Commencement of Legislation

Questions (320, 323)

Jack Chambers

Question:

320. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeline and status of the commencement of section 212 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23363/19]

View answer

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

323. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the scheduled date for the commencement of operations by the legal practitioners' tribunal in accordance with the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23376/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 320 and 323 together.

The regulatory reform of the legal services sector has been taking place since the enactment of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 and the establishment of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, which is independent in the performance of its functions, on 1 October 2016.

The Legal Service Regulatory Authority's forthcoming actions are set out in its Strategic Plan for 2018-2020 which was duly laid before the Houses and under which the Authority is set to come into substantial operational mode from the middle of this year.

Part 6 of the Act provides for the introduction of an independent complaints and professional conduct regime for legal practitioners including the separate establishment and appointment of an independent Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal. The new Tribunal will deal with allegations of serious misconduct by both solicitors and barristers and will replace the existing bodies which currently operate for that purpose and will be winding-down their existing caseloads. Extensive preparations have been on-going at the Legal Services Regulatory Authority to put the necessary procedural, staffing, IT and other supports in place with the intention of being in a position to receive and process public complaints from early October 2019. At that point, members of the public will no longer make their complaints through the legal professional bodies as they do at present but directly to the Authority and the new Disciplinary Tribunal will come into operation in its own right.

Section 212 of the 2015 Act, provides that a barrister in employment whose name is entered on the Roll of Practising Barristers may provide legal services to his or her employer, including by appearing on behalf of that employer in a court, tribunal or forum for arbitration. Given that the Roll of Practising Barristers has now been established by the Authority it is also anticipated that section 212 will be commenced to coincide with the coming into operation of the public complaints and professional conduct regime of Part 6 of the 2015 Act later this year.

This Autumn will also see the introduction of the new legal costs transparency regime set out in Part 10 of the 2015 Act including, separately, the transition of the Office of the Taxing-Master to that of the Legal Costs Adjudicators which will maintain a publicly accessible Register of its legal costs determinations. Similarly, the roll-out of Legal Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships is anticipated. The new professional conduct regime being introduced under Part 6 will, therefore, underpin the new legal costs and other obligations that will apply to legal practitioners being regulated under the 2015 Act. As Minister I will, of course, continue to support the roll-out of these various functions with the timely commencement of the relevant provisions.

Garda Deployment

Questions (321)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

321. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in the Donegal division; the number of gardaí based in the division in each of the years 2011 to 2018; the number of new recruits placed in the division between 2017 and to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23364/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this 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 Garda strength of the Donegal  Division  from 2009 to 30 April 2019 , as provided by the Commissioner, is available on my Department’s website through the following link.

202019.xlsx/Files/003_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_2006_to_April_%202019.xlsx

The information in relation to the number of new recruits allocated to each Garda Station is available on my Department’s website through the following link, as supplied by the Commissioner.  http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/08_Allocation_of_Probationer_Gardaí_by_Division_and_Station_2014_to_March_2019.xlsx/Files/08_Allocation_of_Probationer_Gardaí_by_Division_and_Station_2014_to_March_2019.xlsx

I have been assured by the Garda Commissioner that the level of recruitment of Garda members planned for 2019 will ensure that the Government's commitment to increasing the strength of An Garda Síochána to 15,000 Garda members by 2021 will be achieved.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,800 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána. This has seen an increase in the number of Garda members to just over 14,000 at the end of 2018, a net increase of over 1,000 since the end of 2016.

The Government has increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for 2019, including provision for the recruitment of new Gardaí and Garda Staff this year. The Garda Commissioner has informed me that he intends to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 and a net 600 Garda Staff. This Garda Staff recruitment will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to frontline policing in 2019. This is in addition to the approximately 260 Gardaí redeployed from administrative to front line duties by the end of 2018. 

For more general information on Garda Facts and Figures please see the following link: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures

Legislative Measures

Question No. 323 answered with Question No. 320.

Questions (322)

Niall Collins

Question:

322. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the law will allow for a divorce to take place after the two-year separation period following the recent referendum result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23371/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016 was approved by the people in a referendum on 24 May 2019. The Bill provides for the amendment of Article 41.3.2 of the Constitution to remove the minimum living apart period for spouses seeking a divorce and for the amendment of Article 41.3.3 which deals with the recognition of foreign divorces.

After the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Dissolution of Marriage) Bill 2016 is signed into law by the President, the Government will bring forward a Bill to amend section 5(1)(a) of the Family Law (Divorce) Act 1996 to reduce the minimum living apart period specified in that Act to 2 years during the previous 3 years (from 4 years during the previous 5 years). I will seek Government approval shortly for the drafting of the Bill.

The reduction of the minimum living apart period to two years will enable couples whose marriages have broken down with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation to regularise their affairs sooner. A shorter living apart period will also have the potential to reduce the legal costs involved, as couples would be less likely to need to apply for judicial separation or make a formal separation agreement while waiting to become eligible to apply for divorce.

Question No. 323 answered with Question No. 320.

Garda Training

Questions (324)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

324. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if funding will be forthcoming for Garda mountain bike training in DMR north division in the second half of 2019; and when training in mountain bikes was last provided to DMR north division. [23381/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

There has been an unprecedented level of investment in An Garda Síochána in recent years, in support of the Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country. In total, €342 million is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to enable An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting edge technologies and a total of €46 million is being invested in the Garda fleet over the same period.

As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. Further, the allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Commissioner, in light of identified operational demands.

The Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) North Division comprises of four Districts, namely Ballymun, Coolock, Raheny, and Balbriggan. I am informed by the Garda authorities that 32 Garda members attached to the DMR North Division completed mountain bike training in 2018. I am further informed that 10 Garda members from the DMR North Division successfully completed a mountain bike training course in May 2019.

The Garda authorities have advised me that there are currently no plans to provide additional mountain bike training to the DMR North Division for the remainder of 2019.

Legislative Measures

Questions (325)

Michael McGrath

Question:

325. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if amendments are expected from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in respect of the Judicial Council Bill 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23386/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Judicial Council Bill completed Committee Stage in the Seanad relatively recently. A number of amendments to it were made at that Stage, the most significant of which relate to sentencing guidelines. The Government has now given approval for the drafting and moving of additional amendments to the Bill which will address the recommendations contained in the Second and Final Report of the Personal Injuries Commission insofar as personal injuries guidelines are concerned, and which will provide for the establishment of a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee. My intention in relation to the Bill is to introduce those amendments during the course of this month for consideration at Report Stage in the Seanad.

I am committed to securing the enactment of the Judicial Council Bill before the summer recess and, with the cooperation of Senators and of Deputies, I believe that this will be possible. It is a matter for Senators and Deputies to consider which, if any, additional amendments they wish to table to the Bill.

Garda Equipment

Questions (326)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

326. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda mountain bikes attached to each district in the Galway Garda division in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23408/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

There has been an unprecedented level of investment in Garda resources across the State in recent years. The budgetary allocation to An Garda Síochána for 2019 amounts to €1.76 billion. Significant capital investment is also being made in An Garda Síochána in terms of the Garda Fleet, ICT infrastructure and the estate. This continuing investment is intended to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit-for-purpose fleet and that Gardaí can be mobile, visible and responsive on the roads and in the community to prevent and tackle crime.

In accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. Decisions in relation to the effective and efficient use of resources, including purchase and allocation of mountain bikes, are for the Commissioner in light of operational demands. I understand that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, so as to ensure their optimum use.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table outlines the number of Garda mountain bikes in the Galway Garda Division for the dates requested by the Deputy. I am further advised by the Garda authorities that Galway Division has adequate personnel trained and kitted-out in the appropriate uniform in that regard.

District/Community Engagement Hub

Number of Bikes 2017

Number of Bikes 2018

Number of Bikes 2019

Galway

12

12

12

Ballinasloe/Tuam

5

5

5

Salthill/Clifden

4

4

4

Loughrea

7

7

7

Total for Galway Division

28

28

28

Proposed Legislation

Questions (327)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

327. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the sale of alcohol Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23409/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

It is proposed that the Sale of Alcohol Bill will contain proposals to update the law relating to the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol in licensed premises and registered clubs, by replacing both the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2018 and the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2008 with streamlined provisions more suited to modern conditions.

These legislative proposals are among a large number of bills under consideration in my Department. At this time it is not possible to indicate when this complex bill will be published.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (328)

Tom Neville

Question:

328. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the citizenship application number of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23446/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy. The issuance of an Irish passport is a matter for the Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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

Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal

Questions (329)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

329. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied with the turnaround times of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal and the staffing of the board of the tribunal. [23477/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal administers the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted. Under the Terms of the Scheme, the Tribunal is entirely independent in the matter of individual decisions on applications for compensation.

Tribunal members, who are practising barristers and practising solicitors in the Courts system, provide their services on a part time basis to the Tribunal. In order to continue to allow the Tribunal to address claims as promptly as possible within the funds available, I have recently extended the term of office of 5 members pending a competition for the recruitment of new members.

The length of time taken to process an application can vary widely from case to case. Each case is addressed on the individual application. While applications are processed with the minimum of formality compared to court proceedings where compensation is being claimed, in making their decisions Tribunal Members must be satisfied that all supporting documentation submitted is in order. In some cases there can be delays pending the availability of all the required documentation and some cases are complex in terms of medical conditions. For example, in the cases of serious injury to the victim, it can take considerable amount of time before the treating consultant is in a position to give a final prognosis. It is also often necessary to await Garda reports arising from the related criminal investigation before a final decision can be made in a case. By their nature, such investigations can be lengthy and complex.

I can inform the Deputy that an assessment of the caseload of the Tribunal is currently being finalised and I expect to receive a report from my officials shortly.

I can also advise the Deputy that my Department has submitted a request for a review of the Scheme to the Law Reform Commission (LRC) for consideration in the context of its Programme of Law Reform.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal

Questions (330)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

330. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a person (details supplied) can expect a decision from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. [23478/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal administers the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted on Prison Officers. Under the Terms of the Scheme, the Tribunal is entirely independent in the matter of individual decisions on applications for compensation.

However, to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made with the Tribunal and I understand that the decision in this case was returned by the Tribunal member on the 6 June 2019. This decision has now issued to the applicant concerned.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (331)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

331. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress to date in the determination of an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23485/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the processing of the application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy is ongoing. On completion of the necessary processing the application will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. Should further documentation be required it will be requested from the applicant in due course.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements, not only within the State but also at European Union level, and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.

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

Money Laundering

Questions (332)

Michael McGrath

Question:

332. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number and value of cases of completed investigations in the area of anti-money laundering in the past number of years; the current investigations under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23497/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that it is the Garda Síochána which is responsible for the instigation and management of criminal investigations and I, as Minister for Justice and Equality, have no role in relation to operational matters.

I have requested the relevant information from the Commissioner of an Garda Síochána and I will write to the Deputy directly when I receive it.

International Protection

Questions (333)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

333. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 125 of 15 May 2019, if a passport will be returned to such a person upon request. [23511/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I refer the Deputy to my previous reply to PQ No. 125 for answer 15 May 2019. In exceptional cases, passports can be temporarily returned to refugees upon request, if the person can demonstrate a well-founded need for such return. Each application is considered on its merits. A person seeking the return of a passport should write to the Ministerial Decisions Unit, INIS, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 or email mduinfo@justice.ie, whereupon officials of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department will make contact with her or him.

Family Reunification Data

Questions (334)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

334. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of successful applications for family reunification made by refugee sponsors under the INIS non-EEA family reunification policy since the enactment of the International Protection Act 2015. [23540/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The policy document referred to by the Deputy is a general policy to cover the broad range of persons legally in the State who wish to apply for their family members to join them. I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that, as the criteria for qualification under the policy does not consider the original basis by which the sponsor came to have permission to be in the State, the data requested by the Deputy is not available.

The usual manner by which persons who have been granted refugee status by the State can seek family reunification is in accordance in the International Protection Act 2015. Specifically, sections 56 and 57 provide for reunification where the family member is as defined in section 56(9) of that Act. There have been 398 family members granted family reunification under the provisions of the Act since the commencement of the provisions on 31 December 2016.

In addition, the Irish Humanitarian Admissions Programme 2 (IHAP) was established to provide humanitarian admission to Ireland for 530 eligible family members of Irish citizens and those with protection status in Ireland. The first call for proposals was issued in June 2018 which has led to a total of 98 applications being granted in respect of 166 beneficiaries. To date, of the 166 people granted permission, 89 have actually arrived in the State.

A second call for proposals under the IHAP issued in December 2018, with a closing date for proposals of 8 February 2019. Processing of proposals under the second call is underway and it is expected that the majority of decisions under this call will issue by September 2019.

Gambling Sector

Questions (335)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

335. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his Department considers loot boxes and mystery boxes in video games a form of gambling or e-commerce activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23566/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have addressed on a number of occasions, the issue of "loot boxes" and whether they constitute a gambling or e-commerce offering.

A licence is required under the Betting Acts 1931 to 2015 or the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 to sell gambling products, and gaming, as defined under the latter Act, is covered in that regard. While the Minister for Justice and Equality has certain responsibilities under both Acts, the Revenue Commissioners are the responsible licensing authority for gaming and betting.

Video games may offer in-game purchases of "loot boxes" advertised to increase the chances of success in the game. These are referred to as micro-transactions and are a method of monetisation of their product by game developers. Some games may be provided free or at very low cost.

Where the offers do not fall within the current Irish legal definition of gambling, such purchases are essentially an e-commerce activity. This would fall within the recourse of normal consumer law where there is dissatisfaction on the part of the customer with the purchase.

However one might regard in-game purchases and how they may be marketed, it must be clear that they fall within the legal definition of a gambling activity to engage the regulatory attention of my or other Departments. This is a position, which is shared by other EU Member States. However, the position is kept under review.

I can offer the Deputy no particular guidance on the matter of "Mystery boxes". However, my earlier comments on the requirement for a gambling licence or not also apply in this instance.