Written Answers. - Mitigation Petition.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

390 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a form was sent to a Deputy (details supplied) in relation to a petition asking that the person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 on a ?129 per week carer's allowance, at least be given some time to pay a ?90 fine, in view of their limited income, as all of the information sought was either attached to the correspondence sent or is available to his Department. [10999/03]

A judgment by the High Court in 1995 regarding petitions significantly restricts the exercise of clemency under section 23 of the Criminal Justice Act 1951. The effect of the judgment is that the power to mitigate penalties must be used sparingly and only in special and exceptional circumstances, with the proper maintenance of records. The court also noted that the petitions procedure is not an alternative system of justice to that provided by the courts.

A new petition procedure was introduced in 1997 to take account of the High Court judgment and my immediate predecessors in this office issued letters to Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas in February 1997 and in April 1998 advising of the new procedure and requesting co-operation in its operation.

To facilitate the smooth operation of the new procedure and to comply with the requirement of the High Court that proper records be maintained, a detailed combined information sheet and application form is provided for the guidance and use of intending applicants. The submission of a completed application form is an integral and essential part of the procedure which ensures that applications are processed on their merit in a uniform manner.
The application form is designed to elicit the relevant information and to ensure that an application is clearly grounded and set in context. The information sheet on the back of the standard application form sets out the scope of the procedure. I am satisfied, as were my predecessors, that processing applications on the basis of information supplied in a standard form which addresses all the areas to be taken into account in considering the application best achieves the requirement of the High Court for the maintenance of records.
I must also inform the Deputy that, in this particular instance, contrary to what he understands to be the case, the information to be supplied by way of the application form is not available to my Department nor was it contained in the correspondence sent to me. However, the Deputy might note that, as set out in the information sheet on the back of the application form, a request for time to pay a court fine is excluded from consideration under the petitions procedure because arrangements for the payment of a court fine are a matter for the court which imposed the penalty and the petitions procedure cannot be used as an alternative to the court system.