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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 100-116
 Header Item Crime Levels
 Header Item Garda Investigations
 Header Item Domestic Violence Incidence
 Header Item Prison Accommodation
 Header Item Court Procedures
 Header Item Human Rights Issues
 Header Item Constitutional Convention
 Header Item Public Services Provision
 Header Item Departmental Strategy Statements
 Header Item Visa Applications
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts
 Header Item Overseas Development Aid Provision

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. 100-116

  Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 84.

Crime Levels

 101. 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 extent to which the number of crimes committed by prisoners while on bail continues to monitored by his Department; the number of such incidence recorded in each of the past five years to date; the number of recidivistic incidents; the action taken or intended to address such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [54506/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I share the public concern about the extent to which offences continue to be committed by persons on bail.

As the Deputy will be aware, the criminal law takes a serious view of offences committed by persons on bail. Section 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 provides that any sentence of imprisonment passed on a person for an offence committed while on bail must be consecutive on any sentence passed on him or her for a previous offence, or on the sentence last due to expire, if more than one is being served. It also provides that the fact that an offence was committed while on bail must be treated as an aggravating factor at sentencing and that the court shall impose a sentence that is greater than that which would have been imposed otherwise, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

A decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the court, which is, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of its judicial functions. There is a constitutional presumption in favour of bail, since, in the eyes of the law, a person is innocent until proven guilty. The provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights also restrict the extent to which the right to bail can be limited.

Prior to the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, bail could be refused essentially only on the grounds that a person would be likely to abscond or interfere with witnesses. The Bail Act 1997, which gave effect to the terms of the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, provides for the refusal of bail to a person charged with a serious offence where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person.

In addition, section 6 of that Act, as amended by section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007, provides that every bail recognisance is subject to the condition that the accused person shall not commit an offence while on bail.

I believe that bail law must be continually reviewed to ensure that all possible avenues are taken to protect the public against the commission of crime, particularly serious crime, by persons on bail.

Accordingly, my Department has been engaged in work to consolidate and update bail law with a view to presenting a clear, accessible and modern statement of the law. In the context of that modernisation of the law, I will be seeking to restructure the law so that it has a focus on the protection of the individual and of the public. My intention is that the new proposals will provide better guidance to the courts on how such protection might be provided. I am also taking the opportunity to introduce some general improvements to bail law to improve the overall working of the bail system.

I will bring proposals to Government on the matter in the near future.

In relation to the statistics requested by the Deputy. the Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide relevant statistics directly to the Deputy.

Garda Investigations

 102. 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 if he will have the case of the murder of Garda Richard Fallon on 3 April 1970 independently reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54354/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Let me firstly say that I want to, again, express my deepest sympathy to the family of Garda Fallon. His murder was a dreadful tragedy and can only be described as a heinous crime carried out by ruthless individuals.

As the Deputy will be aware, this case is currently being examined by An Garda Síochána’s Serious Crime Review Team. I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is anticipated that the assessment will now be completed by the end of the year. I am conscious that this is a matter of great concern to the Fallon family but I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would be best to await the outcome of the Garda assessment.

Domestic Violence Incidence

 103. 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 date on which he will introduce a consolidated Bill on domestic violence. [54463/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Programme for Government commitment - to introduce consolidated and reformed domestic violence legislation to address all aspects of domestic violence, threatened violence and intimidation, in a way that provides protection to victims - will be progressed as soon as possible having regard to the need for consultations and the need to dispose of urgent legislative matters in my Department under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for the State.

  Question No. 104 answered with Question No. 58.

Prison Accommodation

 105. 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 if his attention has been drawn to the fact that countries such as France have made use of collective pardons to tackle overcrowding in prisons, rather than having recourse to the time-consuming early release mechanism; if he has considered the making use of the right of pardon and the power to commute or remit punishment to bring the prison population within the safe custody limits recommended by the Inspector of Prisons for appropriate prisoners. [54470/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Inspector of Prisons recognised that in certain areas prisons will not be able to comply with all of his recommendations in the short term. As long as there is overcrowding and limitations on resources, there will be difficulties in achieving full implementation of those recommendations.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Irish Prison Service must accept all prisoners committed by the Courts into its custody and does not have the option of refusing committals. There has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population in Ireland over recent years, with significant increases in the number of sentenced prisoners and those being committed on remand, as well as a trend towards longer sentences. It should also be recognised, however, that while the problem of prison overcrowding remains a challenging issue, and action is being taken on a number of fronts to address that issue, Ireland traditionally has had a low rate of imprisonment.

It can be difficult to make direct and accurate comparisons with the penal systems in other countries, but it is worth noting that the latest Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics published last March show that France has a higher number of persons in prison per 100,000 inhabitants (103.5) than Ireland (97.4) and a higher occupancy rate of 108.4% compared to Ireland's rate of 101.7 %.

I have no proposals along the lines suggested by the Deputy, but a strategic review of penal policy is underway and I will consider all of the options that emerge from that review.

Court Procedures

 106. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to amend in camera rules for court hearings in family law cases; and the timeline in which he intends to complete same.  [54473/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Programme for Government includes a commitment to reform and modernise aspects of family law. In this regard on 31 October 2012 the Government approved my proposals for the preparation and enactment of a Courts Bill which amongst other matters will amend the in camera rule to allow press access to the courts in family law and child care proceedings subject to a strict prohibition on the publication of any material which would lead to the identification of the parties or children involved.

  The purpose of the in camera rule which is long-standing is to protect the privacy of the parties concerned and to ensure that their anonymity and that of their children is preserved. However, the application of the in camera  rule has meant that family cases and child care cases are not generally reported and the general public and even practitioners may not be aware of how the law, particularly in relation to children, is being operated and applied in the different courts before which such issues are heard. There is a public perception that undue secrecy is attached to the administration of this area of the law and that there is a lack of uniformity and consistency in the manner in which it is administered. The Bill, which is being drafted for publication in the current session, will make court proceedings in family law and child care cases more transparent.

Human Rights Issues

 107. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty 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 the International Labour Organisation’s Convention No. 29 (1930) and Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires forced labour to be punishable as a criminal offence; in view of the fact that there is no law here that makes forced labour a criminal offence, his plans to rectify same.  [54484/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Article 4 of the ECHR provides that no one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour. International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 29 of 1930 defines forced labour as "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the person has not offered himself voluntarily".

  Although forced labour covers a diverse range of exploitative behaviours, it is difficult to foresee circumstances where an incident of forced labour would not be liable to prosecution in this jurisdiction under a range of offences, including for example, false imprisonment, blackmail, assault, the coercion offence in the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, offences under employment law and health and safety legislation, immigration law, etc. In addition the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 criminalises the trafficking of persons for the purposes of labour exploitation, including forced labour. For the purposes of the Act, the term "trafficks" is broadly defined. For example, the commission of the offence does not require cross-border (or even internal) movement or illegal entry into the State. It includes recruitment; taking a person into one's custody, care or charge; and providing accommodation or employment.

  In the context of a recent review of the potential of the 2008 legislation to combat the phenomenon of forced labour per se, the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations was asked for its views on whether Ireland's human trafficking legislation is sufficiently wide in scope to encompass forced labour as defined in ILO Convention No. 29 of 1930. The ILO Committee of Experts is of the view that it is. However, the committee has also pointed to the fact that the 2008 Act does not provide a definition of forced labour. Therefore, it has recommended, for the purpose of clarity, that forced labour be defined in accordance with the ILO Convention. Subject to Government approval for the necessary legislation, I propose to provide this clarification by way of an amendment to the 2008 Act, at the earliest opportunity.

Constitutional Convention

 108. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the expected cost of the Constitutional Convention to take place this year and next year. [55225/12]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The 2012 estimate for the Constitutional Convention is €300,000 and expenditure up to end November 2012 was €140,390. The estimate for 2013 is €948,000.

Public Services Provision

 109. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny further to Parliamentary Question No. 237 of 4 December 2012, if he will provide a list of all new services across his Department that have been tested for external service delivery since March 2011. [55438/12]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The focus of my Department is to ensure that Government policy is progressed across the whole of Government and it has one key programme which is to support me as Taoiseach and the Government. As no new services have been introduced by my Department since March 2011, the question of testing for external service delivery has not arisen.

My Department makes extensive use of shared services in the areas of payroll, finance, IT, library and security services as well as participating in civil service wide initiatives such as the HR Shared Services project. My Department will also work with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on any relevant external delivery service initiatives as part of the overall public service reform programme.

Departmental Strategy Statements

 110. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the way he is monitoring progress on his Department's strategic priorities as set out in his Department's strategy statement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55522/12]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The focus of my Department is to ensure that Government policy is progressed across the whole of Government and it has one key Programme which is to support the Taoiseach and the Government. The Department's Strategy Statement is aligned to the Government's key priorities and policies, including major policy documents such as the Programme for Government 2011-2016, the EU / IMF Programme and the Public Service Agreement 2010 - 2014.   My Department's eight strategic priorities are:

  - Tackling the economic crisis, with a particular focus on jobs and growth;

  - Ensuring that Ireland plays a full and effective role in all aspects of the European Union;

  - Overseeing the full implementation of the Programme for Government;

  - Providing excellent support services for the Taoiseach and Government;

  - Helping to reform and restore trust in the institutions of the State, and in Ireland’s reputation at home and abroad, learning lessons from the past;

  - Helping to renew and transform the public service;

  - Helping to ensure that Government policies and services support a socially inclusive and fair society;

  - Helping to maintain peace and to further enhance relationships on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain.

  Progress against these priorities is monitored in a number of ways including through the meetings of the Government, Economic Management Council and Cabinet Committees, the work of the Programme for Government Office and reviews of progress by my Department's Management Advisory Committee.

  My Department's Annual Report for 2012 will give an overview of progress on all aspects of the Strategy Statement.

  Questions Nos. 111 to 113, inclusive, answered with Question No. 3.

Visa Applications

 114. Deputy Dominic Hannigan Information on Dominic Hannigan Zoom on Dominic Hannigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore his plans to increase the number of countries that the Irish passport is visa free to enter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55374/12]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I wish to advise the Deputy that the visa and immigration requirements for foreign countries are solely a matter for the appropriate authorities in those countries and outside of my remit. Visa and immigration matters, both legislation and policy, in this jurisdiction are a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence.

Foreign Conflicts

 115. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore if he will raise the case of a person (details supplied) who has refused to take part in the war against the Palestinian people by refusing to serve with the Israel Defence Force. [55077/12]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I am aware of the particular case referred to in the Deputy’s question. I have the fullest understanding and sympathy with anyone who feels moved to declare themselves a conscientious objector, and I believe that it is a mark of the maturity and humanity of a society that it treats such cases with sympathy and respect. However, it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in a question of the requirement in law for citizens of another country to serve in the armed forces. I would obviously expect the members of any armed forces, in whatever country they may be, to comply fully with the requirements of international law and international humanitarian law in the performance of their military duties.

Overseas Development Aid Provision

 116. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore his views on a query regarding overseas aid (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55101/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe Costello): Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello  The Government’s overseas development programme, which is administered by Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is the Irish people’s aid programme. It reflects their core values of justice and fairness and represents a genuine investment on behalf of the Irish people to assist some of the world’s poorest communities.

Ireland’s aid programme prioritises the fight against global poverty and hunger, and it is consistently rated as one of the most effective internationally. It is strongly focused on the poorest countries and communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, prioritising investments in the areas of education, health, good governance, food security and nutrition.

The Government takes the view that our work with developing countries is morally right, but that it is also in our interests as a country with a small open economy in an increasingly interconnected world. Many developing countries have shown remarkable economic progress in recent years and our untied development assistance today will undoubtedly result in access to markets in the future. The Africa Strategy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade clearly recognises the role that aid has played in empowering broader economic and social development on the continent, and commits us to a comprehensive approach to Ireland’s relations with Africa – in development, politically and in the building of mutually beneficial economic links.

This year, the Government has provided some €639 million in total Official Development Assistance (ODA). In 2013, it is anticipated that ODA will amount to €623 million, a modest reduction, but one which comes on top of an overall reduction in Ireland’s ODA levels of over 30% since 2008. While this is a very significant sum, it still represents slightly less than 50 cent in every €100 we will earn as a country in 2013.

The Government remain strongly committed to the aid programme and to achieving the UN target of providing 0.7% of GNP for Overseas Development Assistance. However, in the current difficult economic circumstances, it is clear that further progress towards this target will only be possible when sustained economic growth has been restored to the Irish economy.


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