I thank the committee for inviting me to this meeting. I am seeking its approval for the Revised Estimates for the justice sector Vote group to provide for much-needed expenditure across the sector. The Estimates provide for gross expenditure of approximately €3 billion across six Votes in the justice sector, €2.746 billion of which is current expenditure and €258 million of which is capital expenditure. In addition, €27 million in unspent capital from 2020 has been carried over to 2021, bringing the total available capital allocation to €285 million.
I will set out the detail of each of the Votes. Significantly, a number of common themes run across them. In terms of the modernisation of services, ICT investment and the digitalisation of services are not just aspirations, but essential. Our experience over the past year has emphasised this and given much-needed momentum to the digital reform of services across all sectors, including justice. The Garda ICT budget of more than €80 million includes a specific allocation of €7 million for the provision of additional mobile devices and related licensing and maintenance costs under the Garda mobility project. These devices give gardaí instant access to real-time, secure information on the roadside across a range of apps that enable them to scan registration plates, identify forged or false driver licences and detect disqualified drivers, untaxed cars and stolen vehicles. The flexibility that this gives gardaí leads to time being saved on dealing with paperwork in the station, more time spent on patrol and the front line, and greater risks being identified. In addition, €5 million has been provided in the justice Vote for the implementation of an ICT strategy for the Department, building on and enhancing the structures that have been put in place as a result of the Department's transformation programme.
Significant ICT development is planned over the next three years with the immigration area being a priority for digital reform. At present, too many operations are still paper-based. This investment and reform will make it easier for people to engage with the Department and avail of our services, while giving us the tools we need to become more customer-centric and efficient.
A sum of €8 million has been provided in the Estimates for the new modernisation programme in the Courts Service. This is central to the reforms I want to drive across the justice system. We need to keep pace with the changes in society and this involves increasing the use of the tools and technology that will make it easier and quicker for people to resolve disputes and access justice. We saw how important this was during the last year during the pandemic.
I sincerely hope that the spectre of Covid will diminish in future Estimates processes. However, for now we are still dealing with the impact of the worldwide pandemic and Covid-19 is, therefore, a significant feature of the 2021 Estimates. It has been necessary to make very specific provision in 2021 for the impact of Covid on expenditure and this includes additional funding in the following areas: €13 million for PPE for An Garda Síochána, €5.7 million for increased PPE, cleaning and healthcare costs for the Irish Prison Service, €5.7 million for the Courts Service, including for additional premises in Dublin and regional locations to enable court sittings to take place in a socially distanced and safe environment, and €400,000 extra funding for organisations and groups responding to increased service demands from people impacted by domestic abuse during this period. This additional funding is providing extra remote counselling services, welfare packs, extended helpline opening and other practical supports for those most vulnerable. The Government will continue to properly fund our front line services in the justice sector as they serve the public throughout the pandemic.
I will now turn to the individual Votes. The gross expenditure estimate for the Garda Síochána, Vote 20, is €1.952 billion which amounts to 65% of the funding for the entire Vote group. In addition, €12.75 million is available in unspent capital from 2020 to complete projects started under the Government's stimulus package towards the end of 2020 and to advance the building project to relocate An Garda Síochána from Harcourt Street to Military Road in Dublin.
In total, the capital budget available to An Garda Síochána in 2021 is €127.4 million. This builds on capital expenditure in 2020 of almost €115 million, including an unprecedented investment in the Garda fleet of €16 million, a proportion of which was related to the Covid response but the benefits to community and other areas of policing will long outlive Covid. A further €8 million is being provided in 2021 and will be kept under review throughout the year.
A sum of €46.75 million is being provided for the capital building and refurbishment programme, including the new purpose-built building at Military Road in Dublin. A sum of €1.615 billion, 83% of the Garda budget, is pay and pensions related. There are now approximately 14,600 Garda members in the service and 3,100 Garda staff in the organisation. Notwithstanding the impact of Covid, it is currently expected that in the region of 450 additional Garda recruits will commence training this year over four periods. Budgetary provision has also been made for the recruitment of an additional 500 Garda staff at all levels. Progress in this target is expected also but is dependent on the impact of Covid on recruiting and training personnel. With a permanent workforce now approaching 18,000, it is clear that the Commissioner has increasing options in the deployment of resources. I am particularly pleased that 746 Garda members have been redeployed to front-line policing duties as of 31 December 2020, including 144 during 2021. In addition the Revised Estimate makes provision for an increase in supervisory ranks at sergeant and inspector level and an overtime budget of €95 million.
Before moving on from the Garda Vote, I want to acknowledge and thank An Garda Síochána for their exemplary service to communities throughout the country in response to the pandemic. Gardaí have maintained a front-line, high-visibility presence since the outset of the pandemic and conducted a range of operations and activities to keep people and communities safe in support of public health measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19. This work has included ongoing support for the most vulnerable and isolated in our society. The work of An Garda Síochána is valued and appreciated by people throughout the country and it is important that this is acknowledged.
The justice Vote, Vote 24, has a gross estimate provision of €476.1 million, broken down into two separate programmes reflecting the new and more streamlined administrative structure of the Department, the criminal and civil justice pillars, comprising almost 50 separate subheads.
This structure is reflected in the recently published strategy statement 2021 to 2023, which has five key strategic goals, backed up by a detailed action plan for 2021 that maps out in an open and transparent way how we are going to implement measures to support and enhance a justice system which contributes to improvements in society. The budgetary provision for 2021 has allowed for a number of key priorities to be advanced and additional resources provided to a number of agencies in the civil and criminal justice sector.
In this regard, the budget of Forensic Science Ireland, FSI, is almost €77 million in 2021 including a capital allocation of €54.8 million for the development of a new state of the art laboratory in Backweston, County Kildare. Despite the impact of the Covid restrictions, more than €16 million was spent on this project in 2020 and it is expected that the project will be completed in 2022. FSI completed around 22,000 case reports in 2020 which illustrates the importance of the work the organisation does in the criminal justice area.
The Inspector of Prisons received additional resources of €750,000 in 2021, bringing the total allocation to €1.95 million. The Parole Board also received further additional funding of €750,000 bringing its total allocation €1.33 million. This will enable the commencement of the Parole Act in the course of 2021. I hope to have that up and running by 1 July.
The Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, now has an allocation of almost €10 million, an increase of 10% which reflects the crucial role that CAB carries out in tackling money laundering and targeting the proceeds of crime. We saw significant work by CAB in the last year.
I am particularly pleased that additional funding of €2.5 million was provided in the Estimates to tackle sexual, domestic and gender based violence, support victims and reform how vulnerable witnesses are treated as sexual offences are investigated and prosecuted. This is in addition to the specific funding of €400,000 under the Covid measures for enhanced supports to victims of domestic violence. Most importantly, it will enable the commencement of the implementation of the recommendations in the O’Malley report regarding protections for vulnerable witnesses.
This funding is reflected in subhead A12 victims of crime including sexual crimes and domestic abuse, which has a total allocation of €4.1 million, and subhead A20, domestic, sexual and gender-based violence- awareness raising and training, which has an allocation of just under €3 million which brings a total of €7.1 million.
Increased funding of more than €2 million for the Legal Aid Board, a 6% increase, brings the total allocation to €44.6 million and will enable the board to recruit additional staff and meet other costs to enhance delivery of its services across the country.
It has also been possible in Estimates 2021 to increase the grant payment to the Free Legal Advice Centres, FLAC, The Department’s allocation has been trebled to a total allocation of €294,000 to support these legal services to the most vulnerable.
Turning to the Prisons Vote, Vote 21, the gross Estimate in 2021 is €394.5 million plus an additional €5.468 million in unspent capital brought forward from 2020 under the capital carryover provisions. In addition to an increase of almost €6 million in Covid-related measures, the Prisons Vote has received €1.65 million in additional funding to strengthen corporate governance across the Irish Prison Service. Further substantial funding has been made available under the compensation subhead to pay for claims related to lack of in-cell sanitation which is being managed by the State Claims Agency. Further additional funding of €5.7 million has been made available for a range of other services, including security costs, prisoner services and an increased maintenance budget of €2 million for the prison estate.
While the redevelopment of Limerick prison has been impacted by the Covid restrictions in 2020 and 2021, significant progress is being made. A total capital allocation has been provided in 2021 of €41.5 million, including capital carryover. It is expected that in the region of €36 million will be spent on the Limerick project, Covid restrictions allowing.
Completion of this project is a priority. It will provide additional capacity for 40 female prisoners as well as a new wing to Limerick male prison, which will have additional capacity for 90 male prisoners. It will completely upgrade and modernise Limerick Prison, as well as eliminating the practice of slopping out.
I want to acknowledge also the impact that Covid 19 is having on the operations of the prison service and the collective efforts that have been made by the Irish Prison Service staff, management, prisoners and Red Cross Volunteers to contain and minimise the impact of the virus.
The infection prevention and control teams in place in all prisons really have made a significant contribution to the handling of the virus, which is particularly challenging in a closed environment such as a prison. I commend the work done in recognising the difficulties the virus has caused for staff, prisoners and their families.
We have a total Estimate in gross terms of €158.5 million for the Courts Service under Vote 22. This is in addition to an amount of €4.895 million in carryover of unspent capital from 2020. The Estimates include an allocation of €8 million for the new courts modernisation programme as well funding to combat the impact of Covid 19. The Courts Service continues to maintain vital front-line services for those who need them, including the most vulnerable victims of domestic abuse. The restrictions have of course impacted on jury trials in the Circuit and Higher Courts but the additional funding will provide for additional venues on a temporary basis to try to deal with the backlogs in certain cases.
The allocation for court fees income has been reduced in 2021 by €10 million. This reflects the fall-off in court fees income especially from special exemption orders for the licensing trade and hospitality sector that were agreed last year.
A gross Estimate of €19.1 million is being provided to the Data Protection Commission under Vote 44. This includes an increase of €2.2 million, which is a 13% increase compared with the previous year. The Data Protection Commission budget has increased significantly year-on-year and has increased fivefold since 2015. This reflects the responsibilities and functions of the office as it has expanded. It is the lead supervisory authority to the various multinational organisations that have European headquarters in the State. The largest aspect of the budget relates to staffing costs. This amounts to approximately €12.8 million with legal expenses accounting for approximately €2 million and the remainder being spent on other services and areas.
The gross Estimate for the Policing Authority Vote is €3.8 million. This has been provided for under Vote 41 and includes an increase of €384,000 or 11% on the 2020 allocation.
I welcome the opportunity to make this presentation and thank colleagues for their patience in discussing the Revised Estimates.