When we adjourned the debate on this section I was speaking about the age of retirement of district justices. I take it that in repealing the relevant section of the Act of 1949 it was decided to hold the conditions that then operated —that the retirement age would be 65 save in the case of district justices in the Dublin Metropolitan area and in Cork. Apart from those cases, the retiring age for justices was 65, subject to the proviso that there was a committee set up consisting of the Chief Justice, the President of the High Court and the Attorney-General. As each district justice, outside the two areas specified came to the age of 65, he had to appear before that committee and if that committee thought a justice was sufficiently vigorous and in good mental health to carry on office they reported accordingly.
District justices were required afterwards to go before the committee each year, up to the age of 70 and they were allowed to carry on on a yearly basis on provision of a medical certificate. The end of it was that subject to good health and that they were not suffering from infirmities of mind, district justices really had a tenure of office until 70. I objected to that because I thought district justices should be allowed to stay in office up to the age of 70. In fact, they have got it.
When we discussed this last the rather ancient old argument was brought out that district justices have to do a tremendous amount of travelling. That is in comparison with circuit court judges and definitely in comparison with High Court and Supreme Court judges. It was brought forward here as an argument that the amount of travelling district justices would do would wear them out more quickly. That is an argument so hoary that it should be made to hide its head. The answer to that is that in my experience I doubt if there is a single case of a district justice who failed to get brought forward from 65 to 70 with all the hard work and tramping around it is said they have to do.
It may be that a lot of this dates away back to 1924 and later amendments of the legislation. In those days, when people were being tried out and there were experimental conditions, certain things were included in the legislation which certainly might be left out on a more mature point of view. This is a point at which a more mature point of view should emerge. I should like to get some statistics on the matter. Has there been a single district justice who has been made to come up for his examination by these three laymen and who failed to get through that examination? I doubt if there has been a single case.
If one takes the turnover in district justices over the years and goes back to 1924 and the period when this provision applied, it seems to me the facts completely beat the argument about travelling. In addition, there are quite a number of other people who have to travel. Deputies do a good deal of travelling. People in different walks of life do a good deal of travelling. I do not know of any business or other avocation, where in the ordinary run of things a man is retired at 65 or 70, where that period of active life is cut down because the person has to do a fair amount of travelling. That is a completely artificial argument.
I should like to urge on this section that the age of retirement of district justices should no longer be subject to this peculiar business about being examined at the age of 65 years by this lay committee, but they should be all allowed to go on to 70. Remember we have in the legislation considerable power to investigate the mental and physical health of a district justice and to have him caused to retire if his physique is not up to the strain. But for the odd possibility of some district justice here and there failing in his powers, mental or physical, because of his age, it is absurd to keep this regulation applying to the whole lot of them—that as each reaches the age of 65 he must come up on this pilgrimage on the anniversary of his birth date to find out what three lay people think of him. I am reinforcing my argument by the fact that in my own experience I have never known one justice to fail to pass that test.