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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1 - 20
 Header Item Road Traffic Offences
 Header Item Garda Policing Plans
 Header Item Domestic Violence Policy
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards
 Header Item Racial Profiling
 Header Item Administration of Justice
 Header Item Domestic Violence Policy
 Header Item National Women's Strategy

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 795 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 1 - 20

  The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

  Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Road Traffic Offences

 11. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will report the number of fixed penalty charges imposed in each Garda division in each month between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2012; the number of terminations of fixed penalty charges in each month; and if he will provide a breakdown of the reasons for such terminations. [11605/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Fixed charge notices are an alternative to prosecution, and give a motorist the opportunity to acknowledge the offence, pay the fixed charge and, where the offence is a penalty point offence, incur the appropriate penalty points. If the motorist does not pay the fixed charge, he or she will in the normal course be prosecuted for the alleged offence.

There can be circumstances where the fixed charge notice may be cancelled in accordance with Garda procedures drawn up in the light of legislative exemptions and prosecutorial guidelines. 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 cancellations are governed by Garda policies and procedures, framed around legislative and prosecutorial guidelines issued by the DPP. Cancellation can occur in circumstances where, for example, exemptions apply in relation to emergency vehicles or the wearing of seatbelts, 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 medical circumstances such as, for example, a sick child being driven to hospital, an imminent birth, or a medical professional rushing to a sick or elderly patient. Access to cancel a fixed charge notice through 'Pulse' is restricted to users with the rank of Inspector or higher.

The statistical information requested by the Deputy on the number of fixed penalty charges imposed and terminations in each Garda division for the 5 year period from 1/1/2008 to 31/12/2012 has been requested from the Garda Commissioner and, to the extent available in the format requested by the Deputy, will be forwarded to her as soon as possible.

  Question No. 12 answered with Question No. 7.

Garda Policing Plans

 13. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will update Dáil Éireann on rural policing in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11420/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Garda National Policing Plan for 2013, which I laid before the House last December, sets out the policing priorities and objectives for the current year. The Plan is designed to meet the policing needs of all communities and includes objectives of particular relevance for rural areas, including active community engagement in the development of policing strategies and concerted efforts to support and protect vulnerable sections of the community. The Garda Plan also outlines the Garda Commissioner's proposals for the continued reorganisation and consolidation of the Garda station and district network.   The objective of modernising and re-calibrating the Garda station network is to ensure that Garda resources are used in the best and most efficient way possible, in both rural and urban areas. The freeing up of Gardaí from desk duties will increase the number of Gardaí available for frontline policing to the benefit of our communities. Nationally, it is anticipated that revised policing arrangements will result in an additional 61,000 operational policing hours in 2013.

  As the Deputy will be aware from recent discussions on this issue, until recently, the Garda station network was essentially the same as the RIC network which obtained in 1922. Such a large-scale static deployment of resources is no longer appropriate, particularly as the transport and communications infrastructure has been transformed. The Garda Síochána has a class-leading police computer system, a state-of-the-art digital radio system and a transport fleet which is currently receiving significant investment. The centralisation of Garda 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. Furthermore, the new Garda rostering arrangements which were implemented last year provide a better match between Garda availability and policing demand.

  I am, of course, aware of concerns in rural communities about the incidence of crime, and of burglary in particular and I am conscious of the deep distress which these crimes can cause to householders and of the broader impact in terms of the fear of crime in our communities. I therefore very much welcome the fact that the Garda Commissioner is deploying the substantial resources available to him in a targeted approach to confront those engaged in this form of criminality. This is principally being achieved through Operation Fiacla which is particularly focused on identifying and targeting mobile gangs involved in burglaries. The latest quarterly figures from the Central Statistics Office for burglary suggest that Operation Fiacla is having an impact, when compared with the quarterly figures prior to its introduction, and I am hopeful that the success of the operation will be continue to be reflected in future crime statistics as they become available.  I am informed that as of end February 2013, 4,226 persons have been arrested and 2,327 persons have been charged under Operation Fiacla, reflecting the extent of the operation and the impact it is having.

  It is the Government's intention to ensure that frontline services are maintained at the highest level possible through the most efficient use of resources. The Commissioner enjoys my full support and that of the Government in continuing to confront crime in all its forms. I have every confidence that he and everyone in An Garda Síochána will continue to deliver an effective police service in rural as in all other areas.

Domestic Violence Policy

 14. 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 ensure that there are targeted campaigns to raise awareness of violence against women amongst a wide audience, including the general public, service providers and all agencies within the criminal justice system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11558/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter In response to the need to raise awareness of violence against women among a wide audience Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, operates an annual awareness raising grant scheme. The scheme provides funding for local awareness raising campaigns that increase the understanding and recognition of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Grant applications are assessed according to specified criteria, including in particular the relevance of the project to the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2010-2014 and the level of joint/collaborative work involved in the proposed project. After the projects funded under the scheme have completed their work Cosc evaluates them. This evaluation is fed back to the Public Awareness Sub-Committee of the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women.

I understand that An Garda Síochána has updated its policies in relation to domestic and sexual violence in recent years. The policies are made available to all Garda members through the internal Garda portal. I am informed that a wide range of training has been provided in recent years. New recruits have received general training. Members of specialist units such as the Child Pornography Unit and the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Units also receive specialised training. The B.A. Degree in Police Studies contains a comprehensive module on domestic violence. Relevant members of An Garda Síochána have also been instructed on sexual violence risk assessment tools in conjunction with the Probation Service. Specialist interviewers have been trained in interviewing techniques in relation to child and vulnerable adult victims/witnesses of sexual and violent crimes.

I understand that the Courts Service website allows family law practitioners, other justice sector professionals and lay people to access information on family law issues, including domestic violence. I am informed that the Courts Service also has a policy of making information publications of non-State service providers available in its information displays in court buildings.

I understand that the Legal Aid Board has developed its website to provide better access to information on its role and services. The Board has produced a number of information leaflets including leaflets in relation to domestic violence and legal aid for complainants in rape and certain sexual assault cases. This information is available electronically on the website and in hard-copy in the Legal Aid Board offices.

Guidelines for working with perpetrators of sexual offences have been developed by the Probation Service and training has been provided to relevant staff as needed. The Probation Service has developed and published a domestic violence policy document and all staff have received training on the policy. Through the existence of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence and the co-ordinating work of Cosc a more coherent and strategic approach to awareness raising has emerged.

Appointments to State Boards

 15. 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 the number of vacant positions that have emerged in boards under the auspices of his Department since March 2011; the number that were publically advertised; the number of applicants for the position; the number of appointees drawn down from public applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11663/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am interpreting the Deputy’s question in a broad manner so as to provide the information which I believe he is seeking. The term State Boards is somewhat imprecise as it includes bodies with a wide and diverse range of functions many of which would not fall into the more commonly understood definition of Board which is a body with a governance oversight of an organisation. To be of assistance to the Deputy I have interpreted his question as embracing all bodies called Boards, irrespective of their functions, as well as other bodies with a governance remit whose title does not include the term “Board”. Details of the vacancies that occurred throughout the following 17 bodies during the period in question are set out below along with details of those cases where expressions of interest were sought from the public.

Censorship of Publications Board

Five vacancies occurred. I advertised for expressions of interest on 1st March 2013, closing date is 22nd March 2013.

Censorship of Publications Appeal Board

Five vacancies occurred. I advertised for expressions of interest on 1st March 2013, closing date is 22nd March 2013.

Children Detention Schools Board of Management

One vacancy occurred. The person appointed was a civil servant.

Courts Service Board

Fifteen vacancies occurred. The Courts Service Board has 17 members, it is chaired by the Chief Justice and includes eight other judges, the CEO of the Courts Service, persons nominated by the Law Society, Bar Council and ICTU, an elected staff representative and three persons nominated by the Minister for Justice. Of the 15 vacancies, three were filled by persons nominated by myself including a civil servant from my Department.

Garda Síochána Arbitration Board

Four vacancies occurred and four appointments were made.

Garda Síochána Complaints Board

Nine vacancies occurred. Eight of the outgoing members were re-appointed as the Board, which has been replaced by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, only has a few outstanding cases on hands. The 9th appointee is a civil servant.

Judicial Appointments Advisory Board

Three vacancies occurred and three appointments were made. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board consists of 10 members, it is chaired by the Chief Justice and includes three other judges, the Attorney General, persons nominated by the Law Society and Bar Council and three persons nominated by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Legal Aid Board

Fourteen vacancies occurred. Of the 14 appointments to this Board, eight were civil or public servants.

Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board

Three vacancies occurred and three appointments were made.

National Disability Authority

One vacancy occurred. I made an appointment after seeking expressions of interest of which I received 12 applications. This appointment was from a public applicant.

Parole Board

Six vacancies occurred and six appointments were made, two of those appointments were serving public servants.

Private Security Appeal Board

Four vacancies occurred. The Government appointed four people on 3rd April, 2012. The proposed Chairperson appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence.

Private Security Authority

Eleven vacancies occurred. I invited expressions of interest for membership of a new Board. In total, twenty-nine expressions of interest were received - I am still considering the applications and expects to be in a position to make a decision shortly. Although there are eleven vacancies on the Board, in accordance with the relevant legislation, four of these will be nominated representatives from my own Department, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, An Garda Síochána and the Authority itself.

Property Registration Authority

Three vacancies occurred. I made three appointments to the Authority, of which, in accordance with legislation, one is a nominee of the Law Society, one a nominee of the Bar Council and the 3rd, the elected Property Registration Authority staff representative.

Property Services Appeal Board - established 24th July 2012

Six vacancies occurred. The Government made six appointments after seeking expressions of interest of which my Department received 41 applications. Those appointed were public applicants. The proposed Chairperson appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence.

Property Services Regulatory Authority - established 3rd April 2012

Eleven vacancies occurred. I made 11 appointments after seeking expressions of interest from members of the public. I received 114 applications. Nine of those appointed were public applicants, one is a civil servant and the Chairperson, who was a member of the Property Services Regulatory Authority Implementation Team, was appointed in order to provided continuity to the Authority which has operated on a non-statutory basis for a number of years. The proposed Chairperson appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence.

The Equality Authority

Fourteen vacancies occurred. The outgoing Board of the Equality Authority accepted reappointment by me in September 2011 for a further term which concluded at end of July 2012, and therefore issues of selection did not arise. Three members of the outgoing Human Rights Commission, which is appointed by Government accepted reappointment from December 2011 until end May 2012. The Deputy will be aware that the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority are in the process of merging to form the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC). An independent selection process in relation to the membership of the new Commission is underway and members of the public were invited to apply. The intention is that the successful applicants will be appointed by myself and by Government to the two existing bodies, pending enactment of the necessary legislation to effect the merger. It is also intended that the successful applicants will meet with the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality.

Racial Profiling

 16. 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 Fourth Monitoring Report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance on Ireland which found that there is no legislative bar on the use of racial profiling in policing here; and his plans to adopt legislation prohibiting any form of racial profiling in policing.  [11548/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am aware of the report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance and also of the fact that the report makes no allegation that such profiling is actually carried out. This is not surprising given that an Garda Siochana do not engage in racial profiling. The question of whether we should create a legislative prohibition therefore needs to be considered in that light.

This is of course a complex matter. Ireland has become a much more diverse society and indeed the nature of Irishness has evolved as many people from overseas have made their homes here. At the same time immigration control is an important national interest and our laws must be enforced. I believe however that it is perfectly possible to operate an effective system of immigration control without resorting to racial profiling but relying instead on good intelligence and the professional judgement and experience of our Gardai and immigration officers and indeed this has been demonstrated to be the case. I will consider this matter further in the development of the Immigration Protection and Residence Bill which I propose to republish later this year.

  Question No. 17 answered with Question No. 10.

Administration of Justice

 18. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the progress that he has made in setting out a timeframe for the reform of the court structure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11669/13]

 177. 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 having regard to the increase in the number of appeals to the Supreme Court as referred to by the Chief Justice, if he expects to be in a position to address the issues raised at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11895/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 177 together.

  As the Deputy will be aware, under the Courts Service Act 1998, the management and administration of the courts is a matter for the Courts Service while the allocation of the business of the courts, scheduling of cases and management of lists are matters for the judiciary and in particular the Presidents of the courts. The Deputy will also be aware that judges are, subject to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. There are particular difficulties with the Supreme Court list which continues to experience lengthy waiting times now in excess of four years. Waiting times for priority cases are 9-12 months at present and the Chief Justice has recently directed that no new cases be admitted to the priority list unless it can be clearly demonstrated that it is an exceptional case where there are urgent grounds necessitating a priority hearing. Such urgent grounds would include appeals directly affecting the custody of an individual, child abduction, urgent family law matters, and appeals with urgent and systemic constitutional implications.

  Although considerable efforts are being made by the Chief Justice to manage waiting times, the issue of capacity in the Supreme Court can only be fully resolved through the establishment of a Court of Appeal. I recently announced my intention to establish a Court of Appeal with both criminal and civil jurisdiction. The Government is committed to the holding of a Constitutional referendum on Article 34 which is necessary to achieve this and work has commenced in my Department in this regard. It is intended that the referendum will take place, together with at least one other referendum, in the autumn. The proposed Amendment would, if passed, allow for the establishment of modern court structures including a Court of Appeal and a new family court structure. These proposals have the potential to achieve significant change to the structure of our courts which have remained largely unchanged since 1924.

Domestic Violence Policy

 19. 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 provide funding for the development, operation and ongoing monitoring of effective intervention programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11559/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, funds 13 intervention programmes for domestic violence perpetrators across Ireland, run by three organisations. Despite the difficult financial situation that the country finds itself in, I have ensured that the 2013 budget for Cosc is unchanged from the 2012 budget amount. This will enable Cosc to continue its financial support of intervention programmes to enable them to operate. In 2012 Cosc provided grant assistance of the order of €625,000 to the programmes.

While the work that is done by the programmes involves direct interactions with men, the programmes have been developed in order to maximise the safety of female partners and ex-partners of the men on the programmes, and their children. An important feature of programmes is the work that is done with partners and ex-partners by way of partner contact arrangements. All programmes have a dedicated partner contact element. A dedicated partner contact worker or workers are engaged by the programme management to work with any partner or ex-partner of the men on the programme who wishes to be involved. This work informs the programme facilitators of the ongoing safety of the partners and children of the men on the programmes.

There are weekly contacts between the partner contacts and the partners/ex-partners during which the man's behaviour in the preceding week is discussed and this information is then passed to the programme facilitator. This allows the facilitators to challenge any man whose behaviour outside the programme is not matching his statements while attending the programme. The partner contact worker also provides practical support and advice to women in violent/controlling relationships.

Under the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2010-2014, Cosc established a Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme Committee to support the work of intervention programmes and to improve overall delivery of the programmes and their outcomes. The Committee is currently working towards this by:

- Developing uniform protocols and procedures to help strengthen co-operation and co-ordination between programmes and other relevant service providers

- Overseeing the collection and analysis of improved data to help with understanding who and why the programmes help as well as providing indicative data for outcomes research.

In recognition of the programmes' part in reducing domestic violence, a representative of the programmes has sat on the National Steering Committee on Violence against Women since the middle of 2012.

National Women's Strategy

 20. Deputy Michael Colreavy Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the dates on which his Department has published periodic reports on the implementation of the National Women’s Strategy; the date on which the next periodic report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11560/13]

 47. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide an update on the implementation on the National Women’s Strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11555/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 20 and 47 together.

  To date, a total of three periodic Progress Reports on the implementation of the National Women’s Strategy have been approved by Government and published as follows:

 - Joint 2007/2008 Progress Report on the Implementation of the National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016 – published in July 2009;

 - 2009 Progress Report on the Implementation of the National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016 – published in November 2010, and

 - 2010 Progress Report on the Implementation of the National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016 – published in December 2011.

  Although drafted by the previous Government, the focus of the National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016 is closely linked to the gender equality goals of this Government and to EU gender equality policy. These Reports have detailed significant progress made across the more than 200 actions contained in the National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016. In my own Department, significant achievements should be noted in the areas of Violence against Women and Anti-Human Trafficking measures.

  Whilst acknowledging the progress made to date, it is important to recognise that much still needs to be done if we are to achieve de facto gender equality in Ireland. The National Women’s Strategy is an important instrument for achieving this aim and its stated Key Objectives are as relevant now as they were when the Strategy was published in 2007. The Report outlining progress made in implementing the National Women’s Strategy during 2011 is complete and will be presented to Government shortly, and subject to the Government’s approval, it will be published at the earliest opportunity. The delay in this regard, while regrettable, has been due to work pressures associated with the ambitious Gender Equality Programme currently being undertaken as part of Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union. A Mid-Term Review of the Strategy is also being finalised and I expect that this will be presented to Government at the earliest opportunity.


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