Justice & Equality

Justice & Equality Questions

Posted October 24th, 2012

Direct provision facilities – 14th July 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the agreed number of residents in each location (details supplied) for the years 2011 to 2014 and for 2015 to date; and the percentage increase or decrease in peridium fees over these periods.

Direct Provision Facilities: Centre 1: Balseskin in Fingal, Centre 2: Hatch Hall in Dublin 2, Centre 3: Carroll Village in Dundalk.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

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. Currently, there are over 4,599 residents in 34 centres across the State under contract to RIA. Details of all of these centres and the companies or persons RIA has contracted to provide accommodation services are published in RIA’s Annual Reports available on its website – www.ria.gov.ie.

All centres are managed by private companies under contract to RIA. Seven of the 34 centres are State owned – i.e. the land and buildings are owned by the State – while the remainder are owned or leased by private entities. There is a difference in the rates as State-owned facilities are not obliged to pay for rent, maintenance and utilities. None of the three centres which are the subject of this question is State owned. The rate paid to commercially owned centres is an all-in price that includes: VAT, staffing; energy and other utility costs; housekeeping; catering; security; maintenance, capital maintenance; etc. Rates also vary depending on the location of and the services available in each centre.

In fulfilling its general accommodation responsibilities, RIA does not own, lease or rent premises from commercial contractors. Rather, it contracts in a comprehensive range of services and facilities, including accommodation, housekeeping and so on, for a fixed sum over the period of a contract. The amounts paid reflect this all-in price.

Generally, it can be said that there are three variables in a standard contract between RIA and the service provider: the numbers to be accommodated in the centre i.e. its capacity; the length of the contract; and the per person per day rate paid i.e the per diemrate.

It is not possible to provide values for current contracts entered into by RIA. Negotiations take place with a number of commercial entities on an ongoing basis and RIA endeavours to achieve the best value for money in respect of each contract. It is not in the interests of yielding best value for the taxpayer that details of current individual contracts are known to the public or to other parties who are, or may be in the future, engaged in negotiations with RIA.

Contract expiry dates are deliberately ‘staggered’ throughout the year and can span a period of months or years. Thus for the purposes of this question, the date of 1st July was chosen for comparison purposes in each of the three centres cited.

PQ

The percentage increase/decrease on the per person per day rate (per diem) was calculated based on the rate applicable on 1st July each year.  Note that in 2012, in relation to a number of contracts RIA negotiated certain per diem rates downwards in the light of the financial pressures then prevailing on the State. PQ1

English language students – 30th June 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the financial supports, or otherwise, to be provided to foreign language students enrolled in English language colleges which abruptly closed; and the position for students who have completed or part-completed their 24-week study requirement, but cannot get their documentation signed for immigration, as the schools have closed down.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

As the Deputy will be aware the first concern of my Department in the case of genuine students affected by sudden college closures has been to reassure them about their immigration status. In that regard the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service will honour all existing immigration permissions of students in recently closed colleges and the students will be entitled to work in accordance with the rules for student migration.

However, it is expected that students will make efforts to continue their studies and if they are seeking to stay on at the end of their current permission their study record would be an important consideration. Where a student is seeking to renew their immigration permission at the expiry of their current permission they should note that they will be required to demonstrate that they have enrolled on a new course at a new college.

This should be done in good time prior to the expiry of the permission.  It is recognised that some students may, through no fault of their own, be unable to access the usual documents required to renew their registration, notably attendance documents, however allowances will be made in such cases.

Contractually the relationship as such is between a private individual and a private company. Students, whether in Ireland or in their home country, should pursue all legal options available to them to recover any monies owed to them by one of the closed colleges.

The Deputy will be aware that on foot of proposals I brought forward, in conjunction with the Minister for Education and Skills, the Government approved the implementation of a series of reforms to the student immigration system for international education, in response to concerning practices within certain parts of the sector and a number of English language college closures.

The reforms are designed to drive real, lasting change in the sector and will tackle abuse of the immigration regime and labour market, improve the overall quality of offering to international students, and improve protection for learners, whilst safeguarding the strong international reputation of high-quality Irish education providers in line with the goals of Ireland’s International Education Strategy.

A key element of these new rules is the introduction of a number of measures designed to protect students including compulsory learner protection arrangements and a separate account facility to safeguard student advance payments.

Contracts with au pairs – 27th May 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality in relation to au pairs, if host families are at liberty to enter into a cultural exchange programme with non-European Union students.

Details:

We have a number of host families who have come to our office for clarification on where they stand if they enter into a contract for an au pair with a non-EU au pair. Generally these au pairs are from South America (mainly Brazil and Venezuela) and are in Ireland on a work-study visa. There is a lot of mixed information out there regarding this area.

I know some other au pair agencies met with a government minister a few weeks ago and he mentioned that they are finding it difficult to legislate for this. A few host families have been brought to the courts, having taken on a non-EU au pair. The girl agreed to be an au pair but then a few months later these au pairs have taken our families to court stating that they were not au pairs and were instead employees and were owed vast sums of money from these host families.

I would just like clarification on the advice we give our host families as to whether they are at liberty to enter into an au pair cultural exchange programme with a non-EU student or not.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

An au pair is an individual who wishes to improve his/her knowledge of the English language by undertaking an au pair arrangement through residing with a family whilst attending English language classes.

An au pair arrangement is a private, voluntary, shared understanding between the parties concerned, namely a private household or sponsor family and a private individual. An au pair is regarded not as an employee but is received by a family and treated as a family member in exchange for certain services, such as a limited amount of light housework or baby-sitting. This activity is regarded as primarily cultural rather than economic and its main focus is the learning of English by the au pair.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation does not issue employment permits to au pairs, child minders or domestic workers and accordingly, there is no immigration permission specifically assigned to these categories of activity. A non-EEA national who applied to do au pair work or for a visa on this basis would be refused. This does not prevent EU nationals the right to exercise free movement and engaging in this activity.

However, a person who is granted permission to enter and remain in the State on the basis of being an English language student could undertake an au pair arrangement on the understanding that such an arrangement would not impinge upon, or in any way detract from, the primary purpose of the person’s presence in the State, namely as a student. Classes must be attended and evidence of attendance be available for inspection if requested.

Regulation of working conditions is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. I am informed that in situations where a complaint is received involving a person described as an au pair, the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), which comes within his remit, will investigate with a view to establishing the person’s statutory entitlements under employment law – including whether the term “au pair” is being used to avoid statutory obligations or indeed to get around the fact that the person might actually be a domestic employee and, if a non-EEA national, possibly unlawfully employed. In such cases NERA will act in accordance with its mandate and powers under employment legislation.

I understand that officials from my Department (from an immigration perspective), the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and NERA are currently considering the situation with regard to au pairs in Ireland.

 

Rules on naturalisation – 13th May 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she has any discretion in expediting citizenship applications, where the resident may not have reached the five-year minimum; and if so, the grounds on which this may take place.

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to include a portion of the time spent in Direct Provision in assessing eligibility for citizenship; and if she had no such plans, the reason for same.

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her views that the five-year minimum requirement for a resident becoming a citizen is necessary, where a resident has already been in direct provision for five years, or more; and if a shorter period of two years, for example, might not be preferable.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

The granting of an application for a certificate of naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. Section 15 of the Act provides that the Minister may, in her absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. The conditions are that the applicant must –

  • be of full age
  • be of good character
  • have had a period of one year’s continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years
  • intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation
  • have, before a judge of the District Court in open court, in a citizenship ceremony or in such manner as the Minister, for special reasons, allows—

(i) made a declaration, in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State, and

(ii) undertaken to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values.

Section 16 of the Act provides that the Minister may, in her absolute discretion, waive some or all of the statutory conditions in certain circumstances i.e. where an applicant is of Irish descent or of Irish associations; where an applicant is a person who is a refugee within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees; or where an applicant is a Stateless person within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Stateless persons.

Section 16A(1) of the Act also provides that, for the purposes of calculating the period of residence in relation to an application for naturalisation, only those periods during which the applicant has the permission of the Minister to reside in the State – other than for the purposes of claiming asylum or engaging in a course of education or study – are reckonable. Accordingly, time spent in the asylum process is not reckonable for the purpose of satisfying the residency conditions for naturalization.

There are no plans at present to amend the requirements for a certificate of naturalisation specified under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

An Independent Working Group on the Protection Process was established in October 2014 to recommend to Government what improvements should be made to the protection process, including direct provision and supports to asylum seekers. The Working Group is due to finalise its report to Government by the end of the month and I will consider whatever recommendations are put forward by it when it completes its work.

Citizenship & working in UK – 13th May 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if it is possible for persons with residency status here to travel to the United Kingdom, or to work in the United Kingdom, without undermining their application for citizenship.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

The granting of a certificate of naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. Section 15 of the Act provides that the Minister may, in her absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions as stipulated in the Act are fulfilled. In particular, these conditions require that an applicant is of good character; has had a period of one year’s continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, has had a total residence in the State amounting to four years; that he or she intends in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation; and has made a declaration in the prescribed manner of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State.

I make decisions on naturalisation applications in accordance with the provisions of the Act and based on all of the information available to me. If a person is resident outside of the State during the year prior to the date of application then the application would fall to be refused as the statutory conditions for naturalisation are not satisfied. Where an applicant moves to the UK or another country and resides for work or other purposes after having applied for naturalisation, then an assessment will be made as to whether the applicant intends to reside in the State following naturalisation. If it is deemed that the applicant has few tangible ties to the State and/or is unlikely to return to the State within a finite period then the application may be refused on the basis that the statutory conditions for naturalisation are not satisfied.

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 I know the Deputy will appreciate that it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

The Deputy may wish to note that queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been established specifically 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.

 

English language students – 7th May 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of visas required by English language students currently registered in IBAT College, Dublin.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

I am informed that as of 30 April 2015 the college referred to by the Deputy had 364 non-EEA students registered with the Garda National Immigration Bureau as pursuing an English language course of studies.

Deterring bicycle theft – 12th March 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on setting up a national bicycle registration scheme, under the aegis of An Garda Síochána, as a cost-effective means of deterring bicycle theft, and simplifying the detection of bicycle theft.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

As the Deputy will appreciate, the examination of crime prevention measures such as the one mentioned by the Deputy is a matter in the first instance for the Garda authorities and I have brought this matter to their attention.

An Garda Síochána is proactive in encouraging the public to protect their property, including bicycles, and a range of measures are in place to prevent and tackle the theft of bicycles.

In this regard I am informed by the Garda authorities that a range of operational measures are pursued to combat bicycle theft and to target those  who engage in it, and there is ongoing provision by An Garda Síochána of crime prevention information, and awareness raising among the general public and bicycle retailers in relation to bicycle theft.

I am further advised by the Garda authorities that analysis is conducted to determine areas of high volume theft and to identify the main offenders for these crimes so that a targeted operational approach is taken to prevention and detection.

The range of measures being pursued by An Garda Síochána include working with bicycle retailers and communities to encourage and promote bicycle registration.  In addition, information leaflets on bicycle theft have been circulated and a bicycle sticker campaign has also been operated in areas where bicycles are locked by their owners.

Gardaí also provide presentations to Neighbourhood Watch schemes, policing forums, schools, places of employment, and consult with apartment and building management companies on bicycle security and safety generally.

Citizenship applications abroad – 20th February 2015

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if uniform standards are applied, in all cases and in all consulates, in relation to delays to citizenship applications and regarding requirements for birth certificates for those seeking Irish citizenship (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald) – transferred

Irish Embassies and Consulates abroad accept applications for Irish citizenship through Foreign Birth Registration. Some Missions receive few if any applications while others, particularly where there is a large Irish community, receive large numbers of applications. The processing time for citizenship applications varies from place to place, and is dependent on the number of applications received and the resources available at the Mission to process those applications. While the Department aims to process all applications as quickly as possible, there is no uniform processing time for citizenship applications and some delays have been unavoidable where high volumes of applications are received.

All applications for Irish citizenship through Foreign Birth Registration must be accompanied by certain documentation depending on the type of application involved. My Department’s website, www.dfa.ie/passports-citizenship/citizenship/born-abroad , lists the documentation that must be submitted in each case. Missions may ask for additional documentation or information if a particular application is incomplete or raises additional questions requiring further clarification or validation.

The documentation submitted with FBR applications is particularly important in proving entitlement to Irish citizenship and safeguarding against possible fraud. Applicants submit a wide range of both Irish and foreign birth and other certificates. There is no common standard applied to birth, marriage and death certificates around the world and certificates from different countries and different periods of time display different types of information.

It should be noted that while Irish certificates have all been issued in a standard format since 2003, many applicants will submit Irish certificates which were issued prior to 2003 when both long and short form certificates were the norm. The continued reference to ‘long form’ certificates in the list of documentation required is there to assist these applicants in differentiating which type of pre-2003 certificate is acceptable.

Officials in the Consular Services Section of my Department would be happy to follow up with the Deputy to get further details in relation to the application (including actual name of applicant and a reference number) so that they can ascertain its current status and likely time frame for decision.

Children and family relationships bill 2014 – 20th February 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding Heads 10 and 11 of the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014, in view of certain concerns (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

The Children and Family Relationships Bill, which is being published this week, contains a number of changes from the General Scheme that was published in September, including in relation to the particular Heads of Bill referred to in the Deputy’s question. The intention is that couples who have children through donor assisted human reproduction under the conditions set out in the Bill will be able to jointly register as the child’s parents. I look forward to discussing these issues at second stage next week.

Public authority liability for road maintenance –  6th February 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will amend liability from ordinary negligence to gross negligence insofar as the maintenance of roads and footpaths is concerned.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

I have no plans to introduce legislation that would have the effect of amending liability for maintenance of roads and footpaths from ordinary negligence to gross negligence.   The liability of a public authority for failure to maintain  public roads, which is governed by common law, distinguishes appropriately between non-feasance, where no action was taken, and misfeasance, where negligent action was taken.  As the Deputy may be aware, a local authority is liable in cases of misfeasance only in cases of a positive act of negligence or of active fault.

Transposition of EU law – 5th February 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will address concerns regarding SI 541/2014 (details supplied).

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

There has been much confusion around the commencement of Part 3 of the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008, which is the purpose behind the signing into law of Statutory Instrument 541 of 2014.

The 2008 Act gives effect to the EU Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. It applies only to mutual assistance in relation to criminal matters and is the basis for Ireland’s mutual legal assistance arrangements with other EU member states.

Part 3 of the Act deals with mutual assistance cooperation in relation to criminal investigations and prosecutions where the lawful interception of communications is considered necessary and appropriate. It does not provide for any form of mass surveillance or data gathering. What it means in practice is where a lawful interception order is in place in one EU state for the investigation of serious crime, a request can be made in another state for assistance in facilitating interception. However, giving effect to that request may only be done if it is in accordance with the domestic law of the State. The provisions of the 2008 Act are also reciprocal so the Gardaí can request this type of assistance from other EU member states. Given the sometimes international nature of serious crime, this will further enhance the capabilities of An Garda Siochana to deal with it.

In Ireland the domestic law is the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993. Again, this Act does not permit or facilitate any form of mass surveillance. Under the Act, interception of communications can only occur following the satisfying of specific conditions. One of these is that an investigation must be underway into a serious criminal offence before an interception warrant can be granted by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Furthermore the Act is overseen by a designated Judge of the High Court and also provides for a Complaints Referee to whom anyone who feels they have been the victim of an abuse of the legislation may refer their case.

Finally, there has been media comment about the provision in Part 3 of the 2008 Act for in camera Court hearings for a failure by a company to comply with directions issued by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources under the 1983 Postal and Telecommunications Services Act. I wish to be quite clear. The provision arises because, obviously, it would not be appropriate in open Court to disclose sensitive information concerning authorisations for interception in the investigation of a serious crime.

Children and Family Relationships Bill – 11th December 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the Children and Family Relationships Bill; when it is expected to come before Dáil Éireann; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

The Children and Family Relationships Bill is currently being drafted, and I and my officials are working closely with other relevant Ministers and their officials and with the Attorney General to ensure its publication in the coming weeks. I expect that it will be brought before the Oireachtas as soon as possible thereafter.

Extension of deadline for reform of international student colleges – 28th November 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on an extension of the deadline regarding a matter (details supplied) regarding programmes at an international college of technology.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

I have no plans to extend the deadline for the commencement of the reforms to the international education sector and student immigration system which I announced on 2 September in conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Ms. Jan O’Sullivan, TD. From 1 January 2015, non-EEA national students coming to study in Ireland can only receive an immigration permission to study on an Irish accredited higher education programme or in an ACELS/IEM recognised English language college.

These reforms are required to address the abusive practices within the sector in which a number of private-sector colleges are recruiting non-EEA nationals primarily on the basis of facilitating residence in the State and access to the labour market rather than delivering the education programmes which these colleges purport to teach. The recent closure of another college in Dublin illustrates both the necessity and the urgency of the reforms.

I understand that the particular college referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for ACELS recognition for its English language programmes, which would have allowed it to continue to recruit non-EEA students from 1 January 2015. However, following the comprehensive ACELS assessment process the college has been judged not to have met the standards required for recognition.

Begging at ATMs, and vending machines – 28th November 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on introducing laws to make it illegal to beg beside or in the vicinity of parking ticket machines.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

The law on begging is set out in the Public Order Act 2011. The Act defines begging as requesting or soliciting money or goods other than in accordance with a licence, permit or authorisation.

Section 2 of the Act provides that it is an offence while begging in any place to harass, intimidate, assault or threaten any other person or persons, or obstruct the passage of persons or vehicles.

Further provision is contained in section 3(2) of the Act with regard to begging at certain locations. The Garda Síochána may, under that section, direct a person begging at or near automated teller machines or vending machines, such as parking ticket machines, to leave the vicinity in a peaceable and orderly manner. Failure to comply with such a direction is an offence. Section 4 of the Act gives the Garda Síochána powers of arrest without warrant where there are reasonable grounds to believe that offences under this legislation have been committed.

Anti social behaviour in Dublin City – 28th November 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to address the serious anti-social behaviour taking place in Dublin’s main tourism area, Temple Bar, and surrounding areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

I am very much aware of the concerns expressed by the Deputy and in this regard I am advised by the Garda authorities that the Dublin City Centre Policing Plan has been operational since June 2013. Garda actions under the Plan include dedicated high visibility patrols in key commercial and public thoroughfares including Temple Bar. These patrols are informed by crime trends, demand studies and footfall in the areas in question. I am also aware that An Garda Síochána engages extensively with business and community interests in the city centre area with respect to crime prevention, enforcement and policing concerns.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the deployment of Garda resources. From my discussions with the Garda authorities I am assured that Garda management in the Dublin Metropolitan Region keep this deployment under continuing review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities, including with respect to concerns about public order and anti-social behaviour, so as to ensure that the best possible use is made of policing resources.

The Garda approach includes focusing resources on specific areas of the city according to need. As part of this, a number of targeted city centre policing operations are in place.

These operations include Operation Pier, which concentrates on the South Quays and Temple Bar area. This operation includes the designation of certain areas as “hotspots” for anti-social behaviour and regular uniformed and plain clothes patrols. Other Garda Operations in the city centre include Operation Spire which is focussed on the O’Connell Street and North Inner City areas, and Operation Stilts which is an ongoing overt policing operation targeting anti-social behaviour and drug-related crime in Dublin city centre locations.

I am conscious of the perspectives of business and community interests about the effects of certain types of crime and anti-social behaviour on the environment for business and leisure and on the overall quality of life for residents. Some of the problems faced are linked to disorder associated with abuse of alcohol and An Garda Síochána work closely with a wide range of businesses involved in the entertainment and nighttime economy to address these issues so that people can enjoy themselves without concern for their welfare.

Other challenges have their origin in even more complex social phenomena which go well beyond the capacity of criminal justice agencies to address on their own. Dealing with these matters requires a coordinated approach from state agencies involved in social, housing, health and drug treatment services, as well as through partnership with business, community and voluntary groups. An Garda Síochána is already a long term partner in a range of local consultative and representative structures in Dublin and elsewhere. I am considering how we can step up this cooperation with a view to developing collaborative solutions to the range of issues which affect policing and the overall quality of the environment in our urban centres, and I intend to engage further with the Garda authorities in that regard.

Is the justice system fit for purpose – 18th November 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her views that the justice system is fit for the purpose of dealing with the city’s drug problem.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

Tackling the issue of drug misuse in our society remains one of the most complex challenges that we face.

The Government response to the problem is set out in the National Drugs Strategy for the period 2009-2016. The Strategy provides a co-ordinated and comprehensive response to the issue of drug misuse, founded on a partnership approach.

The Strategy, which is being delivered under the stewardship of my colleague Minister for Health, Mr. Leo Varadkar T.D., adopts a pillar based approach to the problem, involving the implementation of a wide range of measures across the five pillars of drug supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department and its agencies continue to actively participate in all of the structures in place under the Strategy and will continue with the ongoing implementation of all actions related to the criminal justice sector as set out in the Strategy.

More generally, with regard to the issue of anti-social behaviour in Dublin city I would refer the Deputy to my response earlier today to Parliamentary Question No. 91 in which I outlined the current position regarding action being taken to deal with concerns raised regarding the safety of the city centre.

In relation to the question of sentencing, as the Deputy will appreciate, judges are 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 approach of the Oireachtas has generally been to specify in law a maximum penalty for an offence, so that a court, having considered all the circumstances of a case, may impose an appropriate penalty up to that maximum. The court is required to impose a sentence which is proportionate not only to the crime but to the individual offender, in that process identifying where on the sentencing range the particular case should lie and then applying any mitigating factors which may be present.

Protecting the privacy of our telecommunications – 30th October 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if any Irish State or Government agencies have direct access to the networks of telecommunications companies.

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to introduce new legislation to protect the privacy of telecommunications and to ensure that Government and State agencies are only given access to such data on foot of a High Court warrant.

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of court orders obtained each year in the past three years to directly access the calls and emails of citizens.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

For the sake of clarity I will set out the current legal framework for lawful interception in Ireland.

The lawful interception of telecommunications and post is governed by the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993. Sections 4 and 5 of the 1993 Act provide that only the Minister for Justice and Equality may grant ‘authorisations’ to intercept and then only for the purposes of the investigation of serious crime (Section 4) (i.e. crime punishable by a sentence of five years imprisonment or more) or in the interests of the security of the State (Section 5).

Both the Garda Commissioner and the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces are entitled to make applications for authorisations to intercept. The Garda Commissioner may make applications under Section 4 or Section 5. However, the Chief of Staff may make applications only under Section 5. Furthermore, an application from the Chief Of Staff must be submitted in the first instance to the Minister for Defence who shall forward it to the Minister for Justice and Equality accompanied by a recommendation in writing supporting the application.

The 2011 Communications (Retention of Data) Act provides for access to retained data such as traffic data, location data and subscriber data. It does not include the content of calls or texts etc. The Act sets out the agencies which are entitled to request access to this data and the circumstances in which such requests can be made. The relevant agencies are An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Defence Forces and the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC). Access to such data is only permitted in specific circumstances. These circumstances are in the case of An Garda Siochana, the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of a serious offence, the security of the State and the saving of human life. In the case of the Defence Forces, the security of the State and in the case of the Revenue Commissioners, the investigation and prevention of certain revenue offences. In the case of GSOC, it would relate to the investigation of criminal offences which come within their particular remit.

The operation of the legislation is subject to independent judicial oversight by virtue of the appointment of a Designated Judge. The Designated Judge, a judge of the High Court, must make a report to the Taoiseach on his or her findings on at least a twelve month basis. The report is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Acts also provide for the appointment of a complaints referee, currently a Judge of the Circuit Court. A person who believes their data has been accessed under the Acts may make a complaint to the Referee.

It will be seen therefore that there is no question of any direct access to telecommunications networks by agencies of the State. That would not be in accordance with the comprehensive legislation in place in this jurisdiction for dealing with such matters. It should also be clear that the courts do not authorise interception or access to retained data under that legislation. Of course the courts may themselves on occasion make orders for the disclosure of material such as retained data in the course of their deliberations in civil or criminal cases. However this function does not come within the remit of the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Gardaí resources in Dublin City centre – 26th September 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will consider allocating additional resources to the Gardaí so that they may increase the number of Gardaí on active duty in Dublin City Centre; and if she will consider bringing forward zero tolerance legislation and regulations when it comes to certain activities, including public street drinking, drug use, begging, breaches in planning law, and cycling on footpaths.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the detailed distribution of all resources, including personnel and vehicles, 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.

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) North Central and South Central Divisions on 31 July 2014, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 618 and 661 respectively. There were also 154 Garda Reserves and almost 70 Civilians supporting these full time members.

The exercise of discretion by individual members of An Garda Síochána forms an important part of its policing ethos. Alternatives to prosecutions to deal with incidents of public disorder and other anti – social behaviours such as juvenile / adult caution or Fixed Charge Penalty notices form part of the current response in appropriate circumstances and can serve better to providing an effective and efficient system.

Regulating house alarms – 26th September 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality when she will regulate the use of house alarms in order that they have automatic shut-off times and give the required powers to Gardaí to turn off such alarms when they malfunction and cause a noise nuisance.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

I can advise the Deputy that legislation on noise nuisance comes within the remit of my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. I am advised that section 107 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 provides local authorities with powers to require measures to be taken to prevent or limit noise from any premises, processes and works. In this context I have no plans to provide An Garda Síochána with powers as outlined by the Deputy.

In particular, I am advised that there is a mechanism for complaint to the District Court under section 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. The procedures involved have been simplified to allow action to be taken without legal representation. A public information leaflet outlining the legal avenues available to persons experiencing noise nuisance is available to download from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government’s website at – www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Noise/.

I can also inform the Deputy that the Private Security Authority (PSA), under the aegis of my Department, is responsible for the licensing, control and supervision of all installers of security equipment. The PSA has powers to maintain and improve standards in the provision of services, including standards for intruder alarms. As of 1 August 2006, alarm installers cannot legally operate without a PSA licence, the granting of which requires that the installer is compliant with the Irish Standard for intruder alarm systems, IS EN50131. While this standard does not specify a maximum decibel level, it does specify a maximum duration of 15 minutes for the sounding of external alarms on buildings, which must cease automatically after this maximum duration. This applies to all external alarms installed after 1 August 2006.

Access to telecommunications data by Government agencies – 15th July 2015

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to any Government agencies that have direct access to the networks of telecommunications companies; the number of court orders that were obtained in the past three calendar years to directly access the calls and emails of citizens; her plans to introduce new legislation to protect the privacy of telecommunications and to ensure that Government agencies are only given access to such data on foot of a High Court warrant; and if Government agencies that are accessing the privacy of telecommunications without a court order are complying with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

I want to assure the Deputy that there is no question of authorities within this State conducting mass surveillance of the population’s communications. There is clear and unambiguous legislation to regulate the lawful interception of phone calls and the obtaining of call related data. The legislation in question does not provide a basis for mass surveillance. It can only be used in very specific circumstances such as on grounds of national security or the detection and prevention of serious crime.

Access to call content is governed by the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 and may only take place under Ministerial warrant following a request in writing which accords with the conditions set down in the Act..

Access to retained data is governed by the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011. Under the Act access may only be granted following a request by a senior member of An Garda Siochana, the Defence Forces or the Revenue Commissioners to the communications provider in connection with the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of a serious offence, the safeguarding of the security of the State or the saving of human life.

The operation of both Acts is subject to judicial oversight by a serving High Court judge who reports annually to the Taoiseach. There is also is a complaints procedure to a Complaints Referee which individuals can avail of if there is a concern that they have been the subject of an improper use of the legislation. The Complaints Referee is a serving judge of the Circuit Court.

There are lawful and legitimate reasons for law enforcement and other authorities to require access to certain data. Not least of these reasons is the need to protect our citizens from terrorist threats and serious criminality.

In doing so, however, it is necessary to ensure that the information used is properly obtained and subject to appropriate safeguards. The importance of protecting individual rights to privacy and ensuring respect for individual human rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights is well recognised. The State also has robust data protection legislation to protect individuals from unwarranted access to personal data.

Errors in the property price register – 15th July 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she is concerned regarding reports of errors in the property price register; if these errors are fraudulent or accidental; and the way the errors are monitored, detected and corrected.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

The Residential Property Price Register, available at www.propertypriceregister.ie, is produced by the Property Services Regulatory Authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 86 of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011. Section 86 explicitly provides that the Register shall contain the address of the property, the price at which the property was sold and the date of sale of the property.

The Register contains information on residential properties purchased in Ireland since 1 January 2010, as declared to the Revenue Commissioners for stamp duty purposes. It contains the price paid for individual properties and contains details of all residential sales – both cash sales and sales with mortgages. These stamp duty declarations are primarily filed electronically by persons doing the conveyancing of the property on behalf of the purchaser and errors may occur when the declaration is being made. Any errors in the data are errors made by those making the declaration. In this context, it should be noted that there are a range of penalties which the Revenue Commissioners may impose in circumstances where incorrect stamp duty returns are made to them.

As stated, the information on which the Register is based, is provided to the Revenue Commissioners for stamp duty purposes. Consequently, only the Revenue Commissioners are in a position to verify and, where necessary, amend the data in question. The Property Services Regulatory Authority is not in a position to do so. I am advised that on being informed of any apparent inaccuracy in the data in the Register, the Authority immediately informs the Revenue Commissioners and requests that they take whatever remedial action, if any, they deem necessary. The Revenue Commissioners provide data to the Authority weekly in order to maintain the Register up to date and any amendments which they deem necessary are included in the weekly updates. The type of errors reported: include inaccurate prices – generally explained by the fact that prices of new properties in the Register are VAT-exempt; total price of block sales given rather than the individual unit prices; and inaccurate spelling of addresses.

The Property Services Regulatory Authority has indicated that currently there are a total of 107,579 residential properties on the Register and to date there have been more than 3.3 million visits to the Register by members of the public. The current level of traffic is over 30,000 visits every week. I understand that in the period January 2013 to June 2014 a total of 340 alleged errors were reported to the Authority by members of the public and all of these were referred to the Revenue Commissioners for investigation and any appropriate follow up. I am advised that some 83 of the records concerned have been subsequently amended by the Revenue Commissioners.

Given the number of entries on the Register, the high number of visits to the website by members of the public and the very low level of reported errors (0.3%), I am assured that the Register gives a full and accurate picture of residential property prices in Ireland since 1 January 2010.

Regulating the live-in au pair market – 26th June 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she is considering regulating the live-in au pair market as in other European countries in order to reduce the occurrence of abuse in the sector; if her attention has been drawn to the exploitation in the live-out au pair market where au-pairs regularly have no protection due to the fact that this type of employment tends to subsidise foreign students whose visas do not permit employment; if she will consider bringing this sector out of the black economy by way of legislation akin to JobBridge and that she make the necessary provisions in law by amending the visa scheme.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

Regulation of working conditions is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. In this regard I understand that that there is no legal definition of an “au pair” in Irish legislation but that the State’s body of employment rights legislation protects all employees who are legally employed on an employer-employee basis, regardless of what title is given to them.

I am informed that where the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), which comes within the remit of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, receives a complaint involving somebody described as an au pair, NERA will investigate with a view to establishing the person’s statutory entitlements under employment law (including whether the term “au pair” is being used to avoid statutory obligations). NERA has encountered individuals, described by their employers as au pairs, who have been found to be domestic employees. In such cases NERA will seek to vindicate the rights of all workers in accordance with its mandate and powers under employment legislation.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation does not issue Employment Permits in respect of au pairs, child minders or domestic workers and therefore, from the perspective of my Department, there is no immigration permission specifically assigned to these categories of activity. Accordingly if a non-EEA national sought permission to come to Ireland to work as an au pair they should be refused permission. That does not prevent EU nationals exercising rights of free movement and engaging in this activity. I am aware that in some cases non-EEA students may be doing au pair work and this matter is currently being reviewed in my Department in the context of further reform in the area of non-EEA student immigration.

I would urge the Deputy, if he is aware of any case where an employee is being exploited in this context, to report the specifics to NERA for investigation.

Gender identity and expression within the definition of hatred – 25th June 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the Irish definition of hatred as per the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 does not include gender as its basis, or gender identity or expression, as per EU law.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

EU Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law requires the Member States to criminalise incitement to hatred, hatred being defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent, or national or ethnic origin.

The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 defines “hatred” by reference to race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community or sexual orientation.

It is important not to confuse the 2008 framework decision with Directive 2012/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, which is a separate EU instrument. This does not address the criminalisation of incitement to hatred. It includes a requirement for the individual assessment of victims to identify specific protection needs and to determine whether, and to what extent, they would benefit from special measures in the course of criminal proceedings due to their particular vulnerability to secondary or repeat victimisation, intimidation or retaliation. Such assessments include the personal characteristics of the victim. Recital 56 of the directive indicates that personal characteristics, in this context, includes “gender and gender identity or expression”. The Member States are required to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the directive by November, 2015.

Combating bicycle theft – ‘Bait Bike’ scheme – 24th June 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will consider making provision in regulations for the introduction of a new bike scheme (details supplied).

Details: ‘Bait bike’ scheme as has been introduced in San Francisco: GPS tracking devices are placed in a select number of bicycles purchased by the Gardai and locked in locations around the city. The existence of these random GPS tagged bikes is then widely advertised. The scheme acts as both a deterrent and a means of capturing criminals operating in wide-scale bicycle theft. The perception of risk to the would-be thief of a random bicycle is greatly increased as he/she cannot know if it might be GPS tagged by the Gardai. Bicycles with GPS that are stolen can be tracked, and more than likely will lead to the detection of wide-scale bicycle theft and re-sale operations.

REPLY.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald)

As Deputy will appreciate, the examination of crime prevention measures such as the one mentioned by the Deputy is a matter in the first instance for the Garda authorities. I am, however, grateful to the Deputy for bringing this matter to attention and I have forwarded the details he supplied to the Acting Garda Commissioner for consideration in the context of overall measures to counter bicycle theft.

In that regard I am informed by the Garda authorities that a range of operational measures are pursued to combat bicycle theft and to target those who may engage in it, and there is ongoing provision by An Garda Síochána of crime prevention information, and awareness raising among the general public in relation to bicycle theft.

Visas for Chinese tourists to Ireland – 30th April, 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to make it easier for visitors from China to obtain a tourist visa here; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY.

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

As a result of a number of initiatives I have introduced the number of short stay visas (including visas for tourism purposes) granted to Chinese nationals has grown steadily from just over 7,300 in 2011 to over 8,100 in 2013, an 11% increase. The approval rate for visa applications from China is 92% which compares very favourably internationally. Visa applications for Chinese nationals living in China are handled by a dedicated Irish Visa Office in Beijing, which is a sub-office of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department.

These initiatives offer Chinese nationals who wish to travel to Ireland as tourists with a number of options. For example, the Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme, introduced with effect from 1 July 2011, has proved to be very successful in facilitating Chinese nationals who wish to visit Ireland. The Programme applies to holders of UK short stay visas from eighteen selected countries, including China, and allows visitors, who are in possession of a UK visa, to travel on to Ireland without the need to apply for a separate Irish visa. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, in their latest report on the impact of the Programme estimate that there has been an additional 12,700 visits to Ireland by Chinese nationals, between July 2011 and October 2013, as a direct result of the Programme i.e. in addition to the growth in those visiting the State using Irish visas.

Chinese nationals can also apply for a visa as part of an Approved Destination Scheme (ADS) Group Tour, for an individual tourist visa or for a visit visa which is normally used for visiting family members. Several measures have been introduced in the last number of years to encourage this type of tourist to Ireland resulting in an ADS visa being now one of the most straightforward and quickest Irish visas to obtain with processing times being less than five working days normally.

In recognition of the growing number of affluent and independent tourists from China, a scheme to enable independent Chinese travellers to come to Ireland was introduced in November 2011. This category of visa application is processed within 10 working days. All processing times are, of course, dependent on the required supporting documentation being provided by the applicant. To help with this, application guidelines for all visa categories are published on the Irish Embassy website in English and Chinese.

I continue to seek, with my officials in INIS, ways in which the visa regime may be enhanced in order to encourage and facilitate tourism to Ireland, especially from emerging markets such as China. In this regard, work is continuing between INIS and the UK Home Office, on the development of short-stay Common Travel Area (CTA) Visa arrangements which will allow tourists and business visitors to travel to the CTA and to travel freely between Ireland and the UK on the basis of a single visa.

Appointment of the new Garda Commissioner – 15th April 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if it is his intention that the open competition for the new Garda Commissioner will be conducted by the new independent policing authority; and if this authority will also appoint the new Commissioner.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

The Government have decided that the next Commissioner of An Garda Síochána should be appointed following an open competition. The appointment of the Commissioner and the functions of the Authority will be considered by the newly established Cabinet Committee on Justice Reform and subsequently by the Government.

Update on consultation process on judicial appointments – 15th April 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an update on the consultation process on judicial appointments.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

Last December I initiated a public consultation process to review the procedures for judicial appointment.  This review is considering 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. A total of 27 submissions have been received and they are now being considered within my Department.  The consultation 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.

Use of money from the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals – 25th March 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is concerned that funds from the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals, that is, non-EEA nationals, may be used to support those other than the target group Third Country Nationals (details supplied).

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

The aim of the Fund in question is to facilitate the integration of third-country nationals into European societies.  A third-country national is any person who is not a citizen of the European Union, that is, who does not hold the nationality of a Member State of the Union. If the Deputy has any concerns about the use of the Fund in a particular case, I would welcome it if he would bring those concerns to my attention.

The impact of Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act on LGBT persons – 25th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans regarding Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

As I stated in my reply  to Parliamentary Question No. 5340/14 of 5 February 2014, I have asked the members designate of the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to examine the impact of Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, to undertake a consultative process and a formal assessment of the options for its amendments and to let me have their recommendations.

The Commission designate invited submissions to be made to them by 13 November by any interested party. I understand that some 60 individual submissions have been received, which are currently being examined.  While not in a position yet to say when its report will be completed, the Commission designate has indicated to me that it will be progressed as quickly as possible.

I look forward to receiving a report from the Commission designate with its recommendations in due course. At that stage, I will bring forward my proposals to Government in relation to such amendments as are necessary to the Employment Equality Act.

Collecting statistics on hate crimes – 25th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will instruct An Garda Síochána to collect statistics on hate crimes committed here as a standard and regular reporting tool, and as is currently practiced in other jurisdictions.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

I can inform the Deputy that the Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I am advised that statistics in relation to the occurrence of hate crimes are maintained by  the CSO.

In addition the Garda Racial Intercultural and Diversity Office (GRIDO),  which has responsibility for coordinating, monitoring and advising on policing for Ireland’s diverse communities, monitors the reporting and recording of hate and racist crime on a continual basis.

Furthermore, statistics in relation to the occurrence of crimes with a racist motivation are published on the website of the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration, which operates under my Department’s remit.

Amnesties for those in the asylum system – 13th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to grant an amnesty to all those in the asylum system for a period of four years or more.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (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.

Illegal migrants working in Ireland – 13th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons who are working in the country illegally; and if the assumed number is considerable, if he is considering granting any form of amnesty in this area.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

Accurately estimating the number of illegal migrants working in Ireland is immensely difficult due to the clandestine and covert nature of the activity. In this respect Ireland is no different to any other jurisdiction. As a consequence, there are no reliable estimates for this category of migrant worker.  I do not therefore propose to make what would be essentially a guess at the figure.

I have no plans to introduce an amnesty or any other scheme to legalise the residency of undocumented and illegally present foreign nationals in this State.  It is the responsibility of all non-EEA nationals who are resident in Ireland to ensure that they have an appropriate permission from the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Timeframe that Gardaí hold information on a person detained/arrested where this doesn’t lead to conviction/prosecution – 11th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeframe Gardaí are required to hold information on a person detained and arrested by them even though that arrest does not lead to a conviction or successful prosecution.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the information sought by the Deputy and I will contact him directly when the report is to hand.

Methadone clinics in the city centre – 4th February 2014

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his view on the concentration of methadone clinics in the city centre; his views on whether the Gardaí have sufficient resources to deal with increasing social order issues in the vicinity of these clinics; the number of Gardaí assigned to the Temple Bar area; and his plans to increase their resources.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the deployment of Garda resources. In this regard I am advised that Garda management keep the distribution of resources under continuing review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the best possible use is made of the considerable overall resources which are available to An Garda Síochána.

Policing in Dublin city centre is focused on targeting anti-social behaviour and public order offences, and measures are in place to address difficulties experienced by local residents and businesses including the designation of certain areas as hotspots for such criminality and with additional high-visibility patrols being directed by local Garda management.

The Dublin City Centre Policing Plan has been operational since June 2013 and includes dedicated high visibility patrols in key commercial and public thoroughfares at times dictated by crime trends, demand led studies and footfall in the areas in question. As part of this Plan, each Friday and Saturday a dedicated Public Order Van is deployed from 11am to 4am.  In addition to routine plain clothes patrols, dedicated plain clothes foot patrols are assigned to the Temple Bar area and adjoining streets each Friday and Saturday night under Operation Aughrim.  Ongoing consultation is maintained with the Temple Bar Traders association and Dublin Business Improvement District (BID).

More generally, local Garda management engage on an ongoing basis with a wide range of local businesses, community groups and other organisations with a view to addressing the many issues associated with policing a busy city centre with a vibrant night time economy.  In particular, the Garda authorities participated in the multi-stakeholder Strategic Response Group (SRG) which published the report ‘A Better City for all’ in June 2012.  This Group set out a partnership approach to manage the provision of drug related services, and to address public substance misuse and associated anti-social behaviour in Dublin’s city centre, including through the use of ‘Good Neighbour’ policies on the part of the clinics in question.  The Deputy will appreciate, of course that the development of drug treatment services in the Dublin area would primarily be a matter for my colleague, Alex White TD, Minister for State at the Department of Health, and for the Health Service Executive.

Rules regarding mobile phone ownership for prisoners – 12th November 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if prisoners are permitted to own mobile phones; if not, whether he believes that many do possess such items when this is not permissible; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

I wish to advise the Deputy that under section 36 (1) of the Prisons Act, 2007 it is a criminal offence for a prisoner to be in possession of a mobile phone without the permission of the prison governor.

Only a small number of prisoners in Shelton Abbey Open Centre have the permission of the governor to be in possession of mobile phones, in keeping with its minimum security status. Further, only prisoners on Enhanced Regime are permitted this facility which is subject to close monitoring and a written agreement from the relevant prisoners regarding permissible use.

Given advances in mobile telecommunications technology, mobile phones are becoming increasingly small in size, which provides the Irish Prison Service with particular challenges in seeking to (i) prevent their entry into prisons and (ii) locate them when smuggled inside. Specialist staff, however, are employed by the Irish Prison Service to combat this problem to the greatest extent possible. Due to improvements in security within our Prisons the number of mobile phones being seized in the previous 3 years has reduced from 1,718 seizures in 2010 to 1,368 in 2011 to 1,150 in 2012. In that regard, I wish also to advise the Deputy that between 1 January 2013 and 13 October 2013, 675 mobile phones had been seized by the staff of the Irish Prison Service.

A bicycle registration scheme to help reduce bicycle thefts – 8th October 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will roll out a nationwide bicycle registration scheme through the Garda force working with all bicycle shops, in the interests of preventing or reducing bicycle theft, and of facilitating the prosecution of theft, through the easy identification of bicycle ownership.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

An Garda Síochána is proactive in encouraging the public to protect their property, including bicycles, and a range of measures are in place to prevent and tackle the theft of bicycles.

The Garda initiatives in this area include a crime prevention information leaflet on bicycle security, which is available on the Garda website, www.garda.ie. The leaflet emphasises the importance of bicycle owners keeping a record of the bicycle frame identification number, colour and any other unique features. Furthermore, in July 2012, An Garda Síochána created a link from the Garda website to YouTube to promote a video on bicycle security which had been developed as a joint initiative by An Garda Síochána and Dublin City Council. I am also informed that An Garda Síochána is currently rolling out a pilot scheme in a number of Garda locations which allows members of the public to view on-line photographs of recovered property, including bicycles, on the Garda page of the social media site, Flickr.

At the present time, I have no plans to introduce additional measures over and above the range of voluntary crime prevention measures which owners of any type of valuable property are encouraged to take, including those which I have already referred to, and which Gardaí continue to promote nationwide. In the event that the Garda Commissioner feels that some additional measures are called for that would require regulatory of other action on my part, I would of course give such proposals the closest consideration.

Community Policing in Dublin Bay South – 8th October 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of dedicated Community Garda units in each of the Garda stations in the constituency of Dublin Bay South; the number of Gardai dedicated to community Garda policing alone in each of those stations; and the proposals to ensure that community policing continues within the area.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

As the Deputy is already aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation and I have no direct function in the matter. This allocation of resources is constantly monitored in the context of demographics, crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

I have however been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the Garda Stations at Pearse Street, Donnybrook, Irishtown, Terenure, Rathmines and Rathfarnham are all located in the new Dublin Bay South Constituency.

The full strength of each of those stations on 31st August 2013, including Community Gardaí, Gardaí, Reserve Gardaí and civilian staff is set out in the table hereunder. The Deputy will be aware that all Gardaí have responsibility, inter alia, to deal with Community Policing issues as and when they arise. In line with this policy, Community Policing in Donnybrook and Irishtown areas is achieved through Gardaí attached to core units being assigned specific Community Policing responsibilities for identified areas, community initiatives, community groups, schools and hospitals in the area. Local Management are satisfied that the current policing levels are sufficient to meet the needs of the areas.

Click on table to enlarge:

Treatment of asylum seekers in Direct Provision accommodation centres – 24th September 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his views regarding the treatment of asylum seekers here in view of allegations made against Serco employees at the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in the UK; if any similar incidents have occurred here; the reporting guidelines and/or safeguards that are in place to protect asylum seekers and ensure that private contractors operate in an appropriate manner.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

There are currently 4,414 persons seeking international protection residing in 34 Direct Provision accommodation centres across 17 counties under contract to the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA), an operational unit of the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department.

I should firstly say that the only knowledge I have of the matters referred to in the question is from UK newspaper articles. Plainly, I could not comment in any way on issues arising in another jurisdiction other than to note that Ireland does not have an Immigration Removal Centre and that residents in RIA centres are free to come and go as they please. In relation to any allegations of sexual assault in asylum accommodation centres in this jurisdiction I would refer the Deputy to the answer I gave to Dáil Question no. 923 on 16 July, 2013 on the same subject.

Any action of a criminal nature brought to the attention of RIA would immediately be referred to the Gardaí. RIA takes the protection of its residents very seriously and already has in place a number of policies and procedures to ensure that they do not suffer acts of sexual harassment or assault or misbehaviour of any kind.

Firstly, RIA’s House Rules and Procedures set out the type and standard of service that an asylum seeker should expect whilst residing in direct provision accommodation. The Rules set out the entitlements and obligations placed on centre management and on residents and, in the event that these aren’t being met, a complaints procedure to be invoked by either party. This complaints system is considered by RIA to be broadly in line with the guidelines set out by the Office of the Ombudsman for ‘internal complaints systems’.  Sexual harassment, by any party, is specified as being unacceptable behaviour in respect of which the complaints procedure can be invoked.

Secondly, over and above the House Rules themselves, the interests of asylum seekers are protected through regular ‘clinics’ in centres where residents can speak directly to RIA headquarters staff without local centre management being present.  Allegations of improper behaviour by any party could be reported in that context and acted upon immediately.

Thirdly, RIA has a Code of Practice for persons working in accommodation centres which specifically prohibits sexual harassment.

Fourthly,  RIA has a fully staffed Child Protection and Welfare section and has a Child Protection Policy based on the HSE’s Children First -National Guidelines for the protection and welfare of children. These guidelines were developed in order to assist people identifying and reporting child abuse and welfare concerns. Staff of centres are trained to recognise abuse and how it should be reported and each RIA accommodation centre has a designated Child Protection officer.  A draft revised Child Protection Policy designed to be even more transparent and accessible is currently with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs for observations.

Finally, along with Cosc (the National Organisation for the prevention of domestic, sexual and gender based violence) RIA has been engaged in a working group with a number of non – governmental organisations including Akidwa and the Rape Crisis Centre to develop a RIA policy around incidences of domestic, sexual and gender based violence and harassment within its centres.  The UNHCR has also been involved and has made suggestions from its perspective.  The working group is now an advanced stage of deliberation and it is expected that a policy will finally be agreed in the course of the next few weeks.  A training programme for staff and residents will follow from agreement on this policy. In advance of this, the working group has approved an information poster which has already been distributed to all RIA centres. These posters – available in five languages including English – provide information on accessing professional help if residents have suffered or are suffering from domestic, sexual or gender based violence or harassment.

Changes to licensing laws – 24th September 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether current licensing laws curtail people’s ability to experience night-life in Ireland’s cities; his plans to review these laws to bring Ireland into line with other European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

The position regarding the licensing hours applicable to nightclubs is that holders of an on-licence or theatre licence may apply to the District Court under section 5 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927 (as amended) for special exemption orders which permit extended opening hours. Section 5(5) of the 1927 Act provides that a special exemption order shall expire at 2.30 a.m. (1.00 a.m. where it extends to a Monday that is not a public holiday) unless the Court, for stated reasons, grants the order for a shorter period. Section 7 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1962 (as amended) allows a further thirty minutes drinking-up time.

The Government Legislation Programme published on 18 September provides for publication of the Sale of Alcohol Bill in 2014. This Bill will update the law relating to the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol on licensed premises by repealing the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011, as well as the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2008, and replacing them with provisions more suited to modern conditions. It will include updated provisions relating to the operation of nightclubs. As regards the contents of the Bill, I intend to complete consultations with relevant interests, including the nightclub sector, before finalising its provisions.

Court fines deducted at source from welfare recipients – 18th September 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is considering introducing a deduction at source facility for welfare recipients who have incurred court fines.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

The Fines (Payment and Recovery) Bill 2013 was published on 19 July last.  The Bill does not provide for the recovery of fines by the attachment of social welfare payments.  However, it does provide for the imposition of community service orders where a person fails to pay a fine and the court is of the view that it would not be appropriate to make either an attachment order or a recovery order.

The Bill also provides for an enhanced instalment payment regime which will allow everyone on whom a fine is imposed to pay the fine by instalments over 12 months.

Anti-social behaviour at Grand Canal Dock & Hanover Quay – 18th September 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the increase in public order offences and anti-social behaviour in the Grand Canal Square and Hanover Quay areas, a significant business and tourist centre; and the actions being taken to address this growing problem.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

In line with good community policing principles, An Garda Síochána engage constructively with community and business interests in the area in question to address relevant issues of concern. This includes liaison with the Pearse Street Local Policing Forum, as well as the South Quays Business Watch initiative.

During the recent period of good weather, the area of the Grand Canal Dock attracted large numbers of young people who engaged primarily in swimming and diving in the Grand Canal Dock.  An Garda Síochána met with local businesses on 4 July to discuss their concerns surrounding the activities of a small minority of these young people and additional foot and mountain bike patrols were put in place in the Grand Canal Dock area and the services of the Garda Water Unit were also availed of.  A further meeting with local businesses was held on 23 August and I am advised that those who attended were complimentary of the proactive patrolling and common sense manner in which An Garda Síochána policed the area during this period.  An Garda Síochána will of course continue to respond to concerns surrounding anti-social behaviour and other policing issues in the area, using the range of powers available to them and through engagement with local community and business interests.

Regulating Pawn Brokers – 12th July 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit pawn brokers from purchasing gold or jewellery off potential customers without proof of ownership; his further plans to introduce legislation that would reprimand pawn brokers found in possession of stolen property, that is, gold or jewellery for which they do not know the identity of the seller of hold proof that the seller was the owner at the time of sale to the pawn broker.

Reply

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

While I have no function in relation to the regulation of pawnbrokers regarding the specific matters raised by the Deputy, I will arrange to have these queries referred to the appropriate authority.

In relation to the more general issue of cash for gold, I am at present examining the response of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence to the report concerning this matter which was published by my Department last year.

The Official Standing of the Garda Age Card – 26th June 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the official standing of Garda identification cards here; the reason some Government agencies do not accept Garda cards as appropriate identification.

Reply:

The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

The Garda Age Card is a voluntary proof of age card issued to persons over the age of 18 years under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988 (Age Card) Regulations 2010. The purpose of the card is to verify a person’s age in relation to matters referred to in the Intoxicating Liquor Act, as provided for in section 40 of the Act.  As such, Garda Age Cards are not intended for use as a means of identification for other purposes.

Care for Asylum Seekers – 13th June 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will clarify the mandate of the reception and integration agency and whether or not the RIA has the power to delegate the care of asylum seekers and inspection of Direct Provision centres to privately operated, for-profit companies.

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), a functional unit of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department, is responsible for the accommodation of persons while their applications for international protection are being processed. It is a multi agency organisation with staff seconded to it from the HSE, the Department of Education and Skills and the Irish Prison Service. Currently, there are 4,650 persons accommodated throughout the State in 34 centres under contract to RIA.

RIA is a creation of – and derives its mandate from – Government. It was created as a result of the huge challenges posed by increasing numbers of asylum seekers coming into the country in the late 1990’s. To illustrate, in 1992, 39 applications for asylum were received in Ireland: this increased to 7,724 a year by 1999 and a further 10,938 in the following year. Most presented themselves in Dublin. The homeless service of the then Eastern Health Board could not cope and there was a serious prospect of widespread homelessness among asylum seekers.

A series of Government meetings was held to deal with the matter, involving input from several Government Departments faced with this challenge. The Directorate for Asylum Support Services (DASS), was established by Government decision in November, 1999 under the aegis of my Department to coordinate the scheme of dispersal and direct provision for asylum seekers. DASS was subsequently replaced, also by Government decision, by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) which continues to accommodate asylum seekers under the system of dispersal and direct provision.

RIA, as a unit of my Department, negotiates contracts with private sector companies to provide full board accommodation to asylum seekers in accordance with its Government mandate. RIA is subject to the same Civil Service obligations of fairness of implementation of policy as would any area of Government implementing a scheme. Using private contractors to accommodate asylum seekers is a sensible thing to do. It allows RIA to adapt quickly when the number seeking accommodation waxes or wanes. At the start of 2009, RIA had 60 centres: today it has 34. RIA has instituted tough cost saving measures in recent years – cutting capacities and per diem rates – without affecting the services provided to residents. Indeed, it is in the commercial interests of providers that as good a service as possible is provided to residents.

 Regularisation scheme for undocumented migrant workers – 23rd April 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is considering introducing a earned regularisation scheme for undocumented migrant workers.

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

There are no current plans to engage in any form of blanket regularisation of migrants who are unlawfully in the State. It is the responsibility of all non EEA nationals who are resident in the State to ensure that they have an appropriate permission from the Minister for Justice and Equality. Most migrants do in fact comply with this condition and obey the State’s immigration laws.

Clearly, all illegal immigrant cases are not the same and must be dealt with on a case by case basis taking account of their individual circumstances. At one end of the scale are those where the person’s illegal status is through no fault of their own and indeed the Department continues to deal with cases of this nature on an ongoing basis. However there are also much more egregious instances of immigration abuse, often at considerable expense to the State and it does not follow that such persons should profit from their conduct.

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 those unlawfully present without first examining the merits of their individual cases. In our case there are also considerations based on maintaining the integrity of the Common Travel Area with the UK which must be taken into account.

In looking at cases as they arise, among the issues that would be relevant to the outcome would be the circumstances in which the person became undocumented, the length of time they have been in that situation, their prospects of being able to gain lawful employment without being a drain on the financial resources of the State such as the welfare, health, housing and education areas, along with the more general considerations applicable to immigration decisions, including any family related rights they may have in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Sometimes case by case consideration will result in a positive outcome for the applicant. However, in other cases this may result in a decision by the Irish authorities, subject to the oversight of our Courts, that the person has to go home. That decision should be respected.

Permits for those who wish to collect for charity – 26th March 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the permit required for those who wish to collect money for charity; and the entitlements and role given to collectors by the permit.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

All public cash collections must be held in accordance with a collection permit granted in respect of that collection under the Street and House to House Collections Act 1962. Under the 1962 Act, a Chief Superintendent may attach to a collection permit granted by him such conditions in relation to the conduct of the collection authorised by the permit as are, in his opinion, necessary or desirable for the maintenance of public order and the prevention of annoyance to the public, including the occupants of houses visited by collectors.

Begging in the vicinity of a cash machine – 26th March 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if it is illegal to beg in the vicinity of a cash machine; and the actions the Gardaí can take to deter such activity.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 2011 provides for begging related offences and Gardaí make full use of these and other relevant provisions.

Section 2 of the Act of 2011 provides that a person who, while begging harasses, intimidates, assaults or threatens any other person or persons, or obstructs the passage of persons or vehicles, is guilty of an offence. There is also provision contained in Section 3 (2) in relation to begging at certain locations, including at or near automated teller machines or vending machines, and members of An Garda Síochána may direct a person begging at such a location to leave the vicinity in a peaceable and orderly manner. Section 4 of the Act also gives Gardaí powers of arrest without warrant where there is reasonable grounds to believe that offences under this legislation have been committed.

In addition to these provisions, Section 247 of the Children Act, 2001 provides for an offence of causing, procuring or allowing children to beg, and Gardaí have powers of arrest under section 254 of the 2001 Act where there is reasonable grounds to suspect that such an offence has been committed or attempted.

I am informed that Gardaí in Dublin City Centre have been targeting begging at or near cash machines and vending machines such as Luas ticketing machines. High visibility foot patrols are conducted in areas of high footfall in conjunction with plain clothes operations which specifically target begging.

The Deputy will appreciate that the issue of begging is a wider societal problem which needs to be tackled through an inter-agency approach rather than depending solely on law enforcement. In this regard, a proactive strategy led by An Garda Síochána involving an inter-agency partnership approach has been developed. The objective of this initiative is to develop a long term strategy that will address the issue holistically and not only through the Criminal Justice System.

Appeals in asylum cases  – 14th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if, following recent criticism by the High Court of practices in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in S.R. (Pakistan) v Minister for Justice and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, 29 January 2013, if he intends to make amendments to the proposed Protection Review Tribunal to address these criticisms in the forthcoming Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The case referred to by the Deputy concerned a pre-leave judicial review hearing involving a national of Pakistan who sought to have the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal in his appeal quashed. In its judgment, the High Court was critical of the Tribunal’s decision in the applicant’s appeal citing, inter alia, errors of law and fact. In light of the High Court’s judgment the Chairman has informed me that the case has been settled and that the applicant’s appeal will be rescheduled to be heard by a different Member of the Tribunal. As the Deputy may be aware, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal is independent in the performance of its functions and the Chairman alone is responsible for the assignment of cases to individual Tribunal members. The Tribunal is currently comprised of thirteen individual Members each of whom represents a division of the Tribunal.

Work on the details of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 is ongoing at my Department pursuant to current Government policy which is committed, under the Programme for Government, to “introduce comprehensive reforms of the immigration, residency and asylum systems, which will include a statutory appeals system and set out rights and obligations in a transparent way”. The Bill provides, in Part 7, for a Protection Review Tribunal and, in that context, already contains a number of provisions to address issues of the type which arose in the case of concern to the Deputy. Among the functions proposed for the Chairperson of the Protection Review Tribunal under Section 102 of the Bill, for example, is the possibility for him or her to request a member of the Tribunal to review a draft decision in circumstances where the Chairperson considers that the decision is likely to contain an error of law or fact . A member so requested must review the decision and make any amendments considered necessary. In addition, provision is made for the Chairperson to refer any final decision of a member for the direction of the High Court where he or she considers that the decision contains an error of law. These are among the many aspects of the Bill that are under ongoing consideration at my Department, including in cooperation with the Offices of Parliamentary Counsel and of the Attorney General. This process will take into account any relevant findings by the Courts, such as those raised by the Deputy.

As I have outlined previously to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence, several hundred amendments to the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill are anticipated, the majority of a technical nature. On that occasion, I also expressed the considered view that instead of engaging in an extremely cumbersome process of tabling hundreds of amendments to the 2010 Bill it would be much more efficient to publish a new and enhanced text. Such an approach can incorporate the many anticipated amendments while addressing key outstanding issues, several of which have been of concern to Members. This proposition was broadly welcomed by the Joint Committee. It remains my objective under this new approach, and mindful of our having to deal with the competing legislative demands of our EU/IMF/ECB Programme commitments, to be in a position to bring a revised Bill to Government for approval and publication later this year.

Legislation/guidelines dealing with child abuse and rape cases – 7th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans regarding new legislation or guidelines dealing with child abuse and rape cases, including improving protection to victims, improving available supports to victims, increasing the number and rotation of judges dealing with such cases, and sentencing guidelines/laws for the perpetrators of such acts.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

There have been considerable advances in recent years in the way in which the criminal justice system deals with such cases.

An Garda Síochána puts a particular emphasis on tacking sexual crime and crime against children as well as pro-active cooperation with all relevant Departments, organisations and agencies to improve the safety of children. A comprehensive policy document on the investigation of sexual crimes against children and child welfare was developed by An Garda Síochána with Children First National Guidance 2011 adopted as Garda policy. Interaction with the HSE and Children and Family Services is an integral part of that policy in relation to all investigations of child abuse. I am advised that a strategic committee has been established within an An Garda Síochána, chaired at Assistant Commissioner level, to liaise with the HSE’s National Director of Children and Family Services, to ensure that all matters of strategy and policy in the field of inter-agency working receive proper direction.

A Sexual Crime Management Unit has also been established within the Garda Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit, which is part of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The Unit is responsible for evaluating and monitoring the number of investigations each year into child sexual abuse, child neglect and other sexual offences, to ensure that they are receiving appropriate attention, advising on the investigation of such crimes and promoting best investigative practice. The unit interacts, as appropriate, with contact points in relevant agencies in relation to complaints of sexual abuse made to An Garda Síochána. I am also assured that members of An Garda Síochána and HSE personnel have undergone joint and intensive training in the specialised skills necessary for interviewing children. The Garda College, in conjunction with HSE colleagues, is constantly reviewing the training to ensure it is accordance with best international practice.

Furthermore, given the need for sensitivity and confidentiality surrounding sexual crimes, there is a clear advantage from an investigative perspective both for the victims and for An Garda Síochána in conducting relevant interviews away from Garda stations. A network of dedicated interview suites has been established by my Department and An Garda Síochána in six strategically chosen locations throughout the State which are used by the Garda authorities to record interviews with such victims. The roll out and utilisation of these interview suites is a huge step forward in terms of how child victims of sexual and violent abuse are dealt with by the criminal justice system.

The Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime is an independent body which operates under the aegis of the Department of Justice and Equality. It is allocated an annual budget from the Department to provide funding for services and supports to victims of crime. In 2012, it allocated €138,070 to 4 non-governmental organisations who work in the Sexual Violence sector. Funding was granted primarily towards the provision of an accompaniment service for victims of sexual violence attending interviews with An Garda Síochána and attending court. It also allocated €14,000 to CARI (Children at Risk in Ireland) towards the provision of their court support and accompaniment service for children, especially but not exclusively children who are sexually abused. This service also supports non-abusing parents of these children.

The Deputy will appreciate that judges are independent in the matter of sentencing, as in other matters, concerning the exercise of judicial functions, subject only to the Constitution and the law. This also includes the allocation of the business of the courts, scheduling of cases and management of lists which are matters for the judiciary and in particular the Presidents of the courts. In accordance with this principle, the role of the Oireachtas has been to specify in law a maximum penalty and a court, having considered all the circumstances of the case, to impose an appropriate penalty up to that maximum. The court is required to impose a sentence which is proportionate not only to the crime but to the individual offender, in that process identifying where on the sentencing range the particular case should lie and then applying any mitigating factors which may be present.

There are a small number of situations where statute has created exceptions to this approach most notably by providing for mandatory sentences for murder and presumptive minimum sentences in the case of certain firearms and drug trafficking offences. Except for exceptional circumstances, I am of the view that the Oireachtas should be cautious in prescribing mandatory sentences. An important safeguard rests in the power of the Director of Public Prosecutions to apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal to review a sentence she regards as unduly lenient. The Law Reform Commission is currently examining the law in relation to mandatory sentences and I understand this work will be completed this year. The Deputy may be aware that the Law Reform Commission, after detailed study some years ago, recommended against the introduction of statutory sentencing guidelines but favoured non-statutory sentencing principles.

The Superior Courts have developed a substantial body of case law setting out general principles of sentencing. Sentencing practice is also being developed by a steering committee of the judiciary which developed the Irish Sentencing Information System (ISIS) website, a pilot initiative designed to gather information about the range of sentences and other penalties that have been imposed for particular types of offences across court jurisdictions. Information on over 1,000 cases is detailed on the website and the Committee recently announced that it is shortly to recommence populating the online database with information on sentencing in the criminal courts. The Deputy may be aware that the ISIS committee also announced they are planning to recommence providing information on sentencing in relation to specific issues in which context an analysis has been published on rape sentencing prepared by the Judicial Researchers Office under the guidance of Mr. Justice Peter Charleton. I understand that seminars are also planned, including one focusing on the work of the Sentencing Council in the UK.

Finally, as the Deputy may be aware, in September 2012, I announced a strategic review of penal policy. I have established a working group to carry out this review which will examine all aspects of penal policy and I expect the Group to report later this year.

Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill – 7th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the proposed timeline for the taking and completion of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, if his attention has been drawn to improvements in the UK and whether or not these new structures might be adopted in Ireland, his views on a combined immigration and protection tribunal system, and other measures that might reduce the significant legal costs incurred in this area as a percentage of total costs as reported in the Refugees Appeals Tribunal 2011 Annual Report.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

Work on the details of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 is ongoing at my Department pursuant to current Government policy which is committed, under the Programme for Government, to “introduce comprehensive reforms of the immigration, residency and asylum systems, which will include a statutory appeals system and set out rights and obligations in a transparent way”. The Bill provides, inter alia, for the introduction of a single application procedure for the investigation of all grounds for protection and any other grounds presented by applicants seeking to remain in the State and provides, in Part 7, for a Protection Review Tribunal. At the same time, in keeping with the commitment given in the Programme for Government, consideration is being given to a statutory appeals system in the immigration area and the model applied will be that considered most appropriate to this jurisdiction, including by reference to legal costs as raised by the Deputy.

As I have outlined previously to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence, several hundred amendments to the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 are anticipated, the majority of a technical nature. On that occasion, I also expressed the considered view that instead of engaging in an extremely cumbersome process of tabling hundreds of amendments to the 2010 Bill it would be much more efficient to publish a new and enhanced text. Such an approach can incorporate the many anticipated amendments while addressing key outstanding issues, several of which have been of concern to Members, including that of a streamlined, single application procedure and that of an appropriate appeals procedure. This proposition was broadly welcomed by the Joint Committee. Work on the Bill continues, therefore, on that basis, including in cooperation with the Offices of Parliamentary Counsel and of the Attorney General while also taking account of any relevant rulings by the Courts. It remains my objective under this new approach, and mindful of our having to deal with the competing legislative demands of our EU/IMF/ECB Programme commitments, to be in a position to bring a revised Bill to Government for approval and publication later this year.

Copies of Garda vetting certificates – 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has considered allowing individuals who have been vetted by the Gardaí for a specific activity/organisation to obtain a copy of their Garda vetting disclosure for use with other organisations or activities in view of the fact that such a vetting disclosure would be similar to a driver’s licence or passport in that it would be an official document held by an individual and subject to periodic renewal.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

Garda vetting certificates are issued to specified organisations registered with the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) for that purpose in respect of a particular post or employment. A vetting disclosure is made in response to a written request and with the permission of the person who is the subject of that request.

I should emphasise that the certificate is a disclosure to the requesting, registered organisation of the position at the time when it is issued. Each time a new vetting application is received, new and full vetting checks are conducted. This is to ensure that the most recent data available is taken into account. The non-transferability and contemporaneous nature of the certificate protects against the risk of fraud or forgery and is a guarantee of the integrity of the vetting system.

The primary purpose of the vetting process is the protection of children and vulnerable adults. This must remain so.

Number of vetting forms received by Gardaí per annum – 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of vetting forms that the Gardaí receive each year; and the number of these that are used for volunteering for charities.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides employment vetting for approximately 20,000 organisations in Ireland which employ personnel to work in a full time part time, voluntary or student capacity with children and or vulnerable adults and who are registered with the Unit for this purpose.

There has been a substantial increase in the volume of vetting applications received by the GCVU over recent years. The number of applications processed by the Unit for the years 2008 to 2012 are as follows:

2008 – 218,404

2009 – 246,194

2010 – 291,938

2011 – 315,100

2012 – 327,903

Given the large number and wide range of client groups, the registration process is managed through umbrella organisations which provide single points of contact. Accordingly,  the GCVU is not in a position to comment in relation to the number of applications received in respect of volunteers for charitable organisations as it is not in possession of such information.

Employment practices in the civil service – 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if there are any retired public sector workers from his Department, or any other part of the public sector, currently on his Department’s payroll, for example, for sitting on a committee or preparing a report, but not exclusively these two areas; the number on the payroll; the cost to his Department; the services being delivered for this money; and the way that the positions were originally advertised.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

It is assumed that the Deputy is seeking details of retired public servants who on occasion are engaged mainly on a short term basis to carry out specific projects or functions such as to serve on boards, committees, commissions, interview boards, investigations etc. There are currently 13 retired public servants who fall into these categories in respect of my Department.

The fees payable vary according to the positions and range from €1,000 to €15,000. The total estimated cost to the Department in 2013 in respect of payments to these 13 individuals will be approximately €80,500.

In addition there are four retired Judges who are currently carrying out functions such as presiding at high-profile Citizenship ceremonies and chairing Review Boards and Tribunals. Payments in respect of these services range from €2,400 to €161,800. The total estimated cost in 2013 will be approximately €252,000.

The Deputy will be aware that since taking up office I have introduced where appropriate a more transparent system of state sponsored appointments. For example recent appointments to the Property Services Regulatory Authority and the Property Services Appeal Board were made following a public invitation to apply for these positions. The majority of the individuals referred to above were engaged because of their specific knowledge and expertise in a particular area.

Number of bicycles reported stolen in Dublin – 16th January 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the number of bicycles that have been reported stolen in the Dublin Metropolitan area of An Garda Síochána where the date of theft has been in the five year period ending in June 2012 and the number of prosecutions that have been brought by the Gardaí before the courts in relation to such bicycle thefts in the Dublin Metropolitan area in respect of thefts in the period ending June 2012; and the number of convictions that resulted from these prosecutions.

Reply The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter): The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy. To see these statistics, click here.

Road accidents involving drivers on a provisional licence – 16th January 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of road accidents in 2012 that involved one or more drivers on a provisional licence.

Reply The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

In the time available it has not been possible for the Garda authorities to supply the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Disclosure of a non-conviction under the Probation Act – 16th January 2013

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to an issue regarding disclosure of a non-conviction under Section 1(1) of the Probation Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

Section 1 (1) of the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 allows a court of summary jurisdiction, in a case where the court thinks the charge is proved but it is inexpedient to inflict any punishment, to release the offender on probation without proceeding to a conviction and make an order dismissing the charge or discharging the offender conditionally.

Garda Vetting disclosures are made to registered organisations following the signed authorisation of a vetting subject permitting the Garda Central Vetting Unit to disclose to the registered organisation “details of all prosecutions, successful or not, pending or completed, and/or convictions which may be recorded in respect of them in the State or elsewhere”; or alternatively that there are “no prosecutions or convictions recorded in respect of them”. To the extent that all prosecutions are disclosed under existing arrangements, a prosecution resulting in an order dismissing the charges or discharging the offender conditionally under the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 would be disclosed.

However, this will no longer be the case following the enactment and commencement of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. Under that Act, “criminal records” which will be subject to automatic disclosure are defined (in section 2) as

“(a) a record of the person’s convictions, whether within or outside the State, for any criminal offences, together with any ancillary or consequential orders made pursuant to the convictions concerned, or

(b) a record of any prosecutions pending against the person, whether within or outside the State, for any criminal offence, or both;”.

As automatic disclosures will be limited to convictions or pending prosecutions, an order dismissing the charge under the Probation of Offenders Act 1907, will not be automatically disclosed on foot of an application for a vetting disclosure following the commencement of the new vetting legislation. However, it may be information which could be disclosed under the category of ‘specified information’. Under the Act, this is information, other than criminal records, which concerns a finding or allegation of harm to another person which is of such a nature as to reasonably give rise to a bona fide concern that the person may harm a child or vulnerable person. However, the disclosure of such information is subject to the prior notice of the vetting subject and requires a pre-disclosure assessment as to the relevance of the information concerned to the type of work or activity to which the application for vetting relates. There is also provision for the vetting subject to appeal a decision to disclose such information.

The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act passed all stages on 19 December, 2012 and was signed by the President on 26 December, 2012.

Timeframe for legislation following the Children’s Referendum – 18th December 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the timeframe for the enactment of changes to family law legislation that are expected following the passing of the Children’s Referendum

Reply The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Programme for Government commitment to reform and modernise aspects of family law will be progressed as soon as possible having regard to the need for consultations and the need to dispose of urgent legislative matters in my Department under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for the State.

As I indicated in response to Question No. 66 of 11 December 2012, I am considering the detailed recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in its Report on the Legal Aspects of Family Relationships. In particular, the Commission recommends that legislative provisions be introduced to facilitate the extension of guardianship (parental responsibility) to civil partners and step-parents either by agreement with the other parties who have parental responsibility for the child or by application to court.

With a view to comprehensively addressing this area of the law, I am presently engaged in the preparation of a Family Relationships and Childrens Bill. In that context, I am considering the Commission’s specific recommendations on legislative reform, which will put same-sex couples and step-parents on an equal footing with other couples in relation to their children. I am also reviewing existing legislation worldwide addressing the issues of parentage, assisted human reproduction and surrogacy and considering the recommendations contained in the Report of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction published by the Department of Health in 2005. Those reforms must ensure that children in lesbian or gay family units are able to form a legal connection with their non-biological parent and that kindred relationships flow from such legal connection. In particular, reform of the law is needed in the areas of guardianship, custody and access, and to ensure maintenance and inheritance rights for the children of civil partners.

Number of visas granted under the visa investment scheme programme – 11th Dec 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide the number of persons that have applied for, and the number of persons that have received a visa under the visa investment scheme programme, the start-up visa scheme, and any visa programmes available to senior executives coming to work in foreign owned companies based here.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Questions 52766/12, 52767/12, 52768/12 and 52769/12 and include the the relevant extract from these replies below for the Deputy’s information.

On foot of recommendations from the Evaluation Committee meeting of 9 August 2012, I have approved immigration permissions for one successful applicant under the Immigrant Investor Programme and two successful applicants under the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme. The Deputy will be aware that I cannot give details of individual immigration cases, however I will say that the three successful candidates originate from North America, Africa and Asia. Both projects under the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme fulfilled the requirement for a minimum of €75,000 funding for their respective high potential start-ups. The investment proposal in an existing Irish business approved under the Immigrant Investor Programme significantly exceeded the requirements of the scheme.

Most recently the Evaluation Committee has met to consider further applications under the Immigrant Investor Programme and the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme. However, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the outcome of those deliberations until the full application process has been completed and appropriate permissions have been issued. The matter of senior executives of foreign owned businesses coming to Ireland relates to intra-corporate transfers which is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Anti-social behaviour in Temple Bar – 15th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 535 of 17 July 2012, if he will provide an update on the actions being taken to address the continuing problem of anti-social behaviour in the Temple Bar area, Dublin.

Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I can inform the Deputy that An Garda Síochána continues to implement a wide range of strategies as outlined in my previous reply to the Deputy in order to tackle incidents of anti-social behaviour and public disorder in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. I am advised by the Garda authorities that the number of recorded instances of public order and drunkenness offences for the overall Pearse Street District, within which the Temple Bar area sits, has fallen between 2011 and 2012.

As I indicated in my previous reply, Garda responses include the designation of certain areas as hot spots for such criminality and the deployment of high visibility patrols to respond accordingly. Furthermore, a Garda unit has been specifically tasked with dealing with public order incidents, deploying a public order van on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The work of this unit is supplemented by other units working ordinarily in the Temple Bar area. I am also informed that the deployment of plain-clothes officers in Temple Bar has led to significant successes in tackling drug related issues.

The Garda authorities also continue to employ a collaborative approach in addressing anti-social behaviour issues in the area which includes important ongoing liaison with local business associations, such as the Temple Bar Traders Association and other stakeholders. This approach is designed to ensure that An Garda Síochána is kept fully informed of criminal matters of concern to the local business community, to ensure that appropriate crime prevention advice is provided and to facilitate a joint approach to policing the night-time economy in the area.

This situation is being kept under ongoing review and I can further assure the Deputy that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner with a view to ensuring that our streets are safe for all.

Drug rehabilitation clinic in Ranelagh – 15th November 2012, To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the drug rehabilitation clinic on Oakley Road, Ranelagh, is located 100 metres from two primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. Reply

The Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I wish to inform the Deputy that the location of drug rehabilitation clinics does not fall under the remit of the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Public service rostering – 6th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the sectors of the public sector that are currently employed on a roster basis and if there are any plans to remove employees from the rostering system.

Reply The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

Two bodies under the aegis of my Department – an Garda  Síochána and the  Irish Prison Service (IPS) –  operate rostering systems.

Prisons must function on a 24/7 and therefore it is necessary to operate a rostering system.  The IPS uses rostering to schedule an officer’s basic working week over the periods outside normal working hours and is developing and implementing more efficient rosters.  There are no plans to remove employees from the rostering system.

An Garda Síochána also provides a 24/7 service and members of An Garda Síochána including Garda reserves and some civilian staff in the organisation work on a roster.  As the Deputy will be aware, a new roster system was introduced this year in An Garda Síochána which more closely matches the deployment of resources with policing demands while at the same time protecting the health and welfare of the members.

Out of hours cover and on call arrangements which would not ordinarily be considered as employed on a roster basis are utilised across the Justice sector.  Such arrangements will continue to be a feature in the areas where they apply.

Plans for Harcourt Police Station – 24th October 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for the recently vacated Harcourt Terrace Police Station, Dublin 2.

Reply The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter):

Garda stations closed under the 2012 Garda Síochána Annual Policing Plan form part of the portfolio of State properties owned and maintained by the Office of Public Works. Accordingly, it is for that Office to decide on the future of these properties and I do not have a role in relation to the matter.

Plans to deploy department staff to Dublin Airport to be immigration officials – 4th October 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the way his plans for deploying civil servants from his Department as immigration officials in Dublin Airport are progressing; the number of staff been deployed; the hourly rate anticipated for their redeployment; the actual hourly rate; and if Gardaí are still allocated to these positions to work outside the hours of 9am-5pm; and the way in which this impacts on the cost savings that were originally anticipated in redeploying civil servants to this role.

Reply

The Minister for Justice for Justice (Alan Shatter):

In February of this year, I introduced on a pilot basis, a project of civilianisation of certain port of entry functions at Dublin Airport. The purpose of the pilot is to test the feasibility of a new model for delivery of immigration services at ports of entry to the State by using a combination of civilian staff and member of An Garda Síochána.

I am pleased to say that the pilot has been a success in demonstrating the feasibility of the new model. The experience and learning from the pilot will form the basis for proposals to extend the model on a full scale basis to Dublin Airport, and possibly to other ports if entry to the State also. These proposals are being finalised and will, of course, be the subject of any necessary Government approval and consultation with all the parties concerned.

The pilot originally operated for 6 months and has been extended for a further period. It was never the principal intention that the pilot itself would result in savings: although, as it transpires, I understand that a result of its introduction, An Garda Síochána have been able to reassign four Garda members to other duties around the State.

The pilot, which was initiated in the context of the terms of the “Croke Park” Agreement with reference to the greater flexibility provisions in it required for the discharge of public services, involved assigning a total of three Executive Officers six (currently seven) Clerical Officers as immigration control personnel operating the passport control booths. They were appointed as immigration officers in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act, 2004 and assigned o the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration services (INIS).

The civilian staff undertake administrative tasks including decisions on the grant of permission to enter or refuse entry to the State to non-national in accordance with the Immigration Acts and Orders. They do not carry out any arrest or coercive functions (such as detention or removal) which remain the responsibility of An Garda Síochána. All officers selected for the pilot undergo extensive training. The staff concerned are deployed at Pier B in Terminal One between the hours of 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. No additional core pay or allowances are paid to staff during the operation of the pilot. Requirements for immigration services outside of these hours or at other locations are currently provided by An Garda Síochána who continue to preform their duties on a professional and effective manner.

While An Garda Síochána will continue to have a crucial role to play in the implementation and enforcement of immigration laws, there is the potential for greater use of civilians in the delivery of immigration services, including at ports of entry as demonstrated by the pilot. The pilot project has clearly demonstrated that and I intend to move forward on that basis.

My proposals in this area are driven with a number of goals in mind, including:

the release of Garda members  to undertake core policing functions;

to provide a more cost effective way of providing immigration services including at ports of entry to the State;

to deliver on the aims of the Public Service Agreement 2010 – 2014 (“Croke Park” Agreement) and the commitments therein by changing the way in which the Public Services are delivered to continue to meet the need for services and improve the experience of service users.

Personal Data request forms – 26th September 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to any problems regarding the personal data request form issued by the Garda Central Vetting Office.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

An individual may apply to the Garda Síochána for a disclosure under Section 4 of the Data Protection Act 1988 (as amended) of a copy of the personal data which is maintained by An Garda Síochána.  Such a disclosure is made to the individual to whom the data relates.  Data Protection disclosures are issued from the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) to individuals for their own personal use.  These disclosures cannot be construed as Garda Vetting, Security Clearance, Character Check or Character Reference and this is clearly stated on each such disclosure issued from that office.

The electronic signature of the Superintendent based at the GCVU, who is in charge of the Garda Síochána’s Data Protection Processing Unit, is utilised as the issuing authority on Data Protection disclosures issued from that office. The use of electronic signatures on documents such as Data Protection disclosures is legally provided for within the provisions of Part 2 of the Electronic Commerce Act 2000.

In view of the number of personal data disclosures, vetting and other documents which are issued by the GCVU, it would be wholly impractical to expect that each such document must be signed personally by the Garda Superintendent in charge.

If the Deputy wishes to provide specific information in relation to the application in question, including the name of the person, I will have it examined further.

Implemenation of the Charities Act 2009 –18th September 2012, To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality when he plans to implement the 2009 Charities Act.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Charities Act 2009 provides for an integrated system of mandatory registration and proportionate regulation and supervision of the charities sector in Ireland.  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 remainder will be commenced following the establishment of the Authority.

The Deputy will appreciate that the full implementation of the Charities Act, including the establishment of the Authority, had to be examined in the context of the comprehensive review of expenditure, which took place last year.  Arising from this review, and in the context of the need to reduce Government spending, I took the view that it was not possible to proceed with the full implementation of the Act at this time given the likely scale of the financial and staffing resources then envisaged, and that this should be deferred. In light of this decision my Department is currently examining options for resource efficient ways of making progress towards the objectives of the Charities Act.

It should be recalled that there is, at present, a range of regulatory oversight measures that can apply to charities. Many charities are already subject to scrutiny by various State Bodies. The Revenue Commissioners have granted charitable tax exemptions to almost 8,000 charities and have significant powers to ensure that such charities comply with tax law. A full list of these charities is available to the public at www.revenue.ie. Many charities are companies limited by guarantee and, as such, are also subject to the provisions of company law and are generally required to provide certain information to the Companies Registration Office under the Companies Acts. This information can then be accessed by the public. Such charities would also potentially be subject to scrutiny by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Charities that take the form of a trust are subject to the provisions of trust law. And, of course, any business entity is subject to general criminal and fraud legislation.

The Start Mortgages decision –18th September 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 605 of 14 September 2011, if he has had the opportunity to revise the 2009 legislation in response to the start mortgages decision.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The position is that the High Court judgment to which the Deputy refers has been appealed to the Supreme Court. Consultations between my Department and the Office of the Attorney General regarding the implications of that judgment and more recent  High Court judgments concerning the rights of lending institutions are ongoing.

Policing in the O’Connell St area – 17th July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied that there are sufficient policing numbers for the O’Connell Street area; if his attention has bean drawn to any increase in public order offences or anti social behaviour; his views on whether the area is safe for tourists and those working there, and if any specific actions are being considered for the area.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Deputy will be aware that the Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team, is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation and I have no function in the matter.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that a range of policing measures are in place to address crime, including public order offences, and anti-social behaviour in the area concerned, including any changes in crime trends. These include regular patrols by uniform and plain-clothes units, as well as additional high-visibility patrols directed by local Garda management and a number of targeted operational initiatives. Incidents of public disorder and anti-social behaviour are dealt with by way of juvenile or adult caution, fixed charge penalty notice or by criminal proceedings.

The Garda also make effective use of CCTV in the city centre, and these have provided to be of significant assistance in the prevention and detection of incidents of crime since their introduction.

Garda management keep all of these measures under continuing review with the aim of delivering an efficient and effective policing service and promoting the safety of residents and visitors alike.

Increase of anti-social behaviour in Temple Bar – 17th July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the increase in public order offences, public drinking, drug abuse and anti-social behaviour in the Temple Bar area, Dublin, a significant cultural and tourist centre; and the actions being taken to address this growing problem.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I am informed by the Garda authorities that policing measures are in place to address the difficulties referred to by the Deputy. These include the designation of certain areas as hotspots for such criminality and additional high visibility patrols being directed by local Garda management. Incidents of public disorder and other anti-social behaviour are dealt with by way of juvenile or adult caution, fixed charge penalty notice or by initiating criminal proceedings.

In particular, a high visibility policing initiative has recently been reintroduced by Assistant Commissioner Dublin Metropolitan Region, including within the Dublin city catchment area. Dedicated high visibility patrols are conducted in key thoroughfares at strategic times, as dictated by crime trends and foot fall for these areas. These measures will be subject to close monitoring by local Garda management and will be continually reviewed to ensure they target prevailing trends.

In addition, I am also informed that there are a number of specific initiatives in place in the Temple Bar area. These include Operation Pier involving the deployment of plain-clothes Garda personnel as well as high visibility uniform personnel from the local Community Policing Unit, supplemented by additional patrols conducted by District and Division uniform personnel. The initiative has had a significant impact in combating and reducing incidents of public order and anti-social behaviour in the area. The Garda authorities use a collaborative approach in addressing anti-social behaviour issues in the area including ongoing liaison with local business associations and other stakeholders.

The Gardaí also make effective use of CCTV in the city centre, with 44 CCTV cameras, monitored by Garda personnel from the Garda Camera Office on O’Connell Street, and a further 33 CCTV cameras monitored from Pearse Street Garda Station on a 24 hour basis. CCTV systems have proved to be of significant assistance to the Garda Authorities in the prevention and detection of incidents of crime since their introduction. Local Garda management closely monitors the allocation of all resources in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

I am further informed that situation is being kept under ongoing review and I can assure the Deputy that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner with a view to ensuring that our streets are safe for all.

A property transaction tax – 10th July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if any steps have been taken to establish a property transaction register; and when he envisions it to be up and running.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

Section 86 of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 provides that the Property Services Regulatory Authority shall prepare and maintain a register of residential property sales prices in the State. I am advised by the Authority that it expects to publish the register by the end of September 2012.  It is anticipated that the residential property sales prices register will comprise a database searchable by a number of criteria including address of property, value of property, by county, city or town.  The information which will be contained in the database will be the full address of the property, its sale price and date of sale.  The register will, at the outset, cover all sales between 1 January 2010 to date of publication.  It is anticipated that the information will be updated regularly and will be current within 30 days of the actual date of sale of the property.

Section 87 of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 provides that the Authority shall establish and maintain a database relating to commercial property leases. It is anticipated by the Authority that the commercial leases database will be put in place during the early part of 2013 and that it will contain data relating to leases entered into after 3 April 2012.

A technology visa – 3rd July 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the possibility of establishing a visa scheme specific to persons working in the technology and related sectors, which will have specific criteria for admission in order that it will not be open to abuse but will allow Irish companies and foreign technology companies investing here to recruit the necessary skilled personnel from abroad.

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he supports the principle of establishing a specific technology visa scheme to help the indigenous sector and multinationals located here to attract the necessary talent to ensure that Ireland is established as the high tech capital of Europe.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

While I am not averse in principle to the establishment of an immigration regime specifically geared to the technology sector, it would have to be on the basis that there was concrete evidence of a particular skills deficit in the labour market that cannot be filled by Irish or EU citizens.  That labour market assessment would ultimately be a matter for my colleague the Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation.   In this regard it should be borne in mind that the technology sector spans a broad range of skills with differing levels of supply and demand.

I would also envisage that applicants for any such programmes would be subject to a rigorous assessment of their qualifications and experience to ensure that their skill sets are appropriate for the sector in question.

In any event, the existing visa application arrangements are entirely flexible and designed to cater for the widest possible range of applicants who may wish to come here as workers, visitors, professionals and so forth.

The number of applicants for the investor visa – 26th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of persons who have applied for the entrepreneur or investor visa scheme; and the number who were successful.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

My Department has been open to accept applications under the The Immigrant Investor Programme and the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme since 16 April of this year.  The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service have informed me that, to date, five applications have been lodged for the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme, which are being examined as part of the evaluation process outlined in the published guidelines.

At this early stage therefore no applications have been approved or rejected. Nevertheless this early interest is encouraging as it was envisaged that applicants would require quite some time to put together their applications and supporting business plans.

To date no formal applications have been received from investors but  I understand that there continues to be a significant number of enquiries from potential participants and their representatives.

Number of staff in the Department’s redeployment pool – 26th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons in his Department’s redeployment pool, including agencies responsible to it, that is, those persons who are to be redeployed as their current role is no longer necessary, but have not been redeployed as of yet.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

To date, I understand that my Department has placed 12 posts in the redeployment pool operated by the Public Appointments Service (PAS).  I am also advised that other areas in the Justice Vote Group and Agencies under the aegis of the Department, for which I have information to hand, have not placed any posts in the same pool.  I would draw the Deputies’ attention to the fact that it is posts rather than persons that Departments and Agencies place in the pool and therefore the situation of a maximum time for a person does not arise.

The Deputies will be aware that my Department and the Vote Group generally is subject to the Employment Control Framework for the public service and available actions, including the opportunities afforded by redeployment, are being used to ensure compliance with the limits that the Framework imposes.

Public sector staffing numbers – 12th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the percentage of staff working in the public sector, including in the civil services, that he deems to fall into the category of frontline staff, administrative, management, elected representative and any other relevant categories; and the way the pay budget is allocated across these categories in percentage and real terms in terms of as a proportion of the Department expenditure on salaries.

Reply Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

There are approximately 22,800 staff employed by my Department and Agencies under its aegis.  This includes some 13,600 members of An Garda Síochána; 3,250 Prison Officers; and 270 Probation Officers, most of whom could be described as “front-line”. The above numbers are expressed as whole time equivalents.

It is not possible to provide the exact pay breakdown sought by the Deputy. However, the overall pay budget for my Department and Agencies under its aegis as published in the 2012 Revised Estimates Volume is €1,409 million which includes approximately €960 million in respect of An Garda Síochána pay, €240 million in respect of Prison Service pay and €21 million in respect of the Probation Service pay. This would equate to 87% approximately of the Justice Votes.

It is of course the case that there would be a range of other staff across the Justice Sector, including administrative civil servants, many of whose roles would involve a mixture of administrative/front-line duties.

The investor visa and the Schengen Agreement – 18th April 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality in relation to the new investor visa scheme, if he anticipates Ireland’s position outside of the Schengen Agreement as potentially providing a serious obstacle to take up of the scheme in view of the fact that persons will not be able to travel for business or pleasure in Europe once they have invested in and entered Ireland.

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if the new investor visa scheme will allow participants to travel and do business in the UK..

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

Any foreign national who is granted residency in Ireland under the Immigrant Investor Programme will be subject to the immigration laws and regulations of the United Kingdom and the Member States of the Schengen area if they wish to travel to those jurisdictions for business or recreational purposes.  Such persons will of course be free to apply to those states for an appropriate permission for legal entry for whatever purpose and obviously it is important that we do not equate a requirement to have a visa to enter the UK or the Schengen zone with denial of access.

It is of course a matter for Schengen Member States and the UK to decide on the operation of their visa regimes. However, it would not be uncommon for friendly countries to regard their respective decisions on visa applications as persuasive when considering applications to enter their territory.

In relation to the wider point about Ireland’s position in relation to the Schengen Agreement it is not possible for us to simultaneously participate in that Agreement and remain part of the Common Travel Area (CTA) with the UK. Leaving the CTA would mean, for example, the implementation of full border controls between Ireland and the UK at all ports of entry and at the land border with Northern Ireland.

I can inform the Deputy that the longer term public policy objective in this regard is to develop a Common Travel Area visa with the UK which both countries committed to pursuing in an agreement signed in December 2011.  A Common Travel Area visa would allow tourists and business visitors to travel to the Common Travel Area and to travel freely between Ireland and the UK. It is anticipated that such a visa will prove an attractive option for tourists and business visitors and it is intended to conduct a trial scheme which will be used to gauge likely demand and to resolve the substantial practical issues around its introduction.

Is the short term visa scheme reciprocal with the UK – 18th April,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if the short-term visa waiver scheme currently in place is a reciprocal agreement with the UK for persons travelling here.

Reply

The Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme, which commenced on 1 July, 2011 allows tourists or business people who have lawfully entered the UK, including Northern Ireland, on a valid UK visa to travel on to Ireland without the requirement to obtain an Irish visa.

Nationals of seventeen countries are currently included in the programme including India, China, Russia, various priority Middle East countries and others.  As part of the initiative, nationals of these countries, who are long-term legal residents in the UK, will have the cost of an Irish visa waived should they wish to visit Ireland. It is estimated that there are up to 1 million people in this category in the UK.

The Government agreed on 28 February to the extension of the Programme for a further period of four years i.e. to end October 2016, to add Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Programme and, as a further measure to encourage tourism, to waive the fee for visas for long-term residents from the countries covered by the Programme who live in the Schengen area. This last measure will be reviewed after six months.

The Programme as it operates at present does not for technical reasons allow for reciprocity between the UK and Ireland. This is primarily due to the UK requirement that all visa applicants supply fingerprint (biometrics) data electronically as an essential element of applying for a UK visa. Quite obviously Ireland does not have the capacity to capture such data for all visa applications worldwide; currently for UK visas this is done in over 150 countries.

However, there is very close cooperation between the immigration service of my Department and the UK immigration authorities and I regularly discuss with both the UK’s Home Secretary and Minister for Immigration matters relating to the operation and oversight of the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangement. In December 2011, together with the UK’s Immigration Minister, I signed an agreement which, among other things, commits both countries to developing a Common Travel Area visa. Such a visa would allow tourists and business visitors to travel to the CTA and to travel freely between Ireland and the UK. It is anticipated that such a visa will prove an attractive option for tourists and business visitors and it is intended to conduct a trial scheme which will be used to gauge likely demand and to resolve the substantial practical issues around its introduction.  The availability of a visa for the Common Travel Area would, of course, supersede the existing Waiver Programme.

Changes in Garda station opening and closing time – 27th March,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide any information he may have in relation to the changes of opening and closing times of Garda stations in Dublin south east and any proposed changes to the community garda position.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

As the Deputy is aware, it is proposed to reduce the public opening hours of the following stations in the Dublin South, South Central and East Divisions – Cabinteely, Stepaside, Kill O’ the Grange, Sundrive, Terenure and Donnybrook. These stations are currently open to the public on a 24-hour basis and will, in future, be closed to the public between 10pm and 8am. It is important to remember that while the Garda stations in question will have reduced opening hours to the public, they will remain as functioning Garda stations on a 24 hour basis.

The allocation of resources, including personnel to Community Policing etc, is a matter for the Garda Commissioner.  The priority will remain that an effective and professional policing service is provided to every part of the community, both rural and urban.

Firearms licensing – 27th March, To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has considered a matter (details supplied) regarding firearms licensing.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I take it the Deputies are referring to a recent High Court case involving Judicial Reviews of decisions by Chief Superintendents in firearms cases.  What was at issue were decisions by Chief Superintendents to refuse applications for licenses for high calibre handguns. That case was settled with no admission of wrongdoing on the part of the State but with an undertaking to consider applications afresh and give reasons to applicants where applications are turned down.

In an interim report which I received from the Garda Commissioner he indicated that he was reviewing certain aspects of the operation of the firearms licensing system and I await a further report from him.

Tragically, the House will have been reminded in recent weeks of the dangers which licensed firearms can pose for members of An Garda Síochána and others and of the dangers of firearms generally.  For my part, I am determined to ensure that in the operation of the firearms licensing system, the question of public safety is paramount.

Investment and enterprise visa scheme – 23rd February 2012, To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will clarify the position regarding the new investment and enterprise visa scheme (details supplied).

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The specific application procedures including application forms, other supporting documentation and other requirements of the programmes are currently being drafted and will made available at the formal launch in March. I would also hope to have detailed ‘frequently asked questions’ material available at the launch which will address the issues referred to by the Deputy. In the meantime, the Deputy is free to contact my private office which can arrange for a briefing for him on the programme. Such an arrangement, of course, can also be made available to any Member of the House should they wish to avail of it.

Parental rights for same sex couples – 14th February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will clarify those parental, or other, rights that currently extend to both partners in a same sex relationship when one is the biological parent of the child and one is not.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Guardianship of Children Acts 1964 to 1997 set out who may have parental responsibility for a child. The position is that the married mother and father of a child are jointly guardians of the child. In relation to a child born outside marriage, the mother is sole guardian unless she and the father make a statutory declaration appointing him joint guardian of the child, or the father obtains a court order appointing him guardian of the child. Guardianship entitles a parent to make important decisions regarding a child’s upbringing, for example, deciding on the child’s religion, education, medical treatment and where he/she lives. Both parents are responsible for maintaining the child, and a father may apply for custody of or access to his child, whether or not he is the child’s guardian.

Where a child’s parent is in a relationship with another person, whether of the same sex or of the opposite sex, that other person has no parental responsibility for the child under the law as it stands. In this regard, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions numbers 390, 397 and 411 of 7 February 2012 in which I said:

“The Programme for Government includes a commitment to amend the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 to address any anomalies or omissions, including those relating to children. In this regard, the Law Reform Commission has made detailed recommendations in its Report on the Legal Aspects of Family Relationships. In particular, the Commission recommends that legislative provisions be introduced to facilitate the extension of guardianship (parental responsibility) to civil partners and step-parents either by agreement with the other parties who have parental responsibility for the child or by application to court. The Commission’s recommendations are under consideration in my Department with a view to preparing legislative proposals.”

Tuesday, 14th February, 2012 – Minister Alan Shatter

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is considering allowing high skilled workers who have completed two years on the Irish green card scheme to apply for long term residency in its current form until such time that permanent residency status is possible.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

At the present time, applicants for Long Term Residence are required to be resident in the State for a period of five years and to have five consecutive work permits. This requirement is in place for all applicants.

In relation to the specific category of immigrants referred to by the Deputy, I have asked my officials to examine his proposal and I will revert to him in due course.

The review process for the investor visa programme – 9th February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality in relation to the immigrant investor programme recently announced, if he will clarify the review process that will apply after two years in respect of those whose applications have been accepted.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The review process will consist of an appraisal of the foreign national in question to determine if he or she is continuing to abide by the conditions of their residence permission.  In effect, it will be a continuation of the due diligence process undertaken at the time of application. I would anticipate that ordinarily residence permission would be approved for a further period of 3 years. While I cannot obviously be exhaustive, the circumstances where this would not happen would include for example where an applicant did not act in good faith or where adverse information came to light about his/her good character. Also, where a person failed to honour the terms of their qualifying investment this too would have negative consequences.

I will publish more information on the Immigrant Investor Programme and the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme when both programmes are formally launched in mid-March.

Should nightclubs be allowed to serve drinks in glasses – 9th February 2012,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 150 of 1 February, his views that nightclubs should be permitted to serve alcohol in glasses in view of concerns arising from broken glass harming persons accidentally or unintentionally.

Reply Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

As I indicated in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 150 of 1 February, neither the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011 nor the Metrology Acts 1980 to 1996 regulate the type of containers in which alcohol is sold or supplied. The position is that the majority of licensed premises, including those operating as nightclubs, are operated in a peaceable and orderly manner by the licensees concerned and the imposition of a statutory prohibition on the use of glass containers would be disproportionate and unreasonable. Of course licensees have a duty of care towards their customers and this may necessitate the use of alternative types of containers in certain circumstances and the use of such containers is not prohibited.

The serving of alcohol in clubs and festivals – 1st February 2012, To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if there is legislation that permits nightclubs to serve alcohol in glasses; and if this legislation also applies to sporting events and festivals at which alcohol is usually provided in a plastic cup. Reply Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The position is that neither the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011 nor the Metrology Acts 1980 to 1996 regulate the type of containers in which alcohol is sold or supplied. Health and safety concerns may, however, have a bearing on the type of containers used for this purpose in certain situations.

The Start Mortgages decision – 15th December 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has concluded discussions with the Office of the Attorney General in relation to the High Court decision regarding start mortgages.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The position is that options to respond to the High Court judgment continue to be considered in the light of advices from the Office of the Attorney General.

Prison after care programmes – 24th November 2011, To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to implement or assist in after care programmes for those who have just been released from prison.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Irish Prison Service provides a range of rehabilitative programmes which have the dual purpose of providing prisoners with purposeful activity while serving their sentences and encouraging and equipping them to lead productive lives on release.   Several programmes and services have a specific post-release focus.

The Prison Service funds the Gate Service operated by Business in the Community Ireland (BITC) which provides a training, education, and employment placement programme for prisoners and ex-prisoners.  The GATE Service operates in seven of the country’s fourteen institutions.  The BITC Linkage Programme provides a similar service in the remaining institutions and operates in partnership with the Probation Service.

The BITC Mentoring Service which is jointly funded by the Prison Service and Dormant Accounts Funding is in place in Castlerea, Cork and the Training Unit.  Mentoring has been shown internationally to have a positive impact on the resettlement and desistance of ex-prisoners.

Focus Ireland operates a pilot homeless service in Cloverhill Prison which supports remand prisoners in accessing appropriate services and accommodation on the pathway to independent living.  The project is supported by the Irish Prison Service, the Probation Service and the Health Service Executive (HSE).  Homelessness support services are also provided in Cork and Limerick prisons.

A weekly clinic service is provided in ten prisons by the Health Service Executive Community Welfare Service through the Homeless Persons Unit (HPU).  Referrals generally are at the pre-release stage and Community Welfare Officers provide information and clinic services, and arrange emergency and other accommodation options, supplementary benefits and fast tracked medical cards.

The Prison Education Centres, staffed by Vocational Education Committee teachers, provide pre-release and post-release programmes aimed at assisting prisoner resettlement.  These are currently being reviewed as part of an on-going comprehensive independent audit of prison education.

Prisoner resettlement is also an objective of the Prison Service’s integrated sentence management system.  It is in operation in all prisons and seeks to provide integrated cross disciplinary sentence management focused on the prisoner’s resettlement from the moment of committal to release.

The Minister’s view in a visa proposal – 24th November 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the earned regularisation scheme proposal for undocumented persons and their families living in this country.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I refer the Deputy to my reply below to Parliamentary Question No. 168 of 17 November 2011.  The position is unchanged since then.

I am aware that there have been proposals of this nature and of course my Department will give due consideration to the issue.   However great caution should be exercised before embarking on such a project.  A proposal of this nature could give rise to very large, unpredictable and potentially very costly impacts across the full range of public and social services.

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 the Member States, then and now, is clearly against any form of process that would in any way legitimise the status of those unlawfully present without first examining the merits of their individual case.

Any possible implication for the operation of the Common Travel Area would also have to be very carefully considered.

Amount paid to Gardaí per court visit and barristers fees – 25th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount paid to gardaí in overtime for attending in court in 2010; and the way this compares to the amount paid by the Director of Public Prosecutions in barristers’ fees in the same year.

Reply Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Garda authorities have estimated that in 2010 expenditure on overtime arising from the attendance of Garda personnel in court amounted to approximately €13.5m.

As I am not responsible for the payment of legal fees on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions I do not have the other details referred to by the Deputy.

The cost to the State of the legal aid scheme – 25th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will confirm the costs to the State of the legal aid scheme in 2010 and 2011.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I wish to inform the Deputy that the State incurs costs in respect of two separate categories of legal aid. The costs incurred in 2010 and 2011  are as follows:

Criminal Legal Aid

Expenditure on criminal legal aid for 2010 was €56.544 million and to date in 2011 is €44.752 million.

Civil Legal Aid

The Legal Aid Board received Exchequer funding of €32.192 million in 2010 which included €7.967 million in respect of the Refugee Legal Service (RLS). To date in 2011 Exchequer funding to the Board has amounted to €22.528 million, including €4.819 million for the RLS.

I have no function in the matter of legal costs incurred by the National Asset Management Agency as this is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

18th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding proposals and recommendations coming from him in relation to reforming the business permission scheme into an enterprise and investment visa.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

As I informed the Deputy in my reply to Parliamentary Question No 131 on 6 October 2011,  I am currently considering recommendations for a new immigration scheme for entrepreneurship and investment.

<Previous PQ>

When investment visa legislation will come before the Dáil – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality when he anticipates the new legislation on entrepreneurs and investment visas to be tabled in Dáil Éireann.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I can confirm that my Department has been working on new immigration schemes in the area of entrepreneurship and investment.  I believe there is scope for dynamic initiatives from my Department to contribute to our national recovery and the area of entrepreneurship and investment is a prime opportunity.  I am currently considering recommendations for a scheme which will not require legislation to be tabled before the Oireachtas.

The amount the department will spend on consultancy fees – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I would like to inform the Deputy that the estimated spend by my Department on consultancy in 2011 is in the region of €53,000 and the estimated spend on Value for Money reviews for 2011 is in the region of €2,000. It should be noted that all Value for Money reviews are now carried out in – house by Departmental staff.

When investor visa legislation will come before the Dáil – 6th October 2011, To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality when he anticipates the new legislation on entrepreneurs and investment visas to be tabled in Dáil Éireann.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I can confirm that my Department has been working on new immigration schemes in the area of entrepreneurship and investment.  I believe there is scope for dynamic initiatives from my Department to contribute to our national recovery and the area of entrepreneurship and investment is a prime opportunity.  I am currently considering recommendations for a scheme which will not require legislation to be tabled before the Oireachtas.

The abolition of upward only rent reviews – 20th September 2011, To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the proposed abolition of upward only rent reviews for existing leases.

Reply

The Programme for Government indicates that legislation will be introduced to end upward only rent reviews for existing business leases.  Following on from an initial consultation process with the Attorney General, I have forwarded outline proposals to her for further examination and development.

Those proposals have already been the subject of preliminary discussion by Government.  The recently published Legislative Programme indicates that the relevant legislation will be published during the current Dail session.

On a related matter, it is also my intention to secure the speedy enactment of the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 which is awaiting Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann.   Among the Committee Stage amendments which I will be proposing in relation to that Bill is a series of amendments relating to the establishment of a public database containing relevant details of letting arrangements and rent reviews in the commercial property market.   It has long been acknowledged that the absence of such a database has contributed to the undoubted information deficit which exists in this area.   When established, the information contained in the database will introduce a welcome degree of transparency into the workings of the commercial property market.    Accurate information about rent levels is a critical element in ensuring that a true market rent emerges from the rent review process and I am acutely conscious of the fact that the perceived absence of such information has led to a lack of confidence in the current rent review system.

The implications of introducing a ban on the sale of sex – 20th September 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has examined the report from his Department following their visit to Stockholm; and if he has reviewed at the Attorney General’s recent advices regarding the legal and constitutional implications of introducing a ban on the sale of sex.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

In 2010, the Swedish government completed an evaluation of its 1999 legislation criminalising the purchase of sexual services. Following its publication, the Dignity Project arranged a visit to Stockholm to learn more about the evaluation. The delegation included representation from my Department.  The Dignity Project was a research project funded by the EU. An inter-agency and inter-jurisdictional initiative led by the Dublin Employment Pact and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, it examined services provided to victims of human trafficking with a view to replicating best practice models in partner countries.  My Department’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit and the Garda National Immigration Bureau were partners with observer status.

In this jurisdiction, it is not an offence to sell sex. In general, it is not an offence to purchase sex either. Consequently, neither party to the transaction is currently criminalised. Any proposal to amend the law in terms of criminalising the purchase of sex would therefore, require very careful examination.

Our legislative approach to prostitution is based on protecting society from the more intrusive aspects of such activity from a public order perspective, while also seeking to protect prostitutes from exploitation. Accordingly, it is an offence to solicit in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution. The offence can be committed by the prostitute, the client or a third party – a pimp, for example. It is also an offence to organise prostitution, coerce or compel a person to be a prostitute, knowingly live on the earnings of a prostitute, or keep or manage a brothel.

In addition, our 2008 human trafficking legislation made it an offence to knowingly solicit or importune a trafficked person, in any place, for the purpose of prostitution.

I am examining a report prepared by my department following the visit to Stockholm and which was submitted to the Attorney General’s Office. I am also examining the Attorney’s advices concerning the legal and constitutional implications of introducing a ban on the purchase of sex.         .

The Start Mortgages decision – 14th September 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the Start Mortgages decision; and the steps that are being taken to revise the 2009 legislation in relation to response orders by including amending legislation in the miscellaneous provisions bill.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The position is that my Department is in consultations with the Office of the Attorney General regarding the implications of the High Court judgment concerned. The action to be taken is dependent on the outcome of those discussions.

An INIS case – 19th July 2011, To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review the case of a person (details supplied).

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for further permission to remain in the State has been received from the legal representatives of the person referred to by the Deputy.  I have noted the unfortunate circumstances of the person’s situation and I will be making a decision in this case shortly.

I will inform the Deputy of the outcome.

The length minor offences stay on a persons record – 19th July 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to change the law in relation to the length of time minor offences remain on a person’s record.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I am pleased to say that I intend to publish the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill in the Autumn.  The Bill, which will  build on the recommendations in the 2007 Law Reform Commission Report on Spent Convictions, will provide for the non-disclosure of certain convictions when a person is seeking employment, once certain conditions have been met.  These conditions will relate mainly to the nature of the offence, the length of time since the person was convicted and the type of employment they are seeking.  Certain convictions, including convictions for sexual offences will be excluded from the benefits of the Bill, while anyone wishing to work with children or vulnerable adults will have to disclose their previous convictions.

Power to enable Gardaí to confiscate alcohol – 30th June 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce powers for members of An Garda Síochána to enable them to confiscate alcohol from persons drinking in public.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The position is that section 37A of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, as inserted by section 14 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008, contains detailed provisions permitting a member of the Garda Siochana to seize intoxicating liquor in the possession of a person under 18 years of age. This power may be exercised where the member believes with reasonable cause that intoxicating liquor in a bottle or other container has been, is being or is intended to be consumed by the person concerned in a place other than a private dwelling.

Moreover, section 8A of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, as inserted by section 19 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008, provides that a member of the Garda Siochana may, in certain circumstances, seize and remove intoxicating liquor in a bottle or other container from a person. The circumstances in which this power may be exercised include those where the member believes with reasonable cause that the person concerned is acting in a place other than a private dwelling in a manner that gives rise to a reasonable apprehension for the safety of persons or property or for the maintenance of the public peace.

Reversing the fee for obtaining a special exemption order – 30th June 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider reversing the fee for obtaining a special exemption order to pre-2008 levels, half the price of the current fee.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The increase in fees applicable to Special Exemption Orders provided for in the District Courts (Fees) Order 2008 (S.I. No. 202 of 2008) was the first such increase since 2004.  The current court fee is €300.   A report on this matter  was commissioned by the Irish Nightclub Industry Association and I recently met with members of the Association to discuss their concerns.  While I am aware of the pressures on licensees, I am also aware that there is a need to maintain a balance in this matter and I have no proposals at the present time to reduce this fee.

Thursday, 23rd June, 2011 – Minister Alan Shatter

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce the 116000 European hotline for missing children; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I am informed that the telephone number to which the Deputy refers has been reserved by the European Commission as a common missing children telephone hotline for the entire EU.  It is made available by national telecoms regulators to organisations they consider to be qualified to offer such a service.  The allocation of the number in Ireland is therefore a matter in the first instance for the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

I am informed that ComReg has published an information note on its website which makes all relevant information available to potential applicants who may wish to provide the 116 000 service.  It also issued on a number of occasions national press advertisements inviting applications, most recently on 20 June.

Garda vetting – 23rd June 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the vetting system for those working with children (details supplied); the reason that this process is taking so long; and his plans to improve the system.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) provides a centralised vetting service for all registered organisations nationwide. The organisation to which the Deputy refers is registered with the GCVU for employment vetting purposes.  I am informed by the Garda Authorities that there have been no changes to the procedures in place for the processing of Garda vetting applications.

The length of time currently being taken to process vetting applications is a matter of concern and I am determined to take action to address it.  I recognise that it is important to process these applications within a reasonable time frame both for the benefit of the applicants and the organisations involved.

A number of immediate measures are being taken to improve the situation.  The sanction of the Department of Finance has been obtained to retain the services of ten temporary employees in the GCVU.  A further sanction has been obtained to engage an additional ten temporary employees for the Unit and the process of recruiting these is underway.  This should have an impact on processing times.  In addition, further steps are under consideration with a view to alleviating the pressure on the staff of the GCVU and to reduce the time taken for the processing of applications.

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that at present there is a total of five Gardaí, 76 full-time Garda civilian personnel and ten temporary civilian personnel assigned to the GCVU.  This represents a very significant increase in the level of personnel assigned to the unit, which stood at only 13 before the current process of development in Garda vetting began in 2005.

The average processing time for vetting applications fluctuates in line with periods of increased demand.  In processing an individual vetting application, additional time may be required in cases where clarification is needed as to the details provided or where other enquiries need to be made, for example, when the person in question has lived and worked abroad.  There will always be a reasonably significant time period required to process a vetting application.  Registered organisations have been advised to take account of this in their recruitment and selection process.  However, the Gardaí make every effort to reduce the time to the minimum possible consistent with carrying out what are very necessary checks. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that, at present, the average processing time for vetting applications received at the GCVU is approximately 10 weeks.

The GCVU has managed a substantial increase over recent years in the numbers of vetting applications it receives from around 188,000 in 2007 to almost 292,000 in 2010.  At present, there are approximately 55,000 applications in the course of being processed.

Wednesday, 15th June, 2011 – Minister Alan Shatter

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider the introduction of legislation to compel management companies of private multi-housing developments to include the views of all tenants both renting and buying when drafting or amending rules governing the development; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply The position is that section 23 of the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 provides that an owners’ management company may, as respects the multi-unit development for which that company has responsibility, make house rules relating to the effective operation and maintenance of the development. These rules must be consistent with any covenants or conditions contained in the title documents and be made in a manner consistent with the objective of advancing the quiet and peaceful occupation of residential units in the development and the fair and equitable balancing of the rights and obligations of the occupiers and unit owners. Except where house rules are made prior to the sale of the first residential unit in new developments, such rules shall not be made unless they have been considered and approved by a meeting of unit owners. Notice of any such meeting must be given to each unit owner not less than 21 days in advance and the notice must be accompanied by a draft of the proposed rules. If the rules are approved, the owners’ management company must provide a copy to each unit owner. The same procedure applies to any changes in rules. Section 23 also provides that it shall be a term of every letting of a residential unit in a multi-unit development that the letting is subject to observance of the house rules by all those occupying the property. Thursday, 9th June, 2011 – Minister Alan Shatter To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality when the business visa scheme came into force; the number who have availed of this scheme to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

I presume the Deputy is referring to the administrative scheme operated by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department known as Business Permission.

Non-EEA nationals who wish to pursue a business activity (in a capacity other than as an employed person for whom an employer would have to obtain a work permit) must first obtain Business Permission.  Information outlining the requirements of the Business Permission scheme which are very specific can be obtained from the INIS website “www.inis.gov.ie” listed under Business Permission.

The Business Permission scheme has been in existence for well in excess of 10 years. From the statistics readily available, I can inform the Deputy that in the period of 2008 to 30 April 2011, some 411 applications for Business Permission were received by INIS. In the same period, 218 applications were approved, 172 refused and 80 deemed abandoned.

The Deputy may also be interested in my recent reply to Parliamentary Question No. 107 (Ref. 1443/11) of 2 June 2011 confirming that my Department is presently working on a new immigration scheme in the area of entrepreneurship and investment.

If the Minister has considered an entrpreneur visa – 2nd June 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has considered the adoption of an entrepreneur visa similar to that in the UK.

Reply I can confirm that my Department has been working on new immigration schemes in the area of entrepreneurship and investment. As I indicated in my contribution to Dail debate on the launch of a short term visa waiver programme for visitors travelling to Ireland from the UK, I believe there is scope for my Department to play a more proactive role in the national recovery effort and the area of entrepreneurship and investment is a case in point. I expect to receive recommendations in this area in early course. Wednesday, 25th May, 2011 – Minister Alan Shatter To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has considered the introduction of a rent control system (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has considered combining a rent control system with a compulsory rental order system (details supplied).

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Government indicates that legislation will be introduced to end upward only rent reviews for existing leases. I am engaged in on-going consultations with the Attorney General in order to determine how this matter can best be dealt with. That consultation process will, of course, take account of all relevant proposals which are pertinent to this matter, and will also have regard to the views and positions of stakeholders and interested parties. However, there are no proposals in contemplation for the introduction of a rent control system at this time.

Should the IHRC be accountable to the Oireachtas – 3rd May 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider, in the interests of independence, transparency and accountability, making the Irish Human Rights Commission directly accountable to the Houses of the Oireachtas instead of his Department.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

Under current legislation the Chief Executive of the Commission is accountable to the Public Accounts Committee. The Commission can also be required to make a presentation to an Oireachtas Committee on any matter that has been considered by the Commission. I am satisfied that the independence of the Commission and its ability under current arrangements to discharge its responsibilities in a transparent way are not in doubt.

Legislation to enhance the rights of a person with autism – 21st April 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans regarding the introduction of legislation to enhance and enforce the rights of persons with autism.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

Ireland has comprehensive legal protection against discrimination on the ground of disability. Persons with disabilities, including persons with autism, are protected from discrimination and afforded reasonable accommodation in access to goods and services and in the field of employment, under the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2008 and the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2008, respectively. In enforcing their right to non-discrimination, people with disabilities and their carers may seek advice from the Equality Authority. If they feel they have been discriminated against contrary to law, they may make a complaint to the Equality Tribunal.

I might also mention that it is the Government’s intention to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure that all necessary requirements under the Convention are being met.

The UN Convention against Corruption – 14th April 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption, which was signed on 9 December 2003; and if, in signing the convention, any qualifying declarations or reservations were made at the time.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption was signed on behalf of Ireland, without any reservation, when the Instrument was opened for signature in December 2003.  Arrangements are currently being made to enable ratification of this measure, so that, following Government approval, the Convention can be adopted by the State.

Article 12 of the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption – 14th April 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to transpose in to domestic law Article 12 of the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption; and if any other Articles from this convention still need to be suitably addressed by him and the expected timetable for doing so.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The Government is committed to consolidating and reforming the law on corruption.  My officials have commenced work with a view to bringing proposals to Government in due course.  The provisions of the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, along with the provisions of all other relevant international instruments, will be considered in the development of those proposals.

When will the Gambling Bill be brought before the Oireachtas –14th April 2011,

To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will bring forward the Gambling Bill in view of the fact that the Betting (Amendment) Bill is expected to be published during the summer session and that both bills are closely interlinked in terms of properly licensing and regulating gambling in this country.

Reply

Minister for Justice and Equality (Alan Shatter):

The purpose of the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2011, to be published by the Minister for Finance, is to bring internet and telephone betting within the licensing provisions of the Betting Act, 1931.  Provision has already been made in the Finance Act 2011 to tax such forms of betting, subject to the adoption of a licensing procedure.

The Deputy may also be aware that a document entitledOptions for Regulating Gambling was published last December, as part of a review of gambling being conducted by my Department. The previous Government declined to adopt a policy on gambling arising from that review.  It falls to me, therefore, to consider whether the proposals outlined in Options for Regulating Gambling represent the best choices in terms of settling a revised regulatory architecture for gambling, into the future.  Any legislative proposals arising from my examination and subsequent discussions at Cabinet, will follow in the normal course.