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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 316-324
 Header Item Asylum Applications
 Header Item Garda Deployment
 Header Item Proposed Legislation
 Header Item Judicial Appointments
 Header Item Visa Applications
 Header Item Court Procedures
 Header Item Garda Investigations

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 775 No. 3

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Written Answers Nos. 316-324

Asylum Applications

 316. 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 if he will indicate if a Stamp 4 visa will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if he will bear in mind, when making this decision, the unnecessary hardship, stress and anxiety which could have been and still could be avoided by way of update of the Stamp 4; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40354/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The person concerned and his family entered the State on 10 September 2004 and lodged asylum applications. Their asylum applications were considered by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Both bodies concluded that the persons concerned did not meet the criteria for recognition as refugees. Arising from the refusal of their respective asylum applications, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned and his family were notified, by letters, that the then Minister proposed to make Deportation Orders in respect of them. They were each given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons a Deportation Order should not be made against them. In addition, they were notified of their respective entitlements to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006. The persons concerned submitted applications for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of these applications has been completed, the persons concerned will be notified in writing of the outcomes. In the event that the applications for Subsidiary Protection are refused, the position in the State of the persons concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before final decisions are made. Once decisions have been made, these decisions and the consequences of the decisions will be conveyed in writing to the persons concerned. Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Garda Deployment

 317. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in dublin 9. [40479/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is located in the Clontarf Garda Sub-District. The local Garda management is aware of the circumstances referred to and is providing appropriate responses. I am further informed that a dedicated Community Garda is assigned to this specific area and is aware of the incidents in question. The Community Garda regularly patrols the area and is in ongoing contact with residents.

Proposed Legislation

 318. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to introduce legislation to restrict the height of boundary hedges and trees to two metres in height; and when he will be in a position to introduce such legislation. [40503/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Difficulties experienced by property owners arising from trees and high hedges on neighbouring land were raised in the Dáil and Seanad during passage of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009. My Department consulted on the matter with the Law Reform Commission, which had been involved in drafting the 2009 Act, and it took the view that unreasonable interference caused by high trees or hedges was a matter in any particular case for tort law or more generally for planning or environmental law. In England and Wales, complaints about high hedges are dealt with under Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. This Act makes provision for local authorities to determine complaints by the owners or occupiers of domestic property who are adversely affected by evergreen hedges over 2 metres high. Broadly similar legislation, i.e. the High Hedges Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, came into operation in Northern Ireland on 31 March 2012. Helpful information notes for hedge owners, complainants and local authorities have been published on the web site of Northern Ireland's Department of the Environment.

The manner in which problems associated with high hedges and trees are resolved in England, Wales and Northern Ireland demonstrates a clear preference for the resolution of such disputes at local level, preferably by mediation, with recourse to the courts as a last resort. This is designed to reduce the risk of prolonged and costly litigation and the risk that court proceedings would leave a legacy of bitterness between neighbours and ill-feeling in the local community. The introduction of such legislation in this jurisdiction would be a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and his Department. Under our existing law, a person may be in a position to seek damages or an injunction requiring the cutting of boundary hedges or trees under the tort of nuisance. In order for the nuisance to be actionable, the person would have to show that an easement existed - an easement of light or otherwise - and that there had been a substantial interference with that right. It is my intention to bring forward a Mediation Bill later this year to promote mediation as a viable, effective and efficient alternative to court proceedings, thereby reducing legal costs and speeding up the resolution of disputes. The legislation, which is currently being drafted, will introduce an obligation on solicitors and barristers to advise any person wishing to commence court proceedings to consider mediation as a means of resolving a dispute before embarking on such proceedings. It will also provide that a court may, following the commencement of proceedings, on its own initiative invite parties to consider mediation and suspend the proceedings to facilitate the mediation process.

  Question No. 319 answered with Question No. 310.

Judicial Appointments

 320. Deputy Alan Farrell Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will outline the process whereby a member of the judiciary may be disciplined if they have not been able to fulfil their duties in a competent manner, if there has been any issue of misconduct or if there is a question over of their ability to practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40510/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As the Deputy will be aware, Article 35.4.1° of the Constitution provides that "A judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court shall not be removed from office except for stated misbehaviour or incapacity, and then only upon resolutions passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann calling for his removal". Short of removal from office following such an impeachment process, which has never been used to date, there are currently no provisions which permit a member of the judiciary to be "disciplined" as envisaged in the Deputy's question. The Deputy will be aware that the Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment to legislate to establish a Judicial Council to provide an effective mechanism for dealing with complaints against judges. This commitment is being given expression in the form of the proposed Judicial Council Bill. As well as providing for the establishment of a Judicial Council and Board that will promote excellence and high standards of conduct by judges, the proposed Bill aims to provide a means of investigating allegations of judicial misconduct supported by the establishment of a Judicial Conduct Committee which will have lay representation. In November 2011, the Chief Justice announced that the Judiciary had agreed to establish an Interim Judicial Council pending the publication and enactment of the proposed Judicial Council Bill. A sub-committee of the Board of the Interim Judicial Council was subsequently established to consider the General Scheme for a Judicial Council Bill, a version of which had been published by the previous Government in August 2010. This sub-committee has provided observations which are the subject of ongoing consideration and consultation, taking account of intervening developments and current Government policy. This continuing work will inform the framing and drafting of the new Bill, in conjunction with the Offices of Parliamentary Counsel and of the Attorney General. I intend to publish the Bill in the course of 2013.

Visa Applications

 321. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will consider the issue regarding visas raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40514/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I wish to inform the Deputy that a decision has issued in respect of the visa application referred to. The visa application was submitted to the Irish Embassy in Belgrade on 18 May 2012. It was received in the Visa Office in Dublin for processing on 6 June 2012. A decision was made on the application on 20 September 2012. While applicants are advised to make their visa application at least eight weeks in advance of the proposed date of travel, it should be borne in mind that the timeframe of eight weeks acts as a guideline only. While the majority of applications are dealt with within that period, the actual timeframe for decision ultimately depends on a number of factors, including the number of applications on hand and the resources available to process them. Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be directed to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Court Procedures

 322. Deputy Brian Walsh Information on Brian Walsh Zoom on Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the position regarding the implementation of Section 15 of the Fines Act 2010; if any interim arrangement will be introduced to facilitate the payment of court fines by instalment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40519/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Section 15 of the Fines Act 2010, which has not yet been commenced, provides for the payment of fines by instalments. To avail of this facility, a person must apply to the court and the court must be satisfied that requiring the person to pay the fine in full by the due date would impose undue hardship. It is not an automatic facility open to all persons on whom fines are imposed. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce attachment of earnings to collect unpaid fines. It is my view, having reviewed how the fine payment and recovery system will work after the introduction of attachment of earnings, that the system set out in the Fines Act needs considerable amendment on a number of fronts. To that end, I am finalising proposals for the approval of Government, which are aimed, on the one hand, at making it easier for people to pay fines and on the other, at making the recovery of fines more efficient and effective. I hope to be in a position to publish these proposals in the coming weeks with a view to having them enacted and operational by the middle of 2013.

Garda Investigations

 323. 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 he will confirm that unidentified remains were discovered two years ago off Hook Head where two femur bones were discovered and off Helvick Head where a skull was discovered and if tests were carried out on those remains. [40537/12]

 324. 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 he intends to carry out any further tests to identify whether or not the remains found off Helvick Head and Hook Head have any connection to the crew members of two fishing vessels which sank in the Helvick area namely the Pere Charles. [40538/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 323 and 324 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that during the last three years, there have been a number of human bone and skull finds off the coast of counties Wexford and Waterford. Inquiries to establish the identity of the human remains referred to by the Deputy have not yielded any positive results to date. Consideration is now being afforded by the Garda authorities to having nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analysis conducted on the remains concerned, having regard to whether such testing might yield positive results.


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