11 July 2014

Minister Fitzgerald welcomes reports of Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality

· Minister Fitzgerald welcomes the publication of three “valuable” justice
   reports
· Children and Family Relationships Bill will respond to changing family
   needs
· Minister  intends  to  bring  forward  proposals  to  establish a pilot
   Community Court


Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality, today welcomed
the publication by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and
Equality of three reports on its hearings on the General Scheme of the
Children and Family Relationships Bill, the General Scheme of the Criminal
Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill and in respect of Community Courts.

The Minister thanked the Committee for the valuable report it has published
on the General Scheme of the Children and Family Relationships Bill. “This
is a complex Bill which proposes a comprehensive reform of family law in
line with our commitment in the Programme for Government.  The Bill
proposes to update Ireland’s family law to respond to the changing needs of
families in Ireland.”

The Minister continued: “We need to get this Bill right.  It is very
important to consult those who will benefit from these reforms to ensure
that we are on the right track.  I am very pleased that the Joint
Oireachtas Committee was able to undertake a public consultation process on
the General Scheme which enabled key stakeholders to offer their views on
our proposals.

“On foot of that consultation process, the Committee has produced a report
which offers a series of constructive recommendations regarding the General
Scheme. We are currently examining these recommendations as part of the
process of finalising the Bill.  I would also like to thank the Ombudsman
for Children who also provided useful advice on the General Scheme.”

The Minister added:  “I look forward to ongoing cooperation with the Joint
Committee when I bring forward this legislation for consideration by the
Oireachtas later this year.”

The Minister commended the Joint Committee, and in particular its chairman,
David Stanton, T.D, for his excellent work in pursuing the feasibility of
establishing a Community Court in Ireland.

She said the Committee’s report will be “a valuable aid to considering
whether the Community Court model can be of benefit to the Irish criminal
justice system and it will be given active consideration in my Department”.

Community Courts provide an integrated, problem-solving solution to dealing
with relatively low-level crimes, as well as a rapid response to dealing
with one-off offending that can occur, such as public order offending.

The Minister stated that a considerable amount of preparatory work needs to
be undertaken in collaboration with all stakeholders before a pilot project
can be established. When the matter has been fully examined, she intends to
bring forward proposals on the establishment of a Community court in Dublin
city centre on a pilot basis.

 “I believe that appropriate planning is the key to getting an effective
court in place and it will also entail significant consultation with all
stakeholders including the community itself”.

The Minister said that the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas
Committee on the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Community
Sanctions) Bill will inform the development and refinement of the
legislation.

This proposed legislation will replace the Probation of Offenders Act 1907
with modern provisions dealing with community sanctions and the role of the
Probation Service in the criminal justice system.

“The observations of the Committee and the organisations which made
submissions to the Committee on the proposed community sanctions
legislation will be carefully considered during the drafting of the Bill”.