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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 66-82
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Prison Visiting Regulations
 Header Item Probation and Welfare Service
 Header Item Road Safety Authority Campaigns
 Header Item Garda Stations Closures
 Header Item Garda Compensation
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Spent Convictions Legislation
 Header Item Youth Services Provision
 Header Item Garda Strength
 Header Item Child Protection Issues
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Rights of People with Disabilities
 Header Item Judicial Appointments
 Header Item Child Detention Centres
 Header Item Third Level Fees

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 66-82

Proposed Legislation

 66. 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 his plans to introduce comprehensive family law reforms that will provide for children being parented by lesbian or gay couples. [54486/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Programme for Government includes a commitment to amend the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 to address any anomalies or omissions, including those relating to children. In this regard, the Law Reform Commission has made detailed recommendations in its Report on the Legal Aspects of Family Relationships. In particular, the Commission recommends that legislative provisions be introduced to facilitate the extension of guardianship (parental responsibility) to civil partners and step-parents either by agreement with the other parties who have parental responsibility for the child or by application to court.

  With a view to comprehensively addressing this area of the law, I am presently engaged in the preparation of a Family Relationships and Childrens Bill. In that context, I am considering the Commission's specific recommendations on legislative reform, which will put same-sex couples and step-parents on an equal footing with other couples in relation to their children. I am also reviewing existing legislation worldwide addressing the issues of parentage, assisted human reproduction and surrogacy and considering the recommendations contained in the Report of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction published by the Department of Health in 2005. Those reforms must ensure that children in lesbian or gay family units are able to form a legal connection with their non-biological parent and that kindred relationships flow from such legal connection. In particular, reform of the law is needed in the areas of guardianship, custody and access, and to ensure maintenance and inheritance rights for the children of civil partners.

Prison Visiting Regulations

 67. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if his attention has been drawn to the fact that international research demonstrates that strong family relationships are key to the successful reintegration of prisoners on release; and his plans to address this matter in the context of denial of visits due to prison discipline, which is against human rights standards. [54466/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Irish Prison Service endeavours to help prisoners, where possible and appropriate, to maintain relationships with their families. Every effort is made to ensure that prisoners are located as close to their home as possible to facilitate visits from family and friends. However, this is not always possible for operational and security reasons. I am aware that maintaining family relationships can help to prevent prisoners re-offending and assist them to resettle successfully into their community and I am aware that International research has found that prisoners who maintain good family contact are twice as likely to have employment and housing on leaving prison and are up to six times less likely to re-offend.

Section 35 of the 2005 Prison Rules sets out the provisions regarding prisoners contact with the outside community including through ordinary visits. Under these rules a sentenced prisoner is entitled to one visit per week of 30 minutes duration and a remand prisoner is entitled to a visit on any weekday of 15 minutes duration. However, additional or longer visits may be granted where circumstances permit, at the Governor's discretion.

The Deputy may be aware the Irish Prison Service has recently introduced new Guidelines on the Imposition of Disciplinary Sanctions in Accordance with the Prison Rules 2007 to provide uniformity in the use of disciplinary sanctions and procedures throughout the Irish Prison Service. Under these guidelines prisoners should not lose the right to communicate with their families and the loss of family visits is not employed as a sanction in response to a breach of prison discipline.

  Question No. 68 answered with Question No. 58.

Probation and Welfare Service

 69. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to adequately resource the Probation Service into the future to effectively administer the community return scheme and the increased volume of Community Service Orders following the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Community Service)(Amendment) Act 2011. [54469/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Probation Service has restructured the delivery of community service nationally under the governance of a dedicated Community Service Unit. Besides the 9 dedicated administrative and probation staff of the Unit, there are 78 Probation Officers nation-wide whose range of duties include community service.

  Community Service Supervisors are also employed to manage offenders undertaking community service on work projects. An earlier audit found that there was capacity from within existing resources to provide supervision services to three times as many offenders as were under their supervision at the time of the examination. Community Service Supervisors are now in a better position to meet the need for placements where required, and their workload has increased significantly to meet capacity requirements. There are currently 39.6 whole-time equivalent Supervisor posts filled, 3 of whom were recruited in 2011, a further 4 are being recruited at the present time, and there is provision for another 4 posts as and where the need arises.

  The Probation Service continues to prioritise its workload and allocate resources as necessary to maximise its efficiency and effectiveness in administering community sanctions as an effective alternative to custody. This also includes working with high risk sex offenders and young people and those where the Service has a legislative mandate.

  The Deputy can be assured that the Service will continue to have my full support in making greater use of community service to the benefit of prisoners and communities as an alternative to imprisonment.

Road Safety Authority Campaigns

 70. 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 if there will be an enhanced road safety campaign on the roads over the Christmas period; if this will include increased Garda checkpoints; if resources have been allocated to An Garda Siochána to facilitate an enhanced Christmas road safety campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54355/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As the Deputy may be aware, the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána launched their Christmas and New Year Road Safety Campaign yesterday. As part of this campaign, significant Garda resources will be dedicated to preventing and addressing unsafe road behaviour over the holiday period through targeted enforcement and road safety operations, including the operation of mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints where appropriate. Garda road safety enforcement will target high-risk behaviour such as speeding, driving while intoxicated, non-wearing of seatbelts and the use of mobile phones while driving. Furthermore, An Garda Síochána will continue to work with all partner agencies in the promotion of key messages and initiatives to improve road safety.

Garda Stations Closures

 71. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans for the closure of Garda stations across the country in 2013; the location of the closures; the estimated savings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55476/12]

 333. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the procedures to be put in place in advance of any proposed closure of a rural Garda station; the specific provisions to be adopted to improve the Garda presence in a rural community following the closure of a Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55411/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 71 and 333 together.

The Commissioner's Policing Plan for 2013, which I laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 5th December 2012, sets out details of the closure of 100 Garda stations throughout the country, the future opening hours of other stations in Cork and Dublin and a number of District amalgamations. It is important to remember that while some Garda stations are listed for revised opening hours from 24 hour stations, they will remain as functioning Garda stations on a 24 hour basis. The full list of these details is available in the Policing Plan which is available in the Oireachtas Library.

While it is difficult to estimate precise savings arising from the closures, as these will vary from station to station, there will be some savings on utilities, maintenance and cost avoidance. The objective of the closures, however, is not minor savings but significant improvements in efficiency. The Commissioner has concluded that resources could be better deployed and more effectively used on the front-line if particular stations no longer had to be staffed and maintained or if the public opening hours of other stations could be reduced at off-peak times. In making that decision he has reiterated the commitment of An Garda Síochána to providing a professional and effective service to the community. Each Divisional Officer with responsibility for a Division that will be affected by this decision has been tasked with developing a comprehensive consultation strategy together with a tailored implementation plan that will meet the particular needs of their Division.

The intention will be that at all times optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. The revised structures will continue to support the community policing philosophy of An Garda Síochána through the clustering of services at policing hubs. This centralisation of services will facilitate the introduction of an enhanced grid patrolling system that will be operational and intelligence led.  This patrol system will ensure that a high visibility and community oriented policing service continues to be delivered throughout the country.

Garda Compensation

 72. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans for the future of the Garda compensation fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55478/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I presume this Deputy is referring to the proposals for a revised Garda compensation scheme for deaths or injuries which are maliciously inflicted upon a member of the Garda Síochána while on duty or in connection with their duties. The details of the revised scheme, which were approved by the Government in July, are set out in the Draft General Scheme of the Garda Síochána Compensation (Malicious Injuries) Bill 2012. The Draft General Scheme is available on my Department's website, www. justice.ie.

Under the current Garda compensation scheme awards are made by the High Court. The reliance on an adversarial approach to determine awards is costly and applicants can wait several years before they receive compensation. All of the parties involved, including the Garda Síochána and the Garda Associations, agree on the need for a revised scheme. A commitment to have these compensation claims dealt with by the State Claims Agency process was included in the Croke Park Agreement. The revised scheme is expected to save about €3 million each year.

Primary legislation is necessary to revise the current Garda compensation scheme. The Government Legislation Programme provides for the publication of the relevant Bill in early 2013.

Proposed Legislation

 73. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the way in which he will address the decision in the European Court of Justice MM case in the intervening period before the publication of a new Immigration Bill. [54464/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service that in this case M.M. instituted judicial review proceedings in respect of a negative decision on his application for subsidiary protection. When the case was heard in the High Court, the presiding Judge decided to refer a question of law for clarification to the European Court of Justice.

  On 22 November 2012, the European Court of Justice responded. The matter is now back before the presiding Judge in the High Court. As the Deputy will appreciate, the matter is sub judice, so I am precluded from commenting on the case pending the outcome of the judicial review proceedings.

Spent Convictions Legislation

 74. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to address the issue of spent convictions which was dealt with in the Law Reform Commission report in or around 2007 which would allow the slate to be cleaned in relation to certain offences after a number of years for a convicted person; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54358/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 was published on 2 May 2012 and passed Second Stage in the Seanad on 13 June 2012.

The Bill, which builds on the recommendations in the Law Reform Commission Report on Spent Convictions (LRC 84-2007) provides for the non-disclosure of certain convictions in certain circumstances. Convictions resulting in sentences of one year or less, as well as all non-custodial sentences are covered by the Bill. However, convictions for offences reserved for trial by the Central Criminal Court and convictions for sexual offences are excluded from the benefits of the Bill. Furthermore, anyone applying for a position working with children or vulnerable persons must continue to disclose all previous convictions, as must anyone applying to work in sensitive positions in the public service or for certain licences.

The enactment of the Bill will bring Ireland into line with the vast majority of EU Member States. It will allow those convicted of relatively minor offences to move on with their lives and leave their pasts behind and has the capacity to assist with the rehabilitation of offenders by improving their chances of gaining employment.

I hope that it will be possible to enact the Bill in the early part of 2013.

Youth Services Provision

 75. 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 date on which the new national youth justice strategy will be published.  [54488/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I wish to inform the Deputy that on the 1st October 2012, the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy noted the report of the National Youth Justice Oversight Group on the implementation of the National Youth Justice Strategy 2008-2010.

  I can now confirm that, in collaboration with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, arising from our respective responsibilities under the Children Act 2001, it is intended to develop and publish a follow-up National Youth Justice Action Plan in early 2013. This Action Plan will build on the initial strategy but will have greater focus on performance through the implementation of evidence-based policies.

  The Plan will form part of the Anti-Crime Strategy being developed by my Department as part of the White Paper on Crime, with its focus on crime reduction and safer communities. It will also come under the umbrella of the new Children and Young People’s Policy Framework being developed by my colleague Minister Fitzgerald with a focus on better outcomes for children.

  Meanwhile, of course, we continue to pursue the youth justice commitments in our programme for government.

Garda Strength

 76. 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 if he will ensure that the number of members in An Garda Síochána does not drop below 13,000 in view of the recent comments of the Garda Commissioner in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54356/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The personnel strength of An Garda Síochána on 30 November 2012, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 13,459. There are also approximately 1,000 Garda Reservists and 2,000 civilians.

The previous Government committed to reducing Garda strength to 13,000 as part of their undertaking to the Troika to reduce public service numbers, and introduced a moratorium on recruitment under which no Garda trainee has entered the Garda College since May 2009.

I want to see Garda strength maintained at the highest level consistent with the availability of resources. I will remain in dialogue with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on this, but what is vital now is that the still significant resources of the Force are used with maximum efficiency and to the greatest effect. That is why the reforms being introduced by the Garda Commissioner, such as the rationalisation of the Garda station and district networks, are essential and should be supported by all members of the House.

Child Protection Issues

 77. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will outline the measures in place to ensure the safety and welfare of children in direct provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54503/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter There are currently 4,839 persons seeking international protection residing in 35 Direct Provision accommodation centres across 17 counties under contract to the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA), an operational unit of the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department. Of these residents, approximately a third are children under the age of 18.

  RIA takes its child protection role seriously. This role is critical notwithstanding that children living in the Direct Provision system are not in the care of the State. All children live in a family context and their parents/guardians have primary responsibility for their care and welfare. It should also be noted that RIA does not accommodate unaccompanied minors: they are in the care of the HSE.

  In the Direct Provision system, children are protected in a number of ways - primarily through RIA's Child Protection policy; its House Rules; its requirement that all centre staff are Garda vetted; and through the coordination role of a dedicated unit in RIA.

  RIA's Child Protection Policy is based on the HSE's "Children First - National Guidelines for the protection and welfare of children". This policy requires, inter alia, that children must be supervised by their parents/guardians at all times and that children are not permitted to be left alone overnight. It also provides that each centre has a designated Child Protection liaison officer who is responsible for following a referral procedure should he or she suspect that a child welfare incident has occurred. Management of accommodation centres are obliged to ensure that all staff working in the centre are aware of, and adhere to, RIA's Child Protection Policy. The HSE has provided 'Keeping Safe' child protection training to each centre's designated officers and other staff members.

  The RIA House Rules set out information for residents and staff in respect of child protection and the responsibilities of all parties. A copy of these Rules, as well as its Child Protection Policy, is available on RIA's website - www.ria.gov.ie

  Staff of centres under contract to RIA are Garda vetted. This is in furtherance of RIA's policy which has as its principal aim the minimisation of risk to children and vulnerable adults residing in its centres.

  There is a specific unit in RIA called the Child and Family Services Unit, which is fully staffed and whose role is to manage, deliver, coordinate, monitor and plan all matters relating to child and family services for all asylum seekers residing in the direct provision system. It also acts as a conduit between RIA and the HSE, the latter having statutory functions in this area.

  It should be acknowledged that the system of Direct Provision allows for a level of non-intrusive supervision of residents which would not be found in other living arrangements in the community. Other residents, centre staff, designated liaison officers, Public Health Nurses, General Practitioners, Community and Ethnic Liaison Gardaí etc. are alert to child welfare issues in centres.

  RIA acknowledges that child protection is on ongoing and evolving responsibility and that it must constantly adapt to legislative and policy changes. In this respect, RIA is liaising with the HSE to update its Child Protection Policy in line with the recent revisions to the HSE's “Children First” published in 2011. This will involve the re-training of the designated Child Protection liaison officers across all its centres. RIA is also pro-actively engaging, internally and externally, in relation to, for example, putting Children First on a legislative basis as well as other associated child protection measures.

Proposed Legislation

 78. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the date on which he will introduce a Criminal Justice (Proceeds of Crime) Bill; and if he will insert a provision allowing for this money to be ring-fenced and put back into communities worst affected by drugs and crime. [54480/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Programme for Government includes a commitment to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau in relation to the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime.

An Expert Group, established under the auspices of my Department, is currently engaged in a comprehensive review of the Proceeds of Crime legislation with a view to identifying possible improvements which would serve to strengthen the operation of the Bureau, having regard to the experience of the Bureau to date.

When the work of the Expert Group concludes it is my intention to bring forward proposals in due course for inclusion in the Criminal Justice (Proceeds of Crime) Bill.

At this time it is not possible to provide the Deputy with a particular date for when the proposed Bill will be published.

With regard to the suggestion that provision be made in the Bill to allow for the ring fencing of monies recovered by the Criminal Assets Bureau to assist communities worst affected by drugs and crime, I can inform the Deputy that this is an issue which has been raised previously and on which my Department has consulted with the Department of Finance.

It is currently the case that all monies collected by the Bureau are returned to the Exchequer in accordance with the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 and 2005. Such funds are paid into the Government’s Central Fund, from which the Government draws for expenditure on all necessary public services and investment.

While it has been accepted that there may be some symbolic value in the suggestion it is considered problematic for a number of reasons.

Aside from the general concern that arises with regard to the constraint that such policies can place on the Government in terms of its overall expenditure policy, the suggestion also raises a number of practical difficulties.

A revenue source such as the monies collected by the Bureau, which are variable and uncertain in nature, would not facilitate proper planning for any community projects. There is also the problem of additional costs which would accrue in the administration of any scheme to divert such funds to local projects and additional administrative costs without any additional revenues being generated.

Furthermore, in the current economic climate the Exchequer could not sustain a loss of revenue without making compensatory adjustments. If the monies collected by the Bureau were to be diverted to community projects, there would inevitably be implications for any other monies those projects received from the Exchequer. Alternatively, other public expenditure programmes would have to sustain the loss.

In the circumstances, I do not currently have any proposals to insert the type of provision suggested by the Deputy.

Rights of People with Disabilities

 79. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54476/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter It is the Government's intention to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure that all necessary legislative and administrative requirements under the Convention are being met. As the Deputy may be aware, Ireland does not become party to treaties until it is first in a position to comply with the obligations imposed by the treaty in question, including by amending domestic law as necessary.

The ongoing implementation of our National Disability Strategy in many respects comprehends many of the provisions of the Convention. In addition, the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Convention monitors the remaining legislative and administrative actions required to enable ratification. At the Committee's request, the National Disability Authority, the lead statutory agency for the sector, is in the process of assisting it to assess the remaining requirements for ratification so as to ensure conclusively that all such issues will be addressed.

One of the key requirements in this regard is the enactment of capacity legislation. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce a Mental Capacity Bill that is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Drafting of the bill is being finalised with a view to publication early in the New Year. The enactment of new legislation is one of the core elements of the remaining work to be completed to enable ratification by the State of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Judicial Appointments

 80. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will introduce an open and transparent appointment and removal criteria and process for the judiciary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54462/12]

 97. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to introduce an independent Judicial Appointments Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54461/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 97 together.

  The Deputy will be aware that, under the Irish Constitution, judges are appointed by the President on the advice of the Government. Applications are dealt with by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board which was established under the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995. Under section 16 of that Act, where a judicial office stands vacant or before a vacancy in a judicial office arises, the Board submits to me, as Minister for Justice, the names of those recommended for appointment. The Government then decides the nomination. Section 17 of the same Act provides that these procedures do not apply where a serving judge is to be appointed.

My Department is engaged in a review of the appointment procedure including consideration of the following issues: the need to ensure and protect the principle of judicial independence; eligibility for appointment; composition of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board; the appointments process; accountability in respect of its functioning; and promoting equality and diversity.

  I hope to be in a position to consider this further in the course of 2013. Any proposal to introduce a new system of appointments would require amendments to the current legislation and would, of course, be a matter for consideration by Government in the first instance.

  Article 35.4.1 of the Constitution provides that a member of the judiciary can only be removed from their position "for stated misbehaviour or incapacity, and then only upon resolutions passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann calling for his removal'. The tenure of Circuit and District Judges is similarly protected by statute. No judge has been so removed in the history of the State.

  However, the Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government contains a commitment to legislate to establish a Judicial Council in order to provide an effective mechanism for dealing with complaints against judges. This commitment is being given expression in the form of the proposed Judicial Council Bill. As well as providing for the establishment of a Judicial Council and Board that will promote excellence and high standards of conduct by judges, the proposed Bill aims to provide a means of investigating allegations of judicial misconduct in the form of a Judicial Conduct Committee, which will have lay representation.

  In November 2011, the Chief Justice announced that the judiciary had agreed to establish an Interim Judicial Council, pending the publication and enactment of the proposed Judicial Council Bill. A sub-committee of the Board of the Interim Judicial Council was subsequently established to consider the 'General Scheme for a Judicial Council Bill', a version of which had been published by the previous Government in August 2010. This sub-committee has already provided observations, which are the subject of ongoing consideration. Recent developments will also be taken into account in the collaborative drafting process between my Department and the Offices of Parliamentary Counsel and of the Attorney General. I intend to publish the Bill in the course of 2013.

Child Detention Centres

 81. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of prisoners under 18 years of age who remain in St. Patrick’s Institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54472/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I can advise the Deputy that on 7th December, 2012 there were 30 seventeen year old prisoners in custody in St Patrick's Institution, 11 of which were held on remand.

As you will be aware the Government committed, in the Programme for Government, to remove 16 and 17 year old offenders completely from the adult prison system. In this context, the practice of sending 16 year old boys to St Patrick's Institution ceased on 1st May, 2012. From that date, all newly remanded or sentenced 16 year olds have been detained in the children detention facilities in Oberstown. The capital investment package approved by the Government in April this year, for the construction and improvement of facilities in Oberstown child detention schools, will result in sufficient capacity to extend the child care model of detention to all young people under the age of 18 by mid 2014.

In addition, the feasibility of accommodating some categories of the 17 year old age group in the child detention schools before that date is being actively examined. Arrangements are also being made for a number of care staff from the children detention schools to work on placement in St Patrick's Institution alongside prison staff. It is intended that this will take place in mid January 2013.

Third Level Fees

 82. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the position regarding the doubling of registration fees for non-EEA nationals to €300; the basis for giving five days' notice to non-EEA nationals of the increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54502/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Section 9 of the Immigration Act, 2004 provides that a register of non-nationals who have permission to be in the State (in general for a period of 3 months or longer) shall be established and maintained by registration officers. Registration officers are members of An Garda Síochána: in the Dublin Metropolitan Area it is the officer in charge of the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) and outside of that area it is the Superintendent of An Garda Síochána in a Garda Síochána district.

Section 19 of the Immigration Act, 2004 (as amended), provides that a non-national is required to pay a fee to the registration officer for the issue of a registration certificate. This fee is set by regulations made by the Minister for Justice and Equality with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The fee was first introduced in 2006 and was then set at €100. It was increased to €150 in 2008 and has remained at that level until the latest increase came into effect on 19 November, 2012.

The introduction of the registration fee in May, 2006 resulted from a policy decision that the fee income was required for the ongoing development of immigration services (both in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) and the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). Our migrant population have made a valuable contribution to the economic, cultural and social life of Ireland and will continue to do so. However, I believe that it is not unreasonable to ask those who benefit from the immigration system to make a reasonable contribution to the cost of services and particularly so in a time when we are seeking to reduce public expenditure. It is common practice throughout Europe to charge a fee for immigration services; in some instances these may be set at a level above the estimated direct administrative cost of the service based on the value of the service. By comparison with many jurisdictions the current registration fee represents very good value.

I am very conscious of the need to maintain and develop good service levels to customers. In this regard the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department is undertaking a number of projects with the aim of developing and improving immigration services. These include the introduction of a new common format EU Residence Permit for non-nationals which will replace the current registration certificate. It will provide the user with a more secure immigration document including individual biometrics indicators protected by a sophisticated encryption system and showing the holders’ immigration status in the State. This high quality secure document will be easily recognisable for employers and Government agencies.

Furthermore, INIS as part of its reform of in-country aspects of immigration services, is developing a range of measures including on line application and appointment systems for certain services. Such a service is badly needed, but it does cost money to implement. The nature of immigration requirements such as registration necessitates, to a very great extent, the personal attendance of the applicant. At certain times of the year this can give rise to long queues and significant delays. A self-selecting on-line system will help to greatly alleviate these difficulties and the increased registration fee income will be used to meet a portion of the cost involved in this and other developments.

Other projects being progressed are proposals for the civilianisation of certain port of entry functions at Dublin Airport. For this purpose, a trial is underway at Dublin airport to test the feasibility of a new model for delivery of immigration services at ports of entry to the State by using a combination of civilian staff and members of An Garda Síochána. I refer the Deputy to my answer to Dáil Question No. 171 of 4th October, 2012 which sets out the latest position in respect of this project.

The fee increase itself will be used to defray some of the costs of providing and developing these services to migrants.

While there is no specific requirement to do so, advance notice of the fee increase was placed on the INIS website and displayed in the Public Office in Burgh Quay. It is an unavoidable consequence that people seeking to register will fall on either side of the fee increase introduction.

For the sake of completeness, I should point out that in recognition of the circumstances of certain categories of person, there are specific exemptions from paying the registration fee set out in the regulations; these are the following: UN Convention Refugees; Family members of such refugees who have been admitted to the State in accordance with section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996; Persons who are under 18 years of age at the time of registration; Spouses, civil partners, widows and widowers of Irish citizens; Spouses and Dependants of EU nationals who receive a residence permit under EU Directive 38/04; Programme Refugees, as defined by section 24 of the Refugee Act, 1996; Persons subject to arrangements for victims of human trafficking. The above categories of non-nationals exempted from the fee payment are almost 20% of the total numbers registering. Last year alone, this amounted to 21,443 persons and €3.2 million in fees waived.


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