I move amendment No. 43:—
Before Section 23 to insert a new section as follows:—
Section 10 of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, is hereby amended by the deletion of the word "and" and the substitution therefor of the word "or" in Section 10 (1) (b) of the said Act; and by the deletion of all words from and including the word "prison" to the end of Section 10 (1) of the said Act and substituting therefor "a Borstal institution for a period of not less than two years and not more than three years."
The purpose of the amendment is to simplify the procedure which has to be followed in certain cases where, in the opinion of a district justice, a young offender, as stated in the Act, would be sent to Borstal rather than to prison. The machinery which I am suggesting is that Section 10 of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, be amended. The position, as created by that section, seems to me to be somewhat curious. It first of all deals with a very limited class of offenders. First of all, the person must be summarily convicted. Under the section, the offence must be one in which the court has power to impose a sentence of imprisonment for one month or upwards without the option of a fine. Therefore, it follows that it must be a serious offence. Then the court must be satisfied that the offender is not less than 16 years old and not more than 21. It must be proved that "the offender has previously been convicted of an offence, or that, having been previously discharged on probation, he failed to observe a condition of his recognizance." A further condition is that if:
"it appears to the court that by reason of the offender's criminal habits or tendencies, or association with persons of bad character, it is expedient that he should be subject to detention for such term and under such instruction and discipline as appears most conducive to his reformation and the repression of crime."
Now, with all these conditions present, where the justice convicts, he must send the young man or girl, as the case may be, to prison, even though he feels it is not the right thing to do, and that removal to a Borstal institution would be the proper thing. Under the section the justice must send the young person to prison direct, and must send him forward to the Circuit Court in custody. What the section says is this:
"It shall be lawful for the court, in lieu of passing sentence, to commit the offender to prison until the next quarter sessions, and the court of quarter sessions shall inquire into the circumstances of the case, and, if it appears to the court that the offender is of such age as aforesaid and that for any such reason as aforesaid it is expedient that the offender should be subject to such detention as aforesaid, shall pass such sentence of detention in a Borstal institution as is authorised by Part I of the Prevention of Crime Act, 1908, as amended by this Act; otherwise the court shall deal with the case in any way in which the court of summary jurisdiction might have dealt with it."
The position is this, that the district justice may, if he wishes, send the offender to prison, or he may send him forward to the Circuit Court so that the Circuit Court judge may, if he thinks fit, send him to a Borstal institution or to prison. Now, I think it will be generally agreed that a sentence of imprisonment is a more serious matter than committal to Borstal. I do not quite understand why the option was given to the Petty Sessions Court of that time in the manner in which it was given.
It would appear to me that a more sensible way of putting it would be to let the justice send the young offender to Borstal if he thought fit, or, if the justice thought the case was one that merited imprisonment, that then he would send him to the Circuit Court judge and get two judicial views on the case. At present, the justice cannot send the offender to Borstal. He must send him forward to the Circuit Court. In the meantime, the accused has to stay in prison. That is open to a number of objections.
What comes to one's mind is this, that, particularly in the country, there is in the summer time quite a long delay between a sitting of the District Court and the next sitting of the Circuit Court, a delay sometimes running into four months. You have the position, therefore, that the district justice, knowing that the next sitting of the Circuit Court will not take place until, say, four months hence, thinks that it would be a great hardship, obviously, on this young offender to be lodged in prison until the circuit judge comes around. Accordingly, although he may think it would be a proper case for Borstal, he adopts the expedient of sending him to prison for six months.
What happens then, I understand, is that the Minister for Justice comes into the picture and, if he thinks fit, transfers this person suffering a sentence of imprisonment to a Borstal institution. That is a way of getting around Section 10 of the Criminal Justice Administration Act but, in itself, it is not a satisfactory way. I think the principal objection to that solution is that even where the Minister, by Order, has the convicted person transferred to Borstal, the convicted person is still entitled to his ordinary remission as if he were left there to suffer the term of imprisonment imposed. His going to Borstal then means that he can claim this remission and that he cannot be detained there for a sufficient length of time to give him a useful trade which is one of the principal objects of treatment in a Borstal institution. That is one objection. Of course, the other objection is that you have in this young person a person sentenced to imprisonment rather than to a Borstal institution. We are giving in this Bill considerably increased jurisdiction in criminal matters to the District Court and I cannot see that any good case can be made against giving the district justice the direct power of sending a person, who comes within Section 10 of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, to Borstal rather than to prison. I think that is a very reasonable suggestion to make and that it is one that should appeal to the Minister and to the House. There is no necessity to elaborate on it any further. Anybody who has read the suggested amendment and who has looked into the matter, as I have looked into it, will I think be coerced into accepting it on account of its reasonableness alone.
I said already that I did not quite understand why the option was given in the way it has been given under Section 10 of the 1914 Act. I cannot still understand it. I do not know what the circumstances prevailing then were so far as the Petty Sessions Court was concerned but I do know that the magistrates then were not trained lawyers. We all recognise that the district justices as a body have set a very high standard in the administration of justice in this country and that the District Court, taking it as a whole, has served the country extremely well. It may have been that in 1914, when you had trained lawyers as judges of Quarter Sessions and untrained people in the Petty Sessions Court, the Legislature thought that this sending to Borstal should be subject to review by a trained lawyer. That may have been in the mind of the Legislature but still I cannot see why they did this. I cannot see any reasonable explanation for having made the law as it has been now since 1914, and I do think there is no reasonable ground for suffering its continuance because of the undesirable consetraine quences which follow from it and because, so to speak, it coerces the district justice into imposing a sentence of imprisonment when he feels that it is a proper case for committing the accused person to Borstal.
There is a further slight amendment suggested in the section and the purpose is to remove some of the conditions which I have already read out. I see from the way the amendment has been worded that I should have dealt with that first but I shall deal with it now. It suggests the deletion at the end of paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 10 of the Act of the word "and" and the substitution of the word "or". That would leave a wider scope to the district justice in selecting cases for Borstal rather than for imprisonment.
As I say, my chief purpose in putting down this amendment is to avoid, as far as possible, sending a person to prison where there is an alternative method. By making the section disjunctive in this way, you will go a far distance towards achieving that particular object. The term of the sentence to Borstal, as laid down in the Criminal Justice Administration Act of 1914 and as amended by subsequent statutes, is for a period of not less than two years and not more than three years, so that the sense of the position would be, if this amendment is accepted, that it would be lawful for the District Court, in lieu of passing a sentence of imprisonment to commit an offender to a Borstal institution for not less than two years and not more than three years. The net effect of the acceptance of the amendment would be that it would cut out the undesirable wait in prison until the Circuit Court judge came round, and then the unnecessary review by the Circuit Court judge. For that reason I ask the Minister to accept the amendment as framed.