That a sum not exceeding £278,600 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1968, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Justice, and of certain other Services administered by that Office, including a Grant-in-Aid; and of the Public Records Office, and of the Keeper of State Papers and for the purchase of Historical Documents, etc.
With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose, as in previous years, to treat the six Votes as one group so that there may be one general discussion, without, of course, prejudicing the right of any Deputy to raise a particular point on any individual Vote. The period to be reviewed in connection with the present Estimates is much shorter than is normal; Deputies will recall that the debate on last year's Estimate did not conclude until December last and ranged over the principal events and developments up to then.
The total Estimate for all the Votes for which I am responsible is £11,561,550. The total provision for the year 1966-67 was £11,568,220. The total provision for the present year is therefore lower by £6,670 than the corresponding figure for last year. The position is that provision for the Garda Síochána shows a reduction of £146,000, but this reduction is offset almost exactly by increases totalling £140,000 on the other Votes. The reason for the apparent reduction in the provision for the Garda Síochána is that the 1966-67 figures included provision for substantial back-money arising from salary increases awarded during the year under the Garda Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme.
The Vote for the Office of the Minister for Justice caters for the staff and services of the Department's headquarters, and shows an increase of £12,590. This increase is due principally to the tenth round increase in remuneration and to normal incremental progression.
I propose to refer only briefly to my Department's law reform activities, as I dealt with these in detail here last November. Several very important pieces of legislation have come into operation within the past few months. These are the Registration of Title Act, 1964, and the Succession Act, 1965, which came into operation on 1st January last, the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act, 1967, which came into operation on 1st March, and the Rent Restrictions (Amendment) Act, 1967, which became law on 9th May.
New Land Registration Rules under the Registration of Title Act were made by the Registration of Title Rules Committee with my concurrence and these also came into force on 1st January. New probate rules will be necessary under the Succession Act and these are at present being drafted by the Superior Courts Rules Committee.
Eight new district probate registries were established as from 1st January in Clonmel, Donegal, Dundalk, Galway, Mullingar, Sligo, Tralee and Wexford. There were already six district probate registries in Castlebar, Cavan, Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick and Waterford, so that there are now in all 14 district registries in operation. These provide a convenient local service throughout the country for persons wishing to take out grants of representation in respect of the estates of deceased persons. The President of the High Court has already prescribed the new form of administration bond.
I have at present under consideration the contents of six interim reports of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure. Three of these reports deal with the jury system, one deals with the question of increased jurisdiction for the Circuit and District Courts and the other two deal with proposals for the reorganisation of the structure of the courts on the criminal side. I shall in due course be introducing legislative proposals to deal with all these matters. The Criminal Procedure Act, based on the first report of the Committee, has been enacted and will come into operation on 1st August The main object of this Act is to achieve the virtual abolition of the deposition-taking procedure.
I am awaiting an interim report from the Landlord and Tenant Commission on the first specific matter which I referred to them, namely, the law relating to the renewal of business tenancies. My legislative proposals on any recommendations they may make will follow without delay. The Commission is also taking evidence on the second specific question they have been asked to investigate, namely, whether persons other than those already entitled should be given the right to purchase the fee simple or to obtain a reversionary lease.
I hope to bring before the Oireachtas later this year proposals to amend the law governing the payment of compensation in respect of malicious injuries to property and persons. A summary of the report of an Interdepartmental Committee which examined this question was published in 1965.
Negotiations have been commenced at official level on the question of having arrangements for the reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders and other court judgments between ourselves and Northern Ireland and Britain. In any legislation to give effect to any such arrangements provision will also be made for the enforcement of court orders between the State and all other jurisdictions and for other aspects of mutual assistance between courts, such as the service of documents and the taking of evidence for foreign courts. I expect to be in a position to report substantial progress in this field by the end of the present year.
Other measures in contemplation include legislation to modernise procedure in the Registry of Deeds and to amend the law of trusts.
The Adoption Board made 1,178 orders in 1966. This is the highest number ever and, in fact, there has been a steady increase in the number of orders being made in recent years. The proportion of children placed by adoption societies is the same as last year, 77 per cent, and I should like to pay tribute to the excellent work being done by those societies, of which there are now 21. Six hundred and nineteen of the orders made in 1966 were in respect of boys and 559 in respect of girls. The Board continues to facilitate adoption by holding sessions outside Dublin. Twenty-nine out of a total of 82 meetings held during the year were held in various cities and towns other than Dublin.
While there has been little change over the years in the number of aliens registered as being resident here for three months or more, the influx of visitors is increasing at a rapid rate. Apart altogether from those who came here from Britain or Northern Ireland, nearly 96,000 came here in 1966 as compared with 83,000 in 1965. These figures do not, of course, include Irish citizens or British subjects. The increase in the influx of alien visitors poses problems for the immigration service and, in common with other Government Departments that are also affected, my Department has been giving active consideration to these problems.
Seventy-nine persons were naturalised in 1966 as compared with 83 in 1965, bringing the total of all persons naturalised since 1935, when provision for naturalisation was made, to 2,560.
The Film Censor examined 1,016 films, with a total footage of 3,084,525, in 1966. Both the number and the footage show an increase on the previous year's figures, which were 996 and 2,870,000 respectively. Of the total of 1,016 films, 878 were passed in toto, 89 were passed with cuts and 49 were rejected. The Censorship of Films Appeal Board examined 77 films. In the case of 22 the appeals were against cuts. Nine films were rejected by the Appeal Board, one was passed with cuts for general viewing and 41 were passed for limited viewing, 26 of them with cuts. In the case of the 22 appeals against cuts, the cuts were varied in 15 cases and unaltered in seven. In all 93 films were passed for viewing on “limited” certificates, that is, conditions were inserted prohibiting their exhibition to audiences under a given age.
The Censorship of Publications Board examined 390 books and nine periodicals in 1966. Twenty-one books were examined as the result of formal complaints from members of the public and 368 on reference by officers of customs and excise. One book was examined on the Board's own initiative. The Board made 160 prohibition orders in respect of books and three in respect of periodicals. Appeals were lodged with the Censorship of Publications Appeal Board in respect of one book and one periodical. Neither appeal was successful. The Censorship of Publications Bill, which is now in its final stages, provides for a time limit of 12 years for prohibition orders made in respect of books on the ground that they are indecent or obscene and revocation of the provision that requires the right of appeal against a prohibition order in respect of a book to be taken within 12 months.
Transfers of testamentary documents from the Principal and District Probate Registries and from the courts continued until October, 1966, when the intake of records had temporarily to be suspended owing to building operations on the two-storey extension to the Public Records Office to provide additional accommodation for the Land Registry.
The Irish Manuscripts Commission is continuing its work on the preparation for publication of the Calendar to the Council Book of 1581-86, the list of political prisoners in Kilmainham Jail during the period 1789 to 1910, the two 16th century Munster surveys and the Record Commissioners' calendars of inquisitions for the 16th and 17th centuries.
More up to date copying equipment, to serve the Public Record Office, Four Courts and the Land Registry, has been installed. It will provide both microfilm and full-size copies more expeditiously and is intended to meet a long-felt want in the facilities hitherto available.
I now pass on to the Garda Síochána Vote. This Vote shows a decrease of £146,000 on the provision in the previous year's Estimate. The decrease is due mainly to a reduction of £223,000 in the provision for salaries, wages and allowances— Subhead A—which, however, is offset to some extent by increases in other subheads.
There is an increase of over £46,000 in Subhead B—Travelling and Incidental Expenses. This is due mainly to a provision for the improvement and extension of the radio service, for which a sum of about £37,000 is included. There is also an increase in the provision in this subhead for subsistence allowances. This has resulted from increases granted following agreed recommendations by the Garda Síochána Conciliation Council under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme.
The cost of Post Office services shows an increase of £17,000 which arises from increased postal charges and the adjustment of undercharges made in previous years.
The increase in the provision for station services—Subhead E—arises from an increase of 16 per cent which was granted in station cleaning allowances last year.
There is an increase of £54,000 in Subhead F—Transport. This is due to the fact that during 1967-68 a considerably higher number of vehicles will fall to be replaced than were replaced during 1966-67—166 in 1967-68, as against 109 in 1966-67. Also, there is provision for the purchase of five extra vehicles, including two pick-up trucks that are required for the enforcement of the clearway traffic system in Dublin. In addition, there is an increased provision for the maintenance and running expenses of the fleet, which arises from the expansion of the fleet.
There is a substantial decrease in the provision for pay—Subhead A. This is due to the fact that the Supplementary Estimate, which was introduced in 1966-67 to provide for pay increases, included a sum of £250,000 in respect of the previous year.
As well, there is an increase of over £30,000 in the provision for appropriations-in-aid. A number of items have contributed to this increase, the biggest being the fees which are charged for reports and statements furnished by the Garda Síochána to interested parties in connection with road traffic accidents. These fees were increased in June, 1966, and the provision for receipts during the year has accordingly been increased by £14,000. The provision for receipts from the Road Fund also shows an increase.
Work on the provision of new stations and Garda houses, and on the improvement of existing premises, continued during the year. In the period 1st April, 1966, to 1st February, 1967, seven new stations and 14 married quarters were provided by the Office of Public Works and 50 houses were provided by the National Building Agency. At present, work is in progress on two new stations and 56 houses and married quarters.
Deputies will have noted that the strength of the Force, as provided for in the Estimates, shows no increase. In the light of increasing demands on the available manpower, and the worsening crime position to which I shall refer presently, it is not surprising that suggestions are made to me from time to time that some, at least, of the cuts in manpower, made some years ago in less exacting times, should now be restored. What is stressed particularly, and what impresses me most, is that the Force no longer contains any margin of manpower which could be allocated to special assignments without interfering with the minimum performance of normal police duty. The need for special assignments is, regrettably, increasing; in recent months, in particular, considerable numbers of Gardaí have had to be deflected from their normal work and locations to preserve, so far as they could, law and order in the face of the NFA disturbances and related activities. Demands such as these on Garda manpower can be met only at the expense of normal police duty, which is to prevent and detect crime and to protect the person and property of all sections of our community.
I regret to have to say that there was a sharp reversal last year in the downward trend indicated in the previous year's crime figures. A total of 19,029 indictable offences was recorded in the year ended 30th September, 1966, as against 16,736 in the previous year. The next highest figures were in 1964 (17,700) and in 1943 (17,305). Of the total of 19,029, 11,166 were committed in the Dublin Metropolitan Area and 7,863 in the rest of the country. A disturbing feature of the crime statistics is the fact that over a third of all persons convicted of indictable offences last year were under 17 and 59 per cent were under 21.
While the upward trend in crime that has manifested itself does not allow us to be complacent, it should be pointed out that the incidence of serious crime in this country is far less than in other countries and that our detection rate is very high indeed. It is not strictly fair to compare the crime situation here with that in thickly-populated and highly-industrialised Britain but it may be of interest to Deputies that the number of indictable offences per 100,000 of population in England and Wales in 1965 was 2,465, as compared with 680 per 100,000 of population here in 1966. The detection rate in England and Wales in 1965 was 39.2 per cent; the rate here in 1966 was 66 per cent. It may also be of interest, in this connection, to see how the figures for Dublin compare with those for some other cities. The number of indictable crimes per 1,000 of population in Dublin in 1966 was 19.6. This compares with 19 in Belfast, 46.4 in Manchester and 71.8 in Edinburgh, the two latter figures being for 1965. The detection rates for these cities were 52 per cent, 47 per cent and 45 per cent respectively, as against 52 per cent for Dublin.
I am satisfied that the Garda are doing a good job and I am pressing forward vigorously with the policy of providing the Force with the best modern equipment and aids to crime prevention and detection. I expect that arrangements which have been made for some major developments will come to fruition in the next few months. Further equipment is being provided to enable the radio system for Garda cars and motor cycles to be extended to a number of new centres. Car radios will be provided for the first time in Abbeyleix, Cahir, Mitchelstown, Trim, Loughrea, Athenry and Carlow. Fourteen additional motor cycle sets will be provided for use throughout the country as required.
The provision of personal radio sets of pocket size for the man on the beat will mark a new break-through in the matter of equipment for Dublin Gardaí within the next few months. Experiments with these sets have been highly successful and I expect that 130 sets, which have been on order for some months, will be delivered in two months' time.
In recent years, with the provision of extra Garda cars and motor cycles for patrol work, there has been a tendency, understandable if unjustified, among the public to regard the man on the beat as the cinderella of the Force. These new pocket radios emphasise the key position which the man on the beat continues to occupy in the prevention and detection of crime and they will make a notable contribution to the efficiency of the Force and to the productive use of manpower. In addition to the sets for Dublin, I expect to provide an allocation of pocket sets during the year for Gardaí at Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Drogheda and Dundalk.
The old adage that prevention is better than cure applies with particular force to crime, and I am taking steps to expand the activities of the Crime Prevention Unit of the Garda Síochána. The main aims of the Unit are: (a) to instruct owners of premises how best to safeguard their property, (b) to encourage the installation of burglar alarms, preferably connected to Garda stations, (c) to advise on protection of pay-rolls, bank lodgments, et cetera, (d) in general, to awaken the public to the importance of crime prevention measures. The services of this Unit are freely available to members of the public in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway. In each of these cities specially trained Gardaí are assigned to the task of helping people to protect their houses and their places of business from the attentions of thieves. A person in these cities who would like to get in touch with the appropriate member has only to inquire at his local Garda station and he will be put in touch. I might mention that last year about 500 free surveys of premises were carried out by the Crime Prevention Unit in Dublin and they also made nearly 600 surveys of cash-in-transit arrangements. In addition over 1,600 visits were paid to check up on advice already given on these matters.
I am arranging that the Gardaí attached to the Unit will, in future, partake to a greater extent than heretofore in exhibitions and in lectures to various groups and organisations. I would appeal to the public generally, and especially to those with responsibility for property, to seek the expert advice of the Crime Prevention Unit and, more important perhaps, to act on that advice.
When speaking on the 1966-67 Estimate, I mentioned that a Criminal Justice Bill was being prepared. The Bill has now been introduced and will be circulated during the Recess. It will deal with a miscellany of items. It will propose the abolition of the distinctions between felonies and misdemeanours, which have become unreal over the centuries but which affect, in a very real but arbitrary way, the powers of arrest which the police have. By that I mean that, as matters stand, the powers of arrest do not always correspond with the seriousness of the crime. I hope to introduce a more logical rule in the matter. The Bill will also contain provisions for the control of offensive weapons, including flick-knives. It is proposed to strengthen the hand of the Garda in dealing with serious crime by changes in the law relating to fingerprinting and search warrants. Another reform proposed is the abolition of the nowadays purely nominal distinction between simple imprisonment and penal servitude.
In the period immediately ahead, therefore, the difficult crime situation will be tackled on three fronts:
1. enforcement will be strengthened through a substantially-increased allocation of equipment with particular emphasis on the personal two-way radio contact for the man on the beat;
2. prevention will be encouraged through the extended operations of the Crime Prevention Unit and
3. legislation in the form of a new Criminal Justice Act will strengthen the hands of the Gardaí in the continuing war on crime.
The number of persons being charged with summary offences continues to rise rapidly. The 1966 figure was 150,213 as compared with 139,856 in 1965. Road traffic offences constitute the vast bulk of these offences—over 126,000 persons were prosecuted for road traffic offences in 1966. Over 85,000 fine-on-the-spot notices were issued for contraventions of the parking bye-laws and similar offences and in only about 11,700 of those cases were prosecutions necessary. I might mention that the Road Traffic Bill has provision for a special corps of wardens to take over fine-on-the-spot duties from the Gardaí, which will allow the latter to be reallocated to their primary task of detecting and preventing crime.
The statutory arrangements for the backing of Irish warrants of arrest in Britain and Northern Ireland and for the backing of British and Northern Ireland warrants here continued to operate smoothly. During 1966, 137 warrants, 25 of them from Northern Ireland, were received for execution here, and 113 warrants were sent from here, 18 of them to Northern Ireland. No warrants have so far been received from any of the other countries who are parties to the European Convention on Extradition nor have any warrants gone from this country to any of them.
The Vote for Prisons, the next item in the list of Estimates, is for a sum of £458,500. This sum shows a net increase of £40,050 over the Vote for 1966-67. While there is an increase under most of the Vote subheads, the main bulk—over £27,000—is to be found in the subhead for pay and allowances etc. The increase is required to meet the cost of normal incremental progression, the tenth round pay increases, increased rates of allowances arising out of agreements under conciliation and arbitration machinery and for the additional staff required to implement a recent agreement, also under conciliation and arbitration machinery, to reduce the hours of duty worked by prison officers. The present working hours are 90 per fortnight and these are to be reduced to 85 hours, the same as those approved for general and mental nursing staff employed by local authorities. The reduced working schedule will be introduced as soon as the additional staff required is recruited.
The Estimate provides for a daily average prisoner population of 570— the same as that estimated for the last two years, at a weekly cost of £15 per prisoner. As it happened, the actual daily average figures for the years 1965 and 1966 coincided at 561. As compared with 1965, the overall intake of persons, either on remand or under sentence, decreased slightly—from 3,649 to 3,580—but the actual number of these persons who received sentences of imprisonment or detention rose from 2,477 in 1965 to 2,514 in 1966. Of the total daily average last year of 561, the figure for St. Patrick's was 169 or five more than the previous year. The number of persons committed to detention in the Institution in 1966 was also higher than in 1965, being 616 as compared with 552 for 1965. These figures, I am sorry to say, show a reversal of the slightly downward trend which I so hopefully welcomed last year.
The details which I gave the House last November when dealing with the 1966-67 Estimates gave a fairly up-to-date outline of the present year's activities in the field of prison welfare work and analogous services. These services continue to operate satisfactorily. During 1966, as a result of the efforts of the prison staff, the prison welfare officers and the Prison After-Care Committee, employment during their sentences was secured for 37 prisoners who were granted daily temporary release to take up the employment obtained for them. The total earnings of these prisoners, after deductions for tax, insurance, etc., were £2,200 approximately. Over £900 was contributed to their dependants and the amount on hands on discharge was over £400. Three hundred and fifty pounds were spent on travelling between prison and places of employment and personal expenses. The expenses of the special hostel meals and amenities accounted for almost £525.
In St. Patrick's Institution 42 inmates were granted daily temporary release for employment while serving their sentences of detention and, save with one exception, all the inmates fulfilled the conditions of their temporary release. In addition to release for employment, temporary release was granted to 44 prisoners and to 48 inmates of St. Patrick's during the year for other purposes—Christmas holidays, harvesting problems, domestic difficulties, family illnesses, interviews for employment, etc. Again, in only one case—a prisoner who failed to return after Christmas—the conditions of temporary release were honoured to the full.
The development of the probation and after-care service on a State-wide voluntary basis is, thanks to the willing co-operation of the community at large and particularly the well-known charitable and religious organisations, also progressing in a most satisfactory manner. Over 250 voluntary workers are now available in 100 or more centres outside Dublin to give assistance to the courts in the supervision of young offenders and to help in the after-care of those discharged from industrial and reformatory schools and penal institutions.
Another project which is proving its worth is the Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer scheme. The scheme has been operating successfully for some time in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford, and arrangements have been completed to extend it to the following eight additional centres—Clonmel, Drogheda, Dundalk, Galway, Kilkenny, Sligo, Tralee and Wexford. Since the scheme started in September, 1963, and up to the end of last September, 2,225 juveniles had come under the care and supervision of the Gardaí participating in the work. Of this number only 211, or less than ten per cent, have since become involved in further offences.
Apart from the members of the Garda Force attached to the Juvenile Liaison Unit, a large number of Gardaí continue to participate in a most praiseworthy way in the organisation and running of over 200 boys' clubs throughout the country. It would be remiss of me to let this occasion pass without recording my indebtedness to the voluntary bodies, the many private individuals and the employers whose generous efforts and ready co-operation proved so helpful a factor in the discharge of my responsibilities for the prisons and for St. Patrick's.
The next Vote is that for the courts. At £616,000 it shows an increase of £33,000 over the year 1966-67. The additional provision is required in the main to meet the tenth round increase in remuneration and some increase in the number of posts, mainly in Circuit Court and District Court Offices.
The District Court, Circuit Court and Superior Courts Rules Committees have actively been engaged during the past year. The District Court Rules Committee continued their work in connection with the general revision of the existing District Court Rules. The Committee submitted for my concurrence Rules, made during the year, providing for the revision of the fees payable to summons servers. The Circuit Court Rules Committee made the Circuit Court Rules 1966 relating to certain increases in solicitors costs and the Circuit Court Rules 1967 providing for the revision of fees payable to summons servers. These Rules have received my concurrence.
The Superior Courts Rules Committee submitted for my concurrence two sets of Rules made during the year providing for a number of miscellaneous amendments to existing Rules and a revision of the costs allowed in judgment by default cases. I should like again to pay a special tribute to the judges of the several courts who are voluntarily assisting the work of the Department of Justice in what I might describe as personal, non-judicial capacities. I refer to the justices and judges who are serving in the Bankruptcy Committee, the Censorship of Films Appeal Board, the Censorship of Publications Board and Appeal Board, the Committee enquiring into Court Practices and Procedures, the Commission enquiring into the law relating to Landlord and Tenant and Ground Rents and a Committee recently formed which is making enquiries relating to reform of substantive law. The extent to which I am indebted to the judiciary in these respects is very great.
Estimate No. 24 is that for the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds. The figure of £311,800 for the year 1967-68 represents an increase of £53,870 over 1966-67. Again the additional provision is necessary to meet the tenth round increase in remuneration and the cost of additional staff required to discharge the new duties arising for the Land Registry under the Registration of Title Act, 1964, which, as I have already mentioned, came into force on 1st January, 1967.
The business received in the Land Registry, which had increased progressively during recent years, showed a decline in 1966. Typical of this decline was a drop in the number of dealings received for registration from 37,052 in 1965 to 33,875 in 1966. I am satisfied, however, that this falling-off in business is temporary and that the upward trend will be resumed again in 1967.
In the case of the Registry of Deeds the number of registrations, which had risen from 24,689 in 1962 to 29,508 in 1964 and dropped to 27,879 in 1965, dropped further in 1966 to 25,411. Applications for searches which had increased from 6,249 to 6,709 over the period 1962 to 1964 and had dropped to 5,233 in 1965 increased slightly again in 1966 to 5,324.
With regard to the provision of additional accommodation to meet the needs of the Land Registry in the years immediately ahead, the construction work on a two-storey extension over the Public Record Office which commenced last May is progressing favourably. As I mentioned in moving the 1966-67 Estimate, the contract calls for completion in January, 1968.
I have now completed all the necessary arrangements for the provision of the additional legal, technical and administration staffs required to gear the Land Registry to cope with the additional work involved under the new Act. The necessary legal staff which I have already reported as having been recruited on a temporary basis are now in the process of being replaced on a permanent basis by means of an open competition for established legal assistants which has already been held. However, the difficulties that I have reported as being encountered in the last two years in recruiting the necessary technical and clerical staff to fill existing vacancies and to provide for the new Act have continued. Additional mapping draughtsmen have been assigned from a competition that was held recently but it has been found necessary to hold a further competition to complete the requirements: this competition is at present proceeding. With the co-operation and assistance of the Ordnance Survey Office, a special crash programme of training was organised for the newly-recruited draughtsmen and they are now employed in clearing the backlog of business, involving mapping, that has been giving cause for concern for some time. Some of the clerical staff required have already been assigned from the 1966 competitions and further assignments are still being made. The rate of assignment will receive a fresh impetus within the next few weeks when successful candidates from this year's competitions start to become available. I expect that all the Land Registry's requirements of clerical and technical staff will have been met within the next few months.
The final Vote makes provision for the Office of Charitable Donations and Bequests. The Estimate for 1967-68 is £12,650, that is, £180 less than the total provided for this service in 1966-67. The decrease is accounted for principally by a net fall in the cost of salaries due to the replacement of senior by junior officers.
The useful and valuable work of the Commissioners continued during the year. Cash amounting to £7,097 and stocks to the value of £52,588 were transferred to the Commissioners during the year 1966, and on 31st December last the nominal value of investments standing in their name was £1,998,895.
It remains for me to express my sincere thanks to the members of the various voluntary boards and commissions which are associated with my Department for their valuable services during the year. As I have said before, I have, since my appointment as Minister for Justice, been deeply impressed by the extent of this unpaid public service and by the way in which the persons concerned have carried out their duties.