Property Services Regulation

Questions (469)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

469. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 489 of 26 February 2013, if he will provide an estimate of the total number of commercial leases here and the total number that will be captured on the new commercial leases database; and if he will outline the principal reasons for omissions of extant leases from the commercial leases database. [12635/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As indicated in my reply to Question No. 489 of 26 February 2013, Section 87 of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 provides that the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) shall maintain and establish a database relating to commercial property leases.

I am not in a position to advise the Deputy as to the total number of commercial leases here. However, I am advised by the Authority that it estimates that approximately 18,000 to 20,000 commercial leases will initially be detailed on the new commercial leases database, which is expected to be published in the near future. It is anticipated that the database will contain information in relation to all commercial leases entered into on or after 1 January 2010.

Section 87 provides that in respect of each relevant commercial lease, the Database shall contain: the address and description of the commercial property the subject of the lease; the date of the lease of the property; the term of years of the lease; and the rent payable in respect of the property. It is further provided in Section 87(3) that such information may, at the Authority's discretion, be included in the Database, notwithstanding the fact that such a lease was entered into before the commencement of Section 87. Section 87(4) provides that Section 87(3) shall not apply to a commercial property lease entered into more than 5 years before the commencement of Section 87. I am advised by the Authority that it is satisfied that the information available on commercial leases entered into on or after 1 January 2010 is accurate and reliable and that it proposes, on the initial publication of the database, to include all leases entered into with effect from that date.

Section 88 of the Act also provides that the Authority make the information available on the Commercial Leases Database publicly available "on the payment of the appropriate fee". While the Authority will make certain limited information available free of charge, all of the information, which tenants are required to furnish to the Authority under Section 88 of the Act, will only be made available on the payment of a fee.

Garda Investigations

Questions (470)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

470. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to the publication of what is claimed to be a transcript of a conversation (details supplied), if a complaint has been made to An Garda Síochána and-or if An Garda Síochána is investigating the matter to establish if an offence may have been committed under tribunals of inquiry Acts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12636/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I understand that An Garda Síochána are aware of the matter referred to by the Deputy. As the Deputy will be aware, the Report of the Moriarty Tribunal has been examined by the Garda authorities and the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions has now been sought by them, with a view to determining whether or not a full Garda investigation should now be commenced. As this process is ongoing and as I am informed by the Garda authorities that the matter referred to by the Deputy is currently the subject of attention it would not be appropriate to comment in any further detail in respect of the matter at this stage.

Magdalen Laundries Issues

Questions (471)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

471. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will give consideration to the inclusion of former residents of an institution (details supplied) in the redress scheme under the aegis of Mr. Justice Quirke. [12641/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

While it is not a matter which comes under the remit of my Department, I understand from my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, that the institution referred to is one of the institutions on the schedule of the Redress Act, 2002. I also understand that the Redress Board are now processing the remaining applications and expect to complete its work in the next year or so. The Government decision of 19 February relates to Magdalen Laundries. It does not relate to the type of institution referred to by the Deputy.

Competition Law

Question No. 473 answered with Question No. 467

Questions (472)

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

472. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will use the powers provided to him under the Criminal Justice Act 2011 to order that criminal offences under the Competition Acts be specified as relevant offences under the Criminal Justice Act 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12658/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Criminal Justice Act 2011, which is an important step in delivering on the Government’s commitment to tackle white collar crime, provides for new procedures to facilitate Garda access to essential information and documentation to assist in current and future investigations of white collar crime. The Act is targeted at specified serious and complex offences (“relevant offences”), including offences in the areas of banking and finance, company law, money laundering, fraud and corruption.

Section 3 of the Act provides that for the purposes of the Act, a relevant offence is an arrestable offence specified in Schedule 1 to the Act, or specified in an order made by the Minister for Justice and Equality under section 3(2). An arrestable offence is an offence punishable by imprisonment for a period of 5 years or more.

Section 3(2) provides that the offences that may be specified as relevant offences by Ministerial order are offences relating to banking, investment of funds and other financial activities, company law, money laundering and financing terrorism, theft and fraud, bribery and corruption, competition and consumer protection, cybercrime or the raising and collection of taxes and duties.

The Minister must be of opinion that the powers under the Act are necessary for the investigation of such an offence by reason of the nature of the offence concerned and the prolonged period of time generally required for the investigation of such an offence as a result of the complexity that generally arises in such an investigation due to any of the following factors that may be expected to be involved:

(i) the number of witnesses,

(ii) the volume of documents,

(iii) the wide distribution and proliferation of documents arising from the use of electronic means of communication,

(iv) the number of transactions,

(v) the complexity of transactions, or

(vi) other factor.

The Minister must consult with any other relevant Minister before making an order under section 3(2). I have been in consultation with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on the question of specifying offences under the Competition Acts as relevant offences for the purposes of the Act. I understand that issues arising in relation to this matter are under examination in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Question No. 473 answered with Question No. 467.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (474)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

474. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attenttion has been drawn to the fact that the visa office is currently experiencing an upsurge in applications for Join Irish Citizen in the past six months and are dealing with the applications in chronological order; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that for many families this delay is causing difficulties and uncertainty; if he has provided additional staff to deal with this upsurge; the number of applications currently waiting to be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12721/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

There has been no particular surge in visa applications for the purpose of joining an Irish citizen in recent months. So called "Join Irish Citizen" applications are taken to include Join Spouse (Irish National), Join Partner (Irish National) & Join Parent (Irish National). Application numbers in this cohort have remained relatively consistent over time, with only minor variations from month to month.

There is no significant backlog in the processing of applications. On average fewer than 100 applications are awaiting a decision at any given time and decisions on applications received in my Department in early February are currently being finalised. However, as each application is individually considered on its own merits, the actual processing time for dealing with such applications can vary depending on the particular circumstances of each case and the level of investigation required. The long term or permanent nature of the intended stay in Ireland means that they require more in-depth consideration than straightforward short-stay visa applications. In many cases, extra documentation or clarification must be sought from the persons involved and those cases cannot be finalised until the relevant documentation or clarification has been received. Staff in my Department are fully aware of the importance of these applications to the families involved, and commencing processing of applications in the order in which they arrive is considered the fairest approach.

On a broader note, policy in relation to visas for purposes of family reunification (not solely Join Irish Citizen applications) is currently being revised. As a result, consideration of visa applications from dependent relatives in the ascending line, e.g. parents, to join family members in Ireland is temporarily suspended pending publication of the policy. Applications may continue to be made, but applicants should note that these will be considered in the framework of the revised policy when published. A notification to this effect has been posted on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, www.inis.gov.ie.

Immigration Status

Questions (475)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

475. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an appeal to the immigration bureau in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and when a decision will be made. [12723/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The person concerned has been in the State without the permission of the Minister since April, 2012. Consequently, in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 18th July, 2012, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should not have a Deportation Order made against him. Written representations have been submitted by and on behalf of the person concerned.

The position in the State of the person concerned will now be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be fully considered before a final decision is made. Once a decision has been made, this decision, and the consequences of the decision, will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Prisoner Transfers

Questions (476)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

476. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Irish nationals serving IPP sentences in British prisons; and if he has discussed this matter with his British counterpart in the context of allowing these prisoners to be returned to this jurisdiction under the TERS scheme after they have served their minimum tariff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12757/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that issues generally relating to Irish nationals serving sentences abroad is a matter for my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. However, in the context of possible repatriation to this jurisdiction under the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, I understand that a legal difficulty arises in cases of persons serving an indeterminate sentence for public protection in that no comparable sentence currently exists in this jurisdiction. It is not therefore possible to process the transfer here of such persons.

Garda Vetting Applications

Questions (477)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

477. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to speed up the processing of Garda vetting applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12758/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for approximately 20,000 organisations in Ireland which employ personnel to work in a full time part time, voluntary or student capacity with children and or vulnerable adults and who are registered with the Unit for this purpose. The Unit processed approximately 328,000 vetting applications on behalf of these organisations in 2012.

It is my objective that processing times should be kept to a minimum, while maintaining the overall integrity of the vetting system. In that regard, following recent discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, sanction was recently granted for an additional 25 staff to be re-deployed from the Department of Agriculture to the Garda Central Vetting Unit in the near future.

The Deputy may also wish to note that Garda Central Vetting Unit will become the National Vetting Bureau under the provisions of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 and will have a substantially expanded role under that legislation. I am currently engaged with An Garda Síochána and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in addressing the staffing issues relevant to the coming into force of the 2012 Act.

Garda Recruitment

Questions (478)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

478. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider providing career paths for members of the Garda Reserve to become full members of An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12789/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Recruitment to An Garda Síochána is governed by the Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) (Amendment) Regulations 2006. These regulations provide that in a competition for full-time membership of An Garda Síochána, the Public Appointments Commission shall take into account any service by the candidate as a Reserve member of the Garda Síochána, and shall give due recognition to evidence of satisfactory service as such a member.

Departmental Legal Costs

Questions (479)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

479. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount of money spent by his Department on appeals to High Court decisions in Hamzq, Hassan and Sulaimon; further, with reference to Mr. Justice Hardiman's statement in his decision in Sulaimon that it is dispiriting to see State litigation conducted in this way at public expense, the cost benefit analysis procedures that are in place in his Department to determine whether to appeal a High Court decision. [12805/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

At the outset I think it important to state that it is the long-standing policy and practice for the Department not to comment in detail on the outcome of cases which have been before the Courts. This policy applies equally to cases which the Department’s interpretation of the law have been upheld in the Courts as it does to cases where the Courts have found against such interpretation. There are sound and well grounded reasons for this approach; to comment in detail on specific cases would carry the risk that the Department would be accused of interfering with the doctrine of the separation of powers between the State and the Courts. This doctrine which is enshrined in the Constitution is of course a fundamental cornerstone of our system of justice and its interface with the executive.

However, I would point out that my Department in its approach to legal challenges acts on foot of the legal advice available to it from the State's law officers. In considering its approach, as well as considering the specific facts of each individual case, it must have regard to the wider implications of any such challenges and as such is required to act in order to maintain the integrity of the State's immigration policies and procedures. My Department in dealing with all such cases acts in good faith, with integrity, in accordance with the law as it understands it to be at that time, and in accordance with the legal advice available to it.

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service that Bills of Cost have not been yet processed. This process can take a considerable period of time often depending on when the Bills are submitted and, in any event, are referred to the Taxing Master as appropriate.

Garda Deployment

Questions (480)

Joe McHugh

Question:

480. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí by Garda station and rank who were in service in each county in the State on 31 December for each year from 2002 to 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12834/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The information requested by the Deputy for the years 2002 - 2007 is not readily available and can only be obtained by the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of time and resources. The information requested for the years 2008 - 2013 has been forwarded to the Deputy.

Personal Injury Claims

Questions (481)

John O'Mahony

Question:

481. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question 381 on 7 February 2012, when a person (details supplied) may expect payment; and the reason for the long delay in making a decision in this case. [12851/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy should note that under the terms of the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal is entirely independent in the matter of individual applications under the Scheme. However, in order to be of assistance in the matter I have had enquiries made with the Tribunal on your behalf.

I understand that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal is in the process of issuing a decision in this case, which will issue to the person concerned in the near future.

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission Issues

Questions (482)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

482. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has commissioned any person within his Department to examine international best practice in policing methods that could be adopted that may reduce road traffic offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12856/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Commissioner has responsibility for roads policing and works in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority and other relevant partner agencies and institutions in the development and implementation of the actions and initiatives as set out in the Road Safety Strategy. As the Deputy will be aware, the Road Safety Strategy is drawn up by the Road Safety Authority, following extensive consultation and informed by national and international experience and research in the field of road safety. I am further advised that the Garda authorities work closely with the European Traffic Police Network (TISPOL) organisation, including with respect to that organisation's work in initiating and supporting road safety research. In this context I have no plans to commission separate advice on this subject.

Legal Services Regulation

Questions (483)

Joe McHugh

Question:

483. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality with reference to the Legal Services Bill, if he will outline his vision to increased competition in the provision of legal services here; his views on the envisaged role of legal executives in ensuring greater value and competition for citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12881/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011, which has completed Second Stage and is due to commence Committee Stage during the coming Session, gives legislative expression to the commitment in the Programme for Government to "establish independent regulation of the legal professions to improve access and competition, make legal costs more transparent and ensure adequate procedures for addressing consumer complaints". Furthermore, as a sectoral objective under the EU/IMF/ECB Troika Memorandum of Understanding, it supports the objectives of structural reform, national competitiveness and early economic recovery, building on the relevant recommendations of the Legal Costs Working Group and the Competition Authority. The Bill is, therefore, a key component of the Government's strategy to reduce legal costs in this country by way of increasing our competitiveness, both sectorally and nationally.

The Legal Services Regulation Bill makes extensive provision, particularly in Part 9, for a new and enhanced legal costs regime that will bring greater transparency to how legal costs are charged along with a better balance between the interests of legal practitioners and those of their clients. The Bill sets out, for the first time in legislation, a series of Legal Costs Principles. These are contained in Schedule One and enumerate the various matters that may be taken into account if disputed costs are submitted for adjudication. These cost transparency measures will apply to barristers as well as to solicitors.

The Bill also provides that a new Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator will deal with disputes about legal costs – at present these are dealt with by the Office of the Taxing-Master. The new Office, headed by a Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator, will modernise the way disputed legal costs are adjudicated with greater transparency. The Office will be empowered to prepare Legal Costs Guidelines. It will establish and maintain a publicly accessible Register of Determinations which will include the outcomes and reasons for its determinations about disputed legal costs.

In addition, the Bill facilitates the setting up of new business models for the profession, in line with some of the innovations and advances made in other common law jurisdictions. These new or "alternative" business structures will be optional in parallel to the current and more traditional forms of legal practise and their introduction will, as provided in the Bill, follow a process of public consultation. In other provisions the Bill lifts existing restrictions on direct professional access to a barrister and on barristers who share premises or costs from advertising themselves as such a group. The Bill also allows that a barrister in employment may provide legal services for his or her employer. The Bill, therefore, contains numerous measures aimed at opening up the provision of legal services to more competitive legal service models building on the enormous advances that have been made in supporting business technologies.

In relation to the role of legal executives, and as I have set out in previous Replies, the Legal Services Regulation Bill does not make any provision in relation to the role or status of legal executives nor is any such provision envisaged. As the Deputy will be aware, a number of proposals have been circulated in this regard by the Irish Institute of Legal Executives Ltd on behalf of its members. However, these are very far-reaching and represent a major and substantive departure beyond the currently recognised status and functions of a legal executive in this jurisdiction. They relate inter alia to "a right of audience in the District and Circuit Courts, before tribunals and, subject to review, subsequently in all courts", and to the eligibility of members for quasi-judicial and judicial appointments (e.g as District Court judges or as members of Tribunals). These proposals also draw heavily from the regulatory and practise models of England and Wales which have a distinct history and do not always correspond to those of our jurisdiction nor to those set out under current Government policy in the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011.

While recognising that there may be additional benefits and efficiencies to be found for consumers and for the legal services sector in a more developed role for "legal executives" in the future, the very far-reaching proposals being made on their behalf at this time lie beyond the scope of the Legal Services Regulation Bill. They impinge on fundamental issues of substance including in relation to the courts and the judiciary. Such matters will, therefore, need to be considered separately on their own merits and in their own right, while others may come to be considered in due course by the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority. I would also point out that it remains open to legal executives, who are so minded, to pursue the career of solicitor or barrister by way of capitalising on their acquired legal knowledge and experience.

Sentencing Policy

Questions (484)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

484. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase the mandatory minimum sentences already in place for offences to bring them more in line with the UK (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12908/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The UK case referred to by the Deputy was a conviction for murder. In the UK , as in Ireland, the mandatory penalty for murder is life imprisonment. The Irish case referred to by the Deputy was a conviction for manslaughter which does not attract a mandatory penalty in either jurisdiction but is punishable in both by a maximum of life imprisonment.

Illegal Moneylenders

Question No. 486 answered with Question No. 467

Questions (485)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

485. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislative change in the area of illegal money lenders since it is considered that current legislation prevents the vigorous pursuit of illegal money lenders; and if he will liaise closely with the credit union movement who are represented in most local areas to ensure that some form of debt solutions can be formulated with the support of some State agencies. [12917/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

With regard to the issue of illegal money lending it may be helpful if I briefly set out the measures currently in place governing money lending generally. Legislative provisions relating to the regulation of money lending are provided for in the Consumer Credit Act 1995, which is the responsibility of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

The regulation of licensed money lending is a matter primarily for my colleague, the Minister for Finance and the Central Bank of Ireland is the competent authority in this jurisdiction with regard to licensed money lending activity. Under the 1995 Act unlicensed money lending is an offence. Persons who engage in money lending and who do not hold the necessary licence granted by the Central Bank are committing an offence under section 98 of the Act. A person found guilty of an offence is liable on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation acts as a liaison point between An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs with regard to investigations of unlicensed money lending. I am further informed that all allegations of unlicensed money lending are investigated by An Garda Síochána at local level, with the assistance of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, where necessary.

As I have said previously, I would strongly encourage those who may have information concerning the operation of unlicensed money lenders to notify An Garda Síochána who will take all measures open to them to enforce the law in this area. I can assure the Deputy that where there is any identified requirement for additional legislative provisions in aid of An Garda Síochána's powers under the Consumer Credit Act 1995, I will not hesitate in bringing proposals to the attention of my colleague the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

The Deputy will appreciate that responsibilities in this area arise for a number of Departments. Insofar as my Department has a role in this area and in the context of the investigation of illegal money lending, I would, of course, consider any views which the credit union movement put forward.

Question No. 486 answered with Question No. 467.

Garda Deployment

Questions (487)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

487. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the policing strategy and resources in place for the upcoming St. Patrick's bank holiday weekend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13028/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of all resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation and I have no direct function in the matter. This allocation of resources is constantly monitored in the context of demographics, crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. However I have been informed by the Garda authorities that policing plans have been put in place, by Senior Garda Management, in each Division and District to ensure appropriate arrangements are made and resources are available to police the upcoming St. Patrick’s bank holiday weekend. Local Garda Management liaise closely with local communities, local authorities, event-organisers and other stakeholders in putting plans in place to address the issues that arise around the St. Patrick’s bank holiday period. Local Garda Management also liaise closely with the event-organisers when considering and determining the appropriate deployment of Garda resources at such events.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (488)

Denis Naughten

Question:

488. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he intends to revise the Sex Offenders Act 2001 to protect vulnerable persons against sexual exploitation and abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13061/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The General Scheme of a Sexual Offences Bill, which includes amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 2001, is at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department. This will be wide-ranging legislation. In addition to the amendments to the 2001 Act, it will implement the recommendations of two Oireachtas committees and reform the law on incest. It will also facilitate full compliance with the criminal law provisions of relevant EU, UN and Council of Europe instruments. I expect to bring the General Scheme to Government shortly with a view to seeking approval for drafting of the necessary legislation.