That a supplementary sum not exceeding £10 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1974, 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including a grant-in-aid; and of the Public Record Office, and of the Keeper of State Papers and for the purchase of historical documents, etc.
As Deputies are aware, the main Estimates for the six Votes for which I am responsible amounting to £34,022,000 were, in common with a number of others, passed without debate shortly before Christmas. The supplementary sum of £10 now being moved will enable the House to discuss the main Estimates for the six Votes and the Supplementary Estimates of £4,427,000 recently circulated.
These are made up as follows:
Vote 20: Office of the Minister for Justice—£95,000.
Vote 21: Garda Síochána— £4,332,000.
On Vote 20 a sum of £89,990 is required to meet increases in salaries, wages and allowances; £5,000 is needed for a grant to the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC); and a further sum of £10 to provide for the introdution of a new scheme for the payment of compensation for personal injuries inflicted. A grant of £5,000 to FLAC is part of a Government allocation of £200,000 in respect of child care services in the current financial year.
On Vote 21 the items which require additional funds are: salaries, wages and allowances, £3,800,000; travelling and incidental expenses, £400,000; Post Office services £90,000; clothing and equipment £30,000; witnesses' expenses £12,000.
I propose, as is traditional, to give a brief resumé in respect of the period since the last debate on the Estimates for the Department of Justice of the most noteworthy developments in the various services for which I am the responsible Minister. This I consider to be a useful procedure, because, for one thing, it ensures that the records of this House will contain a handy summary of facts and figures to which reference can be made by anybody seeking information about the Department's work. Since, however, this is the first debate on the Estimates for the Department of Justice since the National Coalition Government took office as well as the first debate for me as Minister, I think it would be opportune for me to say a few words at the outset to indicate what I consider to be the most important areas of concern to me.
My basic concern must be the security and safety of the State. Unless the State and its citizens and its institutions can be kept secure from attack no progress can be made in the fields of economic or social reform.
Unfortunately we have within our society at the moment a small group of organised subversives whose presence constitutes a threat to the security of the State. Some time ago a spokesman for the group indicated that they did not seek a confrontation with the State for it was inevitable that in such a struggle the State would win. He was, of course, quite right in this and a look at the last 50 years shows that every subversive group which challenged the authority of the State was doomed to failure. I hope his comrades heed his words. I should like to compliment the gardaí on their success in this area and to reassure them, if indeed they need reassurance at this stage, that they have the full backing of the Government and I hope of every Member of this House in their fight against subversion.
I indicated that peace and security were necessary if we are to make progress in economic and social reform. I am charged as Minister for Justice with control over a great variety of social legislation—adoption, the whole area of family law, which raises the problem of deserted wives, their rights against their husbands and rights to the family home, annulments, guardianship of children and also the question of rent control, ground rents, landlord and tenant law, censorship of publication and films. There are other areas for which I have responsibility with a highly important legal content such as the Land Registry, Public Records Office, Charity Commissioners and the operation of the courts themselves. Indeed, it could be said that these latter activities also have a high social content.
When one hears them listed out it will be noticed that some of these areas require legislative changes. Steps towards bringing in those changes have already been taken and I will deal with them in more detail later in my speech. What I want to emphasise at this stage is that while they are all urgent it is not possible to introduce all these reforms instantly. What is possible is a steady programme of reforming legislation right through my term of office. I intend to see that this programme is carried through to a successful conclusion and I want to emphasise that in drawing up the reforms I will be in touch with groups who have a knowledge or special interest in the particular area in question.
We are entering a particularly critical phase of Irish history with the Sunningdale communiqué, the formation of a power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland and the approaching formal conference to confirm acceptance of the agreed communiqué that was signed at the end of the Sunningdale Conference. These events have within themselves the capability of achieving peace for this island and it is important for that reason and for the continued security and welfare of this State that these initiatives succeed.
I should like to refer very briefly to the agreed communiqué issued at the end of the Sunningdale Conference in December and, particularly, to two of the elements in the communiqué that concern me as Minister for Justice. First, there is the Law Commission that has been set up jointly by the Irish and British Governments to consider all the proposals that had been put forward at Sunningdale for dealing with the problem of bringing to trial persons who commit crimes of violence, however motivated, in this island and to recommend as a matter of urgency the most effective means of dealing with those who commit those crimes. Secondly, there is the police authority to be set up here, appointments to which will be made after consultation with the Council of Ministers of the Council of Ireland.
As the House will be aware, the Law Commission have already begun their work. As regards the setting up of a police authority enabling legislation will be necessary and initial preparatory work of gathering information and ideas has already begun. I will shortly be having consultations and discussions on the matter with the Garda authorities and the Garda Representative Bodies before bringing my proposals before the House. I fully recognise the importance of having their views on a matter of such fundamental importance to their Force.
The police service, its well-being and efficiency must be and is high among the concerns which affect me as Minister for Justice. We are fortunate in this country in having a police force on top of their job and it is a great source of satisfaction that this should be so. The increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána to which I will refer later will help them in their task of combating serious crime and subversive activity. I should like to add that I will continue to be in close consultation with the Garda authorities with a view to strengthening further the efficiency of the force at every level with particular emphasis on training and deployment of personnel and the provision of all necessary equipment. The gardaí have had significant success in dealing with subversive activities here. In the year 1973, 171 persons were arrested and charged with offences that are scheduled offences for the purposes of the Offences against the State Acts. In the same period 330 rifles, 290 pistols and revolvers, 518 grenades, 15 rockets, four rocket launchers and a sizeable quantity of explosives were seized by the gardaí, a truly horrifying arsenal.
The stringent controls that have been in operation for some time now with regard to the use and storage of explosives are being continued. The controls which were extended during 1972 to certain ammonium nitrate mixtures, sodium chlorate and nitrobenzine are also being maintained. I am aware that this has caused inconvenience to commercial users of the materials concerned but I know that they will appreciate how necessary it is to have the existing security arrangements. The protection of life and property is of primary importance and, so long as the situation requires it, the Government will strive to ensure that materials for bomb making do not get into the wrong hands.
At the outset I should like to refer to the general crime situation. The crime figures increased again in 1972 but the rate of increase was much less than in 1971. These are the latest figures available. I am pleased to be able to say that the indications are that the steep upward trend of recent years may have been halted. In the year ended 30th September, 1972, 39,237 indictable offences were recorded as against 37,781 in the previous year, an increase of 3.8 per cent. Two thirds of these consisted of offences against property without violence, mainly larcenies, and I would remind the House that larcenies, generally, even where the value of the money or goods stolen is trivial, are indictable offences. In the vast majority of the cases of offences against property, either with or without violence, which were recorded during the year, the value of the property stolen was less than £50.
Offences against the person have been almost constant over the past four years, but offences against property showed a small increase of 4.4 per cent over the 1971 figure.
Proceedings were instituted by the gardaí in respect of 15,705 indictable offences known to them or 40 per cent of the total. The overall detection rate fell to 43 per cent as compared with 46 per cent in the previous year. In the Dublin Metropolitan Area the detection rate was 34 per cent while in the rest of the country it was 58 per cent. For some of the more serious crimes, the detection rate was as high as 90 per cent while for certain categories of less serious offences against property it was as low as 37 per cent. I should mention too that a significant proportion of some relatively minor offences are extremely difficult to detect. For example, in 1972, 2,271 bicycles were reported as stolen but proceedings were instituted in 131 cases only.
One has to be careful when drawing comparisions in the matter of detection rates but it may be of interest that the detection rate for England and Wales, exclusive of London, in 1972 was 50 per cent, while the rate for the London area was 30 per cent.
I invite Deputies to read the valuable foreword that the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána has written to his report on crime for the year ended 30th September, 1972, copies of which are in the Library. In it he refers to some of the special measures that are being taken to combat the increase in crime. In the Dublin Metropolitan Area where 60 per cent of indictable offences occur, the increase in crime in 1972, as compared with 1971, amounted to only 0.7 per cent, while I am glad to say that provisional figures for the 1973 crime year show a drop of 2.4 per cent on the 1972 figures.
In the year ended 30th September, 1972, the number of persons charged with summary offences was 190,152 as compared with 198,157 in 1971. Road traffic offences continued to constitute by far the greatest category —135,074 persons were prosecuted for road traffic offences in 1972 as compared with some 147,442 in 1971. The prosecution of these offences involves a tremendous amount of Garda time being spent in court and I am investigating the Report of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure which recommended the extension of on the spot fines to a wide range of motoring offences. More than 200,000 "fine-on-the-spot" notices were issued for contraventions of the parking by-laws and similar offences and in 82,443 of these cases there were prosecutions.
The Garda Síochána are in the front line of defence of our institutions and the laws which shape those institutions. Their task, in a modern society, is a difficult and complex task and I want to say, and I am sure I speak for everybody in this House when I say this, that they are doing a good job, and that their work is appreciated.
It is of vital importance that their work and role in the community are appreciated and understood by the public at large. We must seek to ensure that no alienation between the police and public grows up, for unless the police have the continuous goodwill and co-operation of the community in which they serve they cannot perform the functions of a police force. But this is a two-way process and the gardaí have the delicate and difficult task of so comporting themselves and carrying out their duties that they ensure for themselves continously the trust and confidence and, most important of all, the friendship of the community.
One way in which this can be achieved is by increasing public awareness of the job of a police officer, by showing them the difficulties he encounters and by telling them of the strains and stresses he has to endure.
I intend to see that relations with the public in this regard get the attention they deserve and need. In this connection I might say that the making of a documentary film of the Garda Síochána has been proposed. Prima facie it seems a good idea and I am having it examined. In this area of relations with the public, both the Garda band and the Garda choir have done much valuable and enjoyable work and I take the opportunity of thanking them. I was glad to see the return of the Garda Review and would like to compliment the editor and his board on the high professional standard of the issues which have so far been published.
From time to time allegations of misconduct of varying degrees of seriousness are made against individual members of the Garda. Some of these are untrue and many others malicious or wildly exaggerated. There may be room for concern in a small number of cases but in this area of relations with the public it is important that the public be satisfied that if there should be such cases there is a firm and impartial method of dealing with them. I am satisfied there is but I am not satisfied that the public are so aware. This is a delicate and difficult area because invariably emotions run high and tend to cloud objectivity on the part of the complainant.
For the sake of relations with the public and bearing in mind what I have just said about their importance, this field could be looked at. This will only be done in close consultation with the representative bodies within the force for I am aware that they are concerned to ensure that the good name of the members they represent will be maintained and that should there be any deviation from a proper norm of behaviour the guilt of the deviant will not affect by association the general body. I am happy that the problem is not a serious one and I only mention it to highlight the fact that public relations is a two-way exercise. The Government, and I am sure I speak for the House, are grateful for the work the gardaí are doing and we must be prepared to assist in that work.
One of the most important ways in which the Government can make their contribution is, obviously, by providing the necessary financial resources for manpower increases, new equipment and so on. The House will be aware that the Government have recently decided to increase Garda strength, and the necessary arrangements are being made so that the extra 500 men may be recruited as soon as possible. I am not in a position to say exactly how the extra 500 men will be distributed, beyond saying that a substantial proportion will certainly be assigned to Border areas and the remainder wherever the Garda authorities deem that the greatest need exists.
I am conscious of the fact that the provision of extra numbers does not, of itself guarantee that the force has all the means necessary to do their job. Of equal importance, from the point of view of overall efficiency, are factors such as training, manpower deployment, management techniques, and, of course, the provision of the most up-to-date equipment available.
These aspects are receiving close attention at present by the Garda authorities and by my Department.
I might mention that a working party is in existence examining the question of Garda uniform with particular attention to devising a suitable summer dress. I am giving to this working party all the encouragement and assistance they feel they need.
There is a substantial increase in the provision for equipment, including Garda cars, the purchase/resale of which has recently been made the subject of expert examination by the Government operations research unit. I envisage further examinations of this type to ensure that maximum benefit is secured from expenditure on equipment. Another development in this area which I hope will prove to be a significant aid to efficiency is the use by the Garda Síochána of computers. The computerisation of Garda pay is nearing completion and a committee representative of my Department, the Garda Síochána and the automatic data processing unit of the Department of the Public Service are at present examining the possibility of further use of computers. Already two projects are on hand, one related to criminal statistics and the other which will be designed to assist the gardaí in location of stolen vehicles.
Generally, I see the use of computers by the gardaí, which is an inevitable development in this day and age, as an alternative means of storing information of the type which the gardaí already acquire and file in the course of their normal duties. They will be used to provide a better information retrieval system.
I think it is right, at this early stage of developments, to emphasise that everybody concerned in this matter, including, above all, the Garda authorities themselves, are very much alive to the fact that computerisation of police data is something which, so to speak, has to be watched. I want to make it clear, therefore, that even if the gardaí do not get a computer of their own, and have to share the use of one with some other branch of the Public Service, it will be a fundamental requirement that the Garda section of the operation will be self-contained so that only the gardaí will have access to the stored information giving criminal records and the like.
In fact, one of the first issues discussed by the committee to which I have referred, was security of computerised police information. I am assured that the system can be so arranged that it will be technically impossible for anybody other than authorised personnel to gain access to the information on computer. Part of the security arrangements will involve the training of gardaí as computer operators so that the various routine listings and so on produced at the computer centre will be handled only by members of the force. The information on computer tapes will be just as inaccessible to people who are not authorised to have access as it is at present on Garda files and records.
Another important point which I want to stress in relation to computerisation is that the only information stored on computer tapes will be what is needed for police purposes. As I have already said, the information stored will be of the type already collected and filed by the gardaí in the course of their normal duties. I say this to reassure those who might fear that this new technique could have "1984" overtones about it.
A new Garda unit, the traffic corps, commenced operations early in April last and is at present operating in Drogheda, Portlaoise, Mullingar, Naas, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Thurles, Tralee and Bandon. It is hoped that the unit will be operating in the remaining major centres in the near future. The unit was set up to concentrate on the enforcement of the traffic laws and the prevention of road accidents. The duties of the new traffic corps are to supplement, not to replace, the efforts of the force in general in this field. The unit carries out checks on motor vehicles including checks on tax and insurance. Among other things, evasion of payment of motor tax will be sought out more thoroughly by the traffic corps. In addition one of the more important functions of the unit is the detection of the offence of drunken driving.
In this regard I should point out that the penalty for drunken driving is imprisonment for any term not exceeding six months, or, at the discretion of the court, a fine not exceeding £100 or both such imprisonment and such fine and on conviction by the court a person is, in addition to the penalty already mentioned, automatically disqualified from holding a driving licence. Let me say for those who think otherwise, that I, as Minister for Justice, have no power to remit such disqualification. I would like to issue a warning that, owing to the operation of the traffic corps, there is now a far greater probability, than heretofore, of drunken drivers being apprehended. I would, therefore, urge all drivers who may be tempted to drive their cars after consuming intoxicating liquor to think again in the matter, in their own interests, apart altogether from the other very serious considerations involved.
As I have said, it is not possible to give firm figures at the moment, but I would like to mention however that a special return was compiled in respect of the first four Garda divisions in which the corps was established, namely, Louth-Meath, Leix-Offaly, Longford-Westmeath and Carlow-Kildare, and it was ascertained that a total of 17,799 offences were detected by the corps in the period April-July, 1973, inclusive, which is a very high figure by any standard. One would be justified in thinking that this corps has been a big factor in the reduced number of road traffic deaths and injuries recently announced and I thank them for their work.
Work is well advanced on the installation of the most modern equipment in the new radio control centre in Dublin Castle and it is expected that the complete scheme will be fully operational within the next three months. When completed, the centre will be among the most modern and sophisticated of its kind available. Radio communication is generally now at an acceptable level in most areas but the existing radio network is of a temporary nature. A permanent radio network is being planned in co-operation with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and preliminary work has already been done in connection with a pilot survey in certain areas. This survey will be a joint project between the gardaí and the engineering branch of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and work is expected to commence on the survey within the next month or so.
The juvenile liaison officers' scheme continues to operate successfully and since the initiation of the scheme over 7,600 juveniles have come under the care and supervision of the juvenile liaison officers and only 13 per cent of these became involved in offences thereafter. One sergeant, 11 gardaí and two ban-ghardaí are serving full-time as juvenile liaison officers in Dublin; in Cork one sergeant and two gardaí are engaged full-time and one ban-gharda is engaged part-time on the scheme while in Limerick there is a sergeant full-time on juvenile liaison work. Waterford has one garda fulltime on these duties and Clonmel, Drogheda, Dundalk, Galway, Kilkenny, Sligo, Tralee and Wexford each have a garda serving part-time on the scheme.
The function of a juvenile liaison officer is to maintain contact with any juvenile assigned to him. The juvenile may be one who has committed an offence and, having been warned, has been committed to the care of a juvenile liaison officer. The officer may also be given the care and guidance of a young person, who, though not known to have committed an offence, may be regarded as likely to get into trouble by reason of unsatisfactory behaviour, such as persistent truancy, running away from home, staying out late at night, being unruly at school or at home, behaving in a disorderly manner and frequenting undesirable places. These cases come to the notice of the officer through teachers, parents, school attendance officers or the gardaí.
Each juvenile liaison officer receives two weeks on-the-job training when he, or she, joins the scheme and basically this training is in practical case work. Apart from maintaining contact with those juveniles assigned to them juvenile liaison officers are active in all aspects of youth work. They maintain an active liaison with youth clubs, boxing clubs and the various youth organisations. Two additional officers have recently been allocated to Dublin and one to Cork in connection with the scheme and the question of further expanding the Juvenile Liaison Officer Scheme is at present under investigation by the Garda authorities. In addition, arrangements are now in hand for a juvenile liaison officer to lecture each class of recruits at the training centre on the role, objectives and other aspects of the work of the juvenile liaison officers.
An analytical study of the scheme has been undertaken. It is expected that the report of this study will be available in the autumn of 1974 and the report will then be examined with a view to ascertaining how the future management of the scheme can best be effected.
It has been represented to me that the present training course for Garda recruits is too short and consequently too shallow in its content. I share the concern of those who have spoken to me on this subject and I intend to initiate studies into the whole area of recruitment and recruit training. I am anxious to see that only the very best possible type of recruit is accepted into the Garda and that the best use is then made of him by a thorough and comprehensive training course. And in addition to training the recruit, I feel there is a real need for refresher training for serving members certainly during the first half decade or decade of their service. I intend to have this area examined together with the area of recruit training. One of the problems in dealing with this up to now has been the pressure of space, but it may be possible to overcome this difficulty. I want to assure the House that I regard these problems as urgent and of vital importance to the future well-being of the force.
I am conscious to the point of being embarrassed by the poor standard of many of our Garda stations. They are old, uncomfortable relics of another age, many being RIC barracks taken over and remaining virtually unchanged for the past 50 years. Unfortunately, all cannot be brought up to standard or replaced simultaneously. A special building unit has been set up within the Department to concentrate exclusively on building projects for all the services for which the Department is responsible and in the case of the Garda Síochána a housing officer, of superintendent rank, has been appointed with a view to speeding up progress on the provision of accommodation.
The construction of a new divisional headquarters was completed in Waterford in July, 1973, and system built stations were completed in Askeaton, Bunclody, Carnew, Clane, Delvin, Kinnegad, Moate, Graiguenamanagh and Portlaw. A new station constructed in the traditional manner was completed in Belturbet. In addition, construction of a new building to house the communications centre in Dublin Castle was completed.
New stations are in course of erection at Bunbeg, Multyfarnham, Newport (County Mayo), Raphoe, Rosmuc and Skibbereen and contracts were placed recently for the erection of new stations at Ballinahowan, Ballynacargy, Clonroche, Corofin, Kiltullagh, Lecarrow (Knockcroghery) and Rosslare Strand. Working drawings and a bill of quantities are being prepared for a new district headquarters in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, and it is expected that a contract will be placed in the near future. Working drawings and a bill of quantities are also being prepared for new divisional headquarters in Limerick and it is hoped to place a contract within a few months. There will be no avoidable delay in this or any other scheme and unofficial publicity campaigns, apart from their essential unseemliness, cannot produce any more speed. Sketch plans have been approved for new district headquarters in Castlerea, Granard, Kanturk, Killaloe and Newcastlewest and for a new station in Castleblayney. The Office of Public Works are now proceeding with the necessary arrangements for the preparation of working drawings and bills of quantities and it is hoped to place contracts later in the year.
The planning of a new headquarters in the Castle for the Dublin metropolitan area and a new technical bureau in the depot is proceeding. Major improvement schemes have been completed at Coolock and Howth Garda Stations. Schemes are being carried out to Store Street Garda Station and to the Garda stations in Sligo, Longford, Blanchardstown and Recess. Contracts have been placed for major improvement schemes to Enniskerry and Naas Garda Stations and schemes have been approved for Finglas, Mountjoy and Whitehall Garda Stations in Dublin and for the Garda Stations in Mullingar, Lusk, Cabinteely, Ballyconnell and MacCurtain Street in Cork.
The Garda Commissioner has furnished a list of about 150 Garda stations in need of replacement and 250 in need of major improvement and the Minister for Finance has approved of an allocation of £2.5 million over the next five years to finance this programme. Even in these days, when millions are casually referred to, this is a large sum of money and is the real earnest of the Government's intentions in this area.
Law reform is an aspect of my Department's work which is of special concern to me, and particularly so in the field of family law where there are many matters requiring urgent attention.
Because of my concern in this area I have, in consultation with the Attorney General, recently established an informal Committee for Law Reform, consisting of myself, as Minister for Justice, the Attorney General, Mr. Justice Brian Walsh of the Supreme Court and an Assistant Secretary of my Department. The purpose of the committee is to examine areas in which law reform—both on the criminal and civil side—is urgently needed and to establish working parties or groups to examine particular aspects of the law, concentrating at the outset on matters that are of a social as well as a legal nature. Each working group will, either at the end of their deliberations or from time to time, make recommendations to me as Minister for Justice.
The various working parties will consist of members of the Judiciary, of both branches of the legal profession, of persons engaged in social and charitable activities, of representatives of bodies active and knowledgeable in the particular field, as well as of officers of Government Departments involved in the problems being examined. This is an experimental approach and I shall be watching it with the advice and assistance of the Attorney General. Should it prove successful, it can be continued and one could foresee it developing into a full-blown Law Commission.
I attach great importance to this law reform programme and the implementation of it will proceed with all possible speed, subject to the limitation that the expert persons needed to translate proposals into legislation are thinner on the ground than I would like and this perhaps is the first problem to be overcome.
At this stage I would like to refer to the question of legal aid. As Deputies will be aware, we have had since 1965 a statutory scheme of legal aid in criminal matters and for some years past legal aid has also been given in habeas corpus cases under an informal arrangement between the Attorney General and the Minister for Finance, where the High Court or the Supreme Court recommends the grant of legal aid. In the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1973, I took the opportunity of extending the statutory scheme in two important respects— firstly, to make legal aid available for the hearing in the court of sentence where the accused has been sent forward for sentence—and for any subsequent appeal against sentence—and, secondly, to make legal aid available for all preliminary examinations in the District Court. Previously legal aid for preliminary examinations was restricted to cases of murder. Legal aid in civil as well as criminal matters is nowadays universally regarded as a fundamental human right and I have always felt that civil legal aid must come here sooner or later.
We are probably the only member of the Common Market which does not provide legal aid in civil matters and, indeed, our membership of the Community imposes obligations on us to introduce a measure of civil legal aid in certain areas. This is a question to which I have given much thought and I have decided, as I announced recently, to set up an informal committee to advise me on the introduction of a system of civil legal aid. The committee will consist of representatives of both branches of the legal profession, a representative of FLAC, officers of interested Government Departments and the chairman will, I hope, be a judge. The precise terms of reference and the membership of the committee are at present being settled but I expect to have the committee established and working very shortly.
This is an opportune moment to pay tribute to FLAC, the voluntary organisation of law students who, with some professional assistance, have been operating in recent years a legal aid and advice service. These students deserve the highest praise for the very valuable work which they are doing in an area of social need. As I stated in the opening part of this speech, a grant of £5,000 per annum to FLAC is now proposed as an earnest of the Government's recognition of their work.
Recent legislation includes the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1973, the Charities Act, 1973, the Auctioneers and House Agents Act, 1973, the Genocide Act, 1973, and the Courts Act, 1973, and I hope to be introducing several other Bills in the very near future.
The Committee on Court Practice and Procedure continues with its most valuable work, and I take the opportunity to thank its members. They could be forgiven for thinking that the lack of action in regard to so many of their reports denotes a certain ingratitude.
Reports of the committee not yet implemented deal with jury service, the criminal jurisdiction of the High Court, appeals from conviction on indictment, proof of previous convictions, the interest rate on judgement debts, the jurisdiction and practice of the Supreme Court, the organisation of the courts, the liability of barristers and solicitors for professional negligence, the "fines-on-the-spot" system, court fees and the execution of money judgments, orders and decrees. The matters dealt with in these reports are being examined and I hope to introduce amending legislation, where necessary, in due course.
I extended the terms of reference of the committee to include such matters, including matters of substantive law, as the Minister for Justice might from time to time request the committee to examine and I asked them at their early convenience to examine and make recommendations on the substantive law as to the desertion of wives and children, the attachment of wages and the desirability of establishing special family tribunals. They were also asked to examine at the same time the legal procedure in regard to maintenance of spouses and children, affiliation, declarations of legitimacy and guardianship and custody of children. I am glad to say that the committee have completed their investigations and, as I said at the recent AIM Seminar, I expect to have their recommendations in the very near future. After publication I will be available to interested persons and organisations for discussions on the report. Drafting of amending legislation will then commence as a matter of urgency.
Two separate reports dealing with different subjects have been presented by the Landlord and Tenant Commission. The first report deals with the renewal of occupational tenancies under the 1931 Landlord and Tenant Act. The commission's second report deals with extensions of the rights of renewal and of outright purchase given by the Landlord and Tenant Acts of 1958 and 1967 to what may best be described as ground rent tenants. The second report covered inter alia the renewal of the tenancies of sports clubs in certain circumstances. Certain of the recommendations in the commission's second report, including those dealing with the grant of a new type of lease to sports clubs, have already been implemented, with some modifications, in the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act, 1971. A comprehensive Landlord and Tenant Bill has been drafted on the basis of the two reports of the commission that I have mentioned. I hope shortly to be in a position to submit this Bill to the Government for approval with a view to its introduction.
In recent months I have had discussions with representatives of tenants in Cappoquin, County Waterford. I have also had representations from tenants in Marino Crescent, Clontarf, Dublin. Both the Cappoquin tenants and the Marino tenants feel that there are anomalies in the law which adversely affect their interests. I advised these tenants to put their cases before the Landlord and Tenant Commission and I understand that the commission are dealing with both cases. When I have the commission's recommendations I will be in a position to consider the question of changes in the law.
Deputies will have noticed that I included in the Supplementary Estimates I mentioned earlier, one for the payment of compensation under a scheme of compensation for personal injuries criminally inflicted. This is the scheme to which I have referred, in reply to Dáil questions, a number of times in this House with particular reference to the victims of the Dublin bomb outrages of December, 1972, and January, 1973.
The Government have now approved of a detailed scheme of compensation. Briefly, compensation will be payable by a tribunal for personal injuries received in the course of crimes of violence. The injuries must merit an award of at least £50 and must have been sustained since 1st October, 1972. Compensation will be on the basis of common law damages. I am now in the process of setting up the tribunal and its organisation to administer the scheme and when I have done this— which should take no longer than a week or two—claimants will be in a position to get in touch with the tribunal itself. I may add that the tribunal will be entirely independent in determining claims. I recently caused copies of the scheme to be laid before the House.
Entry into the EEC has affected my Department in a number of respects, principally in relation to the Communities' Court of Justice and the treaty provisions regarding right of establishment and approximation of laws.
The Council of the European Communities has issued a considerable number of directives and regulations to implement the treaty provisions regarding free movement of persons and services. One of the effects of these directives and regulations is to require member states to liberalise their regimes of entry and residence in respect of nationals of other member states availing themselves of the right of establishment, right to supply services and right to free movement of workers. The European Communities (Aliens) Regulations, 1972, accordingly confer rights of entry and residence on certain categories of persons who are nationals of member states of the Communities. These regulations take account of the special transitional provision in regard to free movement of workers that has been made in favour of this country in the Treaty of Accession to the Communities.
The right of establishment and the right to supply services has already been extended to some occupations in respect of which I am the appropriate Minister. As a result, Irish nationals or companies who wish to engage in the sale of intoxicating liquor, to act as auctioneers and house agents or to deal in arms, ammunitions and explosives can establish themselves in these occupations or supply the services in question in any state in the Community on the same basis as nationals or firms of the host member state. Conversely, nationals and companies from other member states can establish themselves here, or supply relevant services here, on the same basis as Irish nationals and Irish firms—in other words, they must comply with Irish law in all respects if they want to engage in those occupations here.
As far as this country is concerned, no change is needed in our existing legislation governing these occupations because our law does not discriminate against non-nationals. Similar provisions have been applied to pawnbrokers and moneylenders by virtue of a directive on freedom of establishment for banks and other financial institutions made by the Council on 28th June, 1973, but member states have been given until the end of 1974 to apply the provisions in the case of these two occupations.
A draft directive on the freedom of lawyers of member states to provide certain services in other member states is at present being studied by a working group established by the EEC Council. The proposed directive would permit lawyers of any member state to provide legal advice and also to engage in advocacy before the courts in other member states on a temporary basis in pursuance of a professional engagement. Under the draft directive, member states would be required to remove any restrictions based on nationality which would hinder this freedom to provide the legal services concerned. There is continuous consultation with both branches of the legal profession on the draft so that account can be taken of their views in deciding the line to be taken in the working group discussions.
As a result of our entry into the EEC, there will be an important new body of law in the financial, industrial and commercial fields to be dealt with by our courts. The newly-established relationship between our courts and the Court of Justice of the European Communities is of particular interest to my Department. New procedures are required in this context.
In December, 1972, two sets of regulations were made under the European Communities Act, 1972, so as to link up our judicial system with the European Court. These regulations related, respectively, to rules of court and enforcement of community judgments. The European Court (Rules of Court) Regulations, 1972, provided a basis for any new court procedures made necessary by this country's membership of the European Communities. The second set of regulations—The European Communities (Enforcement of Community Judgment) Regulations, 1972 — were necessitated by the treaty provisions whereby judgments of the European Court and certain decisions of Community institutions are enforceable in the member state concerned under the rules of civil procedure; these regulations provide for enforcement of "community judgments" under the procedure here for enforcement of civil judgments of the Irish courts.
The European Communities (Judicial Notice and Documentary Evidence) Regulations, 1972, which were also made under the European Communities Act, provide that judicial notice shall be taken of the treaties governing the European Communities, of the Official Journal of the Communities, and of decisions of, or expressions of opinion by, the European Court of Justice; these regulations also provide for the proof in evidence of the treaties and of certain Community acts, judgments and documents.
The treaties confer on the European Court jurisdiction to give rulings concerning the interpretation of the treaties, the validity and interpretation of acts of institutions of the Communities, and the interpretation of the statutes of certain Community bodies. National courts may refer questions of this kind to the European Court and the making of rules of court in connection with such referrals is under consideration by the Courts' Rules Committees.
I should mention, in this general context, that the European Court, represented by its President and five judges, with an Advocate-General and the Registrar of the Court, paid an official visit to this country in November, 1972. There have also been a number of visits by judges of our courts to the Court in Luxembourg.
The Community institutions and the member states are continuing with the work of harmonising their legal provisions which have a direct bearing on the establishment and functioning of the Common Market. To this end a number of Conventions have been prepared or are being prepared under the auspices of the EEC. My Department is directly concerned with three particularly important Conventions. These are the EEC Conventions on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Civil and Commercial Judgments, on Bankruptcy, and on Private International Law. The first-named Convention, which applies to maintenance orders as well as other civil judgments, came into operation, as between the six original member states, on 1st February, 1973.
In signing the Treaty of Accession the new member states undertook to accede to this Convention, subject to any necessary adjustments to be negotiated. These negotiations are now proceeding. It appears unlikely that the Convention will come into force for this country for some considerable time. Meanwhile, as the House is aware, negotiations are in progress with Britain with a view to working out a suitable interim arrangement for the reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders. I hope that the position will be reached where I can introduce legislation to give effect to the arrangement on our side during the next session. Assuming that the legislation is enacted before the Summer recess, the agreement can be signed and implemented shortly afterwards.
The draft Convention on Bankruptcy is the outcome of approximately seven years' work by eminent jurists from the six original member states. This draft is now being considered by delegates from member states of the enlarged Community, including representatives from my Department, meeting periodically in Brussels. The report of our own Bankruptcy Law Committee has recently been published and proposals for the amendment and codification of our existing bankruptcy provisions are contained in the draft Bankruptcy Bill and the draft Bankruptcy rules which are appended to that report. The relationship between the draft convention and the recommendations of the Bankruptcy Law Committee is being examined Departmentally.
A private international law convention is also being prepared under the auspices of the Commission of the European Communities. This convention will deal with the law applicable to contractual and non-contractual obligations and the law applicable to corporeal and incorporeal property. A preliminary draft of the convention is at present being considered by a committee of experts consisting of delegates from the various member states.
I was aware when I took office of the need for some changes in the adoption laws. I have had extensive discussions with persons knowledgeable in the field, the societies, social workers, the board itself. As a result, I am now in a position to put proposals to the Government. I hope to have amending legislation introduced during this session. I confess I had hoped to be further advanced at this stage but the discussions took longer than I anticipated. I am grateful to all who had discussions with me.
The Adoption Board made 1,402 adoption orders in 1973, 111 more than in 1972. The proportion of children placed by adoption societies was 84 per cent compared with 83 per cent in 1972. Seven hundred and fifteen of the orders made in 1973 were in respect of boys and 687 were in respect of girls. The board continues to hold sittings outside Dublin so as to facilitate prospective adopters. Forty-eight of the total of 94 meetings held during the year were held in various centres outside Dublin.
There has been some increase in recent years in the number of aliens registered as being resident here for three months or more. The number so registered on 31st December, 1972, was 6,118, as against 6,088 on 31st December, 1971. These are the latest figures available. Roughly 226,000 temporary visitors came here in 1973 from places other than the North of Ireland and Great Britain, as compared with 211,000 such visitors in 1972. This is an increase of 7 per cent. The figures do not include British born subjects who are exempt from control on a reciprocal basis.
In 1973, 98 persons were naturalised as compared with 89 in the previous year. This brings to 3,115 the total number of all persons naturalised since 1935, when provision for naturalisation was made.
In 1973 the Film Censor examined 865 films with a total footage of 3,502,868. The number of films examined by the censor in 1972 was 791 and the footage examined in that year was 2,775,852. Of the total of 865 films which the censor examined in 1973, 650 were passed without cuts, 195 were passed with cuts and 20 were rejected.
The Censor issued 247 limited certificates. The Censorship of Films Appeal Board considered appeals in respect of 13 films. Six of the appeals were rejected. One film was allowed for general viewing with cuts, four for limited viewing without cuts and two for limited viewing with cuts.
Complaints have been made to me from time to time that persons under age are admitted to films issued with a limited certificate. While I have no reason to doubt that in general exhibitors of films do their best to comply with the conditions of the certificate, I would urge exhibitors to take all possible steps to ensure that the conditions imposed by the Film Censor are met. I recognise that there are difficulties in enforcing any law based on an age differential. Nevertheless, I have brought these complaints to the attention of the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, with a view to ensuring that persons under the age specified in a certificate granted by the Film Censor are not admitted to these films.
My attention has been drawn to the increasing amount of unsolicited pornographic material received in the post from abroad and I would like to take this opportunity of warning parents to check the post coming to their homes. In addition, complaints have been made to me about the quantity of paperback pornography available and I am considering possible measures to deal with this undesirable development. I share the concern expressed by those parents and organisations who have contacted me on the subject. I particularly deplore the fact that some Irish publications consistently carry material quite obviously intended to provide sexual titillation even if so far they have avoided penalisation by the law.
The Censorship of Publications Board examined 251 books and eight periodicals in 1973. Four books were examined as a result of formal complaints from members of the public and 247 books were referred to the board by officers of Customs and Excise. The board made 219 prohibition orders in respect of books and five in respect of periodicals.
Appeals for revocation of prohibition orders were examined by the Censorship of Publications Appeal Board in respect of two books and two periodicals. These appeals were successful.
Under section 2 of the Censorship of Publications Act, 1967, a prohibition order imposed on the ground that a book is indecent or obscene ceases to have effect after 12 years. By virtue of this provision 393 prohibition orders in respect of books ceased to have effect on 31st December, 1973.
In the Public Record Office the amount of material being transferred continued to grow. The main intake of documents in the office consists of the transfer of records from the principal and district probate registries and from the courts. During the period under review a large quantity of legal papers was received from solicitors and others.
When I took office the outstanding feature on my political or departmental horizon was the amount being written about the prisons in a critical way and the considerable unrest that appeared to be inside the prisons themselves. Much of what was being written was highly critical and certainly suggested to the public that conditions in our prisons, principally Mountjoy and Portlaoise, were extremely bad and that our prisoners were being treated in a degrading and inhuman way.
I now want to put the record straight.
Although I was fully briefed by my officials on every aspect of our prison system and on the plans for improvements and developments then existing, I decided to refrain from public comment until I had seen for myself the conditions obtaining in every prison and place of detention. I, therefore, went on a tour of inspection as soon as time permitted. During the summer months last year I visited each institution under my control. I inspected accommodation, sampled the food, looked at sanitary, recreational and educational facilities, spoke to the staff and spoke privately to a number of offenders in custody. I was satisfied that, as a result, I had acquired some insight into and a good deal of knowledge of our prison regimes.
The facts that I discovered were far from depressing. I found that our prisoners were well fed, well clothed and well housed. I found that the prison buildings were old but within the limitations of their age were in good condition and the physical accommodation available for the prisoners was clean, bright, dry and reasonably comfortable. In addition, I found that there were open institutions for young offenders and one such institution for adult offenders. None of these institutions could be termed prisons in the normal meaning of that word.
I could not co-relate what I had seen with what I was reading in the media and I decided that it was necessary that representatives from the media should see our prisons. Accordingly, I arranged for a party of journalists to visit all the prisons and places of detention for which I am responsible. I know that some journalists were disappointed that they were not included in the group that visited the prisons, but the party had to be kept to a reasonable size or it would not have been possible to have the visit at all and it was this consideration that caused me to limit the journalists to representatives from the four groups publishing daily papers, a representative from RTE and one from the Garda Review, the latter being a specialist journal with a specific interest in this field. I think that as a result of this visit the public now have a more balanced idea of what our prisons are like and the regime that is maintained within them and I think are satisfied too that they are not the degrading and inhuman places as alleged.
This is not to say that I was satisfied with everything I saw. I found that in two areas principally there was room for improvements and these were in the field of education and work in the adult prisons. Improvements in these two aspects, however, are inextricably tied up with the physical accommodation available.
I propose to deal now with the plans which are in hand for redeveloping and re-constructing some of our prisons.
I was asked, in a parliamentary question by Deputy Noel Lemass in November last to state what plans existed for prison developments when I took office. I am not quite sure whether the object was to get on the record of the House what the position was at the change of Government or whether there was, additionally, some kind of implication that I had been seeking to claim credit for what my predecessor had done. I take this opportunity to recall to the House that I had already clearly placed on the records of this House—as well as saying it elsewhere—that I was glad to be able to say that a considerable amount of development work had been done and was being done when I took office. My concern is to see that the progress continues and that further improvements are made as soon as possible.
I will deal with our other custodial centres in a moment but first I want to outline the plans for development and improvements to both Mountjoy and Portlaoise.
The problems that had to be faced with regard to Mountjoy stemmed mainly from the limitations imposed by the lack of space for development, from the age of the building itself and from the fact that it is accommodating a greater number of prisoners than we would wish. As can be appreciated, with a "chock-a-block" prison it is difficult to begin a rebuilding programme and a fundamental decision had, therefore, to be taken on whether it would be possible at all to modernise the place or whether a new prison should be provided and Mountjoy closed altogether. These matters were examined in great detail and when all the factors were weighed and assessed it was decided to take the former course. A feasibility-and-cost study was made of the most effective way of modernising Mountjoy and plans have been drawn up and are now being further refined. The plans will be implemented in stages with one wing at a time being vacated and it will follow a course along the following lines.
Phase I entails the building of a new corrective training unit and this is now nearing completion, near the site of Mountjoy Prison. It will accommodate about 100 selected adult male prisoners in modern and comfortable surroundings. Those detained there will have liberal living conditions and it could be said that the unit will not be a prison in the conventional sense. It will function rather as an educational and training establishment in which the courses and programmes will be intensive and the emphasis will be on rehabilitation and re-socialisation.
Phase II, which entails the modernisation of the existing wings of Mountjoy, will begin when the corrective training unit is ready for occupation, which will be about the middle of this year. The overall modernisation programme includes re-roofing, the provision of new reception and visiting areas, improved sanitary and washing facilities, the reconstruction of the administrative block and the provision of new facilities for work, recreation and education. The whole programme will take about 5 years to complete and is expected to cost in the region of £2 million at present prices.
New officers' quarters will be built outside the walls of the prison in the garden of the Governor's house. Contract documents for this building are ready and it is hoped to invite tenders shortly. The work is expected to take about 18 months to complete. When this building is completed the existing officer quarters will be demolished and a new building for inmates who are ill will be erected on the site.
Apart from these major developments, other improvement works are proposed for the Mountjoy complex, such as the replacement of the fire mains and domestic water supply, the provision of a new reservoir, plant house and ESB sub-station and wall building and repairs. The objective is to have these particular works completed by about the end of this year. The Portlaoise prison compound also suffers, to much the same extent as Mountjoy, from lack of space. Fortunately, however, the Department owns the farm adjoining the prison and it is proposed to utilise some of this land for building purposes and for the provision of additional amenities. The most important development to the existing prison compound itself will be the demolition of the old county jail buildings which are used mainly as store rooms at present. This cannot be done until a new stores building is provided and detailed plans for the building are already drawn up and it is hoped to place a contract within the next few months. The new stores will also be located in the farm area close to the exit gates of the existing compound. The stores will take six months to complete.
The demolition of the old county jail buildings will provide much needed space in the prison compound to enable new service buildings for work, education, indoor recreation, et cetera, to be provided.
A new self-contained unit, which will provide maximum security conditions for about 50 prisoners will also be built and when that is done it will be possible to begin work on the existing cell block, which needs to be modernised. Plans for this modernisation include the flooring of each level of the block, the provision of new sanitary facilities, recreational areas, hobby rooms, et cetera. A new officers' quarters will also be provided outside the perimeter walls.
I will deal briefly now with the other new developments in the adult prisons.
Arbour Hill, the former military detention barracks, is being converted to a civil prison and work has already started on the building of the necessary service and ancillary facilities. The contractors have given a completion date of August, 1974. The prison will accommodate about 100 adult males. This will provide further relief to Mountjoy. Cork Prison, which was also acquired from the military authorities, is also being modernised and adapted and this, when completed, will provide accommodation for about 100 offenders. Cork and Limerick are now operating as local prisons catering for those from the southern countries serving sentences of two years and less. Mountjoy is accommodating prisoners from other parts of the country and those serving over two years.
Plans for the provision of a new women's prison to replace the existing prisons in Mountjoy and Limerick are under consideration.
It might be appropriate at this stage to deal briefly with the medical services available in Mountjoy as they have been the subject of some considerable comments.
Medical services are provided by a visiting general practitioner, who examines all prisoners on committal or as soon as possible thereafter and calls every day to the prison to see any prisoner who requires treatment. Those requiring specialist treatment are referred to an outside consultant.
A section of Mountjoy—the C wing —is designated as a hospital area and prisoners with minor medical conditions are housed there. A fully equipped dental surgery is maintained and the service is provided by a visiting dental surgeon. Offenders requiring specialised medical attention or surgery are referred to outside hospitals.
A visiting psychiatrist holds a clinic once a week by arrangement with the Eastern Health Board and psychiatric treatment is also provided, on an outpatient basis, at the Usher's Island clinic, which is also under the health board auspices. Where residential psychiatric care is necessary, as in the case of prisoners with more serious mental illnesses, the prisoners are transferred to the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, which is run by the Eastern Health Board, or to district mental hospitals as appropriate.
I would like to make it clear that there is no suggestion that C Wing is or is intended to serve as a hospital in the normal sense of that term. Likewise, there is no suggestion that the prison is self-contained and self-sufficient in the matter of the provision of psychiatric care. When I took office I found that a deliberate policy decision had been taken by my predecessor—and I will say straight away that on the information available to me, it was the right decision— that there could be no question of our attempting to duplicate, within the prison service, the highly specialised and very expensive medical and psychiatric services that are being provided by hospitals and clinics for the general public. Even if there were no limit to available finances, there is —and not only in this country but generally—a shortage of the highly trained personnel needed to provide such services. It would be wasteful, to the point of absurdity, to attempt to provide a comprehensive psychiatric service within the prison walls and, for this reason, the policy is that prison inmates who need this kind of service are sent out for it. It is, therefore, quite misleading for people to refer to the number of hours per week spent by specialists within the prison.
Consultations are at present taking place between representatives of my Department, the prison medical officers and the psychiatric services division of the Eastern Health Board to ascertain what changes might be needed. In addition, an informal committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Henchy is investigating the psychiatric and related areas and as there are representatives of my Department on this committee together with members from the Eastern Health Board proper liaison will be maintained.
Before going on to deal with the two areas to which I referred as needing improvement, that is, work and education, and discussing prison policy generally, I think it appropriate to describe at this stage the centres for juveniles and the open centres including Shelton Abbey, the open centre for adults.
St. Patrick's Institution, the closed detention centre in Dublin catering for juvenile offenders in the 16-21 age group, has now a well developed educational unit. Under an arrangement made with the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee, the unit is staffed by teachers from Scoil Eanna in Cabra, who are currently providing the services of one teacher full-time and 13 teachers on a part-time basis. In addition, two teachers from the College of Technology, Bolton Street, make their services available for late evening classes. There are remedial classes and classes in academic and manual subjects for the more advanced. Further space is currently being provided for engineering subjects through the conversion of the ground floor of an existing building and work will be completed on this shortly.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee and the principal of Scoil Eanna and his staff for the excellent service they are giving in St. Patrick's.
The open centres at Shanganagh and Loughan House, Blacklion, County Cavan, between them cater for almost 100 youths. This means that more than one-third of all youths sentenced to detention may serve their sentences in an open environment under very liberal conditions. The numbers there vary from time to time but it is my policy to use the facilities to the maximum extent possible. Educational and recreational facilities are being extended in these centres and a new gymnasium and instructional classrooms will be opened in Shanganagh later this year.
I am glad to say that a site is being acquired in the Dublin area on which it is hoped to build a new detention centre for juveniles, which will afford considerable relief to St. Patrick's and will enable some structural modernisation to be implemented there. The drawing of plans for this new centre will commence as soon as the legal formalities connected with the purchase of the site have been completed. A new detention centre for juveniles is also being planned for Cork. A six-acre site opposite the existing Cork Prison has been acquired for this purpose.
Shelton Abbey, which was formerly a Department of Lands forestry training school, has been functioning as an open prison for male adults since February, 1972. The number detained there over the months since then has varied up to 20. The selection of prisoners for Shelton is done very carefully and only those convicted of less serious offences and those serving fairly short sentences are transferred there. Work there up to the present has been confined to clearing and improving the grounds and adapting and improving the building but plans for the future include the provision of facilities for education and for a more purposeful work programme. Even though we have brought this institution into use, on a limited basis, before all the planned facilities could be made available there, the results so far indicate that this has been a most successful venture and it is hoped to be able to increase the population there gradually.
From what I have said about existing conditions and the major developments that are taking place in our larger prisons, it will be apparent that the objective is to ensure not only that all offenders can serve their sentence in reasonable conditions but that those who are willing to co-operate will be given the maximum possible aid and encouragement to turn over a new leaf.
It is frequently alleged that our prison system is based on the principle of punishment for wrong done, whereas—so the argument goes— prisons should exist only to rehabilitate offenders.
As to that, the first point I would make is that no person, no institution and no system can rehabilitate anybody. In human terms, at all events, the only person who can rehabilitate a person who needs rehabilitation is himself. All a prison system can do—and this it should certainly strive to do— is to create conditions in which, as I have said earlier, he is given the maximum possible aid and encouragement.
However, rehabilitation is not and cannot be the only consideration. If it were, then, to put it plainly, quite a number of the most hardened criminals in prisons all over the world should be released because the unquestionable fact is that many of them offer no prospect whatsoever of being rehabilitated. Yet, as we all know, they cannot be released and the community would not stand for their being released. To say this is very far from saying that punishment, in the sense of retribution, is, or must be, a factor in imprisonment.
Certainly, in the practical realities of prison life, there is no question of anybody being given punishment for punishment's sake. The concept of retribution does not enter into it even in the slightest degree. What does and must enter, though, as well as the concept of rehabilitation, is the concept of the protection of society, both in the direct sense of keeping a potentially dangerous prisoner locked up and, much more important, in the indirect sense of a deterrent to others. There are, of course, people who will argue that imprisonment is not a deterrent to others and is no protection to society. Nevertheless, those who commit serious crimes, particularly crimes of violence must expect that they will have to serve substantial terms of imprisonment. I think society would be very apprehensive, indeed, if such an expectation were to be removed.
Yet, as I have already said, rehabilitation is an aim and a major one. But it is not something which a prison administration can achieve by waving a magic wand. Offenders committed to custody are, in general, people who have failed to conform to the standards of behaviour society finds acceptable. All the normal forces and influences which operate for the good of the individual have failed in their case. Parents have failed, schools have failed, welfare organisations have failed and, in many cases, psychologists and psychiatrists have failed. In the light of all of this and, bearing in mind that over 80 per cent spend six months or less in custody when remission is taken into account, is it reasonable to expect a prison system to have spectacular success— or is it fair to indict the system if it, too, fails?
Whatever success is possible in this area can only be achieved where the offender himself makes a conscious effort to rehabilitate himself and seeks help and support. I accept that facilities and services for rehabilitation, perhaps more than any other facet of our prison system, need to be further developed so that every prisoner who is serious about reform is not only helped but helped to the maximum extent.
There are two areas mainly where development and improvements are necessary and these are education and work within the prisons. Only about 1 per cent of prisoners could be described as well educated and very many are either illiterate or read and write imperfectly. Work within the prisons has tended to be "occupational" in character, that is to say, its principal purposes have been to keep the prisoners occupied during working hours and to have them service and maintain the prison at the same time.
Many prisoners are people who have drifted in and out of unskilled occupations or have been unemployed for long periods. It is not easy to do much about this in the short space of time the majority of offenders spend in custody but I hope that some improvements can be made even in relation to them. The area where I would see the best prospect for improvement, however, is in relation to the longer term offenders, those serving 12 months and over, who are, perhaps, the category that needs it most.
I am appointing a co-ordinator of education and a co-ordinator of employment for the Prison Service to add further momentum to the development and expansion of education and "training-orientated" employment in the prisons and recruitment of these persons should take place shortly. I would here emphasise again, what I mentioned briefly earlier, that already we have been getting great and much-valued assistance from the relevant vocational bodies and further assistance is promised in the near future as soon as facilities are available. There is no question of recruiting teachers where the services of teachers are made available to us by the vocational education committees. It is these specialists who have been devising and who will continue to devise educational and other related courses and programmes. My Department's role will be one of co-ordinating these services and initiating ideas for new programmes or courses.
I have said already that the new corrective training unit later this year will provide very modern facilities for about 100 selected offenders but side by side with this, the appropriate services will be developed in our existing prisons as well. My Department has already sought the help of the industrial training authority, AnCO, with a view to the establishment within the prisons of AnCO-recognised industrial re-training courses for adult offenders. We are also investigating whether apprenticeship and other courses for juveniles in St. Patrick's and the other juvenile centres could be set up. AnCO courses have already been used with considerable success in the past in cases where it was possible to allow conditional release to selected offenders to attend them and I intend to continue to develop this system as far as possible. Where it would not be possible to release offenders to attend such courses, those serving longer sentences or in respect of whom some risk to society might still exist, it may be possible to develop some equivalent courses in the institutions. Before I leave this topic there is one other aspect I should like to mention. In a very real sense the rehabilitation of offenders is a matter for all of us. It is a matter for the particular community in which the offender has lived and for society as a whole.
It is society and not the prison sentence that stigmatises the offender and, in this regard, trade unionists and employers alike have an important role to play in helping him to reestablish himself and resettle and begin to live a useful life again. We must, of course, recognise the limitations which an economy such as ours, which has not yet reached a full employment level, places on the employment of persons released from custody. I believe that the availability of worthwhile employment to exprisoners is a key factor in their rehabilitation but we cannot hope to achieve the success we would like until such employment is freely available.
I have already indicated in speeches elsewhere that the alternatives available to courts at the moment ought to be looked at again with a view to devising some form of penalty which would deal with the many situations where a fine is inadequate but a prison sentence is too severe. I have in mind persons being deprived of leisure, having to do compulsory social work, serving sentences at weekends et cetera. This is an area in which I intend to initiate studies during the coming year to see what changes can be effected. This will probably involve the courts and in this regard I might mention that I have indicated to the Judiciary that I would welcome visits to our prisons by those who have not already visited them.
Under the Criminal Justice Act, 1960, I have considerable power to allow prisoners conditional release or what is commonly known as parole. I can attach conditions to this release requiring the prisoner to report back at night and to report back at weekends and by virtue of this power, which is used widely, can introduce variations in the sentences as mentioned above. The decision will have to be taken as to whether the proper person to introduce the variation is the court imposing the sentence or the Minister who supervises it or some third party—some independent authority—and this is a matter of some fundamental importance.
The system of conditional releases is operating very successfully up to now and last year up to 600 conditional releases were granted. The system permits considerable flexibility to allow releases for work, interviews, compassionate family reasons et cetera, and it is effective because it is flexible.
The area of offender treatment is a complex one and one which the countries of Western Europe—and of course farther afield — have been closely examining for some years past. To an increasing extent, professional and specialist disciplines are making a growing contribution to the analysis of the many problems involved. Through our membership of the Council of Europe and the United Nations we are in regular contact with the prison administrations of other countries and at meetings and seminars officers of my Department partake in the exchange of ideas which is so important if we are to keep abreast of modern techniques and practices.
While dealing with the subject of sentencing policy I might mention that a recent resolution from the Council of Europe on the subject of the treatment of those convicted of the less serious type of offence proposed alternative measures to imprisonment. While some of these measures, such as week-end imprisonment, have not been introduced here, some of the measures, for example, fines and short-term probation periods combined with intensive supervision by a trained probation officer are part of our system. These measures as well as the suspended sentence are available to the courts in this country and there is evidence that they are being used to an increasing extent particularly since the availability of welfare officers to the courts to provide the specialised supervision of offenders has become more widespread.
The Welfare Service of my Department has been strengthened and expanded in the past 12 months and this will continue.
On 1st April, 1972, there were 24 serving officers in the service and there are now 47. Recruitment will be continued until the number reaches about 80 officers. The service is no longer confined to Dublin and we now have welfare officers available to the courts for the supervision of offenders placed on probation in the other cities and in the larger towns. The aim is to have officers available to the courts in every area. In addition, welfare officers are now attached to every prison and place of detention. There are about 1,000 offenders under supervision in the community by the Welfare Service, many of whom might otherwise be in custody if this service was not available.
This year the Government announced the allocation of additional funds for the improvement of child care services and my Department, being one of the three Departments involved in this area, was allotted £80,000 of the total amount made available. It was decided that from this money a fund should be established for the Welfare Service, the aims of which would be to assist the families, particularly the children, of offenders in custody with travelling expenses incurred in visiting close relatives in custody and to help young people on probation or those being discharged from centres of detention who may have accommodation, employment or other difficulties. It will be confined to cases of very urgent need which are not being met by other agencies in this field at present. This is a new development which I hope can be administered in a flexible manner so as to deal quickly and effectively with cases of real need. It will be operable in a few months' time.
It has been also decided to make grants available to voluntary bodies that are establishing hostels for homeless boys who come to the notice of the Welfare Service and for boys on probation.
A grant of £35,000 has been paid to a religious order who are providing such a hostel in Ballyfermot and other smaller grants will be paid to groups in Cork, Limerick and Waterford.
The total number of prison officers serving at present is approximately 620 and a further 70 officers are being recruited at present by the Civil Service Commissioners.
I have been conscious of the severe strain which has been placed on prison officers in Mountjoy and Portlaoise in the recent past. This has been caused mainly by the actions of a small minority of prisoners who have attempted to form a so-called prisoners union and have engaged in an on-going campaign of disruption inside the prisons. They have been supported and encouraged in these actions by groups outside the prisons—some of them well known for their antipathy to the State. There was also disruptive action from another group of prisoners, the purposes of which was to pursue a demand for political status.
The effect of this situation on the prison staffs was severe. Staff were frequently exposed to physical assaults and intimidation. Prolonged periods of overtime became the norm and working conditions generally deteriorated considerably. Deputies will be aware that recently I effected transfers of prisoners between prisons which has considerably eased these problems.
Most of the group which can broadly be described as high security subversive prisoners are now housed in Portlaoise. A small group of other high security prisoners are in the Curragh. This arrangement is a temporary one and when extra accommodation becomes available in the civil prisons they will be reallocated. At this point too, I would like to pay tribute to the members of the Defence Forces who have carried out duties at the Curragh which are not normally part of their duties and are necessarily distasteful to them but they have carried them out loyally and without complaint.
A start has been made in providing a comprehensive programme of training for prison officers. Five induction courses have been held since July and these have catered for a total of 64 officers who were recruited since 1st May, 1973. The induction courses which at present are of four weeks' duration, are designed to give new officers an appreciation of the purpose of the prison service and how it operates in the context of related services, such as the welfare service, the Garda Síochána and the courts. The aim is that at the end of the induction course, the newly-recruited officer will be thoroughly familiar with, and be able to carry out, his essential duties within the prison service.
The programme of training envisages that, as well as the induction courses for new recruits, suitable courses will be provided for all officers above the basic level. The aim is that all training activities within the prison service will be co-ordinated.
My hope is that in the not-too-distant future a special training centre can be provided for prison officers. In the meantime training will be expanded so as to provide the staff of the prison service with the necessary knowledge and skills and to develop the attitudes essential to the effective performance of their duties and to give them a sense of job satisfaction.
The prison staffs have carried out their duties with great loyalty and there has been far too little public recognition of the debt we owe them. I take this opportunity to thank them.
Before leaving this subject of prisons I want to state quite clearly that the responsibility for the prison service is mine and that any criticisms concerning its administration must be directed at me. This is part and parcel of the job of Minister for Justice. Any instructions or directions issued in the administration of the prison service are issued on my general authority and within the policy guidelines as laid down by me and subsequently are my responsibility. It is wrong and unfair to point a finger at or attempt to blame any particular public servant for carrying out my directions. If blame is to be attached it must be attached to me and if a finger is to be pointed it must be pointed at me. I have complete confidence in the officers of my Department engaged in the work in this difficult and sensitive area. It is mischievous and unfair to attack these efforts when what they are doing is loyally carrying out policy as approved by me.
I am conscious of the burden and responsibility which I have in this area and it is my intention to seek advice to assist me in discharging this duty. The ultimate responsibility being mine, it must also be my privilege to decide from where I seek this advice. During the past year self-appointed bodies have sought to advise me and direct me on this question of prisons and have been critical when I choose not to accept their advice or offers of help. In gathering the help I will, first of all, bring together the various funds of experience within the Department, including the prison governors and staff, the welfare service, the chaplains and medical officers and also the experience of bodies, such as the visiting committees, which have a function in relation to the prisons. I am considering the establishment of an advisory committee representative of these people. I am, indeed, conscious that prisons, imprisonment and prisoners are matters of great importance in our society requiring constant care, attention and study and it will be my intention to see that they get it.
The next area of my Department's responsibilities that I want to deal with is that relating to the courts.
We will all agree that persons who appear before our courts, whether they are there because they have civil business to transact or because they have come into conflict with the law, are entitled to have their cases dealt with expeditiously and fairly. It is, therefore, of paramount importance that our courts should have all the resources necessary to the expeditious and fair discharge of the business coming before them.
The continuous growth over the years in the volume of court business has accelerated in recent years especially, as one might expect, in Dublin. The number of cases set down for hearing in the High Court has doubled in the past four years. The overall volume of Circuit Court business has increased by 46 per cent in the past ten years; in the Dublin Circuit Court criminal trials have increased by 67 per cent and criminal appeals by 119 per cent in that period. The business in the Dublin Metropolitan District Court has increased by 70 per cent in the past ten years, the increase since 1970 being more than 30 per cent.
This sharp increase in court business, coupled with the fact that the full time of a member of the judiciary from each of the three courts concerned is taken up with sittings of the Special Criminal Court, had overtaxed the time of the judiciary, with the result that serious arrears have arisen in the High and Circuit Courts and a few sittings of the District Court had to be cancelled.
Being very concerned at this situation I arranged, as a first step to remedy it, to provide additional judges and justices. The Courts Act, 1973 provided for an increase from six to seven in the statutory number of ordinary judges of the High Court and an additional judge has now been appointed to that court. Since 1971, the Circuit Court has had 11 judges including one "temporary" judge. With the recent appointment of an additional "temporary" judge that number has now been increased to 12. The question of increasing the statutory number of ten "permanent" Circuit Court judges, including the President of the court, is at present being examined. The number of justices serving the District Court has been increased from 35 to 37, including the President of the court, by the recent appointment of two additional "temporary" justices. The question of appointing a further "temporary" justice is at present being examined.
While the appointment of extra judges is a most important contribution to improving the situation, the procedural machinery in the courts must be examined to see how it can be changed or streamlined, or both, so as to ensure the most efficient discharge of court business. I have, therefore, as indicated earlier, arranged for an urgent study to be made of some of the reports of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure which contain recommendations and suggest changes that could help considerably in improving the situation.
As I said earlier, the accelerated growth in the volume of court business in recent years has had its greatest impact in Dublin. One of the effects of this has been to create serious court accommodation problems in the one area in which I have direct responsibility for the provision of such accommodation.
Deputies will already be aware, from Press statements issued last year, of plans to erect a large complex of court buildings on a site that has been acquired at Smithfield, Dublin and, as a temporary measure, to provide, on another site in the vicinity of the Four Courts, urgently needed accommodation for the Dublin circuit court and for the Children's Court. It had been expected that by now the temporary additional accommodation would have been built and ready for occupation but unfortunately, certain difficulties arose, which, I am confident, will be resolved very shortly. I am now hopeful that this very urgently needed accommodation will be available in about a year's time. In the meantime every effort has been, and is being, made to relieve the accommodation pressures. For example, temporary prefabricated offices have been provided in Chancery Street for the district court staff; existing accommodation has been rearranged to provide more office space; accommodation beside the Four Courts has been provided on a temporary basis for use as an additional district court for "traffic" cases; the President of the district court has made a determination the effect of which is to divert more Metropolitan District Court business to Dún Laoghaire; and an additional court has been provided for the circuit court from existing accommodation in the Four Courts.
Dublin is not, of course, the only area in which there are serious court accommodation problems. Problems of an acute nature have arisen elsewhere but, because of the constraint placed upon me by reason of the fact that the problem in one or two of these areas is at present sub judice, I do not propose to go into the matter further. I hope Deputies will appreciate my position.
There is one other matter I should like to refer to before I pass on from the subject of the courts. Deputies will, of course, be aware that the business of the District Court in the provinces was disrupted last year by industrial action taken by District Court Clerks in pursuit of a claim for pay parity with their Dublin colleagues. I am glad to be able to report that a basis for the settlement of the claim has since been agreed with the staff. Briefly, the basis of the settlement is a productivity scheme, involving the reorganisation of the provincial District Court office and staffing structure, which has been cleared by the Labour Court as conforming to the terms of the Employer-Labour Conference National Agreement, 1972.
In the Land Registry, the upward trend in the volume of work of recent years has continued; the number of applications for registration increased from 52,700 in 1972 to 58,200 in 1973. This represents an increase of approximately 11 per cent over the 1972 figure. The arrears of work while still very high decreased by 12 per cent during 1973. I am aware that delays in registration are causing considerable hardship but every effort is being made to reduce them. The reorganisation of the legal/clerical structure of the Land Registry which was carried out in 1970 has increased the output by 23 per cent over the corresponding period for last year. Other proposals which are being implemented should lead to further improvement in efficiency.
However, I am still extremely concerned about the arrears in the Land Registry and in particular about arrears in the Mapping Branch. The Mapping Branch has also been reorganised recently on the same lines as the legal/clerical side with a view to providing a more efficient service. In addition, I have recently obtained sanction for an extra 12 posts in the Mapping Branch and I have arrangements for the attendance by some of the staff of the branch at special training courses. A sophisticated type of copying machine will be installed in the branch shortly which, as far as I am aware, will be the only one of its kind in use in this country. I expect that as a result the issue of copy-maps to the public will be speeded up. I am also arranging to have the accommodation at present used by the branch redesigned to provide better working conditions. I have arranged that I will be kept regularly informed about the arrears position in the registry as a whole and, in particular, in the Mapping Branch and I shall take other remedial measures if there is no appreciable reduction in the arrears in the near future. In reply to a Parliamentary Question last July I indicated that I hoped to introduce at an early date a system of payment of Land Registry fees by cash. This system will obviously facilitate most solicitors. The existing system of payment by Revenue stamps will continue to operate for those who find it more convenient. The necessary staff for the implementation of the new system have been assigned and an order has been placed for the office machinery. It is necessary to have these machines specially constructed and because of this there is some delay in the delivery date. I am informed however that it will be possible to have the new system operating at an early date.
There has also been a general increase in the volume of work arising in the Registry of Deeds. The number of deeds registered has gone up from just over 46,000 in 1972 to almost 51,300 and this upward trend is likely to continue.
As a result of representations which were made to me that the service provided for searchers in the Registry of Deeds was inadequate I had an examination carried out and the staffing cadre has been increased. This, I hope, will eliminate cause for complaints.
The Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests are a statutory body originally incorporated in 1844. Their main functions, which are now derived from the Charities Act, 1961, are of an administrative character. They have power to advise charity trustees, to institute legal proceedings and to certify cases to the Attorney General with a view to his instituting such proceedings, power to frame cy près schemes, to accept gifts for charitable purposes, and to dispense with the publication of advertisements of charitable devises and bequests.
The commissioners have a long and distinguished record of public service. The last report which the commissioners made to me is in respect of the year 1972. Cash totalling £140,630 and stocks to the nominal value of £7,600 were transferred to the commissioners during that year and at the end of the year the nominal value of investments standing in their name was some £2,806,000.
In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all bodies and commissions which are associated with my Department. It is heartening to note that so many people are prepared to devote their valuable time and expertise as well as their leisure hours to work of national importance.