When the Dáil adjourned, an amendment, moved by me, was under consideration, and perhaps it would not be out of place if I were to re-state what the purport of the amendment was. My amendment proposes to delete Section 63 from the Bill. The Section, as it stands, provides that all appeals from the Circuit Courts shall be taken on the notes of the stenographer and only on the notes of the stenographer, and my amendment proposes to delete that Section from the Bill. The reasons I gave for moving the amendment were twofold. The first reason was, that it would be almost as costly to the litigant to pay for the transcript of the evidence as it would be to bring the witnesses to Dublin. The second reason was, that in administering justice you learn a great deal from the appearance and demeanour of the witnesses as to how they answer questions put to them. You cannot cross-examine the shorthand transcript of the evidence. I do think it would facilitate the ends of justice if it were possible for the Court of Appeal, or the Appeal Tribunal, dealing with these appeals from Circuit Courts, which, remember, will have power to hear actions for much larger sums than has been the case hitherto, if the Judges in these Appeal Courts were to have an opportunity of seeing the witnesses and forming their own opinion as to their testimony. I should like to congratulate, not so much the Attorney-General, as the Dáil on the presence of the Attorney-General, and on the fact that he is now able to speak to us face to face instead of through the voice of somebody else. I should like, now that we have the Attorney-General here, to get free counsel's opinion on the subject, and to ask him what, in his view, would happen if this amendment of mine were carried. Would it not leave it optional to the Appeal Tribunal to adopt the procedure it thought best? If they wished to go on the notes of the shorthand writer they could do so, but, if they found that system unsatisfactory, it would be possible for them to turn to another method, and that is to adopt the method of hearing oral testimony. I think if possible we should leave this matter as open as we can, so as not to force the Minister to resort to the expediency of bringing in an amending Bill next year, if it is found that this provision does not work. I do feel that this Section is a blemish on the Bill, and therefore I should be very grateful to the Attorney-General if he would answer the points I have put.
CIVIL SERVICE REGULATION (No. 2) BILL, 1923. - THE COURTS OF JUSTICE BILL, 1923.—THIRD STAGE RESUMED.
This Section is really one of the principal reforms proposed to be effected by this measure. In considering the proposal it is well to bear in mind what are the existing appeals. The Circuit Courts will comprise, within their jurisdiction, the cases at present heard by the County Courts, and a section of the cases heard by the High Courts. The cases now heard by the County Courts are limited to a maximum of £50. Now, in these cases the existing appeal, known as a Civil Bill Appeal, is taken to the Judge of Assize and has a complete re-hearing. The Judiciary Committee were greatly impressed by the fact, as I think all members of the Bar familiar with Assize Court practice were greatly impressed, that the re-hearing given by the Assize Court has never been a satisfactory re-hearing. In the first place, it tends to a certain vice in the primary hearing before the County Court Judge. The hearing before the County Court Judge tends to become a trial run of the witnesses, and when a case comes on at a later stage before the Judge of Assize all persons interested in the case have learned its weaknesses and its strong points, and the fact of the trial gallop is often very obvious in the testimony that is given on the rehearing.
Further the Civil Bill appeal has suffered from the fact that the Judge of Assize has heard these cases in quantity within a very limited time, generally against a railway time-table. So that you have disadvantage from the point of view of the case as it was presented, disadvantage from the point of view of the tribunal as it heard it, and, in addition, to the successful party there was this added disadvantage that one might get a decree in a County Court, say in October, and would have to wait until the following March to have an appeal disposed of before the decree could be effective one way or the other. The Committee were greatly impressed, as I have said the members of the Bar and solicitors have always been impressed, by the fact that the Civil Bill appeal, as we knew it, was a most unsatisfactory form of proceeding.
The other cases, the cases which are now heard by the High Court, between the limits of £50 and £300 in value, which are commonly called Records, formerly were tried in a great hurry by the Judge of Assize or tried in Dublin. In these cases the existing manner of appeal is an appeal on Judge's notes, not an appeal by a rehearing of the witnesses, and every member of the Bar in this country has been greatly impressed by the great drawbacks that attend a hearing on Judge's notes. Either the Judge takes very elaborate notes, lengthy notes which prevent him having that acute observation of witnesses of which Deputy Bryan Cooper speaks, or he takes inadequate notes, and the result has been that there has been for years a demand in all the Courts here to have a stenographic report of the evidence as they have had in England for a very considerable time. The form of appeal in those cases is an appeal upon the evidence as given, raising the question of its admissibility and whether the verdict has been perverse, against the weight of evidence, or whether the damages have been excessive. There will be nothing novel in the appeal that is provided in this Bill in those cases save that a more complete record of the evidence will be available. A further matter which is of no small importance, as most practising members of the Bar are aware, there will be a record of the Judge's charge to the jury, which hitherto has not been available, and which often might provide matter which would be very interesting on appeal, as has been found in England. So that its novelty has been confined to the cases under £50. It prevents the anomalous re-hearing of a Civil Bill appeal, and as regards the other class of cases it simply improves the existing appeal by providing more adequate material.
As regards the cost, the Assizes being done away with, the four circuits, which were a very large and expensive institution, as they had registrars and officials of various kinds, will now give place to the Circuit Court, which will rest upon an establishment practically equal to the establishment of the County Court, and the saving will far more than cover the provision of stenographers for the Circuit Courts. We have, as a matter of fact at present, in the Chancery Courts, an appeal on what amounts to a stenographer's record of the evidence. The Judge of the two Chancery Courts here is at present provided with a shorthand-writer who takes a complete record of the evidence, and I believe it has always worked very satisfactorily. The Committee laid very great store by this provision. This amendment would go far to impair what they thought was a considerable reform, and accordingly the Government recommends very strongly this Section to the Dáil.
I am very glad indeed that at length the Government thought fit to accept my suggestion, namely, that they should postpone the consideration of the Committee Stage of this Bill until we had the advantage of the presence of the Attorney-General among us. The Attorney-General has replied to my friend, Deputy Bryan Cooper, by making a general attack on the old Civil Bill appeal, and by stating that this method of appeal on stenographer's notes will be an improvement upon that method. As regards his statement that members of the Bar generally, and even, as far as I am aware, of the Judiciary Committee in particular, were against the continuance of the old form of Civil Bill appeal, I am afraid I cannot be in agreement with him. The Civil Bill appeal is the most essentially Irish portion—in fact it is practically the only Irish portion of the existing County Court system in this country. It may be true that in the past it has not worked well in many instances, but I say that that is a matter of finding fault with the past administration of that system, and not with the system itself.
The Attorney-General has thought fit to call what will be an appeal on the stenographer's notes an appeal. I say it shall be nothing of the kind. In the first place, it will not be an appeal upon questions of fact. That appeal goes by the board. It will only be an appeal on questions of law, and anyone who has knowledge or experience of the English system, as it now works, knows that appeals on questions of law are matters very difficult indeed to raise.
In fact, the present proposal is to nullify appeals. It comes to this, that from the decision of the future Circuit Judge there is to be nothing in the nature of a serious appeal.
As far as the cost is concerned the Attorney-General blandly tells us that the cost, taking away the necessity for sending down Judges of Assize, will be about the same as the cost of the existing County Courts. I do not like to make a prophecy; it is a very fatal thing to do in legal as well as in political affairs, but does the Attorney-General mean to say that the new Circuit Judge, travelling round from town to town, for all we know, from village to village, in these huge areas which he will have to traverse with his enormous retinue, will not cost more than the existing County Court Judges? Is one stenographer going to be sufficient for the Circuit Judge? Surely the Attorney-General knows enough about shorthand writing to know that one stenographer cannot remain in Court all day taking down everything, as he will have to do, because questions of appeal do not arise, mark you, until the decision is given. Therefore, every little case and every statement made will have to be taken down. Does he mean to say that one man is going to be sufficient to take down, and, furthermore, to transcribe that night, everything that has taken place during the day? Of course he does not. Not only will there have to be at least two, but, in my opinion, there will have to be more than two stenographers. They will have to work in shifts, just like the official reporters work in this and in every other Parliament. They will have to come on and go off, and they will have to transcribe their notes and transcribe them almost immediately, because everyone knows that shorthand, even one's own shorthand, is a very difficult thing to transcribe unless you go at it immediately after the subject matter has been written in shorthand. All this being so, I am inclined to the conclusion, and I think it is a very reasonable one, that you will require a large retinue of skilled shorthand writers. And what about the typists? You will have to have typists going around as well. A man cannot take notes, transcribe them; and do the typewriting all in one. You will have to have efficient typists, and as this caravan travels from day to day, from place to place, the troupe will have to be increased by typists, shorthand writers and others. As to the system being less costly to the litigant, I am not going to argue that; but one thing I will argue, that it will be more costly to the State, and that it will be more costly in its initial stages. The system of appeal on notes taken by Judges, of course, had its faults, but Judges have had their faults, too. The Judges we are going to appoint in the future under the Attorney-General's supervision, surely will not have the faults of the Judges who were appointed under the alien administration of days gone by. I would suggest that this Section, which is an entire leap in the dark, which is a pure experiment, which has not been tried in like circumstances elsewhere, should be dropped now, and that we should revert to the system which, if it has been maladministered in the past, because of its being a system, need not necessarily be maladministered in the future. The proposal is to have every case, every word, reported. Any one who is acquainted with County Court work—and I am afraid it is some time since the Attorney-General had to go to the counties, unlike some of the rest of his poorer brethren—knows that a case would present a very different appearance indeed upon paper, when A swears black and B swears white, and you do not see either A or B, to what it would present when you see A in the box and you also see B in the box.
A Judge has very often to decide a question upon the general demeanour and the veracity of the witnesses. Therefore, it all comes down to this. This proposal contained in this Section is to nullify appeals and to do away with any right—at least any practicable right—of either party, who through legitimate reasons ventures to quarrel with or differ from the decision of the Judge in making his appeal, both in fact and in law.
I am very grateful to the Attorney-General for his exposition of the Section, but he did not answer my question as to what effect the deletion of the clause would have—whether it would leave the matter open. Therefore, I cannot withdraw my amendment, but I do not propose to put the Dáil to the trouble of dividing, if this question is put, unless I have more support than I think I have at present.
Deputy Redmond has been very entertaining in his description of the future of this procedure, but it is satisfactory to be able to say that these stenographers will not be required to report counsel's speeches, and consequently they will have considerable opportunity for presenting a complete record of the matter that is material to the appeal. At present there is only one stenographer in each of the two Chancery Courts and he, to my own knowledge, discharges that duty without assistance with great efficiency. Deputy Redmond suggests that this section denies appeal in fact. I am afraid that Deputy Redmond cannot have considered the Section as closely as I think he should. The Section provides that a Court of Appeal may order a new trial or may vary a judgement so that if on the report of the evidence, which is presented by the stenographer, the Court of Appeal is satisfied that the evidence has not been acted upon in the order and in the way which the Court thinks is in accordance with law, or the weight of evidence, it will be open to the Court of Appeal to send back the case for re-hearing with such directions as it may think fit. There is one important consideration which I think is lost sight of, if the proposal to delete this Section is adopted. What is the alternative if the Section is deleted? You have appeals to Dublin. Are you to preserve the method of the full re-hearing of cases under £50, and convey the witnesses to Dublin for the full re-hearing by the Court of Appeal of a case already heard before a jury? If this process of appeal, on points upon which the former trials may have been unsatisfactory, is deleted then I say the right of appeal will be denied, because such a thing as conveying country witnesses to Dublin for complete re-hearing would be an unworkable process, and beyond the means of the ordinary people concerned in these cases. The matter goes to the root of the scheme outlined by the Committee and I say, notwithstanding Deputy Redmond, that the Committee was unanimous in recommending this particular provision. Therefore, it seems to me that the deletion of the Section is practically a denial of the right of appeal to these country litigants.
I do not like to trespass on the Committee any further, but I must shew, at least the Attorney-General, that I have read the Section. The Section reads: "Such appeals should be grounded on the report of an official stenographer, but the Court that hears such appeal may if it thinks fit admit fresh evidence, etc." They have first to hear the appeal and it is not the method by which they have to hear the appeal that I object to. But the appeal which they propose to hear will not reflect the true state of the case. In regard to an alternative suggestion, I am perfectly prepared to make an alternative—in fact I made it a few weeks ago. Instead of deleting the Section, I would be prepared to propose another amendment which would make the Bill, to my mind, a more workable and practicable one.
The proposal I made some time ago, which I will ask you to endure for one or two moments longer, was this: I am not yet satisfied in my mind whether it was the intention of the Government ever to create what they defined in the preliminary Section of this Bill as Commissioners of the High Court Circuits. Those are the gentlemen which they say they might create at some future time to take the place of the old Judges of Assize in trying more serious criminal offences. If the Government do intend to send those Judges down the country to try the more serious cases of murder, treason, felony and so forth, I hope their time will not be fully occupied, and my suggestion was this. When they come round to the country they should then and there be empowered to take Appeals from the Circuit Courts up to the sum of £100. That is very reasonable. Here are those fine gentlemen enjoying fat salaries. They will be sent down to the country. They will be engaged in considering the most serious forms of crime which are exempted from the jurisdiction of the Circuit Courts. They will have very little to do. Why not allow them at the same time to take Appeals from the Circuit Courts up to the sum of £100? In all sums over £100 let the Appeals go direct to Dublin. They will be a very small proportion of cases. They probably will eventually find their way to Dublin, and to take a short cut to Dublin, without going around through the proposed Court of Appeal, I say would, if anything, be advantageous to the litigant. That is my suggestion, as an alternative, in case the Government do think of creating these Commissioners of the High Court Circuits. If they have no intention of ever creating these Commissioners of the High Court Circuits, it is another matter. As I said on a previous occasion, I would like to hear what the Dublin jurors would have to say. If they have no intention of creating those Commissioners of the High Court Circuit, it will be seriously unfair to Dublin jurymen to have to try important and heinous forms of crime from all parts of the country. If they do intend creating these High Court Circuit Commissioners, why not give them a little more to do, and why not, in that manner, continue the existing form of Civil Bill Appeal which, I say, has proved satisfactory, and should be a satisfactory method of appeal in the future in spite of what the Attorney-General says?
There seems to be some confusion with regard to the Commissioners of the High Court Circuit. It is not intended to have two teams of Judges circuiteering through the country. There will be a permanent Circuit Court. They will have criminal jurisdiction to a very considerable extent. The power is taken to have Judges of the High Court, which Court alone will have jurisdiction with regard to the more heinous forms of crime. Power is taken whenever the necessity arises to send out to any part of the country Commissioners who will be able to dispose of crops of this particular class of case. It is not intended to have High Court Commissioners going out periodically dealing with any form of case. Only should the occasion arise by reason of a crop of crime of the more serious character, there is power to send Judges of the High Court to the locality to deal with the cases.
andCaptain REDMOND: In line one to delete the figures “28” and to substitute therefor the figures “27.”
I take it that this amendment refers to the marginal note. That can be altered in the office. There is no need for the amendment.
In the absence of Deputy Hewat, I desire to move the amendment standing in his name. It is as follows:—
To insert before Section 66 a new Section as follows:—
"Where any documents which would, if duly proved, be admissible in evidence are produced to the Court from the proper custody, they shall be read without further proof if in the opinion of the Judge they appear genuine and if no objection is taken thereto.
If the admission of any documents so produced is objected to the Judge may adjourn the hearing for proof of the documents and the party objecting shall pay the costs caused by such objection in case the documents are afterwards proved, unless the Judge otherwise orders."
The meaning of this addition is so obvious that it needs no words to commend it. In the discussions in connection with this Bill, we have had statements about the necessity for sending witnesses to different parts of the country, and I think it is obvious, in adopting such a clause as this, that a considerable amount of expense would be saved, because documents which require proof, of course, need witnesses to prove them, and if we can take any steps whereby the attendance of these witnesses might be avoided, we will materially assist litigants and reduce expense. I understand that this is the practice on the other side, and I am sure that if the Government can see its way to adopt this proposal it will be in the interest of litigants.
I am afraid that this amendment could not be accepted. I do not know if any modification of it might be proposed, but as it stands it could not be accepted. I take it that what Deputy Hewat and Deputy Good have in mind is principally the matter of producing ledgers or account-books in proof of claims of debt. We all know that cross-examination is a very valuable asset with either party, and that it may be open to a defendant to cross-examine, if he has matter for cross-examination, on an account that is pressed against him. The probability is that he is opposing the claim because of some challenge to some material matter in the account. I have myself from time to time seen accounts presented in court and when cross-examination was directed to them they were found to include items which were illegal under the Tippling Acts or the Truck Acts. It seems to me that the commercial community is really protected, inasmuch as they will have the right, both in the High Court and in the Circuit Court, in clear cases, to move for judgment on affidavit without trial, and if they make an unanswerable case on their ledger or account, verified by affidavits, they get their judgment as a matter of course. That is the ordinary procedure. It is only where the defendant has some matter upon which he can challenge the account that these actions ever go to trial, and if such be the case it is proper that the defendant should have the opportunity to cross-examine and apply to produce the accounts, and that the accounts should not be merely admitted to court as proof per se.
I quite agree that there are cases in connection with detailed accounts where such a course as the Attorney-General outlines is necessary, but he can recall to mind cases in which documents produced in the ordinary course, must be proved. If they can be accepted as evidence without taking witnesses to distant parts of the country it would certainly be for the convenience of the commercial community.
Perhaps I might add that if it is a mere matter of proving a particular document that is admitted, and the particular document is a genuine document, there is a simple procedure by which that can be accomplished. The party who wants to have a document admitted for what it purports to be serves notice for admission upon his opponent. If his opponent refuses to admit the document and fails afterwards to show that it is not a genuine document, he is mulcted in costs. That is one of the recognised, everyday matters of procedure under the rules of the court.
The next amendment also stands in the name of Deputy Hewat. It is as follows:—
To insert a new Section before Section 66 as follows:—
"Wheresoever any Circuit Judge shall in any proceedings brought under and by virtue of this Act grant a Decree, dismiss or order the same shall be with such costs as are provided by this Act."
That is a clause that at present stands in the Civil Bill Act. This Clause was a great convenience in the matter of collecting small debts, and if it could be incorporated in this Bill it would be a great convenience also in the Circuit and in the District Courts.
That point is covered by the fact that in the Rule-making Section there is provision for the making of rules dealing with liability to costs, and that is the natural place to deal with it. The rules will naturally provide that the costs should follow or be under the control of the judge.
I understand, then, that the Rule-making Authority will deal with this matter?
Yes, and the Rules will be laid on the Table of the Dáil.
And incorporated in the Act?
No; the Rules will be laid on the Table, and may be discussed in the Dáil if Deputies want to raise any points on them.
In line 6, to delete the word "assistance" and insert in lieu thereof the words "concurrence of a majority."
The object of the amendment is to make the wording of this Section identical with that of the corresponding Section dealing with the Rule-making Authority of the High Court, that is Section 36.
I am very glad, indeed, that this amendment has been proposed, because in the Section, as it stood, the Minister for Home Affairs would really be the ultimate and final authority for making Rules for Circuit Courts. The proposed amendment brings the Rule-making Authority for the Circuit Court into line, more or less, with the Rule-making Authority for the High Court, but at the same time I must make this observation in regard to this Rule-making Authority, that in this respect the framers of this Bill have not thought fit to go on the lines laid down by the Judiciary Report. The Judiciary Report on the subject of the Rule-making Authority for the Circuit Courts reads as follows:—
"The Rule-making Authority for the Circuit Courts shall consist of— (a) Five members of their own body selected by the Bench of Circuit Judges; (b) two practising Barristers nominated by the Bar Council; and (c) two Solicitors nominated by the Council of the Incorporated Law Society."
But the Judiciary Committee never suggested that the Minister for Home Affairs should find a place there at all, and I must really protest in this regard, because in no previous Judicature Act that I am aware of has the Minister for Home Affairs, or one in a similar position to that which he now occupies in the Free State, had anything to do with the framing of the Rules for the various Courts. I think, that in this respect certainly, if not in all others, the Government would have been well advised to have followed the Report of the Judiciary Committee; in fact, I would very much like to know why in this particular instance they have thought fit to depart from the proposal laid down by the Judiciary Committee. I would venture to suggest, even at this late hour, though I have not put down an amendment to that effect, that they might re-consider their decision in this regard, and on the Report Stage delete from the Rule-making Authority, whether for High Court, County Court, or District Court, the Minister for Home Affairs.
I am afraid Deputy Redmond is hardly correct in saying that no similar Executive authority has been associated with the making of Court rules. In point of fact, all the judicature rules in this country up to this have been made by the Lord Lieutenant, who was the concentrated essence of Executive authority prior to the Treaty. Under the Judicature Act and in England, the rules are made in the name of the King and signed by the Secretary for Home Affairs. The reason is that under these rules vitally important matters will be dealt with, and they must be laid on the Table of the House, and there must be some person responsible to the House for them.
May I suggest that there should be some person responsible for the rules, who should not be the Minister for Home Affairs, but the Attorney-General, and, further, may I say in reference to this matter, that it is not of those under whose names the rules are made that I am complaining. The complaint I make is that they are made by the Minister for Home Affairs. Surely the Attorney-General does not expect me or anybody at this stage of the twentieth century to believe that the King or his representative, the Lord Lieutenant, in days gone by actually made rules. We have not yet reached that stage of childishness. If that was done in the past in the name of the Lord Lieutenant, why should it not be done now in the name of the present Lord Lieutenant, the Governor-General?
Tá leas-rún annseo agam le chur os comhair na Dála. Tá eagla orm nach bhfuil sé díreach in ordú, ach mar sin féin ba mhaith liom comhairle na Dála d'fhághail air. Saoilim go mba ceart eolas ar teangain na Gaedhilge a bheith ag na daoine a bheidh ag ceapadh na Rialacha.
Má cuirtear ar an gCoisde seo daoine ag a bhfuil an Ghaedhilg, tabharfar ceart agus cothrom do'n teangain. Ba cheart sin a dhéanamh.
I have an amendment which, with your permission, I wish to propose. I regret that it is not on the Order Paper but I think it is a very necessary amendment. I notice that on the Committee of gentlemen who are to compose the rule-making authority there is no mention of the Irish language. I think it should be absolutely necessary that there should be on that authority some gentlemen who would know Irish, so that nothing prejudicial to the Irish language could happen in Court. The amendment that I desire to propose is this:—
"To insert after the word `Judges,' in line seven, the following words, `of whom two at least shall know Irish,' and to insert after the word `Barristers,' in line eight and after the word `Solicitors,' in line 9, the following: `Of whom one at least shall know Irish'."
I hope the Attorney-General will accept this amendment.
Before accepting the amendment formally at this stage, I would like to hear the Attorney-General and see whether the matter cannot be taken up at the next stage, after it has appeared on the Order Paper.
This is a matter which deserves every consideration. Under Section 67 the Rules rather provide for the use of the National language, and of course under the Constitution the National language has an assured position of equality with the other language, whether in Court or elsewhere. It will be important that the rule-making authority personally should be of such a kind that full effect to that Constitutional position would be given. The most I will say at this present moment is that the Government will consider the best means of reaching that end which we certainly desire.
Táim sásta leis an geallamhaint sin, agus, ar a shon sin, nilim cun an leas rún a chur os bhur g-comhair anois.
I am satisfied with the answer given by the Attorney-General, and on the strength of his promises I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
I beg to move:
"In line 29, immediately after the word `therein' to insert the words `and the fixing and collection of fees.' "
This amendment is identical with the amendment already adopted by the Dáil in the corresponding Section of the Bill dealing with the Rule-making Authority of the High Courts.
I move to delete in the second line the word "Justices," and to substitute therefor the word "Justice."
This is merely the correction of a misprint. The Clause says that a District Court of Justice shall be constituted, and of course one District Justice constitutes a Court.
I am afraid the learned Deputy has missed the point. Each of these Courts is called a Court of Justice, and it is hoped that it will be a Court of Justice whether several functionaries or one dispenses justice. As a matter of fact this description of the Court is an important power, and involves an improvement of the existing law. The strictly local jurisdiction of the existing Petty Sessions District of the old removable magistrate led to great inconvenience, and it is now intended that there should be eight District Courts of Justice for the whole country, every Justice officiating for a different place, so that the decrees and judgments of a Court of Justice may run through the country, and one would not have to proceed separately if a delinquent moved to a different district. There will be one Court and not a series of Courts, and the word is deliberately chosen.
I was quite aware from the Judicial Committee's report that that reform was intended, but the provision to carry it out was not quite clear. So my amendment has served the useful purpose of having a declaration made officially that the Bill contemplates the same desirable reform.
The amendment is withdrawn.
I am withdrawing the amendment.
I beg to move:
"In lines 44 and 45, to delete the words ‘the Minister for Home Affairs with the concurrence of' and in line 45 to delete the word ‘fix' and insert in lieu thereof the word ‘determine.'"
The effect of the amendment is that the Minister for Finance shall have exclusive control of the amounts of the salaries of the Justices.
I would like to ask on this point whether if the amendment passes the position would be that each Justice is to be considered separately, or is it to be a case of appointing one Justice at one salary and another Justice at another salary? There is no suggestion here of a scale of salaries, and, before going on with the discussion, I would like to hear from the Minister in charge whether the clause as amended, or the clause as it stands, would leave the fixing of the salaries or the determining of the salaries to the Minister for the time being. It seems to me that unless there is a specific regulation made in the Bill that there shall be a scale of salaries fixed, there may be a discrimination between one Judge and another Judge, and that is undesirable.
When amendments were previously put forward that ran counter to the recommendation of the Committee, the audacious proposal was crushed with the retort that this eminent Committee had advised otherwise than the amendment proposed. And now here, in a very important particular, the unanimous recommendations of these eminent members of the Committee have been set aside. In page 13 of the Committee's report the recommendation reads, "The District Justice shall be paid a salary of £1,000 yearly, increasing by annual increments to £1,200." Now there is a very important principle involved here. Apart altogether from the possibilities which suggested themselves to Deputy Johnson, that one District Justice might have a different remuneration to another, there is this to be considered— that under the Constitution, District Justices are just as much Judges as Judges of the High Court. I may as well document my statement by quoting Article 64, "The Judicial power of the Irish Free State shall be exercised and justice administered in the public Courts established by the Oireachtas by Judges appointed in manner hereinafter provided. These Courts shall comprise Courts of First Instance and a Court of Final Appeal to be called the Supreme Court." ... and then it goes on "and also Courts of local and limited jurisdiction ..."
These are the Courts of local and most limited jurisdiction. According to that Article of the Constitution they are Judges. Now, Article 67 declares: "The number of Judges, the constitution, organisation of and distribution of business and jurisdiction among the said Courts and Judges, and all matters of procedure shall be as prescribed by the laws for the time being in force, and regulations made thereunder." The present Bill is the machinery for the carrying out of Article 67. In Article 68 the concluding passage runs: "The terms of appointment of Judges of such other Courts as may be created, shall be prescribed by law." That ought to include the remuneration, and, most important of all, Article 69 declares—and this is what has made me interrupt the harmony of the proceedings—"All Judges shall be independent in the exercise of their functions and subject only to the Constitution and the law."
If a Judge owes his appointment to a bureau, it might seem to the bureaucratic mind that it would follow as a natural and logical consequence that the bureaucrats could interfere with the administration of justice. I think it is most imperative, even if it were only as a matter of policy, that now that we are setting up courts of law, we should set them up under such conditions as would secure the uttermost independence of the Judge and his complete freedom from interference. Now, we do not require to be told the elementary fact of psychology that nothing gives so much independence to the character of a man as the knowledge that so long as he discharges his duties efficiently he has an adequate salary. These men who were appointed to this office should know from the beginning that they are not of the inferior rank of the servants of the Ministry, but that they are Judges, no doubt minor to the higher Judges, but at the same time placed in a status different altogether from that of mere civil servants or of anyone who is like a Centurion's servant. No one should be able to say to the Judge, even though he has a local or a limited jurisdiction, that he can go or come with the assurance that when the master says come he comes, and that when the master says go he goes.
I do not want to introduce anything that might seem irrelevant to the matter, but we do know that there was in the case of the Removable Magistrate in the past continual interference with the administration of justice from the Castle. Now, Castle Government has gone. Let us make sure that it has gone with a vengeance and that it cannot return under any other name. I would press the Minister strongly—as strongly as I am capable of pressing him—not to depart from the recommendation of the Committee in this respect. Let us fix the salaries here just as for the other Judges, by law directly, and not through the indirect intervention of the Minister.
I would like to support as strongly as possible the suggestion made by Deputy Magennis. It is a well-accepted principle that Judges should be absolutely independent and feel that they are independent of the Government or of the Ministry for the time being. The District Court will be the poor man's court. Very many cases that will crop up in ordinary everyday life will be decided there. It is no less important that the poor man's Judge should be made as independent as the High Court Judges by having their rates of salary put into the Bill and so made independent of the Ministry. Otherwise we might find that a Minister for Finance, in times of pressure, might think it advisable to say: "Take off 10 per cent. all round from the District Justices." That might lead to a state of affairs which we, who are prescribing the conditions under which justice should be administered, would not wish to see in the country. I strongly support Deputy Magennis's suggestion.
It will be remembered that in the debate on a previous portion of this Bill strong exception was taken to any interference on the part of a Minister with reference to the appointment of Judges of the High Court and Circuit Courts. So keen were Deputies in that respect that even in the matter of dress it was felt that the Minister ought to have nothing to say to it. One fails to understand why it is that District Justices should be treated with respect to salary in a different manner to that proposed for other Judges. In their case the salary is fixed at a definite figure and it is stated in the Bill. The public knows what it is going to pay for the administration of justice in connection with the two previous portions of the Bill. Is it not equally necessary and equally desirable that the salaries of the District Justices should also be fixed? As Deputy Johnson pointed out, it would be absolutely unfair if it were within the province of a Minister to fix different salaries for the District Justices operating in different portions of the country. If such a contingency arose I would recommend the Judges to form a Labour Union and insist on a flat salary.
They have one already, but it is no use.
I think the Government ought to reconsider this Section of the Bill and treat these Justices in the very same way as the other Judges are treated with respect to salary; that is, have the salary definitely fixed. I can understand, if there is a differentiation to be made, that in so far as the present holders of offices are concerned, their salary might differ from that given to others who will be appointed, for this reason: they came into office at a time of trial and trouble, and they gave their services to the country when there was grave risk in doing so. If there is any differentiation to be made as regards salary, it should be made in their favour. Whether it is made in their favour or not it is incumbent on the Government to state specifically what salaries they are going to pay to those Justices.
It is the intention, and always has been the intention, that the District Justices should have their positions very distinctly marked in independence from that of their predecessors, the Resident Magistrates. It is believed that they have been established in a position of independence in which they can dispense justice. As regards salary, they are protected by the Constitution from any reduction, once they have been appointed at a particular named sum, so that in so far as any attack might be made on their independence in the manner indicated by Deputy O'Connell, that is rendered impossible by Article 68 of the Constitution.
Having regard, however, to the expressions of opinion that I have heard, I will put the matter before the Minister for Finance between this and the next stage, and see whether he will be prepared to agree to any modification of this provision.
What does the Attorney-General propose with regard to that particular amendment to Section 70? Does he propose to withdraw it for the moment?
I am glad the Attorney-General has taken the line he has taken. I could wish he had gone further, and had accepted the amendment. I think the point made by Deputy Magennis is one of very considerable importance, and in that connection the words used by the Attorney-General himself are not without their meaning, because he stated that the Constitution gave protection against a reduction, and then the words he used in the speech he has just made were: "Once they have been appointed at a particular named sum," and it is with a view to getting that sum, both particular and named, that the argument has been made to it, and I suggest, though the Attorney-General may perhaps be reluctant to state it, that he will urge the acceptance of this amendment.
This is amendment 2, and should be to Section 70.
I realise that.
Am I to take it that leave is given to withdraw amendment 2? It is printed under Section 69, but it should be to Section 70.
I am not altogether satisfied with the reply given by the Attorney-General. I know perfectly well, because I have had previous experience, that when matters like this are re-considered, and when a pledge has been given to re-consider them, that that does not amount at all to a committal on the part of the Government. I could not expect them to admit that, and that being so, I think that this being a very serious question, a serious constitutional question raised by my friend, Deputy Magennis, that we should get a specific reply, namely, not as to the amount of the salaries, but whether the salaries will be fixed and not left to the discretion of the Minister for Finance or any other Minister. It is a serious constitutional question, because the fixing of these salaries, no matter what the sums involved are, according to the spirit of the Constitution at any rate, should not lie from time to time in the hands of the Executive. The salaries should be fixed by the Dáil, and should be fixed by this Bill, and having been fixed, should thereby render the recipients of these salaries absolutely independent of any future action on the part of any future Executive. That being so, I think we are entitled to a little more than the promise which has been graciously given by the Attorney-General, that he will urge, or that he will ask, or that he will appeal, to the Minister for Finance to re-consider this matter. I say it is not a matter for the Minister for Finance at all; it is a matter for this Dáil in carrying out the Constitution of this Free State. I say, therefore, that it is imperative upon us, as the custodians of this State, to insist here and now, if we can, that this principle should be properly carried out, and that a salary should be fixed, and fixed by us in this Bill, and not by the present or any future Minister for Finance, or any other Minister. That being so, I trust that in some way or another the members of this Dáil who are in favour of carrying out the Constitution in this respect should get an opportunity of recording their votes.
I want to support the view taken by Deputy Magennis and Deputy Redmond. I am not satisfied that the promise of the Attorney-General was a promise that anything would be done, except to consult. That is not very satisfactory. I want to emphasise the Section of the Constitution read by Deputy Magennis, and to put it to the Attorney-General that he has no option, and, as a matter of fact, that unless he is prepared to name the figure, that he ought to Report Progress until an amendment in the name of the Government is brought forward. Article 68 of the Constitution says: "The age of retirement and the remuneration of such Judges shall be prescribed by law." Now, I do not think that is capable of any other interpretation than this, that the sum to be paid has to be set out in an Act of the Oireachtas. It will not satisfy that Article of the Constitution to say that the sum to be determined by the Minister for Finance is to be the remuneration prescribed by law.
I do not think that will be contended by anyone. It seems to me that the Minister in charge of the Bill, or the Attorney-General, is bound under the Articles of the Constitution, to state in the Bill what the remuneration shall be. Deputy O'Connell's amendment, which is to follow, was the only form in which it would be possible for a non-Minister member of the Dáil to bring forward any proposition of this kind, and we consider that the needs of the case require that the salaries shall be fixed and stated in the Bill itself—it is not within the option of a private member to state any such salary. Therefore, the amendment in the form in which Deputy O'Connell has sent it in was the only form in which it could be moved by a private member. I press upon the Minister the necessity for a definite promise now that the sum shall be set out in the Bill, or else that the whole matter be deferred and Progress reported so that no division on this matter may be taken.
I desire to press upon the Ministry the necessity of making some amendment with regard to this Section, and to adopt. if possible, the views of the Dáil as expressed by the various Deputies who have spoken. We are dealing, here, with a body of men to whom we are allotting about 75 per cent. of the work at present done by the County Court Judges. We are dealing with men who will be holding Courts on an average of 20 per month, through various portions of the country, and men who will be very much more in local touch with the people, the Bar, and the solicitors, than will be the Judges of the High Courts and the Circuit Courts. I think it is a necessity that these men should be put in a position where they would be absolutely independent, and free from any charge, at any time, that they could be corrupted. They should be put in an independent pecuniary position where no such charge could be levelled against them.
I fail to see why discrimination should be used with regard to this particular branch. You have fixed the salaries of the High Court Judges and the Circuit Court Judges and you have made them permanent. I consider that these District Justices, appointed under this portion of the Bill, will be taking up as important a work as the Circuit Court Judges. Now there is a particular point of view that ought to be impressed upon the Ministry. Nearly 30 men have already been appointed to these positions at salaries of £1,000 a year plus travelling expenses. I am well aware they are only appointed temporarily without any guarantee from the Government that they would be permanent. The District Justices will be made permanent under this Bill. Now, everyone is aware that the services of these men were enlisted at a time of great trial when things were very difficult in the country. They have given up their practice and they undertook this work under promise of a certain remuneration. I think it is due to these men, from the Government, that the Government should here state what they are going to do with them. I do not think it is quite fair to appoint them and make them permanent under the Bill and give the power afterwards to any Minister in the Government to fix salaries that may be low or high, without giving any power to the Dáil to adjudicate upon that salary. I press upon the Government the necessity for the reconsideration of this matter.
I had asked if it would be possible to move an amendment in a certain form that might embody this, and you, Chinn Comhairle, indicated very rightly that it was not in the power of any private member to move an amendment in the form I suggested, and that if such an amendment were to come up for discussion it should come from the Ministerial benches under the provisions of the Constitution. I, therefore, now urge that in this particular section we are discussing, that all the words after the word "necessary" and before the word "provided" in Section 70, namely, "at such salaries as the Minister for Home Affairs with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance may fix," be omitted, and that the amendment moved by Deputy Duggan and grafted upon Section 42 be inserted instead. These words to run, "each District Justice shall receive a salary of £1,000 per annum and be retired after 15 years or upwards, or owing to age or permanent infirmity and shall be entitled for life to a pension of two-thirds of his salary." In other words, provision elsewhere made applicable in the Bill to other Judges shall be made applicable to District Justices and they shall be put upon a parity with them and a parity which, as Deputy Magennis has shown, the District Justice is entitled to claim under the Constitution. I do suggest the moving of an amendment of that kind from the Government benches. I think it is a matter of very great importance and a matter of fundamental principle, and I urge that some amendment on these lines be definitely promised for the Report stage by the Executive Council, which is the party under the Constitution responsible for the recommending of expenditure.
If that promise cannot be elicited now, I urge that it would be desirable that the matter now having been raised should be put to the vote. Exactly how it can come to the vote is rather a difficult matter to decide, because there is no definite amendment upon which it can be raised, unless it is raised for and against the actual Section itself. But it is perfectly clear that the sense of the Dáil is that these District Justices should be put on the same foundation as the other Judges, and that words that have been chosen to apply to other Judges should be made to apply to these Justices. As I have said, it is pretty clear that not only is it right, but it is constitutionally required.
I rise to support this view, and particularly to draw the Attorney-General's attention to the fact that it seems to me that the safeguard that he has referred to is not conferred by the Constitution upon these Justices. He quoted Article 68 of the Constitution, stating that that held that such remuneration may not be terminated during their continuance in office, and held apparently that that applied to all Judges. I think, if he studies the previous sentence and the rest of that Article, he will see that the sentence he has quoted only refers to the Judges of the Courts that have been named—the Supreme Court and the High Court—and, therefore, that safeguard is not included in the Constitution. It is quite a different question as to whether the next sentence, which says that the terms of appointment of all other Judges should be prescribed by law, does not insist upon the salaries of all Judges being fixed. That is quite a different question to the point to which the Attorney-General drew attention. I do not think that the safeguard that he mentions is in the Constitution, but it does seem to me that "terms of appointment" is an inclusive term which would include salary as well as duties, and that, therefore, the last sentence of that Section of the Constitution would require what is now being urged from various quarters of the Dáil.
On the general matter, upon which so many opinions have been expressed, I can only say that I am not in a position here to give the undertaking that the salaries will be prescribed in the Bill. I do not know if the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Home Affairs have yet agreed upon the scale of salaries for the permanent appointments to District Justices. There are, of course, other ways of prescribing salaries than in the Bill. It might be done by scales which would, perhaps, be laid on the Table of the Dáil, and be subject to alteration from time to time, and so on. I can only say that I will make representation to the Minister for Finance of the opinions that I have heard here this evening, and that I will bring the matter up in some form upon the next Stage of the Bill. I am not in a position to do any more at present, and I have not been able to get in touch with the Minister.
As the Attorney-General has said that he is not in a position to deal with the state of affairs created by the discussion of this Section, I think it is only right that we should adjourn any further consideration of the Committee Stage of the Bill. I, for one, will not assent to the passage of this Section, with only an undertaking, limited, as the Attorney-General has confessed, and very candidly confessed it must be limited, to an undertaking on his part that he will make representations to the Minister. I think that that is entirely insufficient, and I would therefore propose, before this Section 70 is passed, which an endeavour has been made to show may be in contravention of our Constitution, the Committee should adjourn to give the Attorney-General and the Ministry time to consider their position, and the position of this Section in regard to the Constitution. I think Deputy Thrift has shown perfectly clearly that this Article 68 expressly provides that in the creation of Judges for Courts, other than the Supreme Court and High Court, the terms of the appointment of the Judges shall be prescribed by law, and there is no doubt that within those terms must come the salary or the remuneration to be given to those Judges. I do not know whether I shall have a seconder, but I propose to move to report progress, in order to give the Attorney-General time.
Before the motion is put, perhaps a suggestion that might keep the discussion open while proceeding with other matters would be this: to delete all so much of the Section after the word "necessary," in line 44, to the end of the word "fix." That will keep the matter open, and it will be raised at a later stage.
That would mean that the question of salary would be left over, and the Government would be obliged to introduce some provision with regard to the salary which could then be discussed.
Is that an undertaking?
Surely it is. It is perfectly obvious that we cannot appoint Justices without salaries. At least we are not going back to the unpaid Justices position, and if these words are omitted it becomes an obligation on the Government to introduce some provision providing for remuneration of some kind before this Bill can go through.
Would the Attorney-General give that consideration on the Report Stage?
The position, as the Attorney-General has explained, is: if the words which are now proposed to be deleted were deleted, the Section would read:—
When and so soon as the Minister for Home Affairs has divided Saorstát Eireann into suitable districts, there shall be appointed so many justices of the District Court as may be necessary. Provided that the number of such Justices at any time shall not exceed thirty.
That leaves the Government in the position of having provision for Justices and no provision for salary. The Government might possibly find a method, even in the Committee Stage, of introducing the question of salary, or they would be obliged to bring it up not later than the Report Stage. On the Report Stage there is a provision in the Standing Orders which says that if a matter is deemed by the Chair to be of sufficient importance, the particular Section to which the amendment applies may be re-committed for the consideration of the amendment, so that there may, even in Committee, be an opportunity for the consideration of this matter again, if it is brought up on the Report Stage. I think that would dispose of it. The position is this: The amendment, No. 2 on the Paper—in lines 44 and 45, to delete certain words—is withdrawn.
I beg to move:
That the words from the word "necessary," in line 44, to the end of the word "fix," in line 45, be deleted.
The proposal is to delete the words in lines 44 and 45 "at such salaries as the Minister for Home Affairs, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, may fix."
That would dispose of amendment No. 3 as well.
I would like to draw the Attorney-General's attention to one point in amendment No. 3. There is nothing in the Bill showing where the money is coming from. My point is that some words should be inserted stating that the remuneration should be paid out of monies provided by the Oireachtas or from the Central Fund. It is only a matter of form, but it should be clearly known where the money is coming from. In view of the fact, however, that this matter is going to come up again, I think that would be the best time to raise it.
When the whole question of salaries is raised.
I suggest that the course suggested by Deputy O'Connell is open to one objection. It would put the District Justices on the Estimates, and that would give an opportunity to a Deputy to bring up here, which is not a court of law, the actions of a particular District Justice. I think it would be very undesirable. I think if it was stated that the salaries were to be paid out of the Central Fund it would meet Deputy O'Connell's views and avoid certain difficulties.
That would be the preferable course.
The amendment on the Paper in my name reads:
In line 45, to insert after the word "fix" the words "provided that in the case of all District Judges already appointed and acting under the provisions of the "District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Act who are continued in office or re-appointed under this Act the remuneration by way of salary and allowance hitherto payable shall continue to be the remuneration of such Justices."
All the arguments I had to advance have been put before the Dáil by Deputy O'Mahony and Deputy Cooper, so that the amendment can go with the other one.
I move, in line 47, to delete the word "thirty," and to insert in lieu thereof the words "thirty-three." The intention was that there should be thirty District Justices outside Dublin. When the figure thirty was fixed upon the fact was overlooked that the three Divisional Magistrates for the City of Dublin become District Justices, so that the total number should be thirty-three.
The amendment standing in my name—"In line 54 to delete the word "declaration," and to substitute therefor the word "oath" has already been disposed of.
I move: "In line 5 to delete the word ‘shall' and to insert in lieu thereof the word ‘may,' When the Bill was drafted it was made mandatory to fill any vacancy that might arise. It would therefore be impossible to reduce the number of Justices if it was found that a lesser number could deal with the work.
took the Chair at this stage.
I move: "In line 8 to delete from the word ‘out' to the word ‘otherwise' inclusive." That amendment, in effect, means that in case of the illness of any Justice a deputy may be appointed in his place, and the deputy so appointed should not necessarily be paid out of the salary of the Justice. I think this point was raised on a previous occasion in regard to Judges of the Circuit and High Court. Certainly, in the case of a Justice who becomes ill through no fault of his own, I think it would be generally recognised to be an extreme hardship on him if he had to pay a deputy out of his salary. If necessary he could obtain a medical certificate of his illness, and though it is suggested that that would be an indignity to the High or Circuit Court Judges, I think that perhaps the Justices would suffer that indignity sooner than be asked to pay the deputy out of their own pockets. I think it is a most reasonable proposal, and I hope it will receive consideration and support from the Government.
I think a similar question arose in connection with the Circuit Courts, and my recollection is that the Minister agreed to consider it. I think a similar undertaking could be given now. This is in a somewhat different position, because the cases where the deductions from salaries are to be made are to be provided by Rules of Court. These Rules of Court will be laid on the Table and will be under the control of the Dáil. Therefore, the matter will be considered with the corresponding matter in connection with the Circuit Courts.
I move: "In line 14 to delete the figures ‘65' and to substitute therefor the figures ‘70.'" The age of retirement recommended by the all-wise Judiciary Committee was 70 years. "It is recommended that a District or assistant District Justice or Dublin Metropolitan Justice in future shall hold office until the age of 70 years." I need not say anything further than that the Judiciary Committee which knows everything and is impeccable and infallible has recommended it.
It is not omnipotent.
The amendment in that form could hardly be accepted. In the case of the Divisional Magistrates in Dublin the position is somewhat different. It is well known that people who lead sedentary lives like the Judges in Dublin preserve their faculties and the capacity to exercise their functions to a very late period, but it is the experience and the opinion that persons whose work involves a great deal of travelling, as in the case of the District Justices, cannot be expected to preserve their alertness or their ability to travel and to dispense justice to advantage. If the age of 70 is observed for the Dublin District Justices there will be always a possibility of promotion for a Country Justice. If an amendment is inserted on the Report Stage, giving an extension to the age of 70, as is now the case with the Dublin Justices, we could then deal with it.
I am surprised that the Attorney-General did not bring the Minister for Finance into this. I would imagine that his influence in this matter would be with the amendment. There would be at least a postponement of the retirement and, therefore, of the pension by an acceptance of the amendment, and I would have thought that that would have been playing to the bat of the Minister for Finance. I am amused at the justification produced by the Attorney-General for fixing the age at 65. I have been learning how sedentary judges have been compelled to take the exercise, or something equivalent, which the District Justices will be required to take around the golf links. They are told that they must take exercise to keep their health. The District Justices will take that exercise, and that seems to be an added argument for raising the age to 70. The District Justices will be entitled to retire if they are physically or mentally infirm even before the age of 70, and, if it seems to the Attorney-General and the Chief Justice and other authorities, that a District Justice, having reached the age of 65, is mentally or physically infirm, I have no doubt it will be possible to bring medical influence to bear upon him to ensure his retirement. It seems undesirable to compel him to retire at 65 if he is fit to carry on until 70. Surely it is not contended that less mental capacity is required in the case of High Court Judges and of Circuit Court Judges, and I fail to understand why a District Justice should be called on to retire at 65 when Judges of the High Courts may remain in office until 70. I would urge the Attorney-General and the Ministry to accept this amendment, and I think I may venture to speak on behalf of the Minister for Finance on this matter. It certainly will save the Exchequer something.
I am afraid that the amendment cannot be accepted, and that the furthest we can go is on the lines I have indicated. Deputy Johnson, in referring to the exploits of persons of mature years on the golf links, does not bear in mind that on the golf links the Judge is not compelled to put up at a country hotel at every hole before moving on to the next, and has not to drive long distances in all sorts of weathers. Having regard to all the conditions of the life of the District Justice, the Government is satisfied that it should not fix a longer limit than 65 for those doing work in the country. The amendment is offered with a view to extending the time of retirement of a District Justice to 70. I do not agree with the suggestion of Deputy Johnson that the duty should be thrown on any individual or on the Government to call upon an individual Justice to retire. I am afraid the limit I have indicated is the furthest we can go.
Many years ago a friend of mine applied for a Government appointment in Blantyre in Central Africa, and he inquired from the Foreign Office what was the age of retirement and the amount of superannuation. The official reply was that none of his predecessors had ever raised the question. There were two predecessors—one shot by a native and the other devoured by a tiger. According to the Attorney-General, the hard life to which these gentlemen will be subject going round country hotels will secure that the retirement at 65 will be an artificial limit, as long before they have reached that age they will have retired to a better superannuation. I hope the Attorney-General will remember his own argument when impressing on the Minister for Finance the importance of this question of proper remuneration.
I do not think that the Attorney-General has any experience of the life of a District Justice. I have known many Resident Magistrates in the old days whose duties were somewhat similar to those of the District Justices and many of them were well over 70 but were active and efficient, although in those days motor-cars were not used for the purposes of their work. It should be remembered that the District Justice does not go round on a bicycle. He will presumably put his first year's travelling allowance into a Ford car, and if he lives at a convenient place he will be able to do his work and keep in touch with his home. There will be no court more than 30 miles away from his residence. I think that this principle of compulsory retirement is wrong. If a man is able and willing to go on with his work why put him on the pension list? There is plenty of work for three District Justices in Dublin, and what about Cork and Limerick, where most of the work will be done inside the town? It is a mistake to lay down a hide-bound age for retirement, as you may get rid of a good man whom you want to keep on, while it will weigh down the pension list.
I appeal to the Attorney-General and to the Minister for Finance on this question. In the next Section they provide for a specific age, and why remove a man if he is perfectly capable? If a District Justice wishes to continue, and if his physical capacity enables him to continue, why remove him? I do not think that any case has been made on behalf of this Section, and I hope, if the Government will not accept the amendment, it will be put to a division.
Surely it would be much more desirable in the interests of economy to extend the age. Deputy Johnson is concerned for the Minister for Finance. If the duties are so arduous, a year or two is likely to wipe out those District Justices. If you require him to retire early he is going to enjoy his pension for a longer time. I suggest if the Government are not prepared to fix an absolute age-limit of 65, that provisional arrangements such as those in Section 12 might be added to the Clause, that is, that on the advice of the Attorney-General the age of the retirement may be extended. I have heard no sufficiently convincing argument which changes the views I hold that the age of 65 is undoubtedly too early to retire, if you have the provision further down, as has been pointed out by Deputy Gorey, that if the Judge is not fit to fulfil his duties you should retire him. It is a great mistake to retire an efficient Judge at the age of 65. To my mind the fact that the Judge is living a healthy outdoor life will tend to extend his years. For that reason you will find that at sixty-five, District Justices will not be compelled to stay at country hotels. Ford cars are available now. Mentally and physically, the country Justice will be a much more efficient individual than the Judge who is living under city conditions. For that reason I think the suggestion to extend the age limit is a reasonable one and ought to be accepted by the Government.
I do not know whether the Deputy who has last spoken has any special prejudice on the matter. I would be prepared to undertake that the Government would consider an amendment on the lines of that suggested by Deputy Cooper, substituting 70 for 75.
I will not accept that. I take the President's view of a Committee, and I only accept their recommendations when I agree with them. I know a County Court Judge in England. He is 76 years of age, is doing a lot of travelling, and is still very vigorous.
That discussion can arise on your amendment.
I would be prepared to withdraw my amendment if it is the general wish of the Dáil.
I would urge that this matter be pressed forward. I consider it is of importance that the view of the Dáil should be taken.
I suggest that you deal with the matter now and put it to a division. The picture that the Attorney-General has drawn of the District Justices living in country hotels does not apply at all. The District Justice can work the whole county from his home if he lives in a suitable place. If he cannot do that he should not be appointed a Justice at all, for he is a fool. The area to be travelled over is not very large when you employ 33 District Justices for 26 counties.
Might I suggest, as Deputy Magennis has asked leave to withdraw amendment No. 9, which stands in his and my name, and as amendment No. 11 deals practically with the same subject, and as the Attorney-General has just stated that he is prepared to consider the matter, that it is advisable for us to consider amendment No. 11 now and let No. 9 be withdrawn?
I think the important decision that should be taken is whether the normal age for retirement is to be 70 or 65. The proposition of the Government is to make the normal age for retirement 65, and it was suggested that they were prepared to consider the advisability to extend the age. I prefer to think that the normal age for retirement is 70, and they may consider the possibility of extending that age and also, as they do in the next section, the possibility of removing a Justice who is physically and mentally infirm. That may be done at 65 or 60, but I think the view of the Dáil should be taken and that it should not agree to a withdrawal of the amendment.
The only thing I wanted to point out was that my amendment covers different ground, and I cannot agree to the two amendments being disposed of together.
What was the procedure with respect to the granting leave to the proposer of an amendment to withdraw it?
You must have the leave of the Dáil.
Is it by a majority? Can any one member, by refusal to agree, block the withdrawal?
I submit that if that point of order is taken an amendment put to the Dáil is the property of the Dáil and must be voted upon in this Dáil by universal agreement if leave is asked to withdraw it.
That is so. If there is not unanimous agreement it must be put to the Dáil and voted on.
Would it not be more advisable to have this brought up on the Report Stage? Let the Attorney-General consult with the Government and see how far they can go in the matter.
I suggest, with all respect, to Deputy Johnson that a vote so taken will not express the sense of the Dáil on the point. Personally, I shall vote against the amendment, if put to a division, although it is in my name; for the reason that I do not desire to force it on the Dáil when it has been met in a reasonable spirit by the Attorney-General. It seems to me a far better course for the discharge of business would be to allow the question to come up again. Meanwhile, a better mind may have supervened in the case of those who have opposed it.
I think the Attorney-General has not given any indication at all that he is prepared to consider making 70 the normal age of retirement. All he is proposing to do is to allow future Attornies-General to extend the age from 65 to 70, which is a very different thing, and it is the view of the Dáil that has now to be taken, not the view of the Attorney-General.
In view of the Attorney-General's difficulty—I do not see many members of the Ministry sitting with him, or that he has an opportunity of consulting them—I think we ought to agree to Deputy O'Mahony's suggestion, which probably would have more real effect than a division now.
Would the Attorney-General be prepared to give consideration to the matter of extending the normal age to 70, in view of the fact that it is going to get consideration, or does he definitely state now that he will not consider that point?
We will consider that, but without undertaking any obligation in the matter.
What I meant was that I understood the Attorney-General to say earlier in the discussion that what he would consider was that 65 would remain the normal retiring age, but that he would consider the advisability of recommending in certain cases that the age should be extended to 70. What I wish to ask is, in view of the fact that this is to be considered again, will the Attorney-General give a promise that he will consider the fixing of the normal age at 70? I am not asking him to give an undertaking that he will fix it at 70, but that he would consider the fixing of it at 70.
I will see that that is considered.
I do not know whether this matter has been discussed, or whether he is prepared to consider it, in view of the full expression of opinion from the Dáil, but as I gather from the Attorney-General while he is prepared to give a verbal undertaking to consider it, his mind is made up, unless he has been impressed by the discussion. He was very definite in the earlier stages that the Government is not prepared to recede from the position taken up in the draft of the Bill, and unless one gets some expression from the Attorney-General which would give us at least a hope and some expectation of a possibility of this figure being changed, I think it is necessary to have the opinion of the Dáil upon the matter.
I do not want to prevent the opinion of the Dáil being taken, but I do not wish to indicate any note of despair.
I am very sorry at the attitude taken up by the Attorney-General. I think he is rather pigheaded, with all due respect to him, and his attempt at wit does not help either.
- Pádraig F. Baxter.
- Richard H. Beamish.
- Seán Buitléir.
- John J. Cole.
- John Conlon.
- Bryan R. Cooper.
- Sir James Craig.
- Séamus Eabhróid.
- Seán de Faoite.
- Darrell Figgis.
- John Good.
- David Hall.
- Connor Hogan.
- Séamus Mac Cosgair.
- Tomás Mac Eoin.
- Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
- Pádraig Mac Fhlannchadha.
- Risteárd Mac Liam.
- Patrick McKenna.
- Tomás de Nógla.
- Tomás O Conaill.
- Aodh O Cúlacháin.
- Liam O Daimhin.
- Tadhg S. O Donnabháin.
- Seán O Duinnín.
- Donchadh S. O Guaire.
- Mícheál O hIfearnáin.
- Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
- Tadhg P. O Murchadha.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
- Pádraig K. O hOgáin (Luimneach).
- William A. Redmond.
- Earnán Altún.
- Earnán de Blaghd.
- Seoirse de Bhulbh.
- Séamus de Burca.
- Henry Coyle.
- Louis J. Dalton.
- Maighréad ní Choileáin Bean Uí
- Patrick J. Egan.
- Henry J. Finlay.
- John Hennigan.
- Peadar Mac a' Bháird.
- Seoirse Mac Brighde.
- Alasdair Mac Cába.
- Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
- Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
- Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
- Seán P. Mac Giobúin.
- Seán Mac Giolla 'n Ríogh.
- Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
- Liam Mac Sioghaird.
- Liam Mag Aonghusa.
- Seosamh Mag Craith.
- Pádraig S. Mag Ualghairg.
- Martin M. Nally.
- John T. Nolan.
- Peadar O hAodha.
- Mícheál O hAonghusa.
- Ailfrid O Broin.
- Criostóir O Broin.
- Seán O Bruadair.
- Próinsias O Cathail.
- Aodh O Cinnéide.
- Conchubhair O Conghaile.
- Séamus O Cruadhlaoich.
- Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
- Séamus N. O Dóláin.
- Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
- Eamon S. O Dúgáin.
- Aindriú O Láimhin.
- Séamus O Leadáin.
- Fionán O Loingsigh.
- Thomas O'Mahony.
- Séamus O Murchadha.
- Pádraig O hOgáin (Gaillimh).
- Seán M. O Súilleabháin.
- Seán Priomdhail.
- Liam Thrift.
In line 14, to add after the word "years" the words:—"Provided that in the case of a Justice of the District Court who shall have been a District Justice under the District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923, and at the date of his appointment to the last-mentioned office was over 55 years of age and under 60 years of age, the Chief Justice may, if he thinks fit, extend the age of retirement of such Justice to such date as will enable him to complete a period of service sufficient to qualify him for a pension."
The object of that amendment is to make special provision for certain recently appointed District Justices who undertook the arduous, and at the time dangerous, duties of District Justices at a comparatively advanced age, to enable them to carry on for a sufficient time to qualify for a pension if the Chief Justice certifies.
I rise to move the following amendment:
To add at the end of the Section, line 14, the words "but the Executive Council may on the advice of the Attorney-General extend the age of retirement in the case of any Justice to 75 years."
This is rather different from the amendment which has been defeated. That made it compulsory to extend the age of retirement from 65 to 70 years of age. This amendment makes it optional for the Government, if they wish to do so, to extend the age to 75. It is precisely a similar provision to that to be found in Clause 12. It allows the Executive Council, on the advice of the Attorney-General, to give a District Justice a ten years' further term of office. That will not be done unless he is anxious to continue, and that he is thoroughly competent to do the work. I gathered that the Attorney-General is prepared to accept that suggestion so far as Dublin District Justices are concerned, up to the age of 70. I think there is a case to be made for the age of 75. The work the District Justice will be doing in Dublin is not more onerous or more responsible than that done by the Recorder of Dublin, and the Recorder of Dublin is 73 years at the present day. It is a discretionary amendment, and it need not be acted upon unless the Government wish to put it in force. It does remove the necessity, that must be unpleasant for the Minister for Finance, to pension off a man who is capable of doing work and who is willing to continue doing it. I think the proposal is a sound and economical one.
The Deputy is inaccurate. I was prepared to accept the suggestion of 70 years for all the District Justices, and it was not merely for the extension to the age of 70 in the case of the Dublin District Justices.
I thank the Attorney-General. Personally, I would prefer the age of 75. I will withdraw the amendment if the Attorney-General undertakes to put down that on the Report Stage.
I beg to move: In line 18, after the word "Justice," to insert the words "and the President of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland." In moving this amendment, to which I do not expect any opposition from the Government Benches, my desire is to place the District Justices in the same position in regard to the power that shall be enabled to remove them, as the High Court Judges shall be placed, in regard to the similar power required in their cases. The District Justices may be Solicitors as well as Barristers, and the rule-making authority of the District Courts includes two members of the Solicitors' profession, to be nominated by the Incorporated Law Society, and I think it is only proper that the authority which should have the power to remove these District Justices for incapacity or physical or mental infirmity or misbehaviour in office or misconduct, should include one member, at least, of their own profession. That member, according to my suggestion, would be of the authority and with the authority and on the nomination of the Incorporated Law Society.
The amendment could not be accepted. It would be impossible to impose upon the annually-elected head of a private professional organisation a duty of this kind—the removing of a magistrate. The President of the Incorporated Law Society is a professional gentleman elected every year to the head of his professional organisation. He is not a person who is in any way a public officer, or in any way responsible here, and it is impossible to accept an amendment imposing on him a public statutory duty of this kind.
Might I be allowed to remind the Attorney-General that a public statutory duty has been imposed by Section 66 on two solicitors selected by the Council of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland in regard to rule-making, and I cannot for the life of me see that if a public statutory authority is to be conferred upon the members of a profession in regard to one portion of this Bill, why it cannot be conferred on them in regard to another portion. I think that is a very thin and very flimsy reply, if I may characterise it so, to my very just and reasonable request.
I think I see the Attorney-General's point, and it is that a person who changes every year might not be a suitable person. Would the Attorney-General in some way meet the case made by Deputy Redmond, because it is very desirable that the solicitors' profession should not feel that they are being discriminated against? Perhaps, he might make provision for a person selected by the Incorporated Law Society? Then, you would have one fixed person who will not vary from year to year.
The argument is more specious than sound. True, some of the District Justices will be drawn from the solicitors' profession. They have the protection that their dismissal must be approved and countersigned by the head of the entire Courts of which they are officers. Every practising solicitor would be an officer of the Courts, and the Chief Justice is the head, just as the Attorney-General is the head of the Bar. Therefore, the protection which is so necessary and vital, and which Deputy Redmond is quite correct in seeking for, is provided in the Bill as it stands.
I have interviewed, on several occasions, members of the Council of the Incorporated Law Society, including the President, with reference to this Bill, and no suggestion of this kind has come from them. I do not know on what authority it is put up by Deputy Redmond. I do not know whether he is able to say that the Society would be willing to accept what is very far from an attractive duty. It is perfectly clear when the head of the Courts is one of the authorities who has to act in what is a judicial matter, that solicitors or barristers will be equally satisfied that justice will be exercised with fairness and consideration.
It is quite impossible that the Government can accept the proposal to impose upon this body, which has never been consulted, the unpleasant duty of considering the removal of a District Justice.
I can assure the Attorney-General that I speak in this Dáil on behalf of no society, and that I speak on behalf of no organisation, and that I am speaking entirely on behalf of myself as a public representative. I can further assure him that I have not been in consultation with the Incorporated Law Society; that I have put down this amendment upon my own responsibility, that I take full responsibility for it, and I think, in the interests of the future Justices, that it is only fair that they should have one of the profession, to which a great many of them will very likely belong, to adjudicate upon their action. Now, in regard to imposing this duty upon them I do not think, I hope at any rate, it will not be a great imposition, because I feel confident that the men that shall be selected by this Government to carry out these duties of District Justice will not be men that will be called upon to relinquish their office by reason either of their incapacity or their misconduct. I would also like to add this, that I cannot see why, if two solicitors are to be part and parcel of the Rule-making authority for these Courts they should not also and equally be part and parcel of the authority which shall have power to dispense with, in certain contingencies, the persons who administer the Rules of these Courts. I do not see the inconsistency of it at all. On the contrary, I see that it would be only bringing this Section into conformity with the other Sections and portions of the Bill. To suggest because the President of the Incorporated Law Society may be one man to-day and another man to-morrow that therefore it would be futile to make him as such the determining factor in this contingency, which I trust will be a remote one, is as absurd as to say that the Minister for Home Affairs or that the Circuit Judges should not be members of the Rule-making authority of the future, because the present Minister for Home Affairs is not going to be Minister for Home Affairs for ever, even in this country; neither are the Circuit Judges going to remain the same Circuit Judges for ever and a day. Everyone of us has got to go, and therefore the suggestion that because the President of the Incorporated Law Society will not be the same President to-morrow or next year or the year after that, therefore, he should not in that capacity be given this power, which I say is a very reasonable and a very right and proper one, is, to say the least of it, absurd. I will say this to the Attorney-General—he may like to ask me whether I have consulted this body or that body in the execution of my duty here. I want to tell him here and now that I consult nobody and nothing but my own conscience and my own duty as a public representative, and that it is not in the interest of this society or of that that I move, but that it is in the interest of the public at large. I, certainly, in view of the obdurate, adamant attitude of the Attorney-General to this reasonable proposal of mine, will press it to a division.
It is not right to take up the time of the Dáil asking that an obligation should be imposed upon a private person, the head of a private society, or the head of a private organisation, without having consulted that society or its head as to whether they are willing to accept that responsibility. The other responsibilities which are extended to the members of the profession, or to the Incorporated Law Society, have been so extended after consultation with the Society, and with its recognised authority.
There is a further point. Participation in the making of the Rules is a privilege, whereas this duty that Deputy Redmond seeks to impose is a painful duty from which the ordinary individual would, if it were in his power, withdraw. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is an institution; if I may borrow the famous phrase of Madame de Stael about Napoleon, he is more of an institution than a man. The Attorney-General is a public officer. The head of the Solicitors' profession is an elected gentleman who holds office on behalf of the solicitors for a limited period. The public are not privy to his appointment, nor he to the public. The Chief Justice is in a different position. Every solicitor practising in the Courts is in a manner subject in his conduct as a professional man, amenable to his control. The situation, therefore, is that there is an incontestable guarantee that no injustice will be done to any solicitor or District Justice, because the proper administration of the law is the duty of the head of the Supreme Court to supervise and to safeguard. The parallel which Deputy Redmond seeks to draw is not a parallel. The making of Rules is a very different thing from having the control of one of the most important transactions of public administration, to wit, the removal from his office, of a Judge. I repeat again that the District Justice is a Judge within the meaning of the Constitution. The removal of such a man from his office through alleged incapacity, misbehaviour, or misconduct, is one of the most serious things in public administration, and to decide whether or not there is a case against a District Judge is one that calls for the exercise of this great power and should not be put into the hands of a man who is not distinctly and decidedly an officer of the public.
Amendment put negatived.
I beg to move: "In line 22, to delete the word ‘any' and to substitute therefor the word ‘no,' and to delete the word ‘not' in the same line."
I accept that.
I beg to move: To add a new sub-section:—
"(2) Save in the case of a general re-organisation or a re-distribution of Districts, no Justice of the District Court shall be transferred from one District to another without his consent. In all cases the reasonable expenses of removal of a District Justice who is transferred to another District shall be payable subject to regulations made by the Minister for Home Affairs with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas."
The clause as it stands gives security to Justices against dismissal by the Executive Council, or a Minister, but it is quite possible that a Minister might be anxious to harry or worry a District Justice who was behaving in an obnoxiously independent way, and it is for the purpose of safeguarding the District Justice against such interference that this amendment is being put forward. I do not claim, in the words of the amendment, to give an absolute security of tenure in a particular area to a District Justice, but, if the Government wish to avail of the services of any exemplary Justice for the purpose of teaching a lesson in other areas, this amendment makes a claim for reasonable expenses of removal of such a Justice. It is for that purpose I move the amendment, and I hope the Attorney-General will accept it.
The Government are not prepared to accept this amendment. While it is undoubtedly the case that under the old regime there was a possibility of very undesirable operations upon the magistrates, the predecessors of the District Justices, the position now is so far changed with a Parliament here upon the spot where anything of that kind can be raised and challenged immediately, that public representatives have such control that it is impossible to imagine operations of that kind being carried on corruptly, or with the ulterior motives to which Deputy Davin refers.
On the other hand, it may be desirable from time to time to change a Justice from one district to another. A man may be more suitable to a Southern temperament than to a Northern, and vice versa, and it may be necessary, in the honest administration of the provisions of this Act, to change a Justice from one part of the country to another. The very fact that you have here a Parliament in session, a Parliament able to challenge the action of a Justice and to call for an explanation, if it needs explanation, makes unnecessary the provision which the Deputy suggests, a provision which in other times might have been prompted by the fact that you had a Government without responsibility which did move people for particular motives which could never be challenged. For that reason the amendment is not acceptable.
In the previous discussion, the Attorney - General rather wisely deprecated the invocation of the Dáil, or of the Minister, in any matter affecting Justices or Judges. That is a sufficient answer to that part of his reply to Deputy Davin where he spoke of the Dáil being in session and that questions might be raised. I think it is undesirable except in very extraordinary circumstances, that the conduct of Judges should be brought into question or that even the conduct of the Ministry for the time being in relation to the Judges, should be brought into question. There may be some other reasons besides those which have been stated by the Attorney-General, but it seems to me that it should not be quite within the option of the Ministry to transfer a Justice without his consent, and in such cases, where there are transfers made, there ought to be some allowance made for the cost of removal, and that is not provided for in the Bill as it is drafted. I think the Attorney-General did not refer to that part of the amendment in his remarks.
I am not sure whether, in point of fact, the expenses of removal would be allowed as a matter of course or not. That is a matter I will have inquired into before the next stage of the Bill is reached.
Would the Attorney-General be prepared to give an undertaking that he would consider the amendment and bring forward on the Report Stage some suitable way of meeting the case I have made?
I take it what the Deputy means is whether a check of some kind might be imposed upon the removal or change of a Justice from one place to another. I will have that considered.
And on the question of expense also.
I beg to move the following amendment to this Section:—
In lines 24, 25, and 26, to delete all from the words "All Justices" to the words "Civil Servants," inclusive, and to insert in lieu thereof the following words:—
"Subject to his being in good health at the date of his appointment to the office, the office of a District Justice shall be a pensionable office within the Superannuation Acts, 1834 to 1919, and the pension, gratuity or allowances granted to or in respect of a District Justice on his retirement or death shall be ascertained in the manner and subject to the conditions prescribed by those Acts, and a certificate by the Chief Justice shall be a sufficient certificate for the purposes of Section 8 of the Superannuation Act, 1859."
The amendment does not in any way alter the effect of the clause as it stood originally. It merely states in a more definite way the terms under which a District Justice becomes entitled to a pension.
The opening words of this amendment "Subject to his being in good health at the date of his appointment to the office," seemed to me to afford an example of unconscious humour. I would like to have heard a little more explicit definition from Deputy Duggan in moving this amendment of exactly what responsibility is involved and as to what the subsequent operations are likely to be. The opening phrase of the amendment says, "Subject to his being in good health." Surely it might start off by saying that no man shall be appointed unless he is in good health. How is it to be discovered at a subsequent date with no medical certificate available that at the time he was appointed some years before he was in good health or not in good health. I ask has the phrase any meaning whatever, why, then, I ask, put it into this amendment?
The Section as it stood originally contained the expression "subject to the same conditions and on the same scale as Civil Servants." It did seem to us that it was not desirable that Judges should have that suggestion made that they were in the position of Civil Servants. From the original wording of the Section it might be supposed that they were in any way subordinate to some Department or Ministry, and it was accordingly decided to change that and substitute the clause introducing the provisions of the Superannuation Act. It makes no substantial alteration. The provision as to good health merely involves producing a medical certificate at the time of appointment so as to qualify afterwards for a pension. The Chief Justice is substituted for the head of the Ministry or Department. Otherwise there is no substantial alteration.
I would like to congratulate the Attorney-General and the Ministry for this revision, because Section 76, as drafted, was in keeping with certain other sections in suggesting that the Justices were to be placed in the category of Civil Servants. There are two or three other suggestions, and when we were speaking of the age retirement being 65 that rather emphasised the fear that the Justices were to be considered as Civil Servants. I am very glad to find that that defect in the Bill has been amended at the instigation of the Ministry itself.
The point to which the Attorney-General directed his remarks and the point taken up by Deputy Johnson is one with which I am in entire agreement. I think the substance of the amendment is of very great importance indeed, that these District Justices should be appointed in a manner different from the manner of appointment for Civil Servants. I was merely addressing myself to the question with regard to the opening sentence of the amendment and as to what would be its effect. Would it not be very much better, and I put this now to the proposer of the amendment definitely, that the amendment should begin with the second phrase, and that the words, "the office," in the second line, "the office of District Justice shall be a pensionable office," omitting the words, "subject to his being in good health at the date of his appointment to the office."
Personally, I can imagine no form of words more calculated to lead to future law suits or to more contention than these, "subject to his being in good health at the time of his appointment to his office." If at the end of ten or twelve years a District Justice is retired, who is to decide the question of his being in good health at the time of his appointment? What evidence can be produced? I can conceive nothing more conducive to lengthy law suits than the effort to prove whether a man was in good health or not. There is no necessity for such a form of words at all.
The intention is that only men fit and capable for the position will be appointed. The idea is that at the time of appointment they would satisfy the Ministry that they are fit. I shall certainly consider the suggestion of Deputy Gorey as to ambiguity because it is not intended that the matter should be re-opened subsequently. The idea is that the Ministry, when making these appointments, should be satisfied that they are appointing fit men for the particular offices, and I will consider the wording with a view of making that clear.
Still it would be in the power of the ordinary Minister at any time, though not the wording of the Bill. They have the power to appoint, they have the power not to appoint, and they need not appoint on medical grounds. I suggest that the amendment might begin:
"The office of District Justice," leaving it to the Ministry at the time to say whether such and such a person should or should not be appointed for a variety of reasons, health being included amongst them.
Does Deputy Darrell Figgis suggest that some deserving member of the Bar or of the Solicitor's profession should not be appointed a District Justice simply because he does not happen to come up to the standard of good health, as some doctor understands it? I think Deputy Darrell Figgis is in a facetious mood upon this point, but it was not to deal with the jocosity of the Deputy that I rose, but to have the guidance of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, upon a very important matter. The amendment which follows in my name is to delete lines 24-26 from the words, "All Justices" to the words, "Civil Servants," inclusive. That is identical with the beginning of Deputy Duggan's amendment, and the second part of mine is to substitute the provisions of Section 43 above. That is, in other words, to treat these judges as all other judges are treated; and that would have the effect of carrying out Deputy O'Connell's intention to the effect that the remuneration and pension payable to every Circuit Judge shall be payable out of the Central Fund, in like manner as they are payable to the Judges of the High Court and of the Supreme Court. Now, it occurs to me that I would like to have your decision as to whether, if Amendment 15 is passed, my amendment goes by the board; yet the spirit of both is identical in so far as they are amendments aiming at the deletion of these words, to prevent any person getting a wrong impression that these District Justices are the servants of the Ministry; in other words, an impression that might have been conveyed by Section 70, as it stood originally, is to be made impossible. Now, so far, I am with the amendment of Deputy Duggan, but after all the proposal is a proposal to make them, for the purposes of superannuation Civil Servants, although it is not to be stated. Now I would suggest that the dignity of the office, and its capacity to impress the public, so as to have its proceedings and its decisions received with proper respect and obedience, would be better served by leaving them in the position in which the Circuit Judge is left, and I would respectfully urge that upon the Attorney-General and the Ministry. These, as has been said repeatedly since the discussion began, are the poor men's judges. They will be concerned with 75 per cent. at least of the litigation of the Counties, and the standing of the judge is therefore of the last importance. If litigants in the courts get the impression that the judge is not paid better than the State Solicitor of the County or the Clerk of the Court, it will not make for that desirable end: the treatment with respect and the acceptance obediently of the decision of the District Justice. It seems to me, therefore, that since it does not involve, any expenditure larger than it is intended, and as it does not commit the Exchequer to any undue extravagance, and does elevate the status of the District Justice, it would be far better to apply to him mutatis mutandis the words in Section 43.
The pension provisions in the case of the Judges of the other Courts are not capable of being applied to the District Justices for this reason. District Justices are appointed at a much younger age and are capable of working out their pensions in the ordinary way in the ordinary process of time. Judges of the other Courts are usually appointed and will continue to be appointed, I suppose, at later ages, when it becomes almost impossible to work out their pensions under the Superannuation Acts, and for that reason they have to be dealt with on a special basis to enable them to qualify for pensions in a special way. These reasons do not apply in the case of District Justices, whom it will be necessary to appoint at a considerably younger age, and who can, therefore, be allowed to qualify for pensions on the ordinary lines.
I beg to move:—
In page 15, lines 41 and 42, to delete the words "the following jurisdiction" and to insert in lieu thereof the words "all powers, jurisdictions, and authorities which immediately before the 6th day of December, 1922, were vested by statute or otherwise in Justices of the Peace sitting at Petty Sessions and also (by way of addition and not of exception) the following jurisdictions."
The effect of that is to transfer to the new District Courts the jurisdiction of the old Justices of the Peace, and to effect that transfer without reference to the District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923, which is only a temporary Act and will shortly expire.
I beg to move:—
In page 15, line 45, to delete "£25" and to substitute therefor "£5."
Under Section 78, page 15, line 45, it is proposed to transfer much business heretofore dealt with by the County Court Judges to the new District Courts presided over by District Justices. Decentralisation may be generally assumed to encourage the tendency to inefficiency, and it is therefore clear that cogent reasons involving a distinct improvement in laws as they at present exist must be advanced and proved before so serious a change takes place which, while benefiting a few individuals will, on the other hand, tend to depreciate the effort to sustain justice and efficiency for the community at large. The old adage "where the carcase is there will the eagles be gathered together," has a distinct bearing upon this question. Once we proceed to divide the carcase into many minor portions the eagles may disappear and we may find ourselves relegated to smaller birds who do not possess the power of pressing forward justice with the strength or the ability of the former eagles. This would constitute a distinct loss to the community in general.
It may be found that the work sought to be imposed upon a District Justice under the Bill is beyond the physical powers of such a District Justice who, in exercising all the jurisdiction of a former Resident Magistrate, is at present engaged to his full capacity, especially as to time. A District Justice so pressed and, perchance, without the full qualification of the former County Court Judge, may at times be tempted to rush his judgment to the detriment of the justice which he is desirous to administer. Most complicated legal questions would have to be dealt with by the District Justices, by thus transferring, say seventy five per cent. of the existing County Court administration to the District Courts. Most of the present Clerks of the District Courts are officials having no previous experience in dealing with the legal work of the Petty Sessions, to say nothing of further important work that it is proposed by the Bill to hand over to them, and, when we add to this fact that the proposed District Justices may not possess the qualifications of the former County Court judges, a serious danger at once arises that the administration of the law may be decried and errors may arise as the result of the proposed change.
This amendment may increase the number of the Circuit Court Judges; but, despite the increased expenditure thus involved upon the State, the law will be, in all probability, more efficiently administered to the benefit of the general community. It may be admitted that local sympathy is generally extended to the local defendant. On the other hand, if such sympathy is thus extended without any true reason, the general local community may be injuriously affected to the sole benefit of the individual interested.
In addition to what has been stated, the result of such a transfer of legal business would be that litigants in such Courts would be unable to provide legal assistance except at an expense out of all proportion to the sum involved in the litigation. General credit will be at once curtailed and the prosperity of the community will be diminished. It would, therefore, appear wiser to legislate rather for the general welfare of the majority, even at a slight sacrifice, on behalf of the individual. Many of these District Courts are held in country districts far removed from the place of business of any solicitor. Naturally, no solicitor would incur the expense of attending such a Court, and the great loss of time involved, for any fee in proportion to the amount at issue in the case. This is clearly not in the interest of the public. On the other hand, the Circuit Court is held in the principal town of the county, where there are resident practising solicitors available at all times, who, under the present County Court scale of charges attend to small cases at a cost to the client of a few shillings for professional charges. Independent of this reason, it is considered that the Circuit Courts are in every way more fitted to deal with the large and varied business proposed to be transferred than the District Courts.
Under the proposed amendment the District Courts would still have jurisdiction in cases of contract and breach of contract where the claim does not exceed £5, and it is considered that this is as far as the extended jurisdiction should go.
I gather that I need only say a word upon this, and it would be this, that in all the proposals of this Bill I do not think there was anything for which there was so general and insistent a demand as that we should give to the District Justices a jurisdiction in small debts and similar cases to dispose of them locally, expeditiously and cheaply for the people. In fact, for months past we have had representations from all over the country urging that even during the temporary period of the District Justices that jurisdiction should be conferred upon them. It was not feasible, but we feel that in this provision we are giving the people a thing that has certainly been generally and universally demanded.
The amendment in my name is:—
In page 15, line 45, to delete "£25" and to insert in lieu thereof "£10."
I have decided, after mature consideration, to withdraw this amendment, as I consider that the £25 jurisdiction is more compatible with modern considerations than £10.
On a point of order—I do not raise this in any contentious spirit, but merely as a matter of guidance for the future—if there do happen to be three names to an amendment, and the first of them wishes to withdraw, does he withdraw the amendment or does he merely withdraw his support of it?
AN LEAS CHEANN COMHAIRLE
I called the amendment, and there was no one to say a word in favour of it. I took it that none of the other Deputies wished to move the amendment.
The next amendment in my name is:—
To delete Clause A. (ii), page 15, lines 46 to 53.
This is practically the same as the other amendment which I moved and I think, therefore, it is better to withdraw it.
I beg to move:—
In Clause A (ii), line 48, to delete the word "claim," and to substitute therefor the word "claims."
This is another verbal amendment. In moving it I would suggest that perhaps a better verbal amendment would be to put the word "a" before "claim" in line 48, but certainly as it stands it is hardly correct.
I accept the word "claims."
I beg to move:—
In clause A (ii), to delete lines 50 to 53 and to insert in lieu thereof the words "Provided that no Justice shall have jurisdiction when a bona fide question of title to land is in issue and the act giving rise to the proceedings before him was done bona fide in assertion of such title unless the Poor Law Valuation of the land the title to which is in issue does not exceed £10 in which case the Justice shall have no jurisdiction subject as in this Act provided, to try the case and to decide the issue of title involved."
This Bill, in giving District Courts jurisdiction in actions for debt and contract up to £25, and up to £10 in actions for damages, makes a very valuable proposal. It will be a very valuable enactment and will be of great service to poor people in the remote parts of the country. But it has a very grave defect. It does not give any title jurisdiction to the District Courts. About 70 per cent. of the cases in counties like that which I represent are concerned with questions of title—disputes about rights of way, fences, water rights, etc.—and to my mind it will be an intolerable hardship if people are compelled to travel long distances to Circuit Courts to have such cases decided. These cases must arise among small farmers, because land is more valuable to the small man than to the big farmer. A great deal of the disturbance and the unsettled conditions among the people in the remote districts arise from these little contentious disputes.
I take a case from my own county of two neighbours from Gweedore or Rosses, whose valuation would not exceed £2, and who have a dispute about a piece of rocky land or about a fence. Under the Bill, if this Amendment is not accepted, these poor people will have to travel to a Circuit Court, a distance of 50 or 60 miles, bringing with them a host of witnesses, and perhaps have to stay away three, four or five days. I am perfectly certain, since the District Justices are lawyers, that these small cases could be better dealt with in local Courts, where the witnesses could walk to the trial and where the Justice, if necessary, could inspect the ground. We have been listening to the amendments which have been suggested, and I have been amazed to find that the interests of the people, who have to bear the expenses, are not receiving much consideration. If it concerns the professions the whole subject is examined carefully, but we have not had a single agency making itself vocal on behalf of the people who are to be saddled with taxes, so that law may be made convenient and cheap. I think that is wrong, and I hope that I will not have any opposition to this amendment from the Minister in charge of the Bill. A great many of the public Boards in my constituency have passed resolutions calling for such jurisdiction, and there is a very strong feeling in favour of it. I believe that what applies to Tirconnaill applies also to other counties. If you side-track this little concession, which is going to give facilities that are needed, or if you withhold these facilities in the interests of any profession, a wrong is going to be done.
I appeal to the Attorney-General to accept the amendment. Three-fourths of the litigation in the County Courts in counties like Tirconnaill was made up of small title cases, rights-of-way, water and grazing disputes, and, as Deputy McGoldrick stated, were carried on between small farmers, men with small valuations. If title jurisdiction is put into the hands of the District Justices they will be in a position to decide such cases. By doing so, the Attorney-General will be rendering a great service to poor men, as he will give them cheap law. As the District Justice is a trained lawyer, he will be in a position to decide such cases as well as a Circuit Judges. As a result, a large amount of money will be saved to poor people all over the country. I have experience of litigants travelling from remote places like Malin Head to the county town of Lifford, a distance of 60 miles, across two railways, the whole matter in dispute not being worth 5/. If these title cases are to be continued in the Circuit Courts, money will be put into the pockets of solicitors, whose interests have already been well safeguarded in the Bill. I appeal to the Attorney-General to accept the amendment, as by doing so justice will be done to the people in counties like Tirconnaill.
The next amendment is in my name and embodies in the first paragraph the same idea as is put forward by Deputy McGoldrick in the present amendment. I strongly support the object of the amendment while not committing myself exactly to the wording, which I have not closely studied. As other Deputies have pointed out, it is true that in areas where there are small land holders, and where land is precious, they have not much to fight about except small pieces of land. In the old Petty Sessions Court, title cases could not be heard or adjudicated upon, the idea, I suppose, being that the magistrates were not lawyers and could not readily deal with questions of the kind.
Questions of title were therefore sent forward to the County Court Judge. What often happened in cases which did not strictly arise out of land disputes, assault cases, or something of that kind, was that a clever lawyer always managed to plead that a question of title was involved, and thereby prevented the local magistrate from deciding the issue. He put the onus on the opposing party to bring his case forward to the County Court, knowing, perhaps, beforehand that the other party would have great difficulty, owing to the cost, in bringing it forward to the County Court and would possibly let it drop. It was, I believe, a well-known trick in the game to plead title in such matters. As I understand the position now, it is open to a barrister or a solicitor to make the same points in these District Courts. I see no reason why these small title questions should not be decided in the District Court, and I support the idea put forward in the amendment of Deputy McGoldrick.
A later amendment which stands in my name is in essence that of Deputy McGoldrick. Those of us who come closely in contact with rural life will agree that 80 per cent. of the cases which went before the County Courts previously were petty cases in which title was involved. We were accustomed to see ten or twenty witnesses coming distances of sixty miles into the county town, sometimes having to stay there two or three days and spending, perhaps, half the proceeds of the work on their farm on small matters involving, perhaps, five or ten shillings. Now, unless the District Justice gets jurisdiction, we are to continue that system, and the poor man is not going to benefit. I think it only fair that this Dáil should take into account the position of the poor man, and if possible accommodate him. It may be argued, of course, that the District Justice may not be capable of deciding questions of title. In many cases it is not difficult to decide questions of title. If it were possible for the District Justice to go into the field or path where the dispute arises and spend five minutes there he would act with more justice to all sides than a County Court Judge or a High Court Judge would in two days. That is a point which the Dáil should take into account, and if the Attorney-General adopts that point of view he would be doing the best possible service to the poor of the Saorstát.
I desire to endorse the statements made by my brother members from Donegal. In this matter it is a positive nuisance and injustice that poor people should be put to the great expense of proving title. In Donegal there is really no such thing as title, but whenever transactions in land and property take place poor people who have to live by the sweat of their brow have to come to the county town to establish a title. I hope the Attorney-General will accept the views unanimously expressed by the members from Donegal.
I am not one of the unanimous members from Donegal in regard to this proposal, for several reasons. One of these reasons is not, as Deputy White suggested, that the dropping of this amendment would put more money into the hands of professional gentlemen. As a matter of fact it would pay the profession better if these cases were tried by District Courts at a scale fee. We have had statements here that 75 per cent. of the business of the County Courts at present is taken up with title cases. I should have just as good an idea of the work of the County Courts as some of the Deputies who have already spoken. At the last Sessions there were about seventy or seventy-five defended cases, and I would like to know how many of them were title cases. There were not more than three or four. The reason that some Deputies believe that the Courts are taken up so much with title cases is that these cases drag on for a whole day. That is one of the reasons why I am opposing this amendment. You have to consider upon what Court you are conferring jurisdiction. A District Justice in Donegal has to attend about twenty Courts in one month.
You have already conferred on him a big jurisdiction. He has a time table fixed a year before for the whole area where he will hold his Courts. He has to hold a Court in Dungloe, the home town of Deputy McGoldrick. He may be due the next day at Carndonagh, the home town of Deputy White. Listed before him in Dungloe there may be 10, 20 or 40 cases. If a title case comes first, it may last the whole day, and then he has to adjourn until next month.
He can re-cast his time table.
He cannot, because he does not know what will arise. I say it is of more expense to the public to give this jurisdiction to the District Court. You will drag witnesses there, but if they do go to a Circuit Court Sessions the Judge there has the power of carrying on from day to day and will hear them eventually. £10 valuation is the amount specified in the amendment. I wonder does the Deputy realise how many farms in the County Donegal are under £10 valuation? I think at least a half.
That would mean that all the law in that county would be handed over to the District Justice. You cannot ask men to do more than they are able to do. These men have to cater for a big area on stated days and hours of those days. I have met many litigants in these title cases and I have not heard any expression that they were anxious to go into the Sessions Courts. I do know they were always anxious to have them fought out to a finish in the County Court. I do not know that they want their cases rushed. They want all the time possible devoted to those cases. Witnesses, maps and engineers are produced in the Courts. One point was made by Deputy White, that the solicitors did not want to lose these cases. It would be better for the solicitors' profession if jurisdiction were given to the Sessions Courts. Solicitors only practice in a certain number of towns in any county. The nearest town to Dungloe is Letterkenny. To come to a District Court in Dungloe solicitors will charge special fees. Deputy White knows that when a solicitor has to travel out of his own town he charges a special and very heavy fee. Those are much higher than the costs a man would have to pay at his own County Court. One thing is omitted. There is in this Bill an amendment adopted by which the Circuit Judge has the power of transferring to the District Judge any business he thinks fit. If solicitors, by consent, agree that that can be heard by a District Court Justice, it is very easy to have that done. The case can be transferred on the ground of witnesses. It will be more convenient for witnesses to attend at the District Court. That would meet the case. If you put all this jurisdiction on to the District Justice he will not be able to compete with the work.
Deputy Ward is speaking from a professional point of view as a solicitor. Deputies McGoldrick, O'Doherty, Baxter and myself are speaking from the point of view of the poor man litigant, and we consider we have a right that our argument should be considered here. I have experience of County Courts and Assize Courts, and I know what consideration the poor man will get from County Assizes, say, at Lifford. Probably the Court will be adjourned or sent on to Derry City. The amendment is a humane amendment and is proposed in the interest of the poor man and the poor litigant. Three-quarters of the valuations of the farms in Tirconnaill are under £10. I have seen Sessions in Lifford where there were 23, 24 or 25 title cases. I had often to put my hand in my pocket and lend money to those poor people to help to pay their expenses at Lifford and Strabane. If the litigant were defeated he had to go into the bank to pay the solicitors' costs. Every interest has been well supported in the Dáil, that of the Judges, District Justices, Circuit Judges, solicitors, except the interests of the poor man, and we are here to support the interests of the peasant. I think under the circumstances that extending the title jurisdiction to the District Justices where a valuation of £10 is concerned is reasonable, humane, and ought to be accepted.
Deputy Ward made a very clear and persuasive speech, but I think he made one superficial point when he spoke of the District Justice working a time-table. He works a monthly one. The Circuit Judge works a yearly one. Which is more disadvantageous to the litigant— to have his case adjourned for a month in his own local Court, or for three months to one 30 or 40 miles away? He adjourns a case and cannot finish it until he has been to Manorhamilton, Cavan or Monaghan. On the point of finance there is nothing to be said. I notice Deputy Ward did not answer Deputy Baxter's point that if you go and look at a place you can give an accurate decision, and it would be easier for the District Justices to do this and easier for them to settle the case by doing it. The advocacy in District Courts will be in the hands of solicitors. In dealing with questions of title it is my opinion that solicitors are better than barristers unless the barrister is a Chancery barrister who has specialised in that work. Solicitors are dealing with titles every day. They are used to the forms and used to looking into mortgages. Titles are solicitors' business. I say you will have more instructive advocacy if those cases are tried under District Courts than if they are tried, as a sort of by-product, in the Circuit Courts.
I merely wish to say that I hope the Government will not be influenced by the argument of expediency in this, because a very important principle is at stake, and the expediency of whether the time-table of the District Justice is able to accommodate itself to the requirements of the community or not is not a question that should be entertained by the Government at all. What we want is to give to these people the chance of having their little cases settled in a convenient, cheap way and not as in the past, when they had to drive from pillar to post at enormous expense. I can understand Deputy Ward, who is, perhaps, not so conversant with the requirements of the litigants as with another side of the business, and which possibly accounts for the curious view that he took on this question. However, I am sure at bottom he is as anxious as we are to facilitate the people, but at the same time he will understand that if a man has professional obligations he stands up to them, as he stands up to his obligations as a representative of the people to get for them the facilities they require in these cases. I hope the Government will accept this amendment, because no other part of the Bill is so faulty as this. It is the only real fault that I see in the Bill, that it does not give title jurisdiction to the District Courts. I think my amendment a very moderate one. The average valuation in the county of Tirconnaill is £8, so that this will cover a great number of the cases where litigation would arise among people in the remoter districts where the population is very congested, and where these disputes are numerous, and I ask the Government to accept the amendment and not to be guided by any desire for expediency at the expense of the people.
I think Deputy McGoldrick has fairly expressed the views of most of us who are democrats from Tirconnaill, but I think he has been rather hard on my friend, Deputy Ward. He is representing the professional side of the case, but he does not touch the side of the subject which concerns these unfortunate people who have no title in many districts. In my own district there are 3,500 families without any title whatever to the land that they occupy, and when they come up to the courts to establish a title they will have to employ Deputy Ward who, I hope, the Attorney-General will not forget would make an excellent District Justice. They will have to employ a professional man. I strongly urge on the Attorney-General that this amendment should be accepted.
I want to support the amendment, or, at least, the idea behind the amendment. I prefer the form of the next amendment. But one would imagine from the arguments of Deputy Ward that the question of the jurisdiction had to be subordinated to a very small detail which fixes the number of District Justices. If we think that the primary purpose of the Bill is to appoint 33 District Justices, and the work of the Courts must be adjusted to fit in with 33 District Justices, then Deputy Ward's case is a good one, but only if we assume that. If it turns out that the amount of work to be done by these District Justices is too great for the number allotted to the country, then it is a very much easier matter to appoint more District Justices to satisfy the needs of the litigants and not to ask that the litigants should adjust their litigation to the number of District Justices. And, I think it is well worth reminding the Dáil that this is not a case that affects County Tirconnaill alone. There is no clause in the Bill, or in the amendment, which confines the jurisdiction in this matter to the County of Tirconnaill, and from the information that has come my way, the demands of the people are that the District Justices should have their powers extended to cover the cases referred to in the amendment. I think Deputy Ward had in mind the allegation that very many people in the country live for the day when they will have a burst in the courts. That is a luxury that, I think, ought not to be encouraged. We ought not to encourage the people to live for that day when they will make their entry in the courts and when the competition will be as to the number of witnesses they will bring, and to have a regular blowout. We know that that happens, but it is desirable, I think, that we should restrain the wish to have that great day, and the case for allowing the District Justice to have jurisdiction in such matters of title where he can, as has been pointed out, easily deal with the dispute on the spot where it comes from in the category of a conciliator even, before he comes to decide, is a good one. He is on the spot, and he can easily see what is at the bottom of the dispute. It seems to me that the case for easy and cheap litigation demands that this amendment, or some such amendment, should be agreed to. I hope the Attorney-General will agree, or will indicate that he is prepared to accept some slightly amended form which will embody the purpose of the amendment, and I would like to have his view before this matter is discussed further.
I think at the best only a superficial case has been made for the amendment, which, on analysis, cannot be sustained. Its central ideas seem to be economy and the convenience of litigants. I say nothing as to the convenience. It is true that to have the case heard in the district would be a convenience, but when we turn to economy what are the facts? It is suggested to have the jurisdiction of the District Justices extended to valuations not exceeding £10, but let me point out that a £10 valuation does not represent the value of the land. It is very much higher, as anyone knows who has put up land of a £10 valuation for sale. Let us realise then that the litigants will go into litigation to the neck, and they will brief counsel and solicitors. All this will be very expensive. It will mean far more expense than if they were brought to the county town, and I think, in the interest of the litigants themselves, the Dáil should not pass this amendment. After all, the amendment at most seems to be pandering to an appetite for litigation.
Before touching the amendment there is this one observation I would like to make. Deputy McGoldrick, in proposing his amendment, and Deputy White, in seconding it, suggested that this Bill has been approached from a professional point of view only. I venture to say that no Bill so far involving professional consideration has ever been presented to any Parliament with more regard for the people and for the litigants and with less regard for the professions interested. This question of title jurisdiction has only arisen at a late stage. The demand for giving civil jurisdiction to the Justices had gone on for a very long time and related only to questions of small debts, assault cases, and similar matters. It was not until the Bill was in the Dáil that one sensed any demand for giving to the Justices jurisdiction in title cases. So far we have heard practically only Tirconnaill in advocacy of that particular jurisdiction. Clare, apparently, is against it, and Cork has not yet spoken. I have, however, had the matter under consideration. I am not prepared to deal with the amendment at present. It is a matter that we have been examining and considering. It is partly a matter of the capacity as regards time and opportunity of the District Justices to deal with a class of case which everyone who ever practised in the County Courts—I myself put in a number of years there in the usual apprenticeship—knows, occupy more time and excite more feeling and passion and are more important to the people concerned than almost any other class of case that can come before a Court. It becomes a question whether District Justices, who primarily, after all, are magistrates for dealing with certain classes of criminal jurisdiction who have had added to them a certain limited class of civil jurisdiction, should be entrusted with this complicated, difficult and lengthy class of litigation. There is a good deal to be said on either side, but at the present stage, as I say, the matter has only been pressed from a limited part of the country, and at a late stage, and at the present point I am not prepared to accept the amendment, but I am prepared to pursue the enquiry I am having made as to how far it will be feasible to give some title jurisdiction to District Justices.
To add at the end of Clause A (ii), line 53, the words "except
"(a) Where the land, the title to which is in issue, does not exceed £10 in Poor Law Valuation; or
"(b) Where the land the title to which is in issue does not exceed £20 in Poor Law Valuation, and the parties agree in a form to be prescribed by the Rules made in pursuance of this part of this Act to leave the matter in issue to be decided by the Justice subject to the ordinary right of Appeal to the Circuit Court.”
This amendment is practically the same as the preceding one, and as the Attorney-General has given an undertaking to consider the matter I ask leave to withdraw it. I would like to direct the special attention of the Attorney-General to the second portion of my amendment, and he might find along these lines a solution of the whole question.