Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Witness Protection Programme
Question 400: To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on introducing a witness protection programme Bill or any other legislation to establish the Garda witness programme on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21179/11]
Question 401: To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of cases that have been dealt with under the Garda witness protection programme each year since it was established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21180/11]
Question 402: To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the amount allocated and the amount spent each year on the Garda witness protection programme since it was established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21181/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 400 to 402, inclusive, together.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Agreed Programme for Government includes a commitment to provide statutory guidelines for the Garda Síochána's Witness Security Programme and measures to give effect to this commitment are being considered at present. I will bring forward proposals on the matter in due course.
The Garda Síochána operates a Witness Security Programme to respond to attempts by criminal and other groups to prevent the normal functioning of the criminal justice system, including threats of violence and systematic intimidation of witnesses. By virtue of the highly confidential nature of the Programme and the need to maintain the protection of persons in that Programme, it is not the policy nor would it be appropriate to detail the specifics of its operation. I can say, however, that it is being operated in a significant number of cases and it has proven its worth over the years in helping to secure the conviction of very serious organised crime leaders.
The operation of the Programme is supported by a number of complementary legislative provisions. Section 40 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 makes it an offence for any person, without lawful authority, to try to identify the whereabouts or any new identity of a witness who has been relocated under the Programme. The offence is punishable on indictment by a fine or a term of imprisonment of up to five years. In addition, the intimidation of witnesses is an offence pursuant to Section 41 of the Act. Section 41 specifies the offence as harming, threatening or menacing or in any other way intimidating or putting in fear another person who is assisting in the investigation of an offence by the Garda Síochána, with the intention of causing the investigation or course of justice to be obstructed, perverted or interfered with. The offence is punishable on indictment by a fine or a term of imprisonment of up to 15 years.
The budget allocations and outturns for the Programme since its establishment are set out in the following table.
|1998||€0.317 Million||€0.076 Million|
|1999||€0.317 Million||€0.152 Million|
|2000||€0.825 Million||€0.152 Million|
|2001||€0.593 Million||€0.559 Million|
|2002||€1.192 Million||€1.092 Million|
|2003||€1.141 Million||€0.941 Million|
|2004||€1.097 Million||€1.097 Million|
|2005||€1.132 Million||€0.600 Million|
|2006||€1.147 Million||€0.610 Million|
|2007||€1.174 Million||€0.461 Million|
|2008||€0.900 Million||€1.160 Million|
|2009||€0.498 Million||€0.780 Million|
|2010||€1.198 Million||€0.700 MillionProvisional outturn*|
* The final outturn for 2010 will only be available when the Comptroller and Auditor General has finalised the 2010 Appropriation Accounts.