Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar
Gnáthamharc

Thursday, 25 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 182-201

State Pardons

Ceisteanna (182)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

182. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice the latest up-to-date position in relation to efforts to pardon a person (details supplied) who was wrongly hanged in 1895; if she will prioritise the continuation of the process already under way in order that they will be pardoned and closure can be given to their relatives; if she will provide an updated timeline regarding the future process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58001/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, a local group gathered a considerable amount of material relating to this case, and I know the Deputy has taken a very close interest in this application.

As the Deputy will also be aware, in early 2020, the then Minister for Justice and Equality engaged an expert on nineteenth century trial law in Ireland for their expert opinion on the safety, or otherwise, of the conviction. The report includes a detailed consideration of the murder and trial and its aftermath. It also considers the prevailing standards and procedures in nineteenth century Irish trials.

I can inform the Deputy that it is my intention to bring a memorandum to the Government on this matter before the end of the year and I will update the Deputy directly thereafter.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (183)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

183. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice the number of drink driving offences recorded in the Cavan Monaghan division in each of the years 2017 to 2020 and to date in 2021; and the number of drug driving offences excluding alcohol offences over the same period. [57042/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána. As Minister, I have no direct role in this matter.

The below table, furnished to me by the Garda authorities, outlines the yearly breakdown of the number of incidents of drink and drug driving that occurred in Cavan/Monaghan Division over the time period from 2017 to 2021.

-

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021*

Drink-Driving

375

337

299

240

212

Drug-Driving

34

86

164

208

148

* Figures for 2021 up to 16/11/2021

Figures are based on incidents which occurred from 01/01/2017 to 16/11/2021, inclusive. All information contained in this report is based upon operational data from the Pulse system as was available on 17/11/2021 and is liable to change.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (184)

Seán Canney

Ceist:

184. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Justice if the recruitment process for An Garda Síochána is open at present; the number of gardaí that are expected to be recruited in the next tranche; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57814/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I am pleased that Budget 2022 reflects the commitment of the Government to enhancing community safety and that An Garda Síochána has the resources to be an effective and trusted policing service.

The budget provided by Government to the Garda Commissioner continues to increase to unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.952 billion for 2021 and over €2 billion in funding in Budget 2022. Indeed since 2016, the budget for An Garda Síochána has increased by some €500m, or approximately 33%. This has enabled 3,340 Gardaí to be recruited and deployed across the country since 2016, with total Garda strength now at 14,298, as well as continued investment in modern equipment. In addition, over 800 Gardaí have been redeployed to front line policing work through the recruitment of Garda staff.

I am delighted that Budget 2022 includes funding for the recruitment of 800 new Garda recruits and 400 Garda staff in 2022 - a further additional 1,200 personnel. This planned increase in the number of Garda members and staff is designed to deliver significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide and improved public safety and services to the public generally.

Redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and support roles will also continue next year, thus allowing highly trained Gardaí to focus on frontline policing duties. The organisation's capacity will be further strengthened by the recruitment of additional Garda staff, including to specialist roles to support the investigation of crime and enhance the management of the organisation.

An Garda Síochána have advised that a recruitment plan for 2022 is currently being developed to manage the recruitment processes for Garda members and Garda staff roles. Implementation will of course be dependent on public health guidelines but I very much hope it will be possible to maximise the intake to Templemore next year. I understand there are a number of successful candidates still to be called from the last competition but I am delighted to confirm that a new Garda Trainee competition is also being planned for early next year.

Both I and the Garda Commissioner are particularly keen that the new competition will focus on the need for greater diversity among rank and file Gardaí and we would encourage all those with an interest in joining the organisation to consider doing so.

Commissions of Investigation

Ceisteanna (185)

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Ceist:

185. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Justice her plans to publish a progress report on the Hickson Commission of Investigation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57999/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the Commission of Investigation established pursuant to S.I. 311/2018 (formerly known as the Hickson Commission) is tasked with the investigation of the extent to which a number of organisations, including State bodies, and individuals were aware of the activities of Bill Kenneally and whether they failed to take appropriate action.

Mr Justice Michael White is the sole member of the Commission, replacing Mr Justice Barry Hickson following Judge Hickson’s retirement. While Judge White retired from judicial office on 1 October 2021, he has engaged with the work of the Commission since his appointment on 1 July 2021.

The work of the Commission is at an investigative phase. The Commission held an opening hearing in November 2019.

During 2019 and 2020, the Commission’s legal team attended a number of locations on a number of occasions to interview relevant parties. The Commission’s legal team continues to contact relevant parties and interview witnesses. The Commission has received and reviewed a large volume of disclosure. It has also sought, on an ongoing basis, submissions from interested parties (having regard to its terms of reference) in relation to its ongoing work, including in relation to the scope for and conduct of physical hearings under the public health restrictions.

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton met with the victims and their legal representation in June this year, following on from my meeting with them in April. I fully appreciate how important it is that this work progresses and I would continue to urge all victims and survivors to engage with the Commission.

As the Deputy will be aware, all Commissions of Investigation are completely independent in their work. I am satisfied that Judge White is committed to advancing the work of the Commission and I am assured that the Commission is active and working full time.

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (186)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

186. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice the number of protected disclosures her Department has received from persons who work in the Irish Prison Service. [57981/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Protected Disclosures Act was enacted in 2014 to allow employees to bring alleged wrongdoing to the attention of the appropriate authorities.

Section 22 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 requires public bodies to prepare and publish a report each year in relation to the previous year, on the disclosures received and dealt with under its policy, in an anonymised form.

My Department publishes annual reports in respect of protected disclosures received in the Department of Justice. Since the introduction of the Irish Prison Service Protected Disclosures Policy on July 1, 2018, the Irish Prison Service separately publishes annual reports in respect of protected disclosures received. Information about protected disclosures received by the Irish Prison Service is available on pages 15-16 of the Irish Prison Service 2020 Annual Report at: www.irishprisons.ie/wp-content/uploads/documents_pdf/IPS-Annual-Report-web-FINAL.pdf

Information about protected disclosures received by my Department is available at: www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Department_of_Justice_Protected_Disclosures_AR_2020.pdf/Files/Department_of_Justice_Protected_Disclosures_AR_2020.pdf

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (187)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

187. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice her plans to support policing in rural communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57554/21]

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 main focus of the crime prevention campaigns is burglary prevention and reduction. 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.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is also introducing the new Garda Operating Model, which is designed to make each Division the central unit of policing administration, rather than the current smaller District model. This is to provide a more comprehensive and inclusive policing service and will help strengthen the focus on community policing.

In addition, the Policing Security and Community Safety Bill will establish innovative Local Community Safety Partnerships to develop local safety plans, tailored to the priorities and needs identified by communities themselves. The Local Community Safety Partnerships will replace and build upon the existing Joint Policing Committees and will provide a forum for State agencies and local community representatives to work together to act on community concerns.

Each Partnership will devise and oversee a Local Community Safety Plan, which will be informed by the community itself. Membership of the Partnerships will be broader than that of the existing Joint Policing Committees and will include residents, community representatives (including youth, new communities and voluntary sector representation), business and education sector representation, relevant public services including the HSE, Tusla, An Garda Síochána and local authorities as well as local councillors. Pilot Partnerships are currently in place in Longford, Waterford and Dublin's north inner city and will run for two years ahead of a nationwide rollout to all local authority areas.

International Protection

Ceisteanna (188)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Ceist:

188. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Justice the status of the establishment of the Afghan admissions programme; the expected opening date for applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57023/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I share the Deputy’s concerns for the Afghan people and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Ireland has acted swiftly and compassionately to demonstrate our support and solidarity with the Afghan people. My Department continues to work closely with colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to ensure a coordinated national response.

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has approved my Department's proposal for an additional initiative: the special Afghan Admission Programme, which will provide places for up to 500 Afghan family members to travel to Ireland. Each applicant will have an opportunity to nominate up to four family members who are currently residing in Afghanistan or who have fled to neighbouring territories and whom they consider would be especially at risk in terms of their freedom and safety.

The Programme, including the detailed eligibility criteria and the application process, is currently being finalised by my Department, with a view to opening for applications in the coming weeks.

Our objective is to ensure that the options considered are as inclusive as possible and that the Programme is available to those who most require our help. The clearer the application process is made at the outset, the quicker my Department will be able to process applications which will be in the best interests of those concerned.

The creation of this Programme is unique to date in the EU and was welcomed by the UNHCR as a very welcome commitment by Ireland that will bring much needed solace to Afghans here who are worried about their relatives abroad.

In the meantime, I want to assure the Deputy that all current immigration avenues remain open for new applications, including visa and family reunification applications. More than 750 Afghan nationals have already been granted permissions to reside in the State so far this year. My Department will process any new applications received speedily and sympathetically.

Domestic Violence

Ceisteanna (189)

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

189. Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Justice the status of her plans to introduce an offence of non-fatal strangulation. [57820/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

Non-fatal strangulation and asphyxiation are common features of domestic abuse and are often an indication that victims are at further risk of potentially lethal violence.

While strangulation is currently prosecuted as a crime under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, I have discussed with the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris making it a standalone offence.

I believe there is an argument that providing greater clarity with a standalone offence would encourage victims to come forward and report what has happened to them. Strong and clear laws would help with the reporting and prosecution of such crimes and send a clear signal to victims that the State is here to help them – and punish their abusers.

I have asked my Department to examine the implications of introducing a standalone offence to strengthen the existing legislation in this area.

It is important to note that non-fatal strangulation is already an offence prosecutable under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

Under section 2 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 (Assault), a person who, without lawful excuse, intentionally or recklessly directly or indirectly applies force to or causes an impact on the body of another, without the consent of the other, is guilty of the offence of assault. A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €2,500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.

Under section 3 (Assault causing harm) of that Act, a person who assaults another causing him or her harm is guilty of an offence. A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding €2,500 or to both, or

(b) on conviction on indictment to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both.

“Harm” is defined as harm to body or mind and includes pain and unconsciousness.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (190)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

190. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Justice the number of community gardaí in the Tipperary division; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57923/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible by law for the management of An Garda Síochána, including personnel matters and deployment of resources. As Minister, I have no responsibility for these matters.

I am advised however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging trends.

To date, the official categorisation as a Community Garda has simply referred to those exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society including giving talks to schools, community groups and others. However, it is important to note that community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána and all Gardaí have a role to play in community policing in carrying out their duties. Indeed, this is fundamental to the new Garda Operating Model recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and currently being rolled out under 'A Policing Service for Our Future', the Government's implementation plan for the Commission's recommendations.

I have been informed that as of 31 October 2021, the latest date for which figures are available, there are 73 Community Gardaí attached to the Tipperary Division. This represents an increase of three, or over 4%, since the same period last year when there were 70 Community Gardaí in Tipperary. The Deputy may wish to note that the overall Garda numbers for Tipperary Division are 402 as at 31 October 2021.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (191)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

191. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice the number of community gardaí in Ballincollig station as of 31 October 2021; the number in the Macroom Garda district on the same date; the equivalent figures for both on 31 October 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57737/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible, under Section 33 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended), for the deployment of An Garda Síochána throughout the State. The Commissioner is also responsible, under Section 26 of the Act, for the management and administration of Garda business, including the recruitment and training of Garda members and staff. As Minister, I play no direct role in these independent functions.

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. To date, the official categorisation as a Community Garda has simply referred to those exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society including giving talks to schools, community groups and others. However, it is important to note that community policing is at the heart of An Garda Síochána and all Gardaí have a role to play in community policing in carrying out their duties. Indeed, this is fundamental to the new Garda Operating Model recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and currently being rolled out under 'A Policing Service for Our Future', the Government's implementation plan for the Commission's recommendations.

As of 31 October 2021, there were three Community Gardaí assigned to Ballincollig station and one Community Garda assigned to Macroom station. These numbers are unchanged from 31 October 2020. The Deputy may wish to further note that the total allocation of Gardaí to each station is currently 57 in Ballincollig and 36 in Macroom.

Immigration Support Services

Ceisteanna (192)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

192. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Justice if she will provide details on the improvements being introduced at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service; if she is giving consideration to further streamlining the granting and renewal of applications relating to healthcare workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57704/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy is aware, I recently announced a number of customer focused immigration changes, in particular for our citizenship applicants.

I am deeply conscious of how important the granting of naturalisation is to those who apply for it. My Department has continued to accept and process citizenship applications throughout the pandemic and at all levels of public health restrictions and is on track to make 11,000 citizenship decisions this year. We continue to explore new ways of processing citizenship applications in a timely and efficient manner, improving service to our customers and reducing waiting times. To date, over 7,400 new Irish citizens have received their certificate of naturalisation through the temporary statutory declaration process that I opened in January.

My recent announcement that customers will no longer be required to submit their original passport with their initial application is another way that we are reducing the administrative burden on applicants.

While I am extremely grateful to all healthcare workers for their exceptional commitment during the pandemic, the Deputy will appreciate that all applications for a certificate of naturalisation are processed and assessed individually in accordance with the legislation. There are no provisions to apply different criteria depending on the category of employment of the applicant. All applicants are required to meet minimum periods of reckonable residence and standard checks are carried out as part of the overall process to maintain its integrity.

Notwithstanding this, to further support healthcare workers making their citizenship applications, you will be aware that I also recently announced that, for doctors who are employed in the HSE or in Voluntary Hospitals, the provision of a “Medical Practitioner Employment History Summary” will be accepted as proof of residence. I know that this will be very much welcomed by doctors who face very unique challenges arising from moving hospitals as part of their training.

Additionally, a number of digitisation measures have also been introduced to increase efficiency in the citizenship application process, including eTax clearance, eVetting and online payments. The end result of this digitisation process will be to free up more staff to focus on processing applications in a timely and efficient manner, to improve service to our customers and reduce waiting times. Based on these measures, my Department's objective is to achieve an improved timeframe of 6-9 months for decisions on a majority of applications during 2022.

Court Accommodation

Ceisteanna (193)

Pa Daly

Ceist:

193. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Justice if she will consider holding an updated review of existing courthouses, including the courthouse in Tralee, County Kerry in conjunction with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. [57963/21]

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 on this matter.

With regard to a review of existing courthouses, the Courts Service has informed me that condition surveys of 60 court buildings throughout the country have now been completed on its behalf. The Courts Service is currently undertaking a National Venue Review with a view to adopting a new Estate Strategy up to 2030. The results of those surveys will be taken into consideration in that regard. The Courts Service further informs me that it has never carried out a review of courthouses in conjunction with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and currently has no plans to do so.

Prison Service

Ceisteanna (194)

Brian Leddin

Ceist:

194. Deputy Brian Leddin asked the Minister for Justice her plans to address the recent Covid-19 outbreaks in the Irish Prison Service in order to mitigate against the further spread of the virus and to safeguard prisoners, prison officers and staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57972/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Irish Prison Service have recently experienced COVID-19 outbreaks in Cloverhill, Midlands and Mountjoy Prisons. The Midlands Prison Outbreak Control team was stood down on 19 November 2021 following the successful containment of the spread of the virus and the prison was returned to a more normal regime.

The Prison Service has a comprehensive contingency plan for the management of such outbreaks. Upon confirmation of an outbreak situation, an Outbreak Control Team is established to oversee the management of the outbreak. This Team is led by a Senior Manager, and comprises of prison management; Healthcare staff; National Infection Control; with representatives from the HR and Operations Directorates; and the Prison Officers Association.

The Team manage the outbreak in line with the Irish Prison Service National Covid-19 Contingency Plan. The Plan sets out the actions to be taken with regard to the restriction of the confirmed case(s), contact tracing and the restriction of all prisoner movements while testing, contact tracing and assessment of risk are taking place. It also sets out the arrangements to be made for the mass testing of all prisoners and staff.

In accordance with the Contingency Plan, where there is a positive Covid-19 case in the general prison population, all prisoner movement in the prison is restricted while testing, contact tracing and assessment of the risk of the spread of the infection continues. Prisoners involved in the provision of services within the prison such as kitchen and laundry continue to work with an enhanced level of PPE providing they are not a close contact of any confirmed case. Prisoners are provided with food and medication at their door and are permitted to leave their cell in a controlled manner to make telephone calls.

Once the results of first round testing of all prisoners and all staff are received, any prisoners with negative test results have a degree of regime restored. Prisoners that return a positive test result and their close contacts are managed in accordance with HSE guidance and isolation and quarantine protocols.

The Prison Service engage with Public Health of the Health Service Executive with regard to the arrangements for the mass testing of all staff, and the mass testing of prisoners is carried out by the Prison Healthcare teams. An extensive communications plan has been implemented to inform all key stakeholders of the actions being taken throughout the process.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (195)

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

195. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice if an update will be provided on the commitment in the programme for Government to prioritise visible policing in both rural and urban communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57816/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to ensuring that there is strong, visible policing right across Ireland. Prioritising visible policing in rural and urban communities will ensure community policing is at the forefront of our police service and an integral strand of our social contract with the public.

I am pleased that Budget 2022 reflects the commitment of the Government to enhancing community safety and that An Garda Síochána has the resources to be an effective and trusted policing service. The budget provided by Government to the Garda Commissioner continues to increase to unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.952 billion for 2021 and over €2 billion in funding in Budget 2022. Indeed since 2016, the budget for An Garda Síochána has increased by some €500m, or approximately 33%.

This has enabled 3,340 new probationer Gardaí to be deployed, as well as continued investment in modern equipment. In addition, over 800 Gardaí have been redeployed to front line policing work through the recruitment of Garda staff.

I am delighted that Budget 2022 includes funding for the recruitment of 800 new Garda recruits and 400 Garda staff in 2022 - a further additional 1,200 personnel. This planned increase in the number of Garda members and staff is designed to deliver significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide and improved public safety and services to the public generally.Redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and support roles will also continue next year, thus allowing highly trained Gardaí to focus on frontline policing duties. The organisation's capacity will be further strengthened by the recruitment of additional Garda staff, including to specialist roles to support the investigation of crime and enhance the management of the organisation.

An Garda Síochána have advised that a recruitment plan for 2022 is currently being developed to manage the recruitment processes for Garda members and Garda staff roles. Implementation will of course be dependent on public health guidelines but I very much hope it will be possible to maximise the intake to Templemore next year. I understand there are a number of successful candidates still to be called from the last competition but I am delighted to confirm that a new Garda Trainee competition is also being planned for early next year.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Garda Commissioner is introducing the new Garda Operating Model, which is designed to make each Division the central unit of policing administration, rather than the current smaller District model. This is to provide a more comprehensive and inclusive policing service and will help strengthen the focus on community policing.

In addition, the Policing Security and Community Safety Bill will establish innovative Local Community Safety Partnerships to develop local safety plans, tailored to the priorities and needs identified by communities themselves. The Local Community Safety Partnerships will replace and build upon the existing Joint Policing Committees and will provide a forum for State agencies and local community representatives to work together to act on community concerns.

Each Partnership will devise and oversee a Local Community Safety Plan, which will be informed by the community itself. Membership of the Partnerships will be broader than that of the existing Joint Policing Committees and will include residents, community representatives (including youth, new communities and voluntary sector representation), business and education sector representation, relevant public services including the HSE, Tusla, An Garda Síochána and local authorities as well as local councillors. Pilot Partnerships are currently in place in Longford, Waterford and Dublin's north inner city and will run for two years ahead of a nationwide rollout to all local authority areas.

Victim Support Services

Ceisteanna (196)

David Stanton

Ceist:

196. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice her Department’s plans to extend supports for adult victims of sexual offences following court proceedings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57950/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. Reforming the system to better support vulnerable victims as they come into contact with our criminal justice system is a priority for this Government. I know this was true too for the Deputy during his time as Minister for State in the Department of Justice and the important work he did under the equality aspect of his responsibilities.

Our work to extend supports for adult victims of sexual offences is being done through the implementation of Supporting a Victim's journey, our plan to implement action the recommendations of the O'Malley Review.

To date, a number of key actions have been delivered as part of implementing Supporting a Victim’s Journey, including:

- Legislating for the introduction of preliminary trial hearings;

- The nationwide rollout of Divisional Protective Services Units (DPSUs);

- The first cohort of staff at a new sexual offences unit in the Director of Public Prosecutions office formally took up their roles in April;

- Work to advance the training for all personnel who come into contact with vulnerable victims is underway;

- The University of Limerick has been commissioned by the Department to develop the framework for the operation and training of intermediaries;

- An improved Victims Charter website which provides a comprehensive repository of information for victims has been created, including a section with specific information for victims of sexual violence.

As part of this work, my Department has undertaken a review of the supports and funding of civil society organisations providing frontline services in order to identify where gaps may exist and how to bridge them. Specific geographical areas and categories of victims that are not adequately covered by NGO supports have been identified and my Department is engaging with relevant NGO partners to agree revised funding to ensure that we meet the gaps identified. This piece of work will be completed shortly.

To promote more sustainable service delivery and planning, we are also offering multi-annual funding commitments to key NGOs we work with where funding covers staff salaries. These funding grants cover accompaniment to court, to Garda interviews and to sexual assault treatment units, as well as emotional support.

Supporting a Victim's Journey is a detailed roadmap, which when implemented, will ensure we have a more victim-centred system that supports and empowers victims and gives them the confidence to engage with all services knowing they will be supported, informed and treated with respect and dignity at every point and by every person they come into contact with.

While the provision of counselling services is not directly under my remit and falls to Tusla and the Department of Health, I can confirm that both are represented on the O'Malley implementation group.

It is important to state that the supports being introduced will be provided regardless of whether or not criminal proceedings are in train and will extend beyond the trial and verdict because victims do not stop needing support at the end of a trial.

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (197)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

197. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice the measures being taken to combat the theft of trees to be used as Christmas trees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57131/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, the administration of An Garda Síochána, including its various crime prevention operations, fall within the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner. As Minister, I have no role in these matters.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Hurdle has been established in the Wicklow Division each year since 2012 to target the theft of Christmas trees in the period between the end of October and Christmas.

Operation Hurdle 2021 is running in conjunction with COVID-19 national policing patrols in the Wicklow Division and Operation Thor checkpoints, stopping and checking vehicles transporting Christmas trees. The operation focuses on improving liaison with local Christmas tree growers, their staff and security staff. Patrols are carried out around Christmas tree farms in the Division.

I am informed that while detection is difficult, prevention is key and community policing has centred on a joint effort by local growers and their security staff, together with improved security procedures, combined with focused Garda activity targeting suspects and the vehicles of those involved.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the operation has had a significant impact on reducing the level of Christmas tree theft over recent years.

Court Accommodation

Ceisteanna (198)

Pa Daly

Ceist:

198. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Justice if assessments have been carried out by a conservation architect grade 1 of the current courthouse building in Tralee, County Kerry in deciding to relocate court services from the current site. [57962/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, 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 provision of new court facilities at Tralee is one of the Courts Service projects identified in the revised National Development plan 2021 - 2030. As a county town, a courthouse comprising four courtrooms and related facilities is envisaged as being required to meet current and future demand in Tralee. This will require a building significantly larger than the existing courthouse on Ashe Street, which comprises two courtrooms and lacks the facilities expected of a modern court building.

In terms of providing new court accommodation, I am advised that, in general, the preferred approach of the Courts Service is the refurbishment, extension and development of existing courthouses. The OPW, who has extensive expertise in conservation matters, assess Court buildings on behalf of the Courts Service and advise as to their potential to meet required accommodation briefs.

In 2017, OPW architectural services carried out an assessment of Ashe Street courthouse and concluded that while the existing building could be extended to some limited extent, it would not be possible to provide the full range of facilities required in a county town venue due to the very constrained nature of the site.

Having considered various options, I am informed that the Island of Geese site is the preferred option for the provision of a new court facility in Tralee and that this site was assessed by OPW architectural services earlier this year as being suitable for this purpose. Discussions between the Courts Service and Kerry County Council in relation to this site are ongoing.

Drug Dealing

Ceisteanna (199)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

199. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice the status of drug seizures in Ireland in 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57132/21]

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 enforcement of legislation pertaining to illegal drugs, and Garda operations concerning same. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.

I can inform the Deputy that 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. The Bureau’s work is supported by Divisional Drugs Units nationwide, and by all Gardaí working in local communities. GNDOCB also works closely and productively with international law enforcement partners. Gardaí continue to work closely with local authorities, HSE, NGOs, community groups and other state agencies to tackle the problems of drug addiction and abuse.

As at 18 November 2021, GNDOCB has seized controlled drugs to the value of €51.84m, made 151 arrests, recovered 4 firearms and 55 rounds of ammunition and seized cash to the value of €5.1m in 2021.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government has in place the National Drugs and Alcohol 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. An Garda Síochána is working to provide strong supports for those who fall victim to this behaviour. A Garda Inspector is nominated in every Garda Division and individuals and family members experiencing intimidation can make contact with their local Inspector through their local Garda Station.

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. Sustained action by An Garda Síochána has continued unabated throughout the current pandemic, bringing significant convictions and ongoing seizures of drugs, firearms and ammunition.

An Garda Síochána's Operation Tara is focused 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.

Recent successes of Operation Tara include;

- Gardaí attached to the Divisional Drug Unit at Kevin Street Garda Station, with assistance from the Divisional Crime Task Force, conducted a search under warrant at a residence in Ringsend, Dublin 4 and seized €123,000 worth of controlled drugs on Friday 8th October 2021.

- As part of Operation Tara, Gardaí from Naas recovered cannabis herb worth €100,000 in the course of searching a stolen motor van in Allenwood, Co Kildare on the 9th October.

- Gardaí from the Detective and Drug Units in Gorey and Enniscorthy, conducted a search of a residence in Bunclody and seized a combined €304,000 in cannabis and cocaine on Saturday, 23rd October 2021.

- Gardaí from Cork based Drugs Units seized drugs worth €140,000 and arrested two males in the course of an operation in Cork on Thursday, 4th November 2021.

I welcome these significant seizures and the reassurance that this policing success brings to the communities affected.

Prison Service

Ceisteanna (200)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

200. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Justice the total number of prisoners incarcerated; the breakdown by the average length of sentence; the number of those prisoners incarcerated for the non-payment of fines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57784/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that according to the latest snapshot of the prison population, taken on the 19 November 2021, there was a total of 3,836 prisoners in custody of which 2,971 are sentenced prisoners.

A breakdown of sentence length for all 2,971 sentenced prisoners is set out in the table below. The balance of 865 prisoners consisted of 863 prisoners held on trial/remand warrants, 1 prisoner held on an Immigration warrant and one prisoner held on an extradition order warrant. On this date, the number of persons committed to prison for non-payment of fines was 2.

It is the case that the number of persons committed to prison for non-payment of fines has decreased substantially since the commencement of the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014. The Act provides the court with a number of alternatives orders (recovery order, attachment of earnings order, community service order) that it can make before the court considers committing the person to prison for non-payment of the fine.

The Irish Prison Service advise that detailed statistical information in relation to numbers in prison custody, prison sentences and length of sentences is available on the Irish Prison Service website www.irishprisons.ie, in the Information Centre, under Statistics & Information. Statistics available include daily prison population, monthly information note statistics, snapshot statistics and yearly statistics.

Sentence Length

Female

Male

Total

<3 Mths

2

35

37

3 to <6 Mths

4

95

99

6 to <12 Mths

18

207

225

1 to <2 Yrs

31

302

333

2 to <3 Yrs

12

299

311

3 to <5 Yrs

15

628

643

5 to <10 Yrs

9

713

722

10+ *Yrs

1

246

247

Life Sentence

11

343

354

Grand Total

103

2,868

2,971

An Garda Síochána

Ceisteanna (201)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

201. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice the number of members in An Garda Síochána at present; if it is planned to increase the strength of the force and provide the funding for same; the number of stations in the country that have less than their allocated number of Garda members attached to them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56742/21]

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 Garda business, including decisions related to the deployment of resources within the organisation. As Minister, I have no role in such matters. However, I am assured that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of policing priorities and crime trends, to ensure their optimum use.

I am pleased that Budget 2022 reflects the commitment of the Government to enhancing community safety and that An Garda Síochána has the resources to be an effective and trusted policing service.

The budget provided by Government to the Garda Commissioner continues to increase to unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.952 billion for 2021 and over €2 billion in funding in Budget 2022. Indeed since 2016, the budget for An Garda Síochána has increased by some €500m, or approximately 33%. This has enabled 3,340 new Gardaí to be deployed, as well as continued investment in modern equipment. In addition, over 800 Gardaí have been redeployed to front line policing work through the recruitment of Garda staff.

I am delighted that Budget 2022 includes funding for the recruitment of 800 new Garda recruits and 400 Garda staff in 2022 - a further additional 1,200 personnel. This planned increase in the number of Garda members and staff is designed to deliver significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide and improved public safety and services to the public generally.

Redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and support roles will also continue next year, thus allowing highly trained Gardaí to focus on frontline policing duties. The organisation's capacity will be further strengthened by the recruitment of additional Garda staff, including to specialist roles to support the investigation of crime and enhance the management of the organisation.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are 14,298 Garda members as at 31 October 2021. I am further informed that to date in 2021, 385 new recruits have entered the Garda College. An Garda Síochána have advised that a recruitment plan for 2022 is currently being developed to manage the recruitment processes for Garda members and Garda staff roles.

Implementation will of course be dependent on public health guidelines but I very much hope it will be possible to maximise the intake to Templemore next year. I understand there are a number of successful candidates still to be called from the last competition but I am delighted to confirm that a new Garda Trainee competition is also being planned for early next year.

I am further advised that when consideration is given by Garda management to the allocation of resources, including newly attested probationer Gardaí, and in facilitating transfers of personnel to or from any division, account is given to commitments and undertakings outlined in the Annual Policing Plan and priorities as determined in delivering ‘A Policing Service for The Future’.

The allocation of Garda resources to any particular station at any given time is a matter for the Garda Commissioner to determine rather than by reference to any set allocation. In determining the allocation of resources local and national crime trends and workloads, policing arrangements and operational strategies, minimum establishment statistics, local population and trends, geographical area and size, and transfer applications, including welfare/personnel issues and concerns, are taken into account in the context of the requirements of all Garda divisions nationwide.

To ensure the continued level of delivery of policing services within Garda divisions, local and senior Garda management are also consulted during the allocation of personnel and are responsible for the specific deployment/assignment of duties being undertaken at divisional level. I understand that the situation remains closely monitored by the Garda Senior Leadership Team, particularly in view of commitments to the continued roll-out of the Operating Model of policing at Divisional level to ensure optimum use of all Garda Resources in providing the best possible Garda service to the community.

Barr
Roinn