The main object of this Bill is to carry out a recommendation that was made by the Joint Committee set up to consider the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. One of their recommendations was that Section 336 of the Bankruptcy Act should be applied to Circuit Court judgments. Since then representations have been made by other interested bodies, including the Incorporated Law Society, to have such provisions passed into law. The position at present is that under this section (336) of the Irish Bankrupts and Insolvents Act of 1857, if the holder of a judgment in the High Court does not register that judgment within 21 days after it is entered up and he subsequently levies on the creditor, in the event of that creditor becoming a bankrupt, the Official Assignee in Bankruptcy can recover from the person who has collected under such execution. The Official Assignee can recover from him and regard the judgment of the court as null and void.
Under the old County Court system there was no necessity whatever for the creditor to register that judgment. He came in and could levy execution and that money was not recoverable from him by the Official Assignee if the creditor subsequently became a bankrupt. In the limited jurisdiction of the old County Court that was not regarded as being much of a hardship. But under the extended jurisdiction of the Circuit Court— now extended to £300, and in some cases unlimited jurisdiction—it may result in much hardship. It was represented by the business community and the legal body concerned as a matter that may result in much hardship. It was also represented that in the County Court you could not register a judgment unless it was £20 exclusive of costs. It is very easy for members of the House to realise, particularly with the extended jurisdiction of the Circuit Court to which I have referred, that it might be a considerable hardship on a successful defendant where an unjustifiable action possibly was brought against him, that he could not register that judgment and secure his rights in the event of bankruptcy or otherwise. That is being remedied under this Bill.
These are the two main purposes of the Bill. The other portions of the Bill are really repealing very antiquated sections spread over various Acts, one going back 86 years and another going back 72 years. It is more or less an attempt to codify the law dealing with these judgments and to have it in one Act. This is a Bill that is asked for by the solicitors' profession—we have the recommendations of the Incorporated Law Society —and it was asked for, I understand, when there was a commission set up to consider the Bankruptcy Act some years ago by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. That commission reported in favour of this amendment of the law and, as I have already stated, it has been recommended by the body that was set up here to inquire into the working of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. In the original draft of the Courts of Justice Bill of 1936 it was intended to have such an amendment inserted, but on reconsideration it was not considered a suitable place.