Dáil debates

Monday, 14 December 2015

Prisons Bill 2015 [Seanad]: Instruction to Committee


1:05 pm

Photo of Ann PhelanAnn Phelan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Labour)
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I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 177, Standing Order 131 is modified to permit an instruction to the Committee on the Prisons Bill 2015 empowering it to make provision in the Bill in relation to:(a) certain persons who are serving sentences of imprisonment, for the purposes of deportation or removal from the State; and

(b) amendment of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act 1851;and to change the title of the Bill to take account of these provisions.

The amendments to the Prisons Bill 2015 that the Minister for Justice and Equality has tabled on Committee Stage are linked with High Court proceedings in connection with prison related matters.

It was unfortunately not possible for the drafting of these amendments to be completed in time for inclusion in the Bill as published or for them to be brought before the Seanad last week. Arrangements have been made for the Bill to return to the Seanad later this week so the Bill can complete its passage through both Houses and be signed into law by the end of the year.

The background to the first proposed new section is that until recently, where prisoners were subject to deportation orders, it was considered appropriate in certain cases to grant them temporary release for the purpose of facilitating their deportation. This generally arose in the context of the availability of places on a chartered flight to the state to which the persons were to be returned. Earlier this year, in the case of NBO and others v. Minister for Justice and Equality, the High Court considered the legality of the temporary release of a prisoner who was subject to a deportation order and was deported immediately after his release from prison. The High Court decided that section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1960, which governs the temporary release of prisoners, does not permit the temporary release of prisoners subject to deportation orders for the purpose of their deportation or removal from the State. Given the practical implications of the NBO judgment for the deportation process, the Minister believes that a clear legislative basis is needed to allow non-national prisoners to be taken from prison by members of the Garda Síochána or immigration officers for the purpose of giving effect to deportation orders under the Immigration Act 1999 or removal orders under the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) (No. 2) Regulations 2006. She therefore proposes to bring forward an amendment to the Bill to make provision for this specific purpose.

With regard to the second proposed new section, arising from an issue that has emerged in very recent High Court proceedings, the Minister considers it appropriate to bring forward a technical amendment relating to the warrants issued by courts in Dublin for the committal of persons to prison. Outside of Dublin, District Court committal warrants are addressed to An Garda Síochána in accordance with the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act 1851. However, the District Court rules permit committal warrants in Dublin to be addressed directly to the governor of the prison to which a person is to be committed. It had always been thought that this was permitted under the 1851 Act and the courts have operated on that basis. However, in a judgment on the recent case of Grant v. Governor of Cloverhill Prison, a judge of the High Court expressed the view that the relevant provision of the District Court rules may be inconsistent with the 1851 Act. As this opens the prospect of uncertainty in the legal position, the Minister proposes to table an amendment to this Bill in the Dáil to declare that a committal warrant issued by the District Court in Dublin can be addressed to the governor of a prison. This is the position that has been taken to apply in Dublin over many years.

As the addition of the proposed new sections to the Bill will broaden the scope of the Bill as published, it will be necessary to amend the Long Title of the Bill to include appropriate references to the purposes of the two new sections. In the circumstances, the Minister hopes that the Deputies will agree to the proposed motion and I commend it to the House.

1:10 pm

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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The Fianna Fáil Party is happy to support the motion.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I agree with the motion. As somebody who has dealt with quite a number of cases of deportation, as I am sure everybody else in the House has, I am a little concerned and I ask that the Minister bear in mind the individual nature of the cases. In some circumstances, a person has been deemed appropriate for deportation but on subsequent review of the case, the person has had the decision reversed. I ask that this be taken into account where possible or in all cases. I am not talking about people who committed offences in the State but rather people who made an application under immigration laws for refugee or asylum status. I would like to be reassured with regard to those cases that have been particularly delayed for a long time after the decision.

Some people have been reporting on a monthly basis to their local Garda station for up ten years pending their deportation. Inherent in the delay is recognition of the fact that the case may be answerable. In these circumstances I would like to be reassured that such persons will have an opportunity to have their cases reviewed before deportation, particularly if they have been reporting to their local Garda station for ten or 12 years in accordance with requirements. It would be a safeguard in the legislation.

1:15 pm

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Perhaps that matter might be dealt with on Second Stage. This is a technical motion.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Question put and agreed to.