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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 14 Dec 1950

Vol. 123 No. 14

Additional Estimate, 1950-1951. - Criminal Justice Bill, 1949 (Seanad)—Report and Fifth Stages.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In page 2, Section 2, sub-section (2) (a) to delete sub-paragraph (ii), lines 30 and 31, and substitute the following:—

"(ii) the accused, on being informed by the Court of his right to be tried with a jury, does not object to being tried summarily."

The House will recall that, on Committee Stage, I undertook to examine the suggestion sponsored by Deputies Boland and Cowan and supported by a number of other Deputies that Section 2 of the Bill should provide specifically that a person charged with a scheduled indictable offence should be informed of his constitutional right to be tried by a jury before he consented to be tried summarily. While I do not think that it is, strictly speaking, necessary to do this, I cannot, on the other hand, see that it can do any harm and, accordingly, I now propose to the House the substitution of a new sub-paragraph (ii) in paragraph (a) of sub-section (2) which will achieve the object in view.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:—

In page 3, Section 3, sub-section (3) (a), line 12, to delete "either remit the case to the District Court or".

In this case I have reconsidered the provision of sub-section (3) (a) of Section 3 in the light of the views expressed by Deputies on the Committee Stage. The amendment which I now propose is in the terms of the amendment which Deputy Cowan moved in Committee and will have the effect of taking away the discretion which the sub-section, as it stands, proposed to confer on the trial judge either to remit the case to the District Court or to fix a date for the trial.

This provision has reference to the case in which a person charged with an indictable offence to which Section 3 applies pleads guilty in the District Court and is sent forward for trial with that plea and the depositions (if any) taken. On further consideration, I am satisfied that there is no good reason why, if such a person desires to withdraw his plea of guilty on being arraigned and to plead not guilty, the case should be remitted to the District Court. On the contrary I think that Deputy Cowan's suggestion that the trial judge should thereupon fix the date of trial is the right one, and that instead of having depositions (if they have not already been taken) the accused should be served, in accordance with paragraph (b) of sub-section (3), with statements of the evidence to be given by the witnesses in the case. Adoption of the amendment will have the incidental advantage of getting over the difficulty mentioned by certain Deputies as to what exactly the position would be in the District Court when a case was remitted by the trial judge to that court.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In page 3, between lines 37 and 38, to insert a new section as follows:—

"Where a person is sent forward for trial for an indictable offence, the indictment may contain a count for having committed any offence triable summarily (in this section referred to as a summary offence) with which he has been charged and which arises out of the same set of facts and, if found guilty on that count, he may be sentenced to suffer any punishment which could be inflicted on a person summarily convicted of the summary offence."

On the Committee Stage Deputy Cowan moved certain amendments in which he sought to provide a remedy or remedies for the unsatisfactory position that arises in cases in which, when the accused person has been returned for trial on an indictable charge, any summary charges pending against him arising out of the same set of facts have to be adjourned until the indictable charge or charges have been finally disposed of. Cases under the Road Traffic Act furnish, possibly, the most common examples, but there are other types of cases in which the problem also occurs.

I have had this question very carefully considered in consultation with the Attorney-General and, in the result, I have come to the conclusion that the only practicable solution is to provide that, in the kind of case mentioned, the summary charges may also be preferred in the indictment, so that all the charges may go to the jury and be disposed of together. This is what is proposed in the new section which the amendment proposes should be inserted in the Bill. Deputies will observe that the punishment which may be inflicted on a person found guilty by a jury of a summary offence is restricted to the punishment which could be inflicted on summary conviction.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendments Nos. 4 and 5:—

In page 4, Section 10, sub-section (2), line 13, to delete "twelve" and substitute "six.".

In page 4, Section 11, sub-section (2) (a), line 28, to delete "twelve" and substitute "six".

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, we might, I think, consider amendments Nos. 4 and 5 together.

On the Committee Stage some criticism was expressed of the punishments provided for in Sections 10 and 11, which deal with the offences of common assault and malicious damage to property, and I myself expressed the view that the provisions of the sections as they stand were, perhaps, a little too extreme.

I am, accordingly, now proposing that, in each of the two sections, the maximum term of imprisonment should be reduced from 12 months to six months. I believe that this proposal will commend itself to all sides of the House.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:—

In page 5, between lines 12 and 13, to insert a new section as follows:—

Whenever an order is made by the District Court binding a person to the peace or to good behaviour or to both the peace and good behaviour and requiring him to enter into a recognisance in that behalf, such person may, at any time within one month and on giving seven days' notice to the officer of the Garda Síochána in charge of the district in which such person resides, apply in a summary manner to the judge of the Circuit Court within whose circuit the courthouse in which such order was made is situate to be released from the obligations imposed on him by such order and such recognisance respectively (if he has entered into such recognisance) and on the hearing of such application such judge may, if he so thinks proper, release such person from such obligations or modify in such manner as such judge thinks proper all or any of such obligations, and may make such release or modification either absolutely or subject to conditions and, in particular, subject to such person entering in the District Court into a new recognisance in lieu of such first-mentioned recognisance.

Since the Committee Stage, I have carefully considered the question of allowing our appeal against an order binding to the peace or to good behaviour and I have come to the conclusion that on the whole it is better that there should not be such an appeal. The jurisdiction to bind to the peace or to good behaviour is essentially preventive in its operation and depends for much of its successful working on the promptness with which the order of the court must be complied with. Much of the salutary effect would, it is felt, be lost if there were an automatic right of appeal which would necessarily involve a stay upon compliance with the order appealed from.

It was, I believe, for these reasons that, when the matter was dealt with in 1936, the provisions included in the Courts of Justice Act of that year took the somewhat curious form that they did in Section 55 of that Act—a section to which reference was made when the Bill was last before the House. Section 55 gave a person who had been bound by the District Court to the peace or to good behaviour or to both the right to apply in a summary manner to the Circuit Court for relief. But it was of the essence of the section that the person should have entered into the recognisances as ordered by the District Court before he could apply to the Circuit Court for relief. I think that this was a mistake because cases will occur—such cases have, in fact, occurred—where the person, having been required to find sureties in a specified amount, will be utterly unable to do so and will consequently not be able to enter into the required recognisance. In such a case, the person is denied any opportunity whatsoever of seeking relief and must suffer whatever imprisonment may have been prescribed as the alternative to his failure to enter into the recognisance.

I think that this is a position which requires to be remedied and, in the amendment, I am proposing that this should be done by re-enacting Section 55 of the 1936 Act, but with the modification that failure to enter forthwith into the recognisance in compliance with the order of the District Court will not prevent, as it does at present, a person from going to the Circuit Court for relief. A later amendment (No. 15) proposes the repeal of Section 55 of the 1936 Act by inserting it in the Schedule of Repeals.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:—

In page 5, Section 17, to add to the section a new sub-section as follows:—

(3) The court shall not make an order under this section unless it is satisfied that a fair trial is unlikely to be obtained or that a trial cannot be held in the place from which it is sought to transfer the trial.

The purpose of this amendment is to make it clear that the Circuit Court will have power under Section 17 of the Bill to transfer a trial from one place to another only when it is satisfied that a fair trial is unlikely to be obtained or that a trial cannot be held in the place from which it is sought to transfer the trial.

Deputy T. F. O'Higgins moved an amendment in somewhat similar terms on the Committee Stage and I then undertook to consider the point. I am satisfied that the section will be improved by the insertion of the new sub-section proposed in the amendment now before the House.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:—

In page 5, Section 18, sub-section (1), lines 54 and 55, to delete "if satisfied that it is expedient in the interests of the accused" and substitute "if satisfied that it is expedient for the purpose of ensuring that the accused will not be prejudiced in his trial".

On the Committee Stage I indicated that I was prepared to accept the suggestion embodied in an amendment which was moved by Deputy Boland that, instead of providing, as sub-section (1) of Section 18 at present does, that the court should be satisfied that it was expedient in the interests of the accused to hold the proceedings in camera or to prohibit or restrict publication, it should be provided simply that the court should be satisfied that it was expedient to do either or both of these things so as to ensure that the accused would not be prejudiced in his trial. The amendment to which I now ask the House to agree will achieve this object.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:—

In page 5, Section 18, sub-section (1) (a), line 58, after "persons" to insert "except bona fide representatives of the Press.”

The object of this amendment is expressly to except bona fide Press representatives from the classes of persons who may be excluded from the court during the preliminary investigation of indictable offences. It is thought desirable to provide that the Press may, if they so wish, be permitted to remain in court during the in camera proceedings, so that in due course, when the proceedings are over and any order of the court prohibiting or restricting publication has ceased to operate, the Press may be in a position to publish a report of the proceedings in the District Court. The amendment will bring sub-section (1) more into line with the provisions of sub-section (2) in relation to cases of an indecent or obscene nature.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 10:—

In page 6, Section 18, between lines 1 and 2, to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) An order of the District Court under paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) of sub-section (1) shall cease to be in force—

(a) if the accused is dealt with summarily—at the conclusion of the proceedings in the District Court;

(b) if informations are refused— on the expiration of one month after such refusal unless, within that month, the accused is sent forward for trial by direction of the Attorney-General;

(c) if the accused is sent forward for trial—on the conclusion of the trial or the entry of a nolle prosequi.

This amendment is intended to meet the point which was discussed at some length on Committee Stage on the amendment which had been tabled by Deputy Lynch. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the order of the District Court prohibiting or restricting publication of the proceedings at the preliminary investigation of an indictable offence shall cease to operate once it has served the sole purpose for which it is intended, namely, to guard against the risk of the trial of the accused person being prejudiced in any way. I have had the matter carefully examined and it has been thought necessary to provide for the different contingencies which are mentioned at (a), (b) and (c) in the amendment. I feel sure Deputies will agree that this amendment adequately meets the case made on Committee Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 10a.

In page 6, Section 18, to delete sub-section (3), lines 9 to 12, and substitute the following:—

In any criminal proceedings—

(a) where the accused is a person under the age of 21 years, or

(b) where the offence is of an indecent or obscene nature and the person with or against whom it is alleged to have been committed is under that age or is a female,

a parent or other relative or friend of that person shall be entitled to remain in court during the whole of the hearing.

This amendment is intended to meet the suggestion put forward by Deputy Boland on Committee Stage and which is embodied in amendment No. 11 which he has put down for this stage. I think I have met the Deputy.

It is met but I imagine it would have been better if it had been left to the discretion of the court. However, I am satisfied.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 11 not moved.

Amendment No. 12, I take it, is not moved?

No, because it is out of order.

It is wider than one that was negatived so it is cut of order.

Amendment No. 12 not moved.

I move amendment No. 13:—

In page 6, Section 21, to add after sub-section (4) a new sub-section as follows:—

(5) Where the Minister for Justice in exercise of the powers conferred on him by sub-section (3) of this section remits any punishment, forfeiture or disqualification imposed by a court exercising criminal jurisdiction or restores or revives the subject of the forfeiture he shall cause to be published in the issue of Iris Oifigiúil next following such remission, restoration or revival the name and address and occupation of the person in whose favour the remission, restoration or revival has been granted together with the total amount of the punishment, forfeiture or disqualification imposed by the court and the extent of the remission, restoration or revival.

As I indicated both on the debate during the Second Reading and on Section 21 in Committee, things have come to a very serious pass in regard to petitions and the number of them is growing altogether too big. I think that there were only 1,700 of them when I was leaving the Department. That was a very large number, but when I asked the Minister a question in regard to the matter I found that there are now much more than when we left office. The number has now grown to 3,500 per annum. The Constitution definitely lays down that all trials shall be held in public except in certain special circumstances, and I think that it is really against the spirit of the Constitution that decisions of the court should be upset in private. There is no publicity of any kind and no one knows what happens except the persons concerned. I did not put down an amendment asking for publication on the Committee Stage, but I thought afterwards that I should have done it seeing that there is now a new type of offence and it is going to be left to the Minister to decide whether a penalty will or will not be inflicted. It is a statutory offence, an offence against the Road Traffic Act, where a drunken driver on conviction has his licence suspended. The Minister is now taking power to remit the suspension. I expressed the view on Second Reading that the Minister should exclude offences against Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act. The Minister said he would leave it to a free vote of the House but unfortunately there were very few Deputies present just as there are now. I certainly thought that the Minister should have accepted an amendment to that effect but as he has not done so, I think that there should be some publicity in cases in which the suspension by a court is afterwards removed by the Minister.

Another thing mentioned here on the Committee Stage which escaped my attention, otherwise I would have had an amendment down to it, is that the Minister has power under Section 21 to restore publicans' licences that may have been forfeited. There is no limitation as to the forfeitures that he can remove. I think it is only fair to the House and to the public that he should let us know what is the extent of the powers he is taking in regard to forfeitures. Does he propose to take power to remit in all cases because the provision is in very general terms? It amounts to this, that something is being done by a side-wind that should be done by specifically repealing, in one case a section of the Road Traffic Act, and in the other case a section of the Intoxicating Liquor Act. I think there is a provision in the Intoxicating Liquor Act that on conviction for certain offences and after the licence has been endorsed three times, it is forfeited. Under this section, as far as I can read it, the Minister is taking power to restore such licences. It is a very drastic power. There may be some case to be made for it but if there is, it should not be sought in a manner like this—what I would call an underhand manner, by a side-wind. It should be given by a specific amendment of the two Acts to which I have referred. It was suggested on the Committee Stage that at least there should be some publication in regard to remissions, the extent to which remissions had been made, and also in regard to what the original penalties had been. I think the Minister would be wise to accept this amendment because, if he does not, there will be all sorts of suspicions. The extent to which this thing has grown is well known. I am convinced that it is a complete breach of Article 34 of the Constitution, which says that trials shall be held in public except in special circumstances. I do not know what the Minister's attitude will be now, but if this amendment is accepted it will make him approach these questions in a very careful manner. I may be told that it happened in my day, and so it did, but the fact is that if I happened to be there now, knowing the extent to which this practice has grown, I would not have looked for the powers which the Minister is taking under Section 21. I would have left it to the courts. It is not my job to deal with it now. It is, I know, a highly technical matter.

Certainly, when it had grown to that extent, I would not have asked for the powers in that section. Certainly, I would not have added to them and thereby, obviously, increase the number of such petitions. I would like to have a discussion on it.

If this amendment had been moved on Committee Stage I might have given it more consideration. I have considered the matter very carefully. The exercise of the prerogative is mercy in one sense. One of the big things about it is that you are trying to restore the person to be a good citizen or to give him an opportunity to return to his pristine youth as far as the law is concerned and to remove the difficulties that he may suffer from as a result of conviction. When a person has purged the offence or the Minister is satisfied that, in certain circumstances, the prerogative should be exercised, it should be done without publication. On the question of publication of disqualifications, I think I should do something about that, but I do not think that I should be bound or compelled by Statute to do it.

I do not want to interrupt the Minister, but will he not admit that it is due to the House to be told what type of disqualifications or what forfeitures he intends to remit? Take, for instance, in the case of the licensed trade, a publican's licence which has lapsed. I hope the Minister will deal with that because he has not made it clear.

I will make it perfectly clear. What I am going to do and what I am taking in this Bill is the power that was conferred upon my predecessors by Statutory Rules and Orders, 1937, No. 224. I shall not bore the House with that.

It will not bore me. I am very anxious to hear it.

Here is the power that was conferred upon the Minister for Justice by the Government in 1937: On the coming into operation of the Constitution, it was very doubtful where the power lay. The Governor-General exercised some of the powers. The Lord Lieutenant exercised them prior to him. It was very doubtful at any stage where the power lay. Ministers for Justice in this State exercised the power. When the Constitution came into force in 1937 the Government of the day had to take some step to say where the prerogative lay and they made this Order which was published by them on the 3rd day of September, 1937:

"Whereas it is enacted by sub-section (1) of Section 6 of the Executive Powers (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1937 (No. 20 of 1937), that it shall be lawful for the Executive Council, whenever they think proper, to transfer by Order to any Executive Minister any power which is by virtue of that Act or any Order made under that Act transferred to and vested in the Executive Council:"

That is, taking the power from certain places and putting it there.

"And whereas by, sub-section (2) of the said Section 6 it is enacted that any power which is transferred under the said Section 6 by the Executive Council to an Executive Minister may be so transferred, at the discretion of the Executive Council, in whole or in part, and with or without qualification, limitation, or restriction, and as from any date, past or future, but not prior to the date of the passing of the Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act, 1936 (No. 57 of 1936):

And whereas the Minister for Justice is an Executive Minister:

Now, the Executive Council, in exercise of the powers conferred on them by Section 6 of the Executive Powers (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1937 (No. 20 of 1937), and of every and any other power them in this behalf enabling, do hereby order as follows:—

"1. This Order may be cited as the Executive Powers (Remission of Sentences) Order, 1937.

2. The Interpretation Act, 1923 (No. 46 of 1923) applies to the interpretation of this Order in like manner as it applies to the interpretation of an Act of the Oireachtas.

3. Every power of commuting or remitting any sentence or punishment pronounced or imposed by a court exercising criminal jurisdiction (save and except any power to grant a free pardon and any power to commute a sentence of death) which by virtue of the Executive Powers (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1937 (No. 20 of 1937), was transferred to and vested in the Executive Council is hereby transferred from the Executive Council to the Minister for Justice as from the date of the passing of the Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act, 1936 (No. 57 of 1936)."

The Order was dated 3rd day of September, 1937.

The power that was transferred to the Minister for Justice under that Order is all the power that I am taking in this section.

It is not. The Minister is taking powers that the Minister never had before. There was a statutory punishment for a person convicted of being drunk in charge of a car. The Minister is taking that. He is not going to get away with anything like that.

I would ask the Deputy to have patience with me for a minute before jumping into it like that.

I am not jumping into it.

I have here cases of disqualification. In January of 1938, in case No. 1, a person was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment and disqualified for life from driving a car. I want to be quite clear. I do not want to be misunderstood. In May, 1940, application was made to the Minister for Justice to have the licence restored. The Minister for Justice then, in my opinion properly, rejected it. He again rejected it in 1943, in March. He rejected it again in 1945, and again in 1947. At that stage it was suggested that if the matter was examined again and certain information was forthcoming, the matter would be reconsidered. A petition was made in 1948. That is exactly ten years that the person had been disqualified. There was evidence to show that for that ten years the man had been a strict teetotaller; that he had in no way broken any code; that he was a most exemplary citizen and, on the submission of the case to the learned trial judge, the trial judge recommended that the disqualification be removed, and, acting under that power, I removed the disqualification in 1948.

That was on the advice of a judge.

I wanted to show first what I did myself. Now I want to show what my predecessor did, and to demonstrate whether he had to exercise the power or not. Take case 2. In March, 1937, X. was found guilty by the Central Criminal Court of manslaughter; sentenced to 6 months' imprisonment and 4 years' disqualification. A petition was submitted in the following October, and the Minister then refused that application, but, in February of 1938, the petition was submitted again, and there was the very same procedure as I have suggested. It just meant that in less than two years—in a year and two months—the disqualification was removed.

Properly done.

I am arguing that it was properly done and I am certain that if that power was not there there must have been valid reasons why it was done. If the power of remission was not vested in my predecessor or in me, no matter what the injustice or the hardship was, no remission could be granted. Therefore, I am making the case, and I solemnly undertake, that as far as I am concerned it is a power that will be exercised only in as grave cases as these. I think no Minister for Justice would be crazy enough to restore a driving licence to a person who has been convicted and found guilty and punished for an offence, to restore a driving licence to a person who might go out the next day and do the same thing again. If a Minister for Justice did that, not only would he be unreasonable, but he would be a fool; he would certainly not be a Minister very long afterwards.

The point I want to make is that in these two cases no publication was made either in 1947 or 1948, and I feel it is in the interests of those people where those circumstances arose that publication should not be made. I, therefore, appeal to Deputy Boland to leave there the power that was there. On the Second Reading you did suggest that the power should be vested in the Minister for Justice. Why are you going into reverse?

I am not going into reverse. These were manslaughter charges. Was there any conviction for being drunk, under Section 30, in either of those cases? That is what I am objecting to—the drunken charge, not the other thing.

The amendment relates to publication?

Yes, that he should publish these things.

But the point on which the Deputy is dwelling does not arise at this stage.

Well, I am not the only offender.

Quite right, you are not.

I am not objecting to clemency being exercised in the manslaughter cases, but I am objecting to a drunken man getting off.

No Minister can say: "Well, remove the minimum requirement."

He should not have the power to do it.

He has not the power.

But he is taking it here.

Not in this amendment.

He is, in the Act.

All the Deputy is arguing is that the Minister should publish. That would defeat the very object for which this power is put in.

Let it go, so.

I think the amendment should not be pressed. It should be left to the discretion of the Minister for the time being—whoever this country vests with that power. It is very important.

Will the Minister come to the cases cited by Deputy Boland, the series of cases in regard to endorsement of the licence, and relate publication to those types of cases? If, as Deputy Boland states, the Minister will have the power to alter the decision of the court in making an endorsement——

I do not say that the Minister would operate that.

One does not know what he would do.

The power I am taking here is the power that you had and that every Minister of State had. The point is that I should not be asked to publish unless it is in the public interest, and I think it should be left to the discretion of the Minister.

I would like to express my surprise at the attitude the Minister is adopting in respect to this amendment. He has quoted one or two cases and I rather imagine what he has quoted more than emphasises the necessity for the publication of the cases to which Deputy Boland refers. There is no use in trying to cover up the situation that exists with a display of legal verbiage. We do not want to hear that. We are living in the present and, unfortunately, we know there are large numbers of people driving motor vehicles to-day while under the influence of drink. It may be impossible to prove they were intoxicated, but we do know that individuals who attempt to control cars, even in a state of semi-intoxication, are to all intents and purposes driving a murder machine.

On 22nd November, the Irish Independent published a very strong leader on the subject of the drunken driver. It followed immediately on the discussion of this Bill here. It arose, I am pretty certain, out of the case which was made here from this side of the House. In the course of that leader, which is headed: “The Legislature Must Act,” the Independent states:

"The people of this country are justified in asking, with a certain amount of anger, why the Legislature remains unmoved in the face of the growing toll of road tragedies. In our view the time has come when the Dáil and Seanad should suspend all their other business in order to devote at least one whole week to the consideration of this grave national problem."

It finished up the leader, which was a very strong leader, justified by the situation that exists, with these words:

"Let us have action now, and the body to take action is the Legislature, not by appointing commissions or by compiling futile statistics, but by prompt and, if necessary, the most drastic remedial measures to be enforced by legislation by the police and by the courts of justice, backed by a righteously alarmed public."

That is all we are asking for. We are asking that if there is a case where an individual has been found driving a motor car while in a state of intoxication, and has been the cause of a serious accident, if he is sentenced to a term of imprisonment and if his licence is withdrawn—if a situation is created such as the Minister described a few minutes ago, where a man who has erred decides to go on the straight road and take up the attitude that he should have taken up long before, then the quality of mercy should be exercised, and we here on this side are as anxious as any other section that the quality of mercy should be so exercised. I see no reason in the wide world why the Minister should be afraid of the publicity which will follow any action he may take. We can only assume that the Minister shies at the publicity which is likely to follow any restoration of a licence which may have been withdrawn. From every possible point of view, including that of the Minister himself, so that the finger of suspicion cannot be pointed at him, this would be the best thing to do. I am not mentioning the present Minister particularly, as there are other Ministers to follow him, but the finger of suspicion can always be pointed where behind closed doors he gives a decision at variance with that of the courts of justice. If such a decision is to be made by a Minister, let publicity follow. If the Minister is not prepared to accept that, surely he should allow the justice who tried the case to make the decision, as in the case which the Minister quoted.

Listening to that editorial read by Deputy Traynor, I got the impression that the writer was somewhat elated when he wrote it, and if he drove a motor car in the same spirit I think he would be up for dangerous driving. I made the suggestion on the Committee Stage that publicity should be considered. Apparently it has been considered by the Minister, who has stated the official view. To a large extent we are experimenting. We are experimenting all the time. When a Courts of Justice Bill is going through, people consider they have provided for everything, and that it will not require amendment. They find that no sooner is it passed than certain errors and defects are found in it. This question of remission of sentences is to some extent a development in the administration of justice.

Is that not a development of this amendment?

I think you will see the point just in one minute. It is a development of the administration of justice. We are now at the stage where certain people think we may be going too far—others may think we are not going far enough. It is a question whether it is desirable that there should be publicity or not.

The Deputy is quite in order.

My personal view is that perhaps publicity is best, that there should be a note in Iris Oifigiúil stating the decision of the Minister. Whether that is publicity or not is another question.

Mr. Boland

It is, to some extent. It is known that it is being done.

It is some slight publicity which interested parties can inspect and consult and extract and use for many particular purposes. The Minister puts it to us that it is probably in the best interests of the individual concerned and in the best interests of the State that there should not be publicity. It is not a matter of principle on which one may take a very strong and firm line. I take it that, when the Minister expresses his views now, those are views he has formed after consultation with the Attorney-General, with his experienced staff and perhaps with members of the Cabinet. The same position would apply to Deputy Boland, if he were Minister: he would have those consultations and if he were advised in the same way he would take the same line as the Minister.

We are in an experimental stage in this matter, and the aspect of publicity can be raised again if any of us are of the opinion that the power is being abused or getting out of hand. If that occurs, it is not by publicity we would deal with it but by withdrawing the power or reducing it considerably.

I take it that it is disqualification that we are interested in more than anything else. It would not be in the interest of the person to give it publicity. Broadly speaking, I believe the Minister should publish the names and I think it would be better to do it in that administrative way and not by statute. If it is laid down by statute, the publication must take place, and if some clerk in the Department makes a mistake in the name it would create an impossible situation for the Minister. I think Deputy Boland should be satisfied with the undertaking that I am giving, that I will have the matter examined and if I find that it is the best thing to do I undertake to publish, without being compelled by statute, the names of the persons if ever I remit a driving licence disqualification or if the wider matter, the cancellation or extinguishing of a public-house licence comes into it, which I very much doubt, I would publish it. There is another disqualification in relation to disqualification under the Electoral Act. I am on the question of publication all the time, as I do not want to get back on the point whether the power is there or not. If a person were disqualified from voting for a certain number of years, through being found guilty of certain offences, to wit, personation and so on, I would publish it though I doubt very much if the power is there, as my staff advises me that where the statutory punishment or disqualification is inflicted I have not the power.

Mr. Boland

Even under this?

Even under this. They assure me that it is not there and that if it is necessary to remove a disqualification it should be by an amendment of the Act concerned and not under this.

The Minister referred to certain Statutory Rules and Orders and gave us to understand that under these the Government had power already to remit these sentences and even to delegate the power of remission to the Minister for Justice. If that be the case, if that power has existed already, what is the necessity for this section at all?

To clear up a doubt. There is some doubt about the legality of it.

It is more than that—to comply with a constitutional requisition. The Constitution says that it shall be done by law. It is, however, not an issue now, as to whether that power lies or not. There is under discussion only the question of publication, as to whether in exercising this power I should publish the names, addresses, offences and punishment remitted. That is the only issue before the House.

I am going back on the justification which the Minister——

That is not dealing with publication. Amendment No. 13 is before the House.

As the Minister referred to these matters in his opening speech, I thought I should have the same right. Deputy Boland pleaded for that right.

If two were permitted to do it, the whole House would follow suit.

I would like to say that I am of the same opinion as Deputy Boland, that if there is any departure from the status quo in this case it should be done by amendment of the appropriate Act, because——

We have done it already.

By amending the Road Traffic Act you would not give the power to the Minister. You would give it to the judge who tries the case. At present the judge is debarred.

That is not the point at issue.

It must be taken into account, and I for one would prefer to see the power in the hands of the judge than to see it in the hands of the Minister.

On a point of order, that matter is decided. It is a question of publication only.

The Minister would disarm us by giving us an undertaking that he would carry out a certain line of policy. That is not the same thing as having it enshrined in the Act, because he will not always be Minister. Other Ministers will come and the principle is established. It is often used as an argument by Ministers, when they are seeking power of administration, that they will not do such and such a thing. It is a thing that should be opposed here and for that reason the Minister should agree to allow the amendment to be put in. I think the principle that Deputy Cowan mentioned, that we are just experimenting, is a very dangerous line of country indeed. He says if what we are doing does not succeed, we can bring in another Bill. Surely if we deal with it now, it would be better. Otherwise, it is a case of shutting the stable door when the steed is stolen.

Mr. Boland

I can see the administrative difficulty when there are 3,500 cases and this Bill is only going through this House now and perhaps the Minister could devise, before it reaches the Seanad, some amendments which would cover a certain class of remissions. I can realise there are footy things which do not require publication at all. The Minister cited two cases. I think maybe he did not mean it but he implied that I would be against the exercise of the prerogative of mercy. Certainly I would not. If there was a manslaughter case in which there may not have been drink taken at all if some provision of that kind could be got by which a judge would make a recommendation I would agree to that.

Do not take it that I am against mercy, but I am very much against the Minister taking powers. He denies he is doing it. I think if that were the case he should not have rejected my amendment. He should have accepted the amendment. In regard to cases under Section 13 of the Road Traffic Act, I am surprised to hear now that he is advised that even as the Bill stands at present he has not the powers we were under the impression he had when we were dealing with that amendment. I will have more to say on the Fifth Stage.

Are you not going to give me all the stages to-night?

Mr. Boland

It is too important a matter. I know the strong feeling in our Party on this whole matter, and there is strong feeling in the House, too.

I cannot allow this discussion to go on.

Mr. Boland

If the Minister will not accept it I cannot do anything.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 14:—

In page 8, Second Schedule, at the reference to the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, to insert in the third column the following:—

Section 13, Proviso, from "on payment of a reasonable sum" to the end of the section.

This amendment proposes to repeal in the Proviso to Section 14 of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, the words:—

"On payment of a reasonable sum for the same, not exceeding a sum at the rate of three halfpence for each folio of 90 words."

The effect of the amendment will be to enable copies of depositions to be made available to accused persons free of charge. Deputy Cowan raised this point on Committee Stage and on further consideration, I have decided to meet him in the manner which the amendment proposes.

It may be that we shall have to amend certain fees Orders in order fully to achieve the object in view and I want to assure the House that this will be done, if necessary.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:—

In page 8, Second Schedule, at the reference to the Courts of Justice Act, 1936, in the third column to insert the following: "Section 55."

This amendment, which proposes to repeal Section 55 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1936, is entirely consequential on amendment No. 6.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Might I put this to Deputy Boland? My difficulty about the Bill is this—can we improve it further? Can we do anything more with it here? I know, from the point of view of the administration of justice, that this Bill is very necessary, and it certainly would help to speed things up if we could finish it to-night. The Seanad might be able to dispose of it before Christmas. I make that appeal to Deputy Boland.

Mr. Boland

My point is that we may induce the Minister to reconsider Section 21. The Bill makes a very big improvement in the criminal justice code. I welcome the Bill and was astonished that the Minister resisted the amendment because in doing so he spoke against the spirit of the Second Reading. For that reason I am not prepared to agree to finish it to-night. I think we are entitled to have a postponement so that we may make another effort to get the Minister to reconsider this. I do agree that except for Section 21 the Bill is a big improvement.

May I say to Deputy Boland that it cannot be amended in the Seanad?

Mr. Boland

I understand it can. It certainly can.

I will undertake to re-examine Section 21. I said myself I do not want the power.

Mr. Boland

You would be a madman if you would.

That is the way it ought to be. I should like to say that I think the House should be grateful to Deputy Boland because there is a great necessity for this Bill in the administration of justice. We ought also to say how we appreciate the very sympathetic way in which the Minister, apart from the one point upon which he and Deputy Boland differed——

It is a very important point.

——met the House in regard to the amendments. I think the Bill is a much better Bill than it was when we got it first.

I should like to join with Deputy Cowan in that expression. The Minister met me very fairly, except in regard to the one point, which I regard as of the utmost public importance. I advise him carefully to consider what has been said about that section. He knows what public opinion is and he knows that this problem is getting worse and worse everyday, and he should insist that at least this minimum penalty will be paid.

I undertake to have the matter carefully examined and to bring in an amendment in the Seanad, if necessary.

Question put and agreed to.