Judicial Appointments

Questions (693)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

693. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice the reason for the delay in filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court following the retirement of a judge (details supplied) in June 2019; the reason steps were not taken to address this matter at an earlier date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39165/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Judicial appointments are made in accordance with Articles 13.9 and 35.1 of the Constitution, by the President acting on the advice of the Government. This is a Constitutional function that cannot be transferred or delegated. The Constitutional prerogative on advising the President on judicial appointments lies with the Government alone.

It has been the practice to maintain a vacancy in the Supreme Court due to the reduction achieved in waiting times in that court in recent years. However, this arrangement is kept under review. In this particular case, the Chief Justice wrote to my predecessor on 4 February 2020 requesting that the Supreme Court vacancy arising from the retirement of Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan in June 2019 be filled. He cited emerging pressures including the establishment of the Cervical Check Tribunal.

The then Minister wrote to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) on 17 February 2020. He asked the Board to furnish him with nominations for this vacancy, and the name of each person who had informed the Board of his or her wish to be considered for appointment.

The Minister also wrote separately to the Chief Justice stating that this request of the JAAB did not pre-suppose the filling of the post; it was to facilitate the procedure should a decision be taken to make an appointment at whatever point in the future that vacancy might be progressed. As the Deputy will note, the only judicial nomination made during the period of Government formation was to the post of President of the High Court, as this senior position has broader statutory functions. It should be noted that this appointment on 18 June then resulted in a second vacancy on the Supreme Court.

By letter dated 11 March, 2020, the JAAB advised that they had met on 9 March and decided to recommend one candidate, Mr Séamus Woulfe, SC, whom it considered suitable for appointment to the Supreme Court.

Following my appointment at the end of June, I was informed by my officials of the vacancy to be filled on the Supreme Court and that the Chief Justice had written to my predecessor on 7th February seeking that the position be filled as soon as possible.

A draft Memorandum was submitted to my Office on 6 July, 2020. The submission included details of the recommendation that had been made by JAAB; expressions of interest from serving members of the judiciary; and all other judges eligible for the position. The expressions of interest from serving judges were received over a number of years and retained on file for any current or future vacancy that might arise. Whether or not existing judges put forward expressions of interest is a confidential matter for obvious reasons, and it is not the practice to release information that might identify any of those judges. All of these were submitted to me and I actively considered them.

In line with the Cabinet Handbook, between 11 and 14 July I spoke with the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, Minister Ryan and the Attorney General, following which I brought a Memorandum for the Government’s consideration on July 15 last, recommending a name to Cabinet for appointment by the President. In this case the recommendation was in line with the recommendation of JAAB, which is chaired by the Chief Justice, and includes the Presidents of the four other Courts, as well as members of the Law Society, the Bar Council, and a number of lay members.

The practice in relation to appointments or nominations to positions made by Government is that only one name is brought to Cabinet by the proposing Minister.

The Deputy will appreciate that discussions at Cabinet and with ministerial colleagues are confidential. Decisions made by Government and are subject to Cabinet confidentiality under Article 28.4.3 of the Constitution. The Government, as set down in law, has sole discretion under the Constitution to nominate persons of its own choosing, providing they are qualified and eligible for appointment as a Judge. This is the Government’s constitutional prerogative and the House can be assured that the Government in making this appointment has acted in accordance with the Constitution and the law.

I intend to shortly bring forward proposals to introduce a new Judicial Appointments Commission, which will significantly reform the way in which judges are appointed.

Public Procurement Contracts

Questions (694)

Carol Nolan

Question:

694. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Justice the details of contracts of €25,000 or more that have been awarded by her Department or bodies under the aegis of her Department that were found to be non-compliant with procurement guidelines from 1 January 2019 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37802/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the information sought by the Deputy across the Justice Vote Group for 2019 is included within the Statement on Internal Financial Control, provided by the respective Accounting Officers, in the Appropriation Accounts for 2019 published by Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and that can be accessed here:

- https://www.audit.gov.ie/en/Find-Report/Publications/2020/Vote-24-Justice-and-Equality.pdf

- https://www.audit.gov.ie/en/Find-Report/Publications/2020/Vote-25-Irish-Human-Rights-and-Equality-Commission.pdf

- https://www.audit.gov.ie/en/Find-Report/Publications/2020/Vote-20-An-Garda-Siochana.pdf

- https://www.audit.gov.ie/en/Find-Report/Publications/2020/Vote-21-Prisons.pdf

- https://www.audit.gov.ie/en/Find-Report/Publications/2020/Vote-22-Courts-Service.pdf

- https://www.audit.gov.ie/en/Find-Report/Publications/2020/Vote-25-Irish-Human-Rights-and-Equality-Commission.pdf

- https://www.audit.gov.ie/en/Find-Report/Publications/2020/Vote-41-Policing-Authority.pdf

Work is continuing across the Justice Vote Group on compiling similar information for 2020 and it is expected that this will be published in the 2020 Appropriation Account.

Garda Stations

Questions (695)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

695. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Justice if the provision for a new Garda station for Castletroy, Annacotty, Limerick city, will be considered (details supplied); her views on whether such a station is needed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37809/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and the deployment of resources. As Minister, I have no role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

The programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the OPW, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

The Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is based on agreed Garda priorities and benefits over 30 locations around the country, underpinned by significant Exchequer funding across the Garda and OPW Votes. The objective of this investment is to address deficiencies in the Garda estate and provide fit-for-purpose facilities for Garda members and staff as well as the public interacting with them.

I am informed that the current Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme does not include the development of a new Garda station in Annacotty, Co. Limerick.

An Garda Síochána will give consideration to the need for new Garda Stations, in Annacotty and for other locations, in the context of the overall accommodation requirements arising from the ongoing expansion of the Garda workforce, the policing reform plan A Policing Service For Our Future, and the implementation of the new Garda operating model which will inform the overall accommodation priorities of An Garda Síochána over the years 2022-2026.

Legislative Reviews

Questions (696)

Carol Nolan

Question:

696. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Justice if she will provide the report on her Department’s review of the legislation on hate speech; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37839/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Incitement to hatred is a criminal offence under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. The Act is currently under review and the Programme for Government commits to introducing, within 12 months, legislation to address those who target victims because of their association with a particular identity characteristic, and to revise and update the Incitement to Hatred Act. My Department is working to prepare this legislation on hate crime and hate speech as a priority.

As part of this work a comprehensive public consultation has been undertaken, to ensure that the Department fully understands the lived experience of those impacted by hate speech and hate crime as well as the views of professionals and other stakeholders in the field. This is necessary to ensure the laws developed are robust, clearly understood and effective in dealing with unacceptable incidents.

I am pleased with the high level of engagement with this important topic and can inform the Deputy that my Department received in the region of 3,800 written responses to the consultation, including approximately 175 detailed written submissions.

In addition to this comprehensive consultation and in order to ensure that the final legislation can be effective, my Department also carried out comparative research on international best practice on hate crime legislation.

The report on the public consultation and the comparative research is being finalised and I expect to publish it very shortly.

It is important to ensure that the legislative proposals presented are evidence-based, proportionate and effective, while respecting important rights to freedom of expression and association. There will be a further opportunity for stakeholders to share their views when the legislative proposals on this important issue are published for discussion.

I am confident that the approach taken to the reform of our legislation in this area - including through the research conducted and providing the opportunity for experts and members of the public to provide their views through consultation - will ensure that the legislation we develop plays a significant part in delivering a safer, fairer and more inclusive Ireland for everyone, now as well as into the future.

Garda Training

Questions (697)

Patrick Costello

Question:

697. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí who have received specialist human trafficking training in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37844/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter.

I have requested information from the Garda Commissioner in relation to this matter but it was unfortunately not possible to compile it in the time available.

I will write to the Deputy directly with the information requested, when it is available.

Garda Training

Questions (698)

Patrick Costello

Question:

698. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí who have completed specialist human trafficking training by district; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37845/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter.

I have requested information from the Garda Commissioner in relation to this matter but it was unfortunately not possible to compile it in the time available.

I will write to the Deputy directly with the information requested, when it is available.

Legislative Programme

Questions (699)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

699. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice if she will progress the Firearms and Offensive Weapons (Amendment) Bill 2019 in view of the significant rise in the number of young men carrying knives. [37858/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I refer the Deputy to the answer provided to Parliamentary Question Number 1057 of 3 November 2020 and I wish to confirm that the position as outlined remains unchanged.

I am very aware of public concerns with regard to knife crime and I am determined to ensure similar problems do not develop in Ireland as have developed in neighbouring jurisdictions.

It is worth noting that recent HSE figures indicate a welcome drop in recent years in the number of hospital admissions for knife wounds where the victim requires an overnight stay. In 2019 there were 178 such incidents, this is a drop from the figures reported between 2005 and 2011 for example, where on average there were 236 such incidents per year.

There has also been a reported reduction in crimes against the person in the first two quarters of this year versus the same period in 2019 according to the Central Statistics Office. Compared with the same periods last year, the "assault causing harm" category fell by 23.9% in the first quarter by 16.9% in the second quarter. While COVID-19 has undoubtedly played a role here, I believe that it is worth noting that the public health restrictions did not come into place until the final weeks of Quarter one.

That said, any stabbing incident can, of course, cause irreparable physical harm and have potentially tragic consequences. Gardaí continue to take proactive action against knife crime – including through the Assault Reduction Strategy 2019-2021, through education and engagement with community initiatives, and at an operational level – and a substantial number of convictions have been secured in the Courts over the past number of years for possession of a knife or other article.

A comprehensive and robust legal framework remains in place in this regard, including heavy penalties for breaches of the law. Under the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, the maximum penalty for a conviction for possessing a knife in a public place (without good reason or lawful authority) was increased from one to five years. An Garda Síochána also has an extended power of search, without warrant, in relation to knives and offensive weapons.

The criminal law is kept under ongoing review and amendments are considered if any new trends emerge.

Legislative Process

Questions (700)

Carol Nolan

Question:

700. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Justice the details of all applications made by her Department to the Oireachtas Business Committee to waive pre-legislative scrutiny of primary and secondary legislation sponsored or initiated by her Department from 1 January 2017 to date; the outcomes of such applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37899/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

My Department made applications to the Oireachtas Business Committee to waiver pre-legislative scrutiny on five pieces of legislation since 2017.

Waivers were granted on 14 June 2018 for the General Scheme of the 37th Amendment of the Constitution (Removal of Blasphemy) Bill 2018 and on 17 January 2019 for the General Scheme of the Repeal of Offence of Publication or Utterance of Blasphemous Matter Bill 2019. These were granted because the Bills in question concerned a proposal to amend the Constitution (2018 Bill) and a Bill to give effect to the outcome of the Referendum (2019 Bill).

This year, my Department applied to waive scrutiny under standing order 173 for the General Scheme of the Personal Insolvency (Amendment) (No. 1) Bill 2020, the Criminal and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 Bill and the Criminal Justice (Enforcement Powers) (Covid-19) Bill 2020 as these needed to be progressed and implemented quickly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Departmental Staff

Questions (701)

Patrick Costello

Question:

701. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Justice the grade at which the chief data protection officer in her Department is employed. [37926/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Data Protection Officer in my Department is at Principal Officer grade.

Garda Deployment

Questions (702, 704, 706)

Chris Andrews

Question:

702. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí stationed at Pearse Street Garda station in each of the years 2016 to 2019 and to date in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37929/20]

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Chris Andrews

Question:

704. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí stationed at Kevin Street Garda station in each of the years 2016 to 2019 and to date in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37931/20]

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Chris Andrews

Question:

706. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí stationed at Irishtown Garda station in each of the years 2016 to 2019 and to date in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37933/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 702, 704 and 706 together.

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is, by law, responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and deployment of resources. The allocation of Garda resources is made in light of identified operational demand. This includes deployment of personnel among the various Garda Divisions. As Minister, I have no direct role in the matter.

I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of policing priorities and crime trends, to ensure their optimum use. I understand that it is a matter for the Divisional Chief Superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her, having regard to the profile of each area within the Division and its specific needs.

An Garda Síochána has been allocated an unprecedented budget of €1.952 billion for 2021. This level of funding is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. As a result, Garda numbers are now some 14,600 Garda members and over 3,000 Garda staff nationwide. Budget 2021 will allow for the recruitment of up to 620 new Gardaí and an extra 500 Garda staff.

As the Deputy is aware, the Garda stations referred to are located within the DMR South Central Division. At the 31 October 2020 there were 730 Garda members attached to the DMR South Central Division which represents an increase of almost 16% since 2016. These Garda members are supported by 126 Garda staff which represents an increase of 350% since 2016 when 28 Garda members were assigned to the Division.

For the Deputy's information, the table below which has been provided to me by the Garda authorities, sets out the number of Gardaí assigned to the DMR South Central Division at 31 October 2020.

Gardai assignments

Detailed information in relation to Garda numbers, including the year end figures for the Division mentioned in each of the years from 2010 to 2019, is available on my Department’s website. This information is updated every month with the latest data provided by An Garda Síochána, at the following link:

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and_Station_2009_to_September_2020.xlsx/Files/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and_Station_2009_to_September_2020.xlsx

Additional information on Garda staff, the Garda Workforce and other facts and figures are available at the following link: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures

Garda Deployment

Question No. 704 answered with Question No. 702.

Question No. 705 answered with Question No. 703.

Question No. 706 answered with Question No. 702.

Question No. 707 answered with Question No. 703.

Questions (703, 705, 707)

Chris Andrews

Question:

703. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice the number of community gardaí stationed at Pearse Street Garda station in each of the years 2016 to 2019 and to date in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37930/20]

View answer

Chris Andrews

Question:

705. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice the number of community gardaí stationed at Kevin Street Garda station in each of the years 2016 to 2019 and to date in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37932/20]

View answer

Chris Andrews

Question:

707. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Justice the number of community gardaí stationed at Irishtown Garda station in each of the years 2016 to 2019 and to date in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37934/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 703, 705 and 707 together.

As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána. Further, the allocation of Garda resources is made in light of identified operational demands. This includes deployment of personnel among the various Garda Divisions. As Minister, I have no direct role in the matter.

I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of policing priorities and crime trends, to ensure their optimum use. I understand that it is a matter for the Divisional Chief Superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her, having regard to the profile of each area within the Division and its specific needs.

To date, the official categorisation as a Community Garda has simply referred to those who are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society including giving talks to schools, community groups and others. However, it is important to note that community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána and that all Gardaí have a role to play in community policing in carrying out their duties. Indeed, this has never been more evident than in the work carried out by all members of the Gardaí over the last eight months as we have tackled the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have been advised by the Garda authorities the information provided in the attached spreadsheet, sets out the number of Community Gardaí assigned to the Garda stations based at Pearse Street, Kevin Street and Irishtown for the years in question.

I can inform the Deputy that detailed information in relation to Community Garda numbers is available on my Department’s website. This information is updated every month with the latest data provided by An Garda Síochána, at the following link:

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures

Community Policing 2016-20

Question No. 704 answered with Question No. 702.
Question No. 705 answered with Question No. 703.
Question No. 706 answered with Question No. 702.
Question No. 707 answered with Question No. 703.

Departmental Reports

Questions (708)

Mick Barry

Question:

708. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Justice the status of the O’Malley report into the reform of sexual assault judicial processes; her plans regarding this report, which was received by her in August 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37966/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As I’m sure the Deputy is aware the O’Malley review was published on 6 August of this year and contains 52 actions with four overarching recommendations:

1. Promoting better awareness of victims’ rights legislation;

2. Promoting education about the meaning and importance of consent;

3. Improving inter-agency co-operation and exchange of information, especially in relation to services for victims; and

4. Ensuring consistency in service delivery.

When I published the O'Malley Review, I gave a commitment that I would bring an implementation plan before the cabinet within a number of weeks.

I am pleased to say that this commitment was met and on October 28, I published 'Supporting A Victims Journey' - A plan to help victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases' which is a detailed roadmap for the introduction of the recommendations contained in the O'Malley review which, when implemented, will protect vulnerable witnesses, during the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences.

This work is being progressed as a priority under the Programme for Government commitments in consultation with our stakeholders.

I am now progressing plans to chair an Implementation Oversight Group of all relevant Departments and agencies to drive implementation of the agreed actions. This will include putting arrangements in place for regular consultations with the NGO sector as part of that process.

Not withstanding that, progress has already been made on giving effect to a number of important O'Malley recommendations including:

- the nationwide rollout of the DPSUs, where specially trained members of An Garda Síochána will be available to deal with vulnerable victims, has been completed.

- The General Scheme of a bill to give effect to the recommendations to introduce pre-trial hearings is being drafted and will be published by the end of the year. This recommendation is intended to help address delays in trails and to deal with matters such as defence applications to question a victim about his or her sexual experience.

- Engagement on development of training programmes for serving Gardaí, the legal professions and members of the judiciary who are participating in sexual offences investigations and trials has started, and I expect this training to be rolled out in 2021.

- Engagement with the legal aid board on how to ensure better provision of legal advice and support to victims of sexual crime has commenced.

- Raising the public’s awareness of their legally enforceable rights under the Victims of Crime Act 2017 including through the redesign of the victims charter website.

Garda Resources

Questions (709)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

709. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice the progress of work between the Central Statistics Office and her Department to ensure the accuracy of crime data from the PULSE system that is due to be completed by the end of 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38008/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, under Section 26 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána. I can further inform the Deputy that the matters referred to in his question are operational and, as such, are a matter between the Commissioner and the Central Statistics Office.

However, to be of assistance, I have made enquiries with An Garda Síochána and I have been informed that monthly meetings continue between An Garda Síochána and the Central Statistics Office on data matters. The most recent meeting took place on 5 November, with another meeting scheduled for December.

I have been further informed that progress on the three priority data quality actions for 2020 are as follows:

1. A “Guide to how crime is recorded and counted by An Garda Síochána” was published in August 2020. This received positive feedback from the Central Statistics Office in their 29 September release on Recorded Crime Q2 2020.

2. Eircode capture was implemented in PULSE 7.6 on 18 October. This is complemented by the ongoing matching project to automatically encode existing addresses with Eircodes in PULSE. This is expected to complete in early December.

3. The robust PULSE data review process coordinated by the Garda Information Services Centre has been essential in the production of verifiable data reports and proving the quality of individual records in response to enquiries. This will be further validated by an internal and external audit of the review process, to be coordinated initially by the Garda Professional Standards Unit. I am informed that the Central Statistics Office has observed how this process leads to quality data used by Garda management at district level to inform operational decisions and has commented positively on this use of data in a letter to the Garda Commissioner.

An Garda Síochána and the Central Statistics Office will continue their collaboration on the recording, verification and publication of crime data in 2021. Specific actions will continue to be tracked through the Commissioner’s monthly reports.