Written answers

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Department of Justice and Equality

Proposed Legislation

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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19. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the introduction of legislation to tackle hate crime. [22853/20]

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. The Programme for Government commits to introducing, within 12 months, legislation to address those who target victims because of their association with a particular identity characteristic, and to revise and update the Incitement to Hatred Act and I can assure Deputies that my Department is working to prepare this legislation on hate crime and hate speech as a priority.

As part of this work a comprehensive public consultation has been carried out which included a public survey and an opportunity for stakeholders to make formal submissions. This consultation was conducted to ensure that the Department fully understands the lived experience of those impacted by hate speech and hate crime as well as the views of professionals and other stakeholders in the field. This is necessary to ensure the laws developed are robust, clearly understood and effective in dealing with unacceptable incidents.

I am pleased with the high level of engagement by the public with this important topic and can inform the Deputy that my Department received in the region of 3,800 written responses to the consultation, including approximately 175 detailed written submissions.

In addition to this comprehensive consultation and in order to ensure that the final legislation can be that is effective, my Department also carried out comparative research on international best practice on hate crime legislation. This research is currently being finalised and I expect to publish it in the coming weeks.

My officials are continuing to analyse all of the materials gathered, as well as other relevant legal and policy information, to ensure that the legislative proposals presented are evidence-based, proportionate and effective, while respecting freedom of expression. There will be a further opportunity for stakeholders to share their views when the legislative proposals on this important issue are published for discussion.

I am confident that the approach taken to the reform of our legislation in this area - including through the research conducted and providing the opportunity for experts and members of the public to provide their views through consultation - will ensure that the legislation we develop plays a significant part in delivering a safer, fairer and more inclusive Ireland for everyone, now as well as into the future. This is the mission of my Department and as Minister I am fully committed to the combatting racism and prejudice as a key part of this.

Pa Daly (Kerry, Sinn Fein)
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20. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality when the family court and family law Bill promised in the programme for Government will be delivered; and the way in which the Bill plans to make family law proceedings less adversarial. [22960/20]

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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My Department is actively working to deliver the much needed modernisation of the family law system in Ireland. This modernisation includes the introduction of a new Family Court Bill and the development of a dedicated family court system. The development of sensible, comprehensive and sensitive family law procedures particularly for vulnerable families, will be central to the new system.

The Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee of the Reform of Family Law System which was published towards the end of last year made almost 40 recommendations across the area of family justice. As the Deputy will appreciate, the recommendations are extensive and merit a considered and careful response.

One of the key recommendations of the committee is the establishment of a dedicated and integrated family court within existing court structures. As the Deputy notes, the enactment of legislation on the establishment of a family court is a commitment in the Programme for Government and my Department is currently preparing the general scheme of a Family Court Bill which I will be bringing to Government for approval to draft shortly. The proposals in this scheme are a result of a broad consideration as to the best means of providing access to various family law mechanisms available to those families involved in private family law cases.

A Family Justice Oversight Group has recently been established within my Department which, in addition to departmental officials, includes representation from the judiciary, the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Consideration of the recommendations contained in the committee’s report will be integrated into the work of that group.

Pending approval by Government, it would not be appropriate for me to go into too much detail as to the content of the Scheme. However, I can say that the Family Court Bill will:

- Streamline family law court processes to make them more efficient and more user-friendly, while encouraging greater use of alternative dispute resolution to assist in more timely settlement of family law cases.

- Clarify jurisdictional issues so that cases can be dealt with by the most appropriate court notwithstanding the value of assets.

- Provide for a set of Guiding Principles applicable to all of the parties which could help ensure that the court would operate in a user-friendly and efficient manner.

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