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

Probation and Welfare Service Data

Ceisteanna (12)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

12. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons in probation services linked in with a probation officer; if sufficient community services are available; and if there are enough places for voluntary supervision. [11721/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the Probation Service is an agency of my Department working to reduce offending, create safer communities and fewer victims through offender rehabilitation informed by evidence-based practice.  It has a staff of about 400, located in over 35 community-based offices in every county and in every prison.  The Service's budget for 2019 is €47.814m, an increase of €1.569m since 2017.  I am informed that, on 1 March 2019, the Service's caseload comprised 10,174 offenders, of whom 8,670 were in the community and 1,504 were in custody.

The primary function of the Service is to supervise offenders by order of the courts.  Offenders placed under supervision by the courts are assigned a Probation Officer who conducts a detailed assessment and works with the offender to address the underlying issues related to their offending. Supervision is done in a structured, evidence-based manner, built around a comprehensive case-management plan addressing the factors that have contributed to offending behaviour.

The Probation Service also has responsibility for the supervision and management of community service orders, whereby convicted offenders are sentenced to between 40 and 240 hours unpaid work as an alternative to a custodial prison sentence.  I am advised by the Probation Service that, in all cases where the Court imposes a Community Service Order, its objective is to implement the Order as soon as possible. Some delay may occur on occasion, but I am informed that the Service proactively manages its resources to ensure it is responsive to the needs of the Court. 

Following a recommendation of the Strategic Review of Penal Policy, the Probation Service developed an integrated model of community service which combines the unpaid work element of community service with a developmental/rehabilitative element aimed at addressing an offender’s identified risks and needs in order to promote desistance from crime.  The Service commenced national roll out of this new model on a pilot basis in late 2017.  This new model remains under ongoing review by the Probation Service with formal evaluation scheduled for 2019.

Voluntary supervision arises in a small number of cases where an offender consents to be supervised by the Probation Service.  Examples of voluntary supervision may include providing support in exceptional circumstances on a voluntary basis to an offender leaving custody who is deemed at high risk of reoffending and/or harm, but who has not been subject to a court order. The Service has also in the past at the request of other jurisdictions provided supervision of offenders on a voluntary/non-statutory basis. The Service has limited scope for undertaking such voluntary supervision of offenders or former offenders, as its key role is to supervise offenders following a direction of the courts under the relevant legal provisions.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (13)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

13. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of new recruits allocated and transfers in of existing gardaí in the past four years to each of the Cork Garda divisions; the number of transfers out and retirements out of each Cork Garda division in the period; if population growth has been factored into the allocation process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12002/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Firstly I would like to reiterate for the House that with regard to the deployment of Garda resources, including personnel, to specific areas, the Deputy will appreciate that this is solely the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team.

I am advised by the Commissioner that the distribution of Garda resources is constantly monitored and a distribution model is used that takes into account all relevant factors including population, crime trends and overall policing needs at local level. It is then a matter for the Divisional Chief Superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available, having regard to the profile of the area and its specific needs. This applies equally in both rural and urban areas.

I would emphasise that is not appropriate to simply determine the allocation of Garda resources on the basis of population size alone, as it fails to take account of, among other things, the fact that crime levels and types can vary significantly in communities of similar population size.

I am advised by the Commissioner that the information requested by  the Deputy regarding the number of Gardaí that have transferred out of the Divisions in question, is not readily available and would require a disproportionate amount of Garda resources to compile.  However, there is a general policy within An Garda Síochána not to transfer a Garda from a Division without the provision of a replacement. I am informed by the Commissioner that the number of Garda  who retired on a voluntary, compulsory or a cost neutral early retirement basis in the Cork Divisions during the years 2015- 2018 and up to 7 March, 2019 was 96.  I have provided for the record a detailed breakdown of this figure by Division as requested by the Deputy.

I am pleased to note, as advised by the Commissioner that the strength of the Cork Divisions as of 31 January the latest date for which figures are currently available was 1344, an increase of 10% since 31 Dec 2015. 

When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Support Units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, some 128 of whom have been assigned to the Cork Divisions.

I am further informed that it is the Commissioner’s intention to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 and 600 Garda civilian Staff. The recruitment of these additional Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to frontline duties for which they are trained. The injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be really beneficial in terms of protecting communities.

The Commissioner has publicly spoken about issues like protecting our most vulnerable and he has highlighted that his priority is a policing model that will provide the best outcomes for communities.

Furthermore, the Commissioner has been provided with an additional €100 million in 2019 bringing his total budget to almost €1.8 billion.  This substantial investment will allow the accelerated recruitment programme to continue in tandem with the deployment of new and leading edge technology to support our front line Gardaí in carrying out their work of delivering a visible, effective and responsive police service to communities across all Garda Divisions, including the Cork  Divisions in 2019 and future years.

Retirements from An Garda Síochána 2015-2019 by Cork Division 

 

Cork City

Cork North

Cork West

Total

Year

 

 

 

 

2015

17

6

4

27

2016

7

6

4

17

2017

12

3

8

23

2018

12

6

3

21

2019

5

1

2

8

Total

53

22

21

96

* includes retirements, on a voluntary, compulsory or a cost neutral early retirement basis

Road Traffic Accidents Data

Ceisteanna (14)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

14. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of road traffic collisions involving heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the number which resulted in a fatality, serious injury and fatality of the driver of the vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6261/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As I have previously advised the Deputy, I understand that An Garda Síochána does not record road traffic statistics in a way that easily allows for the disaggregation of data in the manner you have requested; that is by vehicle type.

However, the Deputy may be aware of the Road Safety Authority's annual Road Collision Factbooks, which provide detailed statistics in relation to collisions on our roads. The most recent factbook, covering 2015, was published on the RSA’s website in December 2018.

This factbook shows that, in 2015, 106 public service vehicles and 915 goods vehicles were involved in fatal and/or injury collisions. The report also provides similar figures on drivers of such vehicles. In 2015, there were no fatalities of public service vehicle drivers, however, there were 17 injuries. For goods vehicle drivers, there were six fatalities and 317 injuries.

I have been informed by the Road Safety Authority that their intent is to publish the 2016 Road Collision Factbook in the first half of this year.

I do want to take the opportunity to address road safety more generally. In 2018, we witnessed the lowest number of road traffic fatalities on record (148), and while every single fatality on our roads is one too many, I was greatly encouraged by this downward trend. However, I am very concerned at the marked rise in road traffic fatalities in the year so far, particularly in view of the proactive efforts being made by the key stakeholder agencies to make our roads safer.

Last week, An Garda Síochána publicly reiterated its continuing enforcement focus on the lifesaver offences of speeding, seatbelts, mobile phones and driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. It was shocking to read that 1 out of every 3 victims in fatal vehicle accidents had no safety belt on at the time of the collision, and, unfortunately, this trend seems to be continuing into 2019.

This stark statistic underscores the need for drivers, and passengers, to ensure that all safety precautions have been taken, especially when it comes to seat belts. Finally, I would like to echo the comments made last week by the Chief Superintendent of the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau, when he said that "safety belts are proven life savers and must be worn every journey, every time".

Protected Disclosures Data

Ceisteanna (15)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

15. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the work of the panel of barristers examining protected disclosures within An Garda Síochána; the number and names of counsel employed to date on the panel in tabular form; the fees paid to counsel to date; if he is satisfied with the work of the panel to date; if he has had discussions with the Garda Commissioner about same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11995/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

To begin, I believe it is important to clarify that the review panel to which the Deputy is referring was established in order to assess disclosures made to me, in my capacity as Minister for Justice and Equality, by members or former members of An Garda Síochána.  It is not intended that disclosures made directly to An Garda Síochána fall under this review as, given the stringent nature of the rules covering the protection of a discloser’s identity under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, I would not be privy to any such disclosures.  That is not to say, however, that the allegations under consideration have not been made to other parties; they may have been as is a discloser’s right.

The Protected Disclosures Act allows members of An Garda Síochána to make a protected disclosure to one or more of a number of persons, including to the Minister of the day.  Since 2014, my Department has received 24 letters from current or former members or employees of An Garda Síochána in relation to matters which might be regarded as a protected disclosure. 

Following consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Attorney General, a panel of counsel was established in order to provide independent advice to my Department on how each case should be treated.  Five nominated counsel were assigned to the panel and to date I have received advices on six referred cases.  In order to ensure an independent assessment of these matters, counsel have been instructed to assess all relevant documentation relating to the allegations and to make whatever recommendations they see fit.

The Deputy will appreciate that, by their very nature, this correspondence may involve varying degrees of complexity and careful consideration of each is of the utmost importance.  However, I am anxious that there will be no unnecessary delays in carrying out the assessment and following through on any recommended actions.  Officials from my Department are currently reviewing the advices received on the cases that have been completed and are preparing submissions recommending appropriate action for me to take.  In the interests of protecting the independence of this process, it is not intended to identify the counsel undertaking this work, at this time.  Equally, as the Deputy will understand, I am not permitted to discuss the content of any allegations made in protected disclosures with the Garda Commissioner, or any third party, without the express consent of the discloser themselves.  Obviously, if counsel recommend that the allegations be made known to the Commissioner so he may take appropriate action, they may well be referred to him following the receipt of the discloser’s approval for doing so.

With regard to the fee structure put in place for this review process, as part of the sanction provided by DPER, it was agreed that the maximum amount to be paid per case reviewed was €1,000 excluding VAT with a graded scale up to that maximum.  Fees are only to be paid to counsel following the completion of their assessment reports.

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (16)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

16. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the efforts of the Office of Public Works regarding the proposed new Garda station at a location (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10617/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.76 billion for 2019.  These resources are being provided in support of the Government's commitment to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.

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 Office of Public Works has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation, and works in relation to Garda accommodation are progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works (OPW).

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 significant Exchequer funding across the Garda and OPW votes.  In addition to that programme, other major works to the Garda estate which are ongoing include the pilot Garda station reopening project, the development of a new facility at Military Road and the major refurbishment of Fitzgibbon Street station.

I would emphasise that 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.  And there has been some good progress in relation to the Garda estate in recent times, including in particular the completion and entry into operational use in 2018 of 3 new Divisional and Regional Headquarters in Wexford, Galway and Kevin Street (Dublin), which collectively required funding of over €100 million. 

In relation to Macroom, I can inform the Deputy that the Public Private Partnership arrangement included in the Building and Refurbishment Programme is intended to deliver new stations in Macroom, Clonmel and Sligo as well as a new custody suite at the Garda Station located on Anglesea Street Cork.

Site acquisition for this PPP bundle has been complex and has taken longer than originally envisaged.  I have been informed by the OPW and the Garda authorities that the OPW acquired sites for the development of the new stations in Macroom and Sligo in 2015 and 2018 respectively.  I am pleased to say that I am informed by the OPW that all difficulties in relation to completion of the acquisition of the site in Clonmel were recently resolved and that that transfer is now also agreed.  It was necessary to secure all three sites before the PPP could proceed to the next stage.

The development of PPP projects is progressed under the auspices of the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) and my Department and the Garda authorities are working to progress this matter, with the input and assistance of the NDFA.  My Department is also engaging with the OPW in relation to the assistance that it may be able to provide to the process, including direct engagement on the matter between the Secretary General of my Department and the Chair of the OPW. 

The establishment of PPP projects can be complex and it is vital to get the projects right at the planning and design stage. I can assure the Deputy that delivery of the new Garda stations in Sligo, Clonmel and Macroom through this PPP arrangement is being pursued as a priority.

Prisoner Welfare

Ceisteanna (17)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

17. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners who died in prisons since 2011 to date; if he is satisfied that the Irish Prison Service is adequately funded to deal with prisoner welfare; if he is satisfied that the best international practice is in place in prisons here to assist prisoners with mental health difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11993/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am informed that 67 prisoners have died in prisons in the period from 2011 to 7 March 2019.  All such deaths are the subject of a Garda investigation, an investigation by the Inspector of Prisons, and an inquest held in a Coroner's Court to determine the cause of death. 

I understand that the circumstances of each death in custody and incident of self-harm are also examined by a multidisciplinary suicide and harm prevention group in each prison, chaired by the Governor. Their objective is to identify and implement measures that may reduce the risk of deaths in the future.  

In addition, the National Suicide and Harm Prevention Steering Group, chaired by the Director General, reviews the reports by the Inspector of Prisons and makes recommendations that are reviewed by Prison Governors and the local suicide and harm prevention groups. This allows findings and recommendations to be applied across the prison estate. 

A general review of healthcare in the prisons is being progressed and is overseen by a Working Group involving officials from my Department, the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive. This arose from a report of the Inspector of Prisons entitled 'Healthcare in Irish Prisons' in 2016.

The Irish Prison Service works collaboratively with the HSE to provide effective care for the prison population.  However, the provision of appropriate mental health services to those in custody is a major challenge. 

Mental health services are provided to the Dublin and Portlaoise prisons by the Health Service Executive through the National Forensic Mental Health Service (NFMHS). The HSE also provides psychiatric services for the Limerick, Cork and Castlerea prisons.  I am glad to say that the HSE has confirmed approval for the appointment of a consultant-led team in these prisons to provide forensic psychiatric in-reach services. The IPS are currently engaging with the HSE with a view to expediting these appointments. 

The Irish Prison Service has access to a limited number of places in the Central Mental Hospital for prisoners who require urgent residential treatment. I am informed that on average 25 prisoners can be awaiting transfer to the Central Mental Hospital.  This is of ongoing serious concern but it is anticipated that the opening of the new CMH in 2020 will help to improve capacity issues for prisoners in need of in-patient psychiatric treatment.

I am informed that two dedicated areas have been established within the prisons for the provision of high support to vulnerable prisoners with mental illness; D2 wing in Cloverhill Prison (for remand prisoners), and the High Support Unit in Mountjoy (for sentenced prisoners).  Both units provide a dedicated area within the prison where mentally ill and vulnerable prisoners, who present with a risk of harm to self or to others are closely monitored in a safer environment.

A psychiatric in-reach and Court Liaison Service is available at Cloverhill Prison. This diversion service ensures, as far as possible, that those people presenting before the courts, or indeed at an earlier stage of the criminal justice system, are referred and treated appropriately. This has resulted in approximately 130 prisoners being diverted to community services annually.

The IPS Psychology Service, as part of the multidisciplinary team, plays a key role in the provision of mental health services for people in custody and is being expanded in order to better meet the mental health needs of prisoners. 

The Service has also developed a bespoke mental health training programme, which is currently being delivered to all staff.  Since September 2016, over 1,500 staff have been trained and the programme continues to be rolled out to remaining staff.  In addition, all persons in custody have access to the Samaritans Listeners Scheme. 

As can be seen, the Prison Service takes this issue seriously and has a range of measures in place designed to prevent, in so far as possible, deaths in custody.  However, given the number of vulnerable prisoners in custody, it remains a matter of significant concern to me and I have raised it with the Director General who assures me that all necessary steps will be taken to ensure the full and timely implementation of recommendations made by the Inspector of Prisons into deaths in custody.

I am further advised by the Director General that the matter of monitoring of prisoners on special observation, which is a concern that the Inspector of Prisons has raised in successive reports, is being addressed through the implementation of a range of new policies and procedures. The roll out of the new measures will be supported by a communication strategy to ensure the full awareness of staff of their obligations in this regard and the disciplinary sanctions which will apply where the appropriate policies and procedures are not properly adhered to.

Crime Data

Ceisteanna (18)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

18. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has received reports and statistical analysis of the number of crimes in which a knife was the primary weapon used. [11980/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistics agency, is responsible for the publication of recorded crime statistics.

While the statistical information being sought by the Deputy is not currently being published by the CSO, I can advise the Deputy that my Department received a report from An Garda Síochána in relation to knife seizures, which indicates year on year increases in the numbers of knives seized by An Garda Síochána, with 1,200 seized in 2016, 1,600 seized in 2017 and almost 2,000 seized last year.

My Department wrote to the Garda authorities in February 2019 to seek an update on the recent work of An Garda Síochána in tackling knife-related crime, and the progress being made by Gardaí to improve the quality of knife crime statistics recorded on the PULSE system. When a response is received, and has been fully considered by my Department, I hope to able to provide the Deputy with an update.

I will contact the Deputy again when an update has been received from the Garda authorities. 

Garda Civilian Staff Data

Ceisteanna (19)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

19. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of civilian staff employed by An Garda Síochána; and the percentage of the overall An Garda Síochána staff attributable to overall numbers. [12005/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 31 January 2019, there were approximately 2,530 civilian staff employed by An Garda Síochána, undertaking a range of administrative and technical duties in the organisation. As of the same date, the total Garda strength was approximately 14,000. In this regard civilian staff now account for approximately 15% of the overall Garda workforce.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government's vision is for a Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 to include 15,000 Garda members and 4,000 Garda Staff.  The projected 4,000 Garda Staff represents a medium-term target of 20% of the Garda full-time workforce comprised of civilians. This target will be achieved through a twin-track approach of firstly, a “civilian by default” policy in relation to the filling of all new posts other than operational policing posts and for non-operational policing posts that become vacant and, secondly, the redeployment of Gardaí to policing roles where their skills can be used to best effect, with the backfilling of these roles by suitably qualified civilians, where necessary. 

Progress is being made in relation to civilianisation. Since the beginning of 2017 approximately 350 new civilian posts have been sanctioned by the Policing Authority with the consent of my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The bulk of these were to address critical skills gaps and capacity issues with a proportion sanctioned to make a start on the redeployment of Gardaí to policing duties. 

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 31 December 2018, approximately 260 Gardaí have been redeployed to operational policing duties. I further welcome the Garda Commissioner’s decision to recruit a net 600 Garda staff in 2019. The recruitment of these additional Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 Gardaí from administrative duties to visible frontline policing duties in 2019. 

This approach to continued and increased recruitment of civilian personnel is very much in line with the Report of the Commission for the Future of Policing in Ireland.  This Report was approved by Government in December.  Civilianisation and redeployment are among the key projects  being progressed in 2019 in the Implementation Plan published by Government in December - ‘A Policing Service for the Future’ - and I am confident the full realisation of these projects will deliver a better policing service to the public.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (20)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

20. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps being taken to ensure that residents in direct provision centres are being advised of their right to vote in local elections in May 2019; and the way in which contact with candidates will be facilitated in order that residents can engage fully with the democratic process. [11877/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Department of Justice and Equality, through the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA), has always facilitated and encouraged the registration of and voting by protection applicants in local elections.  Residents are advised what type of elections they can vote in and how they may register with the relevant local authority so that they may vote in elections as appropriate. 

The office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration within my Department has supported a number of events focused on encouraging political participation of migrants in local politics.  Two of these events were held in Dublin and Cork in 2018.  It is hoped another event will be held in Galway before the local election in May. My colleague, Minister of State Stanton, has been particularly active in promoting migrant engagement in politics.

Multi-lingual material has been developed for Voter registration information and for local and European election. This information is accessible and available on the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government website

RIA is currently revising the general policy in relation to local elections. This is in line with actions in the Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2020 which focus on efforts to ensure that the political system becomes more representative of the broader population.  The revised policy will be issued to all centres before the end of March 2019.

Given the particular nature of the accommodation provided in centres, there are a number of factors that limit unrestricted access by candidates to the private living quarters of residents. These include the communal nature of the accommodation system and the many practical and logistical difficulties that would arise for centre managers in providing unsupervised access in circumstances where families and children live together. 

The general policy ensures that there are no restrictions placed on residents’ voting rights, or on their rights to access whatever information that candidates wish to convey to them, or on any rights to meet with candidates in the public areas of centres.  It also ensures privacy in the residential units and the on-going protection of children in the centre.

There is an opportunity for the Friends of the Centre group at each centre to provide information to residents on how to register to vote and on the importance of local government within the political structure of the State.  The Friends of the Centre groups can also raise awareness in an informal way about the importance of voting.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (21)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

21. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in County Donegal in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11971/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Firstly I would like to reiterate for the house that with regard to the deployment of Garda resources, including personnel, to specific areas, the Deputy will appreciate that this is solely the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team. The Commissioner has publicly spoken about issues like protecting our most vulnerable and he has highlighted that his priority is a policing model that will provide the best outcomes for communities.

The distribution of Garda resources is constantly monitored and a distribution model is used that takes into account all relevant factors including population, crime trends and overall policing needs at local level. Is is then a matter for the Divisional Chief Superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her having regard to the profile of the area and its specific needs. This applies equally in both rural and urban areas.

I would emphasise that it is not appropriate to simply determine the allocation of Garda resources on the basis of any single metric, such as population, as that would fail to take account of, among other things, the fact that crime levels and types can vary significantly in communities of similar population size.

I am informed by the Commissioner that on 31 January 2019, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the Donegal Division was 409. There are also 13 Garda Reserves and 38 Civilians attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Support Units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau. 

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. I was pleased to attend the attestation ceremony last Friday where over 200 probationer Gardaí attested, of whom 15 members will be allocated to the Donegal Division. 

I am further informed that it is the Commissioner's intention to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 along with a net 600 Garda staff. The recruitment of these additional Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy this year a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to the frontline duties for which they are trained. The injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will be really beneficial in terms of protecting communities. 

Furthermore, the Commissioner has been provided with an additional €100 million in 2019 bringing his total budget to almost €1.8 billion. This substantial investment will allow the accelerated recruitment programme to continue in tandem with the deployment of new and leading edge technology to support our front line Gardaí in carrying out their work of delivering a visible, effective and responsive police service to communities across all Garda Divisions, including the Donegal Division in 2019 and future years. 

The following table sets out the strength of the Donegal Division from 2009 to 31 January 2019, the latest date for which figures are currently available. 

Strength of the Donegal Division 2009 to 2019*

Year

Total

2009

468

2010

466

2011

444

2012

427

2013

409

2014

397

2015

392

2016

382

2017

386

2018

404

2019

409

*As of 31 January 2019

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (22)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

22. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress being made in respect of providing additional gardaí to the Border area; and if it is confirmed that 600 gardaí will be deployed to the Border region. [11979/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

In common with all Government Departments and State Agencies, An Garda Síochána has been preparing for Brexit and there is ongoing engagement between senior Garda management and my Department in this regard.  Preparation has had a wide-ranging focus on operational requirements, including personnel, infrastructure and technology. I know the Commissioner is committed to ensuring the organisation can deal with any policing challenges arising from Brexit though clearly the circumstances which may arise are dependant on the political settlement. 

The Government's policy is that there will be no hard border on the island and there are no plans for such.  However, policing in the border region has always presented particular challenges and this can be expected to increase in the context of Brexit.  It is also the case that violent dissident republic groups continue to seek to frustrate counter-terrorism efforts and organised criminals seek to exploit the two jurisdictions in order to try to evade detection. 

The 2018 Cross-Border Threat Assessment prepared jointly by An Garda Síochána and the PSNI estimated that some 43 per cent of organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland have a cross-border dimension. Likewise, mobile organised crime groups, responsible for multiple instances of domestic burglary, operate on an all-island basis.  There are increasing instances of borderless crimes such as cyber fraud and international terrorism.  

The success of cross border policing actions is grounded in the recognition that the best means of combatting the 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.

The Fresh Start Agreement recognised this and led to the establishment of Joint Agency Investigation Teams which have had considerable success in combatting this type of crime.  I understand this is also the context for the Commissioner’s operational decision to establish an additional Armed Support Unit in Cavan. 

Garda ASUs provide a rapid armed response capacity and capability on a Regional basis. Members of the ASUs are highly trained and equipped with a variety of non-lethal and lethal weapons and perform high visibility armed checkpoints and patrols throughout their respective Regions. In the Northern Region ASUs are currently based in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal and Dundalk, Co. Louth.

Garda deployments in all areas of the country including those along the Border have benefitted from increased recruitment in recent years.  I am advised by the Commissioner that the strength of the Northern Region as on 31 January, the latest date for which figures are currently available, was 1,406 Gardaí. There are 59 Garda Reserves and 144 Garda civilian staff attached to the Northern Region.  An additional 49 Gardaí were assigned to the region with effect from last Friday. 

The increased resources coming on stream have also provided the capacity to expand the specialist bureaus including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, all of which are particularly active in the Northern Region in addition to the Armed Support Units.

The ongoing recruitment will provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí to deliver a visible, effective and responsive policing service.  These requirements will be kept under ongoing review by Garda management with a view to addressing any policing requirements for the Border region which may arise depending upon the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. In the event that a “no deal” Brexit gives rise to additional requirements in border areas, further resources can and will be provided through redeployment.

I want to assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána has the full support of the Government in dealing with the implications of Brexit and will provide the necessary resources to keep our people and our communities safe.

Gambling Legislation

Ceisteanna (23)

John Curran

Ceist:

23. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 was last reviewed in view of the increase in gaming arcades; the locations where Part III of the Act is in force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11661/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that over the past three years, my colleague Minister of State Stanton who has special responsibility in this area, has led an intensive review of the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act. We hope to publish the Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill early in the current Oireachtas session. This will be an interim reform measure, pending the bringing forward of comprehensive gambling control legislation. 

The amendments proposed under the  Bill address certain deficiencies with regard to the conduct of activities regulated under the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956, and provide for the modernisation of that Act by way of, among other matters, arrangements for the better promotion of lotteries, updating certain stake and prize limits and standardising the minimum gambling age at 18.   

Neither I nor Minister of State Stanton have any functions under Part III  the 1956 Act for the licensing of gaming machines. The Deputy may wish to direct his question on location of gaming arcades under Part III to local authorities and the Revenue Commissioners.

With regard to proposals for the comprehensive reform of our gambling licensing and regulatory legislation, the Deputy will be aware that Minister of State Stanton has chaired an Inter-Departmental Working Group on Gambling, established as a result of the Government Decision of 10 January 2018 to review the 2013 General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill and all relevant developments since. 

The Group comprised all relevant stakeholder Departments and the Office of the Attorney General and met on six occasions between February 2018 and January 2019.  

The Group's Report is currently being finalised will be submitted to Government for consideration shortly. 

The primary objective of the modernisation of gambling legislation must be to ensure the proper licensing and regulation of the many varied forms of gambling now available in the State. 

A modern and effectively regulated gambling environment will ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that gambling will be an entertaining activity for the majority of those who take part in it. We will ensure that there will be enhanced consumer protection for players, effective protection for younger persons under 18 years of age and that we limit, as far as we can, the harmful effects on those who may be susceptible to addictive behaviour.

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (24)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

24. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the deliberations of the panel of barristers he has convened in respect of protected disclosures from current and former gardaí; and if he is satisfied with the manner in which protected disclosures are being handled by An Garda Síochána. [11955/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the Protected Disclosures Act allows members of An Garda Síochána to make a protected disclosure to one or more of a number of persons, including to the Minister of the day.

Since 2014, my Department has received 24 letters from current or former members or employees of An Garda Síochána in relation to matters which might be regarded as a protected disclosure.   

Following consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Attorney General, a panel of counsel was established in order to provide independent legal advice to my Department on how each case should be treated.  Five nominated counsel were assigned to the panel and to date I have received advices on six referred cases.  In order to ensure an independent assessment of these matters, counsel have been instructed to assess all relevant documentation relating to the allegations and to make whatever recommendations they see fit.

The Deputy will appreciate that, by their very nature, this correspondence may involve varying degrees of complexity and careful consideration of each is of the utmost importance.  However, I am anxious that there will be no unnecessary delays in carrying out the assessment and following through on any recommended actions.  Officials from my Department are currently reviewing the advices received on the cases that have been completed and are preparing submissions recommending appropriate action for me to take.

With regard to the manner in which the Gardaí handle protected disclosures, An Garda Síochána have published a Protected Disclosures Policy and all Garda members and civilians have been informed of this policy.  A Protected Disclosures Manager was appointed.  An Garda Síochána works with Transparency International Ireland and other external providers to create an environment to ensure that whistleblowers are properly protected and supported.  Transparency's “Integrity at Work” pledge was signed by the Garda Commissioner in 2017.  The Garda Síochána Code of Ethics includes very strong commitments for each individual member in relation to 'Speaking Up and Reporting Wrongdoing'. 

As the Deputy is aware, in 2016 the then Minister requested the Policing Authority to examine and report on the policies and procedures in place in An Garda Síochána to deal with whistle-blowers and whistleblowing. The Authority was also asked to make any recommendations that it considered appropriate in order to ensure that the policies and procedures in place are appropriate and can provide assurance that whistle-blowers can make complaints or allegations in a safe environment where their complaints or allegations are properly investigated.  The Policing Authority completed its review and reported in November, 2016.  The Report was laid before both Houses in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005.

As I advised the Deputy previously on this matter, An Garda Síochána has provided assurances to my Department that it has consistently, and without exception, encouraged its staff, sworn and unsworn, to disclose any and all wrongdoing.

The Protected Disclosure Policy of An Garda Síochána aims to:

- Encourage workers to feel confident and safe about raising concerns of relevant wrongdoings;

- Provide avenues for workers to make disclosures about relevant wrongdoings; and 

- Reassure workers that they will be protected from penalisation, or any threat of penalisation, for making a disclosure in accordance with An Garda Síochána’s Protected Disclosure Policy, which is available on the Garda website. 

Garda Authorities have previously committed to ensuring that anyone who brings forward issues or concerns will be listened to and supported whilst also ensuring that the identity of any worker making a protected disclosure in accordance with this policy is protected, save in accordance with Section 16(2) of the Protected Disclosure Act, 2014 which provides exceptions in clearly defined circumstances.  These commitments have included that the focus of this process will be on the wrongdoing rather than the person making the disclosure.

Based on the foregoing, I am satisfied that the comprehensive actions taken by this Government to support and protect those, including staff of An Garda Síochána, who make protected disclosures are having a real and positive impact, and will continue to do so into the future.

Victim Support Services

Ceisteanna (25)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

25. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position with regard to the release of information pertinent to cases of familicide by organisations with relevant knowledge; if a review will be conducted of barriers to provide information for families of victims of familicide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11960/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, I have instructed my officials to draft terms of reference for a study about how best to support families in the most caring and effective way in the aftermath of murder-suicides and this work is at an advanced stage.

In such tragic circumstances, I fully acknowledge that one of the supports that can be provided to remaining family members is the provision of timely information on the facts and development of a case, insofar as that is desired by the family.  As the Deputy is aware, this is one of the primary roles of the Garda Family Liaison Officers, who are appointed to families in these cases but there are necessary limitations that apply to the disclosure of legally privileged information.  While I do not wish to preempt the finalisation of terms of reference, I expect that the proposed study will include an examination of the role of the liaison officers, how that has evolved since the enactment of the Victims of Crime Act 2017 and how to deal with disseminating information while adhering to any limitations which may apply. 

I intend to consult relevant parties, including my Government colleagues and relevant experts, before finalising the terms of reference.  I will examine any recommendations made, including any legislative change that might be proposed.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (26)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

26. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the need to provide additional staffing resources to the Border region in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11997/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

In common with all Government Departments and State Agencies, An Garda Síochána has been preparing for Brexit and there is ongoing engagement between senior Garda management and my Department in this regard.  Preparation has had a wide-ranging focus on operational requirements, including personnel, infrastructure and technology. I know the Commissioner is committed to ensuring the organisation can deal with any policing challenges arising from Brexit though clearly the circumstances which may arise are dependant on the political settlement. 

As the Deputy is well aware, the Government's policy is that there will be no hard border on the island and there are no plans for such.  However, as he is also aware, policing in the border region has always presented particular challenges and this can be expected to increase in the context of Brexit.  It is also the case that violent dissident republic groups continue to seek to frustrate counter-terrorism efforts and organised criminals seek to exploit the two jurisdictions in order to try to evade detection. 

The 2018 Cross-Border Threat Assessment prepared jointly by An Garda Síochána and the PSNI estimated that some 43 per cent of organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland have a cross-border dimension. Likewise, mobile organised crime groups, responsible for multiple instances of domestic burglary, operate on an all-island basis.  There are increasing instances of borderless crimes such as cyber fraud and international terrorism.  

The success of cross border policing actions is grounded in the recognition that the best means of combatting the 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.

The Fresh Start Agreement recognised this and led to the establishment of Joint Agency Investigation Teams which have had considerable success in combatting this type of crime.  I understand this is also the context for the Commissioner’s operational decision to establish an additional Armed Support Unit in Cavan. 

Garda ASUs provide a rapid armed response capacity and capability on a Regional basis. Members of the ASUs are highly trained and equipped with a variety of non-lethal and lethal weapons and perform high visibility armed checkpoints and patrols throughout their respective Regions. In the Northern Region ASUs are currently based in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal and Dundalk, Co. Louth.

Garda deployments in all areas of the country including those along the Border have benefitted from increased recruitment in recent years.  I am advised by the Commissioner that the strength of the Northern Region as on 31 January, the latest date for which figures are currently available, was 1,406 Gardaí. There are 59 Garda Reserves and 144 Garda civilian staff attached to the Northern Region.  An additional 49 Gardaí were assigned to the region with effect from last Friday. 

The increased resources coming on stream have also provided the capacity to expand the specialist bureaus including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, all of which are particularly active in the Northern Region in addition to the Armed Support Units.

The ongoing recruitment will provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí to deliver a visible, effective and responsive policing service.  These requirements will be kept under ongoing review by Garda management with a view to addressing any policing requirements for the Border region which may arise depending upon the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. In the event that a “no deal” Brexit gives rise to additional requirements in border areas, further resources can and will be provided through redeployment.

I want to assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána has the full support of the Government in dealing with the implications of Brexit and will provide the necessary resources to keep our people and our communities safe.