414. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to address the issue of unauthorised access to lands by persons without permission; and his further plans to introduce further changes to protect landowners from unauthorised entries. [54223/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The general legal position in relation to trespass is that it is a civil wrong and, for the most part, can be addressed by means of a civil remedy through the courts.
However, trespass may be dealt with under criminal law in certain circumstances and a range of offences are already provided in legislation.
The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, as amended, contains provisions specifically relating to the unauthorised entry onto and occupation of land. Part IIA of that Act, comprising sections 19A to 19H, as inserted by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002, provides for offences in relation to illegal trespass and occupation of land which result in a range of specified adverse consequences. Such land includes privately owned land and public land provided or maintained by a statutory body. The legislation empowers the Garda Síochána to direct trespassers to leave the land concerned and, if necessary, remove any object belonging to them from the occupied land. A person who is guilty of an offence under this Part of the Act is liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to €4,000 or a term of imprisonment of up to one month, or both.
The Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Act 1971 also contains provisions relating to trespass. Under this Act it is an offence to forcibly enter land, including buildings, or remain in forcible occupation, or to encourage or advocate the commission of such an offence. The word "forcibly" is defined as using or threatening to use force in relation to persons or property, and such action is not necessarily linked to any other crime. A person guilty of a first offence under the Act is liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to €500 or imprisonment for a term of up to 6 months, or both. A second or subsequent offence under the Act is punishable, on summary conviction, by a fine of up to €1,000 or imprisonment for a term of up to 12 months, or both. Conviction on indictment for an offence under the Act can result in a fine of up to €5,000 or a prison term of up to 3 years, or both.
These are significant legislative provisions and penalties in relation to trespass; however, the law is kept under review. The provisions relating to trespass and occupation of land that were inserted into the 1994 Act were brought forward by the then Minister for the Environment and Local Government, and no doubt my colleague the current Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government will also keep these matters under review.