Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 12 to 29, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 30 to 32, inclusive, answered orally.

Witness Protection Programme

Questions Nos. 34 to 42, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (33)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

33. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he or his officials will meet with a State witness of a murder trial to discuss the person's concerns about the witness protection programme and the person's ongoing concerns for the person's safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4380/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware,  I recently responded to correspondence from her on this matter and I would like to thank her for raising this issue.

I wish to emphasise to the Deputy at the outset that the security of persons who may be or who may have been witnesses in the criminal process is a matter for An Garda Síochána. However, I can assure the Deputy that when An Garda Síochána becomes aware of a potential threat to life, immediate steps are taken by Gardaí to mitigate against this danger and they will be best placed to advise the individual in question how best to proceed in this specific case.

The Deputy will appreciate that the manner in which An Garda Síochána address potential safety threats to individuals is an operational matter for the Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister, have no role in this regard. While I cannot comment on specific cases, I am willing to send details in relation to this case directly to An Garda Síochána and request a report on the matter.

If the Deputy is in a position to provide these details to me confidentially, I will instruct my officials to make contact with the Garda authorities and I will revert to you again once a full report has been received.

An Garda Síochána operates a Witness Security Programme to counter attempts by criminal gangs and other groups to prevent the normal functioning of the criminal justice system, including through the threat and the use of violence and the systematic intimidation of witnesses.

The Deputy will understand that by virtue of the highly confidential nature of the Witness Security Programme, and the absolute need to maintain the protection and safety of persons who receive support from it, that it is not the practice to detail the specifics of its operation. However, I am advised that the Witness Security Programme is supported by provisions in the Criminal Justice Acts which deal with the intimidation of a witness or jurors, the trial of offences and the provision of evidence by video-link and that the operation of the Witness Security Programme and the resources required for it are kept under continuous review by An Garda Síochána.

Questions Nos. 34 to 42, inclusive, answered orally.

Sex Offenders Treatment Programme

Ceisteanna (43)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

43. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the fact that the uptake in the Building Better Lives programme for sexual offenders is decreasing year on year; if proposals to make this programme mandatory will be examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4385/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I have been advised by the Irish Prison Service that there are between 400 and 450 individuals convicted of sexual violence in custody at any one time.

A National Programme to reduce the risk of re-offending and enhance public protection to the greatest possible extent, known as the Building Better Lives programme, has operated in the Prison Service since 2009 and is based on international best practice. The Programme comprises of group interventions in three modules and allows responsive and flexible delivery of rehabilitation services which take account of individual risk, needs and capacity. 

Statistics in relation to participants in the Programme are outlined in the following table and show some fluctuation but no significant decrease.

Year

TOTAL engaged in all or part of BBL.

2015

22

2016

20 (+ 1 dropout)

2017

37 (+ 2 dropouts)

2018

31 (+ 1 dropout)

It is important to understand that, while the programme tends to be a particular focus for attention, it is only one of a number of assessment and intervention (treatment) pillars provided by the Irish Prison Service and Probation Service for people convicted of sexual violence.  Because many people convicted of sexual violence do not meet the criteria for the programme, there are various other pillars of intervention and management available.

These include the following; Individual offence focused work by Psychology/Probation Service; Probation Service engagement including risk assessment and management where the individual has a Post Release Supervision Order; the Psychology ‘Pathways to Change’ group; Engagement with prison in-reach Psychiatry services for stabilisation and maintenance of mental health where a mental health diagnosis is made; Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management (SORAM), which has been established to support the cooperation and coordination between key statutory organisations involved in managing the risk posed to the community by convicted sex offenders; and the Safer Lives Community Group Work Treatment Programme.

A significant number of those released, who do not participate in Building Better Lives Programme, are managed through one or more of these programmes.

The Building Better Lives programme is provided by a team of Psychologists and Probation Officers who have developed specific expertise in clinical practice including assessment and therapeutic work with men convicted of sexual offences. The criteria for participation in the Building Better Lives programme are informed by best practice and include: a prison sentence longer than 18 months to provide time to complete the programme, full admission of the offence and harm caused to the victim, robustness of personality to withstand the challenge of the group, stability of mental health, intellectual, social and developmental capacity and some literacy capacity.

I am informed that, where prisoners are not suitable for the Programme due to the denial of their offence/offending behaviour, the  Irish Prison Service has engaged with an international expert in relation to the ongoing challenges faced in the treatment and management of ‘categorical deniers’.  The preliminary findings from a 'deniers' programme run in another jurisdiction are positive and I understand the IPS Psychology Service sees this approach as the next critical step in the treatment and management of sexual violence in custody.

 As I have stated, there are a number of reasons why sex offenders do not engage, including denial, lack of motivation, insufficient time in sentence, lack of suitability due to an appeal of their conviction and complexity of case. Approximately 75%  of the sex offender population are not suitable to engage in the Programme for these reasons.

For the reasons I have set out, and in keeping with best practice, the Irish Prison Service has no proposals to make offence-focused treatment for sex offenders mandatory.

Illicit Trade

Ceisteanna (44)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

44. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if consideration is being given to the implementation of additional measures to counteract cross-Border criminality with particular reference to illicit trade in fuel, tobacco and drinks products which impacts adversely on revenue in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4326/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that tackling cross-border crime is a high priority for this Government, the Gardaí and our other law enforcement authorities. There is close cooperation between law enforcement agencies north and south of the border and the two police services work very closely together on a broad range of policing responsibilities.

Considerable operational activity takes  place aimed at tackling  the priority areas across the range of criminal activities. In addition to the ‘traditional’ areas of focus – fuel, tobacco, alcohol and other excise frauds and drug trafficking – there has been focus on rural crime (thefts from farms, burglaries and road crimes) and on human trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation. 

Excise fraud, including the illicit trade in fuel, tobacco and alcohol, is an area of serious concern to authorities north and south of the border. In February 2018, an investigation led by the Revenue Commissioners, uncovered a manufacturing cigarette factory in County Louth, which contained a full production facility for making cigarettes. This operation led to 23.5 million cigarettes and 71 tonnes of raw tobacco, along with tobacco precursor materials being seized. This find represents one of the largest illicit production facilities ever detected in Europe.

Authorities on both sides of the border are also committed to tackling all forms of fuel fraud. Measures implemented by Revenue to tackle the problem include the introduction of stringent new supply chain controls and reporting requirements for fuel transactions to minimise the scope for fraud. In addition, Revenue and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs undertook a joint initiative to find a new fiscal marker for use in marked fuels, which was introduced in Ireland and the United Kingdom from the beginning of April 2015. The industry view is that the measures implemented to date have been successful in curtailing the problem in Ireland.

Further, the Revenue Commissioners and HM Revenue and Customs have recently initiated investigations into alcohol-diversion fraud and duty-suspended alcohol moving between both jurisdictions.

The success of these cross border policing actions is grounded in the recognition that the best means of combatting this threat to our communities is to maintain and enhance  the excellent levels of cooperation between law enforcement agencies north and south of the border. The Gardaí and PSNI, along with other agencies, have worked together closely for many years and enjoy an excellent working relationship and co-operation at all levels. Clearly, Brexit will have an impact on this relationship, but the Government is working towards ensuring that the co-operation can continue to the maximum extent possible.

A crucial component of our shared strategy with our Northern Ireland colleagues in tackling cross border criminality has been the establishment of the Joint Agency Task Force, set up under the 'Fresh Start' Agreement of 2015. The Task Force brings together a wide range of experts drawn from policing, revenue and other enforcement agencies across both jurisdictions to co-ordinate strategic and operational actions against cross-border organised crime.

The Strategic Oversight Group of the Task Force is chaired jointly at senior management level by the two police services in order to provide strong strategic direction and oversight to front-line operational activities. This group also includes senior personnel from relevant agencies.

Senior officers from An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland jointly chair the Operations Co-ordination Group, which brings forward operational actions in the six priority areas that have been the focus of the work of the Task Force. These are: Rural Crime; Immigration-related Crime; Excise Fraud; Drugs; Financial Crime and Human Trafficking.

These cross-border policing structures provide a sound basis for future joint policing initiatives aimed at counter-acting cross-border criminality.

In addition, as part of the general increase in recruitment and resourcing of An Garda Síochána, additional Garda resources have been deployed to border areas in recent months to meet operational demands and this process is continuing.

Firearms Seizures

Ceisteanna (45)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

45. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps being taken by An Garda Síochána to seize and eliminate illegal guns following recent gun crime especially in the Dublin region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4164/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that the Government is fully committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána has the necessary resources to continue to successfully disrupt the operation of criminal groups who carry out gun crimes and who endanger the safety of our communities. 

The Deputy will have noted the significant progress made by Gardaí in tackling the insidious threat of organised crime, particularly in Dublin’s North Inner-City.  I am advised by the Commissioner that there are currently a number of concentrated intelligence led operations targeting organised criminality.  These are concentrated in, but by no means confined to, the Dublin region. 

Since the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau was established in March 2015, it has been responsible for the seizure of a total of ninety-one (91) firearms, including fifty-three (53) hand guns, nine (9) machine guns, seven (7) assault rifles, eight (8) shotguns; four (4) rifles and ten (10) stun guns. Many of these seizures have taken place in very dangerous circumstances where their use was allegedly  imminent.  A number of suspects have been arrested and in some cases have since been successfully convicted.

The Deputy will be familiar with Operation Hybrid which has been deployed since February 2016, as a result of an escalation in violence between organised crime gangs in the Dublin Metropolitan Region.  The strategic objective of Operation Hybrid is to have a three-pronged approach - preventative, investigative and targeted. 

The preventative element incorporates high visibility Divisional checkpoints with armed support on checkpoints and patrols provided by Special Detective Unit, Emergency Response Unit, Armed Regional Support Unit, local Detective and plain clothes units.

The investigative element involves cohesive investigation teams assigned to the murders and serious incidents, with technical and forensic investigative supports. As the Deputy may be aware, Interpol are facilitating international enquiries.

The ongoing work to identify, profile and target organised crime groups is focused and intelligence led, and supported by detective units nationally and internationally.

As of 13 January 2019, Operation Hybrid has resulted in:

- 86 arrests.

- 11 persons charged in relation to organised crime gang murder investigations,

- 3 persons convicted of murder with life sentences imposed.

- 37 firearms seized (specifically in relation to murder offences).

- Approximately 290 searches.- 17,000 lines of enquiry conducted with more than 73,000 high visibility checkpoints implemented with significant support from Armed Support Units.

The Deputy will also be aware that a number of arrests were made in the UK recently on foot of investigations, supported by An Garda Siochana, into the supply of drugs and firearms in Ireland and the UK. There were also a number of significant drug seizures made by An Garda Siochana in recent weeks.  

The Deputy will appreciate that the allocation of all Garda resources, including personnel, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I have no role in this matter. However, I can inform the Deputy that An Garda Síochána have confirmed that the organisation has been fully resourced to conduct this multi faceted approach to target organised crime groups within the Dublin Metropolitan Region and significant results have accrued by the organisation’s ability to investigate this activity in a coordinated policing approach.  This has resulted in significant disruption in seizing drugs, cash and firearms from organised crime groups.

Road Safety

Ceisteanna (46)

John Curran

Ceist:

46. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress being made by the cross-agency group on the issue of illegal use of scramblers and quad bikes; the outcome of this engagement; the steps that will be taken as a result of meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4174/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I would like to thank the Deputy for his continued interest in this important public safety issue. The Deputy will recall, on the occasion of his previous oral parliamentary question, that I undertook to update the Deputy in relation to the ongoing consultations conducted by my officials and I welcome the opportunity to do this now.

My Department's main focus in the intervening months has been on the consideration of the detailed, formal legal advice received from the Office of the Attorney General in November. As such, the scope of the consultation process has primarily involved bilateral consultation with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Transport) in the context of existing road traffic legislation.

It is important to emphasise again that the exploration of potentially relevant legislation has served to highlight the complex nature of this issue, whereby a number of potential avenues could simultaneously aid and hinder Garda enforcement and public safety. I can assure the Deputy that a detailed consideration of the matter is ongoing in order to identify feasible next steps.

My officials met again last week (22 January) with colleagues from the Department of Transport to consider the advices in greater detail. The consensus of both Departments, and the Office of the Attorney General, is that road traffic and public order legislation appears to provide adequate means for prosecuting offences relating to this antisocial behaviour. A further meeting to consider the matter is being arranged.

However, as the Deputy is aware, the Gardaí have experienced serious difficulties from an enforcement perspective when attempting to apprehend persons engaging in this dangerous and anti-social behaviour. Interception poses significant risks, not only to the drivers and passengers of these vehicles, but also to members of the public and local Gardaí in affected communities.

I would like, therefore, to take this opportunity to commend the Gardaí involved in the successful operation that took place in Cabra on Christmas day last. This was a resource-intensive Garda operation, which posed considerable risk to the attending members. In total, 11 quad bikes and 2 cars were seized under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 and 5 arrests were made for dangerous driving in accordance with section 53 of the Road Traffic Act 1961.

I am informed that investigation files are being prepared for the Director of the National Juvenile Office in respect of these arrests. In addition, CCTV footage is being analysed to identify others who may be prosecutable for public order, endangerment and other associated offences. An Garda Síochána has acknowledged the positive support from members of the community who provided information to Gardaí during the operation and I would like to thank these members of the community for their support.

A precursor to this successful operation was a proactive public awareness campaign in the Dublin Metropolitan Region West Garda Division. Community Policing Gardaí visited schools in the area from November 2018, highlighting the dangers associated with the misuse of these vehicles and distributing information leaflets to parents to discourage the purchase of vehicles for their children. The Deputy will also be aware that the Road Safety Authority and Dublin local authorities launched safety campaigns in November 2018. These awareness-raising activities underscore the multi-pronged approach utilised by Gardaí; positive results cannot be achieved by enforcement alone.

Finally, my officials will update the South Dublin County Council taskforce, focusing on the misuse of scramblers/quad bikes, on the consultations that have taken place since the previous meeting of the taskforce on 14 November. The taskforce will meet again in the coming weeks.

Garda Expenditure

Ceisteanna (47)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

47. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the proposed capital expenditure by An Garda Síochána in County Cork in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4358/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, there has been unprecedented investment in An Garda Síochána in recent years, in support of the Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement and provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion.  This represents an increase of over 6% over the initial allocation for 2018.

Very significant capital investment is also being made in An Garda Síochána.  This includes 

- investment of €342 million in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to enable An Garda Síochána to deliver on reform and deploy the latest cutting edge technologies in delivering professional policing and security services for the community;

- investment of €46 million in the Garda Fleet over the same period; and

- considerable capital investment is also being made in the Garda estate.

As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for carrying on and managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. Further, the allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Commissioner, in light of his identified operational demands. As Minister I have no direct role in these matters.

I am not in a position to confirm to the Deputy today what the exact allocation will be across the Garda Divisions, including Cork Division, for example of the additional vehicles which will be purchased from the €10 million capital allocation to the Garda Fleet in 2019; or the roll-out of additional ICT infrastructure across the Divisions.  These matters will be determined by the Commissioner, in accordance with operational needs.

In terms of investment in the Garda estate, the Deputy will be aware that the Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is based on agreed Garda priorities.  It an ambitious 5-year programme, which continues to benefit over 30 locations around the country, underpinned by over €60 million Exchequer funding as well as a major Public Private Partnership (PPP).  The clear goal 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.

The Deputy will appreciate that the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. 

Insofar as capital investment in County Cork is concerned, I am pleased to say that the development of a new Garda station for Glanmire is included in the programme.  Construction of this new station is ongoing and OPW has advised that completion is expected in the third quarter of 2019.

Further, in order to facilitate the Divisional Policing Model in Cork City, I am informed that the Cork City Divisional Roads Policing Unit is being moved from Anglesea Street to Ballincollig Garda Station.  Capital expenditure is involved to facilitate appropriate accommodation to permit this move.

Third, delivery of a new Garda station at Macroom, Cork and a new custody suite at the Garda station at Anglesea Street, Cork, are included in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement forming part of the building programme, along with new stations at Clonmel and Sligo.

Finally, as the Deputy will be aware, Ballinspittle Garda station is included as one of the 6 stations included in the Pilot Garda Station Reopening Programme.  I understand from the OPW that the necessary works at Ballinspittle are currently expected to be completed by end summer 2019.

This is a substantial programme of development and I can assure the Deputy of my commitment to seeing its completion in the shortest time possible. 

Direct Provision Data

Ceisteanna (48)

Jonathan O'Brien

Ceist:

48. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of complaints made to the Ombudsman by those in direct provision regarding the actions of accommodation centres; if the Ombudsman or his Department keeps records of complaints made to the accommodation centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4377/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Since April 2017, residents in direct prison accommodation centres can make complaints to the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children in relation to the services and facilities provided in their accommodation centre. 

A record of all complaints received from the Ombudsman is kept by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department. In 2017, the Ombudsman referred 31 complaints from residents of direct provision accommodation centres to RIA. In 2018 the Ombudsman referred 66 complaints to RIA.  Officials from RIA meet quarterly with the Office of the Ombudsman to ensure there is a close relationship between both offices to deal effectively, efficiently and sensitively with the complaints raised by residents.   

It should be noted that, in some cases, the Ombudsman may contact the accommodation centre directly to deal with a complaint. In such cases RIA may not have received a copy of the complaint from the Ombudsman.

Complaints received by the Ombudsman from direct provision residents, which relate to the services provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, HSE or Legal Aid Board are directed to those Departments and agencies separately by the Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman may be able to provide the Deputy with further information in relation to the total number of complaints made by residents in State provided accommodation. 

The Department of Justice and Equality will continue to engage positively and constructively with the Ombudsman to resolve any issues as they arise.

Asylum Seeker Accommodation

Ceisteanna (49)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

49. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the housing of asylum seekers in Moville, County Donegal, in view of arson attacks on direct provision centres in the county and elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4258/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

In September of last year, the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department published a call for expressions of interest in the national press for premises to meet the increasing demand for accommodation for persons in the international protection process (asylum seekers).

This call sought expressions of interest from parties interested in providing accommodation and related services on an urgent and emergency basis. This was issued in response to the urgent and unforeseen demand for accommodation and related services from those persons arriving in the state seeking international protection.

The Caislean Mara Hotel in Moville was offered to the Department.  Negotiations were completed with the contractor and the centre was scheduled to open in December 2018.

As the Deputy is aware, the Caislean Mara was the subject of a fire on 26 November 2018 which has delayed the opening of the accommodation centre. I wish to reiterate my comments made after the fire and after the recent fire in another proposed accommodation centre in Rooskey, Co. Leitrim that both Minister Flanagan and I condemn both incidents in the strongest possible terms.  These actions are not at all representative of the views of the overwhelming majority of people in Donegal or the Leitrim/Roscommon area or indeed of Ireland as whole. I once again urge anyone with information in relation to these incidents to contact the Gardaí.

I am not able to confirm an opening date for the centre in Moville at this time as the required repairs are not complete. I hope that these works can be completed quickly so that we can move to open the centre as soon as possible to accommodate persons seeking international protection. 

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (50)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

50. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the contingency and scenario planning his Department is undertaking in respect of policing and security matters from a North-South and east-west perspective in the event of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU without a negotiated settlement. [4390/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I want to assure the Deputy at the outset that it is the firm intention of the Government and the British Government that there will be no diminution in North-South security co-operation in the context of the planned departure of the UK from the EU.  While it is the case that Britain will no longer be part of many EU-wide police information systems, as the Deputy will be aware, national security is outside the competence of the EU so on-going day to day cooperation, which is at historically high levels, will continue following Brexit. 

Notwithstanding this, considerable planning and preparation across the policing and criminal justice areas has been going on to take account of the potential impacts of Brexit.

Tackling the dissident threat on this island, which we saw manifested in Derry recently, is a shared priority for both Governments.  Those who seek to attack peace on this island should be very clear that, Brexit or not, the Gardaí will continue their work, hand-in-hand with the PSNI, to combat the paramilitary gangs and their close criminal associates.  That will not change.

The Deputy will be aware that the scheme for a Bill published last week includes specific provisions aimed at addressing essential issues relating directly to security and policing co-operation, including proposals to ensure effective extradition arrangements between Ireland and the UK.  This will be necessary because of Britain's departure from the European Arrest Warrant system.  The Bill also contains proposals to ensure information-sharing in the context of maintaining the effective operation of the Common Travel Area between this State and the UK.

There remains a measure of uncertainty, as this House knows well, as to the exact course of events.  However, my Department is in ongoing contact with the Garda Authorities in terms of contingency planning.  I am assured that An Garda Síochána is preparing for Brexit with a wide-ranging focus to determine operational requirements and will continue to progress their contingency preparations in line with Government policy.

Crime Prevention

Ceisteanna (51)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

51. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to commission existing CCTV cameras on motorways for the detection and prevention of crime. [4175/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that I am conscious of the value placed on CCTV as a means of deterring crime and assisting in the detection of offenders.

The main purpose of CCTV cameras located on motorways is monitoring traffic conditions on the national road network, and assisting in the management of traffic on our roads. However, when progressing a criminal investigation An Garda Síochána can, and do, request access to data held by the relevant body, pursuant to section 41 of the Data Protection Act 2018.

CCTV systems are also installed for the purposes of crime prevention and as aids to policing in areas to which the general public routinely have access, such as town centres. These fall into two distinct but complementary categories, namely Garda CCTV systems and community-based CCTV systems. Both these categories have as their legal basis section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, which deals with CCTV for the purpose of securing public order and safety in public places. What is commonly referred to as “community CCTV” are systems established under section 38(3)(c) of the 2005 Act, to which An Garda Síochána have appropriate access and which is supported by the grant-aid scheme administered by my Department.

The purpose of that scheme is to support local communities who wish to install CCTV systems in their localities, including access roads to their areas where appropriate. Under the scheme, which is being administered by my Department, eligible community groups can apply for grant-aid toward the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system.

The Joint Policing Committees play an important role in the establishment of Community CCTV schemes - indeed their approval is one of the statutory requirements for establishment of any community CCTV scheme. In this regard, the Deputy may find it useful to engage with his local Joint Policing Committee regarding these issues.

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (52)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

52. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will request the National Development Finance Agency to implement the public private partnership for the construction of the new Garda station at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4359/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, there has been unprecedented investment in An Garda Síochána in recent years, in support of the Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement and provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion.  Very significant capital investment is also being made, including investment of €342 million in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021; and investment of €46 million in the Garda Fleet over the same period.

In terms of investment in the Garda estate, the Garda Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 is an ambitious 5-year programme based on agreed Garda priorities, which continues to benefit over 30 locations around the country, underpinned by over €60 million in Exchequer funding as well as a major Public Private Partnership (PPP).  There has been some good progress on the programme in 2018, as well as in other major projects in relation to the Garda estate, including in particular the completion and entry into operational use of 3 new Divisional and Regional Headquarters at Wexford, Galway and Kevin Street (Dublin), which collectively required funding of over €100 million.  The clear goal 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.

The Deputy will appreciate that the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation.

The Public Private Partnership  arrangement included in the Building and Refurbishment Programme is intended to deliver new stations at Macroom, Clonmel and Sligo as well as a new custody suite at the Garda Station at Anglesea Street Cork.

I am informed by the OPW and the Garda authorities that the OPW acquired sites for the development of the new stations in Macroom and in Sligo.  The site in Clonmel is a portion of the former Kickham Barracks and has at all material times been in state ownership.  Having previously been transferred from the Department of Defence to Tipperary County Council, I am informed by the OPW that difficulties in relation to completion of transfer of the site from Tipperary County Council to the OPW have all been resolved and that the final transfer is to be finalised this week. On completion, ownership of all three sites will be vested in the OPW.

The Deputy asked that I request the NDFA to implement the PPP.  I can confirm to the Deputy that the development of PPP projects is progressed under the auspices of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA).  As the Deputy will appreciate, preparation of a PPP can be complex, but work is ongoing within my Department and An Garda Síochána on the next stage of this important project.  I can assure the Deputy that my Department and An Garda Síochána are actively engaging with the NDFA with a view to progressing the matter further. These engagements concern the appropriate scope and governance of the PPP bundle, as well as costings and design for the stations.  

It is not possible at this point to provide a timeframe for completion of the projects.  However I can assure the Deputy that delivery of the new Garda stations at Clonmel, Macroom and Sligo through this PPP arrangement is being pursued as a priority.

Legislative Programme

Ceisteanna (53)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

53. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the Judicial Council Bill 2017; when he expects it to progress to Dáil Éireann; the reason for the delay to date; his views on whether this is having a negative impact on the courts system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4384/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Judicial Council Bill 2017 is currently progressing through the Houses of the Oireachtas.  The Bill will establish a Judicial Council to promote excellence in the exercise by judges of their judicial functions and high standards of conduct among judges.  A Judicial Conduct Committee established under the Bill will have a central role in considering complaints against judges and referring them either for resolution by informal means or for formal investigation.  The Deputy will be aware that the Bill has completed Seanad Second Stage and that Committee Stage in that House is awaited.  In the interim period a significant number of amendments have been developed in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General and have also been the subject of consultation with the judiciary.  Those amendments, particularly those which relate to sentencing guidelines, will further promote confidence amongst the public in relation to how the courts carry out their functions, while not interfering with the scope of judicial discretion in a way that would be contrary to the Constitution. 

Enactment of the Judicial Council Bill is regarded as a matter of priority for the Government and I am committed to making significant progress towards that enactment this session.  In that context, I hope to table Committee Stage amendments to the Bill in the near future.

The establishment of a Judicial Council will undoubtedly be an important development but I do not believe that the non-establishment of a Council to date has had a negative impact on the courts system.

Crime Levels

Ceisteanna (54)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

54. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the recent incidents of burglaries and thefts in Cork city over the Christmas 2018 period; his plans to address same; and if additional resources, both personnel and equipment, will be provided to the Togher and Anglesea Street districts to address same. [4289/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

On 20 December 2018, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) published the latest annualised crime statistics which are for Q3 2018.  While I am pleased that, nationally, burglary and theft-related offences were down, I am concerned that offences relating to robbery increased over the 12-month period to the end of Q3 2018, when compared to the end of Q3 2017.  This trend must be tackled comprehensively, and the focus on the recruitment of new Gardaí and increased resourcing of An Garda Síochána reflect this Government’s commitment to support Gardaí in the fight against crime.    

In relation to Cork City specifically, the most recent CSO figures available are for Q3 2018, which indicate a 6.5% reduction in incidents of burglary, when compared with Q3 2017.  Furthermore, incidents of theft of a vehicle and incidents of theft from the person are down 10.5% and 11% respectively when the figures for Q3 2018 and Q3 2017 are compared.

Togher and Anglesea Street Districts form parts of the Cork City Division. I am informed by the Commissioner that on 31 December 2018, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the Cork City Division was 721, up from 644 as recently as 2016, and greater than at any time previously. There are also 39 Garda Reserves and 77 civilians attached to the Division.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,400 Garda recruits have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, including 62 to the Cork City Division. 

As the Deputy will be aware, the manner in which Garda resources are deployed is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister, have no direct role in this regard. To ensure that optimum use is made of resources, policing plans are put in place by Divisional Officers which address the particular needs of each Division including taking into account of seasonal factors which can have a bearing.

One such initiative is the Lock up Light Up campaign, which is part of Operation Thor and encourages homeowners to protect their homes over the winter months, when burglaries traditionally tend to rise.  I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that intense Garda activity under Operation Thor has, as of January 2019, seen over 177,000 targeted checkpoints and more than 270,000 crime prevention patrols carried out nationwide.

This concentrated policing activity has produced in the region of 9,300 arrests and 10,600 charges covering a range of offences which, in addition to burglary, have included handling stolen property, possession of firearms and drugs offences.  An Garda Síochána will continue to bring pressure on the gangs and individuals responsible for these type of offences.  

Undoubtedly, the ongoing recruitment process will support all Garda activities and enhance visibility within our communities and will enable the Commissioner to provide additional resources across every Garda Division, including the Cork Division, as new Garda recruits continue to come on stream.

Finally, I believe it is absolutely vital that, as elected officials, we continue to encourage all citizens to report all instances of criminality to An Garda Síochána. Only then can the crime be properly investigated by Gardaí. Furthermore, these reports will allow the Garda authorities to identify any new or emerging crime trends affecting a particular community and, where necessary, allocate Garda resources in order to tackle these developments.

International Terrorism

Ceisteanna (55)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

55. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on alleged terrorist activities here by a group (details supplied) or sympathisers of same that are using financial institutions for the purposes of channelling funds to Syria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4393/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Protecting the State and the people from terrorism and supporting international peace and security are amongst the highest priorities for the Government. 

Ireland, like many other open and democratic states, faces a threat from international terrorism, money laundering and terrorist financing activity. 

Legal, regulatory and operational measures are in place to target anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing involving a range of Government Departments and agencies including the Department of Finance, the Department of Justice and Equality, An Garda Síochána, the Criminal Assets Bureau, alongside other stakeholders in countering such activity, such as the Central Bank of Ireland, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In accordance with the provisions of section 7 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, An Garda Síochána is responsible for the investigation of terrorist related activity, including financing.  In this regard, An Garda Síochána utilises a number of statutory provisions, including the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 and the Criminal Justice Act 1984, in the investigation of suspected terrorist financing.

An Garda Síochána remains vigilant in the monitoring and investigation of any suspected incidents of terrorist financing and continues to conduct intelligence led operations to disrupt and dismantle domestic or international terrorist networks who facilitate terrorism through terrorism financing.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the detail of security matters. I can however assure the Deputy that my Department liaises on an on-going basis with An Garda Síochána in respect of such matters.