I thank the committee for making time available to me to consider the Supplementary Estimates for the Garda Síochána, Prisons and Courts Service Votes, and the Further Revised Estimates for the Justice Vote. I am joined by my officials from the Department of Justice, Seamus Clifford, principal officer, and Martina Colville, assistant secretary.
A net Supplementary Estimate requirement of €44.325 million arises in respect of the Garda Vote this year. This comprises a gross expenditure requirement of €63.9 million, which is offset by a projected surplus in appropriations-in-aid receipts of €19.75 million, giving a net additional requirement of €44.325 million for the Garda Vote. There are two main components giving rise to this requirement. The first is the impact of Garda Covid expenditure, which is €33.32 million, and the adjustment to take account of the Government's July stimulus economic package, which totalled €11 million for the Garda Vote.
The Garda has maintained a front-line, high-visibility presence since the outset of the pandemic and on behalf of the Government, I sincerely thank the Commissioner, his senior team and all members and staff of the Garda Síochána for their exemplary service to communities across the length and breadth of the country in response to this pandemic. An Garda Síochána has conducted a range of operations and activities to keep people safe in support of public health measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19. This has included a large number of static and rolling checkpoints, high-visibility community engagement patrols, visits to retail premises and ongoing support for the most vulnerable and isolated in our society.
I am glad to say that a further phase of Operation Faoiseamh is in place, which prioritises people who are vulnerable to and victims of domestic abuse. An Garda Síochána proactively makes contact with previous victims to provide reassurance and support, and to offer the assistance of local and specialised resources. It has worked proactively to intervene with previous offenders. There is also renewed focus across the criminal justice system, with the courts prioritising the hearing of applications for court orders and the prosecution of breaches. Notwithstanding these significant preventative efforts, there has been a marked increase in the incidence of domestic abuse, and the entire system continues to work with the voluntary sector to try to keep people safe.
The impact of the pandemic is expected to result in additional costs for the Garda Vote in the region of €53.1 million by the end of this year. While certain offset costs are available, such as from scaled down activities, redeployment of resources from the Garda College and the surplus receipts from pension contributions, the extent of the additional cost is such that a Supplementary Estimate is required. The additional cost directly related to Covid comprises approximately €25.2 million in payroll costs, which mainly relates to the implementation of emergency Covid rosters since last April. This has been extended to the end of the year, taking account of some revisions following the first month of operation. In addition, the earlier attestation of trained gardaí to respond to the Covid crisis increased payroll costs beyond what was originally budgeted for in 2020. Expenditure on PPE has become a significant cost factor for all front-line services in the State and the Garda is no different. The additional cost in 2020 is estimated to be in the region of €16 million, with most of the expenditure having been incurred already.
The community focus of policing has been central to the success of the Garda Síochána's response to Covid and this has been supported with additional investment of €6.1 million in the transport fleet, bringing the total expenditure on the Garda fleet to €15.1 million for 2020. The original budget of €9 million provided 296 patrol vehicles but, significantly, the additional spend of €6.1 million supports the purchase of a further 228 vehicles, mainly for community policing. It is important to say that those vehicles will be there long after Covid. Other additional costs directly related to Covid include the temporary hire of vehicles, which cost €2 million, and ICT, telecommunications and overheads such as additional cleaning and sanitisation, which comes to €3.8 million.
The additional element of the Supplementary Estimate relates to the provision of €11 million in the Government's July economic stimulus package for a range of projects in the Garda Vote. This includes the building and refurbishment of stations to support the establishment of business service hubs and the new operating model of An Garda Síochána, which is being rolled out at the moment; custody management facilities in stations, and prisoner processing areas and custody CCTV; immigration facilities at sea ports and airports; public office facilities for meeting members of the community, including universal access; at Garda headquarters to meet the requirements of the new units being established; at Garda stations to support the establishment of protective service units in a number of divisions, which is directly linked with the O'Malley recommendations, all of which have been implemented since the end of September; as well as the provision of special victim interview suites.
The Prisons Vote requires a net Supplementary Estimate of €14 million in the current year. This is largely accounted for by three main areas in expenditure. Additional expenditure arises from Covid, which is expected to be in the region of €6 million by the year's end. There is the Government stimulus package of €8 million. There is an additional requirement for compensation payments of approximately €4.6 million. The additional requirement is reduced in part by underspends in other areas of the Vote, including building capital due to Covid-related delays in the redevelopment of Limerick Prison. A proportion of this underspend will be carried forward to 2021 under capital carryover provisions. The main impact of Covid-related expenditure is the cost of PPE, medical deep cleaning and the ICT for remote working, including the provision of services such as video link facilities for prisoners' families.
The Irish Prison Service management and staff, and indeed prisoners themselves, are to be commended on the manner in which the challenge of Covid-19 has been managed in the high-risk, closed environment of our prisons.
A very significant amount of work has been carried out by the Irish Prison Service to address the challenge of Covid-19. The measures taken have been informed and guided by the advice received from National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, and consistent with the prison-specific guidance for the management of Covid-19 issued by the World Health Organization, WHO, in March 2020 and human rights guidance issued by the Council of Europe.
I acknowledge that this has been a difficult and worrying time for prison staff, offenders and their families, as it has been in other areas of Irish society. Great efforts have been made to limit and curtail the spread of the virus in the prisons. These measures include close co-operation with the health services on outbreak control and the establishment of a robust contact tracing model, which has been acknowledged by the WHO as best practice for prisons worldwide.
I was very pleased to support this work with additional capital funding of €8 million for the prisons Vote as part of the Government’s July stimulus package. The Irish Prison Service has continuous demands for minor and mid-scale refurbishments. These involve security-related works in addition to a nationwide carbon-related programme of replacing lighting with LED fixtures both internally and externally and the upgrading and replacement of fire alarms. There are also, unfortunately, issues with leaking roofs in some locations because of severe weather events as well as requirements for window replacement and the upgrading of laundry and other equipment.
A net supplementary estimate of €23 million is required in 2020 in respect of the courts Vote. There are two components to this: a significant shortfall of €18 million in court fee income due to the impact of Covid-19 on the business of the courts and €5 million in respect of the Government’s July stimulus package. The Courts Service expects that the shortfall in court fee income will be in the region of €18 million as a direct result of the impact of Covid-19. This shortfall amounts to 43% of total fee income, which is significant. A sum in the region of €9 million is accounted for in the reduction in special exemption order applications from the licensing trade and hospitality sector. This relates to the announcement made at the end of the summer. There is also a €1 million reduction from the waiver of liquor licence fees as part of the Government’s support package to publicans. To date, the Courts Service has also lost the equivalent of three months’ fee income, or circa €8 million, due to the impact of Covid-19.
The July stimulus package provided for additional capital funding of €5 million for the courts Vote in 2020, a significant proportion of which is being utilised to cover the additional costs of leasing, fitting out and basic ICT installation to ensure that criminal jury trials can be held while observing social distancing and national Covid guidelines at a number of new locations in Dublin and nationwide. A number of other projects were also included in the stimulus package. These relate to urgent refurbishment works and various sustainable energy initiatives in courthouses throughout the country.
The Courts Service has been working with members of the Judiciary and other partners across the justice sector to continue to provide court hearings in as safe a manner as possible during this public health emergency. It is important to acknowledge the leadership of the Courts Service and the Judiciary across all the courts in ensuring continuity of service during this period and the ongoing work by all concerned to ensure the safety of court users, jury members, practitioners, staff and judges, and the public. I am particularly pleased to note the steps taken to use video links and other technologies to the greatest extent possible. These developments represent welcome progress in the modernisation of services. I have provided substantial additional funding in budget 2021 for the courts modernisation programme and I look forward to the positive outcome of this investment for the service in the future.
The further Revised Estimate for my Department’s Vote is required to reflect the transfer of certain functions both to and from the new Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth under the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman. The functions transferring from my Department mainly relate to equality, disability, migrant integration, international protection accommodation services and the Irish refugee protection programme, whereas the functions transferring to my Department relate to a small number of projects in the area of youth justice. The net budgetary impact on the justice Vote from the original Revised Estimate voted on by the Dáil in July is a reduction of €114 million, which represents an adjustment of €115.5 million in respect of functions transferring out less a figure of €1.5 million in respect of the functions transferring in.
As part of the process, I am taking the opportunity to increase the allocation for the cash-limited subhead B11 which provides for the criminal injuries compensation tribunal, which is being increased by €4 million through relocation of funding from elsewhere in the Vote. This will facilitate additional payments of compensation to victims of crime before the end of this year. An increased net allocation of €4 million is also being provided as part of the Revised Estimate to offset a potential shortfall in immigration and visa income mainly due to the impact of Covid travel restrictions. I recommend the Supplementary Estimates and the further Revised Estimate to the committee. I am very happy to address any questions members may have.