Minister Shatter reports on work undertaken in the Department of Justice & Equality during 2013
December 19, 2013
A substantial body of work was undertaken by Minister Shatter in the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Defence during 2013. A summary of a portion of the work conducted in the Department of Justice is included below.
Full information on each of these initiatives is available on the Department of Justice website. An overview of work done by Minister Shatter from March 2011 to date is also available on the Justice website.
Legislation dealt with January – December 2013:
1. Courts and Civil Law Act 2013 – Increases the financial jurisdictions of the Circuit and District Courts, & introduces important changes to the in-camera rule to provide transparency in family law & child protection procedures.
2. Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act 2013 – Criminalises trafficking for the purposes of forced begging and criminal activities.
3. Criminal Justice Bill 2013 – Updates our criminal law provisions in relation to money laundering & introduces new protections against the terrorist threat posed by remote detonation of explosive devices.
4. Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2013 – addressed the legal uncertainty that arose as a result of several High Court judgments concerning lending institutions’ remedies in cases of mortgage default. The Bill restores the position intended under the Land and Conveyancing Act 2009.
5. Personal Insolvency Act 2012 – Commencement of this Act completed the reform of personal insolvency and bankruptcy allowing for the establishment of the Insolvency Service of Ireland, the introduction of three new modern and humane debt settlement arrangements, and the reduction in the discharge from bankruptcy to 3 years, rather than the previous 12 years. In addition to commencing the legislation in 2013, the required instruments and rules of court necessary to facilitate commencement of the legislation were put in place and the required insolvency specialist judges were appointed and the licensing of Person Insolvency Practitioners was undertaken.
6. Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill 2013 – a landmark Bill which will revolutionise the detection of crime in Ireland, & will be of particular benefit in detecting volume crimes such as theft, burglary, rape and sexual assault. The Database will also assist with finding & identifying missing and unknown persons.
7. Fines (Payment and Recovery) Bill 2013 – provides for a major reform of the fine payment and recovery system in Ireland & provides for the payment of fines by instalment and attachment of earnings.
8. Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 – reforms the long out-dated law in this area, and will greatly assists those with limited decision making ability to better manage their personal, property & financial affairs.
General Scheme with AG for formal drafting
9. Gambling Control Bill – Government approved General Scheme of Bill and has been referred to the Attorney General for formal drafting. Purpose of Bill to regulate the gambling sector & introduce new protections for vulnerable adults & young people. Publication expected in the second half of 2014
10. Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2013 – Government approved General Scheme of the Bill, which will provide for an updated and enhanced legislative regime to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse and exploitation. The Bill has been sent to the Attorney General for formal drafting. Publication expected towards the end of January 2014.
Legislation in Draft Form
11. Children and Family Relationships Bill – purpose is to reform and modernise family law, to safeguard the best interests of children and to recognise that many children live in families which do not have constitutional recognition. Substantial work was undertaken in the preparation of the General Scheme of this Bill which is expected to be published early in the new year.
12. Court of Appeal Referendum – passed on the 5 October 2013 by a substantial 65% of voters. It is intended that the Court of Appeal will be established for the start of the new law term in Autumn 2014. This is the second Referendum by the Department of Justice. The Referendum on Judicial Remuneration was passed in October 2011 with a substantial 79.74% of voters voting in support of the Government amendment.
Supporting An Garda Síochána
13. Garda Numbers and Garda Recruitment Campaign – Secured Government agreement that objective Garda strength be maintained at 13,000 and obtained approval to proceed with a recruitment campaign for new members of An Garda Síochána. This competition formally opened on the 12 December 2013 and will remain open until 9th January 2014. As of the end of November 2013, some 30,000 people had already registered expressions of interest in joining the Garda Síochána with the Public Appointments Service.
14. Garda Fleet – In October 2013, secured a further €9m for the purchase of new vehicles for the Garda fleet over the next nine months. This brings to €18m the total amount spent on the Garda fleet in the three years 2012 to 2014. This compares to a total of less than €5m spent by Fianna Fail in the previous three years 2009 to 2011.
15. Garda Appointments – Obtained sanction from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for a significant number of derogations from the moratorium on appointments. In total, in the last two and half years, 88 Sergeant; 40 Inspector; 53 Superintendent; 17 Chief Superintendent; 4 Assistant Commissioner; and 1 Deputy Commissioner appointments have been made.
16. Garda Vacancies – Obtained sanction to allow the Commissioner fill vacancies at all ranks up to agreed levels without further recourse to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
17. Garda Vetting Unit – Obtained approval for an increase from 93 to 173 in the number of staff assigned to the Garda Central Vetting Unit. The vast majority of these staff were re-assigned from elsewhere in the public service, in particular from the Department of Agriculture.
18. Prison Building Projects – The tender process for a new modern prison in Cork is now complete and a preferred tenderer has been identified. The contract is due to be signed at the end of this month and construction is due to begin in January 2014.
19. Inspector of Prisons Annual Report 2012 & An Assessment of the Irish Prison System – Both reports published in July, and in line with the recommendation of the Inspector, Minister Shatter announced that St. Patrick’s Institution is to close.
20. Prison Visiting Committee Reports – 14 Visiting Committee Reports were published during the year. The reports highlighted a number of issues across the prison system including: prison conditions, staffing levels and overcrowding. The reports also acknowledge the efforts made by the Irish Prison Service, management and staff to address the issues despite limited resources.
21. Report into the death of Shane Rogers – published in January 2013. Irish Prison Service gave assurances that enhanced arrangements have been introduced in relation to the notification of the vulnerable status of prisoners to escort staff.
22. New Prisoner Complaints Procedure – The full complaints model will be introduced during the lifetime of the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan (April 2012-April 2015). The Inspector of Prisons has oversight of all investigations, has access to any material relevant to any such investigation and may investigate any aspect that he considers relevant.
23. Deaths in Custody – On 16 December 2013 Minister Shatter published the Inspectors Reports on 12 out of 16 deaths in custody during 2012. Of the 12 deaths, 9 occurred while prisoners were on temporary release. In the remaining 3 reports, the Inspector has made a number of findings. The Irish Prison Service has implemented a new prisoner release policy and an Action Plan in response to the recommendations made by the Inspector of Prisons is also being implemented.
24. Inspector of Prisons Interim Report on the Dóchas Centre – published the Inspector of Prisons Interim Report on the Dochas Centre.
Protecting the Vulnerable
25. National Missing Persons Day – Launched Ireland’s first National Missing Persons Day to commemorate the missing and to recognise the lasting trauma for their families and friends.
26. Magdalen Laundries – First Government to take action on this issue. Published the McAleese Inter-Departmental Committee Report, published the Quirke Report, accepted Judge Quirke’s recommendations and established an ex-gratia compensation scheme which is currently processing over 650 applications. It is expected that the first payments will issue very early in the New Year.
27. Subsidiary Protection – Introduced important reforms to this process to address backlogs and reduce the length of time applicants wait for a decision.
Promoting Equality and the Rule of Law
28. Referendum on Same Sex Marriage – Obtained Government approval to hold this referendum during the first half of 2015.
29. Assises de la Justice – Addressed this major European Conference on the future of EU Justice policy. Focused on: hate crime, xenophobia and discrimination, how to promote pluralism, solidarity and respect for human rights and civil liberties.
Ensuring Transparency, Accountability and High Standards
30. Smithwick Tribunal of Inquiry Report – Published this Report and met with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, and the Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, to discuss the findings and the implementation of recommendations.
31. Ombudsman for Children – Appointed the Ombudsman to conduct an inquiry under S42 of the Criminal Justice Act 2007, into the events surrounding two children from two different Roma families being taken temporarily into care.
32. Fixed Charge Notices – Published the Report into allegations of improper cancellation of fixed charge notices by some members of An Garda Síochána, and the report by the Garda Professional Standards Unit of an examination of the processes and systems in place to deal with the cancellation of Fixed Charge Notices. These Reports were referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and the Garda Síochána Inspectorate for examination and to make any further recommendations they deem appropriate. The reports were also considered by the Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions which has forwarded the reports to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
33. Fr Niall Molloy – Announced the intention to appoint a Senior Counsel to conduct an independent examination of the Garda Serious Crime Review Team Report on the death of Fr Molloy. The person in question will, firstly, prepare a report which can be put into the public domain on any issues of public interest which arise from the report, having regard to the rights of all those involved and, secondly, identify whether there are matters of significant public concern arising from this examination and in respect of which such further inquiry would have a reasonable prospect of establishing the truth.
Cross Border Cooperation
34. Meeting with Minister Ford – Regularly meet to discuss a range of issues, including: cross-border police cooperation, the security situation and initiatives to tackle human trafficking, promote restorative justice and promote cooperation on criminal justice matters.
Supporting our Economy and Facilitating Job Creation
35. Immigrant Investor Programme – Introduced significant changes to further increase the attractiveness of the programme to foreign investors. To date, over €10m has been invested with the potential to create over 90 jobs.
36. Visa Waiver Programme – Extended the programme to attract tens of thousands of extra visitors into Ireland each year.
37. Commercial Leases Database – Published the Database to provide for greater transparency in the commercial property market.
Major Reform Initiatives
38. Citizenship Ceremonies – Comprehensively reformed Ireland’s citizenship process and introduced Citizenship Ceremonies. A total of 23,400 citizenship applications were granted in 2013 compared to 3,117 in 2008.
39. Supreme Court – Obtained approval for the appointment of an additional two judges to the Supreme Court to tackle lengthy waiting times.
40. Charities Regulatory Authority – Obtained Government approval to proceed with the establishment of the Authority to enhance public trust and confidence in charitable organisations. Establishment expected in mid 2014.
41. Judicial Appointments – Announced a consultation process on the system of appointments to encourage public debate on elements of reform that should be considered with regard to the appointment of judges.
42. Civil Legal Aid – Reformed the scheme by reducing the disposable capitol threshold and increasing the minimum financial contribution requirement.
43. Private Security Authority – Appointed a new Board and announced a revised fee structure which includes a 45% reduction in fees payable by smaller contractors to the Authority.
44. Register of Licensed Property Services Providers – Published the Register to bring greater transparency to the property services industry.
45. Bilateral Extradition Treaty – Commenced negotiations with Brazil on an extradition Treaty and, pending the conclusion of the extradition treaty, a reciprocal agreement will be adhered to.
46. As President of EU Council on Justice and Home Affairs, Minister Shatter delivered substantial progress on a wide range of issues. A summary is included at the following link: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR13000252
19 December 2013
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