Court Poor Box

Ceisteanna (27)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

27. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the operation of the court poor box is to continue for the foreseeable future. [11981/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, in February 2014 the Government approved the drafting of a Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill to replace the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 with modern provisions dealing with community sanctions and the role of the Probation Service in the criminal justice system. The Bill is currently being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. It is intended that the legislation will abolish the court poor box and replace it with a statutory Reparation Fund to provide for a fair, equitable and transparent system of reparation that will apply only to minor offences dealt with by the District Court. The new Reparation Fund will be used to provide additional funding for services for victims of crime and compensation payments payable by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. The legislation will clearly provide that the Reparation Fund may not be used for any purpose other than the provision of compensation, reparation and assistance for victims of crime. 

The replacement of the court poor box by a statutory Reparation Fund was recommended by the Law Reform Commission in its 2005 report The Court Poor Box: Probation of Offenders. 

The court poor box will continue to operate while the Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill is being prepared. Once the Bill has passed through the Houses it is envisioned that the court poor box system will be replaced with the Reparation Fund I have described.

Victim Support Services

Ceisteanna (28)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

28. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the degree to which he has examined the situation experienced by families suffering in the aftermath of familicide with particular reference to the need to ensure that an early warning system can be provided in which families may be briefed in situations in which a risk might exist; if consideration can also be given to legislating to prevent perpetrators from benefitting as a result of homicide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11805/19]

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. 

The Deputy asks about the possibility of an early warning system to alert families of risk of murder-suicide. I would not wish to raise any false expectations in this regard.  Many of those who complete murder-suicides have not been assessed as posing any risk to themselves or their families by police, medical or caring professionals.  There are a small number of such horrific and appalling crimes but given the issues involved it would likely be very difficult if not impossible to established an early warning system. 

I want to acknowledge the work of Deputy O'Callaghan who published a Private Members’ Bill – the Civil Liability (Amendment) (Prevention of Benefits from Homicide) Bill. The Government did not oppose the Private Members Bill at its Second Stage debate, but indicated that it would be tabling amendments to the Bill at Committee Stage.  The Bill will be considered shortly by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality and I hope to be in a position to finalise the required amendments to that Bill as soon as possible.

Crime Levels

Ceisteanna (29)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

29. 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 areas (details supplied). [11874/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that I previously responded to a question which he submitted in January, which raised the issue of burglaries and thefts in Cork city over the Christmas period. 

I can assure the Deputy that local Garda management in the Cork region keep all new and emerging crime trends under constant review to ensure best use is made of Garda resources. Gardaí in Cork are determined to act against all forms of criminal activity and will work with communities to prevent and detect crime. 

Togher and Anglesea Street Districts form part of the Cork City Division and as of 31 January 2019 there were 703 Garda members assigned to Cork City Division. There are also 38 Garda Reserves and 80 Garda staff 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 Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

I understand that the crime statistics for Q4 of 2018, which will include the Christmas period, will be published by the CSO in the coming weeks.  These will be scrutinised by my Department, and other stakeholders upon publication. To be of assistance to the Deputy, I will request the CSO to make the new crime statistics for the Cork region available to him when they are released.

As the Deputy will be aware, last year the number of Gardaí reached over 14000 for the first time since 2011.  The Government has further increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion in 2019 and the Commissioner plans to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí and 600 Garda Civilian Staff.  This will facilitate the redeployment of a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to the frontline policing for which they were trained. 

This on-going recruitment is providing the resources needed to deliver a visible effective and responsive policing service to communities across all Garda Divisions, including Cork City.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal Data

Ceisteanna (30)

John Curran

Ceist:

30. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of cases and applications on hand at the end of each of the years 2015 to 2018 with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal; the average time to have a claim settled; the actions he plans to reduce the number of cases on hand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11660/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal administers the Scheme of Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicted (General Scheme).  Under the terms of the Scheme, the Tribunal is entirely independent in the matter of the individual decisions on applications for compensation and I as Minister have no role in the matter.

 The number of applications received in each of the years in question is outlined in the following table.

Year

Number of   Applications Received

2015

217

2016

209

2017

189

2018

174

Applications to the Tribunal are processed with a minimum of formality compared to court proceedings where compensation is sought under the Civil Liability Acts. Tribunal Members when making their decisions must be satisfied that all supporting documentation has been provided by the applicant and is in order.  In some cases there can be delays pending the availability of all required documentation and some cases are complex in terms of medical conditions.  For example, in the case of serious injury to the victim, it can take a considerable amount of time (in some cases a number of years) before their treating consultant is in a position to give a final prognosis.  The absence of such information can sometimes lead to delays in bringing cases to finalisation. For the reasons outlined, it is not possible to provide the Deputy with the average time taken to bring a claim to finalisation.

Because of the manner in which cases are recorded, in particular applications which are received but not actively pursued by the applicant, it is not possible to provide the number of active cases on hand. I can inform the Deputy that I have requested an assessment of the caseload of the Tribunal. When this exercise has been completed, I will contact the Deputy directly.

In view of the length of time since the Scheme was last revised, my Department has submitted a request for a review of the Scheme to the Law Reform Commission (LRC) for consideration in the context of its Programme of Law Reform.

Community Alert Programme

Ceisteanna (31)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

31. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to concerns from community text alert groups about a new centralised system for telephone calls to Garda stations in the eastern region; the actions that will be taken to protect the community text alert service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11894/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Text Alert Scheme, which was developed with the support of Muintir na Tíre, Neighbourhood Watch and the Irish Farmers Association, was introduced in September 2013. The scheme provides an additional and effective method for Gardaí to distribute crime prevention information and advice. I understand that there are in the region of 200,000 text messages sent to Text Alert groups registered under the scheme each month and the Garda authorities indicate that Text Alert continues to be a highly effective crime prevention initiative.

In addition to the Text Alert scheme, I should also mention that, for many years, my Department has supported community crime prevention by providing funding for the Community Alert Programme, which is operated by  Muintir na Tíre in partnership with the Garda authorities.

With respect to the specific issue raised by the Deputy concerning a new centralised system for phone calls to Garda stations in the eastern region, I have brought his concerns to the attention of the Garda authorities and have sought a report on the matter. I will contact him again when the report is to hand.

Organised Crime

Ceisteanna (32)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

32. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which he remains satisfied with the adequacy of resources available to An Garda Síochána to assist in the fight against organised crime; the extent to which adequate intelligence remains at the disposal of An Garda Síochána; if particular issues have arisen that may require further attention in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11806/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Tackling organised crime activity and those involved in it is an ongoing priority for the Government and An Garda Síochána and the necessary resources will continue to be made available to address this issue.

An Garda Síochána is tackling organised criminal activity through a range of targeted measures designed to disrupt and dismantle the operations of criminal organisations. These measures include utilising, to the greatest extent possible, advanced analytical and intelligence methodologies.

The tackling of organised criminality is achieved through the use of focused intelligence-led operations by Garda specialist units, including the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the National Economic Crime Bureau and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations. When required, support from the Security and Intelligence Section is also available. These specialist units also work closely with the Criminal Assets Bureau in targeting criminality. 

Multi-disciplinary approaches are used by An Garda Síochána to ensure the activities of individuals and groups involved in criminal enterprise are effectively targeted. Such approaches also include the use of money-laundering legislation and the powers available to the Criminal Assets Bureau under the proceeds of crime legislation.

Garda operational responses to gang-related crime in Dublin are coordinated under Operation Hybrid. As of 13 January 2019, there have been 86 arrests in relation to gang-related killings and 3 persons convicted of murder with life sentences imposed. In addition, 290 searches have been undertaken, 37 firearms have been seized and over 17,000 lines of enquiry conducted. In excess of 73,000 high visibility checkpoints have been implemented with significant support from Armed Support Units and a significant amount of CCTV footage, mobile phone traffic, and forensic evidence is also being examined.  Operation Hybrid is reviewed on a weekly basis to maintain optimal impact.

A number of arrests were made in the UK recently on foot of investigations, supported by An Garda Síochána, 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.  

I am assured by the Garda authorities that the international frameworks for cooperation in criminal matters are being utilised.  An Garda Síochána also maintains close liaison with a range of other law enforcement agencies internationally and the work of Garda liaison officers who are permanently based in other jurisdictions and in international bodies such as Interpol and Europol, greatly facilitate the prompt exchange of information and intelligence on criminal activity.  

The manner in which the resources of An Garda Síochána are deployed, including personnel, is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister, have no direct role in this regard. However, I am informed by the Commissioner that the additional resources coming on stream have enabled him to assign extra resources to the specialist units, including the Armed Support Unit, Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, just under 2,400 Garda recruits have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, including 800 new Garda during 2018.

A total budget of €1.76 billion has been provided to An Garda Síochána in 2019, an increase of over €100 million on the 2018 allocation. This includes provision for the recruitment of up to 800 Gardaí this year. The Commissioner plans to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí and 600 Garda Civilian Staff in 2019. The recruitment of the additional civilian staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully trained Gardaí in 2019 from administrative duties to the frontline policing duties for which they were trained.

The Garda Commissioner has confirmed that the Government's commitment to increase the overall strength of An Garda Síochána to 15,000 Garda members will be achieved by the target date of 2021.

Prison Staff

Ceisteanna (33)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

33. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the destinations of prison officers to be recruited in 2019; the number required to replace retired officers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11963/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that they expect to recruit in excess of 200 Recruit Prison Officers in 2019.  The assignments of these Recruit Prison Officers are based on the requirements at each prison and are predominantly to the Dublin Region.

The recruitment of Recruit Prison Officers by the Irish Prison Service has been ongoing since 2017 and has regard to such factors as service needs and retirement levels.  The known retirements for all prison grades as of 7 March 2019 is 50 which includes 14 compulsory retirements.  It should be noted that 383 prison grade staff will be eligible to retire but are not required to do so in 2019.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (34)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

34. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the recent alleged arson attacks on possible sites for direct provision and asylum seekers; if he has discussed the matter with the Garda Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11994/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, I have strongly condemned the arson attacks on possible sites for direct provision centres which have damaged property and could have led to injury or loss of life for residents and staff. 

Following the recent fires in Moville, Co. Donegal and Rooskey, Co. Leitrim, officials from the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) have been liaising with all current centre managers asking them to review their security arrangements. It is important to note that accommodation centres, once they are open, enjoy good relations with local communities and local community groups and historically, the security risk to these centres are minimal.

However, RIA is also liaising directly with An Garda Siochana on a national basis to discuss potential security risks to accommodation centres and how these risks should be addressed. 

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (35)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

35. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of community gardaí who were and are assigned to Swords Garda station in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12004/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is the Garda Commissioner who is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel, among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

Swords Garda Station forms part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) North Division. The Garda strength of the DMR North from 2009 to 31 January 2019 as provided by the Garda Commissioner is available on my Department’s website through the following links.

www.justice.ie/en/JELR/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and_Station_2009_to_31_January_2018.xlsx/Files/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and_Station_2009_to_31_January_2018.xlsx.

Community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána as it recognises that every community, either urban or rural, has its own concerns and expectations. The role of a community Garda is not a specialist role in An Garda Síochána; rather it is the case that all Gardaí have a role to play in community policing in carrying out their duties. The official categorisation of Community Garda simply refers to those who are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society including giving talks to schools, community groups and others. It is 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.

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the Community Garda Strength in Swords Garda station in each of the years from 2014 to 31 January 2019, the latest date for which figures are currently available, as supplied by  the Garda Commissoner are as set out in the table.

For more general information on Garda Facts and Figures please see the following link:www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures.

Garda Strength Presented - Community Gardaí - Total

Station

Swords

Year

Community Gardaí

Total

2014

10

70

2015

9

65

2016

10

72

2017

10

68

2018

10

79

2019*

10

80

*As of 31 January 2019

Total: means all those Gardaí at a station all of whom have community policing as an inherent part of their role.

Community Gardaí: are those with the official categorisation and are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities including giving talks to schools, community groups and others.

Prisoner Data

Ceisteanna (36)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

36. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a report will be commissioned on the extent to which persons with a care history are represented within the prison population. [11961/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am informed that the Irish Prison Service (IPS) does not currently record information in relation to specific instances of time spent in the care of the State for persons in prison custody. However there is evidence available internationally that children in care are much more likely to be cautioned or convicted of a criminal offence. It is undoubtedly the case that many offenders have experienced significant disadvantage and trauma.  I am informed that a number of services are in place to seek to address these needs while the person is in custody. 

For example, I am advised that the IPS Psychology Service provides a number of interventions, both in a group and on an individual basis, which support individuals who have had adverse childhood experiences, including having been placed in care.  These include a Comprehensive Resource Model group programme which is a trauma-specific, recovery-based therapy. It also involves other therapies which address cognitive, affective and behavioural instability that often results from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). These include Mentalisation therapy, Dialectical Behaviour therapy, Cognitive Behaviour therapy and Schema therapy.

I am also advised by the Irish Prison Service that during the course of clinical and therapeutic interventions with individual prisoners, their personal background, including any experiences in the care of the State, may be discussed as part of that engagement with a professional service. However, any personal history information is only recorded as part of confidential case notes and is not currently collated for any statistical purposes.

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department’s Data and Research Strategy 2018-2020 was launched in July 2018. This Strategy aims to facilitate better collaboration and information sharing between the Department and its agencies and stakeholders in order to ensure better provision of data, information, analysis, evaluation and research.  A Research Advisory Group, including external experts, has put in place a clear process for prioritising research projects for funding and a plan including internal and external research collaborations is currently being progressed.

Crime Prevention

Ceisteanna (37)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

37. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has considered the installation of CCTV cameras at motorway junctions to help act against rural crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12008/19]

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.

As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with Section 26 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. Further, the allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Commissioner, in light of the availability of resources and identified operational demands. As Minister, I have no direct role in that matter.  I understand however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure their optimum use.

The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to supporting investment in CCTV systems at key locations along the road network and in urban centres. This commitment is being progressed in a number of ways, including in particular through the community CCTV grant-aid scheme administered by my Department.

I would recall that CCTV systems installed for the purposes of crime prevention and as aids to policing in areas to which the general public routinely have access fall into two distinct but complementary categories, namely Garda CCTV systems and community-based CCTV systems. Neither may be established without authorisation by the Garda Commissioner, among other requirements.

Garda CCTV systems are established and maintained in areas or at locations decided upon by the Garda authorities.   

Community based CCTV schemes are governed by section 38(3)(c) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Garda Síochána (CCTV) Order 2006 (SI No 289 of 2006). This legal framework requires that any proposed community CCTV scheme must:

- be approved by the local Joint Policing Committee,

- have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner, and

- have the prior support of the relevant local authority, which must also act as data controller.

This is the legal basis for all community CCTV schemes, regardless of how they are funded.

A grant aid scheme is being administered by my Department to support local communities meeting the statutory requirements for community based CCTV and who wish to install systems in their localities, including access roads to their localities where necessary and appropriate.  Eligible community groups can apply for grant-aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum grant of €40,000. Full details of the grant aid package are available to download from my Department's website - www.justice.ie and support and guidance is available to help interested groups to apply for this funding through a dedicated email address communitycctv@justice.ie. I encourage any interested groups to make contact with my officials for further assistance.

More generally, the Deputy will be aware that the Programme for a Partnership Government also recognises that Gardaí must have the modern technology and resources necessary to detect and investigate crimes, and to prevent loss and harm to citizens and their property on a 24/7 basis.

In support of this commitment, €342 million is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to enable An Garda Síochána to utilise appropriate technologies in delivering professional policing and security services for the community.  A significant capital investment is also being made in the Garda fleet, amounting to €46 million between 2016 and 2021, to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit-for-purpose fleet and that Gardaí can be mobile, visible and responsive on the roads and in the community to prevent and tackle crime.

For example and as the Deputy may be aware, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology is fitted in a number of official Garda vehicles which are allocated around the country and used on a daily basis to assist in the prevention and detection of crime, particularly on our roads network.

The 2019 capital allocation for Garda ICT amounts to more than €61million and the allocation to the Garda fleet this year is a total of €10 million. The distribution of these resources, including the ICT projects and programmes to be prioritised and the allocation of Garda vehicles across the Divisions throughout 2019 are a matter for the Garda authorities.

Asylum Seeker Accommodation

Ceisteanna (38)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

38. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for upgrading refugee centres nationally. [12007/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The improvements to living conditions for applicants for international protection have been significant over recent years. These include the implementation of self- or communal catering arrangements in a number of accommodation centres. As a result of this initiative, approximately 2,000 residents in nine centres have now moved to the independent living model.  In parallel with the delivery of these changes, a number of other accommodation centres are providing self-catering facilities with fresh food provided by either the contractor or the resident themselves.  As a result a total over 2,900 residents in the centres are no longer under the Direct Provision model as originally developed and further progress is being made in this area.  

In addition, there have been significant improvements to recreation opportunities.  Friends of the Centre groups have been established in each centre.  This initiative aims to bring residents, community and voluntary groups together with a view to increasing integration opportunities and providing for the development of greater community linkages with the residents and the centre.

Following the McMahon Report, a Standards Advisory Group was set up in 2017.  The work of this group is to build on the recommendations of that Report and to develop a set of standards for accommodation provided for those people seeking the protection of the State. The Standards will meet those set out in the Recast Reception Conditions Directive and under EASO Guidance on Reception Conditions.  Operational standards and indicators will take due cognisance of the responsibility to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of employees, customers, service users and everyone affected by policies and plans as defined by the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty.

In order to meet needs in the longer term, and improve the quality of the accommodation , the Department has recently commenced a public procurement exercise under which public tenders for the provision of accommodation and ancillary services to persons in the protection process, by way of the independent living model, will be advertised. This process is scheduled to continue throughout 2019 and is due for completion in 2020. This will be delivered via a series of regional competitions to cover the entire State. Under this competition, all successful bids must provide residents with the option of preparing their own meals as part of their proposal.

Garda Information and Communications Technology

Ceisteanna (39)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

39. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has discussed the provision of additional information technology resources for An Garda Síochána with the Garda Commissioner and Policing Authority in view of recent reports on deficiencies in the Garda PULSE information technology system revealed by the recent Garda internal review into diversion programme referrals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11461/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Programme for a Partnership Government recognises that Gardaí must have the modern technology and resources necessary to detect and investigate crimes, and to prevent loss and harm to citizens and their property on a 24/7 basis.  The key importance of ICT is also recognised in the report of the Commission on the future of Policing in Ireland and forms an important part of its Implementation Plan - A Policing Service for the Future.

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.

Specifically in relation to ICT, €342 million is being invested in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to enable An Garda Síochána to utilise appropriate technologies in delivering professional policing and security services for the community.

As the Deputy will appreciate, in accordance with Section 26 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. Further, decisions in relation to the allocation and management of Garda equipment and resources, including ICT, are a matter for the Commissioner, in light of identified operational demands.  As Minister, I have no direct role in that matter.  I understand however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure their optimum use.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Garda ICT is currently engaging with the Garda Youth Diversion Office in relation to the revised operating procedures and accompanying software solutions required arising from the recommendations of the recent Garda Youth Referral Review.

The Deputy may also wish to be aware that the Garda authorities indicate that among the significant ICT projects underway, a new Investigations Management System is currently being developed.  On roll-out this year, it will allow for the management of activities completed as part of an investigation, maintain a full history of the chain of events in an investigation and manage the information gathered and decisions/actions taken. It will also integrate closely with the new document and content management system, the new Property and Exhibits Management System, and other Garda IT systems, such as PULSE.

Additional resources for ICT, over and above the total allocation of €342 million between 2016-2021, including the allocation of over €61 million for Garda ICT in 2019, have not been requested by the Garda authorities in order to respond to matters raised in the Garda report referred to by the Deputy.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (40)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

40. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in each Garda station in the Dublin northern and western divisions as of 1 January 2019; and the number of new recruits assigned to each division since recruitment resumed in 2014. [12003/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, the manner in which the resources of the Garda Síochána 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.

Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.

I am advised by the Commissioner that the Garda strength of the D.M.R. North Division and the D.M.R. West Division on 31 January 2019 the latest date for which figures are readily available was 714 and 707 respectively. There are also 40 Garda Reserves and 53 Garda civilian staff attached to the D.M.R. North Division and there are 26 Garda Reserves and 62 Garda civilian staff attached to the D.M.R. West 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 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 Garda recruits have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, including 200 trainees who passed out from the college just last week.

The Government has increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for 2019, which includes provision for the recruitment of up to 800 Gardaí this year. The Commissioner has now informed me that he plans to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí in 2019 and 600 Garda Civilian Staff.  This Garda Staff recruitment will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to frontline policing in 2019.

I believe that 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. This and on-going recruitment will clearly provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí to deliver a visible effective and responsive policing service to communities across all Garda Divisions including the D.M.R. North Division and the D.M.R. West Division.

The Garda strength of the D.M.R. North Division and the D.M.R. West Division from 2009 to 31 January 2019 as provided by the Garda Commissioner is available on my Department’s website through the following link.

www.justice.ie/en/JELR/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and_Station_2009_to_31_January_2019.xlsx/Files/002_Garda_Numbers_by_Division_District_and_Station_2009_to_31_January_2019.xlsx.

The information regarding new recruits as provided by the Garda Commissioner, is also available on my Department’s website via the following link.

www.justice.ie/en/JELR/008_Allocation_of_Probationer_Gardaí_by_Division_and_Station_2014_to_January_2019.xlsx/Files/008_Allocation_of_Probationer_Gardaí_by_Division_and_Station_2014_to_January_2019.xlsx.

For more general information on Garda Facts and Figures please see the following link: www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/An_Garda_Siochana_facts_and_figures.

Visa Data

Ceisteanna (41)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

41. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of spouses and-or family members of international nurses working here awaiting visas; the range of waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12000/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that it is not possible to extract the particular profession of the applicants' sponsor from the on-line visa application system and, therefore, the specific information requested is not available. 

However, I understand such applications from family members of 'critical skills permit' holders, including nurses, are generally made under the 'join family' visa category.  Decisions regarding the grant or refusal of ‘join family’ visas are made in a number of INIS Visa Offices overseas, the INIS Visa Office in Dublin, and at Embassies of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which process certain visa applications under delegated sanction from my Department.  These applications are processed on a priority basis and are, generally, processed within approximately two weeks of the applicant submitting the ‘join family’ visa application to the relevant Visa Office or Embassy.

The processing time at each office and location worldwide is determined by a number of factors such as the volume and complexity of applications, the completeness and sufficiency of information or documentation provided by the applicant, whether further investigation is required or not, individual circumstances, peak application periods, seasonal factors, and the resources available.  While every effort is made to process applications as quickly as possible, processing times inevitably vary as a result. 

More generally, a number of measures have been put in place to deal with the increased demand for visas to come to Ireland.  This has included the assignment of additional staff to help process applications, and the streamlining of visa processes where possible. 

The central concern in deciding on visa applications, as with all visa services worldwide, is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime while at the same time facilitating travel for those who meet the criteria.  Each visa application is therefore decided on its own merits taking all factors into account.

In addition, the Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation and I announced last week that spouses and partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit holders (including certain nursing and midwifery professionals) will now be able to access the Irish labour market without the need to obtain an employment permit.  I am confident this very positive change to the immigration regime will further streamline existing processes, offer greater clarity to employers and applicants making it more attractive for attracting international talent to Ireland.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (42)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

42. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the engagement he has had with his counterpart in the UK in respect of the threat of violence from so-called dissident groups. [11978/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the primary security threat to the State is from republican paramilitary groups; the so-called ‘dissident’ groups.  While they have become somewhat factionalised over time, they still present a real and persistent threat. 

The shared assessment of the threat in Northern Ireland is that it remains 'Severe' (that is to say, a terrorist attack is highly likely).  The dissident paramilitary groups continue to focus their efforts primarily on targeting members of the security forces in Northern Ireland, as evidenced tragically in recent years by the murders of NI Prison Officers Alan Black and Adrian Ismay, and a number of attempts to murder PSNI constables, including in July in Derry when a number of shots were fired at the PSNI.   

The Gardaí maintain a high level of on-going, close co-operation with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and in Britain in responding to this threat.  This operational relationship is absolutely central to bearing down on and disrupting the activities of these groups and, therefore, to maintaining security on the island.

The shared security threat and the response of the two Governments has been a key part of my engagement with my colleagues in the Government of the United Kingdom and was a major issue of discussion at the two meetings of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 25 July 2018 in London and on 2 November 2018 in Dublin.  The Tánaiste and I represent the Irish Government at these meetings while the British Government is represented by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, David Lidington MP, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley MP.  In addition, I have made a point of engaging with the Home Secretary on our mutual security interests.  Since the appointment of the current Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, in April 2018 I have met with him in London on 25 July 2018, in Luxembourg on 12 October 2018 and most recently in my office in Dublin on 12 February 2019. 

Just yesterday,  I spoke to the Home Secretary  with regard to matters relating to the investigation into the incendiary devices which were posted to addresses in the United Kingdom last week. I expressed my utter condemnation of those who carried out this act and reaffirmed to the Home Secretary our deep commitment to continuing the close working relationship that we have with  our colleagues in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Magdalen Laundries Report

Ceisteanna (43)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

43. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications in respect of an award under the terms of the addendum to the Magdalen restorative justice ex gratia scheme; the number of persons granted an award; the number of persons awaiting a decision in respect of their application; the reason therefor; the number of persons considered ineligible for an award; the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12001/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Government is committed to complying with all of the recommendations of the Ombudsman in relation to the operation of Magdalen Restorative Justice Ex Gratia Scheme.  My officials have been in ongoing contact with the Ombudsman’s Office as we go about implementing his recommendations.

In relation to the Ombudsman's principal recommendation that the Scheme should be applied to women who worked in the laundry of one of the 12 'Magdalen' Institutions and who were resident in one of 14 adjoining institutions, the Addendum to the terms of the scheme giving effect to this recommendation is published on the Department's website - www.justice.ie. 

To date there have been 97 applications under the terms of this Addendum.  These comprise 52 applications refused under the original scheme and who may now be eligible, and a further 45 new applications. 

Of these 97 applications, 22 are completed as follows:

- 7 awards have been made.

- 4 offers are under consideration by successful applicants.

- 1 applicant has withdrawn from the scheme.

- 1 applicant who previously received an award under the Scheme has been informed that she is not eligible to a further payment under the terms of the Addendum.

- On the basis of information supplied, 9 applications are not considered eligible for the scheme. The applicants have been given an opportunity to provide further information to support an application under the scheme.

Of the remaining 75 applications, 60 are being processed and 15 have not yet completed relevant forms and reminders have issued.  In respect of the 60 applications being processed, 51 have outstanding queries with religious institutions, other bodies or with the applicants themselves.  Overall, 11 applicants have been called for interview.

The process of making a provisional assessment as to whether an applicant comes within the scope of the scheme is made based on the records of the institutions concerned (where these are available) and  any other relevant records or statements. This may include the applicant's testimony and in some cases testimony from other persons.

Where it is necessary to interview an applicant the process is solely for her benefit.  Its purpose is to facilitate a fair assessment of her claim where there is insufficient or conflicting documentation available.  Each application is assessed individually on its merits and a decision is made as to whether on the balance of probabilities the applicant comes within the scope of the scheme.  As the Deputy will appreciate the steps in the process can vary depending on the circumstances of each individual case.

In both the case of a provisional assessment offer being made or the applicant being informed that they are not eligible under the scheme, a review process is available to the applicant and details of this are provided to each applicant.

Finally, I am anxious that all applications are dealt with as quickly as possible.

International Conventions

Ceisteanna (44)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Ceist:

44. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, known as the Lanzarote Convention, is to be ratified in view of the fact that Ireland is an outlier among European states in its failure to ratify the convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11878/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy may recall that I recently outlined the position in relation to ratification of two important Council of Europe Conventions, including the Lanzarote Convention, when the matter was raised under topical issues on 16 January.  At that time I updated the House on the significant progress made in the ratification process within the term of this Administration, particularly through the introduction of legislation to give effect to the key criminal law provisions of this Convention.      

The work to ratify the Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, also known as the Lanzarote Convention, is at an advanced stage. I want to assure the Deputy that Ireland’s laws are fully in line with the Convention. This was largely achieved by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, which was a ground-breaking piece of legislation.  It brought in a new offence of accessing child pornography online.  It also criminalised grooming behaviour, such as communicating with a child online for the purpose of sexual exploitation.  Even prior to this Act, our legislation on child pornography included images of a person generated or modified by computer-graphics.  This legislation ensures the State’s compliance with criminal law provisions in the Lanzarote Convention.

In relation to other elements of the Convention, my Department has carried out a detailed review of compliance, in consultation with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and other relevant stakeholders, such as the Garda Síochána and Health Service Executive.  Information was sought regarding the child protection, prevention and victim support aspects of the Convention. This concerns the operational, rather than legislative aspects of the Convention.  While the Department now has most of the information required for ratification, some stakeholder work is still required to ensure that Ireland is fully compliant in all areas of the Convention.  Once that work has been completed, and the Office of the Attorney General has been consulted, steps towards formal ratification can be taken.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

Ceisteanna (45)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

45. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for a hotel (details supplied) to remain serving as a refugee centre. [12006/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Following the completion of the assessment of tenders received following a public procurement process, the Department of Justice & Equality has formed a framework for centres within a 40km radius of Newbridge to provide accommodation and ancillary services for persons seeking protection through the international protection process.  The Hazel Hotel was one of the bids submitted and placed on this framework.

Successful bidders placed on the framework must commence a mobilisation period to carry out all works required to deliver on their proposals. It is a condition of the tender that all residents will be able to cook meals of their own choice and that families will have access to designated living areas where they can carry out normal family activities outside of their bedrooms.

Contracts will be commenced on completion of the mobilisation works. Contracts are for an initial 2 year period with two potential extensions of one year each.

I am pleased that the Hazel Hotel has been successful in being placed on the framework and following the completion of the mobilisation works, residents will enjoy greater autonomy and independence in the centre.  As with other contracts under these frameworks, the Hazel Hotel will provide services for a minimum of two years.

Judicial Appointments

Ceisteanna (46)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

46. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his role in the appointment of the Master of the High Court. [7982/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The office of Master of the High Court was established under section 3 of the Court Officers Act 1926 which provided that the Master of the High Court shall be appointed by the Executive Council and shall hold office at the pleasure of the Executive Council.

The appointment of the Master of the High Court is done by Government. In relation to the current serving Master, his appointment followed an open competition and Mr. Edmund Honohan was appointed by Government Decision SO5055E of 8 May 2001 with effect from 14 May 2001.

Northern Ireland

Ceisteanna (47)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

47. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the recent letter bomb sent to London from an address in Dublin; and if he has spoken to his UK counterpart about same. [11934/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The discovery in the UK last week of a number of suspicious postal packages containing small incendiary devices is a matter of serious concern. This appalling act has been widely condemned and is a reminder of the need for constant vigilance in tackling terrorism and protecting peace on these islands.

The Garda authorities are in close and continuous contact with their UK counterparts in relation to the ongoing investigations and security matters generally.  I can assure the Deputy that robust response and prevention capabilities are in place and close liaison continues daily between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces with their international counterparts to identify and manage threats. 

Likewise, maintaining excellent cooperation at both political and official level is a priority for Ireland.  I have spoken to the UK Home Secretary about the current investigation and reaffirmed to him Ireland's deep commitment to working together with the UK to maintain the safety and security of all our people and to bring the perpetrators of such acts to justice.