Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (25)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

25. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice if children in direct provision centres have returned to education; and the assurances she can provide that all children who reside in the centres have the necessary safeguards in place to prevent further Covid-19 outbreaks. [22318/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The primary responsibility for the return of children to school this academic term lies with their parents and guardians. This is also the case for parents and guardians of children living with them in accommodation provided by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department.

Children residing in accommodation centres are educated within the mainstream education system. This means that the children of applicants for International Protection access free primary and post-Primary education in the same manner as the general population.

The Roadmap for the Full Return to Schools sets out how the public health advice provided to the Department of Education and Skills on the safe return to school can be implemented at individual school level. The Government approved over €375 million in additional funding necessary to support its implementation. To date, the payments made to schools exceed €160 million. This includes payments for minor works to support school reconfiguration, funding for additional cleaning in schools to support improved hygiene, funding for additional supervision at post primary level to support maintaining of physical distancing as well as significant funding for all schools for appropriate PPE and hand sanitising.

I can assure you that my officials and all centre staff adhere to local public health advice in relation to children returning to school.

As recommended by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), a comprehensive programme of COVID-19 testing carried out by the HSE is planned across all accommodation centres housing asylum seekers and refugees in the State for all residents and staff, including children aged 5 years or older. Testing is voluntary and free and I encourage all residents to avail of the test in order to help protect themselves and their children. However, it is important to say that neither a refusal to participate nor a positive result will affect a person’s status or application for international protection in any way.

Periodically, some students may be required to self-isolate for a short time on foot of medical advice. In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, each accommodation centre was asked to set aside rooms to facilitate self-isolation. These facilities are still available if required.

I understand that schools will endeavour to support these students to catch up with their learning on their return to school. In some instances, where adapted education provision is already being provided by teachers to very high risk students in a school, it may be possible for students who are self-isolating to avail of that adapted provision.

Garda Equipment

Ceisteanna (26)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

26. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice the status of the promised phased implementation of a mobility project (details supplied); if gardaí on duty now have mobile telephones and handheld devices to enable them to access data while not in Garda stations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22991/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of the Garda organisation as well as for the allocation of Garda resources, in light of identified operational demands. As Minister, I have no role in those matters.

Record resources of €1.88 billion, as well as a substantial capital allocation of €116 million, have been made available to An Garda Síochána in 2020. A very significant programme of capital investment is also being made in An Garda Síochána, including investment of €342 million in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 and investment of €46 million in the Garda fleet over the same period.

The Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of these resources and Garda management confirm that a broad range of ICT projects and initiatives are being progressed in that regard.

This capital funding on Garda ICT infrastructure will support existing Garda ICT systems and develop them further, to support the ongoing business requirements of An Garda Síochána and enabling them to deploy the latest, cutting-edge technologies in the fight against crime.

A number of key ICT initiatives are currently moving to implementation phase, including for example projects such as:

- rollout of the Rosters and Duty Management System, which will give supervisors better and faster information on the resources available to them;

- phased implementation of the Mobility project, which aims to provide operational Garda members with secure mobile access to Garda systems along with Garda Apps including in particular in relation to roads;

- rollout on a pilot basis of the Investigations Management System, which will standardise, digitise and support the management of all investigations arising from a PULSE incident; and

- staged deployment of a new national Computer Aided Dispatch System, to capture emergency calls and dispatch of resources to the incident.

In relation to the implementation of Mobility Projects, I am advised by the Garda authorities that currently 2000 Frontline Garda members have Mobile Data stations, this includes all Roads Policing members.

An additional deployment to Community Policing members is about to begin and will bring the total to 2500 frontline members with devices. Members who have Mobile Data Stations can use them to access Garda data while not in the station and can issue Fixed Charge Notices.

Prisoner Rehabilitation Programmes

Ceisteanna (27)

Mark Ward

Ceist:

27. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Prison Links workers are not on the approved contact lists resulting in prisoners having to choose between a visit, a call from a family member and a professional visit that could help with reoffending. [22810/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can advise the Deputy that the Community Prison Link Service is a non-prison based service that works with people with addiction issues both in prison and in the community.

The Irish Prison Service are aware of the very valuable service provided by the Community Prison Link Service and appreciates that they are anxious to resume direct contact with prisoners.

My officials in the Irish Prison Service will arrange a meeting in the coming weeks to discuss how the service can be supported in maintaining contact with its clients while in custody.

Sex Offenders Notification Requirements

Ceisteanna (28)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

28. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice her plans to tag sex offenders following their release from prison; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22917/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. I understand there can be concerns on the part of communities when it comes to the issue of rehabilitation of sex offenders and protection of public safety.

First it is important to note that there are already provisions in existing law in relation to the management of sex offenders after they have been released from prison.

The Sex Offenders Act 2001 provides that a Court can impose conditions on a convicted sex offender as part of their post-release supervision. Further, where An Garda Síochána believe that a convicted offender poses a serious risk to the public, an application can be made to the courts for a Sex Offender Order under s.16 of the 2001 Act. A Sex Offender Order can prohibit the offender from doing anything the Court considers necessary, in order to ensure that the public is protected from serious harm.

In terms of legislative reform, I can confirm that the General Scheme of the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill was developed by my Department following a comprehensive review of current law and administrative practice. The General Scheme was approved by Government in June 2018 and it is available on my Department’s website.

The Bill is currently with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting. My officials and that Office are working together to finalise the draft with a view to publication of the Bill as soon as possible.

The purpose of the Bill is to enhance current systems for assessment and management of convicted sex offenders and to put those systems on a statutory footing. While the drafting process is not yet complete, the main provisions are expected to include:

- Stricter notification requirements including requiring offenders to notify Gardaí of their address upon release from custody, or any subsequent change of address, within 3 days as opposed to the existing 7 days.

- Provision to allow for fingerprinting and photographing the offender, where necessary to confirm their identity.

- Enhanced supervision of high-risk offenders, including, in limited circumstances, the electronic monitoring of offenders subject to post-release supervision orders.

- The placing on a legislative footing of assessment teams to assess and manage the risk posed by sex offenders.

- Provisions whereby a court can prohibit a sex offender from working with children.

- Provision for a statutory basis for the necessary disclosure of information relating to a high-risk offender on the ‘sex offenders register’. The information in relation to an offender which may be disclosed include the name, address and threat posed by the offender. It is intended that the disclosure would only be made to the minimum number of people necessary to avert a serious risk to safety.

Public Consultation Process

Ceisteanna (29)

Martin Browne

Ceist:

29. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Justice her views on conducting research into incidents of verbal and physical racist abuse as suggested by an organisation (details supplied) following recent events in Cork and Dublin; her plans to give further consideration to the reasons behind the emergence of this type of crime and public displays and events promoting intolerance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22890/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter and I appreciate the urgency of this issue.

The Programme for Government commits to introducing, within 12 months, legislation to address those who target victims because of their association with a particular identity characteristic, and to revise and update the Incitement to Hatred Act. I can assure Deputies that my Department is working to prepare this legislation on hate crime and hate speech as a priority.

As part of this work a comprehensive public consultation has been carried out which included a public survey and an opportunity for stakeholders to make formal submissions. This consultation was conducted to ensure that the Department fully understands the lived experience of those impacted by hate speech and hate crime as well as the views of professionals and other stakeholders in the field. This is necessary to ensure the laws developed are robust, clearly understood and effective in dealing with unacceptable incidents.

I was delighted with the high level of engagement by the public with this topic and can inform the Deputy that my Department received in the region of 3,800 written responses to the consultation, including approximately 175 detailed written submissions.

In addition to this widespread public consultation and in order to ensure we draft legislation that is effective, my Department carried out comparative research on international best practice on hate crime legislation. This research is currently being finalised and I expect it will be published in the coming weeks.

My officials are continuing to analyse all of the materials gathered, as well as other relevant legal and policy information, to ensure that the legislative proposals presented are evidence-based, proportionate and effective, while respecting freedom of expression. There will be a further opportunity for stakeholders to share their views when the legislative proposals on this important issue are published for discussion

As the Deputy may be aware, the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 already prohibits threatening, abusive or insulting conduct that is intended or likely to stir up hatred against a group of persons on account of their sexual orientation, race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, or membership of the travelling community. In addition, a hate motive may be considered by sentencing judges as an aggravating factor increasing the sentence imposed, where a person has been found guilty of a crime such as assault.

I am confident that the approach taken to the reform of our legislation in this area - including through the research conducted and providing the opportunity for experts and members of the public to provide their views through consultation - will ensure that the legislation we develop plays a significant part in delivering a safer, fairer and more inclusive Ireland for everyone, now as well as into the future. This is the mission of my Department and as Minister I am fully committed to the fight against racism and prejudice as a key part of this.

I am aware of the horrific attacks referred to by the Deputy which happened in separate incidents in both Cork and Dublin last month. These were truly shocking and I condemn the perpetrators of any violent attack. However, as the incidents are the subject of ongoing Garda investigations, the Deputy will appreciate that I cannot comment further, to avoid prejudicing the investigations or any subsequent prosecutions.

That said, it is worth noting that work on reforming our legislation in this area is complementary to other cross-Government initiatives to tackle racism in Ireland, including the Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2020 and the recent establishment of the Anti-Racism Committee.

The Committee, chaired by Professor Caroline Fennell of UCC, is tasked with reviewing current evidence and practice and making recommendations to Government on how best to strengthen its approach to tackling racism in all its forms, and provide a draft anti-racism strategy, containing a clear action plan within a year. It is to produce an interim report within three months of first meeting and I look forward to receiving this in due course.

Closed-Circuit Television Systems

Ceisteanna (30)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

30. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice if she will engage with communities in Kilrush, Newmarket and Charleville, County Cork, to ensure the delivery of CCTV schemes. [22851/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that 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, 29 applications have been approved under the scheme, involving approved grants totalling more than €689,000. 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, last year the grant aid scheme was extended 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.

However in all cases, grant funding can be considered only for CCTV systems which meet the legal requirements, 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.

I am advised by my officials that my Department currently has no applications on hand from the locations referred to by the Deputy. We will of course give immediate attention to applications when they are submitted.

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.

Liquor Licences

Ceisteanna (31)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

31. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice her plans to amend the alcohol licensing legislation to include age verification and delivery hours for online purchases of alcohol; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22893/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I understand the concerns that people have in relation to the purchase for delivery of alcohol products and am very conscious of the detrimental effects of alcohol dependency on families and society.

In terms of assessing whether a review of legislation is required in relation to the delivery of alcohol, however, it is essential that there is a clear understanding of what the current regulations are under existing legislation.

There is no dedicated licence for online sales of intoxicating liquor but licensees of licensed premises may engage in online sales subject to certain restrictive conditions.

As matters stand, under existing legislation where alcohol is purchased online, the same restrictions on the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor apply, including the restrictions in relation to hours of trading and the provisions in relation to the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor to young persons.

Under section 17(3) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003, it is an offence for a licensee, with intent to evade the conditions of the licence, to take intoxicating liquor from the licensed premises for the purpose of its being sold on the account or for the benefit or profit of the licensee, or to permit any other person to do so. The penalty on conviction is a fine of up to €1,500 for a first offence and up to €2,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

Section 31 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, as amended, makes provision for offences relating to the sale and delivery of alcohol products to persons under the age of 18 years. It is an offence under section 31(2) for a licensee to sell or deliver, or to permit any other person to sell or deliver, alcohol products to any person for consumption off his or her licensed premises by a person under the age of 18 years in any place except with the explicit consent of the person's parent or guardian in a private residence in which he or she is present either as of right or with permission. 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 7 and 30 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.

With technology that facilitates video calls being commonplace in the conduct of business in a broad spectrum of contexts, there do not appear to be any practical impediments to vendors verifying the age of purchasers who purchase alcohol from their homes. The purchase must be completed from their home in advance of delivery.

The Government Alcohol Advisory Group considered specific issues relating to 'distance sales' of intoxicating liquor in its 2008 report. It took the view that sales of alcohol products which have been ordered by telephone or text messaging and which are paid for on delivery do not comply with licensing law requirements and are, therefore, illegal. The Group recommended that the Gardaí target “dial-a-can” and similar delivery services with a view to prosecuting the offending licensees. Any information concerning transactions of this nature which are contrary to the provisions of the licensing acts should, therefore, be brought to the attention of the Gardaí for investigation and possible prosecution.

In conclusion, there is substantial existing legislation to regulate the delivery of alcohol services in Ireland and, as matters currently stand, I do not propose to introduce new legislation in this area. However, I do appreciate that, with the Covid-19 outbreak, habits of consumers have been affected and the share of purchases online has increased substantially. These changes may be temporary or they may be the beginning of longer term trends. It is perhaps too early to tell what impacts these changes may have and whether increased online sales and delivery of alcohol will, on balance, provide increased convenience and choice to consumers and new revenue streams for small rural pubs or have negative impacts on society that require further regulation. It is in that context that I remain open to reviewing the situation should compelling objective evidence emerge indicating that a further examination of the legislation regulating these matters is warranted.

Passenger Data

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 24.

Ceisteanna (32)

Mairéad Farrell

Ceist:

32. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Justice if publicly available data is being collected on the nationality of those entering Ireland via flights from the United States of America. [16649/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Border Management Unit (BMU) of my Department does not record the data requested or any data on the nationality of persons arriving into the State.

Under Regulations made by the Minister for Health - Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Requirements) (Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form) Regulations 2020, S.I. No. 181/2020 - the completion of a passenger locator form became a mandatory requirement on 28 May 2020.

While the first iteration of the Passenger Locator form developed by the Department of Health contained a question on nationality, the subsequent form, which was required to be completed when completion of the form was made mandatory in May, does not contain that question. From 26 August 2020, the electronic version of the Passenger Locator Form became available, with responsibility for follow-up work thereafter lying with the Department of Health.

In order to be helpful to the Deputy, information on the daily number of passengers arriving in Dublin Airport from the USA since 24 April 2020 was sought from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, which has advised the following:

Daily Passengers Arriving from the USA

Date

Number of Arrivals

24 April

13

25 April

31

26 April

23

27 April

33

28 April

11

29 April

25

30 April

15

1 May

31

2 May

37

3 May

40

4 May

51

5 May

20

6 May

38

7 May

24

8 May

24

9 May

54

10 May

45

11 May

36

12 May

27

13 May

28

14 May

25

15 May

35

16 May

50

17 May

39

18 May

60

19 May

60

20 May

29

21 May

8

22 May

35

23 May

26

24 May

35

25 May

27

26 May

52

27 May

70

28 May

40

29 May

62

30 May

66

31 May

100

1 June

83

2 June

91

3 June

51

4 June

73

5 June

31

6 June

69

7 June

108

8 June

101

9 June

77

10 June

111

11 June

41

12 June

70

13 June

36

14 June

55

15 June

109

16 June

122

17 June

106

18 June

69

19 June

69

20 June

92

21 June

70

22 June

138

23 June

122

24 June

51

25 June

96

26 June

78

27 June

79

28 June

139

29 June

152

30 June

269

1 July

159

2 July

97

3 July

88

4 July

163

5 July

146

6 July

123

7 July

151

8 July

179

9 July

71

10 July

168

11 July

149

12 July

151

13 July

144

14 July

199

15 July

144

16 July

108

17 July

137

18 July

175

19 July

215

20 July

109

21 July

230

22 July

133

23 July

115

24 July

157

25 July

172

26 July

162

27 July

115

28 July

159

29 July

123

30 July

117

31 July

241

1 August

137

2 August

190

3 August

180

4 August

300

5 August

168

6 August

180

7 August

184

8 August

160

9 August

185

10 August

144

11 August

239

12 August

151

13 August

245

14 August

219

15 August

226

16 August

231

17 August

203

18 August

249

19 August

193

20 August

162

21 August

166

22 August

177

23 August

217

24 August

113

25 August

229

26 August

129

27 August

82

28 August

149

29 August

229

30 August

196

31 August

185

1 September

323

2 September

245

3 September

198

4 September

240

TOTAL

15607

The average daily total of Daily Passengers Arriving from the USA was 116 per day over the 134 day period from 24 April to 4 September.

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has also advised that -

- transfer passengers are not included in the arrivals statistics for airports as Ireland is not the final destination for these passengers who do not leave the airport before travelling onwards to their final destination;

- breakdown of arrivals into Ireland of Irish residents returning home or foreign residents visiting Ireland is not available; and

- all statistics set out above are provisional figures provided by the airports and are subject to change.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 24.

Gambling Sector

Ceisteanna (34)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Ceist:

34. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice the status of the establishment of a gambling regulator. [22852/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Programme for Government, gives a clear commitment to establish a gambling regulator focused on public safety and wellbeing, covering gambling online and in person, and the powers to regulate advertising, gambling websites and apps.

Work is currently underway in my Department on the development of the legislation to provide for the necessary modern licensing and regulatory provisions for the Irish gambling industry. I hope to bring proposals in that regard to Government next year.

Given the size, complexity and technological development of the modern gambling industry and having regard to the current outdated and complex arrangements, it will be important that the regulator will be established on a strong footing and adequately resourced to carry out this important task.

Garda Equipment

Ceisteanna (35)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

35. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice her views on the use of spit hoods by An Garda Síochána; her further views on whether they should be discontinued as part of the review that An Garda Síochána is conducting into them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22892/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

At the outset I wish to emphasise that the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management of An Garda Síochána and its operations, including the use of protective equipment. As Minister, I have no role in these matters.

As the Deputy may be aware, An Garda Síochána is currently conducting a review of the use of anti-spit hoods, which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. I am looking forward to receiving the results of this review, and to the further discussions that will take place over the use of anti-spit hoods on foot of its recommendations. These discussions will involve both An Garda Síochána, the Policing Authority and all the other relevant bodies.

With regard to the small number of instances where anti-spit guards have been used during the Covid-19 emergency, I fully appreciate the concerns that have been raised in this regard. However, it is important to note that the deployment of this equipment has been limited, and that there are clear safeguards and monitoring in place, including through the oversight of Garda use by the Policing Authority in regular published reporting.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (36)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

36. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Justice if an inquiry or examination into the circumstances relating to the recent tragic death of an asylum seeker in emergency accommodation will be carried out; the form that examination or inquiry will take; and the expected timeframe of same. [22358/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I want to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased person in this tragic incident.

Where a person who is being provided with accommodation by my Department’s International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) sadly dies, a critical incident policy is in place to provide guidelines to my officials and to accommodation centre managers and their staff. My officials work closely with the centre manager to assist the person’s next of kin, if known, in accessing the supports provided by the State, and to ensure that any residents affected by the death are assisted in accessing support services.

My officials have contacted the HSE to request that all necessary supports are made available to the staff and residents at the centre concerned at this difficult time.

All known deaths and serious incidents that occur within accommodation centres provided by IPAS are referred to An Garda Síochána as a matter of course and the Gardaí in turn refer all deaths to the local Coroner’s Office. As such, the decision to carry out a formal investigation into the circumstances of sudden death of a resident of an accommodation centre rests with An Garda Síochána and the Coroner’s Office.

As is the case with all Gardaí and Coronial matters, my officials are not privy to information pertaining to individual investigations carried out under their remit. The only function of my officials is to provide information to An Garda Síochána and the Coroner’s Office when it is necessary to do so.

Crime Data

Ceisteanna (37)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

37. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice the number of instances of ramming of Garda vehicles each year in the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22844/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Firstly, I would strongly condemn any assault on, or action that causes harm to, serving members of An Garda Síochána or any action that causes damage to Garda resources or public property. An Garda Síochána perform a vital function in providing safety and security to our communities and should be applauded and supported for their service, not subject to assault or harm in the execution of their duties.

I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that incidents involving Gardaí in the line of duty are subject to investigation by the Gardaí in the first instance or, where appropriate, by GSOC in accordance with the law. These are operational matters for the Commissioner and the Ombudsman Commission and rest outside my remit as Minister.

While the specific data requested by the Deputy is not available, the table below details the number of collisions where a vehicle owned by An Garda Síochána was damaged based on operational data from PULSE. I should emphasise that these incidents do not necessarily involve the ramming of a Garda vehicle and should not be taken as a count of ramming incidents which are not specifically captured on PULSE.

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020*

National Total

36

43

40

63

45

42

* Figures up to and including 06th of September 2020.

Cybersecurity Policy

Ceisteanna (38)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

38. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice her plans in both legislation and possible organisational changes in tackling cybercrime in view of the numerous media reports of fraud perpetrated on bank customers and other commercial transactions; if she will have discussions with financial institutions regarding the retrieval of these fraudulently obtained funds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22888/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that it is an unwelcome reality that the technology advances that have benefited our society have also created new opportunities for those who seek to engage in fraud and criminality. Tackling and preventing fraud is of crucial importance to Ireland and to the wider international community. The Deputy may also wish to note that white collar crime is highlighted as an action area in the Programme for Government.

Combating and preventing fraud and related cybercrime falls under the remit of several Departments and Agencies, and my Department cooperates closely with colleagues across the whole of Government on this issue. It is vital however, that companies and individuals report any incidents of fraud to An Garda Síochána. The Garda National Cybercrime Bureau (GNCB) is involved in tackling cyber-enabled crimes in collaboration with other Garda units such as the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau.

A review of Ireland’s anti-fraud and anti-corruption structures, chaired by the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr James Hamilton, is currently examining the effectiveness of the State’s procedural, legislative and resourcing frameworks for the investigation, prosecution and prevention of fraud and corruption offences. I am advised that the Hamilton Review Group is currently finalising the draft report with a view to its publication in the coming weeks. I look forward to receiving the group’s recommendations, which will inform future changes in the State bodies and structures that combat fraud and protect the public.

With regard to legislative changes, Ireland signed the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime (the Budapest Convention) on the 28 February 2002. As outlined in the 2nd National Cyber Security Strategy, ratification of the Budapest Convention is aimed to be completed by the second quarter of 2021. The majority of the provisions contained in the Budapest Convention are already provided for in Irish law. My Department has been working to provide the remaining provisions required to enable ratification.

With regard to the retrieval of fraudulently obtained funds, these are operational matters for An Garda Síochána and the Criminal Assets Bureau, and as Minister I have no operational role. I would note however the existing cooperation between An Garda Síochána and financial institutions with regard to recovering funds. I note a recent instance where thanks to the prompt action of the business concerned and the relevant financial institution, An Garda Síochána were able to recover over €2 million obtained via invoice redirect fraud, in cooperation with international partners. I would echo the advice given by An Garda Síochána for all members of the public and all businesses to be wary during this pandemic, and to bring any concerns they have about such fraudulent behaviour to the attention of An Garda Síochána as quickly as possible.

Domestic Violence

Ceisteanna (39)

Martin Browne

Ceist:

39. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Justice the rate at which the crime of domestic violence has increased; her views on the way in which the figures are representative of the reality; the additional measures that have been taken to address the increase to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22889/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that combatting domestic abuse is a top priority for me as Minister and for the entire criminal justice system, particularly An Garda Síochána.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, is responsible for the compilation and publication of all crime statistics. The CSO produces these statistics using data recorded on An Garda Síochána’s PULSE system and makes regular releases under reservation in relation to various crime statistics, including recorded and detected crime. The CSO also continues to work with An Garda Síochána to address quality issues in the underlying sources used to compile the statistics.

Therefore the official statistics are those which will in due course be published by the CSO.

However the Garda authorities have provided my Department with initial, provisional, operational data which shows that :

- domestic abuse related calls have increased by approximately 24% in the year to date (while reflecting a worrying increase, I should make the point that this figure also reflects increased Garda protective activity and call backs to victims):

- breaches of Domestic Violence Order Incidents have increased by 10% in comparison to the same time period last year.

- Formal notifications to Tusla in the same time period have increased by 18%.

We have witnessed a rise in the rate of domestic abuse calls recorded by An Garda Síochána and incidents during the Covid-19 pandemic and while this is very troubling, it was not unexpected. In view of this, at an early stage in the Covid-19 pandemic, my Department developed an inter-agency action plan to help support those at risk of domestic abuse during the pandemic. The plan which recognises the added risk of domestic abuse which some people face during this period, has been kept under active review and is currently being updated.

As part of this inter-agency plan and in addition to the funding already allocated for 2020, my Department to date has provided an additional €285,000 to a number of organisations working in the sector, to support and extend the existing services they offer during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic. Other actions under the plan are aimed at ensuring that domestic abuse and sexual violence continue to receive the highest priority from the civil and criminal justice system. This includes priority by the Legal Aid Board and Courts Service for domestic abuse cases and availability of a Legal Aid Board helpline to ensure that persons experiencing domestic violence issues get prompt legal advice and legal representation in court where needed.

An Garda Síochána continues to attach the highest priority to domestic abuse incidents during the pandemic, including through ‘Operation Faoiseamh’, a proactive initiative designed to ensure victims of domestic abuse are supported and protected throughout the period.

In addition to these actions my Department is also leading a public awareness campaign on domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic, in partnership with frontline services in the community and voluntary sector. This campaign is known as ‘Still Here’ and it aims to get the message to those experiencing domestic abuse and sexual violence that support services from State agencies and the voluntary sector are still available and accessible to support victims during the Covid-19 pandemic. Further information on the organisations involved in this initiative as well as services and supports for victims is available on the website www.stillhere.ie.

I also understand that Tusla has put a range of practical supports in place including funding, identification of additional accommodation capacity, and provision of additional ICT resources during the Covid pandemic.

The Deputy may also wish to note that rent supplements are being made available by the Department of Social Protection on a short-term basis to victims of domestic abuse referred via Tusla-funded domestic abuse service providers, with these arrangements to be reviewed after six months of operation.

My Department is currently leading efforts to identify lessons which can be learned from the inter-agency plan put in place to address domestic abuse, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. This process includes input from the community and voluntary sector working in this area. The draft Programme for Government contains a commitment to conduct an audit of statutory responsibilities in this area. This audit will be undertaken in conjunction with NGOs and service providers.

In relation to the questions on services, primary responsibility for funding frontline services including refuges for victims of domestic abuse rests with Tusla. Tusla has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of domestic, sexual or gender based violence, and is providing €25.3 million in funding for these services in 2020. I have asked that my colleague, Minister O'Gorman, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs address elements in relation to funding frontline services.

Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service

Ceisteanna (40)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

40. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice her plans to address the backlog of applications for visas and work and residency permits with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22989/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Immigration Services Delivery (ISD) Division of my Department is currently processing approximately 15,000 applications that have been sent in by people seeking to renew their immigration registration.

Significant demand accumulated during the four months that the Registration Office was closed due to Covid-19. To assist in addressing this demand, a new online system for the renewal of Registrations in the Dublin area was developed and launched on 20 July, enabling applicants to safely engage with the Registration Office without the need to attend in person at Burgh Quay.

Since the launch of the new online renewal system, my Department has received over 22,000 applications from people who would otherwise have had to attend the Registration Office in person. The volume of applications, together with the reduced capacity of the Registration Office due to social distancing requirements, has resulted in longer than anticipated processing times. However, my officials have already completed approximately 7,000 of these cases.

My Department recognises the difficulties that delays may cause for applicants and it is providing additional resources to the Registration Office to increase its capacity to handle current demand. Where an applicant urgently needs their passport for travel or other such reasons, they should email the Registration Office at burghquayregoffice@justice.ie and set out the circumstances involved.

Similarly, it is the case that Irish Embassies and Visa Offices abroad would always have a large number of visa applicants’ passports on hand, while their visa applications are being processed. Normally if a person requires their passport back while their application is still being processed, they may contact the embassy or visa office that is processing their application to ask for the passport to be released to them. They must then make arrangements for it to be collected, and, if their application is approved, they would send it back to the embassy/visa office to have the visa added.

A limited resumption of visa services commenced from 22 June 2020. During this initial resumption phase, my Department is only accepting Long Stay “D” visa applications, including Study, as well as those identified under our current criteria as Emergency/Priority visas. It remains the position that we are not yet accepting any short stay visa applications, except for cases that fall under the Emergency/Priority criteria.

Applications for work permits are made to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Direct Provision System

Ceisteanna (41, 166)

Pa Daly

Ceist:

41. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Justice if the national standards for accommodation offered to persons in the protection process will be superseded by the forthcoming white paper on direct provision. [22959/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pa Daly

Ceist:

166. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Justice if the national standards for accommodation offered to persons in the protection process will be superseded by the forthcoming white paper on direct provision. [22371/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 166 together.

The National Standards for Accommodation offered to persons in the protection process (“National Standards”) were published in August 2019. The National Standards apply to the living conditions and services provided to residents within accommodation centres. They apply to all service providers contracted by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department to operate and manage accommodation and reception centres (also known as contractors).

The National Standards were developed through an Advisory Group that included representatives from Government Departments, state agencies, UNHCR Ireland and the NGO sector. The Standards are due to come into force in January 2021 and will address a range of themes including accommodation; food and catering; individual, community and family life; health and wellbeing; governance; and meeting the special reception needs of applicants. These reforms aim to build on the improvements arising from recommendations in the McMahon Report and meet the requirements of the EU Recast Reception Conditions Directive (Directive 2013/33/EU) which we voluntarily opted into in June 2018.

While my Department currently holds responsibility for the implementation of standards and reception conditions, this responsibility will shortly transfer to my colleague, the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration once the Transfer of Functions is completed.

A White Paper considering the totality of the international protection process, including the provision of accommodation, is due to be published by the end of this year. It will be a matter for Minister O’Gorman to decide on how the National Standards will be implemented as part of this process.

EU Directives

Ceisteanna (42)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

42. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice her views on and the status of the discontinuing seasonal changes time directive-639 for Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22887/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

In September 2018, the EU Commission announced a proposal for a directive discontinuing seasonal clock changes and repealing Directive 2000/84/EC (which previously dealt with the matter). All member states were requested to consider whether they supported this proposal and to indicate whether they would opt for permanent summer time or winter time, initially with a 2019 deadline which was later revised to 2021.

Following a Government decision in October 2018, an Interdepartmental Steering Group was established by the Department of Justice and Equality to oversee a public consultation process and report the findings to Government. The result of this consultation showed that while a majority of respondents were in favour of discontinuing seasonal clock changes, with a preference for remaining at summer time, the overwhelming majority would not be in favour of any change that would result in two time zones on the island of Ireland.

Discussions with member states on the proposal are ongoing via the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy (TTE) Council. I share the concern of a number of member states that the proposal may result in a ‘patchwork’ of time zones across the EU, causing unnecessary confusion and disruption to the single market. I also support the view that a full impact assessment of the proposal should be carried out.

The Government has made the Commission aware of the difficulties the proposed directive would cause in Ireland if it were to result in two time zones on this island, and we have opposed the introduction of the proposed directive on this basis.

Court Accommodation

Ceisteanna (43)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

43. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice the status of the redevelopment of the Family Law and Children’s Court complex on Hammond Lane, Dublin 7; the estimated cost of delivery; when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22992/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The total capital budget for the Courts Service in 2020 is €66.017 million, €15.380 million of which will be allocated for courthouse capital works for a variety of courthouses around the country and which will also allow for ongoing preparatory work on a dedicated Dublin Family Court complex on Hammond Lane.

My Department has, working with the Courts Service, been able to secure sufficient additional funding to allow the Hammond Lane Project to go ahead. While not in a position to provide exact figures as the future project will have to go to public tender, it will deliver a modern fit for purpose family court for the citizens of Dublin.

I am confident that this new Family Courts Project in Hammond Lane will be an important step towards reforming the family courts system in Ireland. Now that additional funding has been provided, it is expected that this project will commence shortly.

Citizenship Applications

Ceisteanna (44)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

44. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which applications for citizenship and stamp 4 are up to date; if particular steps have been taken or are in hand to deal with backlogs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22808/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Immigration Services Delivery (ISD) Division of my Department is currently processing approximately 15,000 applications for the renewal of immigration registration.

Significant demand accumulated during the four months that the Registration Office was closed due to Covid-19. To assist in addressing this demand, a new online system for the renewal of Registrations in the Dublin area was developed and launched on 20 July, enabling applicants to safely engage with the Registration Office without the need to attend in person at Burgh Quay. However

Since the launch of the new online renewal system, my Department has received over 22,000 applications from people who would otherwise have had to attend the Registration Office in person. The volume of applications, together with the reduced capacity of the Registration Office due to social distancing requirements, has resulted in longer than anticipated processing times. However, my officials have completed approximately 7,000 cases already.

I, along with the officials in my Department recognise the difficulties that delays may cause for applicants and are committed to providing additional resources to the Registration Office to increase its capacity to handle current demand.

It should be noted that there are currently no backlogs associated with first time Stamp 4 registrations which are carried out in person.

Regarding Citizenship applications, the Deputy may be aware of a challenge taken in the High Court last year by an applicant who was refused a certificate of naturalisation due to his absences from the State during the last year continuous prior to the date of his application. The outcome of this ruling – which was subsequently successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal – resulted in significant delays to the processing of naturalisation applications last year.

In addition, the restrictions attendant to the current COVID-19 pandemic have regrettably resulted in significant challenges to the delivery of normal services. Currently there are approximately 21,000 applications on hand, at various stages within the system, ranging from those just received by the Division to those where a decision has been made but it is not possible to issue an invitation to a ceremony. All applicants 18 years and older must attend at a citizenship ceremony in order to make a declaration of fealty to the State, administered by a Presiding Officer, normally a retired member of the Judiciary.

As a result of these restrictions, the Citizenship Division of Immigration Service Delivery is experiencing significant disruption in delivering its core functions. Working within these restrictions, public safety and the wellbeing of staff are of course both urgent priorities.

The pilot virtual Citizenship Ceremony that took place on 10 July 2020, involved 21 applicants. As I indicated at that time, a review was underway and consideration of that review is now in its final stages.

As I have said previously, a critical consideration is the protection of the welfare and safety of the participants and the general public. It is also essential that any arrangements put in place ensure that the event is held with an appropriate degree of dignity and solemnity, as befits an event of such importance in the lives of our newest citizens. At this same time, it is not desirable for extended delays to become a feature of the system, while having regard to the practical aspects of the citizenship process. As a consequence, a critical aspect of the review concerns the ability to provide a scalable solution. The ceremony model will need to be able to meet the requirements of applicants and my Department for an as yet indeterminate period of time. My intention is to make a decision as to how to proceed shortly.

It remains my intention that large scale ceremonies will recommence once circumstances allow.

Cumas Gaeilge sa Gharda Síochána

Ceisteanna (45)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

45. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Dlí agus Cirt an bhfuil sé mar bheartas ag a Roinn a chinntiú go lonnófar comhaltaí den Gharda Síochána a bhfuil Gaeilge acu sna ceantair Ghaeltachta; cad é an líon comhaltaí den Gharda Síochána a bhfuil liúntas Gaeilge á fháil acu faoi láthair, agus cad iad na stáisiúin ina bhfuil siad lonnaithe; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [22387/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Mar a thuigfidh tú, is é Coimisinéir na nGardaí agus a fhoireann bhainistíochta amháin atá freagrach as dáileadh acmhainní, lena n-áirítear pearsanra, i measc Ranna éagsúla na nGardaí agus níl aon ról díreach agamsa, mar Aire, san ábhar. Coinníonn bainistíocht na nGardaí dáileadh seo na n-acmhainní faoi shíor-athbhreithniú i gcomhthéacs threochtaí na coireachta agus tosaíochtaí póilínithe, chun a chinntiú go mbaintear an úsáid is fearr is féidir as na hacmhainní sin.

Tá an Garda Síochána lántiomanta do dhualgais na heagraíochta faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla agus Acht an Gharda Síochána, 2005, a chomhlíonadh.

Foráiltear le halt 33 d’Acht an Gharda Síochána, 2005, go gcinnfidh an Coimisinéir an modh ina bhfuil comhaltaí den Gharda Síochána le dáileadh agus le bheith ar stáisiún ar fud an Stáit. Agus an fheidhm sin á cur i gcrích, foráiltear leis an alt, thairis sin, go gcinnteoidh an Coimisinéir, a mhéid is féidir, go mbeidh comhaltaí den Gharda Síochána a bheidh ar stáisiún i gCeantar ina bhfuil limistéar Gaeltachta inniúil go leor sa Ghaeilge chun a chur ar a gcumas í a úsáid go saoráideach agus a ndualgais á gcomhlíonadh acu.

Chun cuidiú leat, chuaigh mé i dteagmháil leis an gCoimisinéir agus tá curtha in iúl dom go bhfuiltear tar éis na bearta seo a leanas a dhéanamh le blianta anuas in iarracht chun a chinntiú go ndéantar Gardaí atá inniúil sa Ghaeilge a imlonnú i stáisiúin Ghaeltachta.

1. Beartas Earcaíochta

Rinne an Garda Síochána athrú ar a bheartas earcaíochta i 2013, trína ndéantar suas le 10% de gach grúpa nua a ghlactar isteach a chur in áirithe do chainteoirí líofa Gaeilge. Rinne an tSeirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí sainsruth Gaeilge a chur san áireamh i ngach comórtas nua, agus cuireann Gardaí a thagann isteach san eagraíocht de cheangal orthu féin roinnt blianta a chaitheamh i limistéar Gaeltachta tar éis dóibh oiliúint agus taithí leordhóthanach a fháil i stáisiún oiliúna, agus má mheasann a n-oifigeach Roinne gur cuí sin.

Bhíothas ag súil leis, tar éis an Sruth Gaeilge a chur ar bun, go mbeadh buíon mhór Gaeilgeoirí ar fáil ag an eagraíocht. Ní raibh mar thoradh ar an gcéad chomórtas earcaíochta inar seoladh an Sruth, áfach, ach 29 comhalta agus, ó shin i leith, ní dhearna ach líon beag iarratasóirí iarratas agus bhain amach na céimeanna deiridh i ngach feachtas ina dhiaidh sin – mar shampla, ní raibh mar thoradh ar an Sruth Gaeilge ón bhfeachtas earcaíochta deireanach ach 3 Gardaí faoi oiliúint, d’ainneoin go bhfuil 10% de na háiteanna á gcur in áirithe do chainteoirí líofa Gaeilge ag an eagraíocht.

Déanann an Garda Síochána gach iarracht chun comhaltaí ón Sruth Gaeilge a leithdháileadh chuig stáisiúin oiliúna i Roinn ina bhfuil Gaeltacht.

2. Treoir 49/2018 ón gCeanncheathrú – Painéal Gaeilge

Eisíodh Treoir 49/2018 ón gCeanncheathrú i 2018 chun a chinntiú go gcomhlíonfaí ár ndualgais reachtúla trí gan ligean ach do chomhaltaí atá líofa sa Ghaeilge aistriú go stáisiúin Ghaeltachta ar fud na tíre. Tá Painéal Gaeilge a forbraíodh le déanaí san áireamh sa bheartas nua, agus tá comhaltaí san áireamh ann ag grád Garda agus Sáirsint a léirigh spéis i bheith ag obair i Stáisiún Gardaí Gaeltachta agus a léirigh inniúlacht ag Leibhéal 4 nó níos airde i Measúnú Inniúlachta nua an Gharda Síochána sa Ghaeilge Labhartha.

Tá bealaí á mbreithniú ag an nGarda Síochána chun a chinntiú, bunaithe ar Threoir 49/2018 ón gCeanncheathrú, go mbeidh beartas éifeachtach leithdháilte acmhainní Gaeilge bunaithe do stáisiúin nach bhfuil i limistéar Gaeltachta ach a fhreastalaíonn ar phobal Gaeltachta.

Amhail de réir an phárolla is déanaí, tá 209 comhalta den Gharda Síochána ag fáil an liúntais Gaeltachta faoi láthair. Tá na comhaltaí sin lonnaithe sna Ranna seo a leanas, sna stáisiúin/oifigí atá liostáilte:

Gaillimh

Leacht Seoirse

An Cheathrú Rua

Cill Rónáin

Indreabhán

Maigh Cuilinn

Ros Muc

An Spidéal

Carna

An Mám

Órán Mór

Cloch na Rón

Gaillimh (Sráid an Mhuilinn)

Áth Cinn

An Clochán

Bóthar na Trá

Ceanncheathrú Réigiúin an Iarthuaiscirt, an Rinn Mhór

Dún na nGall

An Fál Carrach

An Bun Beag

An Clochán Liath

An Charraig

An Craoslach

Ard an Rátha

Carraig Airt

Dún Fionnachaidh

Na Gleannta

Bealach Féich

Cill Mhic Réanáin

Ciarraí

Daingean Uí Chúis

Baile an Fheirtéaraigh

Cathair Saidhbhín

Caisleán Ghriaire

Cill Orglan

An Caladh

An tSnaidhm

An Coireán

Maigh Eo

Gob an Choire

Béal an Mhuirthead

Gleann na Muaidhe

Iarthar Chorcaí

Baile Bhuirne

Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh

An Chláir

Inis

Garda Stations

Ceisteanna (46)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

46. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice if consideration is being given to the closing of further Garda stations; her policy in this regard; the number of Garda stations that were closed that were reopened in the past ten years; the location of each; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22388/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to An Garda Síochána, including responsibility for the formulation of proposals in relation to the opening and closing of Garda stations, taking into account crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure that the best possible use is made of these resources. Further, the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda estate currently includes 569 Garda Stations. I am further informed that there are no plans to close any of these stations at present.

Under the Garda Station Rationalisation Programme of 2012 and 2013, one hundred and thirty-nine (139) Garda Stations were closed nationwide.

This included Kilmihil Garda Station, Clare which was closed on the 31 January 2013 as part of the Garda Station Rationalisation Programme 2013. However, following a further review of stations in the Clare Division, Kilmihil Garda Station reopened on 2 March 2015 and Lissycasey Garda Station was closed in its place.

The Programme for Government 2016 contained a commitment to reopen six Garda Stations on a pilot basis. This Programme committed the Government to “launch a pilot scheme to reopen 6 Garda Stations both urban and rural to determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order”.

A report was prepared by Assistant Commissioner Special Crime Operations and accepted by the Commissioner, which identified Rush Garda Station, Co. Dublin; Stepaside Garda Station, Co. Dublin; Bawnboy Garda Station, Co. Cavan; Donard Garda Station, Co. Wicklow; Leighlinbridge Garda Station, Co. Carlow; and Ballinspittle Garda Station, Co. Cork as the six stations to be reopened under the Pilot Programme.

To date, An Garda Síochána in conjunction with the OPW has successfully completed the refurbishment of four of the six Garda Stations to be reopened under the Pilot Programme, i.e. Donard Garda Station, Co. Wicklow; Ballinspittle Garda Station, Co. Cork; Stepaside Garda Station, Co. Dublin; and Rush Garda Station, Co. Dublin.

There are two Garda Stations remaining which will require refurbishment in order to enable them to reopen as part of the Pilot Programme; Bawnboy, Co. Cavan and Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow.

As the deliberative process between An Garda Síochána and the OPW to develop proposals for the reopening of Leighlinbridge and Bawnboy Garda Stations is on-going, it is not possible to provide a timeline for the reopening of both stations until the detailed and definitive design is agreed and a fully costed estimate is determined.

Emergency Services

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 22.

Ceisteanna (47)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

47. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice the status of the staged deployment of a new national computer-aided dispatch system to capture emergency calls and dispatch of resources to the incident; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22990/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for carrying on and managing the administration and business of the organisation as well as for the allocation of Garda resources, in light of identified operational demands. As Minister, I have no role in those matters.

In relation to Computer Aided Dispatch, phase 1 is now complete and provides basic CAD support nationwide. This system, which supports the Command and Control function by providing real time information and streamlining calls for service, has been deployed to the 4 Regional Control Centres, DMR/Eastern Region, Western/Northern Region, South Eastern Region and the Southern Region.

As the Deputy is aware, a full modernisation of the underlying 20 year old CAD software is still required. The CAD 2 programme is currently the subject of a procurement process.

Record resources of €1.88 billion, as well as a substantial capital allocation of €116 million, have been made available to An Garda Síochána in 2020. Very significant capital investment is also being made in An Garda Síochána, including investment of €342 million in Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 and investment of €46 million in the Garda fleet over the same period.

The Garda Commissioner is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of these resources and Garda management confirm that a broad range of ICT projects and initiatives are being progressed in that regard.

This capital funding on Garda ICT infrastructure will support existing Garda ICT systems and develop them further, to support the ongoing business requirements of An Garda Síochána and enabling them to deploy the latest, cutting-edge technologies in the fight against crime.

A number of key ICT initiatives are currently moving to implementation phase, including for example projects such as:

- rollout of the Rosters and Duty Management System, which will give supervisors better and faster information on the resources available to them;

- phased implementation of the Mobility project, which aims to provide operational Garda members with secure mobile access to Garda systems along with Garda Apps including in particular in relation to roads;

- rollout on a pilot basis of the Investigations Management System, which will standardise, digitise and support the management of all investigations arising from a PULSE incident; and

- staged deployment of a new national Computer Aided Dispatch System, to capture emergency calls and dispatch of resources to the incident.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 22.

Parental Alienation

Ceisteanna (49)

Verona Murphy

Ceist:

49. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Justice if a working group will be established to consider all aspects of parental alienation including consideration of a referral of the issue to the Law Reform Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22812/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The issue of parental alienation is highly complex.

While there is no specific legislative provision regarding parental alienation in Irish family law, section 246 of the Children Act 2001 provides for an offence of frightening, bullying or threatening a child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the child's physical, mental or emotional health or wellbeing. There is also a range of legislative provisions in place for dealing with child welfare particularly regarding the relationship between a child and his/her parents or guardians, providing the framework for a legal response to a wide spectrum of child welfare issues.

The Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality on Reform of the Family Law System, which was published late last year, considered the issue of parental alienation among a broad range of issues in the area of family law. While there are no plans to refer this particular topic to the Law Reform Commission, a Family Justice Oversight Group has recently been established within my Department and consideration of the various recommendations contained in the Committee’s Report will be integrated into the work of that group.

Sex Offenders Treatment Programme

Ceisteanna (50)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

50. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice her plans to reform the monitoring of sex offenders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22916/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. I understand there can be concerns on the part of communities when it comes to the issue of rehabilitation of sex offenders and protection of public safety.

First it is important to note that there are already provisions in existing law in relation to the management of sex offenders after they have been released from prison.

The Sex Offenders Act 2001 provides that a Court can impose conditions on a convicted sex offender as part of their post-release supervision. Further, where An Garda Síochána believe that a convicted offender poses a serious risk to the public, an application can be made to the courts for a Sex Offender Order under s.16 of the 2001 Act. A Sex Offender Order can prohibit the offender from doing anything the Court considers necessary, in order to ensure that the public is protected from serious harm.

In terms of legislative reform, I can confirm that the General Scheme of the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill was developed by my Department following a comprehensive review of current law and administrative practice. The General Scheme was approved by Government in June 2018 and it is available on my Department’s website.

The Bill is currently with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting. My officials and that Office are working together to finalise the draft with a view to publication of the Bill as soon as possible.

The purpose of the Bill is to enhance current systems for assessment and management of convicted sex offenders and to put those systems on a statutory footing. While the drafting process is not yet complete, the main provisions are expected to include:

- Stricter notification requirements including requiring offenders to notify Gardaí of their address upon release from custody, or any subsequent change of address, within 3 days as opposed to the existing 7 days.

- Provision to allow for fingerprinting and photographing the offender, where necessary to confirm their identity.

- Enhanced supervision of high-risk offenders, including, in limited circumstances, the electronic monitoring of offenders subject to post-release supervision orders.

- The placing on a legislative footing of assessment teams to assess and manage the risk posed by sex offenders.

- Provisions whereby a court can prohibit a sex offender from working with children.

- Provision for a statutory basis for the necessary disclosure of information relating to a high-risk offender on the ‘sex offenders register’. The information in relation to an offender which may be disclosed include the name, address and threat posed by the offender. It is intended that the disclosure would only be made to the minimum number of people necessary to avert a serious risk to safety.

Commission on the Future of Policing

Ceisteanna (51)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

51. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice her views on the report of the commission on the future of policing in Ireland; if the agreed document drawn up by the three Government parties on the implementation of the commission report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22834/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I would like to assure the Deputy that the implementation of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (CoFPI) is a key priority for me as Minister for Justice. This opinion is shared by my colleagues across Government, and our commitment to implementation is reflected in the new Programme for Government - Our Shared Future.

The Deputy will be aware that in September 2018, the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland published its final report, outlining a clear vision and roadmap for strengthening An Garda Síochána and the broader national framework for policing, security and community safety.

There is already an extensive implementation framework in place with respect to CoFPI. In December 2018, Government published A Policing Service for our Future – the 4-year Plan (2019-2022) to implement the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. The Plan was developed in cooperation with stakeholders from across the public service, in particular, An Garda Síochána.

The Policing Reform Implementation Programme Office (PRIPO) – which is based in the Department of the Taoiseach – monitors progress on the actions contained in APSFF, supporting the work of the Implementation Group on Policing Reform (IGPR), and keeping the High Level Steering Board on Policing Reform and Government apprised of the progress being made.

In 2020, the third phase of the implementation of APSFF – the Scaling Phase – is scheduled to commence. This is the critical phase of the programme of reform, during which the programme gains momentum. The delivery of the majority of the actions will be started or executed during the Scaling Phase. The Scaling Phase builds on the progress achieved under the Building Blocks and Launching phases which set and implemented the foundations for the success of the Plan.

Progress in 2020 has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I have been encouraged to see the responsiveness and flexibility shown by An Garda Síochána in dealing with the demands of this unprecedented situation. IGPR is continuing to work with key stakeholders to identify priority actions for implementation and is actively engaged in ensuring continued momentum on the key reforms in so far as possible under the current circumstances.

That being said, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that much has already been achieved under APSFF. For example, the roll-out of a new Operating Model for An Garda Síochána has commenced. This model is designed to streamline Garda administration and to provide a more visible, responsive and localised policing service to communities nationwide.

In 2019, approximately 600 new Garda recruits attested and were assigned to frontline policing duties nationwide. In addition, An Garda Síochána recruited almost 750 Garda Staff. This has allowed approximately 600 Gardaí to be reassigned from administrative to frontline operational policing duties where their training and expertise can be used to best effect.

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2019 has been enacted which gives Gardaí access to the Workplace Relations Commission for the first time and provides for a modern industrial relations framework within An Garda Síochána.

An Garda Síochána has established and strengthened resourcing of a Human Rights Unit and re-established the Strategic Human Rights Advisory Committee. Also, the National Security Analysis Centre (NSAC) has been established, and the Director of NSAC has been appointed;

Furthermore, there is ongoing progress on legislative reform. For example, the Government has given approval for legislation to be drafted to underpin the use of recording devices (including body worn cameras) and for the codification of legislation defining police powers of arrest, search and detention.

Work is also well advanced on the development of the General Scheme of the Policing and Community Safety Bill to give legislative effect to the recommendations of the CoFPI Report. It 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 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, while ensuring both strong internal governance and robust, transparent external oversight as well as effective accountability which will ultimately lead to a better run organisation and more effective policing. Following consultations with the Garda Commissioner and the oversight bodies which are underway at present on the detail of the proposals, I hope to bring the matter before Cabinet in the near future.

These measures and achievements represent only some of the wide range of actions being progressed under APSFF. Further information on progress and updates on the implementation of A Policing Service for our Future can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/065724-policing-reform/

Crime Prevention

Ceisteanna (52)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Ceist:

52. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Justice her views on the serious issue of drug-related intimidation and reporting in County Louth. [22993/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that proactively tackling all forms of drug crime is a priority for An Garda Síochána. The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) is having significant success in disrupting drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs by organised crime groups. Its work is supported by Divisional Drugs Units nationwide, and by all Gardaí working in local communities. It also works closely and productively with international law enforcement partners.

The Deputy will be familiar with the National Drugs Strategy, "Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025 ". The Strategy is unique among national drugs strategies across EU Member States in recognising the need to address drug-related debt intimidation at a community level.

The Strategy includes an action (4.1.42) which specifically relates to strengthening the effectiveness of the Drug-Related Intimidation Reporting Programme. The programme, which was developed by An Garda Síochána in partnership with the National Family Support Network (NFSN) to respond to the needs of drug users and family members who may be subject to the threat of drug related intimidation, has been implemented on a national level since 2013.

Funding for the programme is provided by the Department of Health via the Family Support Networks / Drugs Task Forces. My Department continues to support An Garda Síochána and Department of Health in relation to public information about the programme.

An Garda Síochána regard drug-related intimidation as a hugely serious issue which impacts significantly on communities throughout Ireland. An Garda Síochána advise people to seek help and support from their local Gardaí even where a person has felt compelled to pay money to those who engage in drug related intimidation.

Cases are dealt with in a confidential and secure manner and, insofar as is possible, An Garda Síochána provides practical personal security and safety information and advice in relation to particular threats or instances of intimidation, along with information on appropriate drug support services for any member of a family who is accruing drug debts, while also providing information regarding the process involved in making a formal complaint relating to alleged intimidation.

In line with the Strategy, the GNDOCB has briefed senior Garda managers throughout the country in relation to the most effective handling of suspected incidents of drug-related intimidation and, in particular, the potential role of the programme in this regard.

Seminars are delivered by the GNDOCB and the NFSN to the Garda Inspectors assigned in each division to ensure appropriate implementation of the programme. Attendees at these seminars also include members of Drugs & Alcohol Task Forces as well as Gardaí in local drugs units.

Awareness of the programme is also promoted to all Gardaí and regional management through the GNDOCB and - with the assistance of the NFSN, relevant agencies, Regional and Local Drug & Alcohol Task Forces and community groups - in communities throughout the country.

Information in relation to the Drug Related Intimidation Reporting Programme and a list of the nominated Inspectors countrywide is available on the Garda Síochána Website, www.garda.ie, the National Family Support Network website and the www.Drugs.ie website.