Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if her attention has been drawn to Circuit Court proceedings that have been postponed and delayed around the country due to the appointment of persons to the new Court of Appeal and vacancies arising in the Circuit Court as a result of this; when she expects replacement appointments to be made in the Circuit Court so that Circuit Court sittings can proceed as normal; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
REPLY (Nov 18, 2014)
Minister Frances Fitzgerald:
The scheduling of court cases and the allocation of court business is a matter for the Presidents of the courts and the presiding judge who are under the Constitution independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. There are currently seven vacancies on the Circuit Court arising from a retirement on 30 September 2014; the elevation of one judge to the Court of Appeal on 29 October 2014 and the elevation of five judges to the High Court on 30 October 2014. The Government is, of course, cognisant of the need to ensure that the establishment of the Court of Appeal does not adversely affect the business of the other court jurisdictions. As the Deputy will note, the vacancies in the Circuit Court have only recently arisen and it is my intention to request that the Government make the nominations shortly with a view to the appointments being made by the President in the coming weeks.
January 15, 2014
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the estimated number of person's imprisoned in Ireland for non-payment of court fines in each of the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.
Reply from Minister Alan Shatter: A breakdown of the number of persons imprisoned solely for non-payment of fines for each of the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 is set out above.
I can advise the Deputy that the number of such persons held in custody at any one time is a tiny fraction of the overall prisoner population. To illustrate this point, on 14 January, 2014, 6 people, 0.15 percent, out of a prison population of 3,973 in custody that day fell into this category.
January 15, 2014
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average sentence actually served by persons for non-payment of court fines; and the average current cost to the State, per day, of accommodating a typical fine defaulter in the prison system.
Reply from Minister Alan Shatter: I wish to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide the information without a manual examination of records. This exercise would entail the diversion of a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time which could not be justified in current circumstances.
However, I can advise that in 2012 there were a total of 8,304 committals to prison for non-payment of a Court ordered fine. Based on a statistical sample, the Irish Prison Service has determined that the vast majority of these committals spent less than 2 days in custody and on average spent 1 day in custody.
I am strongly of the view that we need to keep the numbers of people committed to prison for the non-payment of fines to the absolute minimum. The Fines Payment and Recovery Bill, which was published last July and scheduled for Dáil Committee Stage on 22 January, represents a major reform of our fine payment and recovery system and provides for the payment of fines by instalment and attachment of earnings.
Allowing everyone to pay a fine by instalment and introducing attachment of earnings are important new reforms to the fine collection system which will lead to improved collection rates for fines. The new measures provided for, combined with the requirement that judges must take a person’s financial circumstances into account when setting a fine, should result in a reduction in the number of people committed to prison.
When this Bill is enacted, it will be easier for people to pay a fine and where they fail to do so, there will be sufficient alternatives available to the courts to all but eliminate the need to commit anyone to prison for the non-payment of fines.
The average cost of accommodating a typical fine defaulter based on the 2012 'Cost of Offender figures (including variable costs of prisoner catering, prisoner gratuity, bedding, prisoner toiletries, dentist fees and medicines) equates to €10.44 per prisoner space per day.