I move "That the Courts of Justice Bill, 1925, be read a second time." This Bill is something in the nature of a second thought. It proposes to dispense with portion of the machinery provided for in the Courts of Justice Act passed last year. It proposes to dispense with the Court of the High Court Circuit and transfer to the Central Criminal Court all cases that are outside the criminal jurisdiction of the Circuit Judge, including such cases as are now pending and were returned for trial to this Court of the High Court Circuit. The Committee which sat between January and June, I think, of 1923, to make recommendations on the judicial system recommended that all criminal matters should be dealt with by the Circuit Courts except comparatively trifling cases which would fall to be dealt with summarily by the District Justice and, at the other end of the scale, that the more serious class of offence, such as murder, attempted murder, treason and, I think, one other rather rare offence, piracy, should be dealt with by a judge of the High Court rather than by a Circuit judge. Proceeding on that view they recommended that Commissions of Assize should be sent as required to such centres and at such times as the Executive Council may determine for the amalgamated counties. There should be a Central Criminal Court for Dublin city, and the home counties system of Dublin, Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow, each judge of the High Court to be liable to serve in this court. It should have jurisdiction in all cases excepted from the jurisdiction of the Circuit Courts arising within Dublin city or the home counties and also in all cases sent forward to it from the Circuit Courts of such city and counties, or in which the venue has been changed to Dublin city.
The conception urged by this Judiciary Committee was that cases beyond the criminal jurisdiction of the Circuit judge should be dealt with either by the Central Criminal Court covering the area and jurisdiction of Dublin city and counties Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow, and for the rest of the country by a Court of the High Court Circuit, going out periodically in some such way as in the past winter assizes were held. In practice there seems little justification for this extra machinery of the High Court Circuit, and on reflection, having had the advantage of consultation with the judges, who acted on the Rule-making Committee, I am not satisfied that the Dáil would be well advised to proceed with constituting that Court, and I am asking in this short Bill that the Court of the High Court Circuit be dispensed with and that cases that were returned for trial to it should be dealt with by the Central Criminal Court. Possibly the committee which sat to consider the judicial machinery that would be necessary were sub-consciously affected by the condition of things in the country at the time and the amount of crime prevalent, but on examining the cases sent for trial to this High Court Circuit one sees that they are quite few and very widely scattered through the country. A list shows that there are four such cases from Cork, four from Mayo, four from Galway, two from Leitrim, two from Donegal, one from Longford, two from Limerick, two from Tipperary, one from Clare, two from Kildare, one from Carlow, eight from County Dublin, three from Offaly, one from Wicklow, one from Leix, one from Meath, and a total of thirty-nine cases.
If one were to say that to deal with these cases a judge of the High Court should go out on circuit and sit, say, at four, five or six centres through the country, it would be an inconvenience and expense out of all proportion to the number of cases that stand for trial, and when you remember that the list represents the situation which we had through the last year, and that reasonably one might be entitled to hope that major crime would even continue to diminish, I think there is justification for the course we are now taking in asking the Dáil to share the view that this Court of the High Court Circuit is an unnecessary portion of our judicial machinery and that cases outside the ambit of the criminal jurisdiction may well be tried by the central criminal court in the city of Dublin.
I have only one word to add. It is in connection with the position of jurors in the city of Dublin. A Bill is in draft in my Department which will probably be introduced early in the new year— I should hope shortly after the Dáil resumes sitting in January—which will enlarge the area from which jurors will be drawn for the Dublin courts. It is estimated that it will exactly double— not exactly, but approximately—the panel of jurors and that under a provision of the Bill when the extension is operative individual jurors will not be called upon for service more than once every three or four years. I think it is more likely to be four than three. That extension will more than meet the slightly increased burden which this proposal we are now considering places on the shoulders of the jurors of the city of Dublin.