Budget 2017: Fitzgerald welcomes €85m increase in justice budget

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has welcomed funding of €2.54 billion for the justice and equality sector in Budget 2017, an increase of €85 million increase over the revised estimate in 2016.

The budget includes an additional €30 million to be made available for the courts, bringing the total allocation to €140 million in 2017.

The additional funding will boost staffing across the Courts Service, including in probate, wards of court and change management as well as provincial court offices in order to relieve delays.

The Legal Aid Board’s budget will increase by €4 million (12 per cent), improving provision of legal advice to vulnerable families. It includes €2.4 million for legal advice and representation to people who are insolvent and in mortgage arrears.

The budget will also allow for the recruitment of 800 more gardaí and up to 500 civilian Garda staff next year, as well as 300 appointments to the Garda Reserve.

Ms Fitzgerald said the additional funding “will support and strengthen the reform process underway in An Garda Síochána”.

Funding of €6 million will also allow for construction of the new forensic science laboratory in Co Kildare to begin next year, bringing it forward from the originally expected start date in 2019.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “I am acutely aware of the very significant expert contribution played by Forensic Science Ireland in the criminal justice system. Given the importance of the fight against crime, the new custom-built facilities, when completed, will allow for greater efficiencies and a much improved service in analysing samples submitted from crime scenes and providing expert evidence in criminal trials.”

Dr Sheila Willis, director of Forensic Science Ireland, said: “This is very good news for the management and staff of FSI. The current facility is unsuitable for modern science practices and it is vital that a new laboratory starts as soon as possible. This will allow us to make full use of the huge potential offered by the new DNA database and future-proof the needs of the Service for decades to come.”