.

(Limerick East): The Deputy put it very well. However, the facts are as I have stated. I know that there is a very strong lobby from the members who were on the task force previously for a change back, and I am sure that Deputy Woods has been getting fairly strong representations.

The argument that there is no allocation in the Estimates for the purchase of helicopters has been going on since Deputy Collins' time, and nothing more than a notional amount has ever been supplied under this subhead. As I said previously, when there is a need for helicopters, the Army are very effective in providing them.

Deputy Woods welcomed the introduction of radio equipment. He talked about cutbacks in the probation and welfare service. There are no cutbacks and there will be a fairly large extension as a result of recruitment for the community service order scheme. He also welcomed the inquiry into the penal system. He made a suggestion, on the subject of the fines office, that there might be a late payment fee in the case of a genuine lapse of memory with regard to payment of a fine. That sounds like a helpful suggestion and I shall consider it.

Deputy Myra Barry says that we are all responsible in the community and should help the Garda. Certainly I would endorse that. On the question of closure of small rural stations, none has been closed in my ministry and the closures to which the Deputy referred took place about 30 years ago. If there is an increase in population in an area, I shall be prepared to have the matter examined to see if a Garda station should be reopened, but, in general, this is not justified.

The argument has been made by Deputies Barry and McGahon that only Dublin has had an increase in Garda numbers. East Cork division got 24 of an increase and Louth-Meath 38. Clearly, there is a fair spread of extra gardaí around the country. On the two specific crimes to which Deputy Barry referred, these incidents were not related to local activity. The people involved lived far from the two areas mentioned.

Certainly there are problems with regard to the safety and security of old people living alone. On the idea of taking traffic out of the hands of the Garda, I wonder if Deputy Barry means traffic in general. The number of murders last year was 26 or 28, but the number who died on the roads was very high indeed — of the order of 530 or 540. Many deaths on the road are due to speeding, drink and carelessness. Every accident has a cause. There would be a great increase in accidents and death on the road if the gardaí did not pay the attention which they pay to matters of speed, drunken driving and so on. Whether the Garda should deal with parking offences is another matter. They must in small towns, because there are just no traffic wardens. A whole street can become blocked up and stop the commercial life of the town. It can be aggravating and can put up a barrier between the law abiding motorist and the Garda Síochána if it happens to be a garda who issues the parking ticket. I do not know if I can do anything about this point. It is the local authorities that should provide the traffic wardens to deal with the situation.

A couple of points were made by other Deputies with which I should like to deal in the limited time available. Deputy Tunney talked about the Fingals bus service, and I shall again have that examined. On the payment of overtime as against recruitment and trading one off against the other, that is not as simple as it looks. There is built-in overtime in the Garda job which accounts for £8 million approximately. Beyond that, there are emergency situations such as the Tidey kidnap which figured for payment in the first month of January although it occurred in December, the Reagan visit, the election. An election costs about £500,000 in Garda overtime. When a garda is following up a case and his eight hour roster of duty is finished, obviously if he is on to something he keeps going and must have that kind of discretion. We have got overtime down to a very low figure and do not think there is much room for further cutbacks. It is not possible to make a trade and take out £2.5 million for, say, 400 extra recruits, cutting back the overtime by that amount.

For technical reasons, would the Minister move the votes?

(Limerick East): I am sorry that I could not reply to all the points raised.

Does Shergar figure in the number of offences against property with violence, or for injury sustained in the taking of a horse?

(Limerick East): It is the value of the property.

The £10 million must be included in the increase from £18 million to £31 million.

(Limerick East): I am sorry that I cannot reply to the other Deputies but will take their views into account. If they give specific queries, I shall attend to them.

Vote put and agreed to.