Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (571)

Dara Calleary

Question:

583 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of warrants that are outstanding in each Garda division; and the breakdown of the outstanding warrants for each division in terms of bench warrants, committal warrants and penal warrants. [34891/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

It is, of course, inevitable that at any given time there will be a significant number of warrants awaiting execution. Unavoidably, even in the most straightforward cases there must be some lapse of time between the issue of a warrant by the court and its execution by An Garda Síochána. Apart from the huge volume of warrants which are issued, there can be a multiplicity of reasons why warrants can take time to execute and, in some cases, they can prove ultimately unenforceable. It is the case that many individuals can be subject to multiple warrants and a number of the subjects of the warrants are taking every step open to them to try to avoid arrest through moving from address to address and so on.

While it is clearly important that An Garda Síochána take all possible action to ensure that warrants are executed as quickly as possible, it should be borne in mind that the vast majority of warrants do not relate to violent or the more serious categories of offence. In fact, most of the warrants which are recorded as unexecuted are penal warrants, which relate to the payment of fines with imprisonment arising as a consequence of failure to pay. 93% of penal warrants are associated with Road Traffic Acts, public order and theft offences.

Moreover, I have been assured by the Garda Commissioner that An Garda Síochána give priority to the execution of warrants in respect of serious crime and will continue to do so.

I have been advised in respect of executed warrants that 46% were executed within three months, 70% within 6 months, 87% within 12 months and 13% after 12 months.

Subject to the caveats I mention below, I am informed that on 13 July 2012 PULSE recorded 124,209 bench, penal and committal warrants as unexecuted. For comparison purposes, I am advised that in May 2008 a similar number of warrants were recorded by PULSE as unexecuted: 117,756. It seems clear, therefore, that despite the constraints under which An Garda Síochána have had to operate arising from the difficult economic circumstances, the situation in relation to unexecuted warrants has not deteriorated.

In relation to the figures provided by An Garda Síochána, I should say that I have been advised that they are operational and liable to change.

Of its nature, the figure for outstanding warrants recorded by PULSE at any given time reflects an accumulation of old warrants which has arisen over the years. I set out below a separate table which shows warrants outstanding for the years 2000 to 2011. It will be clear from that table that the vast majority of unexecuted warrants relate to 2010 and before. Warrants will continue to show on PULSE until such time as they are recorded as being finally disposed of and, given that some of the warrants in question are outstanding for many years, I am concerned that the total figure for outstanding warrants as shown on PULSE may not be a reliable indicator of the number of ‘live' warrants which are enforceable which are on hand.

In the circumstances, I have asked the Garda Commissioner to consider whether there may be a better way of maintaining statistics which gives a more realistic indication in relation to any backlog of warrants that arises. I have also asked him to report to me again in six months time on the situation in relation to unexecuted warrants and indicated that if he has any recommendations in relation to legislative or administrative action open to me as Minister which would assist in this area I will, of course, consider them.

While genuine difficulties can arise where it does not prove possible to enforce a warrant, it is obviously important that systems are in place to ensure that warrants are enforced as quickly as possible. I have been advised by the Garda Commissioner that at present there is an Inspector in each Garda District in the Dublin Metropolitan Region and each Division outside the DMR tasked with managing the execution of warrants, and other issues relating to them. In addition, specific members of the Force are tasked with their execution. An Garda Síochána continually liaises with other agencies, including Government Departments, to locate individuals sought on warrant. This has resulted in the provision of addresses, other than those provided on the warrants, for many persons sought. In particular, Garda warrants personnel regularly liaise with the Irish Prison Service and the Courts Service to ensure the timely exchange of relevant information regarding persons sought for the service of warrants.

I am also advised that there is a warrants working group in place which facilitates liaison between the various stakeholders, including the Court Service and the Prison Service and which works to identify, address and prevent difficulties in the warrants process. The work of the group is ongoing and relevant recommendations for the improvement of systems are being implemented on an ongoing basis.

The Garda Commissioner has assured me that both he and his senior management team are closely monitoring the situation with a view to ensuring that warrants are executed as expeditiously as possible.

There seems little doubt that the outstanding warrants figures for previous years reflected partly the situation which then obtained in relation to the use of imprisonment in cases of non-payment of fines, a practice which I think most people now regard as highly undesirable. Since the commencement of section 14 of the Fines Act 2010, a Court is now obliged to take into account the means of the person before imposing a fine. This measure combined with other provisions such as the use of community service, payment by instalment and use of attachment of earnings should, when fully operational, have very beneficial effects on the number of warrants which the Gardaí are called on to enforce.

Number of Bench, Committal and Penal Warrants Unexecuted By Garda Division

Division

Bench Warrants

Committal Warrants

Penal Warrants

Total

Cavan/Monaghan

743

51

672

1,466

Clare

258

47

605

910

Cork City

922

492

5,685

7,099

Cork North

328

87

1,069

1,484

Cork West

179

36

909

1,124

DMR East

707

40

2,326

3,073

DMR North

1,001

388

9,711

11,100

DMR North Central

15,890

375

7,883

24,148

DMR South

1,338

262

13,825

15,425

DMR South Central

278

132

3,675

4,085

DMR West

1,436

364

12,103

13,903

Donegal

344

21

988

1,353

Galway

976

128

4,828

5,932

Kerry

587

38

1,286

1,911

Kildare

995

184

3,953

5,132

Kilkenny/Carlow

395

37

1,599

2,031

Laois/Offaly

479

158

1,786

2,423

Limerick

609

82

1,804

2,495

Louth

455

20

815

1,290

Mayo

354

70

1,284

1,708

Meath

653

83

3,366

4,102

Roscommon/Longford

254

24

772

1,050

Sligo/Leitrim

105

4

370

479

Tipperary

430

29

1,709

2,168

Waterford

303

14

1,873

2,190

Westmeath

329

139

1,696

2,164

Wexford

338

27

1,187

1,552

Wicklow

448

160

1,804

2,412

Total

31,134

3,492

89,583

124,209

Number of Unexecuted Warrants by Year of Issue 2000-2011

Year

Number of Unexecuted Warrants

2011

24,635

2010

15,152

2009

16,014

2008

16,898

2007

10,954

2006

9,169

2005

8,913

2004

8,716

2003

4,061

2002

2,038

2001

1,262

2000

1,142

Total

118,954