Civil Legal Aid

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

389. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average waiting times persons are experiencing in receiving free legal aid broken down by category such as family law, repossessions and so on; the actions he will take to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33796/17]

The Legal Aid Board provides civil legal aid and advice pursuant to the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2016.

I am conscious that there are significant demands on the Board and that this gives rise to waiting times for certain services at most of the Board’s law centres. However, waiting times have been markedly reduced over the past couple of years due to measures introduced by the Board and the Deputy will be glad to know that the Board’s budget was increased by €4.15m in 2017.

I know that the Board is extremely conscious of the fact that delays in service can lead to further difficulties not just for the client but also for children, the wider family and even the community as well as the courts system. In relation to repossessions, the Deputy will be aware that insolvent persons seeking legal advice in relation to repossession proceedings may be able to avail of such advice through the Abhaile scheme. A person admitted to the Abhaile scheme does not need to wait before they are seen by a solicitor for legal advice. As part of the scheme a novel “Duty Solicitor” service is available at repossession lists at county registrars’ courts. There is no waiting list for this service. Certain matters are dealt with as priority matters which means they receive the next available appointment at the law centre. Such matters include domestic violence, child abduction, child care, and asylum and related matters. All other applications are placed on the waiting list.

An application for civil legal aid and advice can be made at any Legal Aid Board law centre. The Board does not maintain separate waiting lists for each category of case. The following table sets out the waiting times for civil legal services as of the 1st June 2017 by law centre. I would highlight to the Deputy that, in law centres facing significant demand, the Legal Aid Board operates a ‘triage’ approach, which involves giving an applicant a short consultation (45 minutes) for legal advice. Those persons remain on the Board’s waiting list if they require further legal services and the wait time for this is indicated by the second column. The majority of centres do not currently deem it necessary to operate the ‘triage’ approach.

Law Centre

Waiting time for 1st Consultation (no. weeks)

Waiting time for 2nd Consultation (no. weeks)

Athlone

15

24

Blanchardstown

16

0

Castlebar

10

0

Cavan

17

0

Chancery Street

0

0

Clondalkin

19

0

Cork Popes Quay

17

0

Cork South Mall

25

9

Dolphin House

0

0

Dundalk

16

0

Ennis

26

26

Finglas

9

0

Galway Francis St

7

5

Galway Seville House

7

8

Jervis Street

4

43

Kilkenny

23

0

Letterkenny

18

0

Limerick

5

0

Longford

36

17

Monaghan

14

0

Montague Court

5

25

Navan

29

0

Nenagh

29

18

Newbridge

11

0

Portlaoise

11

0

Sligo

13

0

Smithfield

13

22

Tallaght

19

49

Tralee

17

0

Tullamore

4

0

Waterford

14

0

Wexford

16

0

Wicklow

15

0

Prisoners Temporary Release

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

390. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners currently on temporary release, by prison; the type of offence the prisoners were convicted of; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33797/17]

As the Deputy is aware the Irish Prison Service collates and publishes the prisoner population breakdown, including those on temporary release, on a daily basis and this information is available on the Irish Prison Service website. Therefore I can inform the Deputy that the information requested in relation to the total prison population; the number of prisoners, in tabular form, broken down by prison; the capacity of each prison within the State; the percentage occupation of each prison and the number of prisoners currently on temporary release broken down by prison is available on www.irishprisons.ie

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the type of offence which the person on temporary release was convicted of, is set out in the following table.

Table 1. Breakdown by Offence Group 12/07/2017

Offence Group Description

Total

Homicide Offences

1

Sexual Offences

3

Attempts/Threat to Murder, Assaults, Harassments and Related Offences

25

Dangerous or Negligent Acts

12

Kidnapping and Related Offences

1

Robbery, Extortion and Hijacking Offences

6

Burglary and Related Offences

13

Theft and Related Offences

53

Fraud, Deception and Related Offences

16

Controlled Drug Offences

56

Weapons and Explosives Offences

3

Damage to Property and the Environment

4

Public Order and Social Code Offences

3

Road and Traffic Offences

50

Offences against Government, Justice Procedures and Organisation of Crime

7

Offences Not Elsewhere Classified

3

Grand Total

256

On 12 July 2017, there were 256 prisoners (7%) on temporary release across the prison system. This included 13 prisoners who were serving less than 3 months solely for the non-payment of a Court ordered fine and 178 prisoners who were on structured temporary release programmes such as the Community Return Programme or Community Support Scheme. The legislative basis for making decisions on temporary release are fully set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003.

A prisoner may apply through the prison Governor for consideration for temporary release. Their family or their legal representative can also apply for consideration of such a concession. It is very important to note that it does not necessarily follow that a prisoner will receive temporary release even if the recommendation made by the prison authorities and/or therapeutic services is to that effect. Each application is considered on its individual merits and a number of factors are taken into account when making a decision on whether to grant temporary release.

The Deputy will be aware that the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan 2016-2018 and the Joint Prison Service/Probation Service Strategic Plan 2015-2017 includes working towards the objective of ensuring that all prisoners released early from custody are placed on appropriate structured programme of temporary release.

The Community Return Scheme is an initiative whereby carefully selected prisoners, serving sentences between 1 year and 8 years, can be granted reviewable temporary release coupled with a requirement to do community service work such as painting, gardening or graffiti removal in a supervised group setting. The type of work involved is intended to assist the community and the scheme is involved with a large number of charitable organisations and local community groups.

In addition to Community Return, a Community Support Scheme has also been introduced to reduce recidivism rates of short term prisoners by arranging for additional support structures post release and by providing for a more structured form of temporary release.

Garda Warrants

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

391. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of outstanding warrants nationwide on the PULSE system; his views on the number of outstanding warrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33798/17]

I have sought an update from An Garda Síochána in relation to this matter and will contact the Deputy directly when the information is to hand.

Sexual Offences Data

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

392. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons currently supervised in the community under a post release supervision order under Part 5 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001; the number of persons currently in breach of conditions under this Part; the number of cases pending; the number of convictions; if he will provide a regional breakdown of these figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33799/17]

There are 120 persons being supervised by the Probation Service under the conditions of a Post Release Supervision Order as provided for in Part 5 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001. A regional breakdown of this number is illustrated in the following table.

Region

Number

Dublin North and North East

32

Dublin South and Wicklow

24

Midlands and South East

22

South West

19

West and North West (including Westmeath)

23

Total

120

The information the Deputy has requested in respect of cases involving non-compliance with a Supervision Order under Section 33 of the Act is not readily available.

Probation and Welfare Service Staff

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

393. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of probation officers currently stationed in each county; the corresponding figures for the same date in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33800/17]

Probation Officers are assigned on a regional, not county, basis and so the following table provides the breakdown of Probation Officers assigned by region as at May 2016 and May 2017.

Region

May 2016

May 2017

Dublin Region*

(*includes Louth, Meath and Wicklow)

83

91

Midlands & South East

30

31

South West

34

40

West, North West & Westmeath

23

25

170

187

Aside from the Probation Officers in the table above who are assigned on a regional basis, there are other Probation Officers assigned to cover probation work in all prisons nationwide. There were 34 such Probation Officers as at May 2016 and 36 as at May 2017.

Garda Reserve

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

394. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda reserves in each Garda division; and the number for the same date in 2016. [33801/17]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

435. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress his Department has made in doubling the Garda Reserve, as promised in the programme for partnership Government; the timeline for completing this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34686/17]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 394 and 435 together.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the recruitment and training of the Garda Reserve and the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter.

This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.

This plan is progressing well. This year, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 300 Garda Reserves, 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána.

It is regrettable that there has been a substantial reduction in the strength of the Reserve in recent years from a peak of 1,164 in 2013 to 638 as of 31 May 2017. The fall-off arises from a range of factors, not least the lifting in 2014 of the moratorium on recruitment of trainee Gardaí which has affected Reserve numbers in two ways - firstly some 200 serving Reserves have successfully applied to become trainee Gardaí, and secondly, resources in both An Garda Síochána and in the Public Appointment Service have been focused on delivering an accelerated programme of recruitment of full time members of An Garda Síochána. I am sure that the Deputy will agree, notwithstanding the very valuable contribution of Reserve members throughout the country, that it was the right decision, with finite resources, to prioritise the running of recruitment campaigns to replenish the full-time ranks of An Garda Síochána over the last three years. With the plan to reach 15,000 Garda members well on track it was possible for the Commissioner and the Public Appointments Service to undertake a new recruitment campaign for Garda Reserves. That is now in train and received a strong response. This will, allowing for the selection process and necessary training of successful candidates, facilitate a start to be made on strengthening of the Reserve across every Garda Division, in the coming years.

For the Deputy's information I have set out below, as provided by the Commissioner, the strength of the Garda Reserve in each Division from 31 May 2016 and 31 May 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available.

Garda Reserve Strength 31 May 2016 - 31 May 2017

Division

2016

2017

DMR South Central

63

39

DMR North Central

52

40

DMR North

53

49

DMR East

18

12

DMR South

33

23

DMR West

44

27

Waterford

29

21

Wexford

31

20

Tipperary

26

19

Kilkenny/Carlow

31

26

Cork City

59

45

Cork North

21

16

Cork West

19

10

Kerry

31

20

Limerick

50

32

Donegal

25

20

Cavan/Monaghan

15

12

Sligo/Leitrim

26

19

Louth

37

29

Clare

8

6

Mayo

29

22

Galway

38

32

Roscommon/Longford

11

9

Westmeath

18

13

Meath

27

17

Kildare

29

21

Laois/Offaly

23

17

Wicklow

24

22

Total

870

638

Consultancy Contracts

Michael Moynihan

Question:

395. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount of money which was spent by his Department in 2016 on external consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33903/17]

I wish to advise the Deputy that €72,628 was spent by the Department on a small number of external expert consultancies in 2016. It is my Department's policy to use in house resources as much as possible and to restrict the costs as much as possible.

Disability Support Services

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

396. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way his Department is improving services and increasing supports for persons with disabilities during 2017 [34036/17]

As Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, I have responsibility for disability policy coordination, rather than funding and delivery of services.

In this regard, I will be launching the new National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017 - 2021, tomorrow, 14 July. The new Strategy will take a whole of Government approach to improving the lives of people with disabilities both in a practical sense, and also in creating the best possible opportunities for people with disabilities to fulfil their potential. It is intended that it will make a significant difference over its lifetime to the position of people with disabilities in Irish society.

Departmental Funding

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

397. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the investment by his Department since March 2016 in County Louth and parts of east County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34071/17]

Details of funding provided through various schemes administered by the Department of Justice and Equality to projects in County Louth and County Meath in the timeframe specified by the Deputy can be found in the following table.

The Victims of Crime Office fund registered charities, voluntary/community groups and other bodies which provide assistance to victims of crime. The table gives details of organisations located in Louth/Meath who were awarded funding in 2016/17. A number of other national organisations also provide victim support services in Louth/Meath.

Year

Project Name

Location

Amount

2016

Court accompaniment for female victims of domestic violence

Women's Aid Dundalk

Louth

€16,500.00

2016

Court accompaniment for female victims of domestic violence

Drogheda Women's Refuge and Children's Refuge Centre, Louth

€10,000.00

2016

Support for patient victims of crime

Dignity 4Patients, Drogheda, Louth

€10,500.00

2016

Counselling for victims of crime

Dundalk Counselling Centre, Louth

€20,000.00

2016

Court accompaniment for female victims of domestic violence

Meath Women's Refuge, Navan, Meath

€30,000.00

2016

Court accompaniment to male victims of crime

Amen, Navan, Co. Meath

€16,500.00

2017

Court accompaniment for female victims of domestic violence

Women's Aid Dundalk

Louth

€17,500.00

2017

Support for patient victims of crime

Dignity 4Patients, Drogheda

Louth

€11,000.00

2017

Counselling for victims of crime

Dundalk Counselling Centre

Louth

€20,000.00

2017

Court accompaniment for female victims of domestic violence

Meath Women's Refuge, Navan

Meath

€34,000.00

2017

Court accompaniment to male victims of crime

Amen, Navan, Co. Meath

Meath

€23,500.00

2017

Court accompaniment for female victims of domestic violence

Drogheda Women's Refuge and Children's Refuge Centre, Louth

€11,500.00

Under the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2010-2014, Cosc the National Office for the prevention of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence provides funding support to domestic violence perpetrator programmes in Ireland. These programmes are delivered through a combination of non-government organisations and the Probation Service.

The programme with male perpetrators in the North Eastern region entitled North East Domestic Violence Intervention Programme (NEDVIP) is run and managed by the Probation Service in Louth.

Details of the funding being provided to support this programme are included in the following table:

Year

Project Name

Location

Amount

2016

North East Domestic Violence Perpetrator Intervention Programme

North East (Louth/Meath)

€24,000

2017

North East Domestic Violence Perpetrator Intervention Programme

North East (Louth/Meath)

€27,000

Grants have been provided to the following Garda Youth Diversion Projects, which are administrated by the Irish Youth Justice Service:

Year

Project Name

Location

Amount

2016

2017

High Voltage

Cox’s Demesne

Louth

€82,125

€61,678

2016

2017

Team

Muirhevnamor Community Youth Service

Louth

€111,375

€83,556

2016

2017

Boyne

Youth Work Ireland

Louth

€78,926

€54,107

2016

2017

Cable

Foróige

Louth

€50,051

€56,400

The following project was funded via the Young Persons Probation Project:

Year

Project Name

Location

Amount

2016

2017

Cox’s Demesne

Cox’s Demesne

Louth

€110,625

€75,000

The following funding was disbursed via national funding for the integration of migrants:

Year

Project Name

Location

Amount

2016

Meath County Council

Meath

€76,780.98

2017

Meath County Council

Meath

€98,713.50

The following funding was disbursed via the Integration and Employment of Migrants (European Social Fund Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning):

Year

Project Name

Location

Amount

2017

Cultúr Celebrating Diversity Ltd

Meath

€22,000

The following funding was disbursed via the Community Integration Fund:

2017

Culture Connect

Louth, Drogheda

€5,000

2017

Dee Hub

Louth, Ardee

€5,000

2017

Drogheda Homeless Aid

Louth, Drogheda

€2,310

2017

African Women's Development Initiative

Meath, Navan

€4,365

Other funding:

Year

Project Name

Location

Amount

2016 and 2017

Travellers Initiatives Navan - Meath Travellers Group

Meath

€164,890

2016 and 2017

Jobmatters Employability Service

Meath

€46,068

Closed-Circuit Television Systems Provision

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

398. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on new investment in CCTV in 2017; and the Garda divisions in which new CCTV facilities are either being directly provided or their provision is being supported during the year. [34082/17]

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the operation of the Garda CCTV network.

I have asked the Garda Commissioner for the specific information requested and when it is to hand I will inform the Deputy accordingly.

Garda Districts

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

399. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the review of the boundaries of garda districts and the dispersement of garda stations. [34083/17]

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, at the request of the Policing Authority, is carrying out a review of the dispersal and use of resources available to An Garda Síochána in the delivery of policing services to local communities. In this context, I understand that the Authority has informed the Inspectorate that the review should take account of:

- the changing environments in rural, developing urban and suburban areas;

- the views of local communities;

- the allocation to and deployment of Garda resources at the local policing level, including the use of the Garda Reserve, Garda facilities and Garda equipment; and

- relevant recommendations made in previous Inspectorate reports.

It is clear that a comprehensive review is being envisaged by the Authority, including a consultative process with local communities, and I have been advised by the Authority that the review is expected to be completed within the first half of 2018.

Road Traffic Offences Data

Robert Troy

Question:

400. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that have been caught driving while over the legal alcohol limit in the category 50 mg to 80 mg in view of the €200 fine and three penalty points in each of the years 2011 to 2016 and to date in 2017, in tabular form. [34127/17]

I have requested the information the Deputy is seeking from An Garda Síochána and will contact the Deputy directly when this information is to hand.

Garda Policing Plans

Robert Troy

Question:

401. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to allow An Garda Síochána to hire civilian staff in order to facilitate redeployment of gardaí to front line duties; and if he will consider a business case made by Mullingar Garda station for same. [34146/17]

The most recent available figure for the number of civilians working in An Garda Síochána is for 31 May 2017, at which point there were 2,110 civilian staff members working throughout the organisation carrying out senior management, administrative and technical roles.

As part of its Five Year Reform and High-level Workforce Plan for An Garda Síochána, the Government has agreed an overall vision for a Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 to include 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Garda Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. This very substantial investment in personnel is driven by our commitment to ensure all citizens have the reassurance of a visible, responsive and effective policing service. The projected number of 4,000 civilians will effectively double the current figure and represents a medium-term target of a Garda organisation 20% comprised of civilians. That will bring An Garda Síochána, currently 14% comprised of civilians, more in line with international norms and ensure that trained Gardaí are not engaging in administrative and technical duties which could be done by suitably qualified civilian staff.

The 20% target will be achieved through a twin-track approach of, firstly, a “civilian by default” policy to be adopted in relation to the filling of all new posts other than operational policing posts and for non-operational policing posts that become vacant and, secondly, the redeployment of Gardaí and backfilling by suitably qualified civilians where necessary. In its 'Changing Policing in Ireland' report, the Garda Inspectorate has estimated that there may be up to 1,500 Gardaí currently in such posts and the Government’s plan aims to return as many of these Gardaí as possible to front-line duties over the next five years. With this in mind, the Garda Commissioner, in conjunction with the Policing Authority, has been requested to identify posts suitable for redeployment and to prepare a 5 year plan for reaching the 20% medium term target.

Funding for the recruitment of up to 500 civilians has been provided in Budget 2017 to facilitate the Commissioner in addressing capacity and critical skills gaps across the organisation including in corporate supports, change management, human resources and financial management at the national, regional and Divisional level. These appointments are intended to facilitate deeper civilianisation in the coming years.

To date, the Policing Authority (with the consent of the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform) has approved 137 of these positions including two new senior posts of Executive Director Strategy and Change Management and Executive Director Legal and Compliance. The Government has also agreed in principle to the positions of a Chief Information Officer. The majority of the positions sanctioned are in the areas of ICT, Human Resources, Governance and Strategy, Legal and Compliance, and Finance. 43 of the initial 137 sanctioned posts will go towards back filling vacancies created by the redeployment of Garda members to policing duties. Garda management has indicated that some 163 of the total 500 civilians to be recruited this year will lead to redeployment opportunities. This level of commitment in the first year is very welcome and it is expected that the quantum of redeployments will increase in 2018 and beyond.

The Garda Commissioner has statutory responsibility for recruitment and is working with the Public Appointments Service to fill these sanctioned posts. In addition there is ongoing engagement in accordance with the statutory framework between Garda management, the Policing Authority, my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to sanctioning further posts to meet identified business needs across the organisation and draw down the funding that is available for up to 500 additional civilians this year.

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources. I am informed by the Commissioner that in regard to the deployment of Garda personnel, a distribution model is used which takes into account all relevant factors including population, crime trends and the policing needs of each individual Garda Division. It is the responsibility of the Divisional Officer to allocate personnel within his/her Division.

Garda Accommodation

Robert Troy

Question:

402. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will sanction the necessary funding to carry out the much needed renovation for Castlepollard Garda station. [34147/17]

The Deputy will appreciate that the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. This includes identifying and progressing any necessary remedial or refurbishment works required at individual stations. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.

The Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021, which is an ambitious 5 year Programme based on agreed Garda priorities that will benefit over thirty locations around the country, does not include provision for development at Castlepollard station.

I have, however, been informed by the Garda authorities that, following a request from An Garda Síochána, the OPW has assessed the station with a view to establishing works required to deal with the accommodation issues and has submitted a schedule of works to local management at Castlepollard Garda station for consideration.

Data Protection Commissioner

James Lawless

Question:

403. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to expand the office of the Data Protection Commissioner over 2018 (details supplied). [34191/17]

The Government has recognised the clear imperative of having a well funded independent and internationally respected data protection regulator, particularly in view of the Data Protection Commissioner's leading role in regulating the data processing activities in Europe of many of the world’s leading technology companies which have their European headquarters in Ireland. 

The existence of a professional and competent data protection authority has been acknowledged as a critical enabler to the development and growth of our digital economy and Ireland's continuing attractiveness as a location for foreign direct investment by the technology multinationals.

The Government has publicly committed to continuing to provide the resources necessary for the DPC to perform its globally significant role, which will become increasingly prominent under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  

The recruitment of staff is ongoing and the DPC staffing level currently stands at 65. The current workforce plan anticipates staffing levels at circa 130 to 150 in 2018 which will be critical to enabling the DPC to perform its considerably increased functions under the GDPR, particularly its greatly expanded role at a European level. My Department will seek sanction for the increased staffing through the normal estimates process.

The DPC's current projected staffing needs do not take into account the extensive impact on the DPC of the proposed new ePrivacy Regulation and any further resource requirements arising from the detailed assessment, currently ongoing, of the organisational impact of the GDPR.

Legal Services Regulation

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

404. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the implementation of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015; the timeframe for future commencements under the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34242/17]

The setting-up of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, whose establishment day was set by Order for 1 October 2016, has been underway since July 2016. At that time, Parts 1 and 2 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 were commenced to get the new Authority underway, particularly in terms of its nomination and appointment with the necessary motions of approval of the Houses of the Oireachtas. As part of the commencement of Part 2 of the 2015 Act, the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Honorable Society of the King's Inns furnished the Legal Services Regulatory Authority with copies of their professional codes as required within one month of the Authority's establishment under section 23(6)(a). In December 2016 sections 118 to 120 of the 2015 Act were commenced to enable the conduct of public consultations and reports by the new Regulatory Authority within the statutory periods concerned. These relate to Legal Partnerships (between solicitors and barristers or barristers and barristers - solicitors can already operate partnerships), Multi-Disciplinary Practices (where legal practitioners can provide their services together with other non-legal services providers) and certain restrictions on the work of barristers. The Authority, for which initial office accommodation has been provided by my Department along with the secondment of an officer at Assistant Principal level, also appointed an Interim Chief Executive on 1 January 2016. It is currently conducting a public recruitment campaign for a long-term Chief Executive. The Authority has met seven times since its inaugural meeting on 26 October 2016 with its most recent meeting on 11 July 2017. Funding support of €1 million was provided to the new Authority by my Department in December 2016. This is being done on a strictly recoupable basis as the Authority will be self-funding by levy with a similar allocation available to the Authority under my Department's Vote for this year.

On 31 March 2017, the Regulatory Authority presented respective reports under sections 118 and 119 to the then Minister for Justice and Equality and these have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. These reports, which were completed under very tight statutory deadlines, are historical as the first formal outputs of the Authority in the discharge of its legislative functions. They are also available along with minutes of meetings and other information on the web page of the new Regulatory Authority which is under development at www.LSRA.ie. On 6 April 2017 the Authority commenced its public consultations process under section 120 of the Act about certain restrictions on the work of barristers - these arise with regard to the holding of clients monies and to the direct provision of services to a client in relation to contentious matters. More recently, the Authority has submitted its first Annual Report which, under the relevant terms of the Act, covers its activities for the quarter since establishment on 1 October to the end of 2016 and this has also been laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

Alongside these developments, the working focus right now is on the managed roll-out of the Authority's remaining functions with the matching development of its organisational capacities and office and staffing resources. This includes, under Part 10 of the 2015 Act, the introduction of a more transparent legal costs regime and the parallel transition, within the courts system, of the Office of the Taxing-Master to that of the Legal Costs Adjudicators; the establishment of a Roll of Practising Barristers under Part 9; the introduction of new regulations for the advertising of legal services under section 218 and the separate introduction, by my Department, of Pre-Action Protocols in medical negligence cases under Part 15 for which the relevant consultations by my Department are about to begin. Following these steps, the key structural reforms of Part 6 of the Act relating to public complaints, professional conduct and the appointment of the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, will be commenced.

Earlier this month, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority completed its independent recruitment process for the appointment of a full-time Chief Executive. I understand that the relevant practical arrangements are now in train and that the successful candidate will be announced and appointed by the Authority in September. I can also confirm that representatives of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority have again met with senior officials of my Department on 10 July 2017 including by way of providing an update on work that is being done towards the phased sequencing and commencement of the remaining provisions of the Legal Services Act. Today, I am also meeting the Chair of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, Dr. Don Thornhill. As part of our discussions, we will review the work that has been done by the Authority during the nine months since its appointment in October including its appointment of an Interim Chief Executive and the public consultations and reports that it has been obliged to undertake within the strict deadlines that apply under the 2015 Act and have been outlined earlier in this Reply.

The Chairperson and members of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, its Interim Chief Executive and my Department continue to work closely to ensure that we can successfully coordinate the identification of the necessary steps and commencements by the Department, and the delivery, by the Authority as the new independent statutory regulator, of the various remaining provisions concerned. While it remains the intention that the Legal Services Regulatory Authority will come into substantive regulatory mode at the earliest opportunity, the phased start-up of its various functions will continue to need careful project management and the ongoing identification, in conjunction with the Authority, of the more specific delivery dates for the respective functions involved. Indeed, I am aware that the Authority is giving strong priority to these aspects. In light of this week's meetings and respecting the Authority's independence in the exercise of its functions, I am confident that this is something that will take place over the coming weeks and will be brought to fruition in conjunction with the appointment of the Authority's newly recruited full-time Chief Executive.

EU Regulations

Declan Breathnach

Question:

405. Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the EU ESTA proposal; if he has discussed it with his UK counterpart; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34246/17]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to him of 27th June 2017 (Parliamentary Question No. 291) in which I stated the following:

"A proposal to establish a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and amend several impacted EU Regulations was put forward by the European Commission on 16 November 2016. The proposal is under examination in the relevant EU working party.

An exchange of views on this proposal has taken place among Ministers of the EU member States at JHA Council level. However, it should be noted that the proposal builds upon the measures in the Schengen acquis that concern the crossing of borders and in which Ireland (and the UK) do not participate. Therefore, Ireland (along with the UK) are not taking part in the adoption of this Regulation and are not bound by it or subject to its application."

Valuation Office

Michael McGrath

Question:

406. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason a new chair of the Valuation Office was appointed without the post being advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34262/17]

Since the Valuation Office (which is headed by the statutory Commissioner of Valuation) does not have a Board, I will take it that the Deputy is referring to the Valuation Tribunal. The Valuation Tribunal is an independent statutory body which hears appeals against decisions of the Commissioner of Valuation on the valuation and revaluation of commercial properties for rating purposes under the Valuation Acts, 2001 to 2015. The Valuation Office (and the associated Valuation Tribunal) came under the remit of my Department with effect from 1 January 2016.

Schedule 2 of the Valuation Act 2001 provides that the Minister "shall from time to time as occasion requires appoint a member of the Tribunal to be chairperson". As the term of appointment of the current Chairperson of the Valuation Tribunal will expire on 30 July 2017, it was deemed prudent to appoint an experienced serving member of the Tribunal as Chairperson. It might be noted that this proposed appointment was recommended by the outgoing Chairperson in accordance with the provisions of the Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards. The appointment of an experienced member of the Tribunal as Chairperson is particularly appropriate having regard to the anticipated impending extra workload for the Tribunal arising from the ongoing National Revaluation Programme and the establishment of a dedicated Revisions Unit in the Valuation Office.

The Chairperson Designate of the Valuation Tribunal, Ms Carol O'Farrell, who is a currently serving member, had an engagement with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality yesterday (12 July 2017) in advance of her proposed appointment as chairperson. It is expected that Ms O'Farrell will serve as Chairperson of the Tribunal from 31 July 2017 until her current term as an ordinary member of the Tribunal expires on 20 June 2018.

The Deputy may wish to note that it is anticipated that a number of vacancies as ordinary members of the Valuation Tribunal are expected to arise later in 2017 and these will be advertised for expressions of interest via www.stateboards.ie

Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service Remit

Michael McGrath

Question:

407. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason appointments to the International Protection Appeals Tribunal have not been made; when he expects appointments to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34263/17]

The International Protection Act 2015, provides for transitional measures for existing Tribunal Members from the date of establishment of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT), Section 71(7) refers. I am information by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that there are currently 21 members of the IPAT in situ.

As provided for under Section 62(4) of the International Protection Act 2015, the appointment by the Minister of a Member of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) shall be made after the Public Appointments Service has selected them for appointment to the position, following the holding of a competition under section 47 of the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004. A competition for Part Time Members of the Tribunal was held by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) in March 2017, and my Department was notified in June of the outcome of the competition by PAS to enable INIS to move to engage with the successful applicants for training and recruitment. Groups from this competition are now being invited on a phased basis to indicate their preference for required training dates. INIS has written to the first batch of candidates in this regard and the first training session will take place later this week. Further sessions for new Members have been scheduled for September, and later in 2017. Officials in my Department will be writing to the next group of candidates in due course with arrangements for training and appointments.

It is intended to hold the competitions for the three Full-Time Members of the Tribunal and for the Chairperson of the Tribunal together, following a vacancy in the Chairperson position since March 2017. In the interim, the position of Chairperson is being filled by one of the two Deputy Chairpersons of the Tribunal, as provided for under Section 62(8) of the International Protection Act 2015.

Betting Legislation

Catherine Murphy

Question:

408. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the minimum age of persons to be able to place a bet at the Tote; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34273/17]

The responsibility for the Totalisator Act 1929 rests with the Minister for Finance. However, I can inform the Deputy that, with the agreement of the Minister for Finance, it is proposed to introduce a minimum age of 18 to place a bet on the Tote in the forthcoming Civil Law and Courts (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017. No minimum age exists at present.