7. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken to address the concerns raised by an organisation (details supplied) that farmers cannot avail of the criminal law to force trespassers off their land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49602/18]
Deputy Charles Flanagan: The Deputy will be aware that the general legal position in respect of 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. I acknowledge the interest of various farm and rural organisations, particularly the IFA, in this issue. I meet regularly with representatives of the IFA in my constituency of Laois-Offaly.
The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, as amended, contains provisions specifically relating to the unauthorised entry onto and occupation of land, including farmland. Part IIA of that Act, comprising sections 19A to 19H, as inserted by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002, provides for offences relating 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 An 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, 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 respect of persons or property, and such action is not necessarily linked to any other crime. A person found guilty under the Act is liable to a fine, a term of imprisonment or both.
There are already significant legislative provisions and penalties in place relating to trespass and I have no immediate plans to change the law in this regard. I am anxious to hear what Deputy O'Callaghan proposes in this regard.