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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 683-706
 Header Item Student Universal Support Ireland
 Header Item Departmental Advertising
 Header Item Naturalisation Applications
 Header Item Legal Aid
 Header Item Legal Aid
 Header Item Crime Prevention
 Header Item Visa Applications
 Header Item Garda Data
 Header Item Garda Strength
 Header Item Garda Transport Provision
 Header Item Crime Data
 Header Item Garda Transport Provision
 Header Item Garda National Immigration Bureau
 Header Item Garda Training
 Header Item Prison Staff
 Header Item Fines Administration
 Header Item Garda Data
 Header Item Court Judgments
 Header Item Firearms Licences
 Header Item Garda Transport Provision

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 114 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 683-706

Student Universal Support Ireland

 683. Deputy Michael Ring Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the way in which the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, will be assessed by SUSI for the coming academic year in relation to third-level students; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13432/21]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Under the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is available to eligible students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the terms and conditions of funding, including those relating to residency, means, nationality and previous academic attainment.

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for SUSI to determine. For the 2020/21 academic year, student grant applications will be assessed based on gross income from all sources for the period 1st January 2019 to 31st December 2019.

The Social Welfare (Covid-19) (Amendment) Act 2020 establishes the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment as a social insurance benefit scheme separate from other social protection statutory schemes including the Supplementary Welfare Allowance and Jobseeker Allowance and Jobseeker Benefit schemes.

For student grant purposes the Covid-19 payment has been treated as reckonable income for the SUSI means assessment process since it was introduced in March 2020. This means that the Covid-19 payment is treated in a similar fashion to other Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection payments such as Jobseekers Benefit/Allowance, thus ensuring a consistency of approach and an equitable treatment of students and their families in the SUSI means assessment process.

All applications are assessed nationally with reference to the terms and conditions of the relevant student grant scheme. The terms and conditions of funding are applied impartially to all applicants. However, if a student or party to their application experiences a change in circumstances that is not a temporary change and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, they can apply to have their application assessed under the change in circumstances provision of the relevant Student Grant Scheme. The income of all parties to the application will be assessed or reassessed on the current year (2020) and they may also be asked to provide evidence of the current year’s (2020) income.

The Student Grant Scheme and Student Support Regulations for the 2021/22 academic year will be published towards the end of March/early April 2021. The opening of SUSI's online grant application system will coincide with the publication of the scheme. Grant applications are submitted online via www.susi.ie. Further information in relation to student grant assistance is also available from this website. The telephone number for SUSI’s Helpdesk is 0761 087 874.

A review of the Student Grant Scheme in 2020 (following the impact of COVID-19) was committed to as part of the Programme for Government. This Review is currently being undertaken. It will document the impact of Covid-19 on the Scheme and outline a number of recommendations for consideration by the end of Quarter 1, 2021.

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, the Deputy will be aware of the €168m funding package of for the return to education. This package includes a €10m access support package for higher education students. I have approved the allocation of €8.1m of this funding to top up the Student Assistance Fund (SAF). The SAF assists students in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to enable HEIs to support students during the COVID-19 situation. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

  Question No. 684 answered with Question No. 671.

Departmental Advertising

 685. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris the amount spent across his Department on advertising in relation to Covid-19 by month and by media outlet (details supplied) from 1 March 2020 to 1 March 2021.  [13560/21]

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris My Department has had no expenditure on advertising in relation to COVID-19 across the platforms referred to.

Naturalisation Applications

 686. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the status of an application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [12488/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy on 16 July 2019. This application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted for decision as expeditiously as possible. If any further documentation is required, it will be requested from the person in due course.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. However, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility at: INISOireachtasMail@justice.ie, 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 Question process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in the cases where the response is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Legal Aid

 687. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the value of criminal legal aid claimed by county under each of the various criminal legal aid schemes in each of the years 2018 to 2020, in tabular form.  [12559/21]

 688. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of persons that were granted criminal legal aid by county under each of the various criminal legal aid schemes in each of the years 2018 to 2020, in tabular form.  [12560/21]

 689. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the amount of legal aid paid to each supplier (details supplied) under each of the various criminal legal aid schemes in each of the years 2018 to 2020, in tabular form.  [12561/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I propose to take Questions Nos. 687, 688 and 689 together.

The Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act, 1962, which is the primary legislation covering the operation of the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, provides that free legal aid may be granted, in certain circumstances, for the defence of persons of insufficient means in criminal proceedings.

  Under the Scheme, the courts, through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of legal aid. An applicant for legal aid must establish to the satisfaction of the court that their means are insufficient to enable them to pay for legal aid themselves. The 1962 Act specifies that the court must also be satisfied that, by reason of the "gravity of the charge" or "exceptional circumstances", it is essential in the interests of justice that the applicant should have legal aid. Criminal prosecutions originate in the District Court and if so satisfied, the Judge will grant a criminal legal aid certificate.

  It is not possible to provide the value of criminal legal aid by county under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme for each of the years 2018 to 2020. This information is not readily available and could not be compiled without disproportionate use of staff resources.

  Expenditure on the main Criminal Legal Aid Scheme for each of the years 2018 to 2020 was as follows:

Year Expenditure
2018 €62.5million
2019 €62.9 million
2020 €61.7 million
  The amount of legal aid paid to Solicitors, Junior Counsel and Senior Counsel under the main Criminal Legal Aid Scheme for each of years 2018 to 2020 was as follows:
Year ExpenditureSolicitors ExpenditureJunior Counsel ExpenditureSenior Counsel
2018 €35,061,481 €13,140,588 €11,433,767
2019 €36,652,929 €13,900,466 €9,787,599
2020 €34,217,662 €13,829,488 €9,408,319
  As indicated, criminal prosecutions originate in the District Court and if so satisfied, the Judge will grant a criminal legal aid certificate. Figures are not kept in such a way as to be able to provide a breakdown by county of the number of certificates granted for criminal legal aid or of individuals who were granted criminal legal aid. The Courts Service has informed my Department that the number of legal aid certificates granted in the District Court in each of the years 2018 to 2020 was as follows:
Year
2018
2019
2020
Number of criminal legal aid certificates granted in the District Court
72,674
79,346
73,611
   Criminal Assets Bureau Legal Aid Scheme (CAB)

The CAB Scheme, which came into effect from 2 April 1998, is applicable to persons who are respondents and/or defendants in any court proceedings brought by, or in the name of, the Criminal Assets Bureau, including court proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996, the Revenue Acts or the Social Welfare Acts and applications made by the Director of Public Prosecutions under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. The responsibility for the administration of the Scheme was transferred from my Department to the Legal Aid Board on 1 January 2014. Expenditure in each of the years 2018 to 2020 was as follows:      
Year Expenditure
2018 €147,203
2019 €42,498
2020 €69,373
  Garda Station Legal Advice Revised Scheme

The Garda Station Legal Advice Scheme came into effect in 2001. It provides that where a person is detained in a Garda Station for the purpose of the investigation of an offence and s/he has a legal entitlement to consult with a solicitor and the person’s means are insufficient to enable him/her to pay for such consultation, that consultations with solicitors will be paid for by the State. The Scheme, now known as the Garda Station Legal Advice Revised Scheme, was extended in May 2014 to include attendance of a solicitor at a formal interview between the Gardaí and the detainee. The responsibility for the administration of the Scheme was transferred from my Department to the Legal Aid Board on 1 October 2011.   Expenditure in each of the years 2018 to 2020 was as follows:   
Year Expenditure
2018 €1,947,869
2019 €1,714,245
2020 €1,980,621
  District Court Counsel Scheme          

  The Scheme was introduced in October 2009 following a Supreme Court decision to allow a judge to assign counsel in the District Court to a defendant because of the gravity of the charge and complexity of the case, as well as any other exceptional circumstances.

  Following a High Court Judicial Review case in 2016, the Scheme was revised to allow a Circuit Court Judge grant legal aid in respect of a District Court Appeal.

  Expenditure under the District Court Counsel Scheme was as follows:
Year Expenditure
2018 €261,606
2019 €452,445
2020 €518,601
  The Legal Aid - Custody Issues Scheme (formerly known as the Attorney General’s Legal Aid Scheme)

The Legal Aid - Custody Issues Scheme   provides payment for legal representation in the High Court and the Supreme Court for certain types of cases not covered by civil legal aid or the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme. The cases covered include Habeas Corpus (Article 40.4.2) Applications, High / Supreme Court Bail Motions, certain types of Judicial Review, Extradition and European Arrest Warrant Applications.

  The Scheme was previously administered on behalf of the Attorney General by my Department. From 1st June 2012 the remit for the administration of the Scheme was transferred to the Legal Aid Board.

  The expenditure under the Scheme in each of the years 2018 to 2020 was as follows:
Year Expenditure
2018 €2,675,505
2019 €3,201,235
2020 €4,256,682

Legal Aid

 690. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the funding provided for free legal advice for applicants through the Legal Aid Board's refugee legal service as provided for in the International Protection Act 2015 in each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [12590/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The Legal Aid Board is the statutory body responsible for the provision of civil legal aid and advice to persons of modest means in the State, in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2017.

  Section 3(3) of the Act provides that the Board shall, subject to the provisions of the Act, be independent in the exercise of its functions. However, to be of assistance to the Deputy I have had enquiries made with the Legal Aid Board on foot of which the following information is provided.

  Civil legal aid and advice is provided primarily through a network of law centres by solicitors employed by the Legal Aid Board. There are 30 full time and 12 part-time law centres. Arising from the enactment of the International Protection Act 2015, the Legal Aid Board integrated the Refugee Legal Service into its main law centre network. Specific law centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway currently include an international protection speciality. International protection is one of many services provided by those law centres. The Legal Aid Board also engages private solicitors to provide services in international protection cases. A substantial portion of the Board’s international protection cases are handled by private practitioners.

  With the introduction of the single application procedure following the enactment of the International Protection Act 2015, the Board established and maintains a panel of solicitors who are willing to provide services to persons who have been granted legal services for the purpose of: advice and/or representation in relation to an application under the International Protection Act 2015 for asylum, subsidiary protection and permission to remain; and for all relevant matters covered by the International Protection Act 2015, the Refugee Act 1996 and the Immigration Act 1999.

  Since 2017, referrals to private solicitors have occurred at the outset of the International Protection process to ensure applicants receive legal advice at the earliest stage. Prior to the commencement of the Act, referrals more typically took place at the appeals stage.

  The following table shows the case expenditure (not including pay or operationalcosts) in relation to the provision of legal aid and advice in the area of international protection, as provided by the Legal Aid Board.

  Table 1

Year 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Jan 2021
Non-Pay Expenditure €75,356 €552,787 €1,050,035 €1,582,789 €1,243,907 €55,254
  The Legal Aid Board is included in the review being undertaken to identify how processing and general supports to applicants in the International Protection process can be enhanced. They will be engaging with my Department to guide future funding considerations as set out in the recent White Paper to End Direct Provision and to establish a new International Protection Support Service.

  In Budget 2021, I provided an increased provision of over €2 million for the Legal Aid Board bringing its total funding to €44.6 million for this year, a 6% increase. This will enable the Board to recruit additional staff and meet other costs to enhance delivery of all of its services across the country.

Crime Prevention

 691. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee her plans to combat the rise in crime in the north inner city area of Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [12657/21]

 692. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee her plans in relation to combating the rise in crime in the north inner city of Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [12661/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I propose to take Questions Nos. 691 and 692 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, tackling crime in our communities is a priority for this government and for An Garda Síochána. As part of Budget 2021, the government has provided a record €1.952 billion to an Garda Síochána in their efforts to tackle crime and to build community resilience against crime.

  The Deputy may also be aware that I recently met with the Garda Commissioner where we discussed, amongst other topics, violent crime in the inner city of Dublin. An Garda Síochána has a comprehensive policing plan in place in the north inner city which will see high visibility patrols carried out on a daily basis, with a particular focus on areas where public order and related offending has recently taken place.

  In respect of drug related crime, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) is having significant success in disrupting drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs by organised crime groups. Its work is supported by Divisional Drugs Units nationwide, and by all Gardaí working in local communities including in Dublin. It also works closely and productively with international law enforcement partners.

The Government has in place the National Drugs Strategy, "Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025  ". The Strategy is unique among national drugs strategies across EU Member States in recognising the need to address drug-related debt intimidation at a community level.

  The Strategy includes an action which specifically relates to strengthening the effectiveness of the Drug-Related Intimidation Reporting Programme. The programme, which was developed by An Garda Síochána in partnership with the National Family Support Network (NFSN) to respond to the needs of drug users and family members who may be subject to the threat of drug related intimidation, has been implemented on a national level since 2013.

I am informed that funding in Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR), North Central Division for Garda Youth Diversion Projects and activities has increased from €566,236 in 2018 to an allocation of €1.2m in 2021. Alongside this increase in funding, the currently funded projects are being provided with increased staffing and support to increase their catchment areas to cover the majority of the DMR, North Central area. This is part of the overall objective of my Department to increase and develop the Garda Youth Diversion Project (GYDP) network to ensure access to all young people that need the service nationally.    

  The Deputy will also be aware that the issue of youth crime is addressed in the draft Youth Justice Strategy 2020-2026, which I intend to finalise and bring to Government shortly. This will consider the full range of issues connected to children and young people at risk of coming into contact with the criminal justice system. This will include early intervention and preventative work, family support and diversion from crime, through to court processes and facilities, supervision of offenders, detention and reintegration and support post release.

  Minister of State James Browne has also established a special expert forum on antisocial behaviour, which will consider the effectiveness of existing legislation and propose new ways forward, including new powers for An Garda Síochána and additional interventions to support parenting of offenders.

  It is worth noting that the North Inner City Electoral Area is one of three locations (along with Waterford and Longford) due to pilot the Department’s new Local Community Safety Partnership approach.

  The Partnerships will bring together residents, community representatives, business interests, councillors, local authorities and State services such as An Garda Síochána, Tusla and the HSE to devise and implement the Local Community Safety Plans. This approach is aimed at bringing all of the key services together with the communities they serve to jointly identify and tackle the problems facing their particular area. A community – such as the North Inner City – often has a range of resources available and the Partnership can act as a means to bring those resources together, and identify and address gaps where necessary. Cormac Ó Donnchú was recently appointed Chair to the Dublin North Inner City partnership. A process of community engagement will commence this month with a view to having the partnership established in April.

Visa Applications

 693. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if the visa process for medical professionals who have job offers in health settings here and who are engaging with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service can be expedited given the serious need for medical staff nationally.  [12669/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The strong advice is that everyone, regardless of their nationality or visa/preclearance status, or where they started their travel from, who cannot provide proof of an essential purpose to travel to or within Ireland, should not travel to Ireland.

In support of the ongoing travel restrictions, effective from close of business on 29 January 2021, my Department has taken the decision to temporarily cease accepting new visa/preclearance applications. However we continue to accept Priority/Emergency categories. Visa applications for medical professionals with job offers do meet the criteria for an Emergency application and are currently being processed on an expedited basis. Processing times for these applications can vary due to the complexity of the individual application. However, every effort is being made to issue a decision on each application as soon as possible.

Garda Data

 694. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of prosecutions An Garda Síochána has proceeded with for offences under section 17(3) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 in each of the years of 2018 to 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form.  [12698/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The Deputy will be aware that section 17(3) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 provides for an offence for a licensee, with intent to evade the conditions of the licence, to take intoxicating liquor from the licensed premises for the purpose of its being sold on the account or for the benefit or profit of the licensee, or to permit any other person to do so. The penalty on conviction is a fine of up to €1,500 for a first offence and up to €2,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that, following a review of available data, no prosecutions have been entered against licensed premises for offences under section 17(3) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 in 2018 to 2020 or to-date in 2021.

Garda Strength

 695. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of full-time youth justice workers, family support and early intervention posts that are employed for each of the Garda youth division projects in the Dublin north Garda division in tabular form.  [12699/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy James Browne): Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne The Deputy may be interested to know that there are currently 105 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) nationwide. The intention is to further develop this service so that it is available to every child in the State who could benefit from it, through an ongoing expansion of existing services and the foundation of new projects where necessary.

  The table below outlines the number of persons employed for each of the GYPDs in the DMR North Garda Division.

Project Location Youth Justice Workers Family Support Workers Total per project
North Fingal (Balbriggan) Balbriggan 4 1 5
BYB Ballymun 3 1 4
Donnycarney Santry 2 0 2
Jets Coolock 2 0 2
Keep Coolock 3 1 4
North Bay Balbriggan 2 0 2
Woodale Coolock 3 0 3
  Total 19 3 22
  My Department is supporting the ongoing development of practice in Garda Youth Diversion Projects through the Action Research Project led by the University of Limerick. The Action Research Project works directly with front-line Youth Justice Workers from local projects to develop interventions and best practice. Based on initial outcomes from the Action Research Project, and evaluations of a number of pilot projects, it is intended to develop proposals to expand the existing services. This would ensure national coverage and a stronger focus on difficult issues such as the hard-to-reach cohort.

  As part of this work, family support workers and early intervention workers have been provided to a limited number of GYDPs on a pilot basis. In such instances, projects were asked to express a preference as to whether they would prefer to participate in the family support or early intervention pilot.

  It is intended that these interventions will be expanded in the new Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2026, which I intend to finalise and which will be brought to Government shortly.

Garda Transport Provision

 696. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if a recent contract for the supply of new Garda public order unit vans went out to tender; and if so, when the new vans will come into the fleet.  [12700/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee In accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005 as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána. In addition, the allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Commissioner, in light of identified operational demands. This includes responsibility for the allocation of Garda vehicles among the various Garda divisions. As Minister, I have no role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

  Significant capital investment is being made in An Garda Síochána, including a total of €46 million specifically for the Garda fleet between 2016 and 2021. Of this investment, a total of €9 million has been made available for purchase and fit-out of additional Garda vehicles in 2020. This continuing investment is intended to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit-for-purpose fleet and that Gardaí can be mobile, visible and responsive on the roads and in the community to prevent and tackle crime.

  I am informed by the Garda authorities that all vehicle tenders and contracts for Garda Vehicles are handled through the Office of Government Procurement (OGP). An Garda Síochána Fleet Management Section engage with OGP on an ongoing basis to agree their vehicle needs and specifications. OGP put in place suitable contracts with suppliers and AGS draw down vehicles as required from these OGP contracts to meet their operational requirements.

  I have no role in these matters as Minister for Justice.

  I am further informed by the Garda authorities that there are no plans to purchase public order vans in 2021.

  Separately, the Deputy may be interested to know that there are currently 29 Public Order Vans attached to the Garda fleet. The table below sets out number of Public Order vans attached to the fleet by region.

Region Vans
DMR 18
Eastern 4
North/West 3
Southern 4
Total: 29

Crime Data

 697. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of persons convicted of armed robbery and jailed in 2020; and the number that received prison terms between 10 and 12, 12 and 14 and over 14 years, in tabular form.  [12701/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I referred the Deputy’s question to the Courts Service, who have informed me that it is not possible to collate the data as requested.

  There is no unique offence code for armed robbery, as the Court Service categorises offences under the broad title of Theft/Fraud/Robbery/Handling stolen property.

Garda Transport Provision

 698. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if a recent contract for the supply of new Garda cars went out to tender; and if so, when the new cars will come into the fleet.  [12702/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The Deputy will be aware that in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána. This function includes responsibility for the allocation of Garda vehicles among the various Garda divisions. As Minister, I have no direct role in these decisions. I am assured, however, that Garda management keep the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

  I can inform the Deputy that significant capital investment is being made in An Garda Síochána, including a total of €46 million specifically for the Garda fleet between 2016 and 2021. Of this investment, a total of €9 million was made for the purchase and fit-out of additional Garda vehicles in 2020. This continuing investment is intended to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit-for-purpose fleet and that Gardaí can be mobile, visible and responsive on the roads and in the community to prevent and tackle crime.

  I am informed by the Garda authorities that all vehicle tenders and contracts for Garda Vehicles are handled through the Office of Government Procurement (OGP). An Garda Síochána Fleet Management Section engage with OGP on an ongoing basis to agree their vehicle needs and specifications. OGP put in place suitable contracts with suppliers and AGS draw down vehicles as required from these OGP contracts to meet their operational requirements.

  I have no role in these procedures as Minister for Justice.

  I am further informed by the Garda authorities that based on an order placed in December 2020, a total of 77 vehicles are being fitted out and allocated in accordance with identified operational demands. I am further advised that a second order has been placed with delivery and fit-out expected in Quarter 2 of 2021.

  Separately the Deputy may be interested to know that at 28 February 2021 there were 2,377 cars attached to the Garda fleet.

Garda National Immigration Bureau

 699. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee if there are full-time document fraud experts working in the Garda National Immigration Bureau.  [12703/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that there are two members of An Garda Síochána attached to the Garda National Immigration Bureau who are qualified document examination experts.

Garda Training

 700. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of gardaí trained in public order in each Garda division as of 1 March 2021, in tabular form; and when in-person Garda public order training will resume.  [12704/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As the Deputy will be aware, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána. This function includes responsibility for the allocation of Garda members among the various Garda divisions, as well as the management of Garda training. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keep the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

  The table below sets out the details of Public Order (PO) trained personnel as of 1 March 2021. I am informed by Garda authorities that for operational reasons it is not feasible to provide the data at Divisional level.

  I am further informed that the resumption of PO training is dependent on COVID-19 restrictions. However, I am advised that the training for current PO personnel is certified until 31 December 2021.

Resource DMR NW Region East Region Sth Region College Total
PO Inspectors 9 2 3 5 0 19
PO Sergeants 37 9 24 12 0 82
PO Gardaí 237 57 153 90 0 538
PO Instructors 18 12 13 14 2 59
PO Trainers 4 0 0 2 3 9

Prison Staff

 701. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of incidents in which conflict resolution methods such as dialogue were used by prison officers from 1 March 2020 to 1 March 2021; and the number of prison officers who received training in conflict resolution during the same period.  [12705/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee The Irish Prison Service has informed me that it is not possible to quantify the total number of incidents that are resolved by prison officers using conflict resolution techniques, including the use of dialogue. The Deputy will appreciate that incidents of conflict can range from minor incidents or disagreements amongst prisoners, which are easily resolved through dialogue and communications, to more serious incidents including violent incidents where a more physical intervention is required.

  De-escalation and communication are major components of the conflict resolution training given to all prison officers. They play a significant role in how they carry out their duties. Many incidents are resolved, where de-escalation, communication and the inter-personal skills of prison officers are used and prevent the need for a physical response. It is the case that many of these incidents would not be routinely recorded.

The use of a physical intervention is governed by Prison Rule 93 which states “where, for the purpose of maintaining or restoring good order or safe or secure custody, it is deemed necessary to use force in relation to a Prisoner, such force only as is reasonably necessary and proportionate to achieve that purpose shall be used”.  Physical interventions involving the use of force are governed by the Irish Prison Service Use of Force Standard Operating Procedures which states that that “the Use of Force should only be undertaken as a last resort, after all other attempts to resolve or de-escalate the situation have failed  .”

  The Use of Force Continuum, set out in this Standard Operating Procedure, defines the appropriate response by an officer to varying levels of behaviour of prisoners. It is not necessary to progress through each stage, and the individual needs to decide on the appropriate actions, bearing in mind prison rule 93, as the situation demands. In compliance with Irish Prison Service Policy, de-escalation attempts are made throughout the varying stages.

  I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that from, 1 March 2020 to 1 March 2021, 118 recruit prison officers received conflict resolution training in the Irish Prison Service College. In the same period 293 established prison officers received additional conflict resolution training as part of their continuous professional development. This figure is reduced from the previous year due to Covid - 19 measures which impacted on training.

Fines Administration

 702. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the actions taken regarding the funds collected from the courts via the judges using the donation to poor box procedure as part of sentencing; if there are ways of accessing these funds for community projects and other causes; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [12711/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in its functions. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made with the Courts Service and I am advised as follows.

The court poor box is a non-statutory system used to impose a financial charge on a defendant to be used for a charitable purpose, usually instead of imposing a criminal conviction. While each court of first instance (High, Circuit and District) has used the poor box system on occasion, it is mainly used in the District Court where the judge may order the defendant to pay a donation into the court poor box in lieu of another penalty. It usually arises where the offence is minor in nature and would not attract a custodial sentence.

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).

The Justice Plan 2021, which I published recently, commits to commencing a policy review of the Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill 2014 in consultation with the Probation Service and Irish Prison Service. It is intended that 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, as recommended by the Law Reform Commission. The fund would provide for a fair, equitable and transparent system of reparation that will apply only to minor offences dealt with by the District Court. I expect to publish a policy review shortly.

Garda Data

 703. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of cases that the Meath protective services unit has dealt with since being established.  [12727/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As the Deputy will be aware, the Divisional Protective Services Unit for Westmeath/Meath was established on 29 September 2020. The unit was established across Westmeath and Meath in anticipation of the amalgamation of both Divisions under the new Operating Model and has two offices based in Athlone, Co. Westmeath and Navan, Co Meath. The unit operates in a joint approach regarding referrals received in terms of investigations with significant cooperation between both offices.

  The current structure of this Protective Services Unit is one Inspector, two Detective Sergeants and 10 Detective Gardaí. The Deputy may wish to know that on 16 March 2021, two additional Detective Gardaí are scheduled to be allocated to the Protective Services Unit.

  As of 8 March 2021, the date for which figures are most readily available, the number of investigations associated with Westmeath/Meath DPSU unit stands at 211 incidents.

Court Judgments

 704. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of persons convicted of drink driving in Trim District Court in 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form.  [12728/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I am advised by the Courts Service that the table following shows the number of persons convicted for drink driving in Trim District Court in 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021.

Year No. of Persons convicted
Jan – Dec 2019 136
Jan – Dec 2020 67
Jan – Feb 2021 10
  * The Courts Service can only provide data in relation to instances where offence codes provided on the system were used by prosecutors. Prosecutors may have used uncoded free text offences and any such offences would not be included in the data provided.

Firearms Licences

 705. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the licensing requirements for gun silencers.  [12729/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy James Browne): Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne Under Section 1 of the Firearms Act 1925, as amended, silencers (also known as moderators) are defined as a component part of a firearm and therefore as a firearm for the purposes of the Act.

Furthermore, Statutory Instrument No 21 of 2008 (Firearms (Restricted Firearms and Ammunition) Order 2008) as amended, defines silencers as “any devices fitted or capable of being fitted to the firearms for the purpose of moderating or reducing the sound made on their discharge”.

Under section 7 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990, a person is guilty of an offence if they have in their possession, sell, or transfer to another person, a silencer unless the possession, sale or transfer is authorised in writing by the Superintendent of the Garda District in which the person resides.

An Garda Síochána are responsible under provisions of the Firearms Act 1925 to 2009, for the administration and consideration of applications for the vast majority of firearm authorisations in the State.

It is my understanding that when an applicant is applying for a Firearms Certificate, they may also make application for a silencer to be fitted to the firearm. The granting Superintendent may authorise the use of the silencer with the firearm to be licensed. Where authorisation is given to have a silencer fitted to a licensed firearms, a letter 'S' is printed on the Firearms Certificate indicating that the authorisation is granted.

I am further advised that when considering an application for a silencer, a Superintendent of An Garda Síochána must be satisfied that granting such an application will not endanger public safety or the peace and that the applicant has a special need that is, in the opinion of the Superintendent, sufficient to justify the granting of the authorisation for the silencer.

The legislation allows the Superintendent to attach conditions to the authorisation. Each application for a silencer is considered on its own individual merits by the Superintendent in accordance with law.

Garda Transport Provision

 706. Deputy Darren O'Rourke Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee the number of Garda cars and vans allocated to the Meath Garda division as of 26 February 2021.  [12730/21]

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee As the Deputy will be aware, in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána. The allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Commissioner, in light of identified operational demands. This includes the allocation of vehicles among the various Garda divisions. As Minister, I have no direct role in these decisions. I am assured however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, to ensure their optimum use.

  I am informed by the Garda authorities that the table below sets out the number of vehicles assigned to Meath Division at 28 February 2021.

Meath Division Cars Vans Motorcycles 4x4 Total
Total 53 11 2 1 67


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