Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Written Answers. - Arrest Warrants.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 174 Next Page Last Page

 15. Ms Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  the steps he intends to take to deal with the situation highlighted in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General which found that warrants issued for the arrest of 5,500 people who failed to turn up in court to face charges cannot be executed due to the fact that the warrants have gone missing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18513/02]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I take it that the situation referred to by the Deputy is the issue raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General in his annual report for 2001 in which he examines the administration of bail. As part of his examination, the issue of persons failing to appear before the court and the handling of the resulting bench warrants is dealt with. The procedure is that if a person on bail fails to attend the court at the appointed time the Gardaí are requested, by means of a bench warrant, to arrange for the arrest of the person. This request is on the direction of the presiding judge.

An exercise which was carried out by the Garda Síochána themselves has identified 5,500 bench warrant cases as outstanding. I understand that these cases arose in the period between 1988 and 1998 before the introduction of a new centralised system in August 1998. I am informed by the Garda authorities that although some of the 5,500 cases may have been executed it is not possible to quantify these cases. While difficulties arise in pursuing these cases I am informed that the Garda is giving priority to dealing with cases of serious crime and in this connection have sought the assistance of the Courts Service which has provided the original court records to the Garda.

The Comptroller recognises in his conclusions that ‘the existence of 5,500 pre 1999 undischarged cases in the system reflects historical lapses in co-ordination between the two – courts and Garda – services'. The Garda introduced an interim system for the distribution and control of warrants in 1998 pending the introduction of a facility on the PULSE system which will interface with the courts and prisons systems. The Courts Service criminal case tracking system now deals with the issue of bench warrants and whether they have been executed or not. In addition, in response to the recognised need for more focused, specialised and visible management structures to deliver key criminal justice services, such as execution of bench warrants, my Department commenced a programme of organisation restructuring in the late 1990s. This programme [1131] aims to deliver improved results and better services by devolving responsibility for day to day administration and strengthening management and organisational structures, including IT systems such as PULSE and the criminal case tracking system, CCTS.

Areas of integration identified for priority development under this programme included communication regarding warrants between the Courts Service, the Garda Síochána and the Irish Prisons Service. I am informed by the Garda authorities that close co-operation between the Courts Service and the Garda authorities has reduced the processing rate of warrants from 16 weeks in 1999 to two weeks in 2002. I am satisfied that these measures will ensure that difficulties such as these should not recur.


Last Updated: 01/09/2015 09:31:55 First Page Previous Page Page of 174 Next Page Last Page