10 Sep 2021, 16.06

The Joint Committee on Justice has outlined its ambitious work programme for Autumn.

Women’s shelters, domestic abuse refuges, courts and courthouses and engagement of minorities with the justice system are among the topics the Committee intends to discuss over the coming weeks.

And Members will conduct Pre-Legislative Scrutiny on the:

  • General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill
  • General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Digital Recording) Bill
  • General Scheme of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill
  • General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill

Committee Cathaoirleach James Lawless TD said: “Members of the Joint Committee are delighted to return this Autumn with a work programme that will ensure we continue to have meaningful input into key legislation and policy areas which have real significance and to continue to considers policy matters including those in the fields of justice, security and the rule of law.

Despite Covid restrictions, the Justice Committee met on more than 20 occasions to deal with a wide range of matters. 

It completed Select Committee consideration of 44% of all legislation processed through all Select Committees.  This included progressing important Bills such as the Criminal Procedure Bill, Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) (Amendment) Bill and Counterfeiting Bill. 

In addition, the Committee considered Estimates for public services to provide for the gross expenditure of €3 billion across the six votes in the Justice sector.

In progressing its Work Programme a wide range of topics were covered by the Committee over the course of 18 meetings.  In this period, the Committee heard from 45 witnesses and published a number of reports including a Report on Victim’s Testimony in cases of rape and sexual assault and a Report on meeting on 27th April 2021 on the topic of GDPR.”

Deputy Lawless continued: “It also completed Pre-Legislative scrutiny on some draft Bills which were of particular importance, including the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Exploitation of children in the commission of offences) Bill and the General Scheme of the Smuggling of Persons Bill.

The Committee intends to examine the impact and incidence of domestic abuse against women, children, and men respectively and look at the geographical provision of shelters for domestic abuse as part of a broader discussion on women’s shelters and domestic abuse refuges.

Members will examine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on services provided to those suffering from domestic abuse and how these services are coping with the increase in demand during Covid-19.”

Deputy Lawless added: “The pandemic response will also feature as part of the Committee’s discussion on courtrooms and courthouses across the State. The Committee will examine if courthouses are structurally suitable to ensure social distancing and have the facilities to conduct remote participation; as well as examining the overall number of courtrooms and issues around accessibility and security.”

“In addition, the Committee intends to gain greater insight and understanding of the experience of a particular minority groups when engaging with the justice system including the difficulties or barriers they may experience and the supports available.”

“The scheduled programme follows the Committee’s significant achievements of the Spring/Summer session where considerable and impactful work was completed against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic.”

Earlier this year the Committee completed Pre-Legislative Scrutiny on the following General Schemes:

  • General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill
  • General Scheme of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill
  • General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Garda Síochána Operating Model) Bill
  • General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Exploitation of Children in the Commission of Offences) Bill
  • General Scheme of the Smuggling of Persons Bill
  • General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Mutual Recognition of Custodial Sentences) Bill

The Committee also completed Committee Stage consideration on the following Bills:

  • Counterfeiting Bill 2020
  • Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018
  • Criminal Procedure Bill 2021
  • Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2020

It also conducted Scrutiny on the Dying with Dignity Bill 2020.

In addition, the Committee concluded examination on a number of topics which included engagement with stakeholders on 'Victim’s Testimony in Cases of Rape and Sexual Assault’; the 'General Data Protection Regulation' and 'Civil Liberties during the Covid-19 Pandemic'.

The Joint Committee on Justice has 14 Members, nine from the Dáil and five from the Seanad.

More information on the Committee and its work can be found on the dedicated Committee Webpage. Committee proceedings can also be viewed on the Houses of the Oireachtas Smartphone App, available for Apple and Android devices.

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