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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 192-201
 Header Item Asylum Applications
 Header Item Garda Vetting of Personnel
 Header Item Asylum Applications
 Header Item Charities Regulation
 Header Item Judicial Appointments
 Header Item Court Procedures
 Header Item Asylum Support Services
 Header Item Asylum Support Services
 Header Item Community Policing
 Header Item Crime Prevention

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 77 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 192-201

Asylum Applications

 192. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to grant an amnesty to all those in the asylum system for a period of four years or more.  [7319/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter There are no plans to grant an amnesty to asylum seekers based on the length of time spent in the asylum system. The Deputy might wish to note that at EU Level, the Member States, in agreeing the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum at the European Council in October 2008 made specific commitments "to use only case-by-case regularisation, rather than generalised regularisation, under national law, for humanitarian or economic reasons". While the Pact is not legally binding, the political commitment among Member States, then and now, is clearly against any form of process that would in any way legitimise the status of persons present in the State without first examining the merits of their individual cases. In Ireland's case there are also considerations based on maintaining the integrity of the Common Travel Area with the UK which must be taken into account. Any significant departure from well established policies in this respect would have a major impact on the operation of the Common Travel Area both here and in the United Kingdom.It must also be emphasised that broad regularisation programmes are problematic, in particular as they could give rise to unpredictable and potentially very costly impacts across the full range of public and social services.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

 193. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter when gardaí will be told that their vetting process is to adhere to the National Vetting Bureau Act 2012, since this Bill became an Act of law upon the President's signature on 26 December 2012, under which those convicted under section 1(1) of the Probation Act 1906 would finally see the minor details of their offences deemed withheld upon the grounds of specified information, that is, upon the nature of the given offence, as such a conviction may not be revealed if it deems one not to be a threat to children or vulnerable people; and the reason citizens are not being vetted in accordance with the new law.  [7335/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 has not yet been commenced as provisions relating to the disclosure of convictions have had to be reviewed in the light of legal developments. In particular, a judgment of the UK Court of Appeal in (On the Application of) T and others v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester [2013] raised new legal issues regarding vetting. The UK Court considered the circumstances in which it is appropriate to disclose convictions for old, minor offences with particular regard to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Having considered the judgement in that case, I intend bringing proposals before the Oireachtas to provide that certain old minor convictions will not be disclosed under the provisions of the 2012 Act. Given the close relationship between this Act and the Spent Convictions Bill, which is before the Oireachtas at the moment, any changes to the Vetting Act will have to be reflected in the Spent Convictions Bill. The amendment of the Vetting Act will also be done via the Spent Convictions Bill.   

  The National Vetting Bureau (Children & Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 also sets out procedures to allow the disclosure of “Specified information”. This is information other than a court determined criminal record. For example, “specified information” includes conclusions from investigations of child abuse or neglect that have been conducted by the HSE, where such investigations have concluded that a person poses a threat to children or vulnerable persons.

  The procedures set out in the Act are designed to ensure that the human rights of the person being vetted are adequately protected. It is important to note that before specified information can be disclosed, the person who is the subject of the information must be given a copy of that information and must be given the opportunity to challenge the proposed disclosure. The Act also provides that a disclosure of such information will only occur where there is a bona fide concern that the person poses a threat to children or vulnerable persons, and the information has been assessed for its reliability and relevance, and the disclosure is in accordance with principles of natural justice. The Act provides for the appointment of an independent Appeals Officer who will be responsible for assessing and deciding appeals against the proposed disclosure of specified information. The Act also provides that a decision of an Appeals Officer may be appealed to the High Court, on a point of law.

  By confining the information that can be disclosed to information arising from criminal investigations or statutory inquiries, and by ensuring that individuals who are the subject of such information have their right to defend their name protected in the Bill, the Bill seeks to ensure that information such as vague rumours, or innuendo or false allegations cannot form any part of the vetting process. The Bill also ensures that the constitutional right of all citizens to protect their good name, as provided in Article 40.3.2 of the constitution, is protected.

  I expect to be in a position to commence the provisions of the 2012 Act in the autumn of 2014. In the meantime, the vetting of persons working with children and vulnerable persons continues to be done on a non-statutory basis.

Asylum Applications

 194. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter further to Parliamentary Question No. 459 of 25 June 2013, the number of persons living in direct provision and elsewhere here who made their application for protection more than five years ago and are awaiting or engaged in asylum related judicial review proceedings; and if he will provide a breakdown by duration of persons within this group who have has deportation orders made against them, and by duration and current stage of asylum process of persons within this group who do not have deportation orders against them.  [7362/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. Not all asylum seekers stay in RIA accommodation: some choose to stay with friends or relatives or live on their own resources.

Extensive statistical information on the Direct Provision system is available on the RIA website - www.ria.gov.ie. The December 2013 monthly report has just been published on the site as are its Annual Reports covering the years from 2007 to 2012 inclusive. A variety of additional information is also provided including overall details on the length of time persons have been residing in the direct provision system. The 2013 Annual Report is currently being compiled and will be published before the end of March, 2014.

The details sought by the Deputy are considerable and would require a significant level of staff resources to compile. The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department will examine this data request in detail and endeavour to provide as much data as is readily available and can be compiled without a disproportionate effect on the day to day work of INIS. I will correspond directly with the Deputy on this matter at a later date.

Charities Regulation

 195. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his Department's role in the regulation of homelessness charities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7399/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Charities Act 2009 provides for an integrated system of registration supervision of charities in Ireland. This includes homelessness charities.

The various sections of the Charities Act are subject to implementation through commencement orders. Sections that it was possible to commence in advance of the establishment of the Charities Regulatory Authority, as provided for under the Act, have been commenced. The remaining sections, including those relating to regulation and supervision, can only be commenced following the establishment of the Authority.

On 24th January 2014 I issued a call for Expressions of Interest from suitably qualified persons who wish to be considered for appointment to the Board of a new Charities Regulatory Authority, with a view to making appointments before Easter. Arrangements are also being made to appoint an interim CEO to the new Authority and a number of other administrative staff from within existing resources. I intend to have these staff in place by the end of February to enable the Authority to carry out the necessary preparatory work before coming formally into operation later this year.

Judicial Appointments

 196. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to reform the way judicial appointments are made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7403/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy will be aware that, under the Constitution, judges are appointed by the President on the advice of the Government. The current process for the appointment of judges in Ireland is set out in sections 12 to 17 of the Courts and Courts Officers Act 1995 which established the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board.

  Under the existing system of judicial appointments, the Board submits to me, as Minister for Justice and Equality, the names of the persons who have applied for appointment and whom it recommends as suitable for appointment. This procedure has been in place since 1995 and, at my request, my Department is currently undertaking a review of the judicial appointments process. This review will consider how best to ensure and protect the principle of judicial independence and includes consideration of issues such as the appointment process, eligibility criteria, the role of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board and the need to promote equality and diversity.

  In December I initiated a public consultation process which involved not only members of the judiciary and the legal profession generally, but also engaged the broader public who benefit daily in innumerable ways from the protection of an independent judiciary. A number of submissions have been received and they are being considered within my Department. The consultation process sought submissions within the current Constitutional provisions and any proposal to introduce a new system of appointments which would require statutory amendments would, of course, be a matter for consideration by Government in the first instance.

Court Procedures

 197. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his proposed reform of the court poor box; the amount collected over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7409/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The court poor box is a non-statutory system used mostly by the District Courts to impose a financial charge on a defendant to be used for a charitable purpose, usually instead of imposing a criminal conviction. Payments made to the court poor box are accounted for by the court office concerned and the accounting procedures are subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Generally, charities are the recipients of poor box contributions but the decision is solely at the discretion of the Judge who is independent in the matter of sentencing, as in other matters concerning the exercise of judicial functions, subject only to the Constitution and the law.

  In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the following table provides details of court poor box receipts for the period concerned.

YearAmount
2013€1.995m
2012€1.903m
2011€1.734m
2010€1.691m
2009€1.979m


  Last week, the Government approved the drafting of the Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill and the publication of the General Scheme of the Bill. The proposed legislation will replace the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 with modern provisions dealing with community sanctions and the role of the Probation Service in the criminal justice system. The legislation will abolish the Court Poor Box and replace it with a statutory Reparation Fund to provide for a fair, equitable and transparent system of reparation that will apply only to minor offences dealt with by the District Court. The replacement of the Court Poor Box with a statutory Reparation Fund was recommended by the Law Reform Commission in its 2005 report The Court Poor Box: Probation of Offenders.

  The new Reparation Fund will be used to provide additional funding for services for the victims of crime and compensation payments payable by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal. The legislation will clearly provide that the Reparation Fund may not be used for any purpose other than the provision of compensation, reparation and assistance for the victims of crime. It is intended that monies to be paid into the Reparation Fund will be collected by the Courts Service, transmitted to the Department of Justice and Equality and allocated between organisations supporting victims of crime and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal.

Asylum Support Services

 198. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of asylum seekers in State centres for the past five years; the cost of housing for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7410/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The direct provision system is managed by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department. For the most part, this represents a cashless system with the State assuming responsibility for providing suitable accommodation for asylum seekers on a full board basis. Currently, there are 4,355 residents in 34 centres across the State under contract to RIA.

  The numbers of asylum seekers residing in direct provision has reduced significantly over the last five years. At the end of December 2013 there were 4,360 residents in direct provision compared with 6,424 at the end of December 2009. This represents a reduction of 2,064, or 32%, in the number of residents in direct provision in that period. There was also a corresponding reduction in the cost of providing accommodation in the direct provision system. The budget outturn for 2009 was €86.5 million compared to €55.2 million in 2013. That represents a drop of €31.3 million, or 36%, in the cost of providing direct provision accommodation over that period.

  The table sets out the total number of residents in direct provision at the end of December from 2009 to 2013 and the corresponding budget outturn for those years.

YearNumber of residents in Direct Provision at 31 DecemberBudget Outturn (€ million)
20096,42486.5
20106,10779
20115,42369.5
20124,84162.3
20134,36055.2
20144,355 (as of 02/02/14)51.9 (Estimate Provision)


  More detailed statistics are available on the RIA website -   www.ria.gov.ie.

Asylum Support Services

 199. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the amount of outsourcing carried out by the State for asylum seekers for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7411/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I presume that the Deputy is referring to the outsourcing of work to external service providers which is ordinarily undertaken by civil servants. Since 2009 there have been two occasions where work has been outsourced in the asylum area, the details of which are below:

  - Establishment of a Presenting Panel of legally qualified persons in 2009 to represent the Refugee Applications Commissioner in some 1200 cases at appeals hearings before the Refugee Appeals Tribunal;

  - Establishment of a panel of legally qualified persons in 2013 to assist the Refugee Applications Commissioner with the processing of subsidiary protection applications.

  The Deputy will also be aware of course that accommodation facilities and other ancillary services are provided by external service providers for the asylum community.

Community Policing

 200. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to expand the role of community policing and increase the numbers of gardaí involved in community policing in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7425/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution, direction and control of all personnel among the Garda Regions, Divisions, and Districts. Garda management keep this distribution under continuing review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the best possible use is made of these resources.

  The Deputy will be aware that all Gardaí have responsibility, inter alia, to deal with Community Policing issues as and when they arise. I have however, been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the number of dedicated Community Gardaí, in each Garda Division in the Dublin Region, on 31 December 2013, the latest date for which figures are readily available, is set out in the table.

DivisionStrength
D.M.R. East29
D.M.R. North68
D.M.R. North Central152
D.M.R. South53
D.M.R. South Central58
D.M.R. West68


  An Garda Síochána places great emphasis on the importance of the partnership between An Garda Síochána and the community in preventing and detecting crime, and maintaining a safe environment for everyone. In this regard the Garda National Model of Community Policing plays a key part in responding to crime by taking into account and responding to local conditions and needs. An Garda Síochána continues to invest time and energy in community partnerships and relationships and this involves participation in a wide range of local fora, including Joint Policing Committees and through partnership programmes such as Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch.

Crime Prevention

 201. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plan to tackle violent crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7426/14]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I can assure the Deputy that the incidence of violent crime continues to be monitored closely by Garda management and that appropriate measures are in place to target this type of criminality. He will be aware that the most recent recorded crime statistics show that total recorded crime was down 7.1% over the 12 months to the end of September 2013, which reflects well on the policing measures which are in place.

The circumstances surrounding violent crime vary considerably, from carefully planned attacks carried out by organised criminals, to unpredictable incidents often associated with abuse of alcohol or drugs. Accordingly, An Garda Síochána has in place policing strategies to combat these varying circumstances to the greatest extent possible.

These include proactive targeting of public disorder and anti-social behaviour including targeted high visibility patrols and monitoring of areas identified as hotspots for this type of crime, as well as intelligence-led operations, involving specialist units, to tackle and dismantle serious and organised criminality.

While we should not underestimate the policing challenges presented by violent crime, I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána are determined to respond effectively and to bring people to justice whenever possible, and they have my full confidence and support in that regard.


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