Other Questions.

Garda Deployment.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

6 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community gardaí in each county; his views on expanding the number of community gardaí and expanding the role of community gardaí within the force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46253/09]

Denis Naughten

Question:

40 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to improve rural policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46121/09]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

52 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the new Garda Síochána national model of community policing; the number of gardaí committed to community policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46187/09]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 6, 40 and 52 together. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of gardaí assigned as dedicated community gardaí in each division, as of the latest date for which figures are available, is as set in the table I am circulating with this answer. The new Garda Síochána national model of community policing was launched earlier this year. One of the objectives of the new model is to re-invigorate and re-structure the community policing function within the Garda Síochána to deliver a consistent national structure to the community policing function, a more co-ordinated and efficient Garda service to the community and the spread of good practices and quality service in community policing on a national basis.

A national community policing office has been established within the Garda community relations section to develop and oversee the implementation programme. The model is being rolled out nationwide in line with an action plan for implementation. Training has already commenced in some districts and it is intended that every district officer throughout the country will take ownership of community policing within his or her area of responsibility. The Garda Síochána national model of community policing report is available on the Garda website www.garda.ie. I attach a list of community police and where they are deployed.

Community Gardaí

Division

Inspector

Sergeant

Garda

Total

D.M.R.S.C.

1

8

73

82

D.M.R.N.C.

8

14

160

182

D.M.R.N.

0

10

62

72

D.M.R.E.

0

3

36

39

D.M.R.S.

1

6

48

55

D.M.R.W.

0

9

78

87

Waterford

0

1

11

12

Wexford

0

3

19

22

Tipperary

0

6

16

22

Kilkenny/Carlow

0

5

38

43

Cork City

0

2

29

31

Cork North

0

0

2

2

Cork West

0

0

5

5

Kerry

0

1

7

8

Limerick

2

9

81

92

Donegal

0

2

15

17

Cavan/Monaghan

0

0

12

12

Sligo/Leitrim

0

5

18

23

Louth

0

2

10

12

Clare

0

1

8

9

Mayo

0

0

8

8

Galway

0

2

15

17

Roscommon / Longford

0

1

5

6

Westmeath

0

2

13

15

Meath

0

0

7

7

Kildare

0

4

13

17

Laois/Offaly

0

12

65

77

Wicklow

0

1

19

20

Total

12

109

873

994

A successful community policing programme means that every person in every estate, town and village in the State would know the community garda. There are not enough community gardaí. I appreciate that the number of community gardaí has increased over the past number of years but I am asking the Minister to make community policing a key priority of Government, to increase the number of community police and to create a new rank of community garda so that gardaí can progress through the system as community gardaí.

There are 994 community gardaí specifically designated within the overall complement of 14,600. They work in the community and I do not accept that they are not known in their communities. In my area, community gardaí are well-known to the people they serve. The reality is that every garda should be a community garda. It is important that gardaí are visible and known in the community. This facility is made available as much as possible. Community policing is a priority of the Government. It was a top priority in the police plan that is produced by the Garda Commissioner every year. This allows us to get across to gardaí that they should be visible and available on a daily basis to the community.

I welcome what the Minister said if he is serious about his reply. I welcome the new Garda Commissioner's commitment to a higher profile and significance for genuine community policing. Can the Minister assure the House that, in respect of the inevitable reduction in numbers in 2010, community gardaí will not be the first port of call when reductions are made? Will the belatedly growing infrastructure of community policing be allowed to continue rather than be taken as an easy target for reductions when they happen for reasons of retirement and cutbacks during 2010?

With fewer resources in 2010 than we had in 2009, it will be a difficult year in respect of the overall budget and Garda numbers. I know Deputy Rabbitte will support me when I say that my number one priority is to ensure we have as many gardaí in the force as possible. My priority in the coming year is to keep Garda numbers as high as possible given that they now stand at 14,634. By the end of the year there will be 14,700, an all-time high. That number may reduce over the coming year but I hope that I will get the Deputy's support to ensure that, while there may be funding difficulties in the Department, I can concentrate my funding on keeping up the level of gardaí. Ultimately the question of how many are designated as community gardaí is a matter for the Commissioner. He and I formally launched the new model of community policing in Ballyfermot a few months ago. He is committed to keeping the number of dedicated community gardaí as high as possible.

The notion of a "dedicated" community police force is quite different from the kind of excuses that we have heard in recent years, including from senior policemen, who come out with answers such as "every policeman is a community policeman" and that kind of defensive, meaningless line when they know that is not what is intended by a dedicated community police force.

I did not hear the Minister respond to Deputy Carey's question about whether there ought not be a specified rank and career progression in the service for genuine community policemen.

Under the model every district officer superintendent will take ownership of community policing in his or her district. A community policing team will be established in each district, headed up by a sergeant. Four deployment models were used, depending on the type of location. The models are based on four categories of district, namely a busy city centre, a suburban district, a large provincial town, and a rural one. Clear objectives will be set out such as high visibility in the community, ease of contact by members of the public, enhanced support for crime prevention strategies such as neighbourhood watch, community alert and business watch.

In response to Deputy Carey's point about a force within a force, that is a matter for the Garda Síochána. I have heard Members talk about that but it has not been proposed to me or to my Department. The designation of police is a matter for the Garda Commissioner not for me, nor should it be.

One of the barriers to successful community policing is the frequency with which the gardaí are re-located. That needs to be addressed. One builds a link with a particular garda. I have nothing but praise for my local community garda, Dennis Collins, who covers Clarecastle and Ennis. It is great to be able to mention him here today.

I hope the Commissioner is listening.

If the garda had a longer assignment the community would have greater trust in him and he would have more local knowledge. Would the Minister take that issue up with the Commissioner?

I agree that gardaí should be known in their areas but from another point of view they can sometimes be too well-known and become too embedded in a community and therefore not do their job to the fullest extent.

They might be hanging around, as the Minister said last week at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights.

It is for the Commissioner to decide how best to allocate people. It should not be for me or Deputy Carey to determine. The general point can be made to him, and I think he recognises that there is a strong view that gardaí should not operate in the areas they come from or in which they live. To try to facilitate family life they operate in areas contiguous with those in which they reside. This is, however, a matter for the Commissioner to decide.

All sides of the House agree on the importance of the community garda. I agree with Deputy Carey's suggestion that there be a dedicated rank but I welcome the Minister's comment about the type of activity of a community in which the garda is on the beat, in and of the community, engaging with its members.

The Minister said that there are approximately 900 dedicated or practising community gardaí. Has his Department, in conjunction with the Commissioner, set targets? We can improve that number. I would like to see a target of 12% or 12.5% by the end of next year or the following year. Will the Minister and the Commissioner commit to having a target for community gardaí? The feedback from communities is that the presence of community gardaí will foster and enhance the mutual trust and confidence between the gardaí and the public. I welcome the Minister's initiative.

There are 994 community gardaí, six shy of 1,000.

That is approximately 7%.

That is a big enough percentage, but the greater the number dedicated as community gardaí, and in the various areas such as drugs, sexual assault and crime investigation, the fewer there are in other areas. It would be our desire to have more community gardaí but I do not want to tie the hands of Garda management by saying that it must reach a certain quota and thereafter all the other things must be done because that would not be fair. The increase in Garda numbers in recent years has given the Commissioner some headroom for community Garda numbers. I will raise it with him but I would not like to tie his hands.

Legislative Programme.

Brian Hayes

Question:

7 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in respect of introducing a DNA database; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46281/09]

I expect to be in a position to seek Government approval for the publication of the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill very shortly. A central element of the Bill will be the establishment of a DNA database system to aid the investigation of criminal offences and to assist in finding or identifying missing and unidentified persons including deceased persons. The database will not only provide the Garda Síochána with an enhanced intelligence resource, it will also lead to greater efficiency in the use of Garda time and resources. While the taking of bodily samples will be, primarily, a matter for the Garda Síochána, the Forensic Science Laboratory of my Department will have statutory responsibility for the establishment and operation of the database.

Although the database cannot be established until such time as the legislation is enacted, preparatory work has already commenced to ensure that there will be no undue delay. In particular, an implementation team, led at deputy director level, has been established in the Forensic Science Laboratory to plan for the introduction of the database. The extensive consultation that has taken place with the Garda Síochána and the Forensic Science Laboratory during the development of the Bill will also assist in ensuring that the database is established as quickly as possible.

The Minister says "very shortly" but we have all heard that phrase before. I remind him that it is over five years since the Law Reform Commission published its report on the establishment of a DNA database. It is almost four years since January 2006 when the Minister's predecessor, Michael McDowell, stated that he had received Cabinet backing and approval to proceed to draft the legislation. The heads of the Bill were published in 2007 but we have not seen the Bill which I understand is included on the list for publication this term. What does the Minister mean by "very shortly"? Will this important Bill be published in the new year?

Will the Minister comment on the report by Professor Kopp——

Appropriately enough.

He stated in quite stark terms the chronic underfunding of the process. He also said that he had evidence that some senior members of the Garda Síochána did not even bother sending samples for assessment or analysis because they knew it would not be done because of the shambolic current system. Notwithstanding the timescale, what is the position regarding the forensic science laboratory? Has the Minister the money for it? Will it proceed? A certain amount of money was set aside in 2009 which I understand has yet to be expended. Has the Minister ring-fenced that money for the laboratory for next year in tandem with the legislation?

It is all good news. To answer his first question on the legislation, "very shortly" means next Tuesday, when I will bring the draft Bill to Government.

Easy now. The Minister has that smile again.

We will publish the Bill very shortly thereafter, before the end of the year. The reason there has been a delay in this, particularly during my time, which is what I am directly responsible for, is due to the Marperv. United Kingdom case, in which judgment was given by the European Court of Human Rights in December 2008. This raised significant issues in regard to the right of privacy, including unjustified interference with the right to privacy, which we have taken into account and which required the Bill to be reconsidered. There are significant issues in privacy and human rights in regard to the DNA database. My press statement of yesterday referred to the fact that we have secured €4.1 million in the Estimates for 2010 for development of the DNA database, and this will be spent next year.

I do not accept what the Deputy said about under-resourcing. Current authorised numbers for the laboratory are 102.5 posts——

The information is from Professor Kopp.

——an increase of 30 posts since December 2006, so substantial numbers of new staff have been taken on in recent years. It is also the case that the OPW will proceed with the building of the forensic science laboratory, which is a purpose-built facility on available State land at Backweston campus in Leixlip, which is already the location for the State Laboratory and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food laboratory. The site, which is fully serviced, is considered suitable for a development of this type. The new laboratory will have the capacity to maintain and operate the proposed national database.

I understand the OPW has the money to commence in the not-too-distant future the tendering process for construction, and this will take place in early 2010. It is expected that the tendering process will take about six to seven months, so I would expect the forensic science laboratory would start on the Backweston site some time later in 2010. It is all good news.

We are not absolutely sure of that. I wish to revert to the matter of the funding. In budget 2009, €18 million was allocated to upgrade the State forensic laboratory and the State pathology laboratory in advance of the Bill being passed. In the recent Estimates, however, my understanding is that the Minister announced he was delaying the capital works at the forensic laboratory to save €1.3 million. What exactly is the situation on the funding? While the Minister said the good news is that work will commence in 2010, when will it be completed and has he allocated sufficient funding to allow the completion and operation of the new facilities in tandem with completion of the legislation?

We cannot have the database without the legislation. Preparatory work is being done and any money that was allocated earlier had to await the legislation. I explained the delay in the legislation because we needed to get it right in regard to the privacy and human rights issues. It is expected that we will be able to commence the forensic science laboratory in the second half of next year, provided the tendering process goes according to plan.

That is not what I asked. Commencing is fine but what about the money?

Do the moneys not spent for 2009 go back to the Exchequer? Can the Minister explain roughly what amount of money he will have available for the project in 2010 and how far he thinks it will bring us in terms of the provision of that facility? Once the legislation is in place, how long does he envisage before the service will be on stream?

The forensic science laboratory is currently in pretty difficult, cramped circumstances, although it has moved just this week to another location given that it has taken on extra staff in recent years. There is €4.1 million in my Estimate for 2010 in regard to the database, which is the responsibility of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The responsibility for building the forensic science laboratory is the OPW's. I have checked with the OPW and it is a major priority on its list. I understand the OPW has the funding and it is intended to launch the tendering process in early 2010 with a view to completing that over six or seven months and hopefully beginning construction. I am not aware of how long the construction period will be but, obviously, the issue of the database can proceed provided we pass the legislation. I hope I can get the co-operation of the House in that respect.

Garda Reserve.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

8 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of garda reservists appointed to date; his views on the functioning of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46273/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

60 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of the Garda Reserve recruited to date; the stations to which they have been allocated; the number of applicants for the reserve currently in training; if he is satisfied with the rate of recruitment; when he expects that the full complement of 1,500 will be in place; if restrictions have been placed on recruitment to the reserve arising from budgetary restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46186/09]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 8 and 60 together.

At 30 November 2009, there were 484 attested reserve gardaí and there are currently 171 reserve trainees. Details of the stations to which the reserve members were assigned are set out in the following table. The agreed programme for Government has set a target strength for the reserve at 10% of the full-time strength of the force. As the Garda Reserve depends on volunteers who undertake their training and other duties during their free time, it is difficult to predict how many people will commence training in any particular period. However, I assure the House that the Garda Commissioner is continuing to make every effort to reach the recruitment target. In that context, I point out that the moratorium on recruitment and appointments in the public service does not apply to the Garda Reserve, as members are volunteers and do not draw a salary.

Recruitment is ongoing and the Public Appointments Service, PAS, has received more than 1,700 expressions of interest to join the reserve in 2009. The PAS hold interviews on a rolling basis at a range of locations around the country. The ongoing public information campaign to recruit members to the Garda Reserve includes indoor and outdoor awareness raising campaigns and radio promotional interviews, nationally and locally.

The Government is strongly committed to development of the reserve. It has been a singularly successful initiative and I am confident that it will continue to flourish into the future.

Reserve Gardaí on 30/11/2009

Station

Total

Anglesea Street

11

Togher

7

Mayfield

5

Gurranabraher

9

Watercourse Rd.

3

Midleton

4

Mitchelstown

0

Fermoy

2

Mallow

0

Bandon

2

Cobh

1

Clonakilty

4

Macroom

2

Roxboro Road

1

Henry Street

15

Killarney

1

Tralee

3

Tipperary Town

2

Nenagh

1

Templemore

1

Clonmel

4

Cahir

3

Roscrea

3

Carrick-on-Suir

2

Thurles

1

Waterford

16

Tramore

2

Kilkenny

5

Carlow

6

New Ross

1

Wexford

2

Gorey

3

Enniscorthy

2

Bray

4

Arklow

1

Blessington

1

Wicklow

2

Baltinglass

2

Newbridge

4

Naas

2

Celbridge

1

Athy

3

Kildare

5

Tullamore

7

Birr

1

Portlaoise

3

Kells

2

Trim

2

Ashbourne

1

Navan

3

Mullingar

7

Athlone

3

Ennis

8

Tuam

3

Salthill

2

Galway

25

Castlebar

10

Westport

3

Swinford

1

Claremorris

1

Ballina

3

Longford

3

Roscommon

4

Drogheda

8

Ardee

2

Dundalk

5

Cavan Town

3

Monaghan Town

4

Sligo

6

Ballymote

1

Carrick On Shannon

2

Ballybofey

1

Buncrana

1

Letterkenny

10

Pearse St

20

Kevin St

6

Donnybrook

4

Irishtown

1

Kilmainham

4

Store St

7

Bridewell

5

Mountjoy

1

Fitzgibbon St

8

Clondalkin

6

Finglas

8

Lucan

8

Blanchardstown

20

Ballyfermot

4

Ronanstown

1

Santry

6

Raheny

4

Swords

5

Clontarf

4

Coolock

8

Ballymun

10

Balbriggan

5

Whitehall

2

Malahide

2

Howth

4

Crumlin

5

Sundrive Rd

2

Rathmines

4

Terenure

5

Tallaght

10

Rathfarnham

4

Dun Laoghaire

7

Dundrum

1

Shankill

1

Blackrock

6

Total

484

In light of a previous question with reference to the numbers of community gardaí, I can understand why the Minister is most reluctant to engage in target setting. The targets set for the Garda Reserve are wholly out of line with the targets. The promises set by the Minister, Deputy McDowell, have certainly not been fulfilled and I do not detect any activity or enthusiasm on the part of the current Minister to have those targets effected.

Has it been brought to the Minister's attention that, for those Garda reservists who are engaging to very good effect in their community duties in assisting the Garda Síochána, there is a difficulty in regard to medical cover? An injury may be suffered in the course of one's duty but there does not appear to be the same arrangement for a member of the Garda Reserve as for a full member of the Garda Síochána, which is causing some difficulty. If it can be resolved, I urge the Minister to have it resolved.

I am not aware of any difficulties in that respect. If the Deputy has particular information, he might bring it to my attention.

As they are members of the Garda Síochána, albeit reserves, I expect that all the normal back-up available to a normal garda would be available to the reserves. As always with an initiative, it will take some time. To be fair, while there originally had been some reluctance on the part of the main force to accept the reserve, it is now well embedded. When I go about my business, I always ask how they are doing and, to be fair, while there were suggestions that there was a reluctance to assist, that is not the case, they have integrated. It is a great initiative and one I want to support. While targets have been set, they will be met eventually and it will be for the betterment of the community that there are those who are prepared to work for virtually nothing in defence of their areas. We should compliment them on that.

It should be also publicly stated that there is a large number of non-Irish participating. I was in Templemore for the coming out of more than 100 Garda reserves and many of them were non-nationals, something I welcome.

Is there a formal protocol between the Garda Commissioner and the Garda representative organisation in respect of reservists or is their recruitment, functioning and integration done on the basis of tolerance?

It is not done on the basis of tolerance. Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, section 15(5) states that the range of powers and duties of the Garda reserve is a matter for the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána to determine. He has initially determined that the duties of the reserve members shall include station duty, other than care and custody of prisoners, communications room duty, including the monitoring of CCTV, foot patrol accompanied by a full member of the Garda Síochána, static security duty, Garda traffic checkpoint duties, accompanied by a full-time garda and duties at major events such as festivals and major sporting events.

The Minister misunderstood me. I know what the functions are, I asked if there is a formal protocol between the GRA and the commissioner about the functioning and integration of the reservists.

I do not know. If there is, it is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, not for me.

Prison Staff.

Noel Coonan

Question:

9 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prison officers that are serving in each prison here; the number of same that were serving in each prison in 2008 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46254/09]

Current staffing levels and configurations for each of the prisons were established in the context of the change agreement reached with the Prison Officers Association in 2005. The agreement involved substantial changes to staff deployment, which could only be achieved over time. The staffing level for each prison was determined following an analysis of all the tasks that were required to run the individual prison. At present, staffing levels and configurations are quite close to what was envisaged when the agreement was reached with the Prison Officers Association.

The Deputy will appreciate that in a large organisation such as the Irish Prison Service, surpluses and shortfalls in staffing have to be managed on an ongoing basis and there will be short periods where staff levels are either under or above target levels. The staffing levels for each prison at the end of each year are set out in the table circulated with this answer.

In addition to the staff assigned to each of the prisons there are also staff assigned to a range of important support prison services. These include 145 staff assigned to the prison service escort corps, which is responsible for transporting prisoners between prisons and to courts, hospitals and other destinations, 157 staff assigned to the operational support group, which is responsible for security screening and security searching within prisons, 28 staff assigned to the building services division, which is responsible for building and maintenance, and 45 of other prison grade staff that are assigned to tasks related to training, procurement and logistics.

I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that in November 2009, the number of staff serving in the prison service as a whole was 3,417. The equivalent figures in November 2008 were 3,506.5 and for November 2007 the staffing complement was 3,347.5.

Increases in staffing levels, where they occurred, have been related in the main to the opening of new additional prisoner accommodation at these prisons. This includes the opening of new prisoner accommodation at Loughan House and Shelton Abbey in 2008, and Castlerea and Portlaoise in 2009. Other factors that have led to increases in staff numbers on a temporary basis include the practice of initially assigning new recruits to large Dublin prisons for a period before they, or more senior colleagues, are assigned elsewhere in the system. This has led to temporary increases in large Dublin prisons such as Mountjoy and Cloverhill at certain times.

The staffing levels in each prison are affected by a number of factors that include retirements, recruitment and transfers. During 2009, in particular, there was a significantly higher level of retirements than would be expected in a normal year. It is expected that by the end of 2009 approximately 200 staff will have retired from the prison service. This has been offset by the recruitment of 122 recruit prison officers during 2009, which built on significant recruitment that took place in 2008.

For that reason, the prison service has been able to absorb the high levels of retirements during 2009 without an adverse impact on staffing levels.

I am not sure about that.

It is expected that retirements in 2010 will return to levels expected in a normal year of about 100. There are currently 42 recruit prison officers in training and they will be assigned to prisons in January 2010.

I refute the Minister's remarks that the high number of retirements has been offset by recruitment. The imbalance is stark. He says it has not had an adverse effect on the running of the prisons but in the last year there have been 750——

A question please Deputy.

How will the Minister deal with the huge number of prison officers retiring that has not been offset by recruitment, resulting in 750 assaults on prison officers by prisoners in the last year? There is a serious problem and the Minister must measure the way in which he balances the high numbers of retirements with the current moratorium.

In my answer I gave the figures that showed clearly there is an offset between new recruits and people retiring. It is ironic that I am criticised by Fine Gael, who when they were in office produced not one prison space, whereas since this Government came to place we have produced 1,400.

There are a lot more murders now.

This year alone we have put in place 450 prison places. I rest my case.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.