Garda Vetting of Personnel

Questions (177)

Gerry Adams

Question:

177. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a person (details supplied) in County Louth will receive Garda vetting which has been applied for and which is essential for them to gain work experience which they are required to do as part of FETAC level 5 course they have undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32308/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a vetting application on behalf of the individual referred to by the Deputy was received by the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) on 9 May 2013. The application is being processed and will be returned to the registered organisation once completed.

All organisations registered for Garda Vetting are aware of the processing time-frames for the receipt of Garda vetting and have been advised to factor this into their recruitment and selection process. In order to observe equity and fairness in respect of all applicants for Garda Vetting, standard processing procedures are such that applications are processed in chronological order, from the date of receipt at the Central Vetting Unit.

Garda Stations Refurbishment

Questions (178, 179)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

178. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda stations around the country that are not wheelchair accessible; and the measures being taken to address this issue. [32311/13]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

179. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will take the necessary measures to make Crumlin Garda station, Dublin, accessible to members of the public who must use a wheelchair. [32312/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 and 179 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Office of Public Works (OPW) is responsible for the State property portfolio. In addition, I understand that the OPW has a programme in place to provide disabled access to public buildings, including Garda stations. This set of projects is being progressed by the OPW and I am advised that details in relation to the number of Garda buildings to be catered for under the programme are not readily available to the Garda authorities.

With regard to Crumlin Garda station, I am also advised that a Universal Access Audit has been carried out in respect of the station and that the matter will be further pursued in the context of An Garda Síochána's identified accommodation priorities and the availability of funding within the Vote of the Office of Public Works.

Immigration Status

Questions (180, 184)

Gerry Adams

Question:

180. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the procedures used by An Garda Síochána when establishing the marital status of a Brazilian citizen living here who proposes to get married in this State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32318/13]

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Gerry Adams

Question:

184. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the procedures used by An Garda Síochána when establishing the marital status of a Filipino citizen living here who proposes to get married here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32456/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 184 together.

The entering into a marriage in this State irrespective of the immigration status of the persons involved is a matter for the individuals concerned. Neither my Department nor An Garda Síochána has any role or involvement in establishing the marital status of a non-national person living here who proposes to get married in the State unless there are allegations of criminal conduct in this regard.

With regard to marriage in the State, the Deputy may wish to access the website of the General Registrar Office at www.groireland.ie which provides comprehensive information on the laws and procedures relating to marriage in the State.

Criminal Investigations

Questions (181, 191, 192)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

181. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the presence of the Anglo Irish Bank tapes; the date on which he was made aware of their presence; the action he has taken since being made aware of their presence; the actions that have been taken by the Garda on foot of these recordings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32328/13]

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Michael McGrath

Question:

191. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide details of each of the separate investigations currently underway by An Garda Síochána into the banking collapse; the subject matter being investigated; if he will provide an update in respect of each investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32529/13]

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Michael McGrath

Question:

192. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if An Garda Síochána has launched an investigation into the leaking of certain tapes of Anglo Irish Bank telephone calls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32530/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181, 191 and 192 together.

While I am in ongoing contact with the Garda Commissioner concerning the progress of the investigations into the former Anglo-Irish Bank, the Deputies will appreciate that I have no role in relation to the detailed management of these investigations, nor would it be appropriate for me to disclose what evidence the Garda have in their possession, or the use to which it may be put, in relation to any criminal investigations which they are conducting. I was aware in general terms of course that An Garda Síochána had obtained an enormous range of documents and recordings in the course of these investigations but the detail of this material would have been a matter for the investigating and prosecuting authorities alone. In the circumstances, as I have indicated previously, I had, quite properly, no knowledge of the tapes in question until they were disclosed publicly.

Equally, I do not have a function in relation to establishing the origin of the disclosure of the tapes referred to and, accordingly, I cannot comment on this, other than to say that I have been advised by the Garda authorities that the issue of a criminal investigation into the disclosure of the tapes has not arisen.

As I have stated previously in this House I share the widespread concern that the criminal investigations into the former Anglo-Irish Bank be resolved as soon as possible. However, what is most important now is that nothing be said which would in any way risk the possibility of prejudicing any criminal proceedings.

The Deputies will be aware that a number of Garda investigation files have been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions as have several files from the parallel investigation taking place under the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The investigations comprise several strands which, as has previously been indicated, include the provision of funds by Anglo to various parties for the purpose of its shares, the so-called 'back to back' short term deposits, issues concerning loans to directors and matters relating to financial statements and disclosures. Three persons are currently charged with offences under the Companies Acts and a number of files remain with the DPP awaiting her independent directions. There continues to be close contact between An Garda Síochána and the DPP in relation to all matters arising from these cases. In the circumstances it will be appreciated that it would not be appropriate to make any further comment on the detail of these matters.

Legal Aid Applications

Questions (182)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

182. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason that there are delays in giving new appointments to persons seeking the assistance of the Legal Aid Board; his plans to provide extra resources to eliminate these waiting lists; the average waiting time for an appointment from the board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32330/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to inform the Deputy that under the terms of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995, as passed by the Oireachtas, the Legal Aid Board is independent in the operation of its functions and decisions on individual cases are a matter for the Board. However, in order to be helpful to the Deputy I have had enquiries made with the Board on his behalf.

I am advised that demand for legal services from the Legal Aid Board ("the 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. Demand in 2013 is running at the same level as it was in 2012. 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 has recently concluded a solicitor recruitment competition for the Board from which appointments, both temporary and permanent, are being made at the moment.

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 most of 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.

It is difficult to give an 'average' waiting time as waiting times fluctuate at the individual law centres depending on the levels of demand, the levels of resources available and ‘environmental’ factors such as the frequency of court sittings.

The waiting times at law centres for non prioritised matters are as per the following schedule. This schedule sets out the waiting times for centres not operating the triage approach (second column) and the waiting times for centres operating the triage approach (third and fourth column). The fourth column indicates the additional time that a person who has had a triage appointment is likely to have to wait for a second consultation.

Details re waiting times and numbers waiting on the 1 st June 2013 (in months)

Law Centre

General

Law Centre

not operating triage

Waiting time

for a triage

appointment

Further waiting

time where triage

appointment

previously given

Blanchardstown

3

Brunswick St

9

4

Clondalkin

12

Finglas

14

Gardiner St

3

15

Tallaght

11

Popes Quay

9

South Mall

12

Athlone

4

8

Castlebar

2

6

Cavan

4

3

Dundalk

4

Ennis

13

Galway- Francis St

6

6

Galway – Seville H

7

5

Kilkenny

2

11

Letterkenny

5

7

Limerick

10

Longford

3

5

Monaghan

2

Navan

4

1

Nenagh

1

3

Newbridge

6

9

Portlaoise

6

10

Sligo

4

5

Tralee

4

Tullamore

6

Waterford

7

Wexford

9

Wicklow

1

12

Criminal Law Matters

Questions (183)

Finian McGrath

Question:

183. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will investigate the legality of a mosquito device and clarify if there is any breach of Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act (details supplied) [32452/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matters referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly as soon as the report is to hand.