Departmental Reviews

Questions (661)

Lucinda Creighton

Question:

661. Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will provide the tendering process for the appointment of an independent expert review of performance, management and administration of her Department; if she will confirm that all oral and written correspondence between her Department and those charged with conducting the independent expert review will be recorded and released alongside the review itself when completed in the interests of transparency; if she will provide the total expected cost to her Department for conducting the review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22438/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Government decided on 13 May 2014 to have an independent expert review of the performance, management and administration of the Department of Justice and Equality carried out and completed before the Summer Recess. In view of the urgency of this timeline, I will appoint a high calibre review panel, along the lines of that appointed for the Wright review of the Department of Finance in 2010. All relevant records generated by the review will be available in due course in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.

I am not in a position at this stage to estimate the cost of the review but, given its short timescale, I am satisfied that the cost can be met within the allocations in the Justice and Equality Vote (Vote 24).

Gambling Legislation

Questions (662, 663, 664, 665)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

662. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to introduce a strict age policy, a minimum of 21 years of age, for those permitted to enter casinos here; her plans to record the number of visits a person makes to a casino in any given month; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22464/14]

View answer

Terence Flanagan

Question:

663. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on whether the lack of regulation in relation to private casinos here could lead to money laundering and criminal involvement; the measures that are being taken to address this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22465/14]

View answer

Terence Flanagan

Question:

664. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to introduce a rule that directors and shareholders in casinos here must not have any previous criminal convictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22466/14]

View answer

Terence Flanagan

Question:

665. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the assessment that has been made of the casino gaming industry here; its value to the economy; the regulations that need to be introduced to ensure that the public is safeguarded and a more modern structure is in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22467/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 662 to 665, inclusive, together.

The Gambling Control Bill, (the General Scheme of which is available on my Department's website) makes provision for the licensing of "moderate" sized casinos in Ireland for the first time. The legislation will, when enacted, establish a single licensing authority for gambling, namely the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Head 4 of the General Scheme sets out the primary purposes to be served by the new Bill. Among them is the need to ensure gambling is not used by or for criminal purposes, and also to ensure the protection of children and other vulnerable persons. Under the terms of the proposed legislation, no persons under the age of 18 years will be allowed to engage in any form of gambling activity.

There will be terms and conditions attaching to each licence, designed to protect consumers and to prevent criminal activity. With specific regard to casino licences, the regulator may make it a condition of a licence that each person attending a casino be obliged to enter personal details in a database to be maintained by the licensee. Such persons may also be obliged to produce verification of identity before being granted admission to a casino premises.

While there is currently no provision in Irish law for the licensing of casinos, there are currently 40 private member gaming clubs registered with my Department under the provisions of Section 109 of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 as amended. My Department's anti-money laundering compliance unit conducts inspections of these premises to assess compliance with the 2010 Act.

In accordance with Head 32 of the General Scheme, each applicant for a licence must declare any criminal convictions either in the State or elsewhere. Failure to disclose a conviction may lead to an application being refused. It may also result in the withdrawal of a licence issued to an applicant whose failure to disclose is established only after the licence has been granted. There will be provision for the Minister to specify certain offences that, due to their relevance and nature, must be declared in all cases where applications are being submitted. Heads 32(4) and 34(3) set criteria for the evaluation of convictions.

While I am aware that some assessments of this sector have been carried out, the fact that the sector is currently unlicensed means that the State is not in a position to make an accurate assessment of its value to the economy.

I am committed to publishing the Bill in early 2015 and believe the proposals contained therein will serve the public interest and will contribute to the protection of consumers.

Gambling Legislation

Questions (666)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

666. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to establish a gaming and lotteries authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22468/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Gambling Control Bill, the General Scheme of which was approved by Government in July 2013, will update all existing laws on the regulation of betting and gaming (other than the National Lottery).

The Bill will confer responsibility for all regulatory matters on the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Minister's functions will include licensing, inspections and prosecutions and they will be carried out by a body to be called the Office for Gambling Control Ireland, to be located within my Department. There will be a dedicated inspectorate to ensure compliance by licence holders with the terms of their licence and with the new legislation generally.

I am committed to publishing the Gambling Control Bill in early 2015. However, in the interim, the General Scheme of the Bill is available on my Department's website.

Garda Confidential Recipient

Questions (667)

John McGuinness

Question:

667. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the whereabouts of files (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22574/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy's Question is in respect of the operation of the Garda Síochána (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007, which provide for the appointment of an independent Confidential Recipient to whom members of the Force, and civilian support staff, can report, in confidence, instances where they believe there may be corruption or malpractice within the Garda Síochána. Retired District Court Judge Mr Patrick McMahon was appointed on 12 March, 2014 to the position of Confidential Recipient to replace Mr Oliver Connolly who was relieved of his position on 19 February 2014, the circumstances of which the Deputy is aware.

The Confidential Recipient is required to transmit each confidential report to the Garda Commissioner (or to the Minister, if the report contains an allegation which relates to the Commissioner), who must investigate it and take any necessary action (unless it is believed that the allegations were not made in good faith or were false, frivolous or vexatious).

In transmitting a report the Confidential Recipient must protect the identity of the whistleblower, subject only to an exception, which is subject to stringent conditions, where knowledge of the whistleblower’s identity is essential for the proper investigation of the allegations. Any communication between the Confidential Recipient and the whistleblower is absolutely confidential.

In the circumstances I am not in a position to provide the Deputy with information on any cases that may have been ongoing at the time that Mr Connolly was relieved of his position. Any member of An Garda Síochána, or civilian support staff, is free to contact retired Judge McMahon in confidence to discuss any concerns they may have with regard to current confidential reports they may have made, or confidential reports they wish to make. The Garda Commissioner issued a Directive on 4 March 2014 giving the identity and contact details of the Confidential Recipient to all members of the Force. The details are also available to members of the Force on the Garda Portal.

Regulation 15(1) of the Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice Regulations 2007, requires the Garda Commissioner to report to me not later than four months after the end of each year in relation to any confidential reports made during that year. Based on the information provided by the Commissioner the number of confidential reports for each year since 2008 was as follows;

Year

No. of Reports

2008

2

2009

4

2010

2

2011

1

2012

3

2013

1

I am advised by the Garda Commissioner that all files notified to the Commissioner are filed at the Office of the Commissioner, that all investigations conducted through the mechanism of the Confidential Recipient have concluded and that there are no outstanding matters under investigation.

Finally, as the Deputy may be aware, due to concerns that the office of Confidential Recipient, and the legislation applicable, was not fulfilling the objective for which it was established, the Cabinet, at its meeting of 25 February 2014, agreed in principle that an appropriate amendment to the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 should be prepared to enable the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to be prescribed as a body to which disclosures may be made by members of the Garda Síochána.

Legal Services Regulation

Questions (668)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

668. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding solicitor training contracts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22581/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am aware of the fact that there are aspects of the economic crisis that are having an impact on the availability of training contracts and apprenticeships for those seeking to qualify as solicitors. I am also aware that there has been a reduction in the number of practising solicitors, of whom over 1,000 are reported to remain unemployed, and this has been accompanied by some decline in the number of solicitors in practise who are in a position to support paid apprenticeships. However, notwithstanding these ongoing challenges and the hope that they will dissipate through ongoing economic recovery, it is my understanding that the Law Society has a long-standing scheme in place under which it provides support and guidance to prospective solicitor apprentices. This includes a facility under which apprentices can, I understand, be matched-up with solicitors' firms who are able to register their apprenticeship vacancies with the Society for that specific purpose. An area of the Society’s website for members is also, I understand, set aside for solicitors apprentices. I would, therefore, hope that any person seeking a solicitors apprenticeship at this very challenging time will be able to augment their own efforts with the appropriate support of the Law Society in this regard.

This is an area which is due to come under review. The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011, which has completed Dáil Committee Stage, includes a number of provisions which relate to the professional education and training of legal practitioners. For example, under section 9 of the Bill, the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority is charged, among other things, with keeping under review the admission requirements and policies of the Law Society relating to the solicitors' profession and the availability and quality of education and training (including ongoing training) for solicitors, including how and by whom such education and training is provided. In addition, section 30 of the Bill provides for the Authority to report on a range of matters following a public consultation and reporting process. These matters include, specifically, the education and training (including ongoing training) arrangements in the State for legal practitioners and the manner in which such education and training is provided. I would expect that the issue of apprenticeships, including access to them and the availability of training contracts, will be among those aspects of the training and qualification of legal practitioners that will be kept under active review by the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority - while also being addressed as part of the public consultations on the education and training of legal practitioners upon which a report is to be provided by the Authority.

Ground Rents Payments

Questions (669)

Jim Daly

Question:

669. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to assist expired leaseholders; the advice she can offer to persons affected by this difficulty; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22584/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The position is that section 2 of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1978 introduced a prohibition on the creation of new leases reserving ground rents on dwellings. As regards existing ground rents, Part III of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No.2) Act 1978 contains a statutory scheme whereby a person may, at reasonable cost, acquire the fee simple in his or her dwelling. To date, over 80,000 applicants have acquired freehold title to their property under this scheme. In the case of property other than dwellings, the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1967 contains provisions which facilitate acquisition of the fee simple in certain cases subject to agreed terms or on terms set out in an arbitration carried out by the County Registrar.

The position regarding ground rents was considered by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution in their 2004 Report 'Private Property'. The Committee took the view that a ground landlord's ground rent is a form of property right which is constitutionally protected and that abolition of such rents would be unconstitutional in the absence of adequate monetary compensation. The Committee also noted that where leases were approaching expiry, any legislation providing for the abolition of ground rents would have to provide for the payment of enhanced compensation by the ground tenant. The same would obviously apply in the case of expired leases. In light of the foregoing, I have no immediate plans to introduce further legislation in this area but the operation of the existing law is being kept under review by my Department.

Television Licence Fee Collection

Questions (670)

John Halligan

Question:

670. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will confirm in the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 the number of persons that were convicted for non-payment of their television licences; if she plans to follow the recent precedent set within UK courts not to prosecute persons for such offences; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22587/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions, which include the provision of information on the courts system.

In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the table below shows the number of persons convicted for non-payment of a TV licence for the period requested. As the Deputy will be aware the initiation of a prosecution for non-payment of a TV licence is a matter for An Post which does not operate under the aegis of my Department.

Year

Number of Persons convicted for non-payment of TV Licences

2011

4,269

2012

4,120

2013

4,769

Garda Expenditure

Questions (671)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

671. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which the current lease on An Garda Síochána premises at Harcourt Street, Dublin, expires; the amount paid each year in rent in respect of same; if An Garda Síochána plans to extend the lease or if it is proposed to find new accommodation; if a new build is being considered at a different site in Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22605/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The programme of refurbishment and replacement of Garda accommodation is based on accommodation priorities which are established by An Garda Síochána. The programme is advanced in close co-operation with the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. Funding for such works is met by the Office of Public Works.

In that context, capital expenditure on Garda accommodation, including all leases, comes under the remit of the Office of Public Works. Accordingly it is a matter for the Office of Public Works to negotiate any future leases in relation to this property.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal Funding

Questions (672, 673, 674)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

672. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the budget for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. [22607/14]

View answer

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

673. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the figure for outstanding adjudications from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal which have yet to be paid. [22608/14]

View answer

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

674. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the failure to appoint the membership of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal is a budgetary measure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22609/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 672 to 674, inclusive, together.

I can inform the Deputy that under the terms of the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal is entirely independent in the matter of individual applications that fall to be considered under the Scheme.

The Tribunal's budget for 2014 is €4.231 m. (see 2014 Revised Estimates for Public Services).

As the Deputy may be aware, a Tribunal Chairperson, Mr. John Cheatle, B.L. who can, under the terms of the Scheme, determine applications and is entirely independent in that regard, was appointed by my predecessor in October 2013.

As the Deputy may also be aware, in November 2013 my predecessor secured a supplementary estimate of €7.3 m. for the Tribunal. This money enabled the Tribunal to pay all outstanding agreed awards accepted under this cash limited scheme during 2013, leaving no arrears of payments at year's end.

I can further inform the Deputy that a press release issued on 9 April, 2014 seeking expressions of interest from suitably-qualified persons who wish to be considered for appointment as members to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. The closing date for receipt of expressions of interest was 29 April, 2014. I am currently examining the expressions of interest received and I expect to make appointments to the Tribunal in the near future.

Finally, I understand that at present the Tribunal has no outstanding awards under the scheme on hand for payment.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Questions (675, 676, 677)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

675. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality with regard to prosecutions that were unsuccessful and were struck out with no order, if these will be defined as minor offences under the new legislation coming forward in the autumn of this year; if matters relating to minor offences which have been struck out will not then appear on Garda vetting (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22633/14]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

676. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality with regards to proposed new legislation if the soft information on the poll system will affect a young person who applies for Garda vetting in the autumn (details supplied); if a false allegation is made against a person and is ultimately declared null and void, can that be used against a person as soft information; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22634/14]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

677. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality with regard to proposed legislation, which is supposed to be implemented this coming autumn with regard to minor offences, when this law will come into force; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22635/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 675 to 677, inclusive, together.

I refer the Deputy to previous replies to him in respect of PQs 16310, 16311 and 16312.

As I indicated previously to the Deputy the amendment of the Vetting Act will be done via the Spent Convictions Bill. I expect to be in a position to commence the provisions of the 2012 Act in the autumn of 2014.

The National Vetting Bureau (Children & Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 sets out procedures to allow the disclosure of criminal records and specified information for vetting purposes. “Specified information” is information other than a court determined criminal record. It is only disclosed if it is information which provides a bona-fide reason to believe that a person would pose a threat to a child or vulnerable person. In the example given by the Deputy, it is most unlikely that an acquittal for a minor theft offence would involve information of this type. An acquittal for a minor theft would therefore be unlikely to be disclosed. The Act also provides that the information must be assessed for its reliability and relevance, and the disclosure must be in accordance with principles of natural justice.