Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of Justice and Equality
Inquiry into the Death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell
453. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which her office received a submission from her Department’s Secretary General to approve a review by senior council into the failure of the Courts Service to process an appeal in Carrickmacross District Court Office in 2010 in the case of a person (details supplied); the date on which the submission was approved; the date on which the family were first informed of the review; the date on which Dáil Éireann was first informed of the review; the date on which the review was completed; and the date on which the family were provided with the review. [49614/21]
454. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 905 of 9 September 2021, if her Department has submitted the outstanding comments sought by a person (details supplied) to their draft report. [49654/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 453 and 454 together.
The matter raised by the Deputy refers to the terms of reference for a proposed review of an error in a case involving the non-processing of an appeal from a District Court conviction in Carrickmacross. A submission on the review was received by the then Minister for Justice and Equality from the Department's Secretary General on 14 May 2018. This submission was subsequently approved by the Minister on 15 May 2019. It should be noted that the review in question did not ultimately proceed.
It was intended that the O’Farrell family would be sent a copy of the terms of reference for the review, as well as a copy of the Courts Service report which prompted its establishment, following approval of the submission. I acknowledge that there was a significant delay in providing this material to the family. This was not due to any reluctance to share the information, but was rather due to an unacceptable but unintentional and accidental oversight. This oversight only came to light in the course of responding to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the family, and the material was provided to them on 24 February 2020. My Department has expressed its sincere apologies to the O’Farrell family for this delay, and I apologise again to them.
My Department brought the matter referred to in the Courts Service report to the attention of Judge Haughton, who is conducting an independent scoping exercise into matters relating to the death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell. Judge Haughton agreed to consider the matter as part of his scoping exercise.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the Judge is completely independent in conducting this scoping exercise. It is not open to me as Minister to comment on any aspect of the Judge's work or the process of compiling the final report. My Department maintains regular contact with the Judge and has assured him that any assistance he requires to complete his final report will be made available.
While I genuinely regret that this process has taken significantly longer than any of us would like, I am also aware that the Judge is doing all that he can to ensure that the concerns which the family have raised with him during the process are followed through to the greatest extent possible. I understand that Judge Haughton has been in contact with the O’Farrell family throughout his scoping exercise.
Judge Haughton recently wrote to my Department seeking comments on one specific section of the draft report. In answer to the Deputy’s question on this matter, a response from the Department on the specific section was supplied to Judge Haughton. Judge Haughton has subsequently been in contact with the Department in the past week to seek feedback on three further sections of his draft report.
The Department further understands that Judge Haughton has been in touch with the O'Farrell family regarding this matter. Following receipt of responses from all relevant parties, it is understood that Judge Haughton will be in a position to finalise his report. My Department will continue to provide all necessary assistance to the Judge, and I look forward to receiving his final report in due course.
Following receipt of the final report, the advice of the Attorney General will be sought on publication and any other issues arising.