Tuesday, 20 April 2010
Ceisteanna - Questions
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Question 5: To ask the Taoiseach the number of staff employed in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; the areas in which the numbers of staff have increased or decreased in the DPP office in the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5727/10]
Question 6: To ask the Taoiseach the number of staff employed in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; if he is satisfied that there are sufficient staff to allow the full and effective discharge of duties by the office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12489/10]
Question 7: To ask the Taoiseach the number of staff employed in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; the projected cost of this office in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12959/10]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive, together.
The number of whole-time equivalent staff employed in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on 1 April of this year was 195.52 compared with 196.2 on 1 April 2008. During this period, the number of staff in the directing and solicitors divisions has increased by 5.12 whole-time equivalents while the number in the administration and policy divisions has decreased by 5.8. In other words, the director has been able to achieve savings and efficiencies in the administration of his office so as to preserve front line prosecution services and meet the increase in his workload over the last two years without having to increase overall staff numbers.
The recent changes in staff numbers have taken place against a background of the solid staffing base that was put in place in the director's office in 2007. Following a review of staffing requirements at that time, the Minister for Finance approved 28 new permanent posts and one contract post for the office. Some 21 of these posts were for legal and professional grades, reflecting the increase in the volume and complexity of the work being under taken by the office.
A sum of €43.854 million has been provided in the 2010 Revised Estimates to meet the cost of the office in the current year. My Department's officials will continue to work with officials from the director's office and the Department of Finance to ensure that the necessary resources continue to be available to the director to enable him to discharge his functions fully and effectively.
Is the DPP subject to the circular issued by the Department of Finance last March, which directed that no vacancy, however arising, could be filled? The Taoiseach stated that a number of additional solicitors are employed in the DPP's office. Will he indicate the number of posts in respect of which the DPP applied for exemptions from the Department of Finance circular?
I am not in possession of such detailed information. I will be obliged to convey it to the Deputy at a later date. I can inform him that 27 posts were approved in 2007. I will obtain the other information he is seeking.
As already stated, 28 permanent posts were approved. A further contract post for the office was provided following a review of staffing requirements at that time. I do not know what was the nature of the original request.
Everyone would agree that it is important that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions should have available to it the staff that are necessary in order to ensure that prosecutions are not delayed, that the enforcement of law can be dealt with in an expeditious manner and that efforts to deal with criminal activity and the resultant legal cases will not be hindered in any way. Will the Taoiseach indicate whether the required number of staff is available to the DPP? Will he also indicate whether further vacancies exist and whether the DPP has requested that these be filled?
I did not hear what the Taoiseach said in respect of the cost of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for 2010. Does that office present a schedule of work or projected work to his Department in respect of its Vote? Is he satisfied that the DPP will have sufficient staff to ensure that the office carries out its duties?
Is the Taoiseach in possession of any information relating to the number of cases that put before the DPP in respect of which he has provided a reason for his decision? In the past the DPP explained, in respect of a small number of occasions, the reasons he arrived his various decisions. These were sensitive cases. Does the Taoiseach's brief in respect of these questions provide any information in this regard?
On the policy issue, the DPP is statutorily independent and the Taoiseach is not answerable to the Dáil on matters pertaining to the discharge of that officer's functions. However, in October 2008 the DPP introduced, on a pilot basis, an initiative whereby he proposed to give reasons for decisions not to prosecute in respect of offences involving a death where the alleged offence occurred on or after 22 October of that year. To date, there has only been a small number of cases which meet this criterion. The nature of these cases was such - for example, some related to single vehicle road accidents - that there have been very few requests for reasons relating to decisions not to prosecute. It was originally intended to run the pilot until 1 January 2010. In light of the insufficient data on which to make a full evaluation, however, it is now proposed to continue it for a longer period before publishing such an evaluation. That is all the information I have in respect of that matter.
The composition of the Estimate is set out in the Book of Estimates. Most of the information contained therein would relate to the staffing and administrative costs of the office. Costs would also arise in respect of barristers and others employed by the office to prosecute cases, etc.
The Taoiseach indicated that the DPP stated there are no staffing issues at this time. However, the perception is - perhaps it is incorrect - that there have been increased delays in the administration of justice and that part of the reason for this relates to the fact that there are insufficient staff to deal with the both the expanding workload and the complexity of the cases being undertaken by the DPP. Is the Taoiseach confident there are sufficient staff in the office to deal with all cases and that the Director of Public Prosecutions does not have to refer some cases to the Garda Síochána to be prepared, as he stated at a committee here not so long ago, rather than have them dealt with only by the DPP as in the past, especially in respect of complicated cases? There is a perception that justice is being delayed because of a lack of staff or resources in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Different work may be allocated to different people, whether to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Garda Síochána or whoever. The important thing is that it is effectively and efficiently done. In fairness, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, working within the budgets it has - all budgets are finite - has been able to increase the number of front line staff as a result of reorganisations that have taken place. That is to be commended.
I understand there was a higher level of case activity in 2009 than in the previous year. The 2010 Estimate includes additional funding to meet some demand-led pressures in regard to an increase in the size of awards, etc. Whatever the perception may be, I relay to the House the information I have from the supplementary briefing material on the question.
As I said, like other public service organisations, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is required to critically examine how it operates and to seek to deliver greater efficiencies. The DPP has taken steps to achieve these efficiencies without adversely affecting front line prosecution services. As a result, he has been able to meet an increase in the volume and complexity of his workload over the past two years without having to increase overall staff numbers, although, as I said, he has increased the number of front line staff as a ratio of the total number in his employment. He has intimated to the Department that there are no staffing issues in regard to his office at this time.