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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 476-499
 Header Item Garda Stations
 Header Item Crime Data
 Header Item Peace Commissioners Data
 Header Item Garda Deployment
 Header Item Garda Data
 Header Item Garda Data
 Header Item Gambling Legislation
 Header Item Garda Stations
 Header Item Garda Operations
 Header Item Garda Expenditure
 Header Item Road Traffic Accidents Data
 Header Item Garda Data
 Header Item Stardust Fire
 Header Item Departmental Websites
 Header Item Family Law Cases
 Header Item Family Law Cases
 Header Item Commercial Rates
 Header Item Immigration Status
 Header Item Dublin-Monaghan Bombings
 Header Item Criminal Law
 Header Item Departmental Equipment

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 961 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 119 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 476-499

Garda Stations

 476. Deputy John Curran Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the plans he and the Garda Commissioner have to locate a new Garda station in Clonburris in which the strategic development zone plan is being developed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [45744/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Deputy will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the allocation of Garda resources in the State and, in the context of Garda stations, the Garda authorities work in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.

I have, however, asked the Garda Commissioner for information requested by the Deputy will revert to him when it is to hand.

Crime Data

 477. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the number of weapons that were stolen from houses and vehicles in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45745/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have asked the Garda Commissioner for a report on this matter and I will write to the Deputy as soon as it becomes available.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A.

Peace Commissioners Data

 478. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the number and names of peace commissioners in Fingal, County Dublin, by locality, in tabular form; the number of peace commissioners across the country; the names of peace commissioners in each locality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45749/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Peace Commissioners are appointed by the Minister for Justice and Equality under Section 88 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. Peace Commissioners are  recorded in order of Garda sub-district, not by local authority. I attach for the Deputy's information a file list of Peace Commissioners by name, county and Garda sub-district.

  I must caution that this list is not automatically updated to take account of changes in the circumstances of individual Peace Commissioners since their appointment. These changes may involve a move to a different address, unwillingness to continue to perform the duties of the position, incapacity or death. My Department is reliant upon the Peace Commissioners themselves and other interested parties to advise of such changes in circumstance. Individuals seeking details of Peace Commissioners available in their areas are advised to make inquiries at their local Garda Station where the most up to date information can be obtained.

  Table

Question No. 479 answered with Question No. 471.

Garda Deployment

 480. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if there is a Garda armed response unit based in Ennis, County Clare; if not, his plans to locate one there; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [45777/17]

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

I am advised by the Commissioner that the Armed Support Units (ASU) are regional resources, serving all the Garda Districts and Divisions in each of the six Garda Regions, including the Ennis District which is part of the Clare Division in the Western Region. These Regional ASU were established in order to provide an armed response capacity and capability in each Garda Region and in support of, and to supplement, the national Emergency Response Unit.

The ASUs are an overt armed support service and are deployed on a 24/7 basis, providing a high-visibility tactical armed response, including enhanced less lethal capability. Members of the ASUs are highly trained and equipped with a variety of non-lethal and lethal weapons and perform high visibility armed checkpoints and patrols throughout their respective Regions.

In the event of an armed incident or similar incident, armed Detective members from local District and Divisional Units will respond, as will the Regional ASU. Should the incident be escalated and further armed support be required the Emergency Response Unit is also available and they, too, are highly trained and especially equipped to respond to the most serious incident or terrorist threat.

Garda Data

 481. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the number of gardaí based in Ennis, County Clare in each of the years 2013 to 2016, and to date in 2017, in tabular form. [45778/17]

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

  As the Deputy will be aware the Ennis District forms part of the Clare Division and I am informed by the Commissioner that on the 30 September 2017, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the Clare Division was 305. There are also 6 Garda Reserves and 32 civilians attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

  I am further informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 20 of whom have been assigned to the Clare Division. In addition, another 200 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest later this year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - an increase of 500 since the end of 2016.

  This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. The substantial increase in Garda numbers is tangible progress on achieving this Government’s vision of an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.

  I am pleased to say that Budget 2018 will support the continuation of this high level of investment in the Garda workforce and ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. A further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College, an additional 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training early in 2018.

  This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Garda Division, including the Clare Division, in the coming years.

  For the Deputy's information I have set out below, as provided by the Commissioner, the number of Gardaí based in the Ennis District from 2013 to 2017.

  Strength of the Ennis District 2013-2017

Year No.
2013 225
2014 217
2015 222
2016 221
2017* 230


  *As of 30 September 2017

Garda Data

 482. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the number of Garda patrol cars based in Ennis, County Clare in each of the years 2013 to 2016 and to date in 2017, in tabular form. [45779/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As the Deputy will appreciate, decisions in relation to the provision and allocation of Garda vehicles are a matter for the Garda Commissioner in the light of his identified operational demands and the availability of resources and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter.

  The Deputy will be aware that there has been unprecedented investment in the Garda Fleet in recent years with some €46 million being invested over the lifetime of the Government's Capital Plan 2016 - 2021 to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit for purpose fleet.

  I am informed by the Garda authorities that the requested Fleet strength in the Ennis District during the period 2013 to 2017 is as follows:

Year Total
2013 19
2014 21
2015 23
2016 24
2017 (as at 26/10/2017) 28

Gambling Legislation

 483. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the position regarding the progress of the Gambling Control Bill 2013; the timeframe for the progression of the bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [45784/17]

 484. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the way in which the Gambling Control Bill 2013 will protect children and young persons from the dangers of gambling; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [45785/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I propose to take Questions Nos. 483 and 484 together.

The General Scheme of the Gambling Control Bill was published in July 2013 following approval by the Government. The Bill, as proposed, will update all existing laws on the regulation and licensing of gambling activities, including betting and gaming. The Scheme does not include the National Lottery whose activities are separately regulated under the National Lotteries Act 2013.  

Having been given special responsibility in this area, I am working to ensure that legislation providing for the regulation of the gambling sector can be published at the earliest opportunity.  

With regard to the specific point raised by the Deputy, the new legislation to regulate the gambling sector will have consumer protection generally as one of its core principles, and it will include necessary measures aimed at assisting and protecting vulnerable persons, including young persons and children.  

For example, the Bill will include prohibitions on the employment of young persons in the industry, they will not be permitted to participate in gambling and there will be arrangements for age verification checks by licence holders. The regulatory body proposed in the legislation will have an inspection role to ensure compliance by licence holders with the terms of their licence and with the new legislation generally. In addition, restrictions are proposed on advertising, promoting and sponsoring of events by licence holders to ensure that these activities should not be targeted at young people. However, the Deputy will appreciate that such restrictions need to be carefully thought through to prevent unintended consequences.  

The General Scheme also proposes the establishment of a Fund to aid research, education and awareness activities. The Fund will be based on contributions from the industry, but the proposals will ensure independent supervision of the disbursement of monies collected. I would envisage educational efforts with regard to gambling will be directed towards young people.

Finally, I should mention, that the Civil Law and Courts (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017, now under preparation, will impose a standard age of 18 years for participation in gambling activities. In recognition of that, Tote Ireland recently announced that it has implemented this age limit from 1 October. Previously no age limit applied to betting on the Tote.

Garda Stations

 485. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if persons are obligated to report a suspected crime to their nearest Garda station regardless of the opening hours of that station.  [45786/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have been informed by the Garda authorities that a suspected crime can be reported to any member of An Garda Síochána, irrespective of where the suspected crime took place. Contact details of all Garda stations are available on the Garda website which also provides advice to members of the public in terms of contacting An Garda Síochána, including to report a crime.

The advice from An Garda Síochána is if you are a victim, or a witness, to a crime you should report this to An Garda Síochána. You can do this by the following methods:

- Call 999 or 112 in the case of an emergency;

- Call your local Garda Station or call in person to your local Garda Station; and

- Using the online declaration which can only be used for declaring the theft of property not exceeding the value of €500 in the State.

Alternatively, the Garda Confidential line allows people to contact An Garda Síochána with confidential information relating to matters of crime or other activities. Members of the public can call this line on 1800 666 111. Similarly, Crimestoppers is a partnership initiative between private industry and An Garda Síochána, aimed at people who have information on crime. It guarantees anonymity and offers cash rewards for information. Members of the public can call this line on 1800 250 025.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Garda Traffic Watch hotline allows members of the public to report incidents of dangerous driving to An Garda Síochána so that the drivers can be intercepted, cautioned and if required brought through the courts process. The Garda Traffic Watch hotline is contactable by telephone at 1890 205 805.

Garda Operations

 486. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his plans for a full review of the covert human intelligence sources, CHIS, system. [45787/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Deputy will appreciate that there are clear and detailed guidelines governing the procedures and processes in relation to the use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (CHIS) by An Garda Síochána. These are set out in a comprehensive Code of Practice. The appropriate mechanisms are in place ensure that these prescribed procedures are fully complied with.

I wish to inform the Deputy that the CHIS system is subject to both internal review on an ongoing basis by the Garda Authorities and to independent, external oversight on a routine basis.

The process of internal review involves periodic examination of the use of CHIS by a senior officer who is not involved in using the system and in respect of any related expenditure involves the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

In 2010 a former Judge of the High Court, Mr. Justice T. C. Smyth, was appointed as Oversight Authority for CHIS and he has been tasked with monitoring the operation of the CHIS system to ensure that it is operated in accordance with the guidelines. He conducts an annual, detailed examination of the operation of the system on a country-wide basis and reports on his findings. He also conducts ad hoc examinations as circumstances may require. Mr. Justice Smyth reports to me on his examinations. I should emphasise, of course, that he is entirely independent in carrying out his functions.

The House will appreciate, therefore, that the CHIS system is kept under constant and active review. .

Garda Expenditure

 487. Deputy Colm Brophy Information on Colm Brophy Zoom on Colm Brophy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the way in which the cost of the fingerprinting service provided by An Garda Síochána is arrived at; if the fee is based on a cost-of-service basis or if this creates a revenue stream; the way in which the money received for these payments is spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45791/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the administration of An Garda Síochána, including the setting of administrative fees for certain services. As Minister, I have no role in relation to this matter.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that fees charged for the taking of fingerprints for purposes other than crime investigation are €60 for the first set of fingerprints and €30 for each subsequent set.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the fees charged are intended to recoup the administrative costs involved. All fees collected are lodged and accounted for as appropriations in aid in the Garda Vote.

Road Traffic Accidents Data

 488. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will report on the number of fatal road traffic collisions in each of the years 2015, 2016 and to date in 2017 in which the drivers involved were tested for alcohol at the scene; if he will further report on the reason for not testing at the scene if testing did not take place in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45804/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question 709 of 20 June 2017 in which the information provided included the number of fatal collisions, the number of persons not tested for alcohol and the reasons therefor for the years 2015, 2016 and to 31 May 2017. I have replicated the tables hereunder for ease of reference.

  I have requested updated statistics for 2017 and will contact the Deputy directly once they are to hand.

- 2015 2016 to 31 May 2017
No. of Fatal Collisions 155 175 59
No. of Fatalities 162 187 63 
No. of Single Vehicle Collisions  50 51 22
No. of Multiple Vehicle Collisions 105 124 37
       
Reason Recorded for not Testing 2015 2016 to 31 May 2017
Fatality (Only occupant / driver of the vehicle deceased) 56 58 26
Hit and Run Collision 1 3 3
Driver Gone To Hospital 12 12 3
Driver Gone To Hospital (Refused)    
Driver Gone From Hospital  
Medical Grounds 7
Medical Grounds (Doctor Refused)   1
Doctor / Nurse Not Available (3 hours)    
Driver not Known   2  
Witness    
Witness Took Evasive Action    
Not Investigated At The Scene - Insufficient Time, 3 Hours   1  
None of the Above - Originally Classified as a Non-Serious Injury Collision 1    
None of the Above - Originally Classified as a Material- Only Collision     1

Garda Data

 489. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will report on the number of road traffic collisions in each of the years 2015, 2016 and to date in 2017 in which there was a serious injury and in which the drivers involved were tested for alcohol at the scene; if testing did not take place at the scene, the reason therefor for the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [45805/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have sought a report from the Garda authorities in relation to this matter and I will contact the Deputy directly when the report is to hand.

Stardust Fire

 490. Deputy Denise Mitchell Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan when the report submitted by a person (details supplied) into evidence compiled by a committee on the Stardust tragedy of 1981 will be published. [45842/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Judge McCartan’s report was formally submitted to my Department on 17 October 2017. The report was sent to the Office of the Attorney General for advices. I brought the report to the next Cabinet meeting, earlier today, following receipt of those advices. The report was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas today, following the Cabinet meeting, and has been published on my Department's website.

Departmental Websites

 491. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the external company undertaking an audit of his departmental website; the cost of the audit; the timeframe for its completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45864/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan There are no external companies currently undertaking an audit of my departmental website.

As part of the Government's eGovernment strategy 2017- 2020, the Office of the Chief Information Officer has been working on the development of a Digital Service Gateway - a single digital point where citizens can easily access information about the Government services that are available to them. This work, which began at the beginning of this year, is ongoing and will involve the rationalisation of existing Government websites and online services over time. This project will be managed and developed by existing resources within the civil service.

Family Law Cases

 492. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the level of mediation uptake in family law cases here; the way in which this compares with international practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45870/17]

 493. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his views on whether it is appropriate to make mediation compulsory in family law cases; his further views on whether it is appropriate and advisable that child psychologists and psychiatrists need to be pre-eminent in the family court process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45871/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I propose to take Questions Nos. 492 and 493 together.

The Mediation Act 2017 was enacted on 2 October and I intend to make a Commencement Order in the coming weeks bringing the Act into operation.

One of the key principles enshrined in the Mediation Act is that mediation is a voluntary process. The Act's definition of mediation states that mediation means a confidential, facilitative and voluntary process in which parties to a dispute, with the assistance of a mediator, attempt to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve the dispute. It would not be appropriate, therefore, to make mediation compulsory in family mediation cases.

I should point out, however, that section 23 of the Act provides for delivery of a scheme of mediation information sessions for those involved in family law disputes. The intention is to promote and explain the benefits of mediation as an alternative to court proceedings for the resolution of such disputes. However, it will remain a matter for the parties themselves to decide whether to use mediation or commence legal proceedings.

As regards the level of uptake of mediation in family law cases in this jurisdiction, the position is that the Legal Aid Board became responsible for the provision of the State-funded family mediation services in November 2011 following the enactment of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011. State-funded services have been available since 1986.

Family mediation is a free, confidential service in which a professional mediator assists those involved in family law cases, in particular separating or divorcing couples, to negotiate the terms of their separation or divorce. It also assists same sex couples as well as couples who have never lived together but have a child. The Board operates on a number of levels, through its general mediation offices, through dedicated court-based projects and through the provision of mediation information sessions at 3 locations.

The latest data from the Legal Aid Board in relation to the Family Mediation Service indicate that the total number of couples in mediation in 2016 was 2,249, of which 1,390 couples reached agreement and a further 547 couples were continuing in mediation at end 2016. Of the 1,702 concluded mediations, the success rate was in the order of 82%. I am not, however, in a position to provide comparable data in respect of other jurisdictions.

As regards the role of experts in private family law proceedings, the position is that section 47 of the Family Law Act 1995 provides that a court may, of its own motion or on application to it in that behalf by a party to the proceedings, order a report in writing on any question affecting the welfare of a party to the proceedings or any other person to whom they relate. The Court in question is the Circuit Court or the High Court.

The power under section 47 of the 1995 Act to order a report lies with the Court. As the Deputy is aware, the Courts are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their statutory functions and the conduct of any family law case is a matter for the presiding judge.

The qualifications of experts appointed under section 47 are determined by the issues of concern in the cases concerned. There are no regulations that require experts to hold specific qualifications, but those engaged in this process are usually qualified and practising psychologists or psychiatrists, depending on the issues involved. Experts appointed under section 47 are required to act in accordance with the standards and codes of conduct of their professional bodies.

The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 contains new provisions regarding the best interests of children which have been in operation since 18 January 2016. One of the Act’s important reforms is to facilitate the hearing of the voice of the child in any court proceedings where the guardianship, custody or upbringing of, or access to, a child is in question. Section 63 of the Act inserted a new section 32 into the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 which provides the court with the option to seek a written expert report on the welfare of the child. Section 32 also enables the court to appoint an expert to determine and convey the child’s views to the court, so that the child’s voice can be heard in the proceedings. These provisions allow the courts to take account of the evolving capacity of children, and give them the flexibility to ensure that all children’s views can be heard.

My Department, in conjunction with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, is currently finalising regulations under section 32(10). These regulations will specify the necessary qualifications and experience of child’s views experts appointed in private family law proceedings and the fees and expenses that may be charged by such experts. .

Family Law Cases

 494. Deputy John Lahart Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his views on the notion that practising lawyers and solicitors must have achieved an academic specialism, not just certificates in continuous special development, in child and family matters before undertaking cases related to family law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45872/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The issue of how solicitors and barristers engage in the course of family law cases is, as conveyed by the Deputy’s Question, a matter of delicate balance in terms of best representing the interests of the respective parties to the proceedings concerned, some of whom will be minors. It is also an inherent part of the administration of justice under which the lawyers concerned have certain duties to the courts as well as to their clients. In that capacity they are also obliged, in exercising their right of audience before the courts, to adhere to the professional principles and to act with independence and integrity.

As the Deputy may also be aware, the area of Family Law is covered extensively in the university law degree courses and also in the professional qualification processes for both barristers and solicitors. To this extent those receiving their parchments as solicitors or those being called to the Bar will have arrived at that point having already had very substantial academic, theoretical and practical grounding in family law matters. Thereafter, the practice requirement for people who choose to specialise in the family area would be for continuous professional development in relation to family law matters and ongoing awareness of the relevant developments in case law at the various court jurisdiction levels.

At the same time this framework does not prevent a person with an academic background in child and family matters, for instance, from acquiring the necessary qualifications to become a specialist legal practitioner. This is evidenced by the number of legal practitioners from a variety of academic backgrounds who specialise in various areas of the law including, as raised by the Deputy, in family law, and who enjoy a high reputation in that regard. In so far as judicial proceedings in family cases will be concerned, a knowledge of family law will always be essential to ensuring that the best interests of clients are represented. While I appreciate the sensitivities behind the Deputy’s Question, therefore, I would at the same time be cautious about taking an overly prescriptive approach from either a purely academic or a purely legal perspective in this regard.

At the same time, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the Government’s ongoing working commitment to significant reform of the courts, including the establishment of a family law court structure that is streamlined, more efficient, and less costly. Consequently, my Department is working on the General Scheme of a Family Court Bill which will aim to streamline family law court processes, clarify jurisdictional issues and provide for a set of guiding principles to help ensure that the Family Court will operate in a user-friendly and efficient manner. My Department is also engaged in further consultations with stakeholders in relation to the operational aspects of a new family court structure. The intention is to establish a dedicated Family Court within the existing court structures. The proposed General Scheme, for which I hope to secure Government approval in the coming months, will also support the proposals in the Mediation Act 2017 by encouraging greater use of alternative dispute resolution to assist in the more timely resolution of family law cases.

Commercial Rates

 495. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by quarry owners regrading the current review of commercial rates and valuations and the adverse effect this will have on the cost of doing business and the construction industry; if the methodology being used to calculate the valuations will be reassessed in view of complaints received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45907/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Valuation Acts 2001 to 2015 provide for the valuation of all commercial and industrial property for rating purposes. The Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his functions under the Acts and the making of valuations for rating is his sole responsibility. I, as Minister for Justice and Equality, have no role in decisions made in this regard. As the Deputy will be aware, under Irish law there is a distinct separation of function between the valuation of rateable property and the setting and collection of commercial rates. The amount of rates payable in any calendar year is a product of the valuation set by the Commissioner of Valuation, multiplied by the Annual Rate on Valuation (ARV) decided annually by the elected members of each local authority.

As the Deputy will appreciate, having a modern valuation base is very important for the levying of commercial rates on a fair and equitable basis across all economic sectors. This has been the policy of successive governments for many years and is the express purpose of the National Revaluation Programme now being rolled out by the Valuation Office. To this end, the Valuation Acts provide for the revaluation of all rateable property within a rating authority area so as to reflect relative changes and differential movements in property values arising from evolving economic factors and changes in the local business environment over time. The Valuation Office is currently carrying out an extensive series of revaluations, the immediate objective of which is to ensure that the first revaluation of all rating authority areas in over 150 years is conducted across the country, as soon as possible, and on a phased basis. This is a welcome and positive development which is long overdue and on which considerable progress has been made to date. Revaluation is an important instrument in addressing historical anomalies in relation to commercial rates for both urban and rural properties and between particular classes of property within a local authority area.

In September, as part of the phase of the programme known as "REVAL 2017",final Valuation Certificates were sent to all ratepayers in the rating authority areas of Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Longford, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, South Dublin, and Westmeath County Councils. The valuations will be used to calculate the rates charged in 2018 and subsequent years. Work has recently commenced on the revaluation of all rateable properties in the rating authority areas of Cavan, Fingal, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow County Councils.

Where the Valuation Office proposes to enter a new valuation or amend an existing valuation on a Valuation List, there is an extensive process available to cater for ratepayers who may be dissatisfied with the proposed valuation they receive from the Valuation Office. A dissatisfied person can, in the first instance, make representations to the Valuation Office within 40 days of the date of the issue of the proposed valuation certificate. The Valuation Office considers any such representations and, based on the evidence and material provided by the ratepayer or his or her agent, may or may not change the proposed valuation depending on the circumstances of each individual property. If any ratepayer is still dissatisfied with the final valuation to be placed on their property following consideration of the representations, they have a right to lodge a formal appeal with the Valuation Tribunal within 28 days of the publication of a new valuation list in the case of a revaluation and within 28 days of the of the final valuation in the case of a revision. The Tribunal is an independent statutory body established for the purpose of hearing appeals against decisions of the Commissioner of Valuation.

With regard to the Deputy’s particular enquiry in relation to quarries, I am informed that the revaluation of such properties are conducted according to the same basis of valuation as all other classes of rateable property, as prescribed by part 11 of the Valuation Act 2001, as amended. This requires the Valuation Office to determine the Net Annual Value of the property, as defined in section 48, and by reference to a particular valuation date. I am informed by the Commissioner of Valuation that, in accordance with well established international valuation principles and best professional practice, and in keeping with the case law of the Valuation Tribunal and the jurisprudence of the Higher Courts, various methodologies may be used in estimating the net annual value of a property or class of properties for the purposes of section 48. I am also informed that the valuations placed on all quarries as part of REVAL 2017 programme, as outlined above, have been arrived at using established valuation practice that was deployed previously in the revaluation of quarries in Waterford, Limerick and Dublin and which is in accordance with the findings of the Supreme Court in the recent case of Kilsaran Concrete –v- Commissioner of Valuation [2016] IESC 61. Accordingly, there are no plans at present to reassess the methodology used to determine the rateable valuation of quarries under the National Revaluation Programme.

Immigration Status

 496. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the progress to date in the determination of an application for stamp 4 in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45930/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the person concerned applied for a residence permission and a right to work based on their parentage of an Irish citizen child. A decision letter issued to this person on 26 April 2017.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings

 497. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan when his Department will respond to the request from the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland seeking files in respect of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45937/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is carrying out investigations into a number of paramilitary-related killings in the 1970s. As part of those investigations the Police Ombudsman has sought co-operation from the authorities here, including and primarily from An Garda Síochána. I am committed to co-operating fully with the Police Ombudsman in these important investigations insofar as the law allows.

I am informed that the Garda Authorities have been in contact directly with the Police Ombudsman’s office and have met with the Police Ombudsman’s investigation team in order to assist in identifying relevant material.

As the Deputy will appreciate particular legal issues can arise in respect of such co-operation. The Police Ombudsman has a criminal investigation function and international co-operation in respect of criminal investigations is circumscribed by the arrangements in law for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. The Deputy will understand that I would not be in a position to comment on any given request for mutual legal assistance or to confirm that any such request had been made.

Consideration is also being given to the means by which co-operation otherwise with the Police Ombudsman’s office can also be provided. My Department is seeking advices from the Attorney General’s office in order to put in place measures in this regard.

Criminal Law

 498. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his plans to implement specific penalties for those found to have damaged life-saving equipment such as defibrillators as contained in the Life Saving Equipment Bill 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45949/17]

 533. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his views on the Life Saving Equipment Bill 2017 which provides specific penalties for those found to have damaged life-saving equipment such as defibrillators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46620/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I propose to take Questions Nos. 498 and 533 together.

There is already strong legislation in place to deal with criminal damage to property generally. The Criminal Damage Act 1991 provides for a range of offences and significant penalties for damaging property. Under that Act it is an offence to damage, threaten to damage or possess anything with intent to damage property. The term "to damage" is broadly defined in the Act as including "to destroy, deface, dismantle or, whether temporarily or otherwise, render inoperable or unfit for use or prevent or impair the operation of" the property concerned.

Section 2 of the 1991 Act provides that a person who, without lawful excuse, intentionally damages any property belonging to another or is reckless as to whether any such property would be damaged is guilty of an offence. It also provides that a person who, without lawful excuse, intentionally damages any property or is reckless as to whether any property would be damaged and who intends by that damage to endanger the life of another or is reckless to such endangerment is guilty of an offence. This latter provision has particular relevance in the context of damage to life-saving equipment.

A person found guilty under section 2 of the Act may be liable, on conviction on indictment, to a fine and imprisonment for up to 10 years or for life, depending on the nature of the offence.

The response to this Private Members Bill, which provides a maximum penalty on conviction on indictment of imprisonment for up to 5 years, will be a matter in the first instance for Government.

Departmental Equipment

 499. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the estimated cost of the provision of a defibrillator in each public building owned by his Department and agency under the aegis of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45973/17]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I can inform the Deputy that defibrillators are installed in my Department's public buildings. The costs are not readily available as the equipment is in place, in some instances for many years.  All the defibrillators are checked monthly as part of the routine health and safety checks and batteries are replaced every four years and pads every two years.

I have requested that the relevant bodies and agencies which fall under the remit of my Department contact the Deputy directly with the relevant information in respect of public buildings within their individual areas of responsibility.


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