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Thursday, 5 Jul 2018

Written Answers Nos. 54-73

Direct Provision System

Questions (54)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

54. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he will take to end the system of direct provision in view of the increased access to the labour market for those seeking asylum here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29664/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

On 27 June last the Government announced that we had successfully opted in to the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive. This is a major reform. In effect, when coupled with the programme of reform we have undertaken in recent years, it fundamentally alters the 'direct provision' system as we know it or as it has been described.

As a Government we sought to address the various issues and established the McMahon group and have implemented its proposals. The International Protection Act was introduced which replaced the multi-layered application process down to a single application procedure which will bring certainty to applicants at a much earlier stage. Now, we have introduced measure which will enable applicants in the system without a first instance decision for nine months or more, to access the labour force under a broad and generous permission which will allow them to provide for themselves and live independently. Arising from the opt-in to the Directive, which encompasses a wide range of measures including relating to health, education and accommodation provisions, the system is now on a statutory basis, based on European norms and subject to independent inspection. As a result of these wide ranging reform measures, the current system of Direct Provision is simply not recognisable from that which existed a few short years ago.   

In addition, a standards committee for the accommodation centres has been introduced and a cooking programme has been rolled out in many centres with over 1,500 residents now having access to independent cooking facilities. Residents also have access to the Ombudsman and Ombudsman for Children and a new free appeals process is introduced for issues relating to reception conditions. This is real and radical change.

People who arrive in Ireland are immediately offered shelter, food, support services free healthcare and free education for children. There are no circumstances where the Government can consider ending such a system of humanitarian aid for vulnerable people. The debate on this issue has failed to produce a viable alternative in over a decade.

No one is under any obligation to accept these immediate services though many must arising from their means. Approximately one in four of those currently who apply for protection succeed at first instance. The remainder of persons in the Accommodation centres are those who have received a negative first instance decision and have decided to appeal that decision. They are, as they are entitled to, availing of our appeals systems including the free legal advice and representation services which are the cornerstone of our protection process. Others in the Centres have a Deportation Order issued against them and are obliged to remove themselves from the State with a further cohort having received status. The significant increase in resources both for the International Protection Office and for the International Protection Appeals Tribunal will also assist length of stay in the Centres by reducing processing times.  

The Government has approved a broad and generous access to the labour market for qualified applicants amongst a number of other important reforms in a range of areas covered by the Directive including reception conditions for applicants, improved identification of vulnerability and children’s rights.  These measures are a further significant measure to deliver on the policy pursued in recent years to significantly reform our protection process. 

Effective access to the labour market will help to alleviate social and economic exclusion for applicants and avoid long-term dependency on the State. Asylum seekers will have access to additional means to provide for themselves and their families outside of the State’s directly provided services and supports while their application is being determined.  Moreover, Ireland is one of the few EU Member States to allow eligible asylum seekers to also engage in self-employment.  

With our accommodation centres being put on a statutory basis, an applicant with sufficient earnings may choose to secure their own accommodation in the future. For those who will be granted protection, this will of course assist their early integration into our society and communities. For those who are found not to have a protection need, it provides an opportunity to receive an income, which will help them in their reintegration to their home country to rebuild their lives there.

Crime Levels

Questions (55)

James Browne

Question:

55. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if levels of serious crime are rising in County Wexford in view of crime statistics published under reservation by the CSO in June 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29553/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As I stated last week when the latest crime statistics were released by the CSO, I am disappointed to see the slight increase in burglary and theft offences nationally for Q1 2018 when compared to the same period in 2017; however, let me assure the Deputy that this Government remains committed to helping An Garda Síochána tackle all forms of criminality in our communities. The Deputy will be aware that very significant resources have been provided to An Garda Síochána, including an overtime allocation of almost €100 million announced in Budget 2018, to support large-scale policing operations including Operation Thor.

The scale of Garda activity against burglary and property-related crime under Operation Thor  has led to concentrated Garda activity. As of 17 May 2018, 130,702 targeted checkpoints and 151,819 crime prevention patrols have been conducted nationwide. To give you an idea of the impact of the Operation, I can inform you that this concentrated policing activity has produced in the region of 7,569 arrests and 8,613 charges covering a range of offences which, in addition to burglary, include handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences.

I want to assure the Deputy that I am very much aware of the impact of crime on rural communities, including the serious damage done by organised gangs who target rural areas to engage in burglary and other property-related crime. Such incidents cannot be tolerated in our society and this Government will continue to support An Garda Síochána in tackling the gangs, including mobile criminal gangs, who target rural areas, including County Wexford.

I am informed by the Commissioner that the strength of the Wexford Garda Division on 31 May 2018, the latest date for which information is readily available was 293. There are also 17 Garda Reserves and 32 Garda civilian staff attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Support Units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

For its part, the Government remains totally committed to ensuring An Garda Síochána have all the necessary resources to tackle all forms of criminality in our society, which includes actions taken under Operation Thor. Indeed, some €1.65 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2018. This is an increase of approximately 2% over the allocation for 2017. €98.5m has been provided for Garda overtime for 2018 which represents an increase of €10 million over the initial allocation for 2017 (which amounted to €88.5 million). In November 2017, the Minister for Justice and Equality secured a supplementary estimate of some €42 million for Garda overtime, bringing the spend for 2017 to over €130 million. This compares to a spend in previous years of €91 million in 2016, €56 million in 2015 and some €37.7 million in 2014.

The Programme for Government underlines the need for close engagement between An Garda Síochána and local communities. This is an essential feature of the strong community policing ethos which has long been central to policing in this jurisdiction.  The Deputy will be aware that, as part of the overall strategy to oppose criminality, the Garda authorities pursue a range of partnerships with community stakeholders, including the farming organisations.  These include the well established Community Alert Programme, which receives annual funding from my Department, as well as the work of the Metal Theft Forum, the Crimestoppers campaign highlighting the Theft of Livestock, the Theftstop initiative in relation to farm equipment, and the highly successful Garda Text Alert Scheme. 

On 2 January 2018 I was pleased to announce that my Department will be providing an additional €50,000 in financial support to Community Text Alert Groups as a further measure in this Government's support to crime prevention.  This is in addition to the €100,000 which I announced at the National Ploughing Championships in September 2017. The Rebate Scheme, which also ran in 2016, will allow Text Alert Groups registered with An Garda Síochána to apply for funding to contribute towards their yearly running costs.  The Text Alert Rebate Scheme will be administered by Muintir na Tíre and I would like to urge groups wishing to participate in the Scheme to contact Muintir na Tíre for more information.  The website is www.muintir.ie.

Other policing initiatives include Theft Stop which was launched by the Gardaí and the Irish Farmers Association.  Theft Stop is designed to deter criminals from taking and selling farm equipment by ensuring it is clearly marked with a unique ID (such as an EirCode) and then registered on a nationwide database.

An Garda Síochána's Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021 places a strong emphasis on developing and supporting the community policing ethos of the organisation and enhancing the current delivery model so that Gardaí spend more time in the community, gaining public confidence and trust and providing a greater sense of security.  It will result in the introduction of multi-skilled Community Policing Teams in every District. Community Policing Teams will be made-up of Gardaí from a number of different units who will work with the local community to prevent and detect crime.  Undoubtedly, the ongoing recruitment process will support all Garda activities and will enhance the provision of effective Community Policing throughout the country.

The Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime.  Budget 2018 will support the continuation of this high level of investment in the Garda workforce and ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track.

Constitutional Amendments

Questions (56, 61)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

56. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans with regard to holding referenda in autumn 2018. [23787/18]

View answer

Eamon Ryan

Question:

61. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeline and process for the wording of the constitutional amendments ahead of the referenda in October 2018. [26555/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 61 together.

On 26 September 2017, the Government decided on an indicative timetable for a number of referendums to be held in 2018 and 2019. Under this timetable, and subject to passage of the necessary Bills by the Houses of the Oireachtas and formal confirmation of the polling date, it is proposed to hold referendums in October 2018 on the offence of blasphemy (Article 40.6.1°1) and on a woman's life within the home (Article 41.2). Commitments to hold these referendums are included in the Programme for a Partnership Government.

The necessary preparatory work to facilitate the holding of these referendums is now drawing to a close within my Department.

In relation to blasphemy, that work has involved an assessment of the various options which exist in relation to the nature of the question which should be put to the people. The Government gave approval on 12 June for the holding of a Referendum to amend the Constitution to provide for the removal of the offence of blasphemy, and for the drafting of the required Constitution Amendment Bill. I expect to be in a position to publish that Bill in the very near future.

The issue of the provision on “a woman's life within the home” is being examined by my Department in collaboration with other relevant Departments and the Office of the Attorney General, with a view to determining the best legal approach as regards the question to be put to the people. 

More generally, funding arrangements have been put in place within my Department and contact has been maintained with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Office of the Ombudsman, both of which will have key roles to play in relation to the Referendum process. In addition, the timely publication of both Bills will allow for the early establishment of Referendum Commissions and will ensure that the Commissions will have adequate time within which to begin their preparatory work.

Garda Commissioner Appointment

Questions (57, 65)

Bríd Smith

Question:

57. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will meet with a group (details supplied) to discuss its concerns over the appointment of the new Garda Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29554/18]

View answer

Bríd Smith

Question:

65. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the incoming Garda Commissioner will be facilitated and encouraged to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality to answer concerns from Deputies regarding several high profile loyalist killings and attacks here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29555/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 65 together.

Firstly let me say that I am pleased that the rigorous selection process conducted by the Public Appointments Service (PAS) on behalf of the Policing Authority has come to a successful conclusion with the recent decision by Government to appoint Mr. Drew Harris as the next Garda Commissioner. As Commissioner, Mr Harris will have the full functions of that role including safeguarding the security of the State. On taking up office in September he will, like all entrants to An Garda Síochána, make a solemn declaration under section 16 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the State.

This is the first occasion that the independent Policing Authority has exercised its function in relation  to the filling of this important position. I thank the Authority and the Public Appointments Service for their intensive work over the past ten months on this process. The selection process was an open, international one, designed with the objective of attracting the widest possible pool of candidates from diverse backgrounds to ensure that the successful candidate would be tested against international standards in police leadership.  I understand it worked well in attracting a strong field of high calibre candidates. All those who put themselves forward were subject to robust scrutiny by an independent expert interview board which determined Mr Harris to be the best person for the office at this time. 

The incoming Commissioner is a person of huge ability and the highest integrity and I know he has enormous respect for and knowledge of An Garda Síochána, having worked with members of the organisation as close colleagues over the course of his career. I have complete confidence in him and the Government agreed with my recommendation to accept the nomination of the Authority in relation to his appointment. 

I am sure that the Deputy will agree that dealing with the legacy of the troubles on this island is a complex and sensitive task, and one to which there are no easy solutions.

The Government, working with the British Government and the parties in Northern Ireland, agreed a framework of measures in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement to seek to address this legacy and we are fully committed to seeing those measures put in place and working in the interests of victims and their families.

The political impasse at the Northern Ireland Executive has delayed the roll out of these measures and the Government will continue to work hard to seek the re-establishment of the Executive for the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland.

The Garda Authorities will continue to co-operate with the Police Service of Northern Ireland in respect of all relevant criminal investigations, whether contemporary or historical, in accordance with the arrangements in place.  There is also ongoing co-operation with Coroner’s inquests in Northern Ireland and the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland in respect of historical investigations.

With regard to unresolved, troubles-related criminal investigations in this jurisdiction, the Garda Authorities will fully pursue any new evidence or information that comes to light with a view to bringing the perpetrators of crimes to justice.  There are also regular reviews of cases where it is considered that there may be grounds to advance those investigations.

As regards the Deputy's question in relation to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, that is a matter for the Committee. The Committee decides its own work programme and the individuals that it wishes to invite to appear before it and I have no function in the matter.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (58)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

58. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the engagement he has had with his counterparts in the UK Government, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government about security and justice issues in the past six months. [29410/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

In 2018,  while there was no direct engagement with members of the Scottish or Welsh Executive,  I have had a number of interactions with my counterparts in the UK Government. 

This included a bilateral with the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice  in the margins of the informal JHA Council in Sofia along with a phone conversation with him in March of this year.  In addition, there was both written and phone communications with the current Home Secretary, Sajid Javid  and the previous Home Secretary, Amber Rudd.

I can inform the Deputy that such interactions form a part of the regular engagement my Department has with our counterparts in the UK to support ongoing cooperation on these important issues.

UN Conventions

Questions (59)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

59. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to progress the signing of the Optional Protocol to the UNCAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29659/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Firstly, as the Deputy will be aware, Ireland ratified the UN Convention against Torture in 2002. This Government and previous Governments are fully committed to this Convention and have fully participated in all that its ratification entails. The Optional Protocol to the Convention  (OPCAT) dates from 2007; it is in addition to the Convention and is designed to be preventive in nature.

I am fully committed to ratification and my Department is preparing The Inspection of Places of Detention Bill, with a view to enabling the ratification of OPCAT as soon as possible. In October 2017, officials in my Department attended and participated in a roundtable discussion at the launch of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission's (IHREC) research into the implementation of OPCAT in Ireland. This research – comprising a comprehensive report prepared by the Human Rights Implementation Centre and accompanying submission by IHREC – outlined the Commission’s position on what should be the primary considerations for the State in making progress towards ratification and implementation of OPCAT and set out recommendations in respect of the designation and coordination of a national preventative mechanism under OPCAT.

IHREC’s research was circulated by my Department to relevant stakeholders for their comments and observations. The stakeholders comprised those organisations with policy or operational responsibility in respect of inspection arrangements across the ambit of the national preventative mechanism regime provided for in OPCAT, which goes beyond the Justice sector. Additionally, stakeholders included advisory and advocacy organisations with expertise in this area.

The last of these submissions was received in April 2018 and my officials are now in the process of considering them. This process will conclude this month, and a meeting has been arranged with the newly appointed Inspector of Prisons to discuss the future role of the Inspector's Office as part of the implementation. This engagement will inform the development of the draft Inspection of Places of Detention Bill to enable ratification of OPCAT. My intention is that the draft Scheme will be finalised in the Autumn so that I can bring it to Government before the end of the year.

Garda Accommodation

Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 56.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 30.

Questions (60)

Shane Cassells

Question:

60. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a divisional Garda headquarters in County Meath will be provided in collaboration with the management of An Garda Síochána in view of a request by the chief superintendent in County Meath for same. [29456/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.

Significant efforts are being made by the Government to enhance the working environment generally for members of An Garda Síochána and major investment has been committed under the Capital Plan 2016-2021 to upgrade Garda premises.

The Garda Station Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is an ambitious 5 year programme, based on agreed Garda priorities, that will benefit over thirty locations around the country and includes over €60million of Exchequer funding as part of Government’s Capital Plan 2016 – 2021 as well as a major Public Private Partnership project.  This is in addition to the provision of over €100 million for delivery of 3 new Divisional and Regional Headquarters in Wexford, Galway and Kevin Street, Dublin.

The Building and Refurbishment Programme is providing new stations and modernising older stations at key locations around the country, ensuring safe, modern working environment for members and staff of An Garda Síochána as well as fit-for-purpose facilities for visitors, victims and suspects. 

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Divisional Headquarters for the Meath Division is based in Navan. The programme does not include the development of a new Divisional Headquarters in County Meath. However provision is made under the programme for significant works at the existing Divisional Headquarters, namely the complete demolition of the existing cell block as well as the construction of a new cell block and overhead office accommodation at Navan Garda Station. I am informed that An Garda Síochána is actively engaged with the OPW to progress these works.

Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 56.
Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 30.

Direct Provision System

Questions (63)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

63. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps being taken to ensure that residents of direct provision centres are being advised of their right to vote in local elections in 2019; and the way in which contact with candidates will be facilitated in order that residents can engage fully with the democratic process. [29657/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Department of Justice and Equality, through the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA), has always facilitated and encouraged the registration of and voting by protection applicants in local elections.

The general policy in relation to local elections has been to allow candidates to drop off election leaflets which could be placed in a common area in the centre where they could be picked up by residents. Candidates can provide, on the leaflets, contact details or times of political meetings in the local community that residents can attend.

Residents are also advised as to how they may register with the relevant local authority so that they may vote in elections as appropriate.

A reminder of this policy will issue to all centre managers and residents in the very near future.

Given the particular nature of the accommodation provided in centres, there are a number of factors that would deter unrestricted access by candidates to the private living quarters of residents. These include, the communal nature of the accommodation system and the many practical and logistical difficulties that would arise for centre managers in providing unsupervised access in circumstances where families and children live together. 

This general policy ensures that there are no restrictions placed on residents’ voting rights, or on their rights to access whatever information candidates wish to convey to them, or on any rights to meet with candidates in the public areas of centres.  It also ensures privacy in the residential units and the on-going protection of children in the centre.

There is an opportunity for the newly established Friends of the Centre group at each centre to provide information to residents on how to register to vote and on the importance of local government within the political structure of the State.  The Friends of the Centre groups can also raise awareness in an informal way about the importance of voting.  

Garda Code of Ethics

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 57.

Questions (64)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

64. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the fact that only 50% of gardaí who have received training in the new code of ethics have signed a declaration form to testify they subscribe to same will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29638/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

At the outset, let me say that I share the Deputy's concern that any member of An Garda Síochána would, having received training in the Code of Ethics, refuse to or fail to sign it.  The development of the Code by the Policing Authority was one of its landmark achievements in its first year and I know the work that went in to bringing it to fruition.  It is an exceptionally user-friendly document and one that is grounded in practicality and common sense.  It is an accessible guide to members of the Garda Síochána on ethical behaviour and provides the public with a yardstick against which to measure those behaviours.  It is therefore all the more important that members not only live the Code but underscore their commitment to its tenets by signing it and I would strongly encourage all concerned to do so. 

The Policing Authority oversees the implementation of the Code and I know that the Authority considers that the establishment of the Code has been a very important development in relation to the governance of the Garda Síochána. The Authority attaches particular significance to steps being taken by the Garda Síochána to embed the Code.  The Policing Plan for 2018, approved by the Policing Authority with my consent, sets out the Code of Ethics commitments and contains specific initiatives and performance measures in this regard, including initiatives in relation to the delivery of training. The Policing Authority has a dedicated Code of Ethics Committee which meets regularly with An Garda Síochána to assess steps being taken and Policing Authority members and staff have attended many of the training sessions to assess first-hand the work being done.  

I am advised by the Garda authorities that the Steering Committee in charge of the delivery of Workshops on the Code of Ethics to the organisation recognises that it is vital that each member of An Garda Síochána signs the Declaration on the Code of Ethics to demonstrate their commitment to the nine standards and commitments.  A process is underway at present to understand exactly why members have not signed the Declaration and following this process, the Committee will undertake further critical interventions to ensure sign up by every member of An Garda Síochána by the end of September 2018.  Furthermore, at the most recent Public meeting of the Policing Authority, the Acting Commissioner called on all members to sign the Declaration on the Code of Ethics and reiterated his commitment and that of senior leadership to embedding the Code.

I join with him in this call and will be monitoring developments in the coming months.

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 57.

Closed-Circuit Television Systems Provision

Questions (66)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

66. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the roll-out of the community CCTV scheme. [29656/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for a Partnership Government commits to supporting investment in CCTV systems. In pursuance of this commitment, a new Community-based CCTV grant-aid Scheme was launched by my Department in April 2017 to assist groups in the establishment of community-based CCTV systems in their local areas. It is intended that the Scheme will run for 3 years with funding of some €1 million being made available each year.

Under the Scheme, eligible community groups can apply for grant-aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum grant of €40,000. Upon approval, the applicant will receive an up-front payment of 50% of the grant with the balance to be paid when the system is fully operational.

There has been an increasing level of enquiries relating to the Scheme. A total of 13 applications have been received to date and I understand that a significant number of other applications are currently being finalised for early submission.

4 applications under the Scheme have been approved to date, with approved funding totalling almost €120,000. A further 6 applications are under active consideration (2 of which were received by my Department in the past week). The remaining 3 applications made to date have been returned to the applicants concerned, to enable them to provide the information necessary to qualify for grant-aid.

Of the 4 approved applications for funding, 3 separate schemes are being established in County Wexford and 1 in County Wicklow.

Full details of the grant aid package including guidelines, application forms, code of practice and other relevant documentation are all available to download from my Department's website www.justice.ie. In addition, my officials are available to provide assistance and guidance to any interested party in relation to the scheme, with a dedicated email address available for that purpose - communitycctv@justice.ie.

I am keen to ensure that all interested groups, in both rural and urban areas, take advantage of the availability of this grant-aid scheme and I encourage any interested groups to make contact with my Department with any queries.

Garda Reorganisation

Questions (67)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

67. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the outcome of recent proposals to strengthen the Garda traffic corps and the transformation of the corps into a road traffic police; if he is liaising with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to create a new public transport police; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28782/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of resources and the Minister for Justice and Equality has no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

The Commissioner established the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau (GNRPB) to ensure a consistent approach to road safety and enforcement of road traffic legislation across the country. This is achieved through coordination of enforcement and development of policy based on research and analysis of statistics and by engaging in campaigns in partnership with other State Agencies. I am pleased to say that I obtained sanction for an additional Assistant Commissioner to head up the GNRPB who is responsible for the oversight and strategic management of the policing of our roads network. In order to support this very important work and to facilitate the restructuring of the Garda Traffic Corps to Roads Policing Units in line with the Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016 – 2021, I have also recently secured sanction for a Chief Superintendent in the area of Roads Planning and Major Event Management and the creation of two specialist posts in the GNRPB at Superintendent rank one for Roads Policing and one for Major Event Management.

I am informed by the Commissioner that following an internal examination of the role and function of the Divisional Garda Traffic Corps, they have been re-named Garda Road Policing Units, to reflect the role the Units will play in denying criminals the use of the roads network. In addition to the Roads Policing Units focusing on the lifesaver offences of speeding, seatbelts, mobile phones and driving under the influence, they will also focus on crime prevention and crime detection. Divisional Roads Policing units will work closely with other Divisional units to target known criminals and to disrupt their activities through strict enforcement of road traffic legislation.

I am advised by the Commissioner that following the completion of regional competitions for assignment to roads policing duties an additional 87 Gardaí have been assigned to Roads Policing Units nationwide, in the first quarter of this year. It is planned that a further 63 Gardaí will be assigned to the units later this year to bring the total additional Gardaí assigned to Roads Policing in 2018 to 150 to support better outcomes in relation to road traffic enforcement and crime prevention.

I am advised by the Garda Commissioner that the strength of Roads Policing Units on the 31 May 2018, stood at 680. In addition, there is one Chief Superintendent and two Superintendents attached to the DMR Roads Policing Units, a Superintendent and Traffic Inspector attached to each of the other five Regions. It is important to note, that road traffic legislation is enforced as part of the day-to-day duties of all members of An Garda Síochána, as well as through specific enforcement operations.

For its part, the Government remains committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána have all the necessary resources to tackle all forms of criminality in our communities. In this context, the Deputy will be aware that some €1.65 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2018 and €98.5m has been provided for Garda overtime for 2018.

The Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. Budget 2018 supports the continuation of this high level of investment in the Garda workforce and ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track.

The provision of these additional resources to the Commissioner is a key component in this Government's approach to improving public safety throughout the country which will undoubtedly benefit policing in relation to transport services in Dublin and in other areas. In this regard I have no plans to engage with the Commissioner to progress a dedicated public transport unit within An Garda Síochána. Investment is instead being made in enhancing the resources available for policing generally. I believe this is the best use of scarce resources.

A further consideration is the ongoing deliberations of the Commission on the Future of Policing. Its terms of reference include consideration of the structures and management arrangements required for the most effective delivery of policing to meet the challenges of modern policing. I look forward to receiving its report in September.

Victim Support Services

Questions (68)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

68. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the review of the treatment of complainants in sexual assault and rape trials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29663/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The effect of rape and sexual assault on victims can be devastating. The prosecution of sexual offences must be conducted with sensitivity to the needs of the complainant, while still respecting the rights of the accused person. The review which I have announced will examine all aspects of the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences to ensure that there is a compassionate and fair system in place.

Terms of reference for the review have been drawn up, and the formal review will shortly commence. As part of the preparatory process, I have conducted a series of consultations with representatives from a wide range of organisations in the sector to listen to their views. This was a useful exercise which helped to identify where there may be areas for improvement within the existing laws governing sexual offences. It also brought valuable insight into the experiences of victims of sexual offences in their interactions with the criminal justice system in this jurisdiction.

This Government is firmly committed to strengthening the law around sexual offences. The enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 last year was a significant development of the law on sexual offences, putting in place a statutory definition for consent to a sexual act. The Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 has also significantly enhanced protections for victims of crime, including victims of sexual offences.

The Government has also recently approved the drafting of two further pieces of legislation: a Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill which will provide for sentencing for repeat sex offenders, and a Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill, which strengthens the arrangements for post-release supervision of sex offenders.

Crime Levels

Questions (69)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

69. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the profound challenge to law and order over the past year in view of the number of homicides and widespread anti-social and criminal disorder plaguing many communities; the measures he is taking to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28783/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

At the outset, I want to assure the Deputy that I am very much aware of the impact that these types of crime can have on communities, and I can assure him that this Government remains committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.

The challenges facing An Garda Síochána are considerable, and it is only right that we pay tribute to the brave men and women of An Garda Síochána who work diligently every day to keep our communities safe.

The Deputy will be aware that very significant resources have been provided to An Garda Síochána, including an overtime allocation of almost €100 million announced in Budget 2018. Some €1.65 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2018. This is an increase of approximately 2% over the allocation for 2017 and includes some €98.5 million for Garda overtime. Some €1.61 billion was allocated to the Garda Vote for 2017 which, in itself, was an increase of approximately €60 million over the allocation for 2016 (€1.55 billion as per the 2016 Revised Estimates Version) and included approximately €88.5 million for Garda overtime. In November 2017, I secured a supplementary estimate of some €42 million for Garda overtime bringing the spend for 2017 to over €130 million. This compares to a spend in previous years of €91 million in 2016, €56 million in 2015 and some €37.7 million in 2014.

This Government continues to support An Garda Síochána with unprecedented levels of resources. For example, the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real and tangible progress on achieving this goal.

Working with communities to tackle public disorder and reduce anti-social behaviour remains a key priority for An Garda Síochána. This approach includes a strong focus on quality of life issues and collaboration with local authorities to help address the causes of anti-social behaviour.

I might add that there are a range of strong legislative provisions available to An Garda Síochána to combat anti-social behaviour, including provisions under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Acts, the Criminal Damage Act and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts. There are also the incremental provisions contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which provide for warnings and civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults and Part 13 of the Act which provide for warnings, good behaviour contracts and civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by children, but I would also point to the need for parents to ensure, to the best of their ability, that their children are raised to be respectful and law abiding.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the deployment of Garda resources at local level, including personnel, is a matter for the Garda authorities, in the first instance, however, I am assured that Garda management carefully monitors the incidence of such crime and that Garda resources are deployed in response to changing crime trends. This may include directing resources at areas designated as “hot-spots” for anti-social behaviour. Clearly Garda visibility is very important and this Government remains committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime.

Some €342 million, including €217m in additional funding under the Capital Plan, to improving Garda ICT infrastructure 2016-2021. This allows Gardaí to deploy the latest cutting edge technologies in the fight against crime, including the gathering of vital crime statistics, and will facilitate progress on important reforms arising from the Garda Inspectorate's report on Crime Investigation.

Further, the Government's Capital Plan 2016 – 2021 provides for significant resourcing of An Garda Síochána. Some €46million was allocated for investment in the Garda fleet to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit for purpose fleet. This is in addition to the investment of almost €30 million in the fleet in the period 2013 to 2015. In total in the period 2013 to end of 2017 almost €44 million will have been invested in the fleet with some 2,000 vehicles coming on stream in that period.

The Deputy will appreciate, of course, that increasing resources, of itself, will not defeat the scourge of gang-related and associated crime that currently obtains. However, it is clear from the recent CSO crime statistics which indicate a reduction in homicide figures that An Garda Síochána continue to make significant progress in tackling the insidious threat of organised crime, particularly in Dublin’s North Inner-City through Operation Hybrid, where a proactive approach is being taken to combat those who seek to carry out such shocking murders and prevent further loss of life. I welcome the huge efforts made by An Garda Síochána to prevent further loss of life; in particular the preventing of over 50 murders since Operation Hybrid commenced.

Gambling Sector

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 23.

Questions (70)

Mick Wallace

Question:

70. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 135 of 7 February 2018, the number of prosecutions that were commenced in respect of unlicensed gaming activity for non-compliance with gaming licensing requirements in each of the years 2010 to 2017, by district; the number of these that led to convictions; the enforcement role An Garda Síochána has in regard to unlicensed gaming activities and the availability of gaming machines in locations in which gaming is prohibited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29599/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), is an entirely independent body, who ultimately decides whether or not a person should be prosecuted and for what offence and I, as Minister, have no role in the independent function of that Office.

However, I am advised by the Garda authorities that the following table outlines the number of incidents recorded for the period 2010-2017 for offences under the Betting Acts 1853/1931, as amended, and offences under the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956. Incidents include the following offences:

- A person operating a betting office without a licence.

- A betting Office open on Easter Sunday.

- A bookmaker makes a bet or engages in a betting transaction with a person under 18 years of age.

- The licensee of a public house is found to have a gaming machine in operation in his pub and therefore commits an offence under the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956.

- A person is found selling lottery tickets for a charity without ID or authorisation.

The National Lottery is not covered under these Acts.

Year

Betting Acts

Gaming and Lotteries

2017

3

13

2016

0

14

2015

6

27

2014

15

47

2013

15

61

2012

9

21

2011

6

34

2010

7

96

Statistics provided are operational, provisional & liable to change and are valid to 1 February, 2018

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 23.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

Questions (72)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

72. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the resettlement of persons (details supplied) currently in Turkey will be considered under the UN resettlement programme due to their particular vulnerability further to correspondence signed on a cross-party basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29649/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As I stated in my replies to the Deputy in Parliamentary Questions 72 of 23 May 2018 and 52 of 6 February 2018 and also in recent correspondence, there are established and successful pathways for resettlement in Ireland. While Ireland participates in a resettlement programme led by the UNHCR, it is the UNHCR which assesses each case and makes a referral to a participating State. The selection of resettlement applicants by Ireland requires a detailed consideration of case files received from UNHCR as well as personal interviews, orientation and security assessments. Ireland has received no such referral in relation to this family from UNHCR and it should be noted that Ireland does not have a resettlement programme in Turkey.

While I appreciate the vulnerability of the family who are the subject of the cross-party Deputies' request, Ireland cannot resettle people in response to one-off requests of this nature as this would potentially disadvantage the refugees who have fulfilled objective criteria to qualify for the refugee programme. Ireland must take care to respect the integrity of the UNHCR decision making process, which is based on objective criteria and standard operating procedures intended to ensure the transparent, consistent and fair treatment of people in need. Ireland must also operate within the parameters of our own resettlement programme which is both demanding and exacting. As I have already said, Ireland does not have a resettlement programme in Turkey. Other countries may have such a programme in place and may be in a position to consider a request from UNHCR favourably.

Sexual Offences Data

Questions (73)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

73. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to address the CSO figures which show increases of almost 15% in 2017 in sexual offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29636/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As I stated last week when the latest crime statistics were released by the CSO, the rise in the recorded incidents of sexual assault, and particularly incidents of rape, is something this Government continues to take very seriously. Those found to have committed such abhorrent crimes will face the full force of the criminal justice system.

While the Deputy will appreciate that the investigation of sexual offences is conducted by An Garda Síochána in the first instance, the Government has also moved to strengthen the legislative provisions in place to deal with these crimes. In this context, the Deputy will be aware that the enactment of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 was a significant development of the law on sexual offences, putting in place a statutory definition for consent to a sexual act. This definition is both clear and wide-ranging, to ensure that the law is succinct and clear in what constitutes rape in this jurisdiction. Furthermore, this Act identifies those most vulnerable to sexual exploitation and it targets those who would take advantage of that.

In addition, the Government recently approved the drafting of two further pieces of legislation: a Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill, which will provide for presumptive minimum sentences for repeat sexual offenders, and the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill, which proposes a number of amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 2001 following a review of the management of offenders under that Act. The scheme also includes provisions for the electronic monitoring of sex offenders, and court powers to prohibit a sex offender from working with children. It is my hope that both pieces of legislation will be progressed through the Oireachtas as expediently as possible. I am of course very open to improvement of these Bills by amendment as they go through the Houses on the basis of discussions with all sides.

I can assure the Deputy that the Government remains committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. A total budget of €1.65 billion has been provided to An Garda Síochána in 2018, an increase of 2% on 2017. Furthermore, we are substantially increasing the number of Gardaí. Since the Garda College re-opened in September 2014, approximately 2,000 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and a further 400 members will attest by the end of the year as part of the Government’s commitment to reach an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 by 2021.

An Garda Síochána have set up a National Protective Services Bureau to oversee the investigation of a range of crimes including sexual offences. Divisional Protective Services Units have been established in three Garda divisions, with plans for a further four divisional units in 2018 and establishment of units in all remaining divisions in 2019. These units are staffed by dedicated officers, and will include the investigation of sexual offences in their remit. To date, training for these units has concentrated on domestic abuse. Training workshops have also been delivered to local SORAM (sex offender risk assessment and management) teams in An Garda Síochána.

Finally, while I am disappointed with the increases in sexual offences reported by the CSO last week, an important note here is that these figures do not represent prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland. These numbers are of cases reported to An Garda Síochána only. Increased reporting by victims of sexual offences to An Garda Síochána may also be interpreted as an increase in confidence of victims to report and therefore may be evidence of improved policy making in the area. I would continue to encourage anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault to come forward and report the incident to An Garda Síochána.

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