Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Proposed Legislation

Jim O'Callaghan


1. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to amend the Succession Act 1965 to ensure that perpetrators or their families cannot benefit in cases of familicide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12314/19]

The Minister will be aware of the bravery of Mary Coll and Jacqueline Connolly in speaking out about the tragedy which befell their family. The testament to their bravery is truly remarkable. I think he will agree it demands a comprehensive response on the part of the State. As Alan Hawe was the last to die, the laws of succession currently mean that Clodagh Hawe's family faces a number of potential claims against the family's estate. What action has the Minister taken to address this issue?

I thank the Deputy for his question on this sensitive and important issue. Regrettably, we have become all too aware of issues connected with familicide as a result of appalling and tragic events recently which have been discussed in the public domain. I would like, at the outset, to take this opportunity once again to express my sincere condolences to the Coll family on the tragic loss of Clodagh, Liam, Niall and Ryan. I extend those condolences to other families who have been affected in such devastating circumstances.

As Deputy Collins will be aware, my Department is working with the Office of the Attorney General to finalise amendments to Deputy O'Callaghan's Private Members' Bill on the prevention of benefit from homicide. As the Deputy will appreciate, there are a number of complex legal issues to be addressed in the amendments, which require thorough examination by experts in this field of law. I am also aware that the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality will engage in pre-legislative scrutiny on that Bill on 27 March. I look forward to receiving the committee's draft report, and any recommendations it may have, in due course.

As Deputy Collins has acknowledged, the provisions of Deputy O'Callaghan's Bill do not extend to the circumstances which have arisen in the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her family. As I have already announced, following my engagement with the Coll family, I am putting in place arrangements for a study to be conducted in relation to such cases. The study will be carried out to determine the most appropriate multi-agency protocols and supports, as well as any legislative or other changes that may assist in cases of familicide. The study will also examine the experience of domestic homicide reviews in other jurisdictions and make any recommendations that may be deemed appropriate. The terms of reference for the study will be finalised shortly. I hope to proceed with the appointment of the person to lead the study as soon as possible.

I have also asked officials in my Department to examine options in relation to the succession-related aspects in the context of amendments to Deputy O'Callaghan's Private Members' Bill in consultation with the Attorney General's office.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

This is a complex area of the law and I want to ensure that we avoid any unintended or unforeseen consequences. Nonetheless, if the matter can be addressed through an amendment to that Bill it is my intention to bring any necessary proposals to Government as a matter of priority.

As I mentioned, my Department is already engaged in consultations with the Attorney General's office on possible reform options. In this context, I would of course welcome any input from the joint committee as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny of Deputy O'Callaghan's Private Members Bill and I look forward to co-operation from colleagues across both Houses in progressing this matter.

The Minister will be aware that the Coll family has specifically requested that the Succession Act of 1965 be updated to address the lacuna that exists with regard to murder-suicide. He referenced the Bill my colleague, Deputy O'Callaghan, has put forward, the Civil Liability (Amendment)(Prevention of Benefits from Homicide) Bill 2017, which is currently on Committee Stage. As the Minister knows, the Bill is a recommendation of the Law Reform Commission and it predates the peculiarities of the case we have been discussing. This has been a high-profile yet extremely sensitive case, which has been discussed on a number of occasions on the Claire Byrne programme and by the family members on live television, which people should not have to do. Can we get a categorical assurance from the Minister that every effort will be made to ensure that the passage of this Bill will not be delayed unduly for any reason whatsoever?

I wish to assure Deputy Collins, the House and the public that I share his concern but this is a most complex area of law. I am very anxious to ensure that there are no unintended or unforeseen consequences. It is important to consider the matter in the wider context than just the recent case which has been discussed in this House. For example, one could possibly imagine a similar case arising in the circumstances of long-term domestic violence where natural justice and public sympathies might lie with the perpetrator rather than the victim. Another example worthy of consideration is where a perpetrator had a child from a previous relationship and the rights of that child need to be considered. I merely give these examples to illustrate the need for careful legal analysis before we pass any law.

Notwithstanding that, I assure Deputy Collins that a number of options are under consideration. One possible course of action might be to amend the 1965 Succession Act to provide that, in cases such as these, the joint tenants of property would be deemed to have held the property immediately prior to their deaths as tenants in common. I assure the House that there is no stalling of legislation here, there is no undue delay, rather there are complex issues. I am sure Deputy O'Callaghan will acknowledge that.

The Minister will also be aware that the family of Clodagh Hawe made a number of other requests. They have requested amendments to the Coroners Act and that a special investigation unit for familicide and family annihilation be set up. They have also asked that information gathered in the course of an investigation be shared with the next of kin as expeditiously as possible. They have also proposed that, at the conclusion of an inquest in a case of familicide, the book of evidence be published. Have these requests been given careful consideration? They are complex requests, as we know, and the whole area is quite detailed, as the Minister said. This is against the backdrop of the fact that, since 2000, there have been 27 cases similar to this and involving murder-suicide. Could the Minister give a comment about the other requests the Hawe family have made?

I assure the Deputy, bearing in mind those 27 cases he refers to, that this is an issue which will be the subject matter of research and I hope to appoint a chair and committee of experts shortly. Many of the issues that were raised in the course of a meeting with the Coll family in my office centred around changes to the legislation. I have already assured the House that I am acting on Deputy O'Callaghan's Bill and the Succession Act. I wish to acknowledge the Deputy's drafting of that Bill. I assure the House that we must tread very carefully having regard to unforeseen or unintended consequences. One of the issues which the family raised with me was the need to have a meeting with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. That meeting took place last week and I believe the family found the meeting useful and constructive. It provided some clarity on aspects of the case. We are also looking at coroners' legislation.

I am not sure if the specific requests of the family require extensive legal change other than the Bill under discussion. Changes may be required in case management, practice, procedure and protocols. I am keen to have all the issues that were put to me in that meeting are addressed.

Domestic Homicide

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire


2. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if legislation will be introduced to provide for domestic homicide reviews as have been introduced in the UK (details supplied). [12167/19]

Tá an dá cheist ceangailte i slite. Tá go leor cainte agus díospóireachta le cúpla seachtain anuas faoi chás uafásach Clodagh Hawe agus a teaghlach. Roinnt de na rudaí a bhíothas ag iarraidh ná an Bille Cróinéirí (Leasú) 2018, a bhfuil an Teachta Collins tar éis déileáil leis, aistriú reachtaíochta, agus maoiniú. Bhí ceisteanna ann faoi cé a fhaigheann maoiniú fresin. Ceann de na rudaí a bhí á bplé ná go bhfuil gá le hathbhreithniú maidir le dúnmharaithe a tharlaíonn sa bhaile. Táimid láidir den tuairim go bhfuil gá leis sin. Táim ag súil go dtógfaidh an Rialtas sin ar bord agus go gcuirfidh sé reachtaíocht ar bun cosúil leis an reachtaíocht atá ann i Sasana.

I thank the Deputy for his question and I assure him that I am giving careful consideration to the issue. I have been advised by the Garda Commissioner that the Garda National Protective Services Bureau is currently developing new policies and procedures to inform its approach to domestic homicide reviews in An Garda Síochána.  It is envisaged that these reviews will examine the sufficiency of Garda policies in this area, their interactions with other external agencies and with the individuals and family concerned.

The reviews will be a separate exercise to the investigation of the domestic homicide and their purpose is to serve as a lessons learned review to facilitate better practice in the approach to domestic abuse. This is a useful and necessary practice and will assist An Garda Síochána in seeking to continuously improve their approach to domestic abuse.

As the Deputy is aware, a range of other agencies may be involved in such cases in addition to An Garda Síochána.  As I announced following my recent meeting with the Coll family, my Department is currently preparing terms of reference for a study on the support needs of family members where a murder-suicide has occurred.  As I have said, I envisage this study also examining the process of domestic homicide reviews and experience to date in other jurisdictions, with a view to making recommendations in relation to their application in this jurisdiction. One such recommendation may include proposed legislative changes. I look forward to engaging further with the House in relation to the recommendations arising from this study, which will be carried out by a person with appropriate experience and expertise.

Tá an-suim agam sa mhéid atá ráite ag an Aire. Tá sé cuibhseach nua i gcomhthéacs an mhéid atá ráite aige cheana.

Deputy McDonald had two asks when she raised this case in the Dáil a number of weeks ago. The first was that the Minister meet the family of Clodagh Hawe. I acknowledge he has done that. The second was about the need for legislation governing domestic homicide reviews. That is provided for under British legislation which will be extended to the North after public consultation. It is vitally important. The Minister has made reference to the processes that An Garda Síochána has put in place. That is not based in statute and is not automatically multi-agency.

I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say. It sounds to me that he has an open mind to legislative change that would put in place something similar to what exists in Britain. If that is the case, and the Minister confirms that, it would be welcome. What is the timescale for this study on support needs that might give rise to such a recommendation?

As I said in reply to Deputy Collins, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to engage face to face with members of the Coll family and listen to them outline their experience and their suggestions arising therefrom. I am anxious to broaden that and involve research that includes other families and their experiences over the past number of years.

It could well be that legislative change will be required here. That is why my Department and I are closely monitoring developments in other jurisdictions, particularly in England and Wales. In those jurisdictions, a domestic homicide review is a locally conducted, multi-agency review of the circumstances in which the death of a person aged 16 years or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, neglect or abuse. These reviews were introduced in legislation in Britain which came into force in April 2011. The purpose is not to reinvestigate the death, or indeed to apportion blame, but to establish what lessons are to be learned from the domestic homicide about the way in which the local professionals and organisations work.

I agree that there are lessons we can learn from other jurisdictions and we are doing that.

Tá sé ceart go mbeadh muid ag féachaint ar dlínsí eile. The need for a domestic homicide review is a long-standing demand of Sinn Féin and other organisations such as Women's Aid. The 27 cases of familicide that the Minister and Deputy Collins referred to are to the fore of our minds but they cannot be separated from a wider picture of serious issues of domestic violence and murders. Nine of ten murdered women are killed by someone who knows them. Half of them are killed by a current or former partner. Some 61% are killed in their homes and there have been 225 of those cases since 1996 as of November last.

This is a serious issue and I hope the Minister recognises there is a need for legislation in this area. There is also a need for this to be based on a multi-agency basis. Organisations such as Tusla have a central role to play in any such legislation. Can the Minister give us a timeline as to when all this will be completed? He indicated that he saw value in other legislative provisions. When can we expect the recommendations to that effect to be made, if indeed they will be made?

I ask the Deputy to accept that this is obviously complex and, therefore, time-consuming. What An Garda Síochána is doing in terms of its review of homicides involves experts on the force and in the Central Statistics Office, CSO, ensuring that the information and data acquired is accurate and robust. I acknowledge that there is evidence of improvement in the recording process and in data quality. I agree with Deputy Ó Laoghaire that more work needs to be done to ensure a consistent statistical product. An Garda Síochána continues to work with the CSO.

With regard to outside agencies, it is important that we look at international best practice in this regard. The Northern Ireland Department of Justice recently concluded a public consultation on a proposed model for the introduction of domestic homicide reviews. Here, we will have the advantage of looking at this alongside experiences and developments in England and Wales. I am very keen that we act on this without delay.

Brexit Issues

Jim O'Callaghan


3. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the need to update the regulations that govern the jurisdiction of courts in civil and commercial matters following the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12315/19]

This issue relates to the Brussels Convention on civil jurisdiction. The Brussels regulation provides for jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. After 29 March, there will be considerable uncertainty as to how civil jurisdiction will operate. As a result, we need clarity in respect of the issues. What is the current position regrading the continuity of jurisdiction for civil and commercial matters after 29 March?

The question is based on consideration on the part of Deputy Niall Collins of a no-deal Brexit. The Government remains firmly of the view that the best and only way to ensure an orderly UK withdrawal from the EU is for the withdrawal agreement to be ratified. Debates in this regard are under way in other jurisdictions as we speak. Nonetheless, in view of the ongoing uncertainty in the UK, my Department has been planning for every scenario, but particularly for a no-deal or worst-case scenario of the type to which the Deputy refers.

By way of background, there are a number of EU regulations that set down the jurisdiction rules which apply in the civil and commercial area. The Deputy will appreciate these matters are quite legally technical and persons who consider they may be impacted will likely require legal advice. The key instrument here is the Brussels I regulation on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. However, there are regulations, not falling within the justice sphere, that also deal with jurisdiction, for example, Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 on the Community trademark. These instruments are couched in broad terms and, depending on content, it is for individual member states to make them work within their legal system.

On the rules that will apply to the UK in the event that EU regulations no longer apply, the Deputy is aware that since the late 1980s international jurisdiction in cases concerning Ireland and the UK in civil and commercial matters has been governed by the 1968 convention on jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, which is generally known as the Brussels Convention. In the event of a disorderly Brexit, the Brussels I rules would no longer apply as between the EU 27 and the UK. The governing legal framework would then be a mix of domestic law and international agreements.

I thank the Minister. We all know and accept that Ireland did not vote for Brexit but we must deal with the consequences. If the UK is no longer a party to the recast Brussels regulation or is not a signatory to similar conventions, such as the Lugano Convention, it will be more difficult for judgments in Ireland to be enforced in the UK or vice versa. There is also potential for conflict regarding which court will have jurisdiction on cross-border UK-EU disputes. Brexit will mean an additional court process will be required to be undertaken before suing defendants who reside in the UK, as leave of the Irish High Court will have to be obtained. The Minister stated that this is complex, and we all know and appreciate this, and that the entire situation is fluid given that Westminster is debating it today and there will be a number of votes on it this week. Have the Minister or his colleagues in government engaged with their UK colleagues regarding the intended available courses of action that may have to be taken?

I assure the Deputy that, at official and ministerial level, these issues have been the subject matter of discussion. I met the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, on a number of occasions and we have discussed how best to deal with these issues. However, I need to make clear that the general enforcement of UK judgments in Ireland will be governed by the rules that apply to third countries because the UK will be out of the European Union. In practice, therefore, application of these common law rules will mean that UK parties seeking enforcement of judgments will have to issue proceedings seeking an Irish judgment in the terms of the foreign judgment before being able to obtain any enforcing measure. This is technically challenging. While many Government agencies have been most active in ensuring that our large and small commercial entities are Brexit ready, it is an inevitable consequence of a disorderly Brexit that litigation in the civil area may become more difficult for such entities. This is a matter over which the Government has very little control because Ireland is not free to enter bilateral arrangements with the UK on jurisdiction rules that will apply between ourselves in civil and commercial matters. As stated, it would be prudent for anybody contemplating litigation against a UK defendant to seek legal advice on the options available to him or her in the event there is a disorderly Brexit on 29 March.

As Ireland has a land border between the UK and the EU, this will create problems unique to the island, which the Minister will appreciate. The issue will be particularly acute in the Border region. Areas such as intellectual property, data protection, competition law, employment law and other regulated sectors that are subject to EU-wide legislation are much more likely to be impacted by Brexit. As a result, these issues are likely to be prioritised following the UK's departure. However, the uniqueness of the Border will likely generate unique issues to be resolved and it will be up to Irish officials to bring them to the fore at EU level. Will the Minister and the Government commit to the development of an early-warning system, particularly in the area of cross-border litigation?

It is absolutely essential that we continue the work being done by a number of agencies and business organisations under the banner of ensuring that people are Brexit ready. In the area of rules of jurisdiction and, as specifically mentioned by the Deputy, civil and commercial issues, there are a number of challenges. It will be necessary, for example, to seek leave of the High Court or Circuit Court, as appropriate, to have proceedings served in another jurisdiction. Such cases would include those where the action relates perhaps to land in Ireland, in the Border area or any area, and the action is founded on a tort committed in Ireland or the action affects a contract made in Ireland and, of course, governed by Irish law. In other cases it may be necessary to bring the action before a court in the United Kingdom, including in Northern Ireland. This is not an area in which the EU has exclusive competence and it is not possible to enter into a bilateral agreement with the UK as regards arrangements for jurisdiction. My advice is to ensure that there is a proper and adequate information campaign, that the Government has a role to play in this regard and that persons contemplating legal action after 29 March do so on the basis of legal advice available to them.

Taxi Licences

Seán Sherlock


4. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to reports of a so-called scam to obtain taxi licences by persons who are alleged to have no legal status here. [12011/19]

I merely wish to raise an issue that was articulated by the journalist Paul Williams on 6 March. He stated in the article that gardaí uncovered evidence of a major scam in which 180 non-EU nationals obtained taxi licences using fraudulent public service vehicles applications despite having no legal status in this country.

He further stated that the Garda National Immigration Bureau, GNIB, searched several residential addresses across Dublin in which it was suspected false documentation including SPSV applications were being produced as part of a massive immigration fraud. What is the Minister's perspective on this matter? Is he satisfied that measures are being taken to adequately deal with issues of this nature?

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, of my Department that on 5 March 2019 the Garda National Immigration Bureau conducted searches of ten residential properties in the Lucan and north inner city areas as part of an ongoing investigation into immigration fraud related to taxi licensing. Officials from the Garda carriage office, the National Transport Authority, INIS and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection are also involved in this ongoing investigation and participated in the multi-agency day of action.

This was the latest phase of an investigation entitled Operation Vantage in which GNIB has, to date, uncovered a total of 134 cases where a PSV licenceholder or PSV applicant is the subject of ongoing investigation and the immigration status of the individual is of concern. Of those cases, 64 investigations have been finalised by the GNIB and forwarded to INIS for consideration of revocation of the immigration permission of the persons concerned. Of those investigations, 55 have been examined by INIS and 25 deportation proceedings have commenced to date. Several arrests have been made and a number of persons have been or are in the process of being deported.

I am advised that as a result of the searches conducted on 5 March a further 15 people have been identified for investigation where marriages of convenience and fraud are suspected. Seven people were found to be in the State without immigration permission and are now subject to immigration controls. The immigration status of these persons is being reviewed by INIS. In addition, I am advised that a number of PSV licences are now being considered for revocation and that following last week's operation a number of taxi plates and vehicle permissions have been seized.

Transport for Ireland operates a mobile phone app devised by the National Transport Authority which enables the public to check that a vehicle or person is registered and to report irregularities, acting as an assurance to users of taxi services. I encourage people to use the app, which is free of charge.

I thank the Minister for his reply. He outlined that there are 64 cases in which revocation is a possibility or probability and that 35 deportations are pending. Although the operation is geographically aligned to the Dublin metropolitan area, is there a concern regarding more widespread potential immigration fraud and usage of false licences? Is there any intelligence to suggest that such practices may also be taking place in other parts of the country?

The investigation is ongoing. As I stated, 134 cases have been identified to date and, of these, 64 investigations have been finalised and forwarded to INIS for consideration. In some cases, licences or immigration permission have been revoked. I do not currently have information for the Deputy as to the extent of the investigation and whether it is specific to the capital city. However, I am mindful that these matters are still under Garda investigation and I will not speculate further. I am happy to inquire as to whether there are grounds for the investigation being placed on a broader footing than currently appears to be the case.

I welcome the response of the Minister. My understanding from that response is that INIS is recommending deportation in the 64 cases that have been sent to it. People who come to this country must abide by the law. There are taxi drivers who ply their trade day in, day out and obey the rules. I welcome the success of Operation Vantage so far. A good job of work has been done by the Garda. It would be very helpful and useful for the Minister to provide any insight he may have as to whether this problem is more widespread than currently seems to be the case.

It is reasonable to assume that the investigation will continue. If there is a requirement for the Garda to further extend or develop it, that undoubtedly will be done. Of the 64 cases, 55 have been examined by INIS and, to date, 25 deportation proceedings have commenced from these cases. Having regard to the number of cases identified to date, it can reasonably be expected that there will be further developments and possible initiation of further deportation proceedings. As these matters are still under Garda investigation, it would be premature and unwise of me to speculate. On the deportation process, all persons subject to deportation are entitled to due process under Irish law, including recourse to the courts if they deem it appropriate. However, I am keen to ensure that any investigations under way will take their course and that any fraud or illegal activity will be dealt with in accordance with the criminal law.

Crime Prevention

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony


5. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the specific measures he is taking to tackle crimes against persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12316/19]

What specific measures are being taken by the Minister to tackle crimes against persons with a disability? I ask him to make a statement on the matter.

I thank the Deputy for raising this question. I was very pleased to see her actively engaged on justice issues in her constituency at a recent meeting in County Cork. I was pleased with the progress initiated on the issue raised by her and I assure her my efforts are ongoing in that regard.

On the issue of crimes against persons with a disability, I assure the Deputy that the Government, including my colleague, the Minister of State with special responsibility for disability issues, Deputy Finian McGrath, is committed to working with all stakeholders to help improve the lives of all persons with disabilities in Ireland. The Garda Síochána strategy statement identifies the prevention of crime as the organisation's top priority. The objective is to prevent crime before it occurs, as well as supporting and vindicating the rights of victims when a crime occurs.

In the context of people with disabilities, there are tailored responses to how such crimes are addressed. For example, the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 includes specific provisions requiring gardaí to carry out special measures in their assessment of victims, including victims with a disability. The Act also provides that any communication with a victim must be in simple and accessible language and take into account the personal characteristics of the victim, such as, for example, disability, which may affect his or her ability to understand or be understood. There is also provision for persons with an intellectual disability to give evidence to the court through an intermediary.

In general, criminal offences such as assault committed against any person, including a person with a disability, are prosecuted as generic offences under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. However, in sentencing a person for the offence, a judge may take any aggravating factors into account. Such factors may include the vulnerability of the victim, encompassing matters such as disability.

The National Disability Authority states that research from other countries suggests that people with disabilities are more likely than other people to be the victim of general crime, including theft or break-ins at the person's home, or, indeed, physical or sexual abuse. Unfortunately, very little such research has been carried out in Ireland. The authority states that research carried out in London found that in several cases harassment was specifically related to the person's disability. Clearly, there is a need for urgent research in this area in Ireland. It should be funded by the Departments of Justice and Equality and Health. Will the Minister commit to facilitating a project similar to the SAVI report on sexual abuse and violence?

Can the Minister commit to that?

Five years ago, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties published research in this area which indicated that victims of crime with disabilities were not strategically identified as a specific victim group with particular needs and concerns. Will the Minister ensure people with disabilities are seen as such?

I assure the Deputy that the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, and I consult on an ongoing basis to ensure that every effort is made to assist people with disabilities. I mentioned earlier a number of practices in order to ensure that victims who have disabilities are treated in a more sensitive manner. For example, I am informed that improvements were made to the Garda PULSE system a number of years ago that included the introduction of a victim assessment screen. This requires mandatory recording of data relating to the apparent motive for a crime incident, such as whether that crime was motivated by discrimination on specific grounds, including age, disability, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. As part of the Garda policing plan for 2019, work is well under way within An Garda Síochána on the development of a definition and procedures to record hate crimes. Once this is agreed, the Garda intends to run a nationwide campaign to encourage the reporting of such crimes to An Garda.

I am mindful that there has been much discussion recently on whether legislation specifically addressing crimes of this nature should be introduced. I would be happy to give careful consideration to the research from other jurisdictions but I assure the Deputy that these issues are taken seriously by An Garda Síochána and are prosecuted through the courts. A judge often takes into consideration when arriving at an appropriate sentence or sanction the fact that a victim may well be a person with a disability.

I thank the Minister. I also wish to raise the issue of hate crime legislation. Disability hate crimes may be once-off incidents or part of systematic abuse that may continue over weeks, months or years. Hate crime can happen between strangers who have never met, between friends or within the family unit. In October 2016, in conjunction with my colleague Deputy O'Loughlin, I introduced hate crime legislation. I understand that the Government played the money message card in respect of that Bill. I acknowledge that this was before the current Minister's time. In the Bill, we sought to make hate crime relating to disability an offence. Is the Minister committed to this same goal? Is he supporting hate crime legislation? If so, when will his Department move on it?

I assure the Deputy that my Department and I are currently reviewing the law on this issue. We are relying on the 1989 prohibition on incitement to hatred legislation. It is appropriate and timely that it be subject to review. In addition, it is important that we carry out appropriate research and examine legislation and best practice in other countries. We should examine the effectiveness of such legislation. This will inform the Government's approach to this issue. In the meantime, I assure the Deputy that where criminal offences, such as assault, criminal damage and public order offences, are committed with bias or a prejudice motivation, they are prosecuted under the wider criminal law. Trial judges in these circumstances, as in the circumstances I mentioned earlier, can take aggravating factors into account, including whether the offence may be described as a hate crime, whether there is a prejudice motivation or whether there is bias. The forthcoming Judicial Council Bill, which is currently passing through the Seanad, will include provisions on sentencing guidelines. Clearly, hate crimes could be considered in that context.