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Plan to extend opening hours won’t come into effect until next year

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has published the Justice Plan 2021.

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The Four Courts in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

The Four Courts in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

The Four Courts in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Extending opening hours for pubs and nightclubs will not happen until next year at the earliest, as part of a Government plan to help the hospitality sector.

In a bid to revive the night-time economy after the pandemic, the Government is reforming licensing laws which will see changes to opening hours.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee published the Justice Plan 2021 which contains more than 200 items to be implemented by the Government.

Among them is a proposal to stagger and extend closing times to help businesses worst affected by Covid-19.

However,  Ms McEntee said it is a large piece of legislation and will take time to implement.

She said on Monday that she hopes to have it in place by next year.

The justice minister also said it brings a 19th century piece of legislation into the 21st century.

“It’s not all about having longer opening hours, and giving people longer access to pubs and nightclubs and cultural venues, it’s about making sure that we have a variety, and that we can support our industry,” Ms McEntee added.

“But doing so with communities, An Garda Siochana and with all stakeholders.

“The reform is one part of the conversation, that once this pandemic is over and our night-time economy resumes, that we have the supports in place to work with them to highlight the wonderful artists, the DJs, the promoters, restaurants and bars, and ensure we do it in a way that is supported by communities.”

Ms McEntee said she wants to prioritise domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Under the proposed plans, the department said it will build a new infrastructure on how sexual, domestic and gender-based violence services are organised and supported across departments.

The department will also publish a new Sexual Offences Bill to deliver reforms to sexual offences legislation arising from the O’Malley report, which looked at the treatment of victims of sex crimes.

This includes the recommendations from the Law Reform Commission, which provides for a reasonable belief in consent defence.

The Government also plans to launch two public awareness campaigns on the meaning of consent.

One will target those in the higher education sector.

The department has also published plans to reduce the high cost of taking legal action.

I want to see communities that are safe. I want to see a justice system that is accessible and fairLaw Reform Minister James Browne

The minister plans to introduce new scales of legal costs, which would be independently drawn up.

It comes after a report published by former president of the High Court, Peter Kelly, made recommendations on how to reduce the cost of litigation.

Ms McEntee plans to introduce new binding scales for costs, except where both parties agree to opt out.

The department will also review the civil legal aid scheme and bring forward proposals for reform.

Ms McEntee said that the department has five main goals.

“The first goal is focusing on how we can tackle crime, how we can enhance our national security and transform our policing system,” she said.

“Second, our goal is to improve access to justice and doing so by modernising our court system.

“Our third goal is focused on strengthening community safety and reducing reoffending on supporting all victims of crime, and combating domestic sexual and gender-based violence.

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The minister plans to introduce new binding scales for legal costs (Katie Collins/PA)

The minister plans to introduce new binding scales for legal costs (Katie Collins/PA)

PA

The minister plans to introduce new binding scales for legal costs (Katie Collins/PA)

“A fourth goal aims to deliver a fairer immigration system, one that is underpinned, and based on a digital system that is fit for our generation.

“Our fifth goal is taking all of this together and accelerating that innovation, that digital transformation and applying our climate action goals across the entire justice sector.”

James Browne, Minister for Law Reform, said the plan is ambitious but realistic and deliverable.

“The justice system plays a hugely important role within our communities and for our young people,” he added.

“By focusing on implementing positive changes in our justice system, that have the greatest impacts in the real world, on communities and young people and for opportunities for our children.

“I want to see communities that are safe. I want to see a justice system that is accessible and fair.”

PA


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