Crime Levels

Questions (195)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

195. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of incidents of rape reported in each of the past four years to date; the extent to which each case has been investigated and concluded or is in the course thereof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21074/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I have requested the CSO to provide relevant statistics directly to the Deputy.

Crime Levels

Questions (196)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

196. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of incidents of gun crime reported in each of the past four years to date; the number of such instances resulting in death; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21075/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I have requested the CSO to provide relevant statistics directly to the Deputy.

Legal Aid Service Reform

Questions (197)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

197. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the proposals, if any, to update and streamline the administration of legal aid with particular reference to speeding up the process and increased accessibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21076/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to inform the Deputy that there is no waiting period associated with the granting of criminal legal aid as under the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962, the courts, through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of legal aid on the applicant's appearance in Court.

In relation to civil legal aid, I am to advise that demand for legal services from the Legal Aid Board has increased significantly since the down-turn in the economy. While there was a 10% drop in demand at the general law centres in 2012 compared to 2011, nevertheless the demand in 2011 was 93% greater than it was in 2006. The Board has not been subject to the sort of cuts to its grant-in-aid that other public service bodies have had to experience and I have been able to maintain the Board’s grant-in-aid at the same level for 2013 as it was in 2012 (and 2011). Nevertheless it is a challenging environment that has resulted in lengthened waiting times for those seeking legal services for matters that are not prioritised. Notwithstanding the pressures on resources, the Government has further supported the Board by approving exemptions from the moratorium to enable the organisation to recruit front-line staff for direct service delivery. The Public Appointments Service is currently running a solicitor recruitment competition for the Board from which appointments, both temporary and permanent, will be made within the next month or so.

In response to the changed environment the Board has taken steps to try and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of its legal services. Those steps include the following:

- The Board has been piloting a 'triage' approach in its law centres to service delivery and this approach is operative in most of its centres at this stage. The pilot is in response to lengthening waiting times. The aim of the ‘triage’ approach is that every applicant gets to see a solicitor within a period of one month for the purpose of getting legal advice (consultations are broadly limited to 45 minutes). If the applicant requires further services they remain on the 'waiting list'. There is or has been a ‘backlog’ of applicants to be seen for triage purposes hence it is taking time to reduce the waiting time for such an appointment to one month. A first review of the operation of the pilot indicated that clients were overwhelmingly satisfied with this particular service initiative. This was because they got early access to a solicitor for advice on their legal disputes that provided clarity about the options open to them and the process through which their disputes might be resolved.

- In August 2012 the Board introduced a new case management system in its law centres. This is a ‘start to end’ system which will in the medium term deliver efficiencies in terms of the administration aspect as well as in relation to the delivery of the legal services;

- In November 2011 the Board took responsibility for the management and administration of the State funded family mediation service. A key reason for transferring this responsibility to the Board was to improve the synergies between the State funded family mediation services and the State funded civil legal aid services (most of the demand for legal services is in the area of family law). Improving the synergies will be for the benefit of the customer and will help move away from a ‘litigation first’ approach that may on occasion be too common. Already there are very positive signs from a pilot initiative operating in Dolphin House (where the District Family Court sits) involving the co-location of the courts and a mediation service with a legal service located there also. Steps are now being taken to replicate this initiative in a number of other locations including Cork and Naas;

- With the drop in demand for asylum services the Board has taken steps to integrate its Refugee Legal Service into the general law centre service delivery model thus effectively transferring resources from the asylum area to the general legal service area where the demands have increased;

- The Board has maintained a high level of usage of private solicitors for family law cases in the District Court;

- The Board has continued to engage with other key players in the justice / legal area with a view to trying to ensure that State funded resources that impact on its area of business are used to best effect.

I am currently considering a package of proposals from the Board for the revision of the financial eligibility and contributions provisions governing the granting of civil legal aid. These provisions may have some impact, albeit relatively marginal, on the demand for legal services and the resources available to the Board.

I am very conscious of the difficulties that delays in accessing legal aid can give rise to and I am aware that the Board is also keenly aware of those difficulties and is working to ensure the delays are minimised to the greatest extent possible. I have noted some of the steps that it has taken and I know that it is constantly keeping the delivery of its services under review with a view to getting services to those most in need of them as quickly as possible.

Legal Services Regulation

Questions (198)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

198. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding reform of the legal profession; the extent to which negotiations are continuing with respective interest groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21077/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Programme for Government 2011-2016 undertakes to "establish independent regulation of the legal profession to improve access and competition, make legal costs more transparent and ensure adequate procedures for addressing consumer complaints". These undertakings complement those structural reforms in the EU/IMF/ECB Troika Programme of Financial Support for Ireland aimed at removing restrictions to trade and competition in the provision of legal services and at the reform of the legal costs regime. Effect is being given to these structural reform commitments in the form of the extensive provisions of the Legal Services Bill 2011 which remains a priority under the Government Legislation Programme, has completed Second Stage in the Dáil and is due to begin Committee Stage. It will be recalled that priority also had to be given, during the intervening period, to the drafting and enactment of the Personal Insolvency Bill by the end of last year as a competing Troika programme objective.

Detailed preparation of the Legal Services Regulation Bill is ongoing at my Department in conjunction with the Offices of the Attorney General and of Parliamentary Counsel. We continue to encourage, receive and consider submissions from concerned stakeholders and I very much look forward to debating the relevant issues with Members in the course of the Bill's ongoing passage through the Houses. As I have previously indicated, amendments to the Bill will be made available for consideration prior to the commencement of Committee Stage which is now due to take place on 10-12 July 2013.

Prisoner Rehabilitation Programmes

Questions (199)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

199. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which prisoners serving long-term sentences in respect of first time offences have been referred for rehabilitative training and or education in their first year of incarceration in the past five years; the number of recidivistic offenders who have availed of such schemes in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21078/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Dáil Question No 185 of 6th March 2013:- "The Deputy will be aware from my replies to previous Parliamentary Questions that the statistics requested are not centrally recorded by the Irish Prison Service and to provide such information would require the allocation of a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and resources.

The Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes that include education, vocational training, healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services. On committal, all prisoners are interviewed by the Governor and are informed of the services available in the prison. At this point prisoners may be referred to services or they can self refer at a later date. Where Governors consider, on the information available, that a prisoner needs a particular intervention they will initiate a referral.

The development of prisoner programmes forms a central part of the new Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan 2012 - 2015. There is a clear commitment in the Strategy to enhance sentence planning including Integrated Sentence Management and the delivery of prison based rehabilitative programmes such as education, work training and resettlement programmes".

The position remains the same as outlined above.

Public Sector Pensions Expenditure

Questions (200)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

200. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide in tabular form information on lump sum payments (details supplied) paid to retiring public sector workers between March 2011 and March 2013. [21587/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The information provided in a table refers to lump sum (gratuity) payments made to retiring members of An Garda Síochána in the period 1st March 2011 to 1st March 2013.

Value range

Numbers

Over €250,000

0

€200,001 to €250,000

4

€150,001 to €200,000

14

€100,001 to €150,000

130

€90,001 to €100,000

195

€80,001 to €90,000

453

€70,001 to €80,000

91

€60,001 to €70,000

11

€50,001 to €60,000

7

€40,001 to €50,000

6

€30,001 to €40,000

5

€20,001 to €30,000

7

€10,000 to €20,000

11

Public Sector Pensions Expenditure

Questions (201)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

201. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide in tabular form information on lump sum payments (details supplied) paid to retiring public sector workers between March 2011 and March 2013. [21584/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Defence)

It has not been possible in the time available to compile all of the information requested by the Deputy which, in the case of the Defence organisation, covers retired members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF), retired civil servants from the Department of Defence and retired civilian employees employed with the PDF. I will forward the information to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Questions (202)

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

202. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the new computer system for AOS 1 will be in place; when payments under AOS 1 will be processed; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Galway who was promised payments in December has not yet received any payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20874/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the EU Regulations governing the scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check of all applications, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue.

Successive EU audits have made it absolutely clear that compliance with the Regulations must be strictly adhered to and that all administrative checks must be passed and eligibility conditions met before payment issues. As a result, my Department is obliged to ensure that individual payments will not issue until all aspects of a farmer’s application are in order, all outstanding documentation provided and all queries resolved.

Payments under AEOS are issuing to farmers on an ongoing basis and outstanding payments under AEOS I are largely due to either penalties on applications or unresolved queries associated with applications. Where necessary officials in my Department will have contacted the applicants concerned with the intention of resolving outstanding problems and issuing payment as soon as possible.

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1st September 2010 and full payments totalling €272.13 and €2,917.60 issued in respect of 2010 and 2011 respectively.

The application was selected for a Cross Compliance inspection which resulted in a penalty of 1% being imposed on the AEOS application for 2012. Officials in my Department are now finalising the application of the person named on this basis and payment will shortly issue to the person named.

Fish Quotas

Questions (203)

Joe McHugh

Question:

203. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide an update on a submission regarding the seafood industry (details supplied) that was presented to him in March 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20877/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I understand that the Deputy is referring to correspondence he submitted to me on 26 March 2013 on behalf of mussel farmers in Lough Foyle who are having trading difficulties. That correspondence notes declining market prices for mussels and the lack of a mussel seed spat fall in Lough Foyle in recent years and requests assistance for growers.

Mussel seed spat fall is a naturally occurring phenomenon. I am informed that scientific knowledge in this area continues to evolve and the reasons for the variability in spat fall from year to year are not well understood by scientists or operators. However, it is believed that climatic factors, such as cold seas and storms in recent years, may have contributed to lesser spat falls. Nevertheless, over 30,000 tonnes of seed was fished in the last 3 years, including over 26,000 from Irish waters. Authorisations to fish mussel seed are issued annually to operators who have access to aquaculture plots for on-growing. These authorisations allow the holder to fish for seed in Irish waters and are not restricted to Lough Foyle. In addition, authorised vessels are permitted to fish for seed in Northern Ireland waters.

Under the current measures, there is no provision in the European Fisheries Fund Regulation (1198/2006) allowing financial aid to operators affected by lower market prices or lack of local seed supply.

However, I have asked BIM to provide any other technical assistance that it can to assist operators in Foyle. I understand that BIM has discussed with operators possible alternative sources of seed mussel, including use of long-lines and purchase of seed from third parties. BIM will continue to provide all technical assistance possible.