Teacher Training Provision

Questions (186)

Colm Brophy

Question:

186. Deputy Colm Brophy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the level of investment in teacher continuous professional development. [53767/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

A key objective in the Action Plan for Education 2016-2019 is to develop the continuum of teacher education to equip teachers with the right skills for 21st century teaching and learning and improve school leadership. The quality of our teaching profession is a critical factor in sustaining and enhancing the quality of education outcomes.

The Department promotes the quality of teaching and learning through the provision of continuing professional development (CPD) and supports for teachers and principals. The professional development needs of serving teachers in recent years have being addressed through the provision of an induction programme for newly-qualified teachers, dedicated support for school leaders, national CPD for curricular and policy reform, and ongoing support for teachers.

The Department ensures that a range of high-quality models of CPD is provided to teachers and school leaders through its support services, the national network of Education Centres and appropriate groups, bodies and institutions who are empowered to design, develop and deliver CPD programmes.

Funding provided for CPD for primary and post-primary teachers and school leaders since 2015 is as follows:

2015 €22.803m

2016 €22.606m

2017 €27.886m

2018 €30.898m

It should also be noted that an additional investment in the region of 34m annually is also provided to support the ongoing secondments and substitution costs associated with CPD provision.

Early Childhood Care and Education

Questions (187)

Colm Brophy

Question:

187. Deputy Colm Brophy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the supports that exist for naíonraí; and the cost of increasing such supports by 5%. [53769/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Financial supports for Early Childhood Education and Care settings generally are the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and my colleague the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has some responsibility in respect of financial supports for naíonraí.

One of the main goals of my Department's Policy on Gaeltacht Education 2017-2022 is to strengthen early years’ educational provision in the Gaeltacht. In this context my Department has committed to the development and provision of guidance for naíonraí and primary schools on the development of links between them, including exemplars of good practice, and to enhancing the delivery of inspection services through Irish, and work is progressing in these areas.

Schools Building Projects

Questions (188)

Jack Chambers

Question:

188. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the development of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53775/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The permanent project for the school referred to by the Deputy is being delivered under my Department's Design & Build Programme.

Key factors that can impact on the timeline for any new school project are the availability of a site and the planning permission process for the new school building.

A site was identified and will be available for this new school. This has enabled the design process for the new school building to be undertaken. Planning Permission was lodged with the Local Authority on November 29th . The planning permission process will be a key factor for determining the timeline for the delivery of this project.

My Department's officials have kept the school authority fully briefed in relation to this project and the anticipated delivery timelines in respect of same.

Along with the Taoiseach my Department is working to have the first phase of the school's permanent accommodation handed over by September of 2021 with phase 2 to follow in a matter of months. The delivery date of September 2021 for Phase 1 is dependent on no delays arising during the planning permission process.

School Accommodation Provision

Questions (189)

Niall Collins

Question:

189. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he is taking to provide permanent accommodation for a school (details supplied); his views on the concerns of the school community on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53776/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In relation to the permanent accommodation needs of the school to which the Deputy refers, with the assistance of South Dublin County Council a site has been identified in the relevant area to accommodate a permanent building. Work is ongoing at present to advance the process into the legal conveyancing stage. The acquisition of this site is being progressed as a priority.

Personal Injury Claims

Questions (190)

Robert Troy

Question:

190. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the personal injuries pay-outs will be published for properties under the ownership of his Department in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [53790/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department does not routinely collate or publish information on personal injury pay-outs. Costs incurred by the State in personal injury cases involving properties under the ownership of the Minister are generally not met directly by my Department. In accordance with financial procedures in cases involving compensation against the State, such costs are charged to the State Claims Agency.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (191)

Brendan Smith

Question:

191. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if additional educational facilities will be provided in 2020 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53822/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The provision of education for children with special needs, including those with Autism, is an ongoing priority for Government.

Currently, almost 20% of the total Education Vote or €1.9bn is invested in supporting children with special needs.

The majority of children with Autism attend mainstream class, where they may access additional supports if required.

But some students may find it difficult to manage full-time placement in mainstream and so placement in a Special Class or Special School setting may be deemed appropriate where placement in mainstream class is not in the best interests of the child.

Nationally, 167 new special classes opened this school year, which means there are 1,618 special classes in place, compared to 548 in 2011. Of these 1,353 special classes cater for students diagnosed with ASD.

As approximately 1% of the school population require the support of a special class, it is not possible or practical that a special class placement would be available in every school.

Instead the NCSE ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

Before approaching a particular school to request the establishment of a special class, the NCSE take into account both present and future potential need within the area and must be satisfied that the class is sustainable and appropriately located.

The NCSE has planned further expansion of special class and school places to meet demand for the coming years, which will include additional post primary special class provision.

It is open to any school to make an application to the NCSE for the establishment of a specialised provision and where sanctioned, there is a range of supports including capital funding available to the school.

Normally, special class and school places are established with the full cooperation of the schools in areas where they are required. However there are some parts of the country where the Council has faced challenges in getting schools and their Patrons to voluntarily agree to provide special class or school places.

I know that this can cause much anguish for parents and families involved.

As Minister I have a power under Section 37A of the Education Act 1998 to direct a school to provide additional provision where all reasonable efforts have failed.

I would prefer to see schools volunteer to provide more places rather than places being secured on the back of an order or a direction from me. It is the right thing for the children in a community.

The NCSE has a team of local Special Education Needs Organisers who can advise parents of children with special educational needs and identify available school places.

As the matter raised by the Deputy refers to a particular area, I have arranged for the Deputy's question to be forwarded to the National Council for Special Education for their attention and direct reply.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (192)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

192. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Skills the capital expenditure by his Department in County Louth and east County Meath by location and facility provided or commenced in each of the past four years; the location and purpose of each such expenditure; the new and improved services provided as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53842/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being compiled and I will arrange for a response to issue directly to the Deputy in relation to this question.

Audiology Services Provision

Questions (193)

Denis Naughten

Question:

193. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the provisions over and above that available to children with hearing loss made for the 49 children in counties Mayo and Roscommon who had their hearing misdiagnosed by the HSE; the specific resources set aside for these children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53856/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Following the HSE Look Back Review of Paediatric Audiology Services in Mayo, Galway and Roscommon, officials from my Department and the HSE met in September 2018 to discuss special educational supports for the affected children.

It was agreed that where the affected children had special educational needs due to a hearing impairment, special educational needs supports could be provided in line with the various schemes operated by both my Department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).

My Department agreed to review the special educational supports provided to the affected children and to ensure that they are in receipt of supports in line with Department schemes, and that supports provided are based on children’s individual needs.

The HSE sought consent from parents/guardians to share affected children’s details with my Department and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE). To date, the details of nine children have been provided to my Department.

As a matter of priority, my Department in conjunction with the NCSE, completed its review of the special educational supports in place for each of the nine children and has now ensured that they are in receipt of appropriate special educational needs supports in line with the terms of various schemes.

Supports available include Special Education Teaching support in schools; funding for Assistive Technology such as Soundfield and FM systems; and guidance from the NCSE’s Visiting Teacher service on classroom adaptation and school staff training.

All children are in receipt of special educational needs teaching support under the new model introduced in 2017 and revised in 2019. The new Special Education Teaching allocation provides a single unified allocation for special educational support teaching needs to each school, based on that school’s educational profile, to allow schools to provide additional teaching support for all pupils who require such support in their schools. Schools deploy additional teaching resources based on each pupil’s individual learning needs.

The Visiting Teachers Service has assessed the educational needs of all nine children and made recommendations to their schools. In accordance with the Visiting Teachers’ Service Referral Process and Procedures, children with mild or unilateral hearing loss are placed on the “On Request” caseload and children with moderate-profound hearing loss are placed on the “Active” caseload of the Visiting Teacher.

The Visiting Teachers have assessed the acoustic conditions in the schools and made recommendations to schools to put in place appropriate measures to cater for the children’s needs. Schools may utilise existing funding streams from the Department such as the Minor Works Grant or Grants for furniture and equipment for special education needs, to provide equipment, if these are recommended.

All nine children have received assistive technology, in accordance with the criteria of the scheme.

With regard to teacher training, the NCSE can provide direct support to the schools and individual teachers in as flexible a way as possible. Schools can apply for support through the NCSE’s online application system, which is accessible via the NCSE website.

The NCSE offers telephone advice, school visits from a member of the team, in-service courses for individual teachers, or whole-school training. Whole-school training will ensure that all teachers are equipped to cater for the children’s educational needs, as they progress through school.

Schools have been instructed to continue to engage with their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) and Visiting Teacher with regard to the special education needs of the children identified by the HSE review. Parents/guardians may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on the NCSE's website.

My Department has made direct contact with both the schools and parents/guardians and a representative of my Department also met with a group of affected parents/guardians in November 2018 and March 2019. The HSE, Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and NCSE were also represented at those meetings.

Where applications for new or additional supports are made to either my Department or the NCSE in respect of the 9 children already identified, these will be considered as a matter of priority, in line with the terms of the various schemes.

My Department will also continue to work with the HSE and where details of other affected children are supplied by the HSE, educational supports will urgently be reviewed, in conjunction with the NCSE.

Adoption Legislation

Questions (194)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

194. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 240 of 22 October 2019, his plans to allow same-sex couples to avail of the same adoptive leave and benefit which straight couples and single-male adopters are entitled to in the context of the Parent's Leave and Benefit Act 2019; if this is not possible, when he plans to deal with the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53446/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

On 22 October last, the Government approved the priority drafting of provisions on adoptive leave with a view to their inclusion in the earliest appropriate Bill.  These provisions will give all adopting couples, whether same sex or opposite sex, the right to select which of them will be the qualified adopter i.e. which will get adoptive leave and benefit.

Drafting of the provisions is ongoing and, therefore, it has not proved feasible to include them in the Social Welfare (No. 2) Bill.  I am considering the presentation of a separate Bill to deal with the issue so that the present situation in regard to adoptive leave can be rectified as soon as possible.

Legal Aid

Questions (195)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

195. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when allowances against income when considering eligibility for civil legal aid were last reviewed; the recommendations that arose from the review; the changes made; the frequency of reviews; when it is next planned for a review to be undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53447/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Legal Aid Board provides legal advice and aid under the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996-2017. The Board delivers these services through directly employed solicitors in its network of law centres around the country and private solicitors from its private practitioner panels.

Applicants for legal aid must meet the financial eligibility criteria under section 29 of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2017. This provides that their disposable income (less certain allowances) must be below €18,000 and their disposable capital (less certain allowances and excluding the value of the home in which they live) must be below €100,000.

Since the enactment of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the making of the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996, the Regulations relating to financial eligibility have been substantially revised on three occasions. The following table details the changes that have been made to the allowances between 1996 and 2006. The 2013 Regulations made changes to certain aspects of the financial eligibility regime, however the allowances remain the same as provided for in the 2006 Regulations. The Regulations have been amended on two further occasions; to provide that persons granted legal aid pursuant to the Abhaile Scheme do not need to be means tested and that persons granted legal aid in domestic violence cases do not have to pay a contribution.

There is no formal process for reviewing the Regulations. The Board periodically brings proposals to my Department in relation to the financial eligibility and other criteria in relation to civil legal aid. I understand that the Legal Aid Board has brought such a proposal and the matter remains under consideration at this time.

Changes in financial eligibility thresholds and allowances, 1996 to 2013

Threshold

1996

2002

2006

2013

Disposable income

€9,333

€13,000

€18,000

€18,000

Disposable capital

€253,948

€320,000

€320,000

€100,000

Allowance

1996

2002

2006

2013

Spouse/partner

€1686

€1,900

€3,500

€3,500

Each dependent

€848

€1,100

€1,600

€1,600

Child care

€848

€1,100

€6,000

€6,000

Income tax

Full

Full

Full

Full

Social insurance

Full

Full

Full

Full

Accommodation costs

See below

€4,900

€8,000

€8,000

Deduction from ex-gratia payments received

€660

€1,040

€1,040

€1,040

USC

N/A

N/A

N/A

Full

PRD

N/A

N/A

N/A

full

Rent

€3,779

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

Mortgage repayments

€4,828

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

Rates

Full

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Work Travelling Expenses

€336

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

HP Repayments

€336

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Interest on Other loans

€764

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

VHI

€957

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Life Assurance

full

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Board and lodgings (50%)

€2,030

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Ex-gratia payments made

€1,595

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Notes:

1. "Other Loans" excluding Mortgages and Hire Purchase Agreements

2. The amounts in the 1996 Regulations were set out in Irish pounds, For comparability purposes they have been converted to Euro at 1 euro = 0.787564 Irish pounds and rounded to the nearest euro.

3. The 2006 Regulations changed the basis on which disposable capital was assessed.

Legal Aid Service Data

Questions (196)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

196. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that applied and qualified for civil legal aid pursuant to section 28(9)(c)(iii) of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53448/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Legal Aid Board provides legal advice and aid under the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996-2017. The Board delivers these services through directly employed solicitors in its network of law centres around the country and private solicitors from its private practitioner panels.

There is no requirement for an applicant to cite individual sections of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 when making an application for legal services. A solicitor who makes an application for a legal aid certificate on an applicant’s behalf will consider any applicable law including the provisions of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995. When the Board grants legal aid it satisfies itself that the application meets all of the relevant criteria under the Act and Regulations. However it does not record a list of applicable criteria relating to each individual successful application. For this reason, the Legal Aid Board is not in a position to provide the specific information the Deputy seeks.

However, the Board informs me that, in practice, the number of applications made on a yearly basis involving facts in which the section referred to is invoked is small compared to the total number of applications.

By way of background

Section 28(9)(a)(ii) of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 provides as follows:

“(9) ( a ) Subject to any order made under subsection (10) and to the other provisions of this subsection, legal aid shall not be granted by the Board in respect of any of the following matters (referred to in this Act as "designated matters")…. disputes concerning rights and interests in or over land;

Effectively section 28(9)(a) provides for a list of matters (referred to as designated matters) that are not within the scope of civil legal aid and it is ultra vires the Act for the Board to grant legal aid in any such matter. However, section 28(9)(c) provides for a list of exemptions to the designated matters set out earlier in the Act. Section 28(9)(c)(iii) provides that:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a) and subject to the other provisions of this Act, legal aid may be granted… where a subject matter of the dispute is the applicant's home (or what would be the applicant's home but for the dispute) and the Board considers that the applicant

(I) suffers from an infirmity of mind or body due to old age or to other circumstances, or

(II) may have been subjected to duress, undue influence or fraud in the matter, and that a refusal to grant legal aid would cause hardship to the applicant;”

A number of criteria must be met for a matter to fall into this exception . Firstly, the subject matter of the dispute must be the applicant’s home or what would be the applicant’s home but for the dispute. Secondly, the Board must consider that the applicant either suffers from an infirmity of body or mind due to old age or to other circumstances, or that the applicant may have been subjected to duress, undue influence, or fraud in the matter. Thirdly, the Board must consider that a refusal to grant legal aid would cause hardship to the applicant.

Courts Service Data

Questions (197)

Michael McGrath

Question:

197. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 105 of 3 October 2019 and 276 of 12 November 2019, if he will arrange for the requested information to be forwarded by the Courts Service; his views on whether the delay in the provision of such information is not acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53485/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As set out in my responses to Parliamentary Question 105 of 3 October and Parliamentary Question 276 of 12 November, the data requested is not maintained by the Department of Justice and Equality.

I requested the information concerned from the Courts Service and they undertook to contact the Deputy directly if any further information was available. I have since consulted further with the Courts Service and have been advised that they have nothing further to add in response to the Deputy's question.

The matter raised also concerns the Central Bank, for which I have no responsibility as Minister for Justice and Equality. I understand that information in relation to the matters raised by the Deputy in these questions has already been provided to the Deputy by the Minister for Finance in his response to Parliamentary Question 56 of 3 October 2019.

I hope this information is of assistance to the Deputy.

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission Investigations

Questions (198)

Michael McGrath

Question:

198. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if information will be provided on the incidence of money mule accounts (details supplied); the details of completed or current investigations under way on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53522/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy. I will write to the Deputy directly once I receive it.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

Questions (199)

Seán Haughey

Question:

199. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if Ireland has fulfilled its commitment to accepting 4,000 refugees as part of the resettlement and relocation programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53533/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

In 2015, as part of Ireland's response to the migration crisis in central and southern Europe, the Government established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). Under this programme, the Government committed to accepting up to 4,000 people into the State, primarily through a combination of the EU Relocation Programme and the UNHCR's Refugee Resettlement Programme.   

I can inform the Deputy that a total of 3,151 people have arrived in Ireland to date under the various strands of the IRPP. 

In total, 1,022 people were welcomed into Ireland under the EU relocation mechanism, which has fulfilled Ireland's commitment to this strand of the Programme.   

Under UNHCR-led Resettlement strand, a commitment was made to resettle 1,985 people, of which 1,858 resettlements have been completed. With the arrival of a further 55 persons by the end of this month, a balance of only 72 persons will remain to be resettled under this strand.

On the advice of the Defence Forces, it has not been possible for staff from my Department to travel to Beirut to complete the selection of this cohort, which will now take place in early 2020. Flexibility has been sought from the European Commission on the timing of these arrivals given the current volatility in Lebanon. 

The IRPP programme also includes the IRPP Humanitarian Admission Programme (IHAP) under which Irish citizens, programme refugees, UN Convention refugees and persons with subsidiary protection can apply for family members to come to Ireland where those persons are living in the top 10 refugee generating countries.  It is expected that 740 people will arrive under the Programme and 159 people have already arrived in the State. There will be some delay in the completion of the IHAP strand, as those granted permission to travel to Ireland make their own arrangements for travel, the exact timing of which is not known to the Department. 

In addition Ireland agreed to accept 77 unaccompanied minors from camps in Calais and Greece and 163 people who have been landed from the Mediterranean Search and Rescue operations.  Of these cohorts, 36 unaccompanied minors remain to be transferred to Ireland from Greece and 92 people are yet to arrive from the Search and Rescue missions.  There are a further 13 places not yet allocated to any of the mechanisms mentioned above which will complete Ireland's commitment under the IRPP.

The Deputy may be aware that the Government agreed yesterday to Ireland pledging to welcome up to 2,900 refugees between 2020 and 2023 through a combination of resettlement and community sponsorship under plans put forward by Minister Flanagan and myself.  I was therefore able to make that pledge when I spoke at the first Global Refugee Forum, organised by the UNHCR to mark the first anniversary of the signing of the Global Compact on Refugees.  

Under the plans, a new phase of the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) will see 650 UNHCR resettlements in 2020, 700 in 2021, 750 in 2022 and 800 in 2023. The arrivals for the first two years will largely comprise Syrian refugees resident in Jordan and Lebanon, along with a pilot group of 150 Eritrean refugees resident in Ethiopia.

I am pleased to have obtained funding of €9m from the European Commission to support the resettlement of 900 people between early 2020 and June 2021. 

I and Minister Flanagan are proud that Ireland, as an active member of the international community, will continue to play our part in providing a safe haven for those seeking refuge from war and persecution.

Legal Services Regulation

Questions (200)

Michael McGrath

Question:

200. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to regulate claims harvesting websites; the estimated number of such sites active in the market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53539/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The issue of claims harvesting, whereby people involved in accidents are pursued by on-line and other entities for commercial gain and encouraged or induced to lodge insurance injury claims, is one which is increasingly complex to govern. Spurred on by advances in business technology and electronic media, those who operate harvesting entities in contravention of the law come from a variety of countries, backgrounds and disciplines that are proving prohibitive in terms of cost and scope to corral under a single regulator.

Even in internet governance terms, these operators can literally change identity overnight when challenged, as they continue to be in this and other jurisdictions, and can operate outside the scope of national or EU law while also seeking to exploit several markets at once. These are the very substantial challenges that remain to finding a cost-effective regulatory response at either national or international level to claims harvesting operations, including as considered by the Cost of Insurance Working Group.

As far as those aspects of claims harvesting which fall within the remit of my own Department may be concerned, the key regulatory focus continues to be on the interface between claims harvesters and those solicitors with whom they would wish to engage in a mercenary manner to the detriment of our insurance regime. This is being applied diligently by the Law Society which continues to take a strict approach against any offending solicitors or claims harvesters in this area as appropriate to the Society's role as the regulator of solicitors under the Solicitors' Acts.

This approach, which has proven highly effective, has a number of key legislative components. Section 5 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 2002 generally prohibits unqualified persons from advertising a service of a legal nature that could otherwise be provided by a solicitor for a fee or reward.  This includes such advertising in relation to personal injuries claims in the context of claims harvesting websites. Moreover, section 62 of the Solicitors Act 1954 prohibits solicitors from rewarding or agreeing to reward unqualified persons for the introduction of legal business and provides that any such agreement is void. Under the Solicitors Advertising Regulations as recently updated by the Law Society with my consent under S.I. No. 229 of 2019, it remains the case that an advertisement intended to publicise or otherwise promote a solicitor in relation to the solicitor's practice shall be in such a form as shall not expressly or impliedly solicit, encourage or offer any inducement to any person or group or class of persons to make claims for damages for personal injuries or to contact the solicitor concerned with a view to such claims being made.

From the active engagement by the Law Society and the on-going work of the Cost of Insurance Working Group, I understand that the number of active claims harvesting websites operating in Ireland has drastically reduced in recent years from approximately 60 in 2016 to around 11 in more recent times. It is also understood from the Law Society that 29 websites have been removed from the internet on foot of its efforts since 2014, with six of these websites removed since June 2019.  The Society has previously issued relevant practice directions and directly notified claims referral companies found to be targeting solicitors about the statutory prohibition on solicitors paying referral fees. It has also successfully pursued these matters before the High Court and is, therefore, to be commended for the diligent and effective discharge of its particular regulatory functions in response to this threat to our insurance regime.

This strict approach is set to continue under the new advertising provisions of section 218 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. Under that section, such advertising will no longer be regulated by the legal professional bodies as happens at present but by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority. Specifically, section 218(5)(d)(vi) of the 2015 Act allows for the restriction of any advertisement which, in the opinion of the Authority, “expressly or impliedly solicits, encourages or offers any inducement to any person or group or class of persons to make claims for personal injuries or seek legal services in connection with such claims.” The Authority will be carrying out the required public consultations in preparation for the new legal services advertising regulations coming into operation in Q1 of 2020.

In so far, therefore, as claims harvesting operations are seeking to directly or indirectly engage solicitors in their claims work, the Solicitors Acts 1954 to 2015 are operating as a bulwark against them with recognised effect. Such a regulatory approach will continue under the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. While, in broader terms, the issue of claims harvesting does not seem at this time to lend itself to an immediately amenable regulatory solution, I will, along with my Department, continue to support the on-going work of the Cost of Insurance Working Group and of the Law Society in this regard.

Fines Data

Questions (201)

Noel Grealish

Question:

201. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that failed to pay fines imposed by the courts since the commencement of the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014; the number that had an attachment order, a recovery order or community service order made against them as a result; the number of persons imprisoned for failure to pay such fines by year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53568/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, 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, and this includes the provision of information on the courts system.

I have requested information from the Courts Service in relation to this matter and the Courts Service has stated it will contact the Deputy directly as soon as the information is to hand.

Fines Data

Questions (202)

Noel Grealish

Question:

202. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the value and number of unpaid fines in each of the years 2013 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the value and number of fines imposed by the courts in each of the years; the steps being taken to recover unpaid fines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53569/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, 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, and this includes the provision of information on the courts system.

I have requested information from the Courts Service in relation to this matter and the Courts Service has stated it will contact the Deputy directly as soon as the information is to hand.

Fines Data

Questions (203)

Noel Grealish

Question:

203. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the offence categories in respect of which fines were imposed by the courts in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the offence categories in respect of which fines were imposed but were not paid in the same period by the number and value in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53570/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, 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, however, I have had enquiries made with the Courts Service.

On foot of those enquiries, I have been informed that regrettably courts statistics are not compiled in such a way as to provide the particular information sought by the Deputy. The Court Services have indicated that there are thousands of offence categories in respect of which fines can be imposed by the court.  The information sought could only be retrieved by way of a manual examination of each individual court record.  As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, such a lengthy process would require the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of the Courts Service's resources and it is therefore not possible to provide the specific information sought.    However, a wide range of statistics are published in the annual reports of the Courts Service that may be of assistance to the Deputy.

A link to the page on the Courts Service website where all of these reports can be accessed is as follows: http://www.courts.ie/Courts.ie/Library3.nsf/pagecurrent/D171C224DF0083D180257FB10043BD33?opendocument

Bench Warrants

Questions (204)

Noel Grealish

Question:

204. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of bench warrants issued in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019; the number outstanding in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53571/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Bench warrants are most commonly issued by the District Court after a person has failed to appear in court. I am informed by the Courts Service that, since the commencement of the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014 on 11 January 2016, Judges have also issued bench warrants for people who fail to attend hearings on foot of being issued with a Fines Enforcement Notice.

I am informed by the Courts Service that the following table provides a breakdown of the number of District Court Criminal Bench Warrants and the number of Enforcement Fines Bench Warrants issued in 2017, 2018 and in 2019 as of 30 November 2019. No other categories of warrants are included in these totals.

In particular, the Courts Service has additionally indicated that the following table does not include Family Law Bench Warrants or Circuit Court Bench Warrants. It should also be noted that a person who is the subject of a Bench Warrant could be accused of more than one offence. In such a case, only one Bench Warrant will issue and the schedule of all offences is attached to the warrant.

Column 1

Column 2

Column 3

Column 4

Column 5

Column 6

Column 7

Year

No. of District Court Bench Warrants

No. of outstanding District Court Bench Warrants

No. of Enforcements Bench Warrants

No. of outstanding enforcement bench warrants

Total no. of Bench Warrants issued

Total no. of outstanding bench warrants

Jan – Dec 2017

25,392

2,671

257

59

25,649

2,730

Jan – Dec 2018

28,278

3,826

12,567

4,259

40,845

8,085

Jan – Nov 2019

27,744

7,857

7,186

4,180

34,930

12,037

Departmental Data

Questions (205)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

205. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 145 of 24 October 2019, the status of the matter. [53582/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I regret that it was not possible to compile the information requested in the time available. I will write directly to the Deputy very shortly.