148. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice the progress made to date on the implementation of the Justice Plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [58053/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Justice Plan 2021 outlines a wide range of actions under the Department's five strategic goals, which are to:
1. Tackle crime, enhance national security and transform policing
2. Improve access to justice and modernise the courts system
3. Strengthen community safety, reduce reoffending, support victims and combat domestic, sexual and gender based violence
4. Deliver a fair immigration system for a digital age
5. Accelerate innovation, digital transformation and climate action across the justice sector
The full Justice Plan 2021 is available at the following link:
Under Justice Plan 2021, I am progressing a suite of policy and legislative reforms which are priorities for me as Minister, in line with the various commitments set out in the Programme for Government.
To date, my Department has made substantial progress on delivering reforms recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing, including publication of the landmark General Scheme of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill, which provides for wide-ranging and coherent reform of policing by improving the performance and accountability of our policing and security services, and supporting the human rights of all people throughout Ireland to be and feel safe in their communities.
Further key actions delivered to tackle crime include the publication earlier this year of the General Scheme of the Hate Crime Bill; the publication of the Hamilton Review and subsequent implementation plan on tackling white collar crime; delivering on Ireland’s successful connection to Schengen Information System (SIS II) which has already led to an increased number of arrests; and enactment of the Criminal Procedure Act 2021 will improve efficiencies in the criminal trial process, by introducing preliminary trial hearings for the first time.
In terms of improving access to justice, the Peter Kelly Report, Reform of Civil Justice in the State has been published and an implementation group has been established. I intend to bring an implementation plan for those recommendations to Government in the coming weeks. We have also published draft legislation which will put in place a remedy for delays in court proceedings, responding to the McFarlane v Ireland judgement of the ECHR.
We have also progressed work to reform the family justice system. Last September, Government approved the General Scheme of the Family Court Bill which will restructure the family justice system to enable jurisdictions in appropriate Courts. Work is ongoing on drafting of the Bill while we await pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, with a view to its publication by the end of February 2022. In parallel, the Family Justice Oversight Group are working to develop a new family justice system.
We have also published the General Scheme of the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill which will replace the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board with a new Commission, and established a Judicial Planning Working Group to work on judicial numbers over the medium term.
On the issue of gambling reform, we recently published the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill, bringing us closer to the establishment of a Gambling Regulator. The Gaming and Lotteries (Amendment) Act 2019 also came into effect in December 2020.
We have introduced strong measures to tackle the cost of insurance, including bringing into operation new personal injuries guidelines and enacting the Perjury Bill to establish a statutory criminal offence for perjury.
Strengthening the safety of all communities is a cross-Government priority and we have established three pilots of Local Community Safety Partnerships (in Dublin’s North Inner City, Longford and Waterford) which will inform the roll-out of the new Community Safety model nationwide. We have also published an implementation plan and established an implementation board to deliver on the recommendations of the Drogheda Scoping Report, which outlines 70 actions to improve community safety and wellbeing in Drogheda through greater co-operation by State agencies and others.
As the Deputy will know, we are making strides in providing greater supports to victims of crime, and combating domestic, sexual and gender based violence and have published and begun to implement Supporting a Victim’s Journey, our plan to implement the recommendations of the O’Malley Review.
We have published plans for a revised National Referral Mechanism for victims of human trafficking, recognising the role of other state bodies and NGOs in addition to An Garda Síochána in identifying and referring victims, and we are drafting legislation to put this on a statutory footing. We have also put in place additional practical supports for victims including a cultural mediator project and additional grant supports for victims, and published the Smuggling of Persons Bill.
We have enacted Coco’s Law, the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act. We have recently published draft legislation to strengthen the post-release monitoring and management of sex offenders. We have also secured Government approval to reform the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and are now working on legislation to place a new scheme on a statutory footing. In addition, we have established the new statutory parole board and commenced the parole act, which increases the time those serving life sentences must serve from 7 years to 12 years before they are eligible to be considered for parole.
To support young people and divert them away from crime, a new Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027 was launched and is being implemented; we have established an Anti-Social Behaviour Forum to bring forward proposals to tackle the issue of anti-social behaviour (including subgroups examining the misuse of scramblers and quadbikes, and knife crime) and have published the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Exploitation of Children in the Commission of Offences) Bill.
In terms of developments in the immigration area, an end-to-end review of relevant international protection processes by a multi-disciplinary team from my Department has now been completed and published. We have announced draft proposals for a scheme to regularise thousands of undocumented migrants in Ireland and introduced a temporary system to enable citizenship applicants to complete their naturalisation process by signing a statutory declaration of loyalty.
Of course it is important to note that all the above mentioned milestones and achievements are just a snapshot of the substantial programme of work being delivered on by my Department. We continue to work with our agencies and partners across the sector to receive feedback and ensure that the targets set out in the Plan are met. Justice Plan 2021 is the first in a series of annual action plans to actualise my priorities as Minister and deliver on the Department’s strategic goals.
In August, my Department published a mid-year report outlining the progress on Justice Plan 2021 which is available at:
I look forward to publishing an end of year progress report on Justice Plan 2021 in early 2022.