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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 3 Nov 1949

Vol. 118 No. 4

Criminal Justice Bill, 1949 (Seanad)—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

This Bill comes before the Dáil after having passed through the Seanad where it was subjected to very careful and detailed consideration and to fairly extensive amendment. In the result, I am bound to say that, to my mind, the Bill which Deputies are now invited to consider is a better and more comprehensive measure than it was as originally introduced.

The Bill, as Deputies will have observed for themselves, consists in the main of provisions of a technical character which will provide remedies, shown by experience to be necessary, or at any rate desirable, for defects in the existing law relating to criminal justice and administration. The primary purpose of the Bill, however, is to provide for an enlargement of the District Court's criminal jurisdiction and it is with this aspect of the measure that I propose mainly to concern myself at this stage.

One of the criticisms most frequently heard of the existing procedure for the administration of criminal justice is that an inordinate amount of time has to be spent in taking depositions on the preliminary investigation of indictable offences, even in cases in which the accused person would be quite willing, if the state of the law permitted, to have the charges against him disposed of summarily. Sometimes also a person charged with an indictable offence is prepared at all material times to plead guilty, but, notwithstanding this, the depositions must be taken in full before the accused is returned for trial. The existing law, it is true, provides for a summary trial of a limited range of indictable offences, provided that the district justice is satisfied on the facts proved that the offence constitutes a minor offence, fit to be tried summarily and that the accused does not object to being so tried.

The principle of a summary trial for certain classes of indictable offences having been long since established and having worked well in practice, it was perhaps inevitable that the first reform to suggest itself should be an extension of the range of indictable offences that might be tried summarily. Such a reform would enable cases to be disposed of by the District Court which would otherwise have to be sent for trial before judge and jury after depositions had been taken and might, therefore, be expected to result in an appreciable saving of time, trouble and expense and, of no little importance, in a substantial measure of relief for witnesses and jurors. From the point of view of accused persons, protracted delays in the disposal of cases would be eliminated and more expeditious trials ensured.

The Bill, accordingly, proposes to extend the range of indictable offences that may be tried summarily and it does this in two ways. Firstly, certain specific offences—perjury, forgery, conversion, for example—are being added to the list of indictable offences that may be dealt with summarily. Secondly, the property value limits applicable in cases of larceny and malicious damage to property are being increased, the increase in larceny being from £20, as fixed by the Courts of Justice Act, 1924, to £50 and, in malicious damage to property, from £5, which was the limit prescribed by the Malicious Damage Act, 1861, to £50. The very considerable fall in the value of money constitutes, of itself, a sufficient warrant for the proposed increases in the property value limits.

Deputies will note that power is being taken in Section 2 of the Bill to enable the Minister for Justice to prescribe further indictable offences as offences that may be tried summarily. It is unlikely, I think, that this power will be frequently availed of. The First Schedule to the Bill pretty well exhausts the offences that, by common consent, are fit to be tried summarily, subject to the conditions laid down in Section 2, but it is conceivable that practical experience will occasionally show the desirability of adding a particular offence, or class of offences, to the list and, in the absence of a power such as the section proposes to confer, the only way by which this could be done would be by legislation. The essentials of Parliamentary control are preserved by the requirement that an Order made by the Minister for Justice under the section must be approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas before it can come into force.

It is as well, perhaps, that I should stress the fact that the power of the District Court to deal summarily with indictable offences will continue to be subject to two conditions, namely: (a) that the offence must be in the nature of a minor offence, and (b) that the accused does not object to being tried summarily. With regard to the minor nature of the offence, Section 2 of the Bill proposes a change in the law which, though largely of a procedural character, is important from the practical point of view. Under Section 77B of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924, the justice, before he could decide to deal with the case summarily, had to be satisfied on the facts proved that the offence constituted a minor offence fit to be tried summarily. On a narrow construction, this provision meant that the justice had to hear the case in full, taking the depositions as it proceeded, before he could form the opinion that the offence was a minor offence with which he might deal summarily. The time spent laboriously taking depositions was almost wholly wasted in such a case. Section 2 of the Bill alters the law in this respect, and, in future, instead of having to be satisfied as to the minor nature of the offence on the facts proved, the court may so satisfy itself on the facts proved or alleged. Thus, for example, the court will be able to form the opinion that the offence is a minor offence after the charge has been read, or after hearing the opening statement by the prosecution, and will be able to proceed at once to deal with the case summarily, provided the accused does not object. The accused's right to object to a summary trial is an unqualified right and preserves for him his right to a trial by jury which the Constitution guarantees, except in the case of minor offences.

I have already referred in passing to the case, which occurs not infrequently, in which an accused person is, from the outset, prepared to plead guilty. Unless the offence is a minor offence, in which event the justice may dispose of the charge summarily, there is no alternative in such a case, notwithstanding that the accused pleads guilty, to taking the depositions in full. The accused is then returned for trial and may be kept waiting for months before his case can be heard and, although he has pleaded guilty, the depositions have to be copied and the State has to instruct counsel and to ensure that all the necessary witnesses are available, lest the accused should change his mind and at the last moment withdraw his plea of guilty.

Section 3 of the Bill contains provisions which, it is hoped, will help to eliminate the waste of time and money and the delays which the procedure I have just described necessarily involved. The section, at the same time, contains safeguards that are, I submit, adequate to protect the constitutional and traditional rights of accused persons. I do not think it necessary at this stage to comment in detail on the section, the provisions of which are self-explanatory. I would like, however, to direct the attention of Deputies to the fact that the powers of the District Court under the section do not extend to the more serious crimes of murder, treason or piracy or their cognates. Not even the most zealous reformer would. I think, propose that the District Court should be given the power to deal summarily with such serious crimes or even to apply the alternative procedure provided for in the section of allowing the accused to sign a plea of guilty and thereupon returning him for trial without taking any depositions.

It will be observed that the section vests a discretion in the District Court either to deal with the case summarily or to send it forward for trial, without depositions or with such depositions as may have been taken up to the time at which the accused signs the plea of guilty. It is contemplated that the district justice, in exercising this discretion, will, apart from any other relevant considerations, have regard to the adequacy or otherwise of the punishment which he is permitted by law to impose for the offence. If he thinks that the maximum punishment which he may order would be inadequate, he will doubtless send the accused forward to the Circuit Court which will have the power to impose a heavier sentence. The justice's discretion is not wholly unfettered, however, because he cannot, if the Attorney-General objects, deal with the case summarily. This seems a desirably proviso, but it is to be noted that while the Attorney-General can object to, he cannot insist upon, a summary trial.

In view of the increased powers being given to the District Court to deal summarily with a wider range and more serious types of cases, it is necessary to give the court the power to impose correspondingly greater punishment. Six months imprisonment is the maximum sentence that the District Court may impose at present (unless it imposes consecutive sentences for two or more offences), while the court has no general power to inflict a monetary penalty. Section 4 of the Bill empowers the District Court to impose a fine of up to £50 or imprisonment up to 12 months or both such fine and imprisonment on conviction for a scheduled indictable offence or for an indictable offence dealt with under Section 3.

As will have been gathered from what I have already said, one of the primary objects which we hope to achieve by Sections 2 and 3 of the Bill is to reduce the amount of time that district justices have to spend on the preliminary investigation of indictable offences. It is proposed, on the one hand, to extend as far as possible the range of cases that may be disposed of summarily and so eliminate depositions and, on the other hand, to enable cases to be sent forward for trial at the earliest possible stage once the accused is prepared to plead guilty, thereby again eliminating depositions in whole or in part. There may be some who think that the proposals in the Bill are not radical enough and that we should have gone even further. There have been propounded, for example, such suggestions as the returning of a person for trial on the establishment merely of a prima facie case against him and notwithstanding that all the depositions have not been taken or, where there was a multiplicity of charges, returning the accused for trial on one or two of the charges and preferring the remainder on indictment although depositions had not been taken in regard to them. Such suggestions were carefully considered in all their aspects before it was decided to reject them. They would involve a more or less radical departure from the existing procedure for the preliminary investigation and trial of indictable offences and would not, it was felt, on the whole, be in the best interests of the administration of justice.

Before I leave this part of the Bill, there is just one other point I would like to emphasise. We are not proposing in these provisions to confer any wholly new or novel jurisdiction on the District Court. All that we are doing is to extend a jurisdiction that the court has had and has operated very successfully ever since its inception. That is not to minimise in any way the importance of what is proposed or the useful and beneficial consequences that we hope and expect will ensue. I am glad to be able to tell the House that the proposals have been welcomed by the general body of justices and I think that the Legislature can entrust the increased jurisdiction and powers which the Bill provides for to the District Court in the confident knowledge that they will be administered and exercised no less successfully than have been the more restricted jurisdiction and powers in the past.

The remaining provisions of the Bill are of a technical character and I do not propose to dwell on them at this stage except to say a word or two on the subject of Section 18 which provides for the clearing of the court in certain cases and for the prohibition or restriction of the reports of certain criminal proceedings. My main reason, indeed, for referring at all to this section is that, in its original form, it was the subject of considerable comment and criticism. There was a certain amount of confusion as to the purport of the provision and there was even a suggestion that it could lead to the establishment of secret courts. I need hardly assure the House that no such intention was ever present to the minds of the Government. The section, as it now stands, is restricted in its application to two classes of criminal proceedings, namely, (a) the preliminary investigation of indictable offences, and (b) criminal proceedings in relation to offences of an indecent or obscene nature. There is, in fact, nothing very novel in the provisions of the section and provisions on very similar lines are to be found in various earlier statutes. Whether any of these earlier provisions survived the express provision of Article 34.1 of the 1937 Constitution that justice should be administered in public courts is, at least, open to very serious doubt.

Article 34.1 was amended in 1941 so as to provide that, in such special and limited cases as might be prescribed by law, justice might be administered otherwise than in public courts. This amendment, I am advised, could not, and did not in fact, operate to revive any provisions which might have been impliedly repealed by the original Article. The provisions of Section 18 are, therefore, necessary to implement Article 34.1 as amended and to remove all doubts as to the powers of the courts in this important matter. I think that there will be general agreement that in the two classes of cases with which the section deals it is not merely desirable but necessary that the courts should have the powers which the section proposes to confer on them.

So far as this Bill goes, I think it represents an improvement on the existing system. I am disappointed, I must say, that the Minister has not dealt in this Bill with a matter for which I thought a Bill should have been ready by now—a Bill to extend the powers of the District Court in civil matters as well. I think that that Bill should be ready by now but perhaps the Minister may be in a position to deal with it shortly. When I was in his place, I was constantly being asked when such a Bill would be introduced and, as I say, I thought it should be ready by now. However this Bill does represent an improvement in so far as the taking of depositions in criminal cases are concerned. It will obviate a waste of time in the District Court in that way. It was time to put an end to that. I think that is one of the reasons why we have to have so many district justices in Dublin. No matter how many we appointed, we seemed to want more. Even since the change of Government the Minister has been forced to increase the number. We were hoping we had reached the limit. If this is going to help in that direction, it will be very desirable. It may disappoint some legal people who may not have quite so much to do. At the same time, the taking of depositions caused a great waste of time, especially in Dublin.

We are all fed up with depositions.

Mr. Boland

This Bill has gone through the Seanad and I think they could have done a better job on it than they did. We have had a sub-committee going through it. I understood when Bills were initiated in the Seanad that they would go very carefully through them and produce Bills that would not require much amendment. We shall have several amendments to propose to this Bill which we think will improve it.

I shall have a few myself.

Mr. Boland

I am sure the Minister will. This is the first Bill that has gone through that new procedure in the Seanad. Although the Seanad is supposed to be a more leisurely body than ours, it does not seem to have given a lot of attention to the improvement of this Bill. There is no necessity to go into the Bill in much detail because in Committee we can deal with a lot of these matters. I should like, however, to refer to some of the sections. As to Section 2, I consider that the accused should be definitely reminded that he has the right to be tried by a jury, because he may not know that. It is a matter which the Minister might consider making definite and specific in the section.

It is generally done.

Mr. Boland

It is no harm to have it put in here.

It should be in it.

Mr. Boland

I would say so. I quite agree that the District Court should have the right to impose sentences up to 12 months and a fine up to £50. That seems, however, to be extended to minor offences. Whether that is not too much for what are called minor offences is a matter of opinion. I imagine that a six months' limit would be adequate for the type of cases which are tried summarily. As to Section 8, I think it is going a little too far to accept the evidence of a person who has died or become insane since making a deposition. The great point is to have a chance of cross-examining a witness and if the person who made the deposition is dead there is no opportunity for that. If he is insane, he might have been insane when making the deposition. I think that matter wants looking into.

In that case, the point is that Dr. McGrath, the State Pathologist, is often called upon to give evidence which is purely technical. This would allow that evidence to be accepted if the accused agreed.

Mr. Boland

According to the section, the deponent must have died, become insane, or be too ill to attend. I think it is something which the Minister should look into. I am surprised that the Seanad let it slip through. In any event, I wish to draw the Minister's attention to it and we may be able to help him to improve the section. I expect that he is open to receive suggestions.

Yes. These things are purely technical.

Mr. Boland

With regard to Section 11, I think it is nearly time for the State to consider accepting liability for malicious damage. During the time of the last Government we made a move in that direction in the case of Gardaí who lost their lives. Formerly the compensation was levied on the local authority. I think it will be generally agreed that, as the State is responsible for the preservation of order and not the local authority, the duty ought to be on the State to provide the compensation.

In regard to Section 18, I think the Seanad could have helped more than it did, if it did anything at all, in the wording of that section. In sub-section (1) (b) of Section 18 we want to know what is meant by "disclosure of information". If I meet a person when a case is being heard and I talk to him about it, am I committing an offence? I think it would be much better to confine the offence to publication of the information. It would be more likely to be successful. There is not much likelihood of an ordinary conversation in which something might be disclosed prejudicing the case of an accused person. I agree, however, that publication is another matter. I think the Minister should look into that point. Then as to the persons who are to be allowed to remain in court during the hearing of indecent cases, if it is a case involving a young person I think the parents should be admitted.

Mr. Boland

It is desirable that they should. If both parties in the case are young people, the parents of both should be admitted. To confine it to one female nominated by the person alleged to have been assaulted is I think too narrow. Other Deputies may have other views, but in a case like that where young people are affected the parents ought to have the right to be there. In these cases, I think that the publication of the unsavoury part of the evidence should be prohibited. Whether publication of the whole of the evidence should be prohibited is another matter. I do not think that the court at present has any power to prohibit the Press from publishing any portion of it.

They may do it.

Mr. Boland

Can the court do any more than make a request?

The court can make a suggestion.

Mr. Boland

I think that the court should have the power to prevent the publication of unsavoury details.

Section 18 (2) will cover that.

Mr. Boland

As to this whole business of publication in the Press, I have my own views and always had. Sometimes when a person is charged with some trivial offence the publicity which the case gets in the Press is a greater punishment than the punishment inflicted by the court.

And for his family.

Mr. Boland

Yes. We do not want to have cases tried in camera, but sometimes the Press gives a lot of publicity to trivial cases, especially if the person concerned happens to be connected with any well-known individual.

According to the news value.

Mr. Boland

I am not saying that we should take any steps in the matter, but I am sure I am in order in suggesting that the Press ought to bear it in mind and not be magnifying trivial things. As to Section 21, speaking from experience, I think the Minister will be a very sorry man if this section about the remission of forfeitures and disqualifications is retained. I was always very glad that I had no power to remit any of the consequential disqualifications. Take, for instance, the driving of a car, a Minister's life would not be worth living if he were to take the power that is set out in the Bill. I think the Minister would be a foolish man to take it. I do not think the Minister should take power to remit that part of the punishment. If he does decide to remit portion of the court sentence in the case of a person convicted of driving a car while under the influence of drink, the disqualification part of the sentence should remain I think.

This does not give me that power.

Mr. Boland

Sub-section (2) says:—

"The Government may remit, in whole or in part, any forfeiture or disqualification imposed by a court exercising criminal jurisdiction and restore or revive, in whole or in part, the subject of the forfeiture."

That is as plain as it could be. I am telling the Minister that I think it would be foolish for him to take that power for himself. I hope that I will not be a Minister for Justice again if he does take that power. I had enough trouble myself when I was a Minister, but I was always able to say that I had no power. I had people coming to me and trying to put pressure on me, and one would need to be a strong man to stand up to that. I think that the disqualification from driving a car for the period prescribed should be insisted on, and that the law should be allowed to remain as it is.

Another thing that I think is wrong is the provision in sub-section (3) which says:—

"The Government may delegate to a Minister of State any power conferred by this section and may revoke any such delegation."

I think the Minister for Justice is the only person to whom that power should be delegated. In my time if, for instance, prosecutions were instituted under the Traffic Act they were taken in the name of the Minister for Local Government; if they were tillage prosecutions they were taken in the name of the Minister for Agriculture and in his name if they were fishery prosecutions, and if they were concerned with industry and commerce they were taken in the name of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I do not think it is the Minister in whose name a prosecution is taken that ought to have the power to remit or to revoke. I think that the Minister for Justice is more likely to take a detached view, and that he only ought to have this power. He will naturally consult the Minister whose Department is concerned. He will also communicate with the Gardaí and the judge or the justice, and as I say will take a more detached view of the whole position. I think the Minister should not agree that anyone would have that power but the Minister for Justice. I do not think it is desirable to set out in the sub-section that "a Minister of State" should have it.

Instead of the words "Minister of State" will the Deputy put down an amendment to substitute the words "Minister for Justice"?

Mr. Boland

I am prepared to do that.

And I am prepared to accept it.

Mr. Boland

When I was in the Department of Justice—on this I am expressing my own personal view—there was one thing that we often discussed when considering the amendment of the law. I refer to the solemn form of oath that is taken in the courts. Some people say that a good deal of perjury is committed in the courts. They say that it is widespread. I do not know, but if I was in the Department when the Bill was being prepared I would have had that matter examined. I think that instead of the solemn form of oath it would be better to provide for the making of a statutory declaration which would have attached to it the same penalties as are provided in the case of perjury. At present there is the solemn form of oath. The Almighty is invoked as a witness that what a person says is true. If, instead of telling the truth, a person tells lies, that amounts to blasphemy, I think it would be better if we were to put into our criminal code a statutory declaration with the same penalties as those which are provided for perjury. In that case, if a person gives false evidence it would not be, I would say, as serious a thing as to commit perjury. That is my own personal view on this matter. I will have to consult our Party on it. I can say this, that it is a view that was shared by some of the principal officials when I was in the Department, some of whom, I am sorry to say, are now dead. Of course, if I were in the Department it is a matter that I would have to go to the Government about if I were considering putting it into a Bill. If an oath is taken lightly it is really a very serious matter. On the whole, I think the Bill is going to be an improvement. Could the Minister tell us what progress has been made on the civil side as regards the extension of the jurisdiction of the District Court?

Like Deputy Boland, I feel inclined to welcome this Bill. The tendency in it is to improve the present situation in the District Court. I hope I am in order in saying to the Minister that I have a deep-seated objection to this type of legislation being initiated where it was. I think it is only duplicating, in the main, the work that has to be done. If this Bill is evidence of the efficiency of the Seanad, I take it that an initial effort of this House would be a far better criterion on which to build our future criminal law.

I would like to remind the Deputy that it is not usual for one House to criticise the action of another. I will leave it at that.

I am not criticising its action as such. I am criticising the system whereby something which is fundamentally, I would say, our business is started in another House. I think on that I am entitled, without criticising the other House as such, to criticise this method of the initiation of legislation which I think should, primarily, be kept within this House.

That is quite in order. I thought there were implications with regard to the other House in the Deputy's opening remarks.

No implications, so far as the other House is concerned were meant. What I feel is that the Minister is the custodian of a certain State Department, in this case the Department of Justice, and he should advert seriously to his responsibility and keep within the orbit of this House the initiation of legislation of this kind. There was a good deal of merit in many of the objections made by Deputy Boland to this Bill. I am quiet honest in saying that his approach to the Bill was very fair and candid. Like Deputy Boland, I felt that when the Minister was tackling the problem of the District Courts at all, he would have tackled it in a comprehensive way and would have dealt with both sides of the court's activities.

I should like to ask the Minister if this is a first step in the direction of increasing the general jurisdiction of the District Court. I do not suppose this is the stage to go into details on the sections, but in my opinion there are some blatant defects in the Bill which I would urge the Minister to deal with himself by introducing amendments in Committee rather than leave it to individual members of the House to do so. I refer to what would appear to me to be obvious Government amendments which should come from the Minister himself.

I sympathise with one point that was made by Deputy Boland. Perhaps I may epitomise his objection in this way, that I would make it mandatory on a district justice, when dealing with a prisoner who may elect to be tried summarily by him, that in the same way as the Gardaí are obliged to caution a person before he makes a statement, he would caution a prisoner when he elects to be tried before him that he would tell him that he is doing so voluntarily and that he has, at all times, the right to elect to be tried by jury. I think that should be done by way of caution uttered by the district justice so as to ensure that, by no method of misconception or inadvertence, would a person not legally represented abrogate his legal rights unwittingly.

We all welcome the cutting down of the cumbersome machinery of deposition taking. There may be some merit in Deputy Boland's suggestion that some lawyers might regret the system, but our experience has been that, on the basis of fees, you usually get an all-in fee for a criminal case and the number of days the depositions take are usually only a straining of time. I do not think the new proposal will be anything but welcome from the point of view of the legal profession, and particularly the Bar, when one considers the time taken with depositions and the prospect that the various days and half-days that we have to put up with in the District Court will be, in future, prohibited. This proposal, in my opinion, will make for more cohesion from the point of view of the prosecution and more incisive effort on the part of the defence. It will tend to help the accused person, because the case will be dealt with in a more expeditious manner and it will do away with the present prolonged and tortuous system of taking depositions.

The Minister is taking a most dangerous course in Section 8. I think he should reconsider carefully the full implication of that section. It may be that at the back of the minds of Departmental officials or the mind of the draftsman, there were certain limitations, but this section does not embody these limitations as such and it leaves the position such that an accused person could be considerably prejudiced and placed in a position where he would have no redress. The effective safeguard, so far as the accused person is concerned, should be introduced in this section and the brake should be introduced to this extent, that the defence should have a summary right of objection to evidence unless it is in the nature of evidence which would be in the interests of the accused. If the provisions of this section are to apply, there should be an overriding clause to enable it to be used only for the benefit of the accused person.

Read Section 8 (2).

The Minister may interject, but the fact is that the general principle there is fundamentally bad. It gives a power that is introducing something new into the administration of justice in criminal cases. It is something I do not like and something I would be very slow to accept unless there are very strong qualifications. We are all aware that there are certain cases tried in the District Court and it is undesirable that they should be published.

I think the Minister should take this opportunity of doing three specific things. It will be within his power to do them on the Committee Stage. He should give the district justice the power he suggests of clearing the court in relation to certain offences. I am satisfied the Minister does intend that the Press in these cases shall have certain rights to be present. I hope the Minister does not contemplate that these people should be excluded, but he should give the district justice a positive right to exclude certain people. The only exceptions should be within the orbit of necessary witnesses or possibly the parents of young children. He should give the district justice the positive power to ask the Press not to publish certain of the unsavoury elements of a case.

Possibly, the Minister might say that under the Censorship Act it is made an offence, but I have complete sympathy with Deputy Boland to this extent, that no matter what the Censorship Act may do by way of imposing a penalty, if certain matter is published and the damage is done, no subsequent action by anybody under the Censorship Act and no penalty that may be collected under that Act will undo the harm that might be quite unwittingly and unnecessarily done by the publication of unsavoury details.

I think the Minister should also give a clear direction as to what is to constitute what one might describe as the publication of the unsavoury kernel of a case. I would not like that, by any indirect means, any type of control would be exercised on the Press unless in the strict interests of the public. By that I mean that certain unpleasant or obscene features of certain types of indictable offences are better left unpublished and unknown to the general public. It is unpleasant enough to have these matters arising within the actual legal world or in the Department of Justice, in its capacity as a public prosecutor. It is unsavoury enough in these circumstances, without having the details developed into some type of public scandal.

I am of the opinion that, on the Committee Stage, the Minister will be forced into the position of amending and limiting certain aspects of the Bill. I refer in particular to the very rational objection made by Deputy Boland because, no matter what the Minister's intention may be, Section 21 does give him power to do things that he himself up to the present believed he could not do. I believe there is an unqualified power given to the Minister, if he wishes to exercise it, to restore driving licences which at present have a statutory disqualification placed upon them. At the moment that disqualification is automatic and there is a statutory limit within which the Minister cannot interfere. If a licence is suspended that suspension lasts for a period of 12 months. The district justice has discretion to make the period longer than 12 months if he thinks fit. Up to the present there was no channel open to a convicted person other than by appeal to the Circuit Court. No one in an administrative or executive capacity could interfere with that decision once it was given. I think the Minister must take serious notice of the case made by Deputy Boland in reference to the implementation of the law by a district justice when dealing with people guilty of the offence of driving a motor car while under the influence of drink. I think the section as it stands would create a very dangerous and unpleasant precedent for the Minister because it would give him power which, as he interjected here this evening, he is not seeking and which he apparently did not realise he had until this evening.

I sincerely believe that it would be most unwise and injudicious in a situation that is already difficult if power were granted to a Minister of State to interfere with what is at the present time a minimum imposition. I go even further than that and say that such a proceeding would tend to aggravate an already aggravated situation in relation to that type of driver who takes charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle while under the influence of drink. At the moment there is a deterrent. It may not be the strongest possible deterrent. It may not be such a deterrent as most people would like it to be, but it is positive and it is salutary in relation to that type of person who may require a motor car for the purpose of his business, profession or occupation. That unshakable disqualification is a positive deterrent because he knows that he cannot get round the Minister nor can the Minister get round the disqualification for him. I urge upon the Minister that he should exclude specifically under Section 1 any right to interfere with convictions in relation to driving a motor car or contravening traffic regulations while under the influence of drink. As Deputy Boland pointed out, the desired effect might never be obtained because the Minister would find himself drowning in a sea of representations by Deputies to get back licences for this, that and the other person. To a certain extent the practice that has existed up to this has afforded some protection to Deputies in this respect because there was no way by which one could get round this disqualification. Certainly I found it a protection myself. One could give a person an honest answer and assure him that, no matter how anxious one might be to push his case, the Minister had no power, good, bad or indifferent, to interfere. That had a certain advantage as far as Deputies were concerned. From the Minister's point of view, I think the retention of that practice would remove a headache for him because he could always point to the positive statutory provision under which he had no power to interfere.

On the Bill in general, the legal profession are glad that with the reputation that the District Court has built up for itself, together with the successful administration of the law which has become synonymous with that court, more power is being entrusted to these competent administrators. It is, too, a step in the right direction because, from the point of view of the accused person, it will make the process of his defence a good deal cheaper. Under this Bill there are certain types of offences that can now be tried in the District Court but which formerly inevitably involved the accused person in a protracted District Court investigation and a subsequent Circuit Court defence. There are, however, certain aspects of the Bill to which I would like the Minister and his Department to readdress their minds. I do not think the Bill is as watertight as one would wish it to be. In its present form I do not think that it will achieve some of the objects it seeks to achieve. In future legislation dealing with the jurisdiction of the District Court, I think the Minister can leave the initiation of such legislation to this House which is ultimately primarily answerable to the country on the question of what the statute law will be.

I agree with the Minister and Deputy Boland that this Bill is necessary. There are, however, a number of sections on which I would like to suggest amendments. First of all, let me say that this new power contained in Section 3 in relation to the taking of depositions is a very wise one. It is probably ten years since I and some of my professional friends were invited to discuss this matter with one of the Circuit Court judges. We were agreed at that time that, in order to speed up the procedure in the District Court in the interests of the accused person, some provision such as this should be introduced. I take it that that particular section, together with the other sections, has been receiving the consideration of the Department of Justice over the years. As far as we were concerned at the time, we were the people who were actually practising in the courts. We were of opinion at that time that some provision such as that would be useful and very wise. I am glad to see that, after that lapse of years, when I had almost forgotten the suggestion, it has come forward.

This Bill is going to increase the jurisdiction of district justices. It is going to increase the work of district justices. I am sorry the Minister for Justice is not here at the moment but I know that the Minister for Defence, who is here, will convey this view to him—that if the work and the jurisdiction of district justices is to be increased it is only reasonable and fair that the remuneration to be paid to them should be increased also.

Hear, hear.

Hear, hear.

There are district justices who have been very satisfactory district justices for over a quarter of a century and some of these justices have received an increase of approximately only one-twelfth of their salary, £100, in that long period.

Oh, no, they got 25 per cent. a couple of years ago.

I am not absolutely sure of my facts as to what the actual figures are, but I understood that some of them did receive an increase much less than 25 per cent.

They did not.

However, there is a further point. Right through the whole country, these district justices will be operating this increased jurisdiction. Many of them, quite a number of them, have 25 years of experience and there is too much of a difference between the remuneration or salary paid to the Dublin justices and that paid to those very experienced justices right through the country. I think that the Minister might get an indication from the House as a whole, and from every side of the House, that if he were to examine this matter and if he were to make an increase in salary for the district justices——

There is not a word about that in this Bill.

The increased jurisdiction and the increased work that will be thrown on the justices is incidental to the operation of the Bill. I think all of us are agreed that the District Court has been a tremendous success. I think all the Ministers for Justice in the past and in the present are to be complimented on the splendid selection that they made for the bench of these courts. The District Court has been a tremendous success. It is because it has been such a great success and because I am satisfied that the increased powers that are to be given to district justices in this Bill will not be abused that I am in favour of giving those additional powers to a court to which every citizen in the country can look with absolute confidence that the justices will do their work efficiently, well, honestly and impartially.

There is one feature in it—it does give this additional punitive power to justices to increase sentences from six months to 12 months. I am satisfied that that power would not be abused but I think that some investigation should be made into this question of imprisonment as a punishment for offences. I think that imprisonment, in quite a number of cases, is an antiquated form of punishment, that it is unnecessary and that it does no good. Certainly, in so far as quite a number of young people are concerned, it has been my experience that a sentence of imprisonment early in life has led to a life of crime. I think that has been the experience, probably, of our circuit judges who, from a wider sphere, are not anxious, if they can avoid it, to impose a sentence of imprisonment at all. However, that is a wider and a broader matter and I only mention it incidentally so that it may be considered by the Minister.

There is one section which the Minister mentioned, namely, the sub-section of Section 2, which gives the Minister for Justice the power by Order to declare that any specified indictable offence shall be a scheduled offence. I think it is unwise to insert a provision like that in a Bill. After all, offences, whether they are minor offences or serious offences, are contained in the different statutes. This Bill, which is a Bill to amend criminal law and administration, declares that certain offences will be minor offences which may be dealt with by the District Court. The Seanad has gone through this Bill and we are going through it now. The Schedule contains a very long list of offences that may be dealt with summarily by the district justice. I think that any Minister for Justice who comes in here and asks the Dáil to pass an amending Bill, including three, four or five different offences which may be dealt with summarily, will have no great opposition from the Dáil if the proposals he brings forward are reasonable ones. In the administration of justice I think there are really no Party lines so far as this Dáil is concerned, and I think it is a good thing for the country that that is so. The Minister may have a view, his advisers in the Department may have a view, but the members of this House might have a different view, and if the Minister came in here and if views were expressed to him on the Second Reading of a Bill by the Dáil he might see that certain powers that his Department, or maybe even district justices, wanted him to obtain should not be granted, whereas, if he may do this in the seclusion of his Ministerial office I think it is bad. I have always objected to that sort of legislation on principle and I object to it here. I admit that there is this procedure of having a resolution approving of it in both Houses, but that is not the same thing at all. It is a different form. It is a form that ought to be used in connection with administrative orders. But where we are going to change the power of trial from a higher to a lower court I think it ought to go through the correct form of an amending Bill introduced in both Houses and passed in the ordinary way a Bill is passed into law.

This is an Order under the Bill. It has to have the approval of both Houses.

I object to that. In the case of an offence which at the moment is an offence that can only be dealt with on indictment in the Circuit Criminal Court, under this Bill the Minister may by Order change it from being an indictable offence to an offence that may be disposed of summarily by the district justice. That Order may come before this House and be approved of by a majority; it may come before the Seanad and be approved of by a majority, but I say that it would be wiser if it came in here as an amending Bill and have the different readings and let the Dáil have the different opportunities to amend it. As I understand that type of statutory Order that has to obtain the approval of the House, the House has no right to do anything except approve of it or reject it. We can approve of it or reject it, whereas if it came in here as an amending Bill we would have the right to amend it, alter it and discuss it in its several stages. I think for those reasons that that particular power is unwise.

Some time ago I asked the Minister for Justice a Parliamentary Question with regard to depositions. In the trial of an accused person in the Circuit Court depositions are available for the judge and for the State counsel who appears on behalf of the Attorney-General prosecuting. In the ordinary way those depositions are only available to the accused person if he can pay for them, but the Minister for Justice told me that he can through certain machinery obtain free transcripts of the evidence. I made enquiries in the Circuit Court office and no Circuit Court official had any knowledge of any such procedure. No person of whom I am aware has been able to obtain in the Dublin Circuit Court copies of those depositions free and that is no fault of the Circuit Court registrar or of any of the staff. The result of that is that when a solicitor has to or wants to defend an accused person who has no money if he wants to do the job properly he must pay for those depositions out of his own pocket. That has happened pretty frequently, or the unfortunate accused person may have to borrow the money to pay for copies of these depositions. They are nothing more than typescript copies that should be made available. I say to the Minister that this opportunity should be taken of putting beyond all doubt that an accused person will be entitled as a right not only to the indictment—he gets that as a right—but to the depositions so that he and whoever is defending him may have an opportunity of preparing a defence and knowing what he has to face. I know that if the accused person is in Mountjoy Prison and applies for copies of the depositions and is not represented by a solicitor he can obtain copies provided by the Government to enable him to read what is against him, but I understand that he has to give it back. The solicitor defending an accused person should obtain that as a right or it should be served in the ordinary way on the accused person. The Minister, I know, believes that in the administration of the courts those depositions may be obtained easily and without charge. Our experience is to the contrary and I think that this Bill should put the matter right.

I do not intend to deal with any of the sections of this Bill that have been mentioned by the other Deputies. I intend to submit certain amendments on the Committee Stage. I understand that certain amendments will be put down by Deputy Boland, probably by other Deputies in the House and perhaps by the Minister himself. I think this is an opportunity to tidy up quite a number of defects in the criminal law and criminal administration. Any Deputy who has any suggestion to make to improve the criminal law should put down an amendment for consideration so that when we have finished with the Bill we will have gone a long way towards improving the defects in the criminal law.

There is one section which has not been adverted to and which I think introduces a very, very serious and objectionable principle, that is Section 17. Under Section 17 the Circuit Court may transfer the trial of a criminal issue from the place in which it is required by law to be held to another place in the same circuit. That, I think, is a very objectionable provision.

There may be good reason for that.

I know that there may be good reason for that, or at least there may apparently be good reason for that. It says:

"The trial shall be held at the place to which it is transferred with a jury from the jury district or other area prescribed for trials by the Circuit Court sitting at that place.

"An order of the Circuit Court under this section may be made on the application of the Attorney-General or an accused person."

The first little bit of doubt I have is whether the judge can transfer the trial without an application from the accused person. I think that on the strict wording of the section he could. It says that the court may transfer the trial of a criminal issue and then it goes further and says that an order of the court may be made on the application of the Attorney-General or the accused person. It does not say that it may only be made on the application of the Attorney-General or the accused person. We have quite a number of courts here so it does not affect us so much in Dublin as it might in some other circuits. When a particular trial was taking place in a particular county the judge might say that this man would not be convicted there and send him down to another county in the circuit. Once we start that we are starting immediately to tamper with justice. I cannot say that judges would not be swayed by considerations such as that. There may be a case where an accused person is tried in a county before a jury of 12 men; that jury may disagree and the judge may think that the jury should have found him guilty. He comes up for trial at the next sitting of the Circuit Court and the judge directs that he be taken to another county. I had one personal experience of an accused person being tried where the jury on two occasions disagreed and on the third occasion the jury acquitted him. The judge was of the opinion at every stage that the man was guilty. He so charged the jury and after the man had been acquitted at the third trial it was discovered that it was not he who committed the offence at all but another person. That is a case from personal experience and what would have happened if this power existed at that time? After the first disagreement or the second the judge would have directed that the trial take place in another area and the man would have been convicted although he was an innocent person.

Not necessarily.

I know not necessarily, but it could happen. I do not see any Deputies here from Cork or Kerry but they are probably around the House. I understand that at one stage of the administration of law in this country—I will not say justice—when they wanted to convict a Kerry man they sent him to Cork.

And when they wanted to convict a Cork man they sent him to Kerry?

No, to Dublin.

I do not know. Are we going to open that again and have people who may be charged in County Louth sent for trial to Wexford or Wicklow? Are we going to have a person charged in Mayo sent to Galway? That is a very serious interference with fundamental rights. It is a fundamental right that a person should be tried by his own peers and it has always been the custom in the administration of law in this country that a person should be tried by his own neighbours, the people living in his own county, to understand the conditions.

I am shocked when I consider what may happen, what monkeying and jockeying may go on with regard to accused persons, for the purpose of convicting them. We have done without that power for 25 years. Why do we want to introduce it now? If a Longford man is charged in County Longford, why should the judge send him up to Westmeath or down to Roscommon? I think the Longford man will get a fairer trial and that the proper principles will be applied by a Longford judge and jury. They may acquit him, but if they do he is entitled to be acquitted.

How is it going to affect the witnesses for the accused person? If he is being tried in Dundalk and has 20 witnesses to produce and is not a very wealthy individual, and if the case is sent down to County Wexford, who is going to pay the travelling expenses of the witnesses for the defence? Will the State do it? They may do it, and I think they are bound to do it, but will they do it? If the trial is going to last a week, are they going to get hotel accommodation for them in Wexford and provide a special bus to take them down and back again?

I want the Minister to consider those implications. They are small, minor implications in regard to the general principle. The general principle is that a man should be tried in the county in which he resides or in which he commits the offence and he should be tried by his own neighbours.

Let us look back over the 25 years' administration of the law. Is there any great complaint that the juries have not done their duty? I do not think the present or the previous Minister for Justice will say that juries in the ordinary criminal case have not done their duty. Some judges may think so, but the jury in a criminal case have as much function—in fact, more function—than the judge and when the judge tells them they have not done their duty in the verdict they have brought in, I think the jury would have the same right to tell the judge there and then that he has no right or status to make such an observation, in court or anywhere else.

We, as individual Deputies, in the case of Bills brought in like this, can only draw the attention of the other members of the House to the dangers that may be inherent in the principle that is contained in Section 17. It is a dangerous principle, a bad principle, and if it should become law and be enforced by judges, it will lead to quite a lot of trouble while it is on the Statute Book.

With these observations, I reserve my other comments until the next stage of the Bill. I am glad that the Bill is being introduced, as it gives us an opportunity of improving the administration of the law and if every Deputy who has anything to contribute to this measure on the next stage, will put in the amendments that he thinks ought to be put in, we will provide a very useful improvement in the administration of our criminal law.

Like the other Deputies who have spoken, I think this Bill, in the main, tends to improve the administration of criminal justice. There are, however, some features which, without amendment, I consider will not go along the same lines as the rest of the Bill. I would have preferred this in the form of another Courts of Justice Bill, if necessary, and to embrace a much wider scope than it does, particularly to meet the much needed extension of the civil jurisdiction of the District Court. It might have been brought in the form of a District Courts Bill, but there are some other aspects that, possibly, would not come within the ambit of such a Bill.

I refer particularly to a long overdue reform—in the provision of legal aid for poor persons. Even in its present form, this Bill might easily have made provision for that. Those who have had recourse to the court, either by way of practice or as a witness, must have seen unfortunate accused persons coming for trial on indictment before the Circuit Court without being legally represented and, as the charges are being read to him—several charges, possibly, in connection with a single offence—on being arraigned, that undefended accused person pleading, possibly, guilty to a succession of charges of varying degrees of criminality or arising out of the one offence. In many cases, those different degrees of criminality will provide different degrees of punishment. While I know the courts always treat such an undefended person with the greatest possible consideration, it could be that if he were defended he might not only plead not guilty to all the charges read to him, but might find himself acquitted of not only the major but many of the minor charges that follow in the wake of a criminal indictment. However, that is a remedy I hope will come in some future Bill. It is long overdue and it certainly would go towards the better administration of justice.

On the general provisions of the Bill, I think it is most desirable that the jurisdiction of the District Court should be stepped up in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of proceedings.

In many cases at present, as the Minister pointed out, an accused person coming before a District Court finds himself returned for trial, the district justice not having power to deal with him summarily. It happens very often that the District Court hearing takes place towards the beginning of the summer vacation and there will not be a sitting of the Circuit Court, before which his trial can take place, until many months later, when the new term opens in October. We have all seen cases where an unfortunate accused person, who is unable to get bail, is in prison during the whole of the summer term. From that point of view alone, the provisions of this Bill to overcome that situation are most desirable.

As regards some particular provisions, I am very much inclined to agree with what Deputy Cowan has said about the method of legislating by Order. That is a form of legislation that should be avoided if at all possible. On the other hand, I realise that, should a certain form of crime become common in a certain district, it would be necessary to eliminate the long routine of District Court depositions and Circuit Court hearing and to amend the law in order to provide for District Court hearings if at all possible. On the other hand, from the point of view of proper criminal legislation, in the case of any indictable crime or any crime capable of being tried summarily, it should be on the Statute Book in the form of a properly enacted Act of Parliament and not in the form of an Order. I need not go into clause (ii) of sub-section (2) of Section 2 which provides that the accused, may be tried by the court, if he does not object to being so tried, in greater detail than was done by Deputy Boland, but the accused should most certainly be fully informed and it should be so provided in the Bill that he has positive right to trial by jury.

As regards the question of giving a district justice power to impose a sentence of 12 months, the whole purpose of summary jurisdiction is to provide a method of trying minor offences and it could not be argued that any minor offence deserves a penalty of 12 months or £50 or both. It is laid down in the Constitution that only minor offences may be tried summarily. If this Bill is now to earmark certain offences as minor offences, they should be treated as such from the point of view of punishment and, in my opinion, a sentence of six months—which the District Court already has power to impose—is ample. I would not go so far as to say that it would be unconstitutional but I do not think it is right that an offence which we are now prepared to treat as a minor offence should merit punishment so high. I would ask the Minister to consider that aspect of the Bill. Of course, there will be more time on the Committee Stage.

Coming to Section 8, I certainly agree with all that Deputy Collins and Deputy Boland said in respect of it. It is a very dangerous precedent. For the first time in our criminal and civil code, we are allowing evidence which is unsifted and which nobody will have had an opportunity of cross-examining. Even in a civil case, for the recovery of £5 either in contract or in tort, no court would admit the type of evidence that it is now being sought to have admitted in a criminal case in this Bill. Heretofore, what are known as dying statements were admitted only when the person who made the statement could be shown to be in fear of death and to have realised that he might die. The explanation is simple. The law expects from a person in such a position a greater realisation of the necessity for truth than from the person who might expect to recover and to get absolution for any offence, from the liturgical point of view. It is taking the law too far altogether to allow statements from deponents——

Read clause (b).

I see what clause (b) provides.

With the accused's consent.

The accused must consent before these statements are read but it only provides for the case of insanity or illness. If that is the furthest the Minister can go as regards giving the accused person the right to object, he should also include depositions from persons who had died between the time of the taking of the deposition and the time of the trial. I would ask the Minister to examine it seriously. I do not believe there is a Deputy who has occasion to practise in the court who would not disagree thoroughly with the provisions of the section in their entirety. If the Minister does not see his way to amend it as suggested, he will find plenty of amendments submitted by individual Deputies. The amendment that I would suggest is that the section should be deleted altogether. It is creating a precedent in the law of evidence that, as I have pointed out, does not apply even in civil cases where the same responsibilities are not imposed on the judge of trial.

Sections 9 and 10 are desirable and are inserted now in view of defects which have become apparent from the operation of the law. For the first time, a dog will become a chattel and capable of being stolen, with the result that anyone who gets a dog under false pretences will be liable to be tried before a District Court or a Circuit Court. Most Deputies have heard of cases where men have tried to pass dud cheques for greyhounds and the poor Gardaí when they tried to follow the matter up, found that they had no remedy from the point of view of the criminal law.

Section 10 provides a desirable innovation inasmuch as it provides a person who has instituted criminal proceedings in the District Court for assault with the opportunity of bringing a civil action. The lack of power to institute a civil action after having instituted criminal proceedings was a defect which certainly needed remedying and I am glad that it has been done in this instance.

Section 12 is possibly a very desirable section also. It provides that a Garda may arrest a person whom he reasonably suspects of having or conveying in any manner any thing stolen or unlawfully obtained. I have no doubt that it is a section which, properly administered and with the exercise of discretion by the Garda, will provide a very useful instrument in the detection of crime. It may be that at some stage a Garda may overstep the mark, but I am sure the Minister can confidently leave it to the officers of the Garda, in the knowledge that they will exercise discretion.

I am not so enamoured of the provision in Section 13 which gives a Garda power to fix recognisances. I am inclined to think that that is a power which should be reserved to a court of law, be the court that of a peace commissioner or a district justice. If that power must be given to Gardaí, however, I suggest that an overriding maximum should be placed on the amount of the bail or whatever sureties are imposed. If the Minister will examine it a little more closely, he will find that it is possible that a Garda, having had a certain amount of trouble with an accused person whom he brings into the barracks, in the heat of the moment, might not be inclined to fix fair recognisances or a fair surety in respect of his release and I suggest that that Garda, on calmer consideration of the particularly obstreperous case, might reduce the amount of the surety fixed.

This is permissive.

Even though it is permissive, I suggest that an overriding maximum should be placed on the amount of the recognisances and surety.

There is at the moment.

And that, if possible, it should be reserved to an officer.

Is it constitutional at all?

I gravely doubt it.

I gravely doubt it, too.

It is a judicial function shoved over on to the Garda.

I could not argue as to the constitutionality of this section, but I am not too keen on it and I am bringing the point to the notice of the Minister. Before passing from this particular page of the Bill, I should like to endorse what Deputy Boland has said in connection with malicious damage. It is high time that the burden of paying for malicious damage was taken from the ordinary rate-payers.

It is long overdue.

Possibly this Bill is too small a Bill in which to deal with that matter, but in any case it is long overdue.

I am afraid, not in this Bill.

I take it that the Minister, if he gets an opportunity of dealing with it, will not overlook it.

The question does not arise in criminal proceedings, does it?

It certainly does not; but I am glad that a person whose property has been maliciously damaged can sue and recover compensation where the damage is over £5 and under £50. This is a very involved code of legislation and I sincerely hope that the saving clause in that section will meet any situation which may arise in the future. If anything does arise which the Minister had not anticipated, I feel sure that he will take quick steps to amend it.

On the question of the publication of reports of obscene or indecent cases, Deputy Boland has expressed my own feelings and I do not propose to enlarge upon the point. I certainly have no desire to limit the power of the Press. The freedom of the Press is a right which all of us, even though we have nothing whatever to do with newspaper publication, value very highly, but in the case of the general run of papers, and particularly papers in provincial towns and cities, we find that they exercise a great deal of discretion in the matter of the publication of this form of news. The papers in the capital also exercise that discretion, but I think the Minister is right in giving the District Court or Circuit Court power to exclude certain types of evidence from the published reports. I suggest, however, that once a case has been completed, the restrictions imposed by Section 18 should be lifted in regard to any matter which may have arisen the publication of which would be in the public interest.

As to the exclusion of persons other than those interested in the trial, I think the Minister is unduly restricting the type of persons who may be allowed to attend. In the case of an offence against a female person, who may be one person nominated by the female who has been assaulted or injured may attend the court. In many of these cases, the person alleged to have committed the assault is a young person and he should be given the right to have his parent or guardian present while the proceedings are going on. In many cases, the clergyman who has particular knowledge of the character of the accused or of the injured person desires to attend the court and he should also be given permission, if he desires to do so. Somebody has made the suggestion to me that there are so many bona fide social wefare groups operating at present that the privilege—if one may call it a privilege—of attending court at the hearing of such a case should also be extended to some person representing one of these groups, or as many of them as require to attend. I feel sure that, when this Bill has passed through Committee Stage, the Minister will find that it will be a useful adjunct to the criminal code.

I agree with the concluding remarks of Deputy Lynch that this is a very necessary measure and one that is going to prove very useful particularly in the court for which it is primarily intended, the District Court. It would indeed be hard to avoid dealing with the District Court in any measure which deals with criminal law, because the prosecution and investigation of every crime in the Statute Book has really to begin in the District Court in normal times. Many interesting suggestions were made to the Minister and I am sure, before this debate is concluded, there will be many more. I should like to make a few comments on the suggestions which have already been made. I wish to endorse what Deputy Cowan has said on the question of the provision, free of charge, of copies of the depositions to accused persons or their legal advisers. I cannot see any good reason why there should ever have been a charge for copies of depositions, particularly since typewriters were introduced, as a carbon copy could have been run off for the mere cost of the paper on which the copy was made.

The Deputy referred also to the question of legal aid generally. I think that most people in the country would favour free legal aid to necessitous persons. There are many instances that spring to the mind of each one of us where grave injustices were done to people who had to stand their trial at the Central Criminal Court at a cost which broke them, although they were finally acquitted. There are also a few items in other legislation which I think could be usefully tidied up in this measure. I give as an instance a case which came to my notice only a short time ago. It was a case in which a man was prosecuted under the Fishery Act of 1939. The district justice acquitted him and the Guard who prosecuted in the District Court brought an appeal. The Fisheries Act of 1939 expressly provides that where the appellant is a prosecuting Guard he is not bound to enter recognisances for the prosecution of the appeal. I observe that the same provision is in this Bill. The case came before the Circuit Court judge and the Circuit Court judge disallowed the appeal and confirmed the order of the District Court dismissing the summons. Then the question of the costs of the appeal arose. It appears that there is some uncertainty as to the power of the Circuit Court to award costs in a case of that kind. The safe thing was done; there was no order made as to costs but the innocent citizen who was acquitted of the charge of trying to catch salmon by each of the courts was put to considerable expense. He had to pay his legal advisers, of course. I suggest that the Minister should make some little examination of that matter of the awarding of costs in cases of acquittal, even if he does not go the whole way of giving free legal aid.

While I am on that point there is another interesting matter that arises which the Minister might have examined also. The practice in this country in capital charges is that if the accused can satisfy the court that he has not sufficient means to defend himself, he is entitled to free legal aid. There is one charge which up to very recently was a capital charge but it has been taken out of that category. That is the charge of infanticide. We have, by passing that statute, pared down the rights of accused persons. Up to the time that that statute became law, a person charged with infanticide was entitled to free legal aid. From the date of the coming into force of the Infanticide Act that legal aid was no longer available because infanticide is not now a capital charge. There is, therefore, a paring down of the rights of an accused person.

On the question on the right to read the depositions under Section 8, every lawyer who has spoken has protested as vigorously as he could against the provisions of Section 8. I certainly endorse everything that has been said against it. The State, as we know, has very effective machinery in a prosecution in criminal cases. It has a tradition, which lawyers, to give them their due, have very jealously guarded. They have a tradition of having safeguards there for the accused person, who in the legal theory of this State, is innocent until he is found guilty. I think Deputy Lynch said that if we pass Section 8 as it stands, we shall be making available in criminal trials evidence which would not be accepted on behalf on a plaintiff in trivial simple cases. The Minister referred Deputy Lynch to sub-section (2) which states that in a case of insanity or illness of a deponent, the deposition shall not be read without the accused's consent unless the court is satisfied that the deponent is unlikely to recover within a reasonable time. The end of that subsection makes the question of getting the accused's consent completely ineffective. I think that is one of the risks the State ought to take and preserve the tradition of our legal system that where the prosecution is unable to produce its evidence, for whatever cause, it should be satisfied to give the accused the advantage.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.