Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (268)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

268. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the legislative and policy measures available to tackle underage drinking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52715/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

There are robust statutory provisions in place regarding the sale and the consumption of intoxicating liquor by persons under the age of 18 years. The law in this area was most recently amended by the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008, which amended the Licensing Acts and the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 with the aim of reducing access to alcohol and at the same time strengthening measures to tackle public disorder and anti-social behaviour.

The sale of alcohol products to underage persons is prohibited under licensing law. It is an offence under section 31(2) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, as amended, for a licence holder to sell or deliver, or permit another person to sell or deliver, intoxicating liquor to a person under 18 years of age. This applies equally to premises with off-licences, including supermarkets, convenience stores and similar outlets, and those with on-licences such as public houses, hotels and nightclubs. On conviction for a first offence, a mandatory closure order of between two and seven days will be imposed by the court, together with a fine of up to €3,000. The penalties for a second or subsequent offence is a closure order of between seven and thirty days and a fine of up to €5,000. In addition, the licence holder is required to continue to pay staff for the duration of the closure period.

Moreover, under section 32 of the 1988 Act, as amended, it is an offence for a person to purchase intoxicating liquor for delivery to, or consumption by, a person under the age of 18 years or to deliver intoxicating liquor to such a person. Under section 33 of the 1988 Act, as amended, it is also illegal for a person under 18 years to buy intoxicating liquor or to consume it in any place outside their home or in another person's home where they are present by right or with permission.

The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 also provides the Gardaí with significant additional powers to address the problem of alcohol sales to persons under the age of 18 years. Section 14 contains provisions which allow a Garda who believes with reasonable cause that a person is under 18 years and that he or she, or anyone accompanying that person, is in possession of intoxicating liquor for the purpose of consuming it in a place other than a private dwelling, to seek an explanation and if not satisfied with the reply, the Garda may seize the intoxicating liquor if it is not handed over voluntarily.

Section 14 of the 2008 Act also makes provision for the test purchasing of alcohol products. The primary objective of the scheme, which entered into force on 1 October 2010, is to enable the Gardaí to target those licensed premises which are suspected of engaging in illegal sales to young people. This scheme provides the Gardaí with an additional instrument in its overall enforcement strategy.

The Garda national age card scheme is an important proof-of-age mechanism in respect of the sale of intoxicating liquor. The scheme is administered by the Gardaí and it has, in co-operation with the licensed trade, helped to combat underage consumption of intoxicating liquor.

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, which was amended by the 2008 Act, also permits the Gardaí to seize bottles or containers containing intoxicating liquor where there is a reasonable apprehension of public disorder or damage to property and require a person to leave the place concerned in a peaceable and orderly manner. Incidents of public disorder and anti-social behaviour arising from excessive consumption of intoxicating liquor are investigated by the Gardaí and dealt with in an appropriate manner, including by caution, fixed charge penalty notices or commencement of proceedings.

In the area of public health, the overarching objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 are to reduce alcohol consumption and to address alcohol misuse. It includes a number of provisions containing restrictions on the content, placement and volume of alcohol advertising. The aim of these restrictions includes the protection of children from exposure to alcohol advertising and to break positive associations between alcohol and social or sporting success. The Act also restricts the sponsorship by alcohol companies of events where the majority of those taking part are children or where events are aimed particularly at children.

Coroners Service

Ceisteanna (269)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

269. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a report by the coroner in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be made available to their family in order to obtain a death certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52740/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that, as Minister for Justice and Equality, I have no role in the directing of post-mortem examinations by a coroner, nor for any subsequent action or decision, by a coroner who is independent in the conduct of their functions. 

The final post-mortem examinations reports can take a number of months to prepare depending on the circumstances of the death.

In the particular case raised by the Deputy, in order to be of assistance, my officials contacted the Coroner concerned who has indicated that the next of kin should now contact their office to be informed of the position.

Ministerial Functions

Ceisteanna (270)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

270. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the process upon which a scheme may be designated under section 2A(7) of the Landlord and Conveyancing Law Reform (Amendment) Act 2019; his plans to create regulations for the designation of such schemes; the number of schemes designated since the commencement of section 2A; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52792/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Section 2A(7) of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013, as inserted by section 3 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2019, provides that I as Minister for Justice and Equality may, by order, designate a scheme for the purposes of that section. I may do so only where satisfied: (a) that the objectives of the scheme include providing persons who are dealing with arrears of payments due on foot of a mortgage on their principal private residence with assistance that is reasonably likely to enable such persons to address difficulties in dealing with such arrears, and facilitate, in so far as is possible, such persons in remaining in their principal private residence, and (b) that it is reasonably likely that the assistance will be provided under the scheme.

I made an order (S.I. No. 399 of 2019), effective from 1 August 2019, providing that the scheme known as Abhaile and the scheme known as Mortgage to Rent are designated schemes for the purposes of section 2A(7) of the 2013 Act. No applications for the designation of other schemes for the purposes of that section have been received by the me to date.

Legislative Reviews

Ceisteanna (271)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

271. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 in order that applicants for certificates of naturalisation can travel abroad freely for reasons connected with their work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52842/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The residency criterion for an application for a certificate of naturalisation is laid out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended. Short absences for holidays, family emergencies etc. are permitted. I am however, considering extending the permitted absences and I have asked my officials to make the necessary preparations.

The Court of Appeal on 14 November found, on appeal from a decision of the High Court to the contrary, that I was within my powers in making allowance for absences of up to 6 weeks from the State.  Consideration is being given to that ruling by my officials to ensure that our procedures are consistent with the Act, while permitting flexibility on the part of applicants.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that we have already been able to resume granting citizenship to successful applicants; on 9 December 2019 over 2,000 persons were granted Irish citizenship. Additional ceremonies are planned for early 2020 to deal with the applications on hand.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements, not only within the State but also at European Union level, and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

Garda Operations

Ceisteanna (272)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

272. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount An Garda Síochána received to date in 2019 from organisations (details supplied) for policing their events; if An Garda Síochána seeks to recoup 100% of its costs from the organisations in relation to policing the events of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52881/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that section 30 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for An Garda Síochána to charge for policing services provided for events on private property or in areas open to the public.  The section covers events such as sports fixtures, concerts, festivals, the making of films, TV programmes and so on. Policing services may be provided where it is in the public interest and consistent with Garda functions. 

Setting the level of fees applicable to the provision of services under section 30 of the Act by An Garda Síochána and related matters are for the Garda Commissioner, as the Accounting Officer for the Garda Vote.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that policing services in these cases may include both a public service duty and a non-public service duty element.  In general, An Garda Síochána seeks to recover the costs associated with provision of non-public service duties at commercial events.  I am further informed that the cost to the event holder is determined by the number of Gardaí deployed and the hours they are deployed for. An Garda Síochána issues invoices to all relevant event holders.

I am further informed that it is not always possible to define the demarcation line between public and non-public duty and it is not always feasible for An Garda Síochána to recover the total policing cost of any particular event as the over-riding concern of An Garda Síochána is public safety.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table sets out the payments for non-public service duties received by An Garda Síochána this year from the GAA, FAI and IRFU up to 12 December 2019.

 Organisation

2019

GAA

€947,939.00

FAI

Nil

IRFU

€247,627.00

Closed-Circuit Television Systems

Ceisteanna (273)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

273. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of community-based CCTV applications in counties Cavan and Monaghan awaiting approval; when such applications will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53075/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Community-based CCTV is governed by section 38(3)(c) of Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Garda Síochána (CCTV) Order 2006.  This legal framework requires that any proposed community CCTV scheme must:

- be  approved by the local Joint Policing Committee,

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

- have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner.

This is the legal basis for all community CCTV schemes, regardless of how they are funded and these key legal requirements have not changed since 2006.  The option to establish a Community CCTV scheme is available to groups that meet these legal requirements, anywhere in the country.

Since 2017, my Department has administered a grant aid scheme supporting groups wishing to establish a community-based CCTV system in their area.  To date, 22 applications have been approved under the scheme, involving approved grants totalling more than €560,000.  Eligible groups, including community groups and local authorities nationwide, can apply for grant aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum total of €40,000.

As the Deputy may be aware, earlier this year I expanded the grant aid scheme to cover not only new CCTV systems but also to allow funding applications for extension or upgrade of existing Community CCTV systems which are incomplete or obsolete.  Applicants can now also seek a once-off grant of up to €5,000 for minor maintenance costs.  I am also pleased to confirm that I have recently approved extension of the CCTV grant aid scheme for a further year in 2020.

I must emphasise that grant funding can be considered only for CCTV systems which meet the legal requirements for CCTV, in other words CCTV systems which have been approved by the relevant Joint Policing Committee, the relevant Local Authority (also acting as Data Controller) and which have received the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner.

For the Deputy's information, I can confirm that one grant application for a CCTV scheme in Monaghan has been approved by my Department. One grant application for a CCTV scheme in Cavan has been refused by my Department, as it did not meet the statutory requirements for CCTV. There are no other CCTV grant aid applications on hand in my Department from Counties Monaghan or Cavan.

If the Deputy is aware of groups wishing to avail of the grant aid scheme, further details are available to download from my Department's website - www.justice.ie and support and guidance is available to help interested groups through a dedicated email address fundsadmin-comm-based-cctv@justice.ie

Domestic Violence

Ceisteanna (274)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

274. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the domestic violence disclosure scheme in the UK; his plans to introduce similar legislation and-or a scheme here; if he and or his officials have had engagement with An Garda Síochána in respect of implementing a version of the domestic violence disclosure scheme here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53091/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can confirm that in 2015, the Department of Justice and Equality, in consultation with An Garda Síochána, considered the question of a domestic violence disclosure scheme (as in place in the UK, commonly referred to as “Clare’s Law”). I understand that the DVDS enables the UK police to disclose information to a victim or potential victim of domestic abuse about their partner’s or ex-partner’s previous abusive or violent offending.

I have been advised that taking into consideration relevant data protection law and measures in place by An Garda Síochána, it was determined that such legislation was not considered necessary at that time.

However, my Department keeps all law under review on an ongoing basis. As the Deputy will be aware, tackling domestic, sexual and gender based violence is a major priority for my Department. Successive National Strategies on Domestic Violence, Sexual and Gender-based Violence have included wide ranging measures to eradicate such violence and protect victims.

The Deputy may be interested to know that under the second National Strategy on Domestic Violence, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021, An Garda Síochána are responsible for the development and implementation of a Risk Assessment Matrix for all victims of domestic violence and sexual crime.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that good progress is being made on this action. Trinity College Dublin has conducted an academic review of the risk assessment tool and the Garda Síochána pilot tool which was completed in Q1 2019. A process review was then commenced which was completed at end of Q2 2019. I am informed that it is expected that implementation of a risk assessment tool will be completed as soon as possible. This will then be introduced on a phased basis. Its use will commence in Divisions where Divisional Protective Services Units (DPSUs) have been established. These specialised units are trained to ensure the needs of highly vulnerable victims are adequately catered for. It is intended to have DPSU’s in every Garda division by end of Q1 2020.

The Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence also has actions undertaken to review perpetrator programmes. These are designed to rehabilitate offenders and reduce risk and distress to victims and society at large. Further, under the Domestic Violence Act 2018, Judges will now have the legislative power to refer domestic violence perpetrators to such programmes.

The national domestic violence intervention programme , entitled the Choices Programme, also began in 2017. Choices is now being delivered across the State by the following three organisations working with men who engage in domestic abuse and in providing support to their partners/ex-partners; MOVE Ireland (MEND), South East Domestic Violence Intervention Programme (SEDVIP) and the North East Domestic Violence Intervention Programme (NEDVIP).

Family Reunification

Ceisteanna (275)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

275. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the fact that for non-EEA families, immigration permissions here are tied to one partner or spouse allowing only them to work while the other family members are economically dependent; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that this approach acts as a block to the mobility of non-EEA workers and integration of non-EEA families here; and if he has considered introducing the family reunification directive here which operates in 25 European Union member states. [53139/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation's (DBEI) Employment Permit Section administers the Employment Permits system. DBEI are also responsible for the policies and criteria surrounding Employment Permits. 

However, on the 6 March 2019, I, along with Minister Heather Humphreys announced that the spouses and partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit holders would be able to access the Irish Labour Market without the need to obtain an employment permit. This change streamlined existing processes and resulted in a more attractive offering for both investment and international talent.

One of the primary benefits of the Critical Skills Employment permit over others includes the option for the permit holder to apply for immediate family reunification. Added to this has been the option for the dependent, spouse or partner to apply for a specific employment permit, should they choose to work and if they find a job, however, the existing system had resulted in unnecessary delays.

While this scheme is primarily driven by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, it is also a prime example of proactive and positive engagement between our two departments. Because of this work, the non-EEA spouses and partners of critical skills employment permit holders will no longer need an employment permit from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to work in Ireland. On arrival in the State, eligible spouses and de facto partners will be granted an immigration permission with a right to work without the need for a work permit. This enables critical skills permit holders and their families to quickly become established and assist in their integration in society.  

The Deputy will be aware that it is open to non EU/EEA and non-Swiss citizens in Ireland to apply for family reunification through the non-EEA family reunification policy document. The policy document is available for viewing under the following link:  http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Family%20Reunification%20Policy%20Document.pdf/Files/Family%20Reunification%20Policy%20Document.pdf

The provisions in the policy document are in line with those in the EU Family Reunification Directive and there is no intention to opt into the EU Family Reunification Directive at the current time.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (276)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

276. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on a report (details supplied) calling for the abolition of direct provision due to the impact it has on children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53196/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am aware of the report published last week by the Paediatric Faculty of the Royal College of Physicians Ireland. It is being carefully considered by my officials.

The system of Direct Provision refers to the suite of State services and supports that are provided by a range of government departments and agencies to persons seeking international protection status.  It includes provision of medical cards, an exemption from prescription charges, access to education for children, a weekly payment, access to Exceptional Needs Payments, when required, and, of course, ensuring that all basic needs are met, like accommodation and food.  

It is important to say that the system of providing supports and services to asylum seekers has been radically reformed in recent years.  Justice Bryan McMahon, whose report in 2015 has been the basis for introducing improvements to the system, has noted that system has improved considerably over what it was 5 years ago.

The Paediatric Faculty's report recommends that families be provided with own-door accommodation and access to self-catering facilities.  I can inform the Deputy that a key part of our procurement process for accommodation centres, which has been underway across the country in the past few months, is provision for independent living with access to cooking facilities for all. It is a central theme of the new National Standards for accommodation centres which Minister Flanagan and I launched in August.  Indeed,  in recent weeks we have seen some new accommodation centres open in Borrisokane and Ballinamore where families seeking international protection have been provided with own-door, self-catering accommodation in accordance with the new National Standards. 

The new Standards also contain specific actions to improve the lives of children in accommodation centres.  Children and their parents or guardians living in accommodation centres have access to the services of the Ombudsman for Children. They are also supported by the Child Protection Policies that we have put in place in the centres.  In addition, we have a Tusla official seconded to my Department to work with our  International Protection Accommodation Service. This ensures that any child protection issues are swiftly followed up and that the process for referrals is as streamlined as possible.

However, I must say that the call made in the report for the abolition of the current system of providing shelter and support for international protection applicants immediately upon their arrival in the State is not a realistic one without also suggesting a credible or viable alternative.   Indeed the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality report on Direct Provision and the International Protection Application Process published earlier this month noted that there was no clear consensus as to what alternatives could or ought to replace the current system. That report also acknowledged that any new system of reception and accommodation will need time to ensure the right system is put in place.  

The changes we are introducing to the system mean that our reception system compares favourably with what is provided in other EU Member States. This was noted only last month by the new Head of the International Organisation for Migration in Ireland. 

Notwithstanding that, an expert group independently chaired by Dr. Catherine Day, the former Secretary General of the European Commission, is currently examining the possible longer-term approaches to accommodation provision and is looking at best practice in other jurisdictions.

Legal Aid

Ceisteanna (277)

Seán Fleming

Ceist:

277. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the financial support available for persons that require legal representation as part of the family law court process; if it is means tested; if so, the income limits that apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53218/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Legal Aid Board provides legal advice and aid under the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996-2017.  The Board delivers these services through directly employed solicitors in its network of law centres around the country and private solicitors from its private practitioner panels. 

There are 30 full time and 12 part-time law centres.  Specific law centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway include an international protection speciality and there are also dedicated units in Dublin dealing with personal injury and/or medical negligence cases and cases involving children at risk (i.e. proceedings brought by Tusla). 

Applicants for legal aid must meet the financial eligibility criteria under section 29 of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2017.  This provides that their disposable income (less certain allowances) must be below €18,000 and their disposable capital (less certain allowances and excluding the value of the home in which they live) must be below €100,000.  The application must meet the merits criteria in sections 24 and 28(2) of the 1995 Act.  There is a reduced merits criteria for cases involving the welfare of children.  In practice, legal aid is rarely refused in family law cases.

It should also be noted that civil legal aid and advice are generally not free. When an applicant first sees a solicitor, they have to pay an advice contribution. The minimum advice contribution is €30. Depending on an applicant’s income, they might have to pay up to €150. Clients must pay an aid contribution if they require representation in court.  The minimum aid contribution is €130.  The amount of the aid contribution includes the advice contribution.

There are some exceptions to the requirement for applicants to pay a contribution. Since September 2013 applicants for legal services in relation to defending childcare proceedings brought by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) do not pay either an advice contribution or an aid contribution.  It should be noted that this applies only to the defence of applications for care orders and supervision brought by the Agency and appeals to the Circuit Court. It does not apply to cases where the applicant is the applicant/plaintiff in proceedings against the Agency pursuant to parts of the Child Care Act other than parts III and IV (except where such applications are ancillary to the defence of the main child care proceedings) e.g. for access to children in care.

From the 1st of January, 2018 persons seeking civil legal aid in domestic violence cases in the District Court were no longer required to pay a contribution. Applicants for legal aid to assist with a claim for international protection only need to pay a contribution of €10.

The Legal Aid Board can waive the contribution in cases of undue hardship.  The Legal Aid Board can recover the costs it incurred in providing legal aid in the event that money or real property is recovered or preserved on the legally aided person’s behalf arising from legal proceedings. Again this can be waived in cases of hardship.

In the District Court the vast majority of private family law cases are currently referred out to private solicitors and are not kept waiting, particularly if they have court cases pending.

In the Circuit Court, the majority of family law cases (almost all of which are divorce and judicial separation cases) are handled within the law centres. Due to demand and budgetary constraints, legal aid applicants involved in these cases may have to wait for a first appointment with a solicitor. 

In terms of the service provided, once a person is financially eligible for legal aid and is granted a legal aid certificate, the solicitor is required to deliver a full representation service to the end of the case.

In law centres where waiting times are persistently long the Board may introduce an early advice only service so clients obtain timely advice about their legal rights while waiting for representation.

Gambling Legislation

Ceisteanna (278)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

278. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the nature of the representations received from persons involved in private members clubs; the responses he or the Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Equality and Immigration have made to such representations (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53235/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill 2019 has now passed all stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

An association of private members clubs (PMCs) made a number of representations to me in the course of the final development of the Bill. I also met a representative of the association, at their request, to hear their concerns at first hand.

Essentially, the nature of the representations concerned a number of proposed amendments to the Bill to include a definition of private members clubs and, on foot of such definition, explicitly to exclude them from the scope of the Bill.

Alternatively, provision for the licensing of such clubs was sought pending the major reform of gambling legislation planned by the Government. However, I was concerned that acceding to such a request at this point could be deemed to be licensing of PMCs as casinos, without having the necessary regulation in place.

Legislation in my Department is prepared with the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General. Having regard to that, I am assured that the 2019 Bill maintained the status quo relating to these clubs pending the intended future reform of gambling legislation, and did not affect their existing position arising from the provisions of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. The activities of PMCs are not subject to a particular licensing regime and they are deemed to enjoy protection under the constitutional right of freedom of association. The PMCs are, however, inspected for the purposes of tax compliance and the prevention of money laundering.

I had assured the association concerned on a number of occasions, that it was not my intention to seek to challenge the current status or operations of PMCs.

Drugs Seizures

Ceisteanna (279)

John Curran

Ceist:

279. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount and type of illegal drugs seized by An Garda Síochána in 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53254/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

A core focus of the work carried out by An Garda Síochána is aimed at tackling drug distribution and organised crime. The continued disruption of the supply of all illicit drugs remains a priority for An Garda Síochána and the other state agencies tasked with responsibilities in this regard.

Since its establishment in 2015, the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, which manages national and international drug trafficking and organised crime investigations, has continued to make significant seizures of controlled drugs and to make related arrests.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that recent intelligence-led operations have resulted in significant drugs seizures by An Garda Síochána, for example including seizure of cocaine (subject to analysis) with an estimated value of €1.4 million in Drogheda on 11 November.

Such seizures represent a major blow to criminal gangs, who planned to profit from selling these drugs. The success of this and other operations demonstrates the effectiveness of the various enforcement bodies within this State working together with their international counterparts.

The data requested by the Deputy is published in the Annual Reports of An Garda Síochána, which are available online at An Garda Síochána's website at the following link: https://www.garda.ie/en/Information-Centre/Annual-Reports/.

I can inform the Deputy that the 2018 Annual Report will be laid before the Oireachtas and published this week. Data for 2019 is not yet available.

Prison Medical Service

Ceisteanna (280)

John Curran

Ceist:

280. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners on methadone treatment in each prison in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53255/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that it provides a health care service for prisoners with addictions in a structured, safe and professional basis in line with international best practice. The Irish Prison Service continues to be committed to and predominantly involved with the National Drugs Strategy in partnership with community colleagues and organisations.

I am further informed that the following table shows the number of prisoners in receipt of methadone treatment across the prison estate for the period 2015 – 2019. Please note that the figures for 2019 are provided for the period of 1 January 2019 – 31 October 2019. I am advised that the cumulative statistics for 2019 will not be available until January 2020.

Prison

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019*

Castlerea

31

46

32

36

18

Limerick

142

215

160

211

32

Cork

107

141

180

257

41

Cloverhill

539

555

642

903

119

Wheatfield

209

238

193

210

111

Midlands

239

258

279

248

80

Portlaoise

44

57

58

55

9

Dochas

151

203

141

210

69

Mountjoy

403

401

391

436

190

Total

1865

2114

2076

2566

669

*01/01/2019 to 31/10/19

Finally I am informed that while prescribing levels for methadone have fluctuated over the past 5 years, the profile of the numbers of prisoners availing of the different treatment options - i.e. detoxification, maintenance or stabilisation - has remained consistent, with 35% availing of detoxification, 64% availing of maintenance and 1% availing of the stabilisation programme.

Garda Reserve

Ceisteanna (281)

John Curran

Ceist:

281. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda Reserves recruited to date in 2019; the number at January 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53273/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the allocation and distribution of resources including the recruitment and training of Garda members and members of the Garda Reserve is entirely a matter for the Garda Commissioner. As Minister, I have no responsibility in this matter. I am assured however that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

The strength of the Garda Reserve in each of the years from 2009 to 31 October 2019, as provided by me by the Garda Commissioner, is available on my Department’s website at the following link:

http://justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Garda_Reserve

It should be noted that the distribution of Garda Reserves is included in that table on a Divisional basis only. These figures are updated by my Department on a monthly basis, as provided by the Garda authorities.

I am informed by An Garda Síochána that a class of approximately 100 Garda Reserve recruits commenced training in March 2019 at the Garda College, Templemore.  This is a positive development and delivers on the target set out under 'A Policing Service for the Future', the implementation plan for the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.  Those from among this class who complete their training are expected to attest as Garda Reserves in March or April 2020.

Garda Deployment

Ceisteanna (282)

John Curran

Ceist:

282. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí assigned to dedicated drugs units to date in 2019 in each division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53274/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner has responsibility for management of An Garda Síochána and for the allocation and efficient use of Garda resources. This includes responsibility for personnel matters and the distribution of personnel across the various Garda Divisions. 

I have requested a report from the Commissioner in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy and I will write to him directly when I receive it.

Garda Recruitment

Ceisteanna (283)

John Curran

Ceist:

283. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of Garda sergeant vacancies that remain unfilled in each division to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53275/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The resources provided by Government to An Garda Síochána have reached record levels, with an allocation for 2019 of €1.76 billion and this is increasing further to an unprecedented €1.88 billion for 2020.  The capital budget for An Garda Síochána has also been significantly increased - a total of €92 million was provided this year, representing a 50% increase on capital investment in 2018. And capital investment will increase further to €116.5 million in 2020.

This level of funding is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff and as a result, An Garda Síochána is a growing organisation.  The budget available for 2020 will allow the Garda Commissioner to recruit up to 700 new Gardaí next year and additional Garda staff, the balance of which will be an operational matter for the Commissioner to decide. 

The Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing the administration and business of An Garda Síochána, including by arranging for the recruitment and training of personnel.  Further, the allocation of Garda resources and distribution of personnel are a matter for the Commissioner, in light of identified operational demands.

We currently have over 14,300 Gardaí nationwide, supported by over 2,900 Garda staff. And as part of the Government’s plan to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, there is ongoing and increased recruitment both of new Gardaí as well as Garda staff, allowing for redeployment of Gardaí to operational duties at the front-line.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the current Employment Control Framework for Sergeant rank is 2,110.  I am informed that as of 16 December 2019 there are 1,970 Sergeants in An Garda Síochána, leaving 140 vacancies at that rank.  I am informed that these vacancies will be filled in the coming months.  I am further informed that analysis of supervisory ratios across Garda Divisions will form part of this process.

Policing Issues

Ceisteanna (284)

John Curran

Ceist:

284. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he plans to take in order to address the findings of a report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53276/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I very much welcome the publication of this report. This report feeds directly into initiatives already underway in Government as we implement the key recommendations of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, of which Dr Connolly was a member.

As Deputies will be aware, the Government in December 2018 endorsed the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing and accepted all key recommendations. We are now progressing these recommendations through a high level implementation plan: ‘A Policing Service for the Future’.

A key recommendation is the introduction of new legislation which, among other matters, should redefine policing to include prevention of harm.  However, it also recognises that prevention of harm is not solely a policing matter.   An Garda Síochána and any other body within or outside the criminal justice system cannot, acting alone, provide the required response.  The report “Building Community Resilience” highlights the importance of developing a holistic approach to crime problems at a community level and it is this type of holistic approach with inclusion and involvement of the community that has been adopted in the North East Inner City in addressing issues in that part of the city. 

That said it requires a considerable commitment from across Government and beyond, including from those in our communities, to deliver.  My Department is developing a policy focused on the concept of community safety with real cooperation between the range of actors involved in harm prevention in partnership with our communities.  The community safety policy will seek to deliver on these goals by strengthening the way agencies work together and work with communities. 

Community safety is about being safe and feeling safe.  There are many reasons why someone might not feel safe and I want to ensure the Deputy that there is a coherent system in place to tackle the range of issues. 

The Policing and Community Safety Bill being drafted by my Department will redefine policing to include prevention of harm to those who are vulnerable and place an obligation on relevant state agencies to cooperate with An Garda Síochána in relation to the broader issue of community safety. It will also provide for a new coherent governance and oversight framework to empower the Garda Commissioner to act as CEO supported and held to account by a non-executive Board, ensure strong internal governance and robust, transparent external oversight and effective accountability which will ultimately lead to a better run organisation and more effective policing. 

Work on the preparation of the General Scheme of the Bill is well advanced with a view to submission to Government by the end of Q1 2020.  This is a major piece of legislation and the drafting process will be complex, however it is anticipated that the new arrangements will be in place in 2021.  

In terms of protection for children from being lured into criminality, the Deputy may be interested to know of the "Greentown” project, a research project led by the REPPP Project (Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice) at the School of Law in the University of Limerick. The REPPP project is a strategic research partnership with the University of Limerick, funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and supported by my own Department. Its specific focus is on examining the recruitment by criminal networks of children in Ireland and to make recommendations for interventions to disrupt this.

In the absence of international models of intervention that could be readily deployed, the original Greentown report (December 2016) recommended the design of a programme to include interventions with children and their families to help them withstand the influence of criminal networks. This new “Greentown Programme” has been designed with the input of leading international expertise on crime and criminal networks, together with Irish scientific, policy and practice expertise in child protection and welfare, drugs and community development. 

Finally, I would note that Government is currently providing record funds for An Garda Síochána.  

€1.76 billion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, and this is increasing to an unprecedented €1.882 billion for 2020.  This investment is aiding the sustained growth of the organisation.  In addition, a total of €92 million capital investment was made this year and this is rising further to over €116 million in 2020. This unprecedented level of funding is provided  to ensure a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. 

Garda Youth Diversion Projects

Ceisteanna (285)

John Curran

Ceist:

285. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the specific interventions and alternative education programmes created to address vulnerable children at risk of becoming gang recruits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53277/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

My colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, is leading on the design of a community-based response to this issue, known as the "Greentown” project.  This is a research project led by the REPPP Project (Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice) at the School of Law in the University of Limerick. The REPPP project is a strategic research partnership with the University of Limerick which is funded by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and also supported by my own Department. Its specific focus is on examining the recruitment by criminal networks of children in Ireland and to make recommendations for interventions to disrupt this.

In the absence of international models of intervention that could be readily deployed, the original Greentown report (December 2016) recommended the design of a programme to include interventions with children and their families to help them withstand the influence of criminal networks. This new “Greentown Programme” has been designed with the input of leading international expertise on crime and criminal networks, together with Irish scientific, policy and practice expertise in child protection and welfare, drugs and community development.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has secured Dormant Account Funding a trial of the Greentown Programme approach, on a pilot basis, and I understand that arrangements in that regard are being finalised currently.

Education programmes and education welfare services are the responsibility of the Department of Education and Skills and Tusla respectively.

 Other initiatives to protect, prevent and free vulnerable children from recruitment into gangs include the Garda Youth Diversion Programme. This is a statutory programme under Part 4 of the Children Act 2001, as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which focuses on preventing criminal behaviour as well as diversion from the criminal justice system and rehabilitation of children between 10 and 18 years of age.  The programme is an essential part of Government strategy to help tackle youth crime, administered by An Garda Síochána, and it is very important that it operates effectively.  

The operation of the programme by An Garda Síochána is strongly supported by a nationwide network of 105 Garda Youth Diversion Projects, which are funded by this Department and operated by community-based organisations.  The projects receive referrals from a number of sources, but primarily from the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers. 

Other developments in the operation of GYDPs include ongoing initiatives relating to personal mentoring, employment support and restorative practices. There is also important work to enhance service standards, including formal risk assessment of children referred.

In the last year, the operation of GYDPs has been the subject of extensive consultation with service providers and community stakeholders. The intention is to devise an ongoing programme of development, backed up by evidence of effectiveness, which will ensure that high-quality GYDP services are available to every child in the State who could benefit from them. It is intended to support this process with an Action Research Project, working with selected GYDPs, to describe and clarify key actions and strategies to enhance the effectiveness of local projects.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.

The Deputy may also wish to be aware that an expert Steering Group is currently developing a new Youth Justice Strategy, including a review of the Children Act. The Steering Group commenced its work in February and has had a series of meetings during this year which will continue into next year.  

The Group is tasked with advising and guiding the development of the new Strategy, including consideration of the full range of issues connected to children and young people at risk of coming into contact with the criminal justice system, from early intervention and preventative work, including family support, diversion from crime, through to court processes and facilities, supervision of offenders, detention and reintegration and support post release.  It is intended that the Strategy will be finalised in the first half of 2020.

As the Deputy may be aware, the operation of the Garda Diversion Programme is monitored by a Committee established under Section 44 of the Children Act 2001, whose annual reports are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. I understand that the 2018 Report will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as possible.

Organised Crime

Ceisteanna (286)

John Curran

Ceist:

286. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to develop an inter-agency model involving An Garda Síochána, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Probation Service and the Revenue Commissioners to profile and target career criminals that are alleged local senior criminals at the highest levels within their communities but do not have many criminal convictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53278/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Tackling organised crime, and targeting those involved in it, is an ongoing priority for the Government and An Garda Síochána.

Multi-disciplinary approaches are used by An Garda Síochána to ensure the activities of individuals and groups involved in criminality are effectively targeted. Such approaches include the use of money-laundering legislation and focused intelligence-led operations by Garda specialist units, including the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the National Economic Crime Bureau, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations with support as required from the Security and Intelligence section.

In addition, An Garda Síochána and the other agencies referred to by the Deputy consult closely with one another including the Joint Agency Response to Crime (JARC).

It may also be noted that the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is a multi-agency statutory body established under the Criminal Assets Bureau Act, 1996. The Bureau’s remit is to target a person's assets, wherever situated, which derive, or are suspected to derive, directly or indirectly, from criminal conduct. Since its inception, the Bureau has been at the forefront of fighting organised crime in this jurisdiction and disrupting the activities of criminal gangs by depriving them of ill-gotten assets.

Officers of the Bureau are comprised of members of An Garda Síochána, Officers of the Revenue Commissioners and Officers of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The Bureau is widely regarded as a best practice model in the context of combating organised crime. Its structure and powers have been modelled by other jurisdictions. It works closely with law enforcement bodies at national and international levels and continues to relentlessly pursue the illicit proceeds of organised crime activity. The actions of the Bureau send a strong message to criminals and to local communities that profiting from crime won't be tolerated. CAB has been allocated the resources necessary to ensure its effectiveness and the recent expansion and development of the Divisional Asset Profiler Network now includes some 378 trained profilers throughout the State. These are key local level personnel who support the development and progress of investigations.

The Joint Agency Response to Crime (JARC) programme is a strategic offender management initiative led by An Garda Síochána, the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service with active support and engagement of my own Department. It aims to develop and strengthen a multi-agency approach to the management of prolific offenders; prioritise such offenders for targeted interventions and supports to address their behaviour and through this work reduce crime and victimisation in local communities.  An initial evaluation into the effectiveness of this programme was carried out in 2018 and has shown very promising evidence that it is an effective approach for such offenders.  

I am open to considering any other specific recommendations that the Deputy or others would like to put forward for new approaches to tackling the issues raised.

Finally, it is important to say that An Garda Síochána is also being provided with record investment to ensure it is adequately resourced to effectively tackle organised crime. €1.76 bullion has been allocated to the Garda Vote for 2019, and this is increasing to an unprecedented €1.882 billion for 2020. Supported by these record investments, An Garda Síochána is a growing organisation with over 14,300 Gardaí nationwide supported by over 2,900 Garda staff. The growing workforce means An Garda Síochána is providing a more visible policing service throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.

Law Reform Commission

Ceisteanna (287)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

287. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his view on proposals by the Law Reform Commission to cap personal injury awards that would safeguard judicial independence (details supplied). [53297/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I welcome the publication earlier this week of an Issues Paper by the Law Reform Commission on the subject of “Capping Damages in Personal Injuries Actions”.  This particular project is included in the Commission’s Fifth Programme of Law Reform which was approved by the Government in March 2019 and arose out of recommendations made by both the Cost of Insurance Working Group and the Personal Injuries Commission

The purpose of an Issues Paper is to provide consultees with an opportunity to express their views and to make any related submissions on the questions that arise in the Paper.  In this case the questions allow consultees to express their views on the constitutional issues that may be engaged were a statutory regime to be put in place that would place a cap on some or all categories of damages in Personal Injuries cases.

The Issues Paper sets out four possible models in relation to capping of damages:

1. A cap set by primary legislation, using a proportionality test on a scale from a zero award to a maximum possible.

2. A presumptive cap scheme which retains some judicial discretion.

3. Capping of awards by law but for the details of the cap to be delegated to some other regulation making body or a Minister.

4. A model  where the courts continue  to determine the level of awards for general damages through case law, as supplemented by the provisions of the Personal Injuries Guidelines under the Judicial Council Act.

The deadline for submissions on the Issues Paper is 31st January 2020 and I would urge those with an interest in this topic to make a submission to the Law Reform Commission.  I look forward to the publication of the final Report of the Law Reform Commission on this topic which I understand is envisaged for next year and will, of course, carefully examine any recommendations proposed by the Commission in what is undoubtedly a very complex area of law.