Prison Service Staff

Question No. 745 answered with Question No. 726.

Questions (744)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

744. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice if she will engage with the Irish Prison Service in respect of a person (details supplied) who has been assigned to other important duties in order to secure a working from home arrangement without prejudice in view of the fact that they have a diagnosed and well-documented underlying health condition. [38675/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service are awaiting further information on this case and IPS will revert directly to the Deputy as soon as this information is received.

The following was received from the Department on 16 December 2020

Dear Deputy Murphy,

I refer to your Parliamentary Question Number 744 for written answer on 24 November 2020, which asked about working from home arrangements for Prison Officers

I am advised by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that all prison based employees of the Irish Prison Service are essential workers and are required to attend for duty during the Covid pandemic.

Employees of the Irish Prison Service are essential workers and required to attend for duty. Due to the nature of the role played by prison service staff, the service they provide cannot be done from home.

.The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has authorised Covid-19 Special Leave with pay for employees, but only in very specific circumstances; namely when an employee is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and is required to self-isolate or has had a positive test.

The case referred to by the Deputy was raised with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer who has advised that the risks associated with contracting Covid at work in a prison environment with modifications are similar to those prison based employees face at home.

I am further advised that the role referred to in the details supplied by the Deputy is not suitable for home working due to the nature of the information managed by the Prison Service as part of that process.

The Irish Prison Service has identified workplace modifications and alternative duties for high-risk employees, which reduce the risk to the employees concerned. The IPS will continue to engage with individual staff members on this matter within the parameters outlined above.

Question No. 745 answered with Question No. 726.

Judicial Appointments

Question No. 747 answered with Question No. 726.

Questions (746)

Alan Kelly

Question:

746. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Justice if a list of all judicial appointments made in 2020 will be provided in chronological order by the date appointed by Government; the name of the judge in each case; and the court to which he or she was appointed. [38720/20]

View answer

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.

Eleven such appointments have been made by the President in the year to date. The information requested including the date of their appointment is set out underneath.

21/01/2020 – Mr. Colm Roberts appointed to the District Court and Ms. Helen Boyle to the Circuit Court*

18/03/2020 – Mr Justice Donald Binchy appointed to the Court of Appeal*

20/03/2020 – Mr. Paul Burns appointed to the High Court*

18/06/2020 –Ms Justice Mary Irvine appointed as President of the High Court

23/07/2020 – Mr. Seamus Woulfe appointed to the Supreme Court

17/09/2020 – Ms Justice Teresa Pilkington appointed to the Court of Appeal

18/09/2020 – Ms Mary Morrissey appointed to the Circuit Court

08/10/2020 – Ms Nuala Butler appointed to the High Court

02/11/2020 – Mr. Alec Gabbett and Ms. Sandra Murphy appointed to the District Court.

*It should be noted that the judges appointed in the period 1 January to 31 March 2020 were nominated by the Government at its meeting of 17 December 2019.

Question No. 747 answered with Question No. 726.

Garda Deployment

Questions (748)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

748. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Justice the staffing levels in Ballymun Garda station in each of the years 2006 to 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38747/20]

View answer

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 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.

The information requested in relation to Garda members assigned to Ballymun Garda station for the years 2006 up to and including 2008 is unavailable in the format requested. However, as the Deputy is aware, Ballymun Garda station is located within DMR North Division. At the 31 October 2020 there were 788 Garda members attached to the DMR North Division which represents an increase of over 23% since 2006. Garda members in the Division are supported by 59 Garda staff members of which 16 Garda staff members are assigned to Ballymun Garda station.

For the Deputy's information, the table below sets out the number of Gardaí assigned to the Ballymun Garda Station as at 31 December for each year from 2009 to 2019 and as at 31 October 2020.

Year

Total staffing at Ballymun Garda Station

(statistics as at 31 December)

2009

130

2010

128

2011

113

2012

118

2013

118

2014

114

2015

124

2016

117

2017

113

2018

131

2019

139

2020 (as at 31 October 2020)

136

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

Legislative Programme

Questions (749)

Seán Haughey

Question:

749. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice if she will introduce legislation to criminalise cat-calling, which involves a loud whistle or comment of a sexual nature made by a person or group of persons to a passing person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38772/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I would like to assure the deputy that I, and the Government very much share his concerns for anyone who has been impacted by any form of behaviour that is of an inappropriate sexual nature.

With regard to the Deputy’s question regarding legislation in relation to whistling or persons making comments of a sexual nature, I am not aware of any criminal legislation that makes provision specifically for this type of behaviour if it is a once off incident, as opposed to more persistent targeted behaviour that could be classified as harassment. However, I can assure the Deputy that addressing all forms of sexual violence and ensuring that we have robust legislation and policies to support and assist victims to come forward is a key priority for me and my department.

The Deputy will be aware that enacting the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill is a priority for me and that I am working with Deputy Howlin in this regard. I will be taking a number of amendments to Deputy Howlin's Bill to Government this week with a view to getting approval to submit them at Committee Stage on 01 December. Among the amendments proposed will be one to section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. I am proposing amending this section to broaden the scope of the offence of harassment to cover persistent communications to or about a person and to increase the maximum penalty from 7 years’ to 10 years’ imprisonment to reflect the harm caused by the most serious forms of harassment.

The Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021, which is a whole-of-Government approach to delivering on the many actions necessary to address these matters fully, is coordinated by my Department. The Strategy includes input from relevant community and voluntary groups as well as other stakeholders across the sector.

Overall, the Strategy aims to considerably strengthen the law and structures in Ireland targeting domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and considerable progress has been made in addressing these issues through the Strategy.

Raising public awareness on these issues is a key feature of our overarching response in this area and my Department is currently midway through the No Excuses campaign, a national awareness campaign to tackle domestic and sexual violence and sexual harassment. The campaign is a key action of the second national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence for 2016 to 2021. The purpose of the campaign is to intensify the public’s awareness of sexual harassment, domestic and sexual violence, to bring about a change in long-established societal behaviours and attitudes, and to activate bystanders. The overall aim of the campaign is to make all of us face up to the excuses we, as a society, make for unacceptable behaviours and to call on us to speak out against them. This will contribute to a change in society's attitude to sexual harassment, domestic and sexual violence in order to decrease and prevent this type of behaviour and violence.

I want to reassure the Deputy, but more importantly to reassure anyone who is a victim, or at risk of sexual abuse, that help continues to be available and to contact An Garda Síochána.

Our laws in supporting victims of sexual crime have been significantly strengthened in recent years, including by the introduction of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 and the Domestic Violence Act 2018. However, I can assure the Deputy that my Department is continually examining our laws in this area in the context of their effectiveness and to identify if any changes are required.

In relation to funding, in 2020, my Department provided just over €2 million in funding to support training and awareness initiatives in relation to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and €1.9 million euro in funding to support victims of crime, including victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. This year I have secured funding of over €2 million for combatting domestic, sexual and gender based violence and €2.1 million to support victims of crime. In addition, I have secured €2.3 million to implement Supporting a Victim's Journey - A plan to help victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases which I published last month.

Supporting a Victim's Journey - A plan to help victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases which I published last month will be implemented as a priority and it includes the provision of specific training for all of the key personnel a victim comes into contact with during the course of their journey throughout the criminal justice system. Such personnel includes the Gardaí, the DPP, the judiciary and the legal profession. 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 already started, and I expect this training will be rolled out in 2021.

The Deputy may also be interested to know that the rollout of the Divisional Protective Services Units (DPSU) within An Garda Síochána is now complete with DPSUs in every Garda division across the country. The completion of the rollout of DPSUs means that specially trained officers are available nationwide who will be responsible for engagement with, and interviewing of, vulnerable victims. This will ensure that when vulnerable victims of crimes such as sexual violence present to Gardaí, they are met with a consistently high standard of specialist professional and expert assistance.

Immigration Policy

Questions (750)

Niall Collins

Question:

750. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice the status of a scheme to regularise undocumented persons living and working in Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38778/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to create new pathways for long-term undocumented people and their dependents meeting specified criteria to regularise their status within 18 months of the formation of the Government, bearing in mind European Union and Common Travel Area commitments.

The necessary work to give effect to this commitment is currently being advanced in my Department and is being informed by an assessment of international best practice. A proposal will be published as soon as possible.

I would encourage any person who is resident in the State without permission to contact my Department or their local immigration office and to take all appropriate steps to regularise their own and their family's status. In all cases, people must engage with the authorities if they wish to be permitted to remain here legally.

Legislative Measures

Questions (751)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

751. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the status of the communications (retention of data) Bill. [38800/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Progress on advancing the Communications (Data Retention and Disclosure) Bill is continuing and will take account of the outcome of the recent Supreme Court referral to the CJEU.

The CJEU judgment, which is expected early in 2021, will be examined carefully by officials in the Department in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General. The judgment will inform the development and timing of the proposals to be brought forward with the priority of achieving the most effective crime prevention and investigative regime possible, having regard to the changing legal environment.

Data retention and access measures reach deep into Member States’ criminal justice systems, requiring a high level of legal certainty because of their significant implications for criminal investigations and prosecutions. The CJEU’s consideration of the questions referred will assist in bringing clarity to an evolving area of jurisprudence.

The revised General Scheme of the Communications (Data Retention and Disclosure) Bill, drafting of which is well advanced, will replace the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011 taking account of the CJEU rulings in both Digital Rights Ireland and Tele 2 v Sverige and more recent rulings.

These issues are presenting challenges for law enforcement across the European Union and the European Commission, as well as several Member States including Ireland, have intervened in cases before the CJEU.

Garda Stations

Questions (752)

Marian Harkin

Question:

752. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Justice if a full assessment has been carried out on the refurbishment costs for Sligo Garda station, including costs such as those incurred for deep retrofitting and procurement of space when refurbishment is ongoing; the details of same; if it is still the case that the refurbishment works are to be finished in December 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38844/20]

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 and also the Office of Public Works 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 Stations

Questions (753)

Marian Harkin

Question:

753. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Justice if a comparative assessment has been done on the cost of a full refurbishment of Sligo Garda station; the cost of a new build on the site already purchased for this purpose; the details of same as promised in June 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38845/20]

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 and also the Office of Public Works 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 Data

Questions (754)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

754. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the number of data access requests An Garda Síochána has made to telecom companies and social media companies here in the past three years to date in 2020 under the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011; the number of access requests that were approved and declined by the companies that the data was requested from; and the reason the data was sought. [38850/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

My officials are engaging with An Garda Siochána in relation to the information sought by the Deputy. I will write to the Deputy directly when the information is available.

Garda Data

Questions (755)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

755. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the number of learner drivers detected driving while unaccompanied under the Clancy amendment law since 22 December 2018; the number of learner drivers who had their vehicle seized under the Clancy amendment for driving unaccompanied by a qualified driver; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38859/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018, also known as the Clancy Amendment, seeks to penalise car owners who knowingly allow their vehicles to be used by an unaccompanied learner driver. The law allows the owners of these vehicles to be fined and gives Gardaí the power to seize their cars if being driven by unaccompanied drivers.

I am informed that between 22 December 2018 and 19 November 2020, the number of incidents where a vehicle was seized under the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018, as well as the number of Fixed Charge Notices issued during the same period, is as follows:

- 11,919 FCNs have been issued for Learner Drivers Unaccompanied by a Qualified Driver since 22 December 2018.

- 5,448 incidents in which drivers have had their vehicles seized under the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018 for driving unaccompanied by a qualified driver since 22 December 2018.

The Deputy will appreciate that the above information is based upon operational data from the PULSE and FCPS systems as was available on 20 November 2020 and is liable to change.

Deportation Orders

Questions (756, 757)

Gary Gannon

Question:

756. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Justice the number of deportations per month that have taken place in Ireland since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020, in tabular form. [38863/20]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

757. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Justice the countries that deportees from Ireland were sent to per month since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020, in tabular form. [38864/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 756 and 757 together.

I can advise the Deputy that during the period 17 March 2020 to present, a total of four people have been deported from the State, all of whom were removed to Brazil. It should be borne in mind that persons the subject of a deportation order are obliged to remove themselves from the State and enforced removals are only carried out as a last resort.

While the execution of a Deportation Order is a matter for An Garda Síochána, I can assure the Deputy that my Department is taking a pragmatic approach to such matters in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In any cases where a Deportation Order has been made it is open to the person to make a request to revoke the Order, under section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999, if they consider there is fresh information which should be considered since the Order was made. I would encourage people to be as detailed as possible in their representations so that fully informed decisions can be made at the appropriate time.

Legislative Programme

Questions (758, 759, 760)

Gary Gannon

Question:

758. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to the recent distribution of thousands of non-consensual images; and if she will expedite legislation to tackle this issue in view of same. [38865/20]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

759. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Justice if she will make available specific supports for persons and families affected by the distribution of non-consensual images given the extreme effects this can have on mental health and well-being. [38866/20]

View answer

Gary Gannon

Question:

760. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Justice if she will establish a support line for persons and families affected by the distribution of non-consensual images given the effects this can have on well-being and mindful of the lesser social supports available under level 5 restrictions. [38867/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 758 to 760, inclusive, together.

I am aware of reports of the incident referred to by the Deputy which I understand is currently under investigation by An Garda Síochána. As such I'm sure the Deputy will appreciate that I cannot comment further on this matter.

I fully support the Programme for Government commitment to enacting legislation in this area and the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill (as amended) is being progressed as a priority. The Bill is scheduled for Committee Stage in the Dáil on 1 December 2020.

Today, I secured Cabinet approval to bring forward amendments to the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill to provide for two new offences to deal with the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

The first offence will deal with the taking, distribution, publication or threat to distribute intimate images without consent, and with intent to cause harm to the victim. It is intended to carry a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and/or 7 years’ imprisonment.

The second offence will deal with the taking, distribution or publication of intimate images without consent without a requirement that the person intended to cause harm to the victim. It is intended that this offence will carry a maximum penalty of a €5,000 fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.

The amendments proposed also provide that it will be irrelevant that a person may have consented to the taking of an image if it is subsequently published or distributed without their consent. It will be an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing if the perpetrator of the offence is or was in an intimate relationship with the victim of the offence.

Further amendments approved by Cabinet will update harassment legislation to broaden the scope of the offence of harassment to cover all forms of persistent communications about a person, not just indecent images, and to increase the penalty from seven to ten years to reflect the harm that can be caused by most serious forms of harassment.

Harassment and abuse in any form, whether online or otherwise, is utterly unacceptable and has no place in Irish society. I am, along with my Government colleagues, fully committed to tackling abusive behaviour in all forms. The standards of what is unacceptable in an online setting must be consistent with those in traditional settings, and cross government initiatives are underway to address this.

Progression of the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill is a priority action for me as Minister for Justice and I am committed to seeing it enacted as quickly as possible. I would like to acknowledge the cooperation of Deputy Brendan Howlin in advancing the amendments approved today and I very much welcome the support expressed by all for this legislation. I look forward to progressing through the legislative process as soon as possible.