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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 436-457
 Header Item Legal Aid Application Numbers
 Header Item Legal Aid Application Numbers
 Header Item International Agreements
 Header Item Capital Programme Expenditure
 Header Item Garda Vetting of Personnel
 Header Item Property Registration Fees
 Header Item Firearms Licences
 Header Item Anti-Social Behaviour
 Header Item Residency Permits
 Header Item Liquor Licensing Laws
 Header Item Charities and Voluntary Organisations
 Header Item Residency Permits
 Header Item Legal Services Regulation
 Header Item Sentencing Policy
 Header Item Naturalisation Applications
 Header Item Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission Issues
 Header Item Judicial Pay

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 89 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 436-457

Legal Aid Application Numbers

 436. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the amount of money spent on free legal aid in 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012 on a national and regional or county basis. [53744/12]

 444. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the amount of legal aid paid to solicitors in each court area for 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53936/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 436 and 444 together.

  As the Deputy will be aware, legal aid services within this State are divided into two separate categories, namely civil legal aid through the Legal Aid Board under the provisions of the Civil Legal Aid 1995, and criminal legal aid through the courts and the judiciary under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962.

  I propose to take each in turn as set out below:

  Civil Legal Aid

  In respect of civil legal aid, the service is provided by the Legal Aid Board and incorporates legal services for asylum seekers. The amount of Exchequer funding provided to the Board since 2009 is set out below. It is not feasible to fully break this figure down on a regional or county basis.

  Overall Expenditure Analysis

2012 (to Date)

(€)
2011

(€)
2010

(€)
2009

(€)
29,940,000 (1)
30,370,000
32,192,000
34,640,000


  This figure incorporates funding for the Family Mediation Service, for which the Board was allocated responsibility from 1 November 2011.

  Services are primarily delivered from the Board's law centre network throughout the State. However, it also uses private practitioners (PPs) to complement this service in certain cases, primarily in District Court cases but also in asylum-related matters.

  The Board spent the following on the use of private practitioners on Civil Legal Aid during the years 2009 to 2012. It is not possible to break this information down by court area.

  Solicitor Expenditure Analysis  
2012

(€)
2011

(€)
2010

(€)
2009

(€)
1,980,554(2)
3,008,888
3,412,195
3,653,778


  up to and including October 2012

  Criminal Legal Aid

  The Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act, 1962, which is the primary legislation covering the operation of the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, provides that free legal aid may be granted, in certain circumstances, for the defence of persons of insufficient means in criminal proceedings.

  Under the Act, the courts, through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of legal aid. An applicant for legal aid must establish to the satisfaction of the court that his/her means are insufficient to enable him/her to pay for legal aid him/herself. This is purely a discretionary matter for each court and is not governed by any financial eligibility guidelines. The 1962 Act specifies that the court must also be satisfied that, by reason of the "gravity of the charge" or "exceptional circumstances", it is essential in the interests of justice that the applicant should have legal aid. However, where the charge is one of murder or where an appeal is one from the Court of Criminal Appeal to the Supreme Court, free legal aid is granted merely on the grounds of insufficient means.

  Total expenditure on criminal legal aid in 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012 is as follows:

  Overall Expenditure Analysis
2012

(€)
2011

(€)
2010

(€)
2009

(€)
46,100,000 (3)
56,100,000
56,500,000
60,300.000


  to end-November

  It is not possible to give a detailed breakdown of expenditure on a regional or county basis as all barristers addresses are recorded by the Department as the Law Library, Dublin 7. However, I am providing details of amounts paid to solicitors by Court area as detailed in the table below:

SOLICITOR EXPENDITURE ANALYSIS
2012

(€)
2011

(€)
2010

(€)
2009

(€)
Carlow - Circuit
57,574.65
110,579.27
85,208.35
86,812.95
Carlow - District
86,454.73
172,011.13
110,979.07
111,895.65
Cavan - Circuit
39,041.32
75,799.93
49,180.59
82,323.71
Cavan - District
328,478.57
373,700.00
374,078.20
655,386.66
Clare - Circuit
180,938.53
153,970.84
199,969.41
180,068.48
Clare - District
309,802.97
330,070.00
325,824.65
394,931.78
Cork - Circuit
563,856.91
833,394.68
870,282.12
974,270.45
Cork - District
1,561,364.40
2,029,225.69
2,118,286.99
2,194,189.62
Donegal - Circuit
123,689.41
138,808.33
127,808.19
240,859.70
Donegal - District
320,109.77
295,326.29
345,231.89
446,648.98
Dublin - Circuit
4,318,169.18
5,295,831.99
4,351,441.47
4,889,285.72
Dublin - District
8,502,064.51
10,097,037.54
10,593,161.28
12,409,068.57
Galway - Circuit
184,127.05
266,239.77
219,393.42
157,188.98
Galway - District
549,940.45
659,923.27
593,136.72
628,097.69
Kerry - Circuit
271,824.48
295,924.98
237,929.12
203,121.98
Kerry - District
288,837.78
414,138.75
504,836.37
423,068.31
Kildare - Circuit
187,005.90
315,410.93
250,218.53
279,358.07
Kildare - District
339,699.43
327,306.84
327,449.27
326,537.90
Kilkenny - Circuit
136,511.44
109,055.83
144,348.22
67,813.87
Kilkenny - District
118,286.18
183,460.78
163,346.43
108,897.52
Leitrim - Circuit
29,019.28
18,626.68
31,705.55
49,458.95
Leitrim - District
37,657.35
34,998.47
40,406.46
52,971.41
Laois - Circuit
82,763.87
78,650.67
68,401.20
103,677.76
Laois - District
153,493.63
259,921.65
270,491.52
234,859.29
Limerick - Circuit
366,005.05
421,117.32
496,568.55
430,906.35
Limerick - District
901,931.09
1,057,068.64
1,139,343.88
1,350,148.82
Longford - Circuit
49,540.69
60,818.85
82,199.02
61,467.36
Longford - District
103,453.63
290,941.46
311,545.69
312,588.55
Louth - Circuit
192,171.09
153,509.92
190,028.70
189,689.83
Louth - District
426,111.72
626,762.54
614,568.52
508,629.73
Mayo - Circuit
100,579.58
158,655.26
159,441.23
154,224.69
Mayo - District
77,970.97
131,077.13
105,470.86
191,524.94
Meath - Circuit
159,797.83
154,845.30
137,316.62
169,943.15
Meath - District
329,125.57
434,478.53
264,238.34
310,727.51
Monaghan - Circuit
35,634.45
43,977.67
62,535.97
55,917.78
Monaghan - District
200,808.61
215,208.44
245,050.74
332,182.07
Offaly - Circuit
76,084.99
59,270.62
57,926.31
45,028.12
Offaly - District
139,870.98
252,319.59
189,068.52
232,499.03
Roscommon - Circuit
33,836.88
24,772.75
65,038.75
108,587.83
Roscommon - District
102,365.43
125,496.61
123,659.70
99,261.36
Sligo - Circuit
60,781.18
84,014.35
74,801.80
82,717.77
Sligo - District
203,834.56
170,863.21
171,363.00
186,152.57
Tipperary - Circuit
263,513.79
180,526.41
244,740.87
248,599.33
Tipperary - District
422,398.26
444,218.46
476,327.65
429,278.09
Waterford - Circuit
294,612.59
451,147.50
124,157.66
305,165.68
Waterford - District
374,786.59
645,761.80
388,982.75
636,494.06
Westmeath - Circuit
125,019.12
174,288.86
182,704.68
269,080.84
Westmeath - District
185,069.37
341,804.13
480,335.04
462,013.60
Wexford - Circuit
233,751.91
160,284.06
172,537.35
168,119.93
Wexford - District
313,079.89
377,166.45
350,021.08
406,661.57
Wicklow - Circuit
212,711.35
211,070.21
305,574.85
183,784.38
Wicklow - District
303,034.70
392,149.97
366,691.68
452,318.95
High Court - Dublin
1,329.63
3,052.39
0.00
2,490.75
Special Criminal Court
230,503.22
131,094.65
155,294.24
209,978.81
Court of Criminal Appeal
232,426.38
425,273.53
542,016.48
513,255.91
Central Criminal Court
1,350,737.32
1,741,419.13
1,894,870.78
1,801,238.15
Supreme Court
556.30
6,671.67
4,270.21
10,674.04

Legal Aid Application Numbers

 437. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the criteria for qualification for free legal aid and if he considers that the criteria needs to be changed. [53745/12]

 445. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to reform the granting of free legal aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53938/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 437 and 445 together.

  As the Deputy will be aware, legal aid services within this State are divided into two separate categories, namely civil legal aid through the Legal Aid Board under the provisions of the Civil Legal Aid 1995, and criminal legal aid through the courts and the judiciary under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962. I propose to take each in turn as set out below:

  Civil Legal Aid

  In the first instance it should be noted that in the vast majority of cases, civil legal aid is not free. Persons who receive civil legal services are generally obliged to pay a financial contribution.

  The criteria for qualifying for civil legal aid are set out in sections 24 to 29 of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 – 2006. In summary, the financial eligibility threshold at the moment is that a person’s disposable income must not exceed €18,000. Disposable income is calculated by taking a person’s gross income (the Board does not treat certain State payments that are made for the benefit of another person as income) and deducting certain allowances. The main allowances are an allowance for a spouse, each child, child care costs, rent or mortgage, income tax, PRSI and USC payments. There is also a capital threshold for eligibility.   disputes concerning rights and interests in or over land, small claims and defamation. There is a general ‘merits’ test for getting legal advice and a more specific test for getting legal aid (representation). Legal aid can only be granted for matters before the District, Circuit, High and Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice. In addition the Minister for Justice and Equality may prescribe any other court or a tribunal for the purpose of making legal aid available. The only tribunal that has been prescribed to date is the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. At present, I have no plans to change the qualification criteria for civil legal aid.

  Criminal Legal Aid

  The Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act, 1962, which is the primary legislation covering the operation of the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, provides that free legal aid may be granted, in certain circumstances, for the defence of persons of insufficient means in criminal proceedings.

  Under the Act, the courts, through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of legal aid. An applicant for legal aid must establish to the satisfaction of the court that his/her means are insufficient to enable him/her to pay for legal aid him/herself. This is purely a discretionary matter for each court and is not governed by any financial eligibility guidelines. The 1962 Act specifies that the court must also be satisfied that, by reason of the "gravity of the charge" or "exceptional circumstances", it is essential in the interests of justice that the applicant should have legal aid. However, where the charge is one of murder or where an appeal is one from the Court of Criminal Appeal to the Supreme Court, free legal aid is granted merely on the grounds of insufficient means.

  An applicant for free legal aid may be required by the court to complete a statement of means. It is an offence for an applicant to knowingly make a false statement or conceal a material fact for the purpose of obtaining legal aid. Such an offence carries a penalty of a fine or imprisonment or both.

  Under the Constitution, the State is obliged to provide an accused person with the means to obtain appropriate legal representation. Also, it must be borne in mind that Article 6(3)(c) of the European Convention on Human Rights requires that every person charged with a criminal offence is entitled to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has insufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require. It is with due regard to these clear rights that any criminal legal aid scheme must operate.

  Officials of my Department are developing a new Criminal Legal Aid Bill to update and strengthen the system of granting legal aid, including transferring responsibility for the administration of the Scheme to the Legal Aid Board. As currently drafted, the Bill will regulate better the taking of statements of means, increase the sanction for false declarations, allow the Board to verify the means of applicants and to prosecute cases of abuse. The transfer of responsibility arrangement to the Legal Aid Board reflects the practice in other jurisdictions where one agency deals with all aspects of legal aid and where it is thereby possible to bring a more dedicated focus to the management and delivery of all of the legal aid schemes. There is still a significant amount of work to be done in developing the Bill but I would hope that it would be possible to publish it during 2013.

  The Deputy will also be interested to know that the fees payable under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme have been subject to three separate reductions over the past few years and some structural changes were also introduced to the fees payable in the course of 2011. To date in 2012, expenditure is €46.16 million which represents a welcome decrease of approximately 10% over the same period in 2011. A number of measures aimed at achieving greater efficiencies in criminal proceedings are being implemented in collaboration with the relevant agencies and with cooperation from legal practitioners.

International Agreements

 438. Deputy Nicky McFadden Information on Nicky McFadden Zoom on Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will sign and ratify the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the Istanbul Convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [53776/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As I stated in my reply to PQ No. 51818/12 of 21 November, 2012, Ireland supports, in principle, the aims and terms of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, an executive office within my Department, actively contributed to all stages of the drafting process in relation to the Convention. That process took place over a period of almost two years.

The detailed provisions of the Convention and the legislative and administrative arrangements that would be necessary to allow signature and ratification of the Convention by Ireland are being examined in conjunction with the government commitment to consolidate and reform domestic violence legislation. However, I have been advised that Article 52 on emergency barring orders presents a particular difficulty in relation to property rights under the Irish constitution. I propose to consult again with the Attorney General’s Office in relation to the legal difficulty relating to Article 52 and other issues. The matter will then be submitted for decision of the Government on the issue of signature of the Convention. I am informed that 25 Council of Europe member states have signed the Convention and one has ratified it. It has not yet entered into force as this requires at least ten member states to ratify it.

Capital Programme Expenditure

 439. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter in respect of the October Exchequer returns, the reason the capital spending for his Department was €11 million below profile for this period; his plans to ensure that the full capital spending is implemented before the end of the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [53834/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The saving on capital spend referred to by the Deputy, at the end of October, is largely the result of timing issues in relation to capital projects. It is expected that this underspend of €11m at the end of October will substantially reduce by the end of November as many of these timing issues are resolved.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

 440. Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the way a person who is self employed and who works with persons under 18 years of age can obtain Garda vetting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53858/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting to organisations in Ireland registered with the Gardaí for this purpose and which employ persons in a full-time, part-time, voluntary or training capacity to positions where they would have substantial, unsupervised access to children and/or vulnerable adults. Given the large number and wide range of client groups, the registration process is managed through umbrella organisations which provide single points of contact. This ensures more effective co-ordination of the application and response process, and improved quality control in the various sectors. It also ensures a more efficient use of resources in the vetting process which is a critical factor given that there are over 20,000 organisations registered at present with the GCVU for this purpose and that the GCVU is handling an average of approximately 30,000 applications per month.

It is not feasible to extend the registration process to individuals as this would have the potential to overwhelm the vetting process with consequent unacceptable delays. In the circumstances it is suggested that an individual could consult within their own profession with a view to identifying an appropriate umbrella organisation to handle an application.

Property Registration Fees

 441. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will justify the increases regarding land fees for persons buying a home in view of the fact that the cost of registering lands has risen by almost 87% in some cases; the way this increase can be justified as the property market is already very distressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53876/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Land Registration (Fees) Order 2012 (S.I. No. 380 of 2012), which came into effect on 1 December 2012, revokes the Land Registration (Fees) Order 1999 and introduces new fees for Land Registry services. The Land Registration (Fees) Order 2012 also introduces new bands for the relevant fees relating to the consideration (value) of transfers on sale and includes details of fees for new services which are now offered by the Property Registration Authority.

Section 21 of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006 provides that I as Minister for Justice and Equality, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, may by Order fix the fees to be charged by the Property Registration Authority for its services. The legislation provides that the fees shall not be fixed at a level calculated to produce an annual amount which is less than that sufficient to discharge the salaries, remuneration and other expenses payable under the Act, i.e. fees are to be set at a level sufficient to meet the full cost associated with Property Registration Authority services. It should be noted that the land registry fees have not been adjusted since 2000, which is a key reason for the need for a significant increase in the level of charges to ensure that the fees cover the cost of PRA services.

Firearms Licences

 442. Deputy John O'Mahony Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of firearm licences that have been granted in each Mayo Garda District for 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53898/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I understand from the Garda Commissioner that the readily available statistics indicate that the total number of firearms which have been licensed since the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2009, for the Mayo Division is 9,672 (as of 1st December 2012 ). Due to operational and security reasons statistics in relation to firearms are provided on a Divisional basis only. I might add that the 2009 Act replaced annual licences with three year licences.

Anti-Social Behaviour

 443. Deputy Eric Byrne Information on Eric J. Byrne Zoom on Eric J. Byrne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will clarify all legislation currently being administered in relation to anti-social behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53921/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter There is a range of strong legislative provisions available to an An Garda Síochána to combat anti-social behaviour.

These include measures under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Acts and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 provides Gardaí with powers to deal with anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking, including exclusion orders in respect of premises and closure orders for licensed premises and catering outlets following anti-social behaviour related offences. In addition, the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 gives further powers to Gardaí to tackle the misuse of alcohol, including the power to seize alcohol in the possession of an under 18 year old which they suspect is for consumption in a public place. Gardaí may can also seize alcohol to forestall public disorder or damage to property. Fixed charge notices may be issued for the offences of intoxication in a public place and disorderly conduct in a public place. This option has the benefit of a more efficient use of Garda and Court resources, while also allowing an offender who complies with the notice to avoid a possible criminal record.

Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2011 provides Gardaí with the power of arrest without warrant where a person begging, harasses, intimidates, assaults or threatens any other person or persons, or obstructs the passage of persons or vehicles, and fails to comply with a direction to move on peaceably from the vicinity.

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults and Part 13 of the Act relates to anti-social behaviour by children. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and finally to the making of a behaviour order by the Children Court. With regard to adults, they include a warning and the making of a civil order by the court.

Where anti-social behaviour is directed at property, the Gardaí have recourse to the provisions of the Criminal Damage Act 1991 which provides a range of offences and penalties, up to and including, on conviction on indictment, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years for the damage, threat of damage or possession of anything with intent to damage, a person’s property.

The foregoing are some of the more important pieces of legislation in relation to anti-social behaviour. There are many others which may be relevant depending on the nature and gravity of the behaviour at issue.

  Question No. 444 answered with Question No. 436.

  Question No. 445 answered with Question No. 437.

Residency Permits

 446. Deputy Paschal Donohoe Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the position regarding a Stamp 4 application in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53940/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I have been informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy made an application to General Immigration Division on 15 September 2012. Applications are dealt with in chronological order and this division will be in touch with this person in due course.

  Queries in relation to general immigration matters may be made directly to INIS 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 INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.    

Liquor Licensing Laws

 447. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter when he expects to make decisions regarding commencement of section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 following the review of the voluntary code of practice for the display and sale of alcohol in supermarkets, convenience stores and similar mixed trading outlets commenced last year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [53969/12]

 448. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he has received the fourth Compliance Report on the Code of Practice on the Display and Sale of Alcohol in Mixed Trading Premises; when same will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53970/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 447 and 448 together.

The Report of the Steering Group on a National Substance Misuse Strategy, which was published earlier this year, contains a broad range of recommendations which seek to address the negative consequences of alcohol misuse and alcohol-related harm in this country. The Department of Health is currently developing an Action Plan for submission to the Government in response to the Report's recommendations. Future arrangements for the display and sale of alcohol in mixed trading premises such as supermarkets and convenience stores will be considered by the Government in the context of that Action Plan.

I have received the fourth Compliance Report on the Code of Practice on the Display and Sale of Alcohol in Mixed Trading Premises. It will be taken into account in the context of determining future arrangements for the display and sale of alcohol in mixed trading premises and will be published in due course.

Charities and Voluntary Organisations

 449. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the timeframe for the recently announced consultation on the implementation of the Charities Act 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53971/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Charities Act 2009 was enacted with the objective of strengthening the regulation of charitable organisations and increasing their transparency and accountability. The majority of the Act's sections have not yet been commenced as they are contingent on the establishment of a new Charities Regulatory Authority, which has been postponed due to budgetary constraints. Notwithstanding this, it remains an objective of the Government to strengthen the regulation of this sector in effective and proportionate ways. To advance this, I intend to conduct a public consultation to invite views from charities, other interested stakeholders, and members of the public on issues connected with the implementation of the Charities Act. These will include the establishment of a Charities Regulatory Authority; the statutory registration of charities and granting of charitable status; and the types of information that a Charities Regulatory Authority might require from registered charities each year. A document to form the basis for the consultation is currently in preparation in my Department and I hope to publish this on the Department's website early in the New Year. The consultation period will run for eight weeks from the date of its publication. I look forward to a wide-ranging and informed consultation process on these important issues.

Residency Permits

 450. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the progress made to date in the determination of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53985/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The person concerned is a failed asylum applicant. Arising from the refusal of his asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 15th July, 2010, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against him. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome. In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before a final decision is made. Once a decision has been made, this decision, and the consequences of the decision, will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS 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.

Legal Services Regulation

 451. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to improve accountability of the legal profession in view of the lack of independent procedures and penalties operated by the Law Society of Ireland. [53995/12]

 473. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the reforms he has introduced to the legal profession to ensure greater competitiveness and price transparency for consumers; if he plans any further reforms of the legal and other professions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51777/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 451 and 473 together.

  The matters to which the Deputies refer are among those being addressed by the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 which completed Second Stage in the Dáil on 23 February and is due to commence Committee Stage early in the new year. The Bill provides for the modernisation and reform of the way legal services are provided in the State along with the more independent regulation of the legal professions and greater transparency and competition in relation to legal costs. The Bill, therefore, gives legislative expression to the commitment given in the Programme for Government to "establish independent regulation of the legal professions to improve access and competition, make legal costs more transparent and ensure adequate procedures for addressing consumer complaints".It supports the objectives of structural reform, national competitiveness and economic recovery as a specific deliverable under the EU/IMF/ECB Troika Memorandum of Understanding while also taking account of recommendations made by the Legal Costs Working Group and by the Competition Authority. The Competition Authority has published reports on several of the professions in addition to solicitors and barristers - for example, on doctors and dentists - and these other professions are outside my remit as Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence.

  In relation to Deputy Broughan's question on legal costs, the Bill makes extensive provision, particularly in Part 9, for a new and enhanced legal costs regime that will bring greater transparency to how legal costs are charged along with a better balance between the interests of legal practitioners and those of their clients. The Bill sets out, for the first time in legislation, a series of Legal Costs Principles. These are contained in Schedule One and enumerate the various matters that may be taken into account if disputed costs are submitted for adjudication. For the first time, these cost transparency measures will apply to barristers as well as to solicitors.

  Under the Bill it will no longer be permissible to set fees as a specified percentage or proportion of damages payable to a client from contentious business. It will no longer be permissible to charge Junior Counsel fees as a specified percentage or proportion of Senior Counsel fees. Legal practitioners will be obliged to provide more detailed information about legal costs from the outset of their dealings with clients. This will be in the form of a Notice written in clear language which must be provided when a legal practitioner takes instructions. Among other things, the Notice must, as set out in Section 90 of the Bill, disclose the costs that are involved, or, where this is not practicable, the basis upon which such costs are to be calculated. A cooling-off period is to be allowed for the consideration of costs by the client. When there are any significant developments in a case which give rise to further costs the Bill provides that a client must be duly updated and given the option of whether or not to proceed with the case in question. The Bill also provides that a new Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator will deal with disputes about legal costs – at present these are dealt with by the Office of the Taxing-Master. The new Office, headed by a Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator, will modernise the way disputed legal costs are adjudicated with greater transparency. The Office will be empowered to prepare Legal Costs Guidelines. It will establish and maintain a publicly accessible Register of Determinations which will include the outcomes and reasons for its determinations about disputed legal costs. Two new Taxing-Masters have been appointed by public competition under the enhanced qualification criteria of Part 14 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 to prepare the way for these modernisation measures.

  While the accountability of the two legal professions is to be enhanced under the Legal Services Regulation Bill, it is not accurate to contend that there are no "independent procedures and penalties operated by the Law Society of Ireland". Under current law the Law Society is, in fact, bound by the conduct regime of the Solicitors Acts 1954 to 2011. In particular, Part 3 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act of 1994 makes detailed provision for the investigation of complaints against solicitors. The Society’s Complaints and Client Relations Committee, which includes lay members, determines complaints lodged directly to the Law Society by members of the public. A member of the public who is dissatisfied with how the Law Society handles such a complaint may, under the current legislation, then refer the matter to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (also appointed under the Solicitors Acts)   at any time within the three year period immediately following the Society’s decision.

  Complaints about professional misconduct may also be made directly to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. Even where a complaint of misconduct has been made to the Law Society in the first instance, it may also be referred by the Society to the Tribunal. The members of the Tribunal, which includes lay persons, are appointed by the President of the High Court. Where there is a finding of misconduct, the Tribunal can impose a sanction on the solicitor ranging from admonishment to a direction to pay restitution of a sum not exceeding €15,000 to any aggrieved party. In more serious cases the Tribunal may refer its finding and recommendation to the President of the High Court who ultimately will decide on the nature of the sanction to be imposed on the solicitor. The powers of sanction available to the High Court range up to the striking off of a solicitor. If either party is unhappy with a decision of the Tribunal this may be appealed to the High Court. The Law Society's disciplinary regime, the Solicitor's Disciplinary Tribunal and the High Court have dealt with several high-profile cases in recent years some of which, as Deputy Daly will be aware, have resulted in the striking off of the solicitor concerned.

  The Legal Services Regulation Bill represents both an enhancement and a broadening of the existing disciplinary regime by providing for an independent body, the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority, to consider complaints against solicitors and barristers with the support of a designated Complaints Committee. The Regulatory Authority will be independently appointed and have a lay majority and a lay chair. It will provide a first point-of-call for complaints that is fully independent of the professional bodies. Under the Bill, therefore, members of the public will no longer go to the Law Society or the Bar Council, or to their respective disciplinary tribunals, to deal with complaints as generally happens at present. Instead, they will do so through the new and independent Legal Services Regulatory Authority. The new Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal will replace the two separate conduct tribunals operating at present with one entity dealing with allegations of misconduct relating both to solicitors and to barristers.

Sentencing Policy

 452. Deputy Dominic Hannigan Information on Dominic Hannigan Zoom on Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to introduce minimum sentencing for sex offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54005/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Government is committed to a strategic review of penal policy, including sentencing generally, and this review is underway. In addition, the Law Reform Commission is reviewing the law on mandatory sentences and published a consultation paper in January this year. The Commission invited submissions on its consultation paper from interested parties and is expected to publish its final report in early 2013. I will await the outcome of both these reviews and consider the recommendations made before taking any further action regarding the law on sentencing.

  Question No. 453 answered with Question No. 434.

Naturalisation Applications

 454. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of applications for a certificate of naturalisation by a naturalised Irish citizen acting on behalf of their minor child since this has been made possible, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54050/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Section 16(b) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation although the conditions for naturalisation (or any of them) are not complied with, where the applicant is a naturalised Irish citizen acting on behalf of a minor child of the applicant. Approximate figures available for the number of applications submitted by a naturalised parent on behalf of their minor child for the years 2005 to 2012 are: 400, 400, 400, 700, 1,300, 1,500, 2,400 and 3,900 respectively.

When I came into office in March, 2011, I was determined to tackle the backlog that had built up in the processing of applications for citizenship. To this end, a series of more streamlined measures have resulted in a major increase in the volume of applications processed with some 22,500 cases decided so far in 2012, almost three times the volume in 2010. The increased number of adult applications being approved has resulted in an almost tenfold increase since 2005 in the number of applications submitted by naturalised parents on behalf of their minor children.

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission Issues

 455. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if sufficient Garda presence will be provided to police the upcoming OSCE conference on 5 December without impacting on normal operational policing presence. [54076/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that, in addition to normal operational policing arrangements, a comprehensive policing strategy has been put in place to ensure that a sufficient Garda presence will be provided to police the upcoming OSCE conference on 5th December 2012.

Judicial Pay

 456. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the amount a person (details supplied) was being paid in sick leave since June 2011 until their recent resignation  [54092/12]

 457. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the amount a person (details supplied) may expect as a lump sum and annual pension payment following their recent retirement.  [54093/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 456 and 457 together.

The Deputy may wish to note that my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is responsible for the pay and pensions of the judiciary. Under Article 35.5 of the Constitution, a judge’s salary may not be reduced except in the specific circumstances approved in last year’s Referendum on Judges’ Pay. There is, therefore, no legal provision to withhold a judge’s pay while on sick leave. Following the Referendum, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform introduced the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Amendment) Act 2011 which reduced the salary payable to a serving District Court Judge to €136,124 (€123,881 net of the pension related deduction), with effect from 1 January 2012. Prior to 1 January 2012 the applicable salary was €147,961.

A judge’s pension is calculated by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in accordance with the relevant legislative provisions. Pensions in respect of District Judges are based on 1/40th of salary per year of service up to a maximum period of twenty years. A lump sum is calculated at 3/40ths of salary up to a maximum of 1.5 times salary. Under the Pensions Act 1990 (as amended) a person who has served a minimum of two years is entitled to apply for a preserved pension on reaching 65 years or if retiring on established medical grounds, a pro rata pension may be paid after five years. Alternatively, a judge over the age of 60 who has served a minimum of two years may apply for Cost Neutral Early Retirement (provided for in the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012). Under this scheme benefits are payable immediately subject to cost neutral reduction on an actuarial basis.


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