Posted April 5th, 2013
Shining a light on how family law is administered will lead to transparency and better understanding of child protection issues
Welcoming the launch of the website of the new Child Care Law Reporting Project, www.childlawproject.ie today (Thursday), Fine Gael Wicklow Deputy, Simon Harris, said the project will lead to a revealing insight into how child and family law is administered through the courts for the first time ever.
“Operating under regulations that were signed by the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald TD, in November last year, a number of researchers have been given access to what were previously in-camera court proceedings; primarily in the District Court but also in the Circuit and the High Court.
“The launch today of the project’s website will see the first 30 anonymised reports of the cases that have been monitored and reviewed, giving us a narrative and commentary and ultimately an insight into the workings of family law. An interim report is expected sometime later this year which will offer conclusions and further discussion on the cases under consideration.
“Until now the level of transparency surrounding the operation of the family courts, owing to the in-camera rule, has been non-existent with the general public having little or no idea about what exactly goes on or how the courts are treating our younger people. This move by Minister Fitzgerald and the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, who is focused on radically reforming the Family Court structure, will shine a light on everyday cases, giving us a realistic view of child protection and welfare services through the courts.
“This move also represents a significant response to the key recommendations of the independent Child Death Review Group, which clearly stated the need to change the in-camera rule. I am delighted that we have taken a firm step in that direction and acknowledge the fact that this is only happening with the active support of Minister Fitzgerald and her department.
“This is tangible proof of the Government’s radical reform agenda on child protection which is extremely ambitious. For the first time ever we have had children’s rights enshrined explicitly in our Constitution and Minister Shatter has signalled his intention to hold a referendum in the future to establish new Family Courts. Our children are our most precious resource. Ensuring their fair treatment in every aspect of life is a key priority of this Government. The removal of the in-camera rule and the work of the Child Care Law Reporting Project are instrumental in realising that goal.”
Posted March 14th, 2013
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, a member of the Bray Policing Committee has said that new crime figures for 2013 show a substantial reduction in house burglaries and car theft in Bray compared to last year.
Deputy Harris outlined that figures provided to the Policing Committee in Bray at its meeting this week showed that in 2012 so far there have been 27 burglaries in Bray. This is down from 71 burglaries in the same period last year and represents a decrease of 62%. Figures for car theft show that there have been 2 incidences this year compared to 12 for the same period in 2012. This represents an 83% decrease.
Responding to these figures, Deputy Harris said, “I want to commend our Gardai in Bray for this very positive news in relation to the reduction in burglaries and car theft in the town. Last year saw a huge spate of house burglaries and a number of car thefts. These new figures show substantial progress has been made by the Gardai in reducing these crimes.”
“Obviously there is no room for complacency. As a community we need to remain vigilant to such crimes and support the Gardai in tackling them. As a member of the Bray Policing Committee, I will continue to closely monitor this and ensure the Gardai receive the resources necessary to continue to deliver such great outcomes for the community,” concluded Deputy Harris.
Posted February 12th, 2013
Deployment of 25 extra Garda vetting staff a welcome movement in child protection – Harris
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed the announcement by Minister for Justice that 25 additional staff have been deployed to the Garda Central Vetting Unit. The Unit, will be renamed as the National Vetting Bureau following commencement of Section 28 of the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act, will have a substantially expanded role under new legislation.
“I am pleased that the Minister has decided to provide an additional 25 staff to The National Vetting Bureau. The demands brought about by the new vetting legislation mean there is a significant need for these additional staff.
“Under the new vetting legislation, the types of work or activities that require vetting include:
• Childcare services;
• Hospitals and health services;
• Residential services or accommodation for children or vulnerable persons;
• Treatment, therapy or counselling services for children or vulnerable persons;
• Provision of leisure, sporting or physical activities to children or vulnerable persons;
• Promotion of religious beliefs.
“There are a significant number of people working across a number of professions who have yet to be vetted. There are approximately 20,000 organisations registered with the National Vetting Bureau for vetting of their staff and volunteers. The Bureau processed 350,000 applications in 2012 and processing times are currently running at 8 to 10 weeks.
“The new legislation will ensure more prompt and thorough vetting of those who work with children and that is something that I warmly welcome.”
Posted November 23rd, 2012
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, a former chairman of the County Wicklow Policing Committee, has today welcomed the roll-out of a Garda text messaging system.
After a recent meeting of Greystones Joint Policing Council Deputy Harris stated that ‘this system will make it easier for members of neighbourhood watches and other concerned members of the public to aid Gardaí in preventing and responding to crime in their local areas.
‘The Gardaí advised me of this new development at the recent Joint Policing Committee in Greystones and I am delighted that this additional service is being provided. I hope that there will be a significant improvement both in terms of prevention and detection arising out of this change especially having spoken to many constituents during my canvasses and clinics about there concerns.
‘I welcome the introduction of this service in December and encourage members of the community to actively engage with Gardaí in preventing crime in their local areas. Policing is dependent on good interaction between Gardaí and the local community. This new texting resource will help further improve this level of interaction. .’ Concluded Deputy Harris.
Posted November 16th, 2012
Wicklow TD says it is not good enough to just have Garda vetting for those working in the home – vetting must also be carried out for those handling sensitive information
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris has called for an extension of Garda vetting to include all those who handle sensitive and personal information in relation to older people and people with disabilities when providing home help and home care packages.
Currently, people who work in the home of an older people or a person with a disability undergo Garda vetting. However, those who work in offices where they have access to sensitive and personal information involving vulnerable members of society are not subject to vetting.
Speaking on this issue, Deputy Harris said, “Home help is an important service which many older people and people with disabilities depend on to. Those involved in the provision of home help services are placed in a very important position of trust by the person availing of the service and that person’s family. Currently, all those who provide home help are vetted to ensure that we have people of the absolute highest integrity carrying out this vital sevice. However, this vetting does not extend to people working in the offices of companies providing home help who could have access to sensitive and important information regarding an older person or a vulnerable person. I think it would be beneficial to extend vetting to all those who work with an older people or a person with a disabilitiy regardless of whether it is in their home or whether it is an office with access to their information.”
“I raised this issue with the Minister for Health this week at a meeting in Leinster House and I intend to pursue it further in Dáil Éireann in the coming weeks to ensure those availing of home help and home care packages can know that their security, safety and protection is absolutely paramount,” concluded Deputy Harris.
Posted November 8th, 2012
Wicklow TD calls for action to tackle burglaries at Greystones policing meeting.
Wicklow Fine Gale TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed news from the Gardaí at a recent meeting of the Greystones Joint policing committee that extra patrols will be put in place to target burglary hot-spots in the locality.
Deputy Harris raised concern, at the policing meeting, that there had been a number of burglaries in recent weeks and months in Greystones and the surrounding area, particularly in estates easily accessible to motorways and dual carriage ways.
Speaking on this issue Deputy Harris said ‘I very much welcome the news from senior Gardaí at our recent policing meeting that extra targeted patrols have commenced in our town in an effort to craic down on burglaries. I am in no doubt that this will be of assistance to our community and will reassure many residents about burglaries occurring in their locality.
‘I would also like to commend the work that has been done in the town by community Gardaí in recent months in establishing and re-establishing neighbourhood watch groups in estates around the town. I would encourage residents to report any suspicious activity to the local Gardaí, so that as a community we can work together to play our part in reducing burglaries in our town.’ Concluded Deputy Harris.
Posted October 25th, 2012
Sentencing for serious assaults should be reflective of the seriousness of the crimes.
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has expressed concern regarding the on-going lenient sentencing that has occurred in relation to serious assaults.
‘While recognising Judicial Independence, there is a need for sentencing guidelines to be updated to ensure more appropriate sentencing guidelines for serious assaults.
‘Serious assaults have massive and often irreversible impacts on the victims. Media reports on sentencing in a range of recent cases have caused many of my constituents concern.
‘I share their grave concerns regarding the duration of sentences being given out for some crimes, serious assaults need to be treated as such and law abiding people have a reasonable expectation of protection from the State.
‘I have written to the Minister for Justice regarding this and have been advised that the Minister has
created a working group that will examine penal policy and that this group will look at the issue of sentencing policy.
‘I look forward to the publication of the working group report and hope that the recommendations reflect the need for more consistent and appropriate sentencing.’
Posted August 18th, 2012
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris has welcomed the commitment from the Gardai to put in place extra Garda patrols to tackle the issue of burglaries in the Greystones area.
Deputy Harris had raised concerns about the regular occurrence of burglaries in and around Greystones and the fear and concern this had caused for many residents particularly older people.
“I was very pleased that at a recent meeting of the Greystones Joint Policing Committee, the Gardai announced that they would be putting extra Garda patrols in place to try to reduce burglaries in the town and the surrounding areas. This will come as a great relief to residents in the locality who are really concerned about the spate of burglaries in the town,” stated Deputy Harris.
“As a community we need to do all that we can to assist the Gardai in cracking down on this problem. If anybody sees any suspicious activity, it is important to report this to the Gardai as quickly as possible. I would also urge people to check out www.garda.ie for advice on how to protect your home from burglaries,” concluded Deputy Harris.
Posted June 20th, 2012
Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, Simon Harris, has today (Wednesday) strongly condemned the people responsible for this morning’s pipe bomb attack which has left a young boy critically injured in Newtown Mount Kennedy in Wicklow.
“I am utterly appalled at this morning’s pipe bomb attack which has left a young boy critically injured in hospital. This type of mindless criminality must be eradicated and I am urging anyone with any information to contact the Gardaí.
“My thoughts are with the young boy, his family and the community during this difficult time. The Gardaí have begun a comprehensive investigation and the public can rest be assured that no stone will be left unturned in finding out who is responsible for this horrific attack.”
Posted March 23rd, 2012
Harris raises growing problem of online fraud in the Dáil, warns businesses and consumers to be vigilant.
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has raised the significant growth in the area of online fraud in the Dáil. Speaking on the issue, Deputy Harris said, “The internet has provided Irish businesses with many new opportunities to communicate with customers and identify new markets, but it also presents many new challenges, among them the growth in ‘card not present’ (CNP) fraud, where items are purchased using stolen credit card details.”
“If a consumer is affected by CNP fraud, they have the inconvenience of having to make a claim and to cancel and replace their cards, but ultimately they are entitled to a refund from the bank or credit card company. The same is not true for retailers, who are often left bearing the brunt of the cost. There is no reimbursement for businesses who ship items in good faith, only to find the payment cancelled as a fraudulent purchase is identified.”
“Other countries have introduced what is known as Address Verification Systems, which help retailers in spotting online fraud. This allows retailers to do a live check of the relevant details, benefitting both businesses and consumers by flagging suspicious activity at a very early stage.”
“At a time when the Government is sending out a very strong and important messages encouraging businesses to reach out to new markets and to grow their businesses, it is important that as a Government, we do everything possible to support these companies – and that includes helping firms to be profitable and create jobs by ending fraud.”
“I have asked the Minister to have this issue considered as part of the White Paper on fraud which is currently being compiled, and look forward to the publication of the report.”