Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Justice and Equality
238. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if ring-fenced funding has been provided in 2019 to improve courtroom technology in particular to facilitate victims of sexual or domestic crimes giving testimony by video link. [8984/19]
As the Deputy will be aware, following the publication by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform of the Estimates for Public Services on 9 October 2018, the capital allocation for 2019 for the Courts Service was confirmed at €51.517 million. Furthermore, there was a carryover of €2.5 million in capital expenditure from 2018 to 2019, which is allocated to ICT Capital, bringing the total capital allocation in 2019 to €54.017 million.
It comprises €11.42 million for maintenance and development of new and existing ICT systems, €4.88 million for courthouse capital works and €37.717 million for unitary charge payments in relation to the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin and a number of regional courthouses provided under Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements.
As the Deputy will also be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has advised that it is progressively improving the facilities and technology available for the use of victims of crime in courthouses around the country. The funding for these developments, while not ring fenced, is provided for from within expenditure heading allocations for Courthouse Capital, Courthouse Maintenance and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
I am informed that from its allocated funding in 2019 the Courts Service is planning to provide video conferencing technology in the District Court Family Law Courts in Dolphin House in Dublin. Installation is at an advanced stage and will be completed shortly. The upgrading of video facilities in Dundalk Courthouse is also planned. Furthermore, space has been made available in Naas Courthouse for the provision of a vulnerable witness suite.
In the last two years there has been significant investment in courtroom technology and new courthouse facilities in seven locations around the country: Cork (Anglesea Street), Limerick (Mulgrave Street), Waterford, Wexford, Mullingar, Letterkenny and Drogheda. The new or refurbished courthouses in these locations have all been provided with dedicated facilities for the victims of crime. They have also been equipped with video technology to allow witnesses to appear remotely by video.
The Courts Service has further advised that during 2018 the video technology in the Criminal Courts of Justice in Parkgate Street in Dublin was refreshed in 14 courtrooms. Additional video technology was provided in Kilkenny Courthouse and the facilities in Tullamore Courthouse were also upgraded. Space was made available at Carlow Courthouse for a vulnerable witness suite. Overall there was a 49% increase in the number of courtrooms provided with video-conferencing in 2018, bringing the total number to 58, and the Courts Service will continue to invest in facilities and technology for victims of crime going forward.
As the Deputy may also be aware, the Domestic Violence Act 2018 was commenced on 1 January 2019. Section 25 of the 2018 Act provides for victims of domestic violence to give evidence by live television link, both in civil cases and in criminal cases for breaches of orders, so as to avoid the risk of intimidation by the perpetrator or an associate. Evidence given by live television link shall be video-recorded or audio-recorded. Section 25(3) of the 2018 Act provides that where live television link facilities are not in operation in a circuit court or district court district, and the court considers it desirable that evidence be given in this manner, the court may order the transfer of the proceedings to a circuit or district court district where those television link facilities are in operation.