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Gnáthamharc

Thursday, 25 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 162-181

Domestic Violence

Ceisteanna (162)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

162. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice if the immigration system will be reformed to protect the victims and survivors of domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence who are placed at additional risk given their residency is based on being a dependent or due to the fact they are undocumented. [57977/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

My Department has put in place Victims of Domestic Violence Immigration Guidelines. The Guidelines rightly state that no one should have to suffer domestic violence and recognise that migrants may have additional vulnerability in this area, as the perpetrator may threaten a victim with the loss of their status if they report the abuse.

For a person who is the victim of domestic abuse and whose permission to be in the State is linked to their partner, the issue of their status will be dealt with sensitively by the immigration authorities and each case will be assessed on an individual basis. I would urge anyone in this situation to approach my Department for advice and assistance and I can assure any victim of abuse that they will be supported and protected.

I would also encourage them to reach out for help as soon as it is safe to do so. They can contact the Women’s Aid Freephone Helpline on 1800 341 900. The Helpline can access interpretation and can provide information on support services throughout Ireland.

In line with the Immigration Guidelines, an application may be made from inside the State by a person whose immigration status as the dependent of an Irish or foreign national is valid. If the permission is not currently valid, the person may still make an application.

One of the standard conditions of an immigration permission granted in the State, is that the holder must be of good character and engaging in domestic violence would not be in line with this condition and could lead to the revocation or non-renewal of the perpetrator’s own immigration status.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government committed to introducing new pathways to status regularisation within 18 months of its formation. My Justice Plan 2021 contains a commitment to create new pathways for long-term undocumented people and their dependents who must meet specified criteria to regularise their status. We are now working to finalise the details for the scheme, including eligibility considerations and qualifying criteria, with a view to bringing a proposal to Government and to publish the details of the scheme before the end of this year.

Departmental Strategies

Question No. 164 answered with Question No. 155.

Ceisteanna (163)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Ceist:

163. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice the progress made in relation to the youth justice strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57973/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, Minister McEntee and I launched the Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027 earlier this year. The immediate priority within the new Strategy is to enhance engagement with children and young people who are most at risk of involvement in criminal activity, principally by strengthening the services available through the existing network of 105 Youth Diversion Projects (YDPs) across the State.

YDPs engage with young people through a range of supports, including education, training and employment support, social enterprise initiatives, as well as personal development activities and supports such as mentoring. Experience in the operation of the Children Act highlights the need to include children below the age of criminal responsibility (12 for most offences) in preventative measures, and to consider the extension of measures to divert young offenders away from the criminal justice system beyond the age of 18.

Dedicated cross-agency oversight structures have been established to monitor and support the implementation of the Youth Justice Strategy, and these are further assisted by a Youth Justice Advisory Group, which I chair, that provides a standing forum to reflect views and concerns from the community sector and expert stakeholders. The commitment in the strategy to evidence-informed policies and practice is further enhanced through a Research Evidence into Policy Programmes and Practice (REPPP) Advisory Group which allows input from the wider research community to support the REPPP research partnership with University of Limerick.

I am pleased to note that the additional €6.7m provided for in Budget 2022 represents an increase of in excess of one third in support for youth justice services. It provides the resources to kick-start delivery of key objectives in the Youth Justice Strategy and, in particular, the programme to expand and deepen the range of supports made available through local YDP services. The main elements of this work are:

- Establishment of a limited number of new youth projects and boundary extensions of existing projects so as to ensure that the youth diversion services are available throughout the State by end-2022 or shortly thereafter.

- Enhancement of the youth diversion service, in accordance with identified local needs, to include:

- Early intervention and family support work

- Outreach with harder-to-engage young people

- Support for schools to retain challenging children

- Other specific initiatives e.g. in relation to anti-social use of scramblers and knife crime issues.

- Dedicated research and expert support, including best practice support for the nationwide project network, facilitated by the REPPP project team in the University of Limerick.

Question No. 164 answered with Question No. 155.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (165)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

165. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice if she will report on Operation Citizen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57746/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Government is determined to tackle anti-social behaviour and I am very conscious of the impact it can have on the quality of life for local communities, including in Dublin city centre.

We want people to feel safe and be safe in Dublin, whether they live or work in Dublin or want to visit and enjoy our capital city. The Deputy will be aware that Budget 2022 includes significant additional funding to support initiatives under the Youth Justice Strategy and the new Community Safety Innovation Fund which will support community based initiatives to ensure public safety. In addition, North Inner City Dublin is one of three pilot locations where Local Community Safety Partnerships have been established.

Gardaí continue to implement high visibility policing plans to address public disorder related issues and anti-social behaviour, with particular overt and targeted policing of public places at times when public order incidents and anti-social behaviour typically increase, such as bank holiday weekends.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Citizen commenced in Dublin city centre on 22 October 2021. This operation places a particular focus on anti-social behaviour, public order and quality of life issues, assaults and high-volume crimes, and involves increased visible policing, particularly at key locations. In addition to Garda resources from the Dublin Metropolitan Region North Central and South Central divisions, Operation Citizen is supported by resources from the wider Dublin Region, Garda Roads Policing Units, the Garda National Public Order Unit and Garda Operational Support Units (Mounted Unit and Dog Unit).

I am advised by the Garda authorities that there are in excess of 100 Gardaí patrolling Dublin city centre each weekend evening. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening from 4pm, up to 30 additional Gardaí are deployed specifically on foot patrols in the city centre, resourced from outside the two core city centre divisions. Every Friday and Saturday evening, a Garda National Public Order Unit of 25 personnel (on mobile patrols) patrol the city centre. In excess of 500 additional hours policing are provided each week.

During the first full week of Operation Citizen (25 October – 31 October 2021), including Bank Holiday Monday (25 October) and Halloween (31 October), An Garda Síochána advise that there were in excess of 50 arrests and 65 charges preferred before the courts.

An Garda Síochána have provided me with the below provisional crime statistics, up to week ending 31 October 2021, which continue to demonstrate reductions across the vast majority of crime types compared to the same year to date period in 2020, despite far greater public restrictions in place in 2020 and the current far higher public usage of public spaces.

-

Dublin Region

North Central

South Central

Assaults Causing Harm

0%

-2%

0%

Minor Assaults

-6%

-4%

-18%

Public Order Offences

-11%

-20%

-3%

Drunkenness Offences

-5%

-10%

-5%

Crimes against the Person

-4%

-6%

-10%

Theft from Shop

-15%

-15%

+3%

Theft from Person

-46%

-46%

-53%

Theft from Vehicle

-35%

-18%

-23%

Theft of Pedal Cycle

-17%

-9%

-13%

Robbery from the Person

-23%

-20%

-2%

Note: All crime statistics are operational, provisional and subject to change.

The Deputy may be interested to note that Garda Operation Soteria is also in place to ensure a reduction of assaults in public, reduce fear of violence within communities, prioritise assault investigations and focus on problem areas and assault hotspots.

Antisocial Behaviour

Question No. 167 answered with Question No. 158.

Ceisteanna (166)

Mark Ward

Ceist:

166. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Justice if she will report on the use of antisocial behaviour orders; and the purpose of same. [58048/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the issuing of an antisocial behaviour order is made at the direction of the District Court upon application of An Garda Síochána. As Minister of State, I play no role in these independent functions.

It should be understood that in setting up the provisions to tackle anti-social behaviour on foot of the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, provision was made for a number of preliminary interventions - warnings, good behaviour contracts and referrals to the Juvenile Diversion Programme - which were intended to address the problem behaviour. The rationale was that if these measures succeeded, there would be no need to apply to the courts for an order. It was only if the measures failed to lead to a behaviour adjustment by the person in question that an application for a court order would be made.

I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána remains committed to tackling public disorder and anti-social behaviour by working with communities to reduce this type of behaviour and enhance community safety. The Garda approach includes a strong focus on quality of life issues and collaboration with local authorities, businesses and other stakeholders to help address the causes of anti-social behaviour.

It is widely acknowledged that the use of behaviour warnings and civil orders are only suitable in certain circumstances, and indeed it is only one crime prevention option open to An Garda Síochána in tackling this type of crime. As the Deputy will be aware, An Garda Síochána already employs a wide range of operational measures aimed at tackling public-order offences and anti-social behaviour.

These measures are underpinned by a comprehensive legal framework. Of course, addressing local community concerns in relation to public order and anti-social behaviour is a key focus in An Garda Síochána's National Community Policing Model and a range of strong legislative provisions are available to An Garda Síochána in this regard, including the following:

- Criminal Damage Act 1991

- Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994

- Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 and

- Intoxicating Liquor Acts 2003 and 2008.

As the Deputy will also be aware, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, I last year established an Expert Forum on Anti-Social Behaviour. This forum is considering the effectiveness of existing legislation and looking at proposals for new ways forward, including new powers for An Garda Síochána, if necessary, and additional interventions to support parenting of offenders.

Question No. 167 answered with Question No. 158.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (168)

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Ceist:

168. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Justice her plans to ensure that incidences of drink and needle spiking are being recorded and categorised on the PULSE system in order to ascertain the scale of the crime; if there is flexibility in the categorisation and de-aggregation of data available from the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57998/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Spiking a person’s drink or spiking someone by injection are obviously very serious offences. They are, in effect, poisoning and they are criminal offences, under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, that can result in a three year prison term.

I can assure the Deputy that any incident of this type of crime, including those with evidence to suggest a link with ‘spiking’, will be investigated by either local Gardaí supported by, or attached to, Divisional Protective Services Units.

As the Deputy will appreciate, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended), the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of Garda business, including the direction of investigation priorities for the organisation and the management of the PULSE system.

I am unable to provide any information regarding the management of PULSE or the manner in which information is stored on and retrieved from the system. As Minister, I play no role in these independent functions.

For the Deputy's information, I have been advised by the Garda authorities that identifying incidents which involve drink or needle spiking is dependent on the use of keywords in the incident narrative or investigation notes. A search was carried out for incidents reported between 01/01/2021 and 21/11/2021 which include any of the following terms in the narrative or investigation notes: “spike”, “spiking” “needle”, “syringe” or “date rape”. Some incidents contained these terms but did not relate to drink or needle spiking.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that this search indicates that, as of 21 November 2021, there have been 46 crime incidents recorded nationally this year. 25 of these incidents specifically refer to syringes or needles. The remaining 21 either refer to drink spiking or do not specify the method of spiking.

Figures are based on data obtained from PULSE on 22/11/2021. Crime counting rules are not applied. All figures are operational and liable to change.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (169)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

169. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí in the DMR east as of 1 November 2021 or the latest date available; the number in the past 12 months previously; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58054/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including the deployment of Garda members. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.

I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of policing priorities and crime trends, to ensure their optimum use. I further understand that it is a matter for the Divisional Chief Superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her, having regard to the profile of each area within the Division and its specific needs.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that on 31 October 2021, there were 370 Gardaí assigned to DMR East. On 31 October 2020, there were 379 Gardaí assigned to DMR East.

As the Deputy will appreciate, Garda numbers nationwide can be affected by a number of factors, including retirements, medical discharges and resignations. The impact of policing measures and other steps to support the public health restrictions has also, exceptionally, had an impact across the country over the past two years. However, I am pleased to note that recruitment has resumed and that 385 trainees are engaged in their training following intakes in May, July, September and earlier this month.

Budget 2022 has provided an unprecedented allocation of in excess of €2 billion to An Garda Síochána, which includes funding for the recruitment of up to an additional 800 Gardaí and a further 400 Garda staff, subject to the public health situation. This significant investment demonstrates the Government's commitment to increasing the Garda workforce to enable the organisation to keep our communities safe.

For the Deputy's information, detailed statistics on Garda workforce numbers are published on my Department's website and updated on a monthly basis.

Child Abduction

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 155.

Ceisteanna (170)

Kathleen Funchion

Ceist:

170. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Justice the steps she has taken in relation to the abduction of a child (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57945/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Irish Central Authority for Child Abduction is located within my Department. The Central Authority can only assist on cases where children have been removed from this jurisdiction to a country that is a bilateral partner to the 1980 Hague Convention, that is, where their accession is accepted by this jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s accession to the Hague Convention became effective in 2017. To date, only 12 countries have accepted their accession. For Ireland and Pakistan to become bilateral partners, a Council Decision must be taken at EU level on whether to accept the accession of Pakistan. A proposal for such a decision was published by the European Commission in July this year, COM(2021) 368 final. At this point in time Pakistan’s accession is not yet accepted by the EU.

When a member of the public contacts the Central Authority and the country is not a bilateral partner or there is no agreement between Ireland and that country, they are advised to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs, Consular Assistance Office on 01 4082527 or at: consularassistance@dfa.ie.

I understand that representations have been made to their consular assistance office and that the relevant Embassy (Ankara) has been made aware of the situation.

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 155.

Departmental Funding

Ceisteanna (172, 180)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

172. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice the timeline for the introduction of the first round of funding under the community safety innovation fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57745/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

180. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice the expected timeline for the introduction of the first round of funding under the community safety innovation fund. [57915/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 180 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, Budget 2022 provides for the establishment of the new Community Safety Innovation Fund. It is intended that this fund will support investment in projects which will improve community safety. The fund, which is expected to grow in the coming years, will have an initial outlay in 2022 of €2m.

A call for funding proposals will issue seeking applications for community safety projects and similar initiatives from bodies involved in community safety, such as the new Local Community Safety Partnerships – pilots of which are in place in North Inner City Dublin, Waterford and Longford – and the Drogheda Implementation Board, as well as similar entities nationwide.

Applications will be assessed against stated criteria outlined in the call for proposals to ensure funding is allocated to encourage the development of innovative ways in which to improve community safety from those people who understand local community safety needs best. It will also allow best practice on community safety to be shared with other bodies involved in community safety around the country as new proposals get developed.

These criteria for allocating funding are currently under consideration and will be announced in due course.

Legal Services Regulation

Ceisteanna (173)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

173. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice if she has plans to amend the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 to include in the Act a definition of client in order to ensure that persons adversely affected by what they consider an inadequate standard of legal services can make a complaint to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57605/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority is independent in its regulation of the legal professions under the terms of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 and in its administration of the public complaints regime.

Without any detailed proposal to consider I can only confirm that there are no immediate plans to amend the definition of a client. However, I can say that there is an ongoing statutory review of the operation of the 2015 Act being completed under section 6 of that Act, which can take such matters into account.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (174)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

174. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice the number of prosecutions for breaches of Covid-19 regulations in 2020 and to date in 2021. [57980/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, prosecutions are a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is independent in her functions under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1974 (as amended).

I am advised by the Garda authorities that it is not possible to provide the number of prosecutions for breaches of Covid-19 regulations in 2020 and to date in 2021.

I am further advised that the number of proceedings which have commenced between the period of 8 April 2020 up to 23 October 2021 in relation to breaches of Health Act 1947 is 1,016.

It should be noted, however, that the above information is not equivalent to the number of prosecutions as a case summons/listed may not reach prosecution for a number of reasons, such as being struck out/person not attending Court on the date specified, etc.

The Deputy may be interested to note that the above information is also available on the Garda website at the following link:

garda.ie/en/about-us/our-departments/office-of-corporate-communications/news-media/coronavirus-covid-19-.html#COVID-19%20Related%20Statistics

Immigration Policy

Ceisteanna (175)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

175. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice if consideration is being given within her Department to a blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants; if so, the criteria; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57783/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Government committed to introducing new pathways to status regularisation within 18 months of its formation. My Justice Plan 2021 contains a commitment to create new pathways for long-term undocumented people and their dependents who must meet specified criteria to regularise their status. It will not be an amnesty and should not be perceived as such.

The scheme will provide an opportunity for those who meet its criteria to remain and reside in the State and to become part of mainstream Irish society rather than living on its margins. Successful applicants will receive an immigration permission, access to the labour market and will be able to begin the process of becoming Irish citizens, should they wish to do so. The objective is to ensure that the scheme is as inclusive as possible and my Department has conducted a targeted consultation on the proposed scheme which has provided a valuable opportunity to hear from those affected by the proposed approach to the scheme.

Following the consultation process, my Department continues to work to finalise the details, including eligibility considerations and qualifying criteria, and also to design and manage the practical aspects to enable applications to be made and processed as efficiently as possible.

We are now working to finalise the details for the scheme, including eligibility considerations and qualifying criteria, with a view to bringing a proposal to Government and to publish the details of the scheme before the end of this year.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (176)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

176. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Justice the initiatives that are being taken to address rural crime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57922/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, a key pillar of the Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, is building stronger and safer communities. I can assure the Deputy that my Department is committed to ensuring that there is strong, visible community policing right across Ireland, both rural and urban.

While An Garda Síochána has provided very dedicated service to assisting in the national effort to combat the threat of COVID-19, ordinary policing has of course also continued throughout the period.

This includes the winter phase of Operation Thor, which was launched on 1 October 2021 and will run until 31 March 2022. Operation Thor is designed to tackle the increase in the number of burglaries and associated criminal activity that usually occur in winter months by undertaking targeted enforcement and preventative activity, highlighted through public information campaigns including 'Lock up, Light up' etc. These initiatives have been successful in dramatically reducing the rate of winter burglaries, leading to a significant decline in property-related crime since its introduction in 2015.

In addition, the Garda Community Engagement Bureau promotes 'Supporting Safer Communities' campaigns each year. The National Crime Prevention Unit at Garda Community Engagement Bureau also supports a nationwide network of Crime Prevention Officers. Each Garda division has an appointed Crime Prevention Officer.

The Deputy may also be aware of the National Rural Safety Forum, which brings together An Garda Síochána, my Department and?the Department of Rural & Community Development, alongside national and local organisations including the Irish Farmers Association, Muintir na Tíre and the GAA. The purpose of the Forum is to develop a nationwide network for the distribution of crime prevention advice, increase engagement within communities, and prevent and reduce opportunities for crime. My Department's Justice Plan 2021 commits to working with the Forum to develop initiatives to promote community safety and to reduce the opportunity for crime throughout the country.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department provides funding to Muintir na Tíre to cover costs incurred by communities in administering the Text Alert Scheme. The scheme is administered on a refund basis whereby communities submit their annual costs to Muintir na Tíre and a maximum refund of up to €350 is provided to the community.

For the last two years, my Department has committed to funding of up to €150,000 toward the costs of the scheme and, based on the number of applications received, it has had an average cost of €120,000 per annum.

My officials have been engaging with Muintir na Tíre in relation to continuing this scheme including reviewing whether newer technologies, including apps, would be appropriate for use. In terms of funding for the 2021 Scheme, a final decision has yet to be made but I can assure the Deputy that I am fully committed to continuing to support this scheme.

The Deputy may also be aware that An Garda Síochána commenced an enhanced national anti-drugs strategy, Operation Tara, which has a strong focus on tackling street-level dealing throughout rural and urban Ireland. The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels - international, national and local - involved in the importation, distribution, cultivation, production, local sale and supply of controlled drugs.

Court Accommodation

Ceisteanna (177)

John Brady

Ceist:

177. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Justice the status of plans to refurbish the vacant courthouse in Wicklow town; the timeline for work to be carried out; the details of the engagement with the OPW on plans to carry out works on the site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57735/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in the performance of its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has provided me with the following update.

The Government's revised National Development Plan 2021 -2030 includes a number of Courts Service capital building projects to be completed during the period of the plan including the Hammond Lane Family Law complex and the provision of further new or refurbished courthouses in cities and county towns where facilities remain sub-standard, including in Wicklow Town.

I am informed by the Courts Service that the priority project for the period up to 2025 is the proposed new Family Law complex in Hammond Lane. The timing and delivery of the remaining projects, including Wicklow Town, will be dependent on the availability of funding over the remainder of the NDP.

I am advised that the existing courthouse building, comprising two courtrooms, is in very poor condition and is currently closed on health and safety grounds. All court business is currently being dealt with at Bray.

The Courts Service further advises that a courthouse comprising four courtrooms and related facilities (for example, consultation rooms, custody facilities, facilities for juries and vulnerable witnesses, legal practitioner’s suites, etc.) is required to meet current and future demand in Wicklow. This will require a building significantly larger than the existing two courtroom building.

The Courts Service proposes to refurbish and extend the courthouse to provide the required accommodation and has acquired a number of adjoining properties that were in council ownership so as to have available a larger site capable of accommodating a courthouse building on the scale envisaged.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (178)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

178. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice her views on the see something say, something initiative following her recent fact-finding visit to Tralee, County Kerry; her views on whether the initiative could be rolled out nationwide to help tackle antisocial behaviour and other crime; the status of plans to extend the initiative to Listowel, County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57948/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, a key pillar of the Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, is building stronger and safer communities. I can assure the Deputy that my Department is committed to ensuring that there is strong, visible community policing right across Ireland, both rural and urban.

Making our towns, villages and rural areas safer is best achieved when Gardaí work closely with communities. The “See Something, Say Something” campaign, which was initiated by Kerry Gardaí and developed in collaboration with Tralee Chamber Alliance, is a commendable example of how Gardaí and the community can work together to make a town a safer place.

The ‘See Something, Say Something’ initiative allows any member of the public to report anti-social or suspicious behaviour via text message by texting TRALEE or KILLARNEY followed by the information to 50555. The message is received at the Communications Desk at Tralee Garda Station, entered on CAD and the nearest available mobile patrol unit or Garda on foot/bike patrol is dispatched.

‘See Something, Say Something’ was launched in July 2018 and is the first initiative of its kind in Ireland allowing anybody with a mobile telephone to text An Garda Síochána if they hear or see something that does not seem quite right. It creates an extra channel of communication between the community and Gardaí, is simple to use, and available to everyone with a mobile phone. The service is also anonymous which further promotes its use, especially for those who would otherwise be reluctant to contact Gardaí. Information regarding illegal drug activity is also regularly received.

I am advised by the Garda Authorities that over the three years during which the initiative has been in operation, Gardaí have responded to over 2,200 text messages. This has enabled Gardaí dealing with cases of anti-social behaviour to respond to and deal with problems before they escalate into more serious issues. I am further advised that the initiative assisted in reducing public order incidents in Tralee by 22% in 2019. The initiative has also assisted Gardaí in Kerry to assign patrols to areas where they are needed most, which can change on a weekly and daily basis.

I am informed that ‘See Something, Say Something’ will shortly be rolled out across the remainder of the Kerry Division in towns such as Listowel and Dingle.

Northern Ireland

Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 172.

Ceisteanna (179)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

179. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice the progress to date in implementing legislation arising from commitments made in the Stormont House Agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57835/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Stormont House Agreement, concluded by the two Governments and the Northern Ireland Parties in December 2014, provides for a framework of measures to address the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

In July 2019, the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act 2019 was enacted. The legislation is an important step in the Government’s commitment to the agreed measures to address the legacy of the troubles on the island of Ireland and to support the victims of the conflict and their families. In addition to enhancing the co-operation being provided to ongoing Coroners’ Inquests in Northern Ireland into historical deaths, the legislation further underpins the Government’s commitment to full co-operation with the framework of measures set out in the Stormont House Agreement.

Also, in September 2015, the Government signed an International Agreement with the British Government on the establishment of the Independent Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR). The ICIR will be a cross-border institution which will be established to receive information on troubles-related deaths and to prepare a report on the circumstances of the death for the families of the victims. The development of proposals for legislation to establish the ICIR in this jurisdiction is being progressed, but the ICIR will require legislation to be enacted in both jurisdictions with parallel provisions in order for it to come into effect, which is presenting a particular difficulty at the current time.

As the Deputy will appreciate, efforts to advance the Stormont House Agreement legacy provisions have been affected by the political stalemate in Northern Ireland which lasted until January of last year and by the UK Government’s recent command paper on legacy published in July which represents a radical departure from the Stormont House Agreement.

Nevertheless, this Government remains committed to the Stormont House framework as the way forward on legacy issues, and where the British Government are proposing significant changes to the framework, we have made clear that these must be discussed and agreed by both Governments and the parties to the Northern Ireland Executive. Only through a collective approach can we hope to deal with these issues comprehensively and fairly, and in a way that responds to the needs of victims and survivors, and society as a whole.

Following a meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 24 June, it was agreed to begin an intensive process of engagement with the British Government and the Northern Ireland parties to find an agreed way forward on legacy. The Government will continue to engage and work with the British Government and the parties represented on the Northern Ireland Executive on this very important issue.

Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 172.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (181)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

181. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice if further legislation is being prepared by her Department to give extra powers to An Garda Síochána in relation to reducing the amount of drug-related crime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57468/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that tackling criminal activity is a key priority for the Government and an ongoing priority for An Garda Síochána which is reflected in the National Policing Plan.

As there is already a robust framework of law to address the issue of drug related crime, there is currently no specific legislation in preparation in my Department regarding this issue. However, there are a number of related legislation projects being progressed in my Department including the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill which will streamline and strengthen Garda powers generally and the Criminal Justice (Exploitation of Children in the Commission of Offences) Bill, which will outlaw the grooming of children into crime.

In June 2021 the Government approved the general scheme of the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill. In line with a recommendation of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, the Bill will provide a clear and transparent statutory basis for the existing police powers of search, arrest and detention, supported by statutory codes of practice. As well as bringing together and streamlining the existing powers, the Bill will also strengthen them in some respects.

In January 2021 I published the general scheme of the Criminal Justice (Exploitation of Children in the Commission of Offences) Bill. The Bill will, for the first time, create specific offences where an adult compels, coerces, induces or invites a child to engage in criminal activity, including drug related crime. While current law already provides that an adult who causes or uses a child to commit a crime can be charged and convicted as the principal offender – meaning they can be punished as though they committed the crime themselves – it does not recognise the harm done to a child by drawing them into a world of criminality.

As the Deputy may be aware, An Garda Síochána tackles organised criminal activity through a range of targeted measures designed to disrupt and dismantle the operations of criminal organisations. Specialist units involved in tackling organised crime, including the Armed Support Unit, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB), the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), are enjoying continuing significant success in disrupting drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs by organised crime groups.

The work of the GNDOCB is supported by Divisional Drugs Units, which tackle drug-related crime on a local basis throughout the country, in collaboration with other law enforcement partners and all Gardaí working in local communities. Divisional Drug Units are now established in every Garda Division. In 2020, the GNDOCB seized €36.7 million worth of illicit drugs, 23 firearms, 2,131 rounds of ammunition, and €8 million in cash and made 228 arrests.

The continued cooperation with other jurisdictions is of vital importance to tackling transnational organised crime, including drug trafficking, and targeting the illicit proceeds generated by drug-related crime. Ongoing liaison between our national police service and other law enforcement agencies, via Europol, has led to a number of successful joint operations in recent years.

The Deputy will be aware that the Department of Health leads on Government policy in the area of drugs, and this policy is guided by the national drugs and alcohol strategy "Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025". This strategy represents a whole-of-Government response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland. While the implementation of the strategy is led by my colleague, the Minister for Health, the strategy includes actions for all stakeholders, including my Department and An Garda Síochána.

The strategy recognises the need for a balanced health-led approach - reducing demand, while also reducing access to illegal drugs, and is aimed at reducing the number of people criminalised for the possession of drugs for personal use. While this strategy supports the vulnerable people who use drugs, it is also matched with strengthened enforcement measures across government to tackle the supply of illegal drugs.

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