Legislative Measures

Questions (607)

Holly Cairns

Question:

607. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice the additional resources, training and reporting mechanisms she is putting in place to support the commencement of the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8337/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

'Coco's Law', which has been enacted as the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, made its way through the Houses of the Oireachtas and was signed into law by the President just before the end of last year. On the 9 February, Safer Internet Day, I signed the commencement order for the Act and the legislation entered into force on 10 February 2021.

In advance of signing the commencement order, letters issued from my Department to An Garda Síochána, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and to the Courts Service to inform them of the date on which Coco's Law would enter into force.

The Deputy will be aware that the Gardaí, the Office of the DPP and the Courts are responsible for the management and administration of their respective budgets and resources, including in relation to training and that I as Minister have no direct role in these matters. Any costs associated with the implementation of Coco's Law for the various criminal justice agencies will be looked at in the context of their 2021 budgetary allocations, all of which were increased by government under Budget 2021.

In relation to initiatives concerning Coco's law, it may interest the Deputy to know that when signing the commencement order, I announced that an agreement had been reached between my Department, the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at DCU and the Department of Education, to establish a ‘Research Observatory on Cyberbullying’ focused on providing up-to-date research, advice and resources related to cyberbullying, cyberhate, and online harassment, and the implementation of Coco’s Law. Funding for the Observatory is being provided by the Department of Justice in memory of Nicole (Coco) Fox.

I also announced funding for Webwise to update their popular ‘Lockers’ programme, which is an important Junior Cycle resource, to include information about Coco’s law on the topic of non-consensual sharing of intimate images. As well as being an educational programme for students, Webwise also includes information for school leaders on the legal framework, implications for school policy and considerations for dealing with incidents. Webwise will also be working to update their ‘Be in Ctrl’ and ‘Connected’ programmes to ensure they reflect the new legislative landscape.

It is also my intention to develop an awareness campaign to draw attention to both the commencement of Coco’s law and the penalties applicable if convicted of the sharing intimate images without consent and to draw attention to the harm caused to the victim whose intimate image is shared.

Residency Permits

Questions (608)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

608. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8373/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on 18 September 2019. This application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. If any further documentation is required, it will be requested from the person in due course.

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

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

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

Probate Applications

Questions (609)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

609. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to persons (details supplied) who are in the process of purchasing a new residential home; if the case will be reviewed and the appropriate action taken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8385/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Probate Office, to which the Deputy refers, is an office of the High Court and management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made with the Courts Service regarding the processing of personal probate applications.

While the Courts Service does not comment on individual cases, I am informed that restrictions under level 5 of the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 necessitated the temporary closure of the personal applications process in the Dublin Probate Office in October 2020. It had been hoped to recommence appointments with personal applicants in early January 2021, but due to the re-introduction of restrictions, this was not possible and until such time as the restrictions on movement are lifted or significantly reduced, I am informed that there will be no resumption of personal application interviews. Staff who would usually deal with personal probate applications have been reassigned to work on solicitor applications which continue to be processed.

I am further advised by the Courts Service that personal application interviews cannot be held remotely as the applicant has to be identified by production of appropriate identification and once the identity has been established the applicant has to sign the oath before a staff member. The Courts Service are of the view that remote interviews cannot facilitate this process in such a way as to ensure that the integrity of the Probate system is maintained.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (610)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

610. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice if the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed and the appropriate action taken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8388/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

My Department has not suspended the receipt or processing of citizenship applications at any stage during the pandemic. However, processing rates have unfortunately been negatively impacted by the attendant health and safety related restrictions.

Applications for naturalisation and general queries are currently being dealt with in chronological order. Due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant requirement to comply with public health guidelines, significant delays are being experienced in general processing, particularly those functions which require a staff presence in the office. The Citizenship Division of the Immigration Service of my Department is working very hard to maintain as prompt a service delivery as possible, under the circumstances.

Under normal circumstances, passports are returned approximately 10 days after their receipt. However, the current limits on staff attendance in the office has resulted in delays in the return of some passports. If the person concerned sends the post tracking reference by email to the citizenship helpdesk citizenshipinfo@justice.ie, the Division can confirm whether the documents have arrived to the office.

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

Residency Permits

Questions (611)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

611. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice if the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed and the appropriate action taken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8389/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The processing of the application of the person referred to by the Deputy has been completed and they can expect to receive the relevant documentation in the coming days.

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

Property Services Regulatory Authority

Questions (612)

John Lahart

Question:

612. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the current guidelines (details supplied) issued by the Property Services Regulatory Authority in relation to a property that is for sale has essentially shut off viewings to the public given that there is no need for further viewings once the property is sale agreed; her plans to ease restrictions in relation to the viewing of property that is for sale; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8405/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Minister for Health is primarily responsible for our overall national Covid-19 strategy. The Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) is the independent statutory body established under the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011, with responsibility to licence and regulate property services providers (auctioneers, estate agents, letting agents and property management agents).

To be of assistance, I have contacted the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) and brought this matter to their attention. The PSRA has supplied the following information about the current guidance developed by them in this regard.

On 19 May 2020, the PSRA in association with the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers (IPAV) and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) issued the Joint Sector Protocol for Property Services Providers (PSPs). The Protocol is intended to ensure strict precautions are taken to provide the highest standards of safety in the sales, lettings, valuations and managements of properties for clients, consumers, employees, employers and those who are categorised as being at risk or at high risk of Covid-19.

This document gives detailed guidelines for consideration prior to arranging a viewing of a property, what happens during a viewing, post viewing tasks and what to do when a rental agreement is reached including:

- Confirm whether the respective client is cocooning or in an at risk category and if so, identify any additional precautionary measures that may be required.

- Agree with the owner/occupier that they will not be in the property at the time of viewing.

- Agree with owner/occupier and note all touch points in the dwelling for the property service provider (PSP) to sanitise after viewing (e.g. door handles, light switches etc.).

- Agree with the owner/occupier the use of official Covid-19 signage at locations throughout the property to act as a useful reminder to viewers to follow the HSE rules.

- Pre-booked private appointment viewings only.

- Contact viewer(s) in advance to confirm booking and advise of controls in place, and that HSE Covid-19 official instructions must be adhered to during viewings.

- PSPs should ask viewers to remain a reasonable distance from the property (e.g. remain in car) until given permission by the PSP to enter the property.

Following on from the Governments publication of the Plan for Living with Covid-19, the PSRA in association with IPAV and SCSI published the Property Services Providers Guidance to implementing the Plan for Living with Covid-19 which set out additional measures to be undertaken at the different levels outlined within the Plan. An updated version of this Guidance issued in January 2021, to take into account the enhanced restrictions currently in place.

Both the Protocol and the Guidance are subject to the Government, HSE and Department of Health guidelines on these matters. The full documents are available to view on the Property Services Regulatory Authority website at: www.psr.ie.

The Property Services Providers Guidance to implementing the Plan for Living with Covid-19 details the measures that must be taken at each level of Covid restrictions as directed by government and property service providers should adapt as government restriction levels are updated.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (613)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

613. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Justice the status of the citizenship application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8413/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on 13 August 2020. The application is currently being examined with a view to establishing whether they meet the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation. I understand that the Citizenship Division of the Immigration Service of my Department will be contacting the person concerned shortly regarding their application.

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

Peace Commissioners

Questions (614)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

614. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice the process for appointing peace commissioners; when the next round of applications for same will be held; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8418/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Peace Commissioners are appointed by the Minister for Justice under Section 88 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924. The Office of Peace Commissioner is an honorary appointment and Peace Commissioners receive no remuneration or compensation by way of fees or expenses for their services.

An application for appointment may be made by a person on their own behalf or a nomination for appointment may be made by a third party in respect of a person considered suitable for appointment.

The appointment of a Peace Commissioner is entirely at the discretion of the Minister for Justice and the fact that an applicant or nominee may be suitable for appointment does not, in itself, provide any entitlement to appointment as a Peace Commissioner because other factors, such as the need for appointments in particular areas, are taken into account. These regional requirements are kept under review.

An application for consideration to be appointed as a Peace Commissioner can be made at any time by contacting

Minister for Justice

Office of the Minister for Justice51 St. Stephen's Green Dublin 2 Ireland D02 HK52.

Tel: + 353 1 602 8202

Locall: 1890 221 227

Email: info@justice.ie

Further information on the process can be found at http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Peace_Commissioners.

Crime Data

Questions (615)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

615. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice the number of reports of physical assaults, sexual assaults, harassment, intimidation and public order breaches on public transport in the Dublin metropolitan region in each of the years 2016 to 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8419/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Gardaí deploy a wide range of operational measures aimed at tackling public-order offences and anti-social behaviour in all contexts, including the policing needs of the public transport network. The legal framework which assists the Gardaí in tackling this type of crime includes provisions under the Criminal Damage Act 1991; the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994; the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003; and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts 2003 and 2008.

I understand that Garda management engages with transport operators and that a range of regional and local operations have been put in place to address incidents and issues that have arisen at specific locations. I am further informed that there is ongoing communication between An Garda Síochána and the respective control centres, and access to good quality CCTV can provide assistance to Gardaí when investigating serious incidents.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are not in a position to provide the number of reports of physical assaults, sexual assaults, harassment, intimidation and public order breaches on public transport in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in the years in question, as there are no specific location types on PULSE for trains, Luas trams, buses or coaches etc. It would require a substantial manual trawl of narratives to try to identify whether incidents occurred on some mode of public transport, which would require a disproportionate amount of time and resources.

Garda Data

Questions (616)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

616. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice the Garda numbers by rank in all Garda stations in the Dublin metropolitan region in each of the years 2016 to 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8420/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.88 billion for 2020 and of €1.952 billion in Budget 2021. This level of investment is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. There are now approximately 14,600 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 3,000 Garda staff. Taken together, this number of Garda members and staff is delivering a significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide.

The Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and 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 Deputy may wish to know that the Garda numbers by rank in all Garda stations in Dublin Metropolitan Region in each of the years 2016 to 2020 is available on my Department’s website in tabular form. 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_December_2020.xlsx/Files/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and_Station_2009_to_December_2020.xlsx.

Additional information on Garda staff, the Garda Workforce and other relevant statistics are available at the following link:

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

Office of Director of Public Prosecutions

Questions (617)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

617. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice when the promised sexual offences unit in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will be established and fully operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8439/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As Minister for Justice, I want to ensure that we can effectively tackle the scourge of sexual violence, which is a blight on our society.

Supporting A Victim’s Journey: A Plan to Help Victims and Vulnerable Witnesses in Sexual Violence Cases details how my Department will drive reforms which will reduce sexual violence and ensure our system works for those who need it. This follows the publication of a review by Tom O'Malley that made a series of recommendations to protect vulnerable witnesses.

As part of Supporting the Victim's Journey, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has committed to establishing a new Sexual Offences Unit within Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions during 2021.

As the Deputy will appreciate that the DPP is independent and does not report to Government or to me as Minister. It would not be proper therefore for me to answer in the Dáil on her behalf on matters that relate to her statutory duties or the running of her office.

However, I understand that the Director will be very happy to respond to a request from the Deputy to provide the information sought.

International Protection

Questions (618)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

618. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice the number of persons granted stamp 4 permission to remain who at the time they were granted permission had a protection application pending in each of the years 2015 to 2020 inclusive; the number of persons in the protection process who were granted a stamp 4 permission to remain after their protection application was refused under four categories (details supplied) in each of the years 2015 to 2020 inclusive, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8446/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Based on the historical international protection and permission to remain processes, it would have been most unusual for a person to be granted permission to remain while they had a protection application pending. It was only after all protection elements had been refused that permission to remain could be considered, under the process provided for under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended).

Under that process, permission to remain could be granted where a decision was taken that, based on the circumstances of the individual case, a Deportation Order should not be made and instead permission to remain in the State should be granted. Any such decision would be based on the exercise of ministerial discretion. In the context of the question asked by the Deputy I can advise that there are no separate categories of “exceptional measure” or “exceptional circumstance” under which such a decision might be made.

Between 2015 and 2020 permission to remain in the State, as outlined in the table below, was granted in the context of persons who had had an application for international protection (incorporating both refugee status and subsidiary protection) refused under the processes provided for under the Refugee Act 1996 and the Subsidiary Protection Regulations 2006 and 2013.

Table 1

Year

Number

2015

1244

2016

488

2017

184

2018

228

2019

75

2020

56

Total

2275

For people whose applications for international protection were determined under the provisions of the International Protection Act 2015, there is scope to be granted permission to remain in the State, under section 49(4) of that Act, while they have an international protection appeal pending. The provisions of this Act came into force on 31 December 2016, therefore figures for permission to remain under section 49 of that Act will only be available in respect of the years from 2017 onwards.

Under the 2015 Act, permission to remain in the State may be granted at first instance or following a formal permission to remain review mechanism. Where the decision is made at first instance, a protection appeal can still be lodged with the International Protection Appeals Tribunal. Any decision taken to grant permission to remain under the permission to remain review mechanism can only be made once the protection appeal has been refused.

Tables 2 and 3 below set out the figures relating to those cases where permission to remain was granted under section 49 of the International Protection Act 2015. Table 2 gives the number of decisions made by the International Protection Office at first instance and Table 3 gives the number of decisions issued by the Ministerial Decision Unit under the PTR review mechanism.

Table 2

Grants of permission to remain at first instance*

Year

2017

2018

2019

2020

Total

66

198

266

200

* Applicants received a negative international protection determination at first instance.

Table 3

Decision Year

MDU PTR Review Grants*

2018

29

2019

174

2020

135

Total

338

*Applicants received a negative international protection determination at first instance which was upheld at appeal and the application was returned to the IPO for a review of the PTR decision.

For people who were granted permission to remain in the State under the Administrative Scheme for parents of Irish citizen children in the years between 2015 and 2020, there would be no barrier to being granted such permission while they had an international protection application pending.

Table 4

Year

No. of Applicants*

2015

56

2016

22

2017

46

2018

49

2019

35

2020

17

Total

225

* applicants had an Asylum/International Protection decision pending when permission to remain on the basis of an Irish Born Child/Irish Citizen Child was granted.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (619)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

619. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the progress to date in the determination of an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8448/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on 22 September 2020. This application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted for decision as expeditiously as possible. If any further documentation is required, it will be requested from the person in due course.

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

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

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

Prison Facilities

Questions (620)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

620. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice if the evidence base from the Irish Prison Service report will be published which proposes that an increase in the Irish population requires the creation of additional prison spaces; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8470/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service monitors closely the trends in prisoners numbers to support the management of the prison population across the Prison Estate.

The number of persons in custody has shown some fluctuation since 2006 and the number of persons in custody peaked in February 2011 at 4,621, before falling back to 3,525 in January 2015.

Since 2016, the number of persons in custody had been steadily increasing until March 2020 when this trend was ended with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

I understand that the report referred to by the Deputy was an internal document prepared by the Irish Prison Service in January 2020 which gave an overview of trends in prison numbers from 2016 to 2019 and was prepared against the backdrop of a sharper increase in prisoner numbers during 2018 and 2019. I have no plans to publish this document.

Despite the increase in prisoner numbers here in 2019, the Deputy may be interested to note that according to the Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics, known as the SPACE Report, the rate of imprisonment in Ireland per 100,000 in 2019 was 81.2. This is considerably lower than the average rate across the member states of the Council of Europe which was 125.9.

In general terms, demographics can have an impact on the prison population but is only one variable which includes; socio-economic developments, crime rate, Garda activity, criminal justice policy and legislation, Courts activity and policy decisions on release.

Prison Accommodation

Questions (621)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

621. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice if the framework agreements for potential new prison infrastructure in Thornton Hall are based on low-security open prisons or high-security closed prisons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8471/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The purpose of the tender competition to which the Deputy refers is to admit suitable construction firms into a Framework Agreement who can compete for potential future Irish Prison service capital projects. The new Framework Agreement will supersede the current one which is due to expire this year. It is not predicated on any particular prison design.

The establishment of the Framework Agreement does not create a commitment or contractual obligation on behalf of the Irish Prison Service with regard to any particular project.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Irish Prison Service has a large estate with many old buildings and an ongoing requirement for capital works.

Any future capital projects in excess of €5 million, if approved, may be tendered to the new Framework by way of a “Mini-Tender” competition in accordance with the terms of the Framework Agreement once it is in place.

Work Permits

Questions (622)

Colm Burke

Question:

622. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Justice if the appropriate work visa will be issued in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8482/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The person referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for preclearance under the Irish Nationals Defacto Partners preclearance scheme on 14 September 2020. This application was examined in detail and a decision was made to refuse this application on 26 November 2020. The reasons for this decision were set out in the refusal letter sent to the applicant at that time.

An appeal of this decision was made on 11 December 2020. The applicant was subsequently advised on 10 February 2021 that a decision had been made on the application and a letter to that effect issued on 15 February 2021.

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

Courts Service

Questions (623)

Matt Carthy

Question:

623. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Justice the current waiting time for the hearing of small claims cases by the District Court; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8535/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

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. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made.

The Courts Service has advised me that they cannot provide waiting times for small claims cases. The underlining principle of this type of case is to avoid court by negotiating a mutually satisfactory resolution between all parties. The Courts Service further advises that the Small Claims Registrar acts as an intermediary between parties and it is only on the failure to reach an agreed resolution that cases proceed to court. There is no standard period of negotiation as it is dependent on the engagement of the parties.

The Small Claims procedure is an economical method of dealing with a consumer civil dispute where a solicitor need not be involved. Claims to the Small Claims Registrar can be made in writing or online.

Garda Equipment

Questions (624)

Pat Buckley

Question:

624. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Justice if funding will be provided for the purchase of additional four-wheel drive vehicles for An Garda Síochána. [8625/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.88 billion for 2020 and of €1.952 billion in Budget 2021. This level of investment is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. There are now approximately 14,600 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 3,000 Garda staff. Taken together, this number of Garda members and staff is delivering a significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide.

There will also be continued investment in the Garda Fleet of €8 million, in addition to the highest ever investment of approximately €15 million in the Garda Transport Fleet in 2020 – a proportion of which relates to the Garda Covid response.

Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, the Garda Commissioner has responsibility for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána and for the allocation and efficient use of Garda resources. This includes responsibility for the distribution of Garda vehicles across the various Garda Divisions.

The purchase and allocation of vehicles is made on the basis of identified operational demands and the availability of resources. I am informed by the Garda authorities that orders have been placed for 18 4x4 vehicles with expected delivery in Quarter 2 this year. These vehicles will be allocated following fit-out.

The allocation of Garda vehicles is monitored and reviewed on a continual basis to ensure the best match with operational requirements.

Garda Deployment

Questions (625)

Pat Buckley

Question:

625. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Justice the estimated cost of increasing the number of community gardaí by 25% in 2021. [8626/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and deployment of resources. As Minister, I have no role in decisions on such 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.

An Garda Síochána has been allocated an unprecedented budget of €1.952 billion for 2021. The significant level of funding provided over recent years is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. As a result, there are now approximately 14,600 Garda members and over 3,000 Garda staff nationwide.

Budget 2021 will allow for the recruitment of up to 620 new Gardaí, subject to public health considerations regarding the operation of the Garda College. The Budget allocation also provides for an increase in supervisory ranks at Sergeant and Inspector level.

The table below shows the estimated incremental salary costs if the current number of Community Gardaí is increased by 25%. I am advised that as at 31 December 2020, there is a total (across three Garda ranks) of 751 Community Gardaí.

Salary costs are calculated using the midpoint of the current Garda Salary scale and include fixed allowances which the member is entitled to. An estimate of Employer’s PRSI is also included. Allowances for unsocial hours and any potential overtime payments in excess of standard briefing time are not included.

25% increase

Community Gardaí

€9,782,882

Community Sergeants

€1,464,204

Community Inspectors

€78,043

Total

€11,325,129

However it is important to note that, to date, the categorisation of Community Garda has been restricted to those who are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society including giving talks to schools, community groups and others. Community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána and all Gardaí have a key role to play in community policing, a point emphasised by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

This community focussed approach has never been more evident than in the work carried out by all members of the Gardaí in supporting communities throughout the country over the course of the last year as part of the national effort to combat COVID-19.

Garda Deployment

Questions (626)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

626. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí stationed at each station in County Kildare and Portarlington, County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8700/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.88 billion for 2020 and of €1.952 billion in Budget 2021. This level of investment is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. There are now approximately 14,600 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 3,000 Garda staff. Taken together, this number of Garda members and staff is delivering a significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide.

The Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and 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 information provided in the attached spreadsheet sets out the number of Gardaí assigned to Kildare Division and to Laois/Offaly Division at 31 January 2021.

The Deputy may wish to know that the Garda numbers by rank in all Garda stations is available on my Department’s website in tabular form. 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

Garda Numbers

Probate Applications

Questions (627)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

627. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice the average and longest waiting time in each probate office for applications by solicitors and personal applicants, respectively; the number of applications on hand in each office; if the e-probate system is fully live in each office; the effect that the e-probate system has had on average waiting times to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8849/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service have advised me of the following.

Regarding the Dublin Probate Office, restrictions under level 5 of the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021 Plan for Living with COVID-19 necessitated the temporary closure of the personal applications process in October 2020. Solicitor applications continue to be processed. The waiting times for these applications, which were at one point subject to twelve weeks delays, are now at seven weeks. Until such time as the restrictions on movement are lifted or significantly reduced, the Courts Service advises there will be no resumption of personal application interviews.

The waiting times for the District Probate Registries around the country are set out in the table below.

Registry

No. of Applications on hand

Average Waiting time in weeks- solicitors

Average Waiting Time in Weeks- Personal Apps

Cork

236

10 - 12

12

Clonmel

82

4 - 6

2-4

Tralee

91

5 - 6

4-5

Limerick

62

3

3-4

Castlebar

56

8

12

Galway

70

12

16

Letterkenny

16

8

20

Sligo

16

10

25

Dundalk

28

4

5-6

Cavan

40 (30 with queries raised)

4-6

No personal appointments at the moment due to Level 5 ( 4 weeks normally)

Mullingar

31

6

12+

Kilkenny

92 (all under query with Solicitors or personal applicants)

2 - 3

2- 3

Waterford

22

6

4

Wexford

60

12

12

The e-probate project remains on the Courts Service’s list of modernisation projects. I am advised that the timetable for its implementation has yet to be determined and that it will continue to be considered in the context of other priority projects in the areas of civil, criminal and family law.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (628)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

628. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice the contracts for public relations advice and consultancy entered into by her Department over the cost of €10,000 since January 2021; the nature of the contract; and the length of the contract in tabular form. [8896/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I wish to advise the Deputy that no expenditure has been incurred on PR from 1 January to 11 Feb 2021.

Ministerial Communications

Questions (629)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

629. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice if there has been any contact with her counterpart in the United States'. [8916/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have not yet met with former Attorney General William Barr or any of his successors since my appointment as Minister for Justice in June 2020.

Insurance Fraud

Questions (630)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

630. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice the number of incidents of fraudulent insurance claims reported by the insurance industry to An Garda Síochána in each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021 by the insurance industry. [8932/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have requested information from the Garda Commissioner in relation to this matter but unfortunately it was 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 Deployment

Questions (631)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

631. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí in the Henry Street and Roxboro Road district of Limerick in each of the years 2006 to 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form. [8946/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.88 billion for 2020 and of €1.952 billion in Budget 2021. This level of investment is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. There are now approximately 14,600 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 3,000 Garda staff. Taken together, this number of Garda members and staff is delivering a significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide. It is projected that in 2021 there will be a further 450 new recruits to the Garda College. This will be dependent on restrictions in place and adhering to guidance as issued.

The Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and 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 information provided in the attached spreadsheet sets out the number of Gardaí in the Henry Street and Roxboro Road district of Limerick in each of the years 2009 to 2020 and to date in 2021 by division, district, station and rank. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the figures for 2006 to 2008 are only available by division, district, and station. These figures are also shown in the spreadsheet attached.

The Deputy may wish to know that the Garda numbers by rank in all Garda stations is available on my Department’s website in tabular form. 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

Strength