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.
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the definition of a Stateless person in Irish law.
REPLY (Oct 7, 2014)
Minister Frances Fitzgerald:
There is no statutory definition of stateless person under Irish law. However, the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended), refers to a stateless person as "within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons of the 28th day of September 1954". Article 1 of this Convention defines a stateless person as someone “who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”.
April 2, 2014
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will detail the means test carried out by the Legal Aid Board for persons who are seeking their services; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: I wish to refer the Deputy to the Civil Legal Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996-2013 which set out the basis concerning financial eligibility for civil legal aid.
Information concerning financial eligibility is also available on the Legal Aid Board's website and may be accessed via this link: http://www.legalaidboard.ie/lab/Publishing.nsf/Content/How_do_I_qualify.
February 11, 2014
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding programmes that are available from his Department to assist projects involved in youth diversion and rehabilitation; and to whom should applications for State support be directed in each instance.
REPLY / Minister Ruairí Quinn:
There are no funding programmes available from my Department designed to directly assist projects involved in youth diversion and rehabilitation and therefore no application process for such support.
In addition to funding overall mainstream provision for education my Department also provides funding of some €4million across a number of projects and centres to provide for continuum of education and to facilitate ongoing engagment with and retention of children in education.
Such supports include: Youth Encounter Projects, established in the 1970s as non-residential facilities for children at risk of coming into conflict with authority or are at serious risk of dropping out of mainstream school. There are five YEPS, three in Dublin and one each in Limerick and Cork, providing 120 places for children. The current overall enrolment is 107. YEPs receive a pay and non-pay allocation of €1.124 million to cover the employment of all ancillary staff and to cover school running costs. Permanent teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) in the school are paid through the Primary and SNA Payroll system at an overall cost of €1.85million.
City Motor Sports, Swift Alleys, Francis Street, Dublin 8, provides education and training for young people aged between 15 and 18 years. It was established in 1995 as City Motor Sports in the south west inner city as a response to widespread joyriding in the locality. The current enrolment is 14. My Department funds the cost of 51 teaching hours per week at a total cost of €90,375 in 2012 and provides a non-pay grant of €113,479 to City of Dublin ETB to meet running costs.
The Carline Project is located in a purpose built centre, in Lucan, Co Dublin. It caters for young people aged 14 to 17 years. The current enrolment is 22. My Department funds the cost of 71 teaching hours per week at a total cost of €141,787 in 2012 and provides a non-pay grant of €170,000 to County Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ETB to meet running costs
Life Centres are informal education centres established by the Christian Brothers in 1996, with the assistance of the Holy Faith Sisters, as a response to the needs of young people who have dropped out of mainstream education. There are two Life Centres in Dublin and Cork which receive a grant of €114,000 towards running costs and 2,768 teaching hours under the ETB co-operation hours scheme at an estimated cost of €233,000.
Matt Talbot Adolescent Service Centre in Co Cork provides residential drug and alcohol treatment for 14-18 year old boys. It provides educational courses at Junior and Leaving Certificate Level, ECDL and FETAC Levels 3 and 4. My Department provides €190,000, through Cork ETB, towards the cost of instruction staff at the centre
In addition my Department funds the Youthreach programme which provides two years integrated education, training and work experience for unemployed early school leavers with incomplete qualifications or vocational training who are between 15 and 20 years of age. There are almost 6,000 places available nationwide under the Youthreach. Almost 3,700 of these places are provided by ETBs in just over 100 Youthreach centres. Expenditure in the region of €68 million was provided for this service in 2012. The majority of the remainder of places are provided by FÁS in Community Training Centres which also provides two years integrated education, training and work experience incorporating basic skills training, practical work training and general education with the application of new technology integrated into all aspects of programme content. The overall cost for this service in 2012 amounted to some €43.3million.
A small portion of the overall funding in Youthreach includes provision for under 16's. At the end of December 2012 the number of learners under 16 enrolled in Youthreach Centers and Community Training Centres were 192 and 43 respectively.
Deputy Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the funding programmes that are available from his Department to assist projects involved in youth diversion and rehabilitation; and to whom should applications for State support be directed in each instance.
REPLY / Minister Alan Shatter:
My Department, through the Community Programmes Unit of the Irish Youth Justice Service, manages the funding and the delivery of 100 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDP) nationwide and 5 local Drug Task Force (LDTFs) projects. The GYDPs, which are staffed by two youth justice workers, are managed locally by community based organisations working with a local project committee which is chaired by the local Garda District Officer. The LDTF projects, which work closely with their collocated GYDP projects, are staffed with a drugs and alcohol worker and operate a referral system from Gardai, parents and other sources and may also refer onwards to assessment and treatment centres. The project committees are required to submit detailed plans with budgetary costings annually to the Community Programmes Unit.
The GYDP projects are community-based, multi-agency, crime prevention initiatives which are designed to engage with and seek to divert young people from becoming involved in or further involved in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour. They operate in support of the statutory Garda Diversion Programme and aim to bring about the conditions whereby the behavioural patterns of young people towards law and order can develop and mature through positive interventions and interaction with the project. The projects are particularly targeted at 12-17 year old “at risk” youths in communities where a specific need has been identified and where there is a risk of them remaining within the justice system. The approach is supported by a risk assessment of participants designed to identify their needs and to enable a project to plan interventions that provide the best possible outcome for the participant.
Deputy Deasy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the funding programmes that are available from her Department to assist projects involved in youth diversion and rehabilitation; and to whom should applications for State support be directed in each instance.
REPLY / Minister Frances Fitzgerald:
My Department provides a range of funding schemes, programmes and supports to the youth sector. This includes provision for the Youth Service Grants Scheme under which funding is made available to support 31 national and major regional voluntary organisations involved in the development and provision of youth programmes and services. Targeted supports for disadvantaged, marginalised and at risk young people are provided through the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund Rounds 1 and 2 and Local Drugs Task Force Projects.
These schemes support some 477 projects and services, provided by the voluntary youth sector, throughout the country. There are some 1,400 youth work staff and over 40,000 volunteers involved in the provision of these services and activities for young people. In 2014, funding of €50.530m, including €750,000 for a new capital funding programme, has been provided to my Department for these schemes. In addition, capital funding of €1.5m was provided in 2013 for the start-up of new Youth Cafés and 30 applications have been approved in locations throughout the country. Details of the successful proposals are available on my Department's website - www.dcya.gov.ie. The funding for these schemes is administered, in the main, by the Education and Training Boards on behalf of my Department.
Young people are provided with a wide range of programmes and activities, which respond to their needs, interests, capacity and age profile. The supports available are complementary to the school system and to other supports in place to assist young people who are marginalised and contribute to addressing a range of issues affecting young people and their communities including early school leaving, unemployment, drug/substance misuse, youth homelessness, and the impact of problems to do with juvenile crime and anti-social behaviour.
Having regard to the difficult funding situation in recent years, no new applications have been sought for these schemes since 2008. My Department, along with all government departments, is required to deliver substantial savings on all funding programmes in line with the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE). My Department, in determining the annual allocations for youth programmes, while having regard to the CRE, has sought to ensure that, as far as is possible, the focus is maintained on the front line youth services particularly those for the most vulnerable young people. This year, I secured an additional €1m in the 2014 Budget to offset the impact of the CRE on the youth services. As a result the overall reduction in 2014 budgets for the youth services at 3.75 % was significantly less had been indicated in the CRE.
Further information about the specific projects and services can be had from the projects themselves or the Youth Officer in the relevant local Education and Training Board or directly from my Department. If the Deputy has a particular case in mind and wishes to make the details available to officials in my Department, they will be more than happy to assist in providing a link to the specific project.
My colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality has overall responsibility in the area of crime and anti-social behaviour and his Department funds a range of youth services, in particular Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) and Young Person Probation Projects (YPP). I see the role of my Department as working in an integrated way to develop strong linkages between all those working in prevention and intervention, developing closer working relationships between the prevention services provided by Child and Family Agency, and services provided by the Irish Youth Justice Service, which is co-located in my Department, and the youth sector.
The main focus is on ensuring best outcomes for all our children and young people through the most efficient use of available resources thereby achieving best value for money. I want to ensure, notwithstanding the significant challenges we face, that we build on best practice and continue to innovate to ensure that young people are enabled and empowered to acquire the skills and experiences to realise their potential and to engage and develop in society.
Deputy Deasy asked the Minister for Health the funding programmes that are available from his Department to assist projects involved in youth diversion and rehabilitation; and to whom should applications for State support be directed in each instance.
REPLY / Minister James Reilly
Local and Regional Drugs Task Forces receive annual funding from the Drugs Initiative of my Department to allocate to community based drugs initiatives in their areas. Organisations involved in providing youth diversion and rehabilitation may apply to their local Drugs Task Force for funding. A list of the Drugs Task Forces can be found on www.health.gov.ie
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.
January 15, 2014
Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average length of sentence actually served in cases where convicted persons are sentenced to periods of imprisonment of 12 months, two years, three years, four years, five years, six years, seven years, eight years, nine years, 10 years.
Reply from Minister Alan Shatter: I wish to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide the statistical breakdown, as requested, as this would require the manual examination of thousands of individual prisoner records. This exercise would entail the diversion of a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time which could not be justified in current circumstances.
All sentenced prisoners serving a sentence in excess of 1 month, with the exception of Life sentenced prisoners, persons convicted of debtor offences and persons convicted of contempt of court, are entitled to remission on their sentence length of one quarter. The Prison Rules, 2007 allow for the discretionary granting of additional remission, up to one third as opposed to the standard rate of one quarter. That said, this additional concession will only be awarded in exceptional cases where I am satisfied beyond any doubt that the prisoner concerned has demonstrated that she/he meets the requirements as set out in Rule 59 of the Prison Rules.
Further, the Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 provides that sentenced prisoners may be approved temporary release whether it be for a few hours or a more extended period. Finally, prisoners sentenced to a period of 1 to 8 years, upon serving 50 per cent of their sentence, can be assessed for suitability for alternatives to imprisonment such as the Community Return Scheme.