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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 203-211
 Header Item Electoral Law
 Header Item Asylum Support Services
 Header Item Prison Building Programme
 Header Item Prison Visiting Committees Issues
 Header Item Crime Statistics
 Header Item Garda Transport Provision
 Header Item Electronic Tagging

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 803 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 203-211

Electoral Law

 203. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the total number of electoral pieces of primary and secondary legislation that are currently in use; if he has considered consolidating all electoral law into a single pieces of comprehensive primary and secondary legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23336/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan There are 31 Acts of the Oireachtas in force concerned with electoral matters and 77 related Statutory Instruments. I have no plans at this time to consolidate primary or secondary electoral law.

Asylum Support Services

 204. Deputy Michael McCarthy Information on Michael McCarthy Zoom on Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide an update on efforts that are being made by his Department to reform the direct provision scheme for asylum seekers and refugees, the alternative options being considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23068/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Direct Provision system managed by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department remains a key pillar of the State's asylum and immigration system and I have no plans to end it at this time. Rather, my intention is that the factors which lead to delays in the processing of cases are dealt with so that asylum seekers spend as little time as is necessary in that accommodation system.

The direct provision system is not ideal but it is a system which facilitates the State providing a roof over the head of those seeking asylum or seeking other grounds to be allowed, on humanitarian grounds, to stay in the State. It allows the State to do it in a manner that facilitates resources being used economically in circumstances where the State is in financial difficulty. There are no cheaper alternatives to the Direct Provision system. A key finding in the 2010 Value for Money Report on the Direct Provision system was that if we were operating a system which facilitated asylum seekers in living independent lives in individual housing with social welfare support and payments, aside from the asylum 'pull factor' it would likely create, the cost to the exchequer would be double what is currently paid under the direct provision system.

There are currently 4,698 persons accommodated in direct provision across 34 centres. I do accept that the length of time spent in direct provision and the complexity of the asylum process itself is an issue which needs to be addressed. The accommodation system is inextricably linked to the surrounding asylum process. The revised Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, which I intend to re-publish, should substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements for asylum, subsidiary protection and leave to remain applications. It will do this by making provision for the establishment of a single application procedure, so that applicants can be provided with a final decision on all aspects of their protection application in a more straight forward and timely fashion.

Pending the enactment and commencement of the new legislation and with a view to improving processing, I am proposing to introduce new arrangements for the processing of subsidiary protection applications in light of recent judgments in the Superior Courts. My Department, in consultation with the Attorney General's Office, is developing a new legislative and administrative framework for the processing of current and future subsidiary protection applications. This work is being given high priority and applicants will be advised of the new arrangements as soon as possible.

Prison Building Programme

 205. 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 when he intends to meet with representatives of the local community regarding the development of an open facility by the Irish Prison Service at Harristown, County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23133/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I can advise the Deputy that a meeting with a group of local public representatives has been arranged for the coming days in relation to the proposed development at Harristown House at Castlerea Prison.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Director General of the Irish Prison Service met with a delegation of public representatives in relation to this issue at the Irish Prison Service Headquarters in March. In addition, the Governor of the prison and the Director of Operations for the Irish Prison Service attended a public meeting in Castlerea to discuss the matter and outline the proposals to members of the local community.

Prison Visiting Committees Issues

 206. 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 outline the specific plans to address concerns expressed in the prison visitors committee report on overcrowding and staffing shortages at Castlerea Prison, County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23134/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I published the Castlerea Prison Visiting Committee Report on 7th May 2013. I would like to thank the Visiting Committee for their Report. The observation that Castlerea prison is a well run prison with professional staff and a high quality of medical care provided to prisoners is very encouraging. The Committee also acknowledged the good work done in the school as well as the work of the prison Chaplain.

I should point out that there is no reference to overcrowding in the Castlerea Visiting Committee Report for 2012. The average number in custody in Castlerea Prison in 2012 was 361, against a bed capacity of 351. This represents an average occupancy level of 102.8% and needs to be viewed in the context of the levels of overcrowding being experienced in prisons such as Mountjoy, Cork, Limerick and the Dóchas Centre. Accordingly, the priority for the Irish Prison Service is to reducing the chronic overcrowding in Mountjoy, Cork, Limerick Prisons and the Dóchas Centre in the coming year.

In relation to staff shortages, I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that a new staffing structure and rosters were fully implemented in Castlerea Prison in November 2012 under the implementation of the terms of the Public Service Agreement 2010 -2014 or the Transformation Programme as it is known. The new agreed staffing number for Castlerea is 211. As at 4 May 2013 there were 208 staff assigned to Castlerea which is only 3 below the authorised numbers and the Prison Service is awaiting a work training competition which should fill the vacant posts.

Crime Statistics

 207. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of incidents of ramming of Garda vehicles over the past 10 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23135/13]

 208. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of incidents of Gardaí being injured in incidents of ramming of Garda vehicles over the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23136/13]

 209. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of Gardaí fatally injured in ramming incidents since the foundation of the force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23137/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 to 209, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will appreciate that the term 'ramming' is not provided for in Statute and as a consequence any investigations initiated as a result of injury or death of a member of An Garda Síochána as a result of a road traffic incident would be conducted pursuant to the relevant Road Traffic legislation and the offences set out thereunder

In the circumstances I am advised that details of the number of fatal or non-fatal injuries as requested by the Deputy are not readily available and would require a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources to compile.

I am advised that since late 2009 the number of incidents of the kind referred to by the Deputy reported as causing damage to cars has been recorded. The number of such cases is as follows; 66 in 2010, 55 in 2011, 61 in 2012 and 16 in 2013 up to 14 May. Information prior to that period is not readily available.

Garda Transport Provision

 210. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the additional safety features Garda vehicles have, given their increased risk of ramming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23138/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As the Deputy will be aware, the specific arrangements made by An Garda Síochána in relation to the provision of vehicles are dealt with by the Garda Commissioner. In that context the Commissioner determines the appropriate vehicles to be procured, including the relevant specifications for operational purposes.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the safe operation of the Garda fleet is a priority within the Force, for both Garda personnel and the general public. In addition I understand that a range of safety features operates across the fleet and that certain vehicles may also have further safety equipment, based on the range of the policing requirements to be met.

Electronic Tagging

 211. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will explain delays in bringing forward legislation to provide for the electronic tagging of sex offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23139/13]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter My Department has been conducting an examination of the law on sexual offences generally. This includes a review of the Sex Offenders Act 2001. In that context, legislative proposals being considered include measures for the electronic monitoring of sex offenders in specific circumstances.

Having regard to competing legislative priorities, the review has been progressed as speedily as possible. This work is close to completion and I expect to bring a draft General Scheme to Government in the coming months with a view to seeking approval for drafting of the necessary legislation.

This will be wide-ranging legislation and is not limited to reform of the Sex Offenders Act 2001. Inter alia, it will also implement the recommendations of two Oireachtas committees, facilitate full compliance with the criminal law provisions of relevant EU, UN and Council of Europe legal instruments and reform the law on incest.


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