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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 477-487
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item European Council Meetings
 Header Item Garda Vetting of Personnel
 Header Item Garda Vetting of Personnel
 Header Item Legislative Process
 Header Item Gambling Legislation
 Header Item Garda Deployment
 Header Item Penalty Point System
 Header Item Prisoner Transfers
 Header Item Spent Convictions Legislation
 Header Item Joint Policing Committees Establishment

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 96 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 477-487

Proposed Legislation

 477. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the steps he has taken to address the issues proposed by this Deputy in the Private Members Bill Precious Metal Dealers Bill 2011, which was an effort to regulate the cash for gold and cash for scrap industries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56453/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I can inform the Deputy that on 19 June 2012 I published a report on the criminal justice aspects of the cash for gold trade which was prepared by my Department. I have formally asked the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence to consider the content of the report, to consider holding hearings on the issues raised in the report, to obtain the views of all relevant interested parties and to make such reports and recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Government as it deems proportionate and appropriate in the public interest. I understand the committee has taken action with a view to progressing this matter. In relation to theft of metal, tackling such crime requires a collaborative effort and a targeted multi-agency response. Following an analysis of crime trends, An Garda Síochána has established a metal theft forum involving stakeholders particularly affected by this type of crime, including the Irish Farmers Association, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers association, the Electricity Supply Board, telecoms, transport companies, brewing concerns and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. A Metal Theft Crime Prevention and Reduction Plan is at an advanced stage of development following discussion with the metal theft forum. I look forward to the outcome of this process so that a properly considered and strategic response can be put in place, to supplement the existing crime prevention and detection operations which An Garda Síochána have in place to tackle this type of crime.

European Council Meetings

 478. 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 formations of the EU Councils of Ministers on which he sits; the number of meetings of that Council held from 9 March 2011 to date in 2012; the number of those meetings he attended; the number attended by a Minister of State; the number attended by an Irish official; and if he will provide the names of those who attended in tabular form. [56551/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The relevant Council is the Justice and Home Affairs Council. From 9 March 2011 to date, there have been 14 meetings of this Council. This includes three informal meetings of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs. I have attended 13 of the 14 meetings and my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, attended an extraordinary meeting of the Council in May 2011. Officials also attend meetings of the Justice and Home Affairs Council. The information requested by the Deputy is provided in the following table:

YEAR MONTH IN ATTENDANCE
2011 April the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  May the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch
  June the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  July* the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  September the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  October the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  December the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
2012 January* the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  March the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  April the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  June the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  July* the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  October the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
  December the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter
*indicates an informal meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

 479. 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 the current waiting time for Garda clearance certificates to be issued and the reason there has been an increase in waiting times recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56570/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Garda Central Vetting Unit provides employment vetting for approximately 20,000 organisations in Ireland that are registered with the Unit and which employ personnel to work in a full-time, part-time, voluntary or student capacity with children and or vulnerable adults. The current average processing time for vetting applications is nine weeks. However, seasonal fluctuations and the need to seek additional information on particular applications can result in this processing time being exceeded on occasion. All organisations are aware of the processing time frames for the receipt of Garda vetting and have been advised to factor this into their recruitment and selection processes. The processing time has increased in recent months partly due to a transition in staffing arrangements for the unit. I am conscious of the need to keep the processing time to a minimum. I am confident that the current average processing time will reduce as a number of measures to ensure improvements in the time it takes for the processing of vetting applications take effect. Most recently, there has been a redeployment of staff from another Government Department and the opening of a second vetting centre in Ennis, County Clare.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

 480. 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 when Garda clearance will be issued to persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56571/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Vetting is carried out in response to written requests made through registered organisations on behalf of the individual who is to be vetted. In the context of the applications referred to in the Deputy's question, I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is not possible to check the status of these applications in the absence of details such as the names of the individuals and their dates of birth. If the Deputy will provide the additional information, I will have further enquiries made in the matter.

Legislative Process

 481. 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 the position regarding the public consultation on prostitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56599/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter In June of this year, I published a discussion document on the future direction of legislation on prostitution. The purpose of the discussion document is to facilitate a public consultation process. On its publication, I referred the discussion document to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. The joint committee is conducting the consultation process and will report back to me when it has completed its work. In addition, my Department hosted a conference on 13 October to discuss the consultation paper. The report of the joint committee and the views expressed at the October conference will be fully considered in the framing of any necessary legislative proposals to be submitted to the Government in due course. For further background, I am appending the text of my statement of 22 June last when publishing the discussion document:

  Shatter Announces Publication of Discussion Document on the Future Direction of Legislation on Prostitution

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence today published a discussion document on the future direction of legislation on prostitution. Publication of the discussion document follows the Minister’s announcement that he would be arranging a public consultation process as part of the current review of prostitution legislation. Announcing publication of the discussion document, Minister Shatter said:

  "The criminal law in this area is being reviewed primarily because of the changed nature of prostitution in Ireland. Prostitution was once mainly a street-based phenomenon. That is no longer the case. The organisation of prostitution is now much more sophisticated, highly mobile and is easily facilitated by the use of mobile phones and the internet. There is, of course, already a clear consensus on the great evils of child prostitution and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. However, I am aware that there are differing and genuinely held views on the approach the criminal law should take to other aspects of prostitution. While there is a significant amount of criminal legislation in this area already, there is always scope for change and improvement. It is important to review the law periodically to ensure it is up to date and comprehensively responds to altered circumstances."

  The Minister added that: "Prostitution is an issue which affects individuals, communities and society as a whole. It is important that I facilitate the expression of all views on this subject and that those views are examined in due course. Public debate should therefore, be open to the widest possible audience and I want to ensure that everyone who wishes to make a contribution to this important debate is given the opportunity to do so. It is for that reason I have decided on a consultation process before charting the way forward. My Department will hold a conference in the autumn to discuss the document. The widest possible participation will be encouraged in order that we have an open and transparent discussion on all aspects of this very important issue. This discussion document will now be referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence. Interested groups and members of the public, I expect, will be invited to make submissions to the Committee which will hold such hearings as it deems appropriate. I am asking Mr. David Stanton T.D., Chairman of the Joint Committee, that it publish its report and recommendations by the 30th November 2012 and that the report be furnished to me together with any submissions received. I expect it is likely that the Committee’s report will also be lodged in the Oireachtas Library and that a debate on it will subsequently take place in both the Dáil and the Seanad. The report received by me from the Joint Oireachtas Committee will be fully considered in the framing of any necessary new legislative proposals to be submitted to Government in due course. I look forward to the results of the consultation process."

  The discussion document is attached below and will be made available on the Department’s website, www.justice.ie. This discussion document does not favour any particular approach but simply tries to assist reflection. The arguments contained in the document are not exhaustive and the questions posed are not intended to limit in any way the range of questions readers might want to consider.

  22 June, 2012.

Gambling Legislation

 482. Deputy Dara Murphy Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he plans to amend the Gaming and Lottery Act 1956 in view of the growing social gaming industry here; this industry operates on a global scale and operations here should have a solid legal framework to work within; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56644/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy will recall my announcement in September 2011 that the Government had approved my proposals for new legislation on the regulation of gambling. I brought forward those proposals because I recognised that the current law had not kept pace with technological innovation. I also saw the opportunity to improve our prospects of benefiting from the investment opportunities associated with the development of, for example, on-line gambling operations. My Department has since then been preparing the Heads of a new Bill. I hope to be able to bring the Heads to Government in the near future for its approval and agreement to proceed to formal drafting. The new legislation will provide a comprehensive new regulatory system for gambling, replacing the separate systems still in place for betting and gaming under the Betting Act 1931 and the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956, as amended. It will, therefore, be a unified system and it will set out the new licensing, inspection and enforcement systems. The systems will apply to the land-based outlets that most people are familiar with, but they will also apply to on-line services and to services provided any other form of electronic technology. I have ensured that the new systems have been designed with the protection of consumers as their main purpose, particularly vulnerable persons, including, of course, young persons. I plan to make the Heads available on my Department's website once they have been approved by the Government. At that stage it will become clear that the new legislation will provide the solid framework the Deputy refers to.

Garda Deployment

 483. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the plans he is putting in place to improve border policing in County Donegal especially in view of a robbery of a post office in the South Inishowen area in the past two weeks. [56666/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am advised that Garda management closely monitors the allocation of all resources in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level, to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. With regard to the specific incident referred to by the Deputy, I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter. I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Penalty Point System

 484. Deputy Charles Flanagan Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the circumstances under which penalty points imposed on road users maybe suspended, removed or cancelled before the expiry of the statutory period, together with details of the officers charged with authority to remove and the regulation under which this power might be invoked.  [56721/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I presume the Deputy is referring to the cancellation of Fixed Charge Notices in respect of road traffic offences. As I have set out recently, there can be circumstances where a Fixed Charge Notice may be cancelled in accordance with Garda procedures drawn up in the light of legislative exemptions and prosecutorial guidelines. Termination or cancellation occurs where it is believed the evidence would not sustain a prosecution or a prosecution would not be appropriate, fair or proportionate. Decisions on terminations or cancellations are governed by Garda policies and procedures, framed around the legislative exemptions and prosecutorial guidelines issued by the DPP. I am informed that in accordance with these procedures Gardaí at the rank of Superintendent/District Officer or Inspector Acting District Officer have discretion to authorise cancellation of Fixed Charge Notices in appropriate circumstances. These can include situations where, for example, exemptions apply in relation to emergency vehicles, or where there are evidential difficulties, such as where the registration number registered by a speed camera does not correspond to the vehicle in question, or where there are emergency or other genuine circumstances such as, for example, a medical certificate relating to the wearing of seatbelt, a sick child being driven to hospital, or a medical professional rushing to a sick or elderly patient. Access to terminate a Fixed Charge Notice through PULSE is restricted to users with the rank of Inspector or higher.

Prisoner Transfers

 485. 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 his attention has been drawn to an application from an Irish national (details supplied) currently serving a sentence in a prison in Cordoba Prison, Spain, for repatriation under the CoE Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons to a prison in this State; that this application was lodged in May 2011; the reason for the delay in processing this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56734/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that an application (details supplied) for a transfer to a prison in this jurisdiction, under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, was received in my Department in July 2011. In the process of considering the application, my officials were concerned that it was incomplete and did not comply with the relevant requirements. On that basis, the advice of the Attorney General was sought. This advice (received in the Irish Prison Service in November 2012) confirmed that the application did not comply with (i) Section 6 of the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Act, 1995, (ii) Article 6(2) of the Convention and (iii) the Rules of the Superior Courts (Transfer of Sentenced Persons) 2007 (S.I. 417/2007). I am further advised that officials in the Irish Prison Service will shortly be in communication with the Spanish authorities seeking the necessary documentation. Upon receipt of same, the application will be processed in the normal manner.

Spent Convictions Legislation

 486. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the status of the spent conviction Bill-Act in the context of dealing with records for minor criminal offences committed a number of years previously; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [56745/12]

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 provides for the non-disclosure of certain convictions in certain circumstances. However, anyone convicted of a sexual offence or who was sentenced to imprisonment for more than 12 months must continue to disclose their convictions, as must anyone wishing to work with children or vulnerable persons. It is my intention that the Bill will proceed to Committee Stage in the Seanad early in the New Year and that it will be enacted before next summer.

Joint Policing Committees Establishment

 487. 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 his attention has been drawn to the fact that although there are three town councils and a county council in County Louth, there are only three regional county JPCs rather than three town JPCs and one county JPC and if he will investigate the reasons for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56755/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The functions and powers of Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) are set out in the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which requires each local authority and the Garda Commissioner to establish a JPC in each local authority area. The Act also provides that JPCs operate under guidelines issued by the Minister for Justice and Equality after consultation with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. The current guidelines were issued in September, 2008. These guidelines provide considerable flexibility in the operation of committees, including with regard to the use of subcommittees and cooperation between JPCs, including town and county committees. In this regard I am aware of the operating arrangements adopted by the JPCs in County Louth. The Programme for Government makes a commitment to build on existing community policing partnerships and forums to enhance trust between local communities and their Gardaí. In the spirit of that commitment I initiated a review of the operation of the Joint Policing Committees and I published a discussion document on 29 November this year to encourage open and wide ranging consultation on the matter. The present consultation process is open until the end of January 2013 and I am seeking views from the Garda authorities, local authorities, Oireachtas members, community organisations as well of course from the general public. I have made a specific request that each JPC would consider the document at one of its meetings and notify my Department of the outcome of its discussions. I look forward to the outcome of this consultation process and in that context I certainly welcome the Deputy's views on the role and functioning of the JPCs. The Deputy will also appreciate that the review process will need to take into account the broader developments with respect to local government reform which are under way and the implications of this reform for the operation of JPCs.


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