Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Ceisteanna (10)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

10. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the recent comments by a union (details supplied) in addition to other bodies in relation to the new domestic violence legislation and the lack of training provided to members of An Garda Síochána to carry out the duties required of them by this legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11876/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Justice)

Mar is eol don Aire, bhí eagraíocht na sáirsintí de chuid An Gharda ag léiriú a cuid imní faoi thraenáil agus oiliúint na ngardaí chun déileáil leis an reachtaíocht a cuireadh sa dlí ag tosach na bliana maidir leis an domestic violence Act agus an gá go mbeidh níos mó oiliúna agus traenála acu chun a gcuid dualgas a chomhlíonadh.

The Domestic Violence Act 2018 is landmark legislation which significantly enhanced the legal protections available to victims of this appalling form of violence. I was pleased to commence all the provisions of the Act, including the provision which created a new offence of coercive control, on 1 January last. This offence recognises the psychological abuse aspect of domestic violence.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for carrying on, managing and controlling generally the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, including arranging for the training of its members and Garda staff and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. There can be no doubt, however, about the Commissioner's commitment to tackling this deplorable crime.

It is clearly very important that gardaí understand the legislation in order to intervene effectively and training is crucial in this regard. I am advised by Garda management that a number of training initiative measures have already been taken and further measures are planned to ensure that members of An Garda Síochána have a solid understanding of the new legislation, including the new offence of coercive control.

I am informed that the measures taken to date include the following. Training has been provided at Templemore Garda College to members of the divisional protective services unit and inspectors nationwide with the domestic abuse portfolio by an international expert from the UK, in relation to domestic homicides and their link to coercive control. The UK was one of the first countries to introduce the offence of coercive control. This was part of a three day domestic abuse modular training programme that took place in the Garda College in February of this year. Train-the-trainer training for members of An Garda Síochána in the area of coercive control, developed in conjunction with the Garda National Protected Services Bureau, will aid in the creation and delivery of organisation-wide training. Domestic abuse response, including the Domestic Violence Act 2018, is included in the continuous professional development training programmes for this year in An Garda Síochána. There are training lectures for probationer gardaí at the Garda College in Templemore.

Tá an-chosúlacht idir an méid atá ráite ag an Aire anseo agus an méid atá ráite aige cheana.

The response the Minister gave is similar to the one given to me in writing on 30 January informing me that the Garda Commissioner had undertaken a number of measures and that further measures are under way to ensure front-line gardaí have a solid understanding of the new legislation. This, however, was not the contention of the AGSI in the first place. No one questions their ability to understand or comprehend the legislation which was passed by these Houses. The question related to their ability and training to use this legislation to the best of their ability given the lack of training.

Guidance documents that are not complemented by training are not training in and of themselves. In its press release on 9 January, the AGSI stated:

The Domestic Violence Act 2018 came into force on 2nd January. AGSI who represent over 2,000 middle-ranking Gardaí, say that none of their members have received formal training on this new legislation.

Victims of domestic violence deserve the best protection and support possible. We are calling on the [Garda] Commissioner [Drew Harris] to prioritise training in this area as a matter of urgency.

The Minister has stated that there is, in fact, some training taking place. How many gardaí have undergone this training and when will all gardaí, or at a minimum all gardaí in the protective services units, be fully trained in the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act?

As I outlined in my reply, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for ensuring that members of An Garda Síochána are trained. As Minister, I do not have a direct role in that regard.

As I already outlined, I have been advised by the Garda authorities that a number of training measures continue to be taken to ensure that gardaí have a solid understanding of this new legislation. Of course, I acknowledge the importance of training and that a sufficient level of resources are applied for the training, including bi-monthly training of all serving members in the area of domestic violence and training directed at those Garda inspectors nationwide who hold domestic violence portfolios. I was recently in Cork acknowledging the progress made there on what will be a new Garda national protective services unit. In fact, by the end of this year, every Garda division will have its unit.

It is important that we proceed at the earliest opportunity to ensure there are sufficient resources, training, expertise and experience available to An Garda Síochána in our new legislation. I assure the Deputy there will be training available for all serving members of An Garda Síochána in the area of domestic violence.

I accept what the Minister said in terms of who is responsible but I would think the Department is entitled to and should have information. I ask the Minister, if he does not have it to hand, to provide me with information on how many gardaí have undergone this training and when all gardaí, at least those in protective services units, will have undergone training. If the Minister does not have that to hand, I would ask him to provide it subsequently.

On a related issue, I welcome that the Government finally ratified the Istanbul Convention on Friday last. It is something for which Sinn Féin and many Deputies in this House have been calling for some time. However, it appears that the Government will already be in breach of one of its central requirements, namely, the need to have one refuge place for every 10,000 persons. Tusla claims that it is, in fact, in line with the convention but that seems a willful misinterpretation of what is required. The State currently has 21 women's shelters with 141 beds. This means that the State is 300 beds short of where it needs to be under the convention. Tusla states it will continue with its own measurements regarding the requirements of the convention despite not having any data require of it published since 2015. Does the Minister intend to work with the Minister, Deputy Zappone, to ensure that Ireland is in compliance with the Istanbul Convention by providing the required one refuge place for every 10,000 persons?

I assure the Deputy, having regard to the importance of Ireland's ratification of the Istanbul Convention from 8 March last, that every effort will be made to ensure that there is full compliance. In that regard, the House might note that the State will be subject to ongoing international monitoring by the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, GREVIO, an independent expert body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. I would be happy to engage actively and positively with the Minister, Deputy Zappone, on this issue and ensure that all of the agencies are fully aware of their obligations and operations under the convention. I would be happy to engage with all appropriate Ministers and Departments.