Juries Bill, 1975 [Seanad]: Committee Stage.
Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."
Section 3 provides:
The expenses incurred by the Minister in the administration of this Act shall, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.
There are hundreds of thousands of people—I know this is a sweeping statement, but I cannot be accurate— who will be ineligible for jury service because they will be unable to afford it. On the Second Stage of the Bill I, as well as others, mentioned that, in rural Ireland particularly, people will have to incur expenditure in travelling to the court, that if they have to travel the night before because the bus or train service is not suitable and have to stay in a hotel or guest-house that night, all this will be a severe drain on those who are unable to afford it. I know this problem will not arise in city areas such as Dublin, but in rural parts it certainly will arise. If somebody is called from the western part of Cork or Limerick to Limerick city or Cork city for jury service, the bus fare is at least £2. If they have to be at the court at 10.30 in the morning they will have to go the evening before and stay overnight. If the case goes on for more than a day or two these people will be under considerable expense.
On Second Stage we mentioned the word "payment" for jury service. That might convey the wrong meaning, in that I would be most anxious that legitimate expenses incurred by those who would be called for jury service would be met.
There are 110,000 to 120,000 unemployed. As well as that there are in each of the health boards a large number of people, male and female, over the ages of 18 years on some form of allowance or other. All of those would be involved. Perhaps the purpose of this Bill is not being met when we say we intend to give everybody the opportunity to serve on juries if he or she is 18 and under 65. There could be anything between 300,000 and 500,000 people who might not be eligible for jury service because they could not afford it. I am sure if the finances of the nation allowed it, the Minister would be willing to accep my point of view. It is unfortunate that at present the nation cannot afford it. Some hope should be held out to these people that they are not going to be debarred or automatically excluded from jury service because they cannot meet the expenses involved.
It is not a question of anybody being debarred or rendered ineligible. It will be for each individual citizen to decide whether he wants to fulfil his obligation under this Bill. If he decides that in fulfilling this obligation he is going to impose an undue hardship on himself and on his dependants, he will then be perfectly free, like any other citizen who will be subject to hardship by having to fulfil his obligation for whatever reasons, to approach the county registrar and seek exemption.
I do not anticipate that the numbers affected will be anything like the number Deputy Collins puts forward. The number of people he mentions have to be considered in the national context, in a population of some millions of people. The percentage then is small. Again when you take the random balloting procedure, the number that will be balloted on to a panel for a particular sitting will be small, and the proportion of people within that panel who might be hardship cases, such as Deputy Collins has in mind, would again be extremely small. We have had people making the argument that jury service is not a privilege. I think it is and it is a civic duty. People have said that it may be a privilege and a duty but it is nonetheless a burden and we do not want persons to be burdened by it. That is why the county registrar is given the right to exempt them.
I have no doubt that a good case for exemption would be where hardship would result. You cannot argue on the one hand that we provide for meeting the hardship situation and, on the other hand, argue that this is an undue burden. All we can do is provide for the undue burden. I do not think that by doing that it can be said we are depriving people of their rights to appear on a jury. They still have their rights, and, if for some extraneous reason, they are unable, without hardship, to fulfil their rights, we excuse them from having to carry out that duty.
Would the Minister not agree that many more people would be eligible for jury service if it did not impose a financial burden on them?
Let us not mix up eligibility with ability to attend. They are all eligible. The financial status of the person has no bearing whatever on his eligibility. There may be some cases of the type posed by Deputy Collins where, while eligible, they will be unable for financial constraints to discharge their duty. In those odd few cases the county registrar will exempt the jurors.
Will the Minister agree that allowing that all are eligible, of all who are eligible, many more would be able to give jury service if it was not a financial burden on them?
We are speculating as to how many would be unable to serve. I anticipate very few will be unable to serve on a jury because the number of such people in the total population represents only a very small percentage, and that is further diluted by the random picking of jury panels. It would be a very rare case where a person will be unable to serve as a juror because of inability to meet travelling expenses to the county town.
Would the Minister agree that anybody in rural Ireland who is called at random for jury service will have to pay his own expenses to get to the county town? In this day and age these expenses are fairly high. Unfortunately, many people in rural Ireland are on some sort of social welfare or in receipt of allowances from health boards, particularly those in the west. Many of the people called, even if they are eligible, will be unable for financial reasons to fulfil their civic duties no matter how much they may want to.
I take the Deputy's point, but I disagree with him when he says that many people will be unable to serve on juries because it would impose financial hardship. There is no doubt that a person in rural Ireland who gets a jury summons will have to get to the county town but that will not be a novel problem for him. He has frequently to get to the county town on business of all sorts. It is closing our eyes to the realities of life in rural Ireland to suggest that all people in receipt of welfare have no means of transport. One constantly hears about the queues of cars on certain days of the week in different areas. I do not accept that people in rural Ireland who may be in receipt of State benefit of one kind or another are not in a position to organise transport for themselves, either their own transport or as they usually organise it when they have business in the county town with the county council, the county clinic or their solicitor. It is part of their normal living to be able to get to the county town. It is unreal to suggest that to come in for jury service would impose an undue hardship on them when they are doing this on a weekly or even a monthly basis.
I can assure the Minister that particularly in rural areas, there are many old cars, lovingly referred to as "bangers", which are used to bring families to Mass or to villages and towns. Some of these no doubt would make the 40 miles each way to the county town if petrol was a reasonable price. I can see the Minister's mind is made up on this. Perhaps he might consider issuing travelling vouchers similar to those issued by the Department of Social Welfare to those who are called to courts of appeal when dealing with social welfare cases. These vouchers would enable them to travel by public transport. The Minister might consider this when issuing his instructions, either ministerial or statutory instruments, to the county registrars when he is implementing this Bill. I do not want a "Yes" or "No" now because I understand what is involved.
The Minister stated there was a car in nearly every home whether the people were on social welfare or not. There are cars in many homes but it would not be available to every member of the family who is 18 years or over. If a man in that family is working he has the use of the car. A person of 18 years living in Portumna and called for jury service in Galway city would have to travel 50 miles. There is no bus service which will get him into the city in time to serve on jury duty and he has to come into the city the evening before. Unless he is provided with expenses he will be unable to serve on a jury. Expenses are even more important when a man is unemployed.
I realise that people can be exempt from jury service if they cannot afford it but I can see this being abused by people who can afford it but pretend they cannot merely to be exempt. Up to now if a person wished to be exempt from jury service he had to provide a doctor's certificate. Is that right?
It would not be a ground at the moment. One would not expect it to arise now because jurors are confined to the more prosperous section of the community.
My point is this. Who will define whether a person can afford it? I am in favour of women serving on juries but I can see very few women wanting to do this. I am worried that too many people will seek exemptions, quite apart from those who genuinely cannot afford to serve. I have never been called to serve on a jury but I know of people who have been called and they had to leave their farms at a time when they were badly needed there. Small farmers do their best to get exempted because they do not want to serve.
This may lead to a situation where juries are drawn from the affluent society because the plain people may not be able to afford to serve. I should not like to see this happen and neither would the Minister but it will happen unless there is some form of voucher system. Deputy Collins mentioned this; at least people should be entitled to free travel. In many cases they have to stay overnight. It is just not on to say that everyone over 18 years is eligible to serve on a jury when no expenses are provided even for the unemployed.
I cannot see that people with the means to serve on juries without any hardship would be able to fool a county registrar that it was a hardship on the grounds of means. The county registrar will have certain means of information to check an application on those grounds. County registrars are men of common sense and I have no doubt that they will inform themselves before they rule on an application. I do not anticipate that any undeserving people will escape their liability in that way.
I take the point made by Deputies Collins and Callanan that in the case of an unemployed person, particularly an urban unemployed person or a person who is in receipt of what is known as the small farmer's dole, it would be an undue hardship for him to attend at the county town. However, having regard to the way the jury franchise has been extended, the numbers involved at any particular sitting would be very few. It is up to them to make the move to the county registrar. The latter will exercise his common sense and he will have access to information —I am sure if he required information from people connected with my Department he would be assisted—and the registrar would be able to inform himself of the bona fides of an application. I am satisfied that there would not be an injustice.
It would be regrettable that because of his financial position a citizen might have to seek exemption. However, to try to cover every eventuality, to ensure that every citizen would be urged towards the jury room and that nobody would find himself unable to serve, would envisage building a large administrative structure. The question of vouchers was mentioned. It is an attractive idea but when one thinks about it one can see the snags. First, should it be on a means test basis? Should it relate to the type of assistance to the person concerned, whether it be unemployment benefit, unemployment assistance or a disabled person's allowance. There is a fair amount of bureaucracy immediately——
If the Minister is considering the matter, I would ask him not to have a means test basis. Have vouchers available for all on application because the buses on the roads are empty.
The simple voucher may not be enough to meet the needs of the person in the category mentioned. He might need more than just a voucher for transport. The position is bedevilled with problems. I think the best solution is to leave it to the common sense of the county registrar to exempt the man who would be genuinely prejudiced by a summons to serve on a jury. If a person is so genuinely prejudiced that he wants to get off, let him make the choice. In spite of the fact that the person may find it a hardship, if he wants to discharge his duty by serving fair play to him, but if he does not want to do this let him be exempt.
The only way a person can be granted exemption is on production of a medical certificate.
That is the position at the moment but the Bill will change that.
I know quite a number of people get exemption by producing a doctor's certificate. There is now the question of the person not being able to afford to serve and the county registrar will decide. Investigating whether a man can afford to serve will be a long job. I am convinced this is wide open. How will the investigation be carried out quickly?
The Minister referred to the matter of vouchers. It would help in one way in that the person called to serve on a jury could leave the family car at home. As a result, the family would not suffer such great hardship. I am anxious to know how it can be decided quickly who will be exempt on the grounds of not being able to afford to serve.
I note what the Deputy has said about releasing the car for the rest of the family. At that stage it is a question of the convenience of the community as against the family and I do not know if the family would be entitled to be convenienced at the expense of the community. Certainly there is room for argument here.
What happens if the man's son is working and needs the car?
That problem would arise if the mother had to go to the dentist. These problems have to be met and solved; they are part of everyday life. The Deputy raised the question of who would investigate the matter quickly. Under the regime proposed in the Bill the jury summons would be served four or six weeks before the jury man is wanted and there would be that interval of time available for investigation. The person will apply for exemption and he will have to state his grounds. A phone call or a letter from the county registrar to the person seeking exemption, or to some other source where the registrar might expect information to assist him in making a decision, could be done within a matter of days.
I do not anticipate that county registrars will be snowed under by applications for exemption. Because of the widening of the franchise new people will be coming in and they will be prepared to carry out this new duty. At the moment because it has been falling more frequently on a small class of citizens there was a temptation to seek exemption but I think this will be largely removed. As in all cases where a new procedure is prescribed, we will have to wait and see what teething troubles arise but I do not anticipate any in that direction.
The Minister referred to a person's civic duty to serve on a jury. I would cite the case of a man of modest means, or even someone on social welfare. This person makes a big effort to attend, perhaps hitching a ride early in the morning, and he finds himself on a panel. If that case continues for a few days or even a few weeks in the middle of the trial that man through no fault of his own might become physically unfit to be present——
In a situation like that the Deputy can be assured the man would be provided with transport.
The Minister said it was a privilege for young people to be qualified for jury service. What good is that if they cannot enjoy it? He said that people did not find any difficulty in going to towns from the country to do their business. He knows that jury trials can go on for as long as three weeks in the country and jurors would have to be in town at 10.15 every morning. That situation would be intolerable and impossible for a person on social welfare benefits. To travel from Skibbereen to Cork would cost him £2.50 each day and meals would cost him another £2. That could go on for five days each week.
With respect, a jury trial in a circuit court in rural Ireland that would last for three weeks would be extremely rare.
At a criminal sitting very often it lasts two weeks.
No. It happens three times a year.
If such a case arises, will the county registrar have discretion?
If there was a likelihood that a person of limited means would be empanelled in a trial lasting three weeks, I have no doubt that rather than have the jury discharged and the necessity for a further trial, the Garda would make informal arrangements to have the person excused.
We are satisfied if that discretion is there.
Has the Minister done any research on the percentage of jurors who have applied for exemption on doctors' certificates? I believe it would be very high.
That is a pity. Doctors' certificates have been worked frequently.
I would not like to say that medical practitioners give certificates that are not bona fides.
I appreciate the Deputy is not. I do not think it would be an alarmingly high proportion. It is always dangerous to speak from one's particular recollections and experiences but listening to jury panels being called over I would think the number of certificates in respect of 50 or 60 jurors would be no more than three or four.
It is a higher proportion in my area.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 4 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 5 stand part of the Bill."
The order that will be made on foot of this section will be a statutory instrument.
Question put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 4, line 12, after "service" to add "or is a Peace Commissioner".
My amendment is designed to exclude PCs from jury service. The present position is that PCs are excluded from service. They were set up under section 4 of the District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923 which sets out the duties they perform. Some of those duties would probably mean that when they came to sit on juries they would have had knowledge of the preliminary proceedings and accordingly would be unable and unfit to sit on juries. Having regard to that, I submit the Minister should accept the amendment and exclude them from jury service.
There is another point. PCs do quite a lot of work for nothing. They may be called to a Garda station at any hour of day or night and they give the State such services for nothing. The least we can do in return is to exclude them from jury service. I do not think there would be any great administrative difficulty in doing so.
I support the amendment, nostalgically may I say, because my father was one of the first PCs in the State and he had been one of the Sinn Féin judges. They do an enormous amount of work for nothing and, as Deputy Dockrell has said, they may have remanded people at the preliminary hearings and should, therefore, not be qualified for jury service. Apart from that, they spend half their days filling in forms and for that reason alone they should be excused from service.
There are a fair few of them in the country now and the number is growing.
Since the Minister took office the number of PCs in the country is so great——
If we exclude them there will be nobody left to serve on juries.
I have been a PC for 30 years. A PC might be responsible for instance, for remanding a man for trial on a theft charge.
I have listened to the argument in favour of the amendment but I am regretfully unable to accept it because I think the counter arguments are stronger. The first is that the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure in their second interim report went into this question of exemption in considerable detail and had the benefit of submissions from a wide range of people some of whom had been involved in jury service, in empanelling juries. Having had the benefit of those submissions, the committee recommended that the list of exemptions are drastically curtailed, and among the people they recommended to lose exemptions were PCs. I am following the recommendation of that expert committee in that respect. Because of the general nature of the report the recommendations have to be given a great deal of weight and that reinforces me in my view that removing the exemption for peace commissioners is the correct procedure.
It was suggested by Deputy Dockrell, and Deputy Callanan supports him in this, that peace commissioners could possibly have knowledge by virtue of exercising their functions as peace commissioners in particular cases. Were that to happen such a peace commissioner would be automatically ineligible by virtue of section 15 since he would be a person who would have a connection with the case. He would have a positive duty so to inform the court and, if he did not do so, he would be subject to penalty. That is the only instance in which a peace commissioner's function would lead him into a situation where there could be a conflict and that is provided for. He would be ineligible.
Deputy Coogan suggested these men are performing an unpaid service to the State and, in return, the State should not ask them to perform this duty. Peace commissioners do not look on their office as a burden. I think they regard it as an honour. If we were to exempt peace commissioners then the same arguments would apply to notaries public or commissioners for oaths and we do not propose to exempt them. I do not see any good reason for exempting peace commissioners and it has come to my knowledge that in the recent past the motivation for seeking appointment as peace commissioner was to seek exemption from jury service.
That indicates that some people are wrongly motivated. Prior knowledge of a case and the fact that they are already performing a duty for the State are not in my opinion sufficiently strong arguments to grant them exemption.
I am in full agreement with the Minister's attitude on this. If a peace commissioner is involved in a case he has a responsibility to make known that involvement and he will be automatically excused. Exemption from jury service in the past was one of the perks of being a peace commissioner. The Minister is correct in his attitude and I support him in it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section agreed to.
Section 7 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 8 stand part of the Bill."
Would the Minister consider extending the disqualification under this section? What are the Minister's views on disqualifying a person who is convicted abroad?
Here we are talking only of Irish nationals. Non-nationals would not appear on the electoral list. It would, of course, be impossible to have records and information which would enable us to enforce this particular suggestion. Again, what might carry a penal sanction abroad might not be a matter of any great odium within our jurisdiction. We would know the offence in which a person would be involved here but there is the overriding difficulty that we would have no records in the case of an offence committed in another jurisdiction.
Modern technology is very advanced and there are ways and means of getting information form other countries. I can see the practical difficulties in administration.
It would be a matter of having information.
One would have to be in a position to prosecute.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 9 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 10 stand part of the Bill."
Would the Minister consider my suggestion of the county registrar issuing certificates of exemption?
There would be no difficulty about that. It is not necessary to put it in the Bill because it would be part of an administrative procedure. If a person were exempted he could ask for a letter from the county registrar and he would have this documentary record for a future date. I do not anticipate he would be called again but we can arrange for what the Deputy suggests administratively.
Question put and agreed to.
The section provides
Each county registrar, using a procedure of random or other non-discriminatory selection, shall draw up a panel of jurors for each court from the register or registers delivered to him...
This procedure is vague and must be left to the discretion of the county registrar.
That wording was used looking over our shoulders at the decision of the Supreme Court, and we want to express it in statutory form in recognition of the principle expressed in that judgment. We wanted to use "random". This is a word which has come to have a specific statistical meaning and paradoxically in that context it is not random at all. It has a specific mathematical meaning so we have added the words "or other non-discriminatory method".
I presume it will be taken out of the hat.
Not necessarily. There are two stages involved. This deals with drawing up the panel, and when the panel is drawn up that panel is summoned. It is from that panel that the names go into a hat at that stage and only in the court.
On the summoning of the panel, are they not put into a hat at that stage?
They are not put into a hat. It could be every five, 15, 20.
How are you going to arrange that in a county so that they will not be picked from the one area? Take, for instance, an area in West Galway. Could it be possible that the same area would come up every time?
How are you going to arrange that in a county so that they will not be picked from one area?
It is usually done alphabetically.
How are you going to make sure that they will not be picked from the one area when you are picking them at random?
The county registrar will not pick people from the one area because that would not be random and non-discriminatory. I will be placing in the Library for the benefit of Deputies the book of instructions that will be issued to county registrars in which the mechanics for operating this will be set out.
Perhaps if it is not too expensive the Minister would circulate one to each Deputy. Deputies may be asked——
I do not think Deputies are going to be asked. It is an internal document.
Will copies of that be available?
Yes. If a Deputy wants a copy I will be delighted to supply one to him. It will set out the mechanics of this procedure.
It appears that the county registrar has too much discretion. I understand from the Minister the rules and regulations of this matter. Could he give some idea of what the rules are about? Do the rules suggest to the county registrar what random system he should use?
I will read an extract from the instructions—they are still in draft, they are provisional instructions. Under the heading of "splitting the register" it says, and I quote :
In order to administer the provision contained in section 9 (1) (b)——
that is the three-year exemption
——of the Bill without the necessity for keeping elaborate card-index or other records, the electoral register for the county or jury district as the case may be,——
the difference between a county and a jury district is that a jury district may be part of a county in certain counties
——should be split into four roughly equal parts. By using only one of those parts in each of four successive years for the empanelling and summoning of jurors, the summoning of any juror more than once in any period of three years can be avoided in the vast majority of cases. The exceptions will be those who change residence from an area contained in one part of the register to an area contained in another part.
I was wondering how he picks out the jurors. Does he take every second name, every tenth name, or does he toss a coin?
It says :
When the bundles of booklets that comprise the register are received they should be numbered consecutively in pencil 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. Each fourth part of the register will comprise about 250 booklets. The booklets that are to comprise each fourth part should be chosen by lottery as follows: the booklet bearing the first number drawn in the lottery will go into the first part of the register.
It will be a lottery, a random procedure.
There is nothing random about that.
It is random. I use "random" in the sense of the ordinary meaning, that is by chance.
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed : "That section 12 stand part of the Bill."
As I indicated, the notice will be four to six weeks. It cannot be less than two weeks because the prosecution will depend on a fortnight's notice.
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 13 stand part of the Bill."
I am not satisfied with the mode of service of the summons, with the proof of service of a summons as set out here. The Minister would be well advised to re-enact the provisions of the 1927 Act in toto to cover this question of procedure in service and mode of service and proof of service of a summons. It does not say in this section by whom the summons must be served. It must be served by hand. It does not say whose hand. It does not state on whom the summons must be served by hand. Suppose whoever serves it goes to the residence of the juror and finds nobody there, or perhaps a child three or four years of age or an imbecile. The situation is not covered by that. How is the proof of service of the summons going to be made in the case if it is a member of the Garda who must serve the summons? Suppose the garda is dead or dies in the meantime, how is the proof of the service of that summons to be proved in court?
It is provided for in the remaining subsections of the section as to what constitutes proof of service, but we are dealing with the actual service. It can be done in two ways, by post or delivered by hand. It is not necessary to say who will be the competent person to deliver by hand. It is enough to provide that it may be delivered by hand. It is then for the county registrar to decide who should deliver it by hand, maybe it is the Garda Síochána, or some of his own staff who could go around the town and deliver the summonses by hand, but more than likely they will be sent by post. The proof of service is provided for in subsections (3) and (4).
Who will it be delivered to?
It will have to be delivered to the juror.
It will have to be personal service, because in the absence of providing for delivery to a person other than a juror it will have to be personal service.
The juror may not be at home.
Then service cannot be effected until the juror is at home. I anticipate that service will normally be by post.
Let me point out a very practical difficulty which will be experienced which might slow down the operation and cause great inconvenience. It will arise by serving the jury summons by post particularly having regard to the state of the register of electors. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country the register of electors is not as good as it should be. It is not as properly compiled as it should be. The most recent register of electors the Minister's party and my party had to deal with was that in the west of Ireland where it was clearly obvious to us, when we availed of the free postage facilities to send literature to all electors on the register, that many hundreds of those people were not present at their addresses. There was seasonal migration. We know that we got hundreds of those letters back and I am sure the Minister's party also did.
In my area of the south west we have seasonal migration so that many people on the register are away. We also have the practice in the western parts of the country that young people have jobs in the city and come home for the weekend but are registered at their home addresses for election purposes because that is their only base. If I am a county registrar and I post out 50 notices to people to attend for the panel of jurors, many of those people might not be there and might not get their postage for weeks. The whole thing will probably grind slowly to a halt. I know the Minister has discretion here under the section which says that it may be sent by post or delivered by hand. I ask him not to rely to any great extent on the delivery by post. The postman will deliver the letter to the house but the person might not be there.
The county registrar will not know that the person is not at home and when that person fails to turn up the county registrar will issue a summons as is his right under the measure. People will be charged in the court who were probably picking potatoes or working on the beet crops but who are on the register. If a number of people are to be called from an area or a parish, perhaps the Minister might enlist the aid of the Garda Síochána to deliver the jury summons. I know it is an extra duty to put on them but I am sure the Minister, being a practising politician, will agree that the problem I speak of exists.
I can well appreciate the problem put forward by Deputy Collins. I will arrange to have it drawn to the attention of county registrars because it would set the whole thing at nought if we found that our summonses were ineffective. I imagine this procedure will probably be of help to the Deputy and me at certain times of the year. It will mean that the registers will be more carefully checked before they are printed henceforth. I understand that the Department of Local Government have been apprised of the difficulties which may arise in relation to what the Deputy says. They are endeavouring to ensure that addresses will be precise and that registers will be as accurate as possible. I will draw the attention of county registrars to the need to be careful in using the registers.
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 14 stand part of the Bill."
I am opposing this section because of the difficulty, for practical reasons, of putting it into operation. During the debate on Second Stage I pointed out that the section reminded me of the parable of the man who gave the wedding feast. When his guests did not turn up, he sent his servants out to invite those on the highways and byways to partake of his hospitality. I will not continue with the parable because the Minister and Deputies are as familiar with it as I am but there is a comparison. If it appears to a judge of a court that the jury to try any issue before the court may be incomplete, he may require any qualified persons to be summoned by the county registrar in order to make up the number needed. This is the relevance of the part of the parable to which I referred. Subsection (2) states:
The judge shall specify the area from which persons may be summoned (which may be the area in the vicinity of the court) and the method of summons, whether by written notice or otherwise.
I have not been to courts as often as members of the legal profession but the few times I have been there I was not very impressed. People looked worried and were very anxious. They seemed to be preoccupied with their problems.
They were certainly not the lawyers. If there is a breakdown, such as is envisaged under this section, perhaps it might be better to postpone the matter, fix a new date and provide under the Bill to have another jury empanelled. That is why I am asking to have the section deleted. I should like to hear the Minister's views on it. We will not disagree violently over the matter.
The section is to cover what I expect will be an extremely rare situation. It is possibly an ultra-cautious provision because I do not anticipate that the situation it envisages will ever arise. Suppose the panel of jurors had an inordinately large number of people who were ineligible, disqualified or had good reason to be excused or that there was a large number of challenges and several juries were required and all the challenges were used to the full. In that case one could find that the panel would be so attenuated that there would not be sufficient to form the jury or juries necessary. At that stage the parties might be in court and the witnesses might be in court. All the parties concerned with the trial might have assembled. It would be preferable at that stage to bring in more jurors rather than send everybody away, including the jurors who had come and who were not sufficient in number.
The Deputy has misunderstood the phrase "which may be in the area in the vicinity of the court". It does not mean within the actual environs of the court building itself. It refers to the town in which the sitting is taking place. "Vicinity" does not mean the actual court. It means the town, so the judge would not be under an obligation to make sure that some of the panel he has drawn in came from, perhaps, 30 miles away at the other end of the county. He could, because this is an emergency situation, take them from the town in which the sitting is taking place. I do not believe there could be any hardship or injustice caused to anybody because it would be a random sample of citizens coming in to make up the jury and try this particular issue.
There is a problem. The Minister has stated that this would be a very rare occasion, perhaps once in a lifetime. If that is so, that probably strengthens my argument. If it is to be as rare as the Minister thinks, he should drop it and start up afresh. If I am in my county town going about my legitimate business and am reasonably busy and I am stopped and told: "I want you"—it is like the old posters one used to see in England headed: "Your country needs you," and having a picture of a man with a moustache pointing his finger at you—I will feel a sense of resentment. I have not made provision. I have to down tools, as it were. I have not got my own house in order. I will be brought into a court and I will feel resentful. Human nature being what it is a person will say: "What is this all about? I am willing to do my duty in the proper way. Why can I not be notified in the proper way?" It might do harm to the whole system. It might do harm to the courts. This is a layman's view. Even if it will happen only rarely, I think we should drop it and start afresh. I hope I would not be unfair to the accused or cause any problems. I can see that too.
It is a question of balance again—of where the hardship would lie. My feeling is that it would lie with the parties if they were to be sent home and told to come back another day.
Is there any way in which it could be provided that the judge will have discretion?
That is provided in the section. The judge will have discretion.
Discretion as to whether or not they should do that or sit on another day?
The judge would have discretion because the power given is not mandatory. It says "the judge may require any persons...". If the judge decides he will not require any person to be summoned, he will discharge whoever is there and come back on another day. One further point before Deputy Haughey speaks. What we are proposing here is not a new procedure. In effect, this power has been there since 1927 and it has never been the subject of complaint even with the present limited jury franchise.
I find this section objectionable. Together with my colleague Deputy Collins I appeal to the Minister to drop it. What we are doing here is updating and modernising our jury system. This is a piece of modern legislation enacted by the Dáil in 1976. It is very important that it should have a modern look about it, and that it should be in keeping with the standards and concepts of today. I want to suggest that this section is not. This section is archaic and feudal in its implications and in its proposed method of operation. To me it savours of the old press-gang concept. If the State needed citizens to man the warships or to carry out any other particularly urgent task, it went out into the highways and the byways and gathered up the first people available and pressed them into service.
To me the basic concept behind this section is objectionable in that way. It is feudal in its approach. The Minister is setting up a new modern structure for the conduct of jury trials. He is setting out for us here in this legislation a sensible, practical, workable, series of proposals which conform with the recent Supreme Court decision in regard to the status of women in our society. It seems to me that the Bill is related to the circumstances of today, to the life style of today, to the way in which people have to go about their business in these times, and earn their livelihood, and so on. Generally speaking, the Bill conforms to the modern situation and is related to modern circumstances.
Here it seems to me we have a hangover from different times. In fact, the Minister gave a clue to that when he said there is nothing new about the section or about these provisions. That is precisely the point. There is nothing new about them. They are old. They are archaic. They should be done away with. I do not think that, with proper planning by a county registrar, the situation should ever arise where these provisions would have to be invoked. If some peculiar combination of untoward circumstances bring about a situation where an adequate number of juries cannot be empanelled, as Deputy Collins suggested, the trial should be postponed.
The trial of a citizen before the courts is much too important to be left to this sort of haphazard ad hoc procedure. It is a relic of the feudal past. I do not know if the Minister is satisfied that under these procedures the county registrar could guarantee that the sort of persons he will gather up for jury service in this way would be suitable and competent people. Maybe I am taking a pessimistic view but I would visualise that this procedure could throw up a very unbalanced and unsuitable type of jury. This is a sort of emergency procedure of going out into the streets, practically, and empanelling whoever happens to be available.
If the Minister looked at it from this point of view he would see this section is not in keeping with the general tenor of the Bill, or with the other modernised and up to date provisions—in particular the proposal in subsection (3) that persons who are summoned in this cavalier way will not have the right of appeal from the county registrar. All in all it is not an appropriate section in this type of legislation. I suggest very strongly to the Minister that he should discard it.
I should like to make a few comments on this section. I am speaking with past practical experience as a rural practitioner. I do not anticipate this will arise before a Dublin criminal session court. I could see it happening in relation to a country court. Looking at this section it is well to bear in mind that it will not necessarily be availed of at the last moment. We must remember that the summonses are out. The county registrar is getting the message back as to service, as to people looking for exemptions, as to medical certificates coming in from people who are ill and unable to attend.
Suppose a circuit judge is sitting in Kilkenny Circuit Court and next week there is a session of the Wexford Criminal Circuit Court. The county registrar in Wexford can contact the circuit judge and get a direction from him to avail of this section to make quite certain there is an adequate number of jurors. The summonses have gone out to the panel. This is something which turns up as a result of something else occurring.
I can foresee another difficulty arising. Where people are indicted and go before a criminal court there might be six or eight people up for trial. The bush telegraph says so many will not contest and will plead guilty. At the last moment somebody changes his mind and a jury will be required to try that case. That means you have to have jurors prepared for that sort of situation. In all my time practising both for prosecution and defence in criminal jury cases, it has never occurred that we have run out of juries. I recollect on one occasion where I had challenges in hand, I did not avail of them because my client wanted his trial to go on. While there might have been a doubt about the acceptability, from the point of view of the defence, of the last few jurors who were available, we took a chance and took those jurors because my client wanted his case on. It was fair enough. I had travelled 70 or 80 miles to be there for the trial; the solicitor who instructed me maybe another 30 or 40 miles, and the accused had his witnesses there.
I have instanced two things; last minute illnesses and change of plea by the accused. This does create a difficulty from the point of view of the registrar. I can say that the registrars who acted in any courts that I was in were competent men and were always able to anticipate, although there have been a few narrow shaves due to last minute changes. It will be a real hardship to the accused if this provision is not passed. It is in ease of the accused because, as I see it, it makes quite certain that there is an adequate number of jurors from which the accused can raise his challenges. I would hate to see any person in the situation I outlined where, because the accused wanted his trial on, we did not exercise our right to challenge any jurors but took the last jurors that were available.
I am a little confused about this provision. Deputy Esmonde was saying it would appear the judge would have to have a standby local panel in case there would be a shortage. Deputy Collins's interpretation was that when the shortage occurred the judge would have authority to send out for the jurors there and then and I would be very much opposed to that. When a person is summoned to serve on a jury he should have time to make up his mind about it and to make arrangements. If he is called in without being properly summoned, I do not think that person is in a proper state of mind to try anybody. As far as the accused is concerned, if he is a country man he might be looking for a country jury. In this case it is all townspeople, wherever the court is being held, that would have to be called in.
I think the section is essentially a sensible one. What Deputy Esmonde had to say is of great importance in trying to assess the arguments for and against it. Essentially it is in ease of the parties, particularly in criminal cases. We are talking about rural Circuit Courts where juries would be summoned in criminal cases only, and we are talking about the case where a defendant would be ready for his trial and the witnesses would be present. Possibly he has gone to the expense of providing for representation and then finds that his expenses are going to be doubled because there is not a sufficient number of jurors.
We have to weigh up the arguments put forward by Deputy Haughey and answer the questions raised by Deputy Callanan in deciding whether the disadvantages of what we are proposing to do outweigh the advantages which Deputy Esmonde pointed out. Deputy Callanan asked when the jurymen would be called in. Deputy Collins was envisaging that this would be an eleventh hour or even a twelfth hour procedure. Deputy Esmonde had in mind that the warning signs would come up earlier. I think the scenario painted by Deputy Esmonde would be the more likely one for the reason that the normal panel is summoned four to six weeks in advance. The signs will be available to the country registrar over that period that the panel is getting thin, that the excusals, the disqualifications, cases of ineligibility, medical certificates and so on are going to be unusually high. So that the judge should not find on the morning of the court——
That is not what the section says.
The section says:
The judge shall specify the area from which persons may be summoned (which may be the area in the vicinity of the court).
I envisage that when the court will be in session and we are going to run short of manpower——
May I finish? We have to try to envisage circumstances in which this is going to arise, and circumstances will arise if there is an unusually large number of exemptions for whatever reason. That information will normally be known to the county registrar a week or a fortnight in advance of the sitting. The judge will have that knowledge, because it will have been made known to him by the county registrar, and then the mechanism provided by the section will come into play.
It could be a last minute happening, for example, if there were a very high number of exemptions that did not appear in advance so as to justify warning the judge earlier. Supposing it turned out that there were a large number of challenges; if there were two defendants and the prosecutor, that would give a total of 21 challenges without cause, and if there were further challenges with cause, the panel could be suddenly attenuated. At this stage, too, this procedure would be available to the court.
It might not be possible at that stage, because of the time that would be involved, to have the extra jurors summoned there for that day. It would probably be adjourned to the next day. The judge might decide in his discretion, after hearing the parties—and they are the people for whose benefit the whole trial is taking place—that they would have to adjourn the trial until the full panel would be available at the next sitting.
Deputy Callanan raised the point as to where the jurors would be called from and asked what would happen if a country man was being tried and he wanted a jury of countrymen; if this section were invoked he thought the county registrar would be forced to go into the town because of convenience of distance. At that stage the parties to the case would be entitled to object and could exercise their challenges against these extra people coming in, or they could say to the judge that they consider such a panel would be unduly limited having regard to the background of their client and the nature of the case against him, which might have rural overtones to it. In that case one would hope that the judge would exercise his judicial discretion and say: "Very well, we will wait until the next sitting."
Is the challenge still there?
It would not have been empanelled by the time this arose.
Is the right to challenge there all the time?
It is a very limited right.
The judge has a discretion which is exercised in the interests of justice, that is, in the interests of the parties before him. If he, in his discretion, decides that this is not a proper procedure for this particular case, it may be adjourned until the next sitting. But if the parties are agreeable and anxious to go on, he has this machinery to invoke.
Deputy Haughey objected to it on the grounds that it had feudal overtones or that there was a press-gang atmosphere about it. I reject that analogy because the press-gang was to bring people in and send them off on war service from which they might never return. All we are asking here is that people serve on a jury for a day or even part of a day. The press-gang were not entitled to seek excusals. There was no appeal once they were on board ship. In my view, it is not a feudal idea either. It may have a certain swiftness and cutting through red tape to which we are not accustomed when providing statutory provisions, but it may be refreshing for that. The principle is the same. The people are being summoned by the court on a random basis.
With shorter notice. This is the difference, but the principle of summoning the citizens to perform a jury service is what is involved. The difference is a matter of procedure in that the notice is shorter. Deputy Haughey says there should be proper planning by the county registrar when calling juries. There is no planning in the sense of being able to reordain anything with regard to jury service henceforth. It will be random non-discriminatory, by lottery. That excludes any element of planning. Deputy Haughey said that bringing in people off the street would be a haphazard and ad hoc procedure. This is essentially the nature of summoning juries from now on. It will be haphazard ad hoc, random, non-discriminatory, by lottery. There will be no preplanning about it. A motley collection of citizens will eventually gather from which a jury will be picked.
Deputy Haughey said there would be a danger that suitable and competent people might not be brought in under this emergency stipulation. This Bill now proposes that all citizens on the electoral register are, by definition, suitable and competent people. To bring in a random selection from the vicinity of the court is not doing anything different from what the Bill proposes.
Weighing up the situation where the parties are assembled and the accused is anxious to get on with the case, and the hardship that would be inflicted on him if he could not get a jury for his trial, against difficulties of getting in a jury under the unusual procedure devised by this section, in my view the balance is in favour of giving the power to the court to act in ease of the parties before it, that is, acting in the interests of justice. The mechanics provided are not such as to take away from the interest of the parties or to lessen the justice they are entitled to. Should there be any element of that in it by virtue of the arguments put forward by Deputy Callanan and Deputy Haughey, the judge intervenes. That is his function.
Surely this section visualises a situation where people are literally brought in from the highways and the byways in the vicinity of the courts? The judge may dispense with written notice and instruct an officer of the court, a member of the Garda Síochána to go out and bring in another few dozen people for the jury panel. In the meantime, the court will be held up. Is that right?
Where will the Garda go? Into the first pub and then the next and the next. There are plenty of pubs near courthouses all over the country. As a result, we will wind up with 20 or 30 people who have come out of the pubs who are probably going to, or going from, the dole because they are unemployed. In this way we will not have the representative jury panel envisaged by the Minister. That would be inevitable in such a situation.
This system is too random, slipshod and haphazard. While I agree with the picture painted by Deputy Esmonde, I do not think any accused would be satisfied with that type of system. It could work against him rather than for him.
Does the Deputy not agree that there is a discretion for the judge by the use of the word "may" in the first subparagraph and most judges would listen to the legal representative of an accused person if he had objections on any grounds? I think he would.
I agree completely with that, but this subsection is surely meant to deal with the situation I visualised.
The situation the Deputy visualised would be very extreme. Quite clearly in that situation the judge and the parties would want the proceedings adjourned because that would be unsatisfactory. One will have to rely on the judge and the parties.
There is no right for the parties here.
We have to assume on the part of our Judiciary a certain concern for the parties before them and a certain anxiety to dispense justice. Dispensing justice means keeping the interests of the parties paramount. We have to assume that what the parties would say would be a matter of great concern, and possibly the only concern, to the judge. I envisage that any situation where the person has to be literally captured in the street and brought in would be only where there was a shortage of one or, possibly, two on a jury. If a judge, in his wisdom, and with the consent of the parties, decided to make up a deficiency of five or six, I am sure he would do so in such a way that it would not bring in the type of citizenry suggested by Deputy Brosnan, although they are perfectly eligible, suitable and competent to act.
I have no doubt that whatever system a judge would decide on, he would try to get a good cross-section. The parties and the judge will have the opportunity of discussing whether they will invoke this procedure or adjourn. If the parties decide they want to go ahead with an emergency jury they should be entitled to do so.
I suggest the Minister is putting the situation completely in reverse to what it is. This section does not confer any rights whatever on the parties. It confers the rights in the operation of this procedure entirely on the judge and the county registrar. If the Minister is prepared to write into the section a right by the parties to object to the procedure being invoked the section would be much less objectionable from my point of view.
Deputy Esmonde made a persuasive case but I suggest it does not stand up. He was inclined to suggest that there would not be any great rush or expediency about this, that it would be known in advance and that plans would be laid. That is not what is in the section. The section has an urgency and an immediacy in its wording——
I am talking about actual practice.
It can only happen in court. The wording is quite specific. The Bill states:
If it appears to a judge of a court that a jury to try any issue before the court will or may be incomplete,...
We are talking about a jury in the court, about the judge and the case before the court——
The wording is "If it appears to a judge of a court...". It can be indicated to the judge in advance. He does not have to make the decision in court.
To me the wording clearly envisages the court being in session when this arises. I am quite satisfied that is what is intended by the section; if anything else was intended some other procedure could be invoked by the country registrar. The Bill would enable the county registrar to deal with the situation through the normal processes laid down by the Bill if the situation is clear to him in advance of the sitting. I suggest to Deputy Esmonde that the nice, safe suggestion he has made does not stand up. As Deputy Brosnan pointed out clearly, what is involved here is last-minute, emergency pressgang procedure, where the court is sitting, where suddenly at the last minute it becomes apparent that there will not be enough people to man the jury, and where the officers of the court go out to get people in from the highways and the byways. Let us be clear what we are talking about.
If we are talking about a situation that can be planned in advance that is different. However, we are not talking about that; the section is quite clear. Nothing the Minister has said makes this in any way more attractive to me. It still smacks of the old feudal idea that it is possible to go out and dragoon citizens from the work bench, from their place of entertainment or wherever they may be, and press them into the jury box. That is completely out of keeping with a modern, up-to-date piece of legislation.
The Minister is putting this before us on the basis of fairness to the accused. I suggest that is not the situation here. I suggest the position undoubtedly will be that the accused in such circumstances can have no guarantee whatever of what kind of jury will be turned up. I do not think there is anything far-fetched about what Deputy Brosnan said, about going across the road into the nearest pub or to the nearest place of entertainment and dragooning the appropriate number of people to do the job. Whatever objection the accused might have to a delay in bringing the trial to completion, he would be much more concerned with making sure he got a fair trial and I do not think anybody in this House would argue that point. Except in the case of a complete and utter recidivist, I do not think it is possible to visualise that there would be any question that an accused person would prefer the trial over and done with rather than get a fair trial. I do not think we should hear any more of that argument.
What we are concerned with here is laying down proper procedures for the empanelling of decent juries, good men and true, fellow citizens to try criminal cases. We want those procedures which we are laying down in this legislation to be suited and adapted to the circumstances of modern life. On the whole the Bill does that quite well except in this one instance. However, for some reason or other this relic of former feudal times and old legal traditions which are better done away with has survived into this legislation. I strongly suggest to the Minister that he should reconsider the whole provision.
I noticed when the Minister was defending this provision that from time to time he had to say that if there was anything undesirable about it, if it did not appear to be satisfactory, that the case could be adjourned until the next day or week. That is defeating his own argument.
It is not the way the court works.
His only argument in favour of this procedure is that it will avoid adjournment, but on three of four different occasions in putting forward these arguments he had to admit the possibility of adjournment. The Minister keeps falling back on the defence that if the parties do not like the kind of scallywags who have been pressed into service from the nearest pub they can object but there is nothing in the section——
We are talking about citizens. The Deputy cannot say they will be scallywags.
There are scallywag citizens.
I am sure there are but once we enlarge the right to jury service we take in all citizens——
This procedure is weighted in favour of having a majority of scallywags rather than decent, honourable citizens.
That speaks very badly for the various county towns and for the areas in the vicinity of courts.
Most ordinary decent, respectable citizens would be going about their lawful jobs and business. The Minister keeps saying that if the parties do not like it they can ask for an adjournment but there is nothing in the section about it. It is left entirely to the judge to decide whether to adopt this procedure and to go ahead with it. If the section goes through, I suggest the parties would have no grounds for asking for an adjournment. On the Minister's own evidence they would have their counsel and witnesses there and, therefore, the accused or his legal representative could not seek an adjournment because he did not like the procedure or the kind of jury turned up by the procedure. I feel quite strongly that this is an undesirable relic of olden days that has crept back into this modern legislation and it should be got rid of.
The last point I wish to make refers to the convenience of the ordinary citizen. Jury service is an onerous obligation which citizens have to undertake. It is onerous in the normal course of events but at least when a citizen gets notice about jury service on a certain day he can make his plans accordingly. However, under this procedure people will be pressed into service without any notice. That is unfair and it could result in serious inconvenience and hardship for certain people. It might not bother unduly the lads across the way in the pub, but some person going about his lawful business suddenly finds the heavy hand of the law descending on him and at a minute's notice he has to go into court and serve on a jury. I think that is very unfair. I do not think anything can be said for this section and I strongly suggest that the Minister dispense with it.
Deputy Haughey raised the question as to when it would come into being. It could come into play 14 days before the trial, because if the warning signs are longer than 14 days before the trial then a jury summons could be issued. From 14 days before the day of the trial this procedure will be available whether the court is sitting or not because it refers to a judge of the court and that does not preclude the judge from hearing this in chambers in another town. Cognisance should be taken in advance of a possibility arising that a jury would be incomplete to enable proper action to be taken, so the procedure might be in effect at any time for up to 13 days before the sitting of the court. This is a matter that has to be left to the judicial discretion of the court to exercise reasonably and in the interests of justice. If you had a witness coming from England or further afield and there was one juryman missing, quite clearly the proceedings set out here should be adopted. I think the Bill would be considerably lacking if it did not provide for that.
The Minister mentioned 14 days. There is nothing about 14 days in the Bill.
There is provision in the Bill that in effect you must give at least 14 days' notice to a juryman. If an emergency arose at any time shorter than 14 days it would be dealt with under this section. If the county registrar knows for more than 14 days that he is likely to be short, he could deal with it in the ordinary way.
If the emergency arose within six days before the court why not go into the town and pick them there?
If it arose a week before you could go further afield. If it arose the day before, you could go into the nearest town.
The morning of the trial is when it is most likely to happen. The judge might find he has not enough jurymen to empanel a full jury and with such short notice he could not send somebody out. Fifteen jurors could be challenged.
If you are left in a situation where you are short of jurymen and you have witnesses coming from abroad, I think it would be a very bad Bill that did not make some provision to deal with that situation.
This ad hoc procedure will inevitably lead to the situation which we have been painting here and that would bring justice in this country into disrepute. It is made worse by the fact that there is no provision in this Bill for either the payment or the refreshment or the transport of jurors during a trial.
Question put and declared carried.
I move amendment No. 2 in the name of Deputy G. Collins.
In page 6, subsection (3), line 52, after ballot to insert "; and it shall be the duty of the judge to explain to the jurors the nature of the trial or the action to be heard by them and the parties thereto so that any potential juror who may have an interest in or connection with the case or the parties shall communicate the fact to the judge, if he is selected on the ballot.
I think it should be very clear what Deputy Collins is seeking in this amendment. Section 15 deals with the selection of persons to be empanelled as jurors and stipulates that it shall be made by balloting in open court. Subsection (2) states:
The power of summoning jurors under section 14 may be exercised after balloting has begun, as well as earlier, and if it is exercised after balloting has begun the judge may dispense with balloting for persons summoned under that section.
That would take care of the situation arising out of the undesirable procedure laid down in section 14. Subsection 3 is as follows:
Before the selection is begun the judge shall warn the jurors present that they must not serve if they are ineligible or disqualified and as to the penalty under section 36 for doing so; and he shall invite any person who knows that he is not qualified to serve or who is in doubt as to whether he is qualified or who may have an interest in or connection with the case or the parties to communicate the fact to the judge (either orally or otherwise as the judge may direct or authorise) if he is selected on the ballot.
I think that is a very reasonable proposal by Deputy Collins. Subsection 3 deals with the question of ineligibility or disqualification and the penalties which jurors would incur by acting as jurymen if they were not fully qualified or eligible. The judge warns them about that but the subsection does not give any indication about how they are to come to the decision that they are ineligible or unqualified. It does not help them in any way, it is totally in terrorem, if you like. It simply confines itself to the manner of their being ineligible or disqualified and Deputy Collins wants to make the judge tell us what the action is about and therefore they would be in a much better position to decide whether they could say to the judge “I think I am disqualified”.
, Cavan): It is not proposed to accept the amendment. Section 15 (3) provides that, before the balloting for a particular jury is begun, the judge shall warn the jurors present that they must not serve if ineligible or disqualified. It also provides that he shall invite any juror who may not be qualified “or who may have an interest in or connection with the case or the parties” to mention the fact if he is selected on the ballot. The amendment would add a provision relating to the words quoted. The amendment would provide that it shall be the duty of the judge to explain to the jurors “the nature of the trial or the action to be heard by them and the parties thereto”, so that a juror may mention his interest or connection, if any.
Presumably the idea behind the amendment is that, unless the jurors are told who are the parties and what the case is about, they will not know whether there is any fact which they should mention. It is true that they may not know this, but the amendment is unnecessary, because clearly the judge will have to give the assembled jurors the necessary information in any event. For example, in a civil case he might give the names and addresses of the parties and say that the action is for breach of contract, trespass, libel or whatever it is, and in a criminal case he might say that the accused is so-and-so and is charged with burgling the house of so-and-so. It can be left to the judge to decide how much he need tell the jury in order to enable them to say whether they should mention any facts that might make it undesirable that they should serve on the jury.
The amendment as worded would require the judge to explain to the jurors "the nature of...the parties" to the action. This is probably only a drafting slip, as it would be clearly wrong for the judge to tell the jurors anything about a party except his name and, where appropriate, his address and any other fact essential to an understanding of what the case is about. It is not considered necessary and, therefore, it is not proposed to accept it. As the Deputy will know, a jury is often empanelled in the High Court to try a number of cases. That is a quite frequent occurrence and if a judge had to explain all about each case it would be very unwieldly. As well as that, the provision for challenging, which has been extended, should obviate the necessity for any such elaborate procedure.
It seems to me that subsection (3) places the onus on a juror but does not make any provision for any guidance to enable him to come to a proper decision. If, as the Minister says, the amendment is unnecessary—it is not harmful, or detrimental, but just unnecessary—then he is really compelled, I think, to accept it. It is clearly desirable, if not strictly mandatory and necessary, that the judge should—remember, these unfortunate jurors are in strange circumstances and, for the first time, perhaps, in this intimidating atmosphere—give some direction, guidance or help to enable a juror to say that, in view of what the judge has said, he realises he is disqualified or ineligible to sit.
(Cavan): This subsection deals with a number of things. It deals with people who are ineligible and with people who are disqualified. They are ineligible or disqualified for a number of reasons, one of which may be that, although they are on the register, they have not attained 18 years of age, or they might be in a category declared ineligible or disqualified. These will already have been notified because it is provided that the summons shall be accompanied by a memorandum setting out those who are disqualified or ineligible. That being so, the only other reason why a person should not serve on a jury would be that he was in some way connected with the parties, had some particular knowledge or some particular association. The judge will be at liberty to give a brief synopsis of the case. The parties are always known because the registrar says: “I am now about to call the jury to try the case of So-and-So”. In the High Court in Dublin that might not convey much but in the country it will certainly convey a great deal. In a criminal case the registrar reads over the charges to the accused person. And then empanels the jury and, in those circumstances, the jury must have a fair idea and it will be open to any juror to ask the judge for further information if he has any doubt. For these reasons I believe the amendment is neither desirable nor necessary.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 15 stand part of the Bill."
No method is provided for the selection of the foreman. I raised this on Second Stage and I asked the Minister then whether the choice would be by simple majority, by lottery, or in some other way. What would be the situation where the members of the jury could not agree on the foreman? What would be the situation where a jury was sworn to try three of four cases? Would the foreman chosen for the first case act as foreman also in the other cases?
(Cavan): First of all, this is a big improvement on the procedure which has prevailed to date under which the first juror called was automatically made foreman.
(Cavan): Through no fault of his own he might not have been the best qualified or, indeed, qualified at all. I believe that in future common sense will prevail The subsection merely provides:
Whenever a juror is challenged for cause shown and such challenge is allowed by the judge, the juror shall not be included in the jury.
Almost invariably the jury adjourn for a short time before the trial actually begins and I imagine the judge will say: "Gentlemen, you will select one of your members to be foreman and you will decide by simple majority." I imagine that is what will happen. It would seem to be the rational thing to do.
If it is a draw, what will happen?
Will canvassing be permitted?
(Cavan): I hardly think so. We must apply common sense. I imagine that if I were a judge I would say to the jury——
Would the Minister say to the jury, if he were judge: "We cannot make a categorical statement about that"?
(Cavan): We could have a long argument which might not be relevant to this Bill but which might be very interesting and illuminating. However, I imagine that the judge would invite the jurors to select one of their members to be foreman, and I suppose if it was six and six——
An exceptional situation.
(Cavan): I suggest it would be a toss.
Very often judges do not tell them.
(Cavan): Maybe that is a good job too.
You could have a situation where they could not agree upon a foreman, the trial could go on, they could reach a verdict and still be at a stage where they could not agree on a foreman, and the whole purpose would be in vain.
(Cavan): If a jury of 12 men were empanelled——
(Cavan):—— men and women mixed— and they could not agree over a foreman it is clear they would not agree on a lot of other things, and the judge would be well advised to discharge the jury and get another.
Over something frivolous.
(Cavan): It might be better to do that then than after a week.
Would the Minister agree that what I say is possible under the provisions of that subsection, that the jury could disagree on the foreman?
(Cavan): I do, and I believe they should be discharged.
This is merely a drafting point. On the third line in subsection (3) should it not be "penalties" instead of "penalty"? There are two separate penalties under subsection (6).
(Cavan): The subsection reads:
(3) Before the selection is begun the judge shall warn the jurors present that they must not serve if they are ineligible or disqualified and as to the penalty under section 36 for doing so;
I think it would be a separate penalty. There would be one penalty for being ineligible and a penalty for being disqualified.
Two penalties, and the phrase is, "as to the penalty under section 36". I am not making a fuss of it.
(Cavan): We could look at it. I am advised it is all right.
Would the Minister mind answering the other question? Where a jury are empanelled to try more than one case and the foreman——
(Cavan): Again I am drawing on my experience. I would say there would be a different foreman for each trial. I would say it would be a matter for the jury. They could elect the same person, but procedure would have to be gone through.
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 16 stand part of the Bill."
I think it is unnecessary to make a provision where each party would be entitled to free copies of the jurors' list and collect them at the county registrar's office. It will mean a lot of unnecessary expense and confusion in the county registrar's office. In Cork there are up to 200 actions listed for a sitting. That would mean at least 400 parties, and very often there would be two or even three defendants. There could be five or six parties looking for free lists of the jurors. I consider the present system is quite satisfactory, where the jurors' list is permanently displayed in the courthouse where anybody can inspect it.
(Cavan): Deputy Brosnan is concerned about subsection (1) of section 16 which reads:
Every person shall be entitled to reasonable facilities to inspect a panel of jurors free of charge and a party to any proceedings, civil or criminal, to be tried with a jury shall be entitled to a copy free of charge on application to the county registrar.
(Cavan): You have no objection to that. It goes on—
and a party to any proceedings, civil or criminal, to be tried with a jury shall be entitled to a copy free of charge on application to the county registrar.
The only difference between that procedure and the existing procedure is that he will get it free of charge, whereas now he has to pay for it.
It is on display. Any member of the public is in a position to inspect the jurors' list. I think that is sufficient.
(Cavan): It could be abused, but it is not likely.
Will it not be the register of electors?
(Cavan): No. The county registrar will have to compose a panel from the register of electors, but on ballot or random method.
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 17 stand part of the Bill."
I move amendment No. 3 in the name of my colleague, Deputy Collins:
In page 7, subsection (2), line 26, after "separately" to add "or in such numbers as the judge may in his discretion decide".
The amendment is related to subsection (2) which section states that the jury shall be sworn separately. Deputy Collins' amendment seeks to make that more flexible, to enable the judge if he wishes, to swear the whole jury together. I think it is a legitimate opinion that it would add to the solemnity of the occasion if the jury were all sworn together. I think that is what Deputy Collins had in mind rather than any time saving element. If a judge wished to do so he would be entitled to swear the entire jury at once, together.
The time element should be taken into account, because with the increased number of challenges open to parties under this Bill that is inevitably going to lengthen the empanelling of the jury considerably. The swearing of jurors one by one separately is completely unnecessary. They should be sworn in batches, except perhaps in criminal trials on the application of an accused person.
(Cavan): I regret I do not propose to accept the amendment for the following reason. Section 17, subsection (2) replaces section 53 (1) of the 1927 Act which provides that in capital cases, jurors are to be sworn individually and in other trials, collectively, that is, all the jurors or some convenient number are to be sworn at one time, except that a juror who asks to be sworn individually, or who is to be sworn otherwise in the ordinary manner, is to be sworn individually. The new section requires that in all cases jurors shall be sworn separately.
We know all that. It is——
(Cavan): I want to put it on record. The change is being made in order to emphasise the importance of the duty of a juror to give a true verdict in accordance with the evidence. The individual swearing will take marginally longer but the greater solemnity of the oath when taken separately will amply compensate for the slight delay. A similar change was made by section 35 (3) of the British Courts Act 1971 now section 11 (3) of the Juries Act 1974 and had been recommended by the Morris committee on jury service. The committee said at paragraph 314: “This [collective swearing] seems to us to be undesirable, and we are greatly fortified in our opinion by the fact that the judges have expressed the view that it is convenient that each juror should be sworn separately... It seems to us that the solemn nature of the juror's duty is emphasised if each one takes the oath individually.” The Deputies who support the amendment do so on two grounds. The first is that to swear them collectively will save time. Here we have a matter of minutes involved and I do not think that is a substantial argument. The second one is that it would be a more solemn way if a number were sworn together.
I believe that the converse is the case. If each person is asked to take the oath separately it is a more striking way of doing it. It is more individual way of doing it and it brings it home to the individual in a more solemn and striking way. Another thing which strikes me, which I have seen from time to time, is that you have sometimes the man who wishes to affirm or you have a member of the Jewish community who wishes to be sworn in a different way. If you have three jurors and one wants to be sworn in a different way, you make him stand out like a sore thumb. You are taking one and three and the judge has to say to No. 2: "Sit down for the time being and we will deal with you afterwards". I always thought that was an undersirable way of doing it. It is better to take 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 individually and swear them.
We will not make a federal case out of this. It is just to complete my argument on behalf of Deputy Collins. There are two ways of looking at it. The concept of the jury being welded into a unit and swearing collectively at the start of a trial will have a certain solemnity of its own and will indicate that they are a composite team to get on with the trial. However, I withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 17 stand part of the Bill."
Subsection (5) states:
If any juror refuses to be sworn or insists on being sworn in a manner not authorised by this Act or otherwise by law, he shall not be included in the jury then being sworn.
Is there some conflict between that and section 37 which states:
Any person who, on being called upon to be sworn as a juror, refuses to be sworn in a manner authorised by this Act or otherwise by law shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50.
What exactly is intended there? Is it intended that the person who does not wish to be sworn should be stood down and fined? What is the position?
(Cavan): As I see it, there are two separate and distinct things. Subsection (5) of section 17 states:
If any juror refuses to be sworn or insists on being sworn in a manner not authorised by this Act or otherwise by law, he shall not be included in the jury then being sworn.
That clarifies the position there. He shall not be included in the jury. As I see it, he will be subject to section 37 and will be dealt with under section 37.
He does not serve and he is fined.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 18 and 19 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 20 stand part of the Bill."
This section represents a considerable advance on the existing situation.
(Cavan): It does; I know the Minister for Justice dealt with this during his Second Reading speech. On the civil side it increases the number of challenges from three to seven. Under existing law on the civil side each party could challenge three jurors without giving any reason and he could challenge as many other jurors as he could give reason for. We are increasing that from three to seven. It is on the criminal side that there is a more substantial change. At present the State can stand by as many jurors as they like without showing any reason. The accused person can challenge five but has no right to stand by. On the proposal in this Bill both the State and the accused will have the right to challenge seven.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 21 to 24, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 25 stand part of the Bill."
Where the jury separates there is provision at present whereby they are put in charge of an officer of the court or a member of the Garda Síochána. This is in criminal cases. They did not separate in a trial up to now.
(Cavan): I understand the present position to be that it is only in the more serious cases, that is, capital murder, treason and treason felony they are not allowed to separate but in all others they are.
They are not allowed to separate in criminal trials. They are put in charge of an officer of the court. They are taken away and they receive free transport and a meal. There is no provision for anything like that here. I am objecting to that. Is that not right?
(Cavan): At the present time it is unnecessary to keep jurors together except in the very limited number of cases which I have mentioned, capital murder, treason and treason felony. If the judge kept them together the meal was provided for them. There is no difference whatever here. In any trial with a jury the jurors may separate before considering their verdict except where the judge otherwise directs. The Deputy may take it that, if the judge otherwise directs, he will provide them with accommodation and facilities.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 26 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 9, to delete lines 50 and 51 and in page 10 to delete lines 1 to 3 inclusive and to insert "The Minister shall by order regulate the practice and procedure to be adopted by county registrars in the discharge of their duties under this Act but nothing in this section shall authorise the Minister to make an order providing that".
The existing section 27 reads:
With a view to securing consistency in the administration of this Act, the Minister may issue instructions to county registrars with regard to the practice and the procedure to be adopted by them in the discharge of their duties under this Act; but nothing in this section shall authorise the Minister to issue any instruction...
It is fairly obvious what the difference in approach is. The section says the Minister may issue instructions. Deputy Collins wants this provision to be mandatory and to say that the Minister shall. I think it is desirable that it should be so. The situation should not be that, if the Minister does not feel like co-ordinating the procedures throughout the country, he need not do so. The Bill should make it mandatory on him to so order things. Secondly, Deputy Collins wishes this to be done by order, whereas the section as framed is very loose in its approach. It simply says that the Minister may issue instructions to county registrars. I recommend the amendment. I hope the Minister will not adopt the attitude he has been adopting fairly consistently up to now that the Bill is perfect and cannot be improved, and no matter what amendments we put forward they do not matter.
(Cavan): The amendment proposes to prescribe by order the method by which the county registrars shall make up the jury panel. We think it is undesirable to write it down and make it a statutory obligation, so to speak. What it is proposed is to do it administratively. The circular which will be sent to county registrars suggesting how juries should be empanelled will be placed in the Library of the House. It is felt that, if we were to have a hard and fast rule as to how the panel should be made up, it could be questioned in trial after trial, and could lead to endless delays and endless litigation, all of which would be unnecessary, and would not be required to ensure that the panel was properly compiled. The panel will contain the names of many more jurors than will be necessary to try any case or all cases. For those reasons I believe that procedure adopted here is the more practical procedure and the better procedure. There are two views about this, just as there are two views about most things.
Apart from the wording of the amendment which I think is not very effective, does the Minister not see the need even to make it mandatory on the Minister to issue instructions; in other words to substitute "shall" for "may" in line 51 on page 9? What is the objection to that? We know enough about this Government to know Ministers will not do things unless they absolutely have to.
(Cavan): If I may say so, the point being made by the Deputy is a classical Opposition point and one which I would probably make if I were on the other side of the House. For that reason, I am glad to see the Deputy is settling down into Opposition so well.
The Minister should advert to the discussion on the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill where we had this point on countless occasions.
(Cavan): I was not in on that Bill. The Deputy may take it that instructions will be issued and these instructions will appear in the Library. If for any reason instructions were not given, the Minister would have to answer for that on his Estimate.
Why not make it mandatory?
Why not? If the Minister is assuring the House that these instructions will be issued, he must thereby mean that they will be necessary. If they are necessary, the Bill should make it mandatory on the Minister.
(Cavan): I would not even say they are necessary. They are highly desirable. I would not say they are fundamental because most county registrars, having read the Act, will proceed in a proper way.
What is the Minister's argument against making it mandatory?
(Cavan): The argument against making it mandatory is that it could lead to litigation. There could be questions as to whether a particular jury or juror was properly empanelled, or as to whether a particular juror trying a case had been empanelled in accordance with very rigid regulations.
I am not talking about regulations. I am talking about instructions.
(Cavan): If the word “must” were put in here, the same questions could be raised as to whether the jury was empanelled in accordance with the “must” or “shall” laid down.
If it was not properly empanelled, would a person not have a right to sue and to litigate?
It would not be under this provision that he would be suing. The Minister is not dealing fairly with us. All the argument is in favour of making it mandatory and he might at least undertake to consider this.
(Cavan): I will undertake to convey the Deputy's strong feelings to the Minister for Justice in person. No doubt he will consider them.
If the jury is wrongly empanelled and instructions should have been issued, surely the person with the grievance, the person who is wronged, is entitled to sue whoever is responsible.
(Cavan): I am satisfied that the county registrars, having read the Act, will behave in a reasonable and intelligent manner.
So they are all paragons of efficiency.
(Cavan): No, they are not.
Either it is necessary or it is not.
(Cavan): We are all human and we are all subject to the shortcomings of human nature. No amount of legislation we put on the Statute Book will overcome that. Subject to that, I would say they will behave in a reasonable way.
Will the Minister consider substituting "shall" for "may"?
(Cavan): I understand there is the problem that we hope the Bill will conclude today.
(Cavan): There is nothing like being hopeful.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 27 put and agreed to.
Section 28 agreed to.
Amendment No. 5 has been tabled to section 29 by Deputy G. Collins. The Chair rules that because it involves a potential charge on revenue it is out of order.
Question proposed: "That section 29 stand part of the Bill."
There is an obligation here on employers to remunerate their servants and their apprentices, but there is no provision for payment of remuneration of unemployed, of recipients of social welfare or any others. This is open to abuse in that employees or apprentices could be on the jury list, be at the courthouse every morning at 10.15 and not being empanelled in a jury, they would have a free day, and that situation could last as long as three weeks. There should be some method whereby the county registrar would notify the employer of the fact that the employee was not empanelled on a jury and, in other words, could do his day's work.
(Cavan): I get the point the Deputy is making, because the section says:
... a person shall be treated as employed or apprenticed during any period when he is absent from his employment or apprenticeship in order to comply with a jury summons.
That means, I take it, that if he is employed convenient to the courthouse and is not actually called to serve on a jury he would be expected to be back within such time as would be reasonable.
That he would go back for a half day.
(Cavan): Yes, and I think that covers it. Of course, if he has to travel 30 or 40 miles, as in the country, he would be away for the day anyway.
I suggest some certificate should be issued by the county registrar to his employer.
(Cavan): I hardly think that is necessary, because if there is a row or dispute between the employer and the employee, that will be resolved, I would say, by reference to the county register anyhow. Supposing there was such a serious row between them——
There need not be any row between them.
(Cavan): If the employer refused to pay—I am using the word “row” in that sense— that can only be resolved by reference to the county registrar.
I am saying it is open to abuse on the part of the employee who is a juror. He could spend three weeks in Cork doing nothing and get paid for it.
(Cavan): He would be entitled to it—if he was complying with the jury summons—
That is what I am saying. He would be entitled to it.
There is worse. He might have to spend four weeks in Cork.
(Cavan): He would not be paid. I am saying that if he is a resident of Cork city and if he marches down every morning to comply with the summons, he will only be entitled to be paid for the days he is serving on the jury or such portion of a day as is necessary to get himself to the court and back.
According to that section, he is legally entitled to it.
(Cavan): The Deputy does not get the point.
It is open to abuse. The Minister does not intend to change it, so it does not matter.
(Cavan): It is not necessary.
It is a perfect Bill. There is no need to change anything. I do not know what we are wasting our time for here.
(Cavan): Let me repeat the provision in the section: “a person shall be treated as employed or apprenticed during any period when he is absent from his employment or apprenticeship in order to comply with a jury summons”. If you have a reasonable employer and a reasonable employee, there will be no trouble. If one of them is unreasonable, you will then have to refer to the county registrar.
That is what I have said. It is open to abuse.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 30 to 37, inclusive, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 6:
In Part II, page 13, after line 54, to insert the following new paragraph:
"The Secretary to the Commissioners of Irish Lights and any person in the employment of the Commissioners on a certificate from the Secretary that the person concerned performs services for the Commissioners that cannot reasonably be performed by another or postponed."
I shall not delay the House very long on this amendment. The Minister will immediately see it is eminently reasonable. We are concerned here with the situation of persons in the service of the Commissioners of Irish Lights. I could subject the Minister to a long and impassioned dissertation on the service which the commissioners and their staff render to the nation and, in particular, to our merchant navy. However, I shall not do that. I shall just leave it to the Minister's common sense.
The Bill as drafted makes provision that among those who can be excused as of right are lighthouse keepers actually employed as such. That is not enough to meet this situation. My amendment is in line with the provision made for teachers, professors, lecturers and so on. I suggest that the Secretary of the Commissioners of Irish Lights be put in the same position as the head or principal of a college or university and that he would be able to issue a certificate to state that the person concerned performed services for the commissioners "that cannot reasonably be performed by another or postponed"—the same provision which applies to teachers.
There are 618 persons altogether employed by the commissioners. I am not seeking that they should all be exempt through the provisions laid down in the Schedule, but there are about 85 per cent of those who are either working on the coast or are required almost constantly to be available for duty there. The Bill as it is drafted covers lightkeepers and masters of vessels. Lightship men are in exactly the same position as lightkeepers and they should be covered, as should the crews of lighthouse tenders.
There is a cadre of building tradesmen who for most of the year are out on the lighthouses or travelling to and from lighthouses. There are quite a number of professional, technical and industrial staff of the commissioners who are required to be available for duty on the coast. The position of these people would not be met by the Schedule as framed. I recommend my amendment to the Minister as being very reasonable; I am speaking about amendment No. 6, because amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are consequential if the Minister accepts the principle.
(Cavan): Lighthousekeepers are exempt under the Bill and there is no problem there. What the Deputy wants to do is to give authority to the Secretary of the Commissioners of Irish Lights to issue a certificate exempting anybody he thinks should be exempted.
Not just that. To certify that they are engaged, the same as teachers——
(Cavan): Yes. I know the Deputy's feeling about this, but I am advised it is not necessary, because the lighthousekeepers are exempt and anybody else who thinks he should be exempt can apply for exemption.
As the Deputy knows, there are more elaborate provisions in this Bill than were in the legislation up to the present. Under the existing law, the county registrar has no authority to exempt anyone from answering a jury summons. The people who did not turn up in court in obedience to a summons took the chance that the judge might or might not exempt them. In this Bill the summons has to be served 14 days in advance, unless in the very exceptional case discussed earlier, and the county registrar has the right to excuse somebody from attending in obedience to the summons.
(Cavan): I am spelling that out even at the risk of annoying the Deputy——
The Minister is taking no risk.
(Cavan):—— for the purpose of showing that the amendment is not necessary.
It is necessary. This is a typical example of the way we put forward a reasonable amendment which is called for by the circumstances of this type of employment and the Minister turns it down out of hands. It makes one despair of the procedure in this House. What is the point of having a Committee Stage of a Bill if, when we highlight a defect in the Bill which is unanswerable, the Minister just refuses to accept it? As I said, it makes one despair of even trying to amend legislation.
Part II of the Bill sets out a list of persons who are excusable as of right. If the head or principal teacher in a college or university has this right about a member of his staff, surely the Commissioner of Irish Lights should have this right.
(Cavan): Every lighthousekeeper is excused.
But he is not excused, unless he is employed as such. There are other persons who are in exactly the same position as lighthousekeepers. "Lighthousekeeper" does not cover the situation. The Minister must not have been listening to what I was saying. I elaborated on the type of person concerned. A man on duty on a lightship is in the same category as a lighthousekeeper. He is not included in the Bill as it stands at the moment. The crew of a lighthouse tender, engineers, men who are travelling up and down the coast on all kinds of emergency duties, are not included. Tradesmen who go to the light stations are out there for maybe two or three months on end and they are not included. If the Bill provides this power for the head or principal teacher of a college in respect of any professor, lecturer, or member of the teaching staff of such institution, surely it is perfectly reasonable and logical to give the same facility to the head of a life and death service like the Commissioners of Irish Lights. I feel quite incensed at the Minister's rejection of this reasonable and sensible proposal which is necessary to enable a vital life and death service to function properly and efficiently.
(Cavan): I do not think it is necessary because of the powers conferred on the county registrar to excuse them.
If that is so, why is the head or principal of a college put in? Why is he not put in the same boat? A teacher in a secondary school in Marino will have this privilege conferred on him as of right, while a man going back and forward on a tender to a lighthouse off the western coast——
(Cavan): Each teacher is not excused unless he gets a certificate——
That is all I am asking for.
(Cavan): But the people who are on an essential job are excused.
They are not excused. Are we talking sense here? One particular isolated category is excused— lighthousekeepers. There are engineers, tradesmen, crews of tenders, men on light ships, a whole variety of people, not included in the Bill, who are in the same position as the lighthousekeepers. The mechanism I am proposing is a sensible, straightforward, logical method of dealing with this problem. I cannot understand the Minister's refusal to accept it.
(Cavan): If we extended it that far, we might extend it to a variety of other people engaged in seagoing operations.
No, there is only one Commissioners of Irish Lights.
I worked in the lighthouse service for 15 years. I understand the problems and the Minister has been misled or misinformed on this occasion. Maintenance personnel operate from a depot in Dún Laoghaire to do a job—the safety of mariners. This is a very important job. A man may be sent to Blacksod today and then get a telegram telling him to go to Loophead, the Aran Islands or some other place tomorrow. He is constantly on the move dealing with problems. Every storm and every high sea create problems. There is a constant demand for engineers and technicians to maintain this vital and effective service.
I was often on a run for six weeks and got my mail for the full six weeks when I returned to my home base. I moved from station to station dealing with one problem after another. Every storm creates a variety of problems along the coast and at outlying stations and shore stations. A very special case should be made for some tradesmen who are away for several weeks. Getting mail to lighthousemen is not as simple as the Minister thinks and, therefore, in the normal way one could not be summoned for jury duty. This is a special service which demands special attention.
A lighthousekeeper on shore leave is on stand-to. Because of sickness at a station he may be called at any given moment. Every member of the lighthouse service, whether on the coast, in the depots or on the lighthouses, is on call 24 hours a day. This is one of the most important and misunderstood services in the country. Without this service, the lives of every mariner would be at stake.
On one occasion I went away to do a job that would take three hours but was away for ten days on board a lightship. I could not come ashore because of bad weather. That gives some indication of the situations that can arise. Other people have been six, eight or ten weeks on stations. There are helicopters available now but they do not bring out the mail every day so that you can get your summons for jury duty.
This amendment is reasonable and the Minister should give it very careful consideration. It reads:
"The Secretary of the Commissioners of Irish Lights and any person in the employment of the Commissioners on a certificate from the Secretary that the person concerned performs services for the Commissioners that cannot reasonably be performed by another or postponed."
Every situation is an emergency situation. It would be very serious if the lights around the coast were out because a person was on jury duty and could not fix them. I do not know if the Minister yet understands the grave problems confronting this service because of the non-acceptance of this amendment. I hope the Minister will examine the situation again and seek further clarification from the Commissioners of Irish Lights if he is not satisfied with what Deputy Haughey or I stated here. I would ask the Minister to do that rather than reject the amendment so that he may have a clear picture of the situation. By doing that he could ensure that the lives of the mariners are not interfered with by this Bill.
(Cavan): I do not think the fears expressed by the Deputy will materialise. The county registrar has this power. Apart from that, if the summons is not served it is not served and there is no obligation on the juror to attend. If it is served and the juror does not turn up there will never be any prosecution. I could not see any reasonable person directing a prosecution—common sense would prevail.
Does that mean that if personnel from Irish Lights do not turn up they will be excused?
(Cavan): I did not say that. I said common sense would prevail.
As Deputy Haughey pointed out, personnel who are not required for coastal duties would be available for jury service. We are dealing with personnel who are normally on call at all times. If there is a storm tonight there will be problems on the west or on the east coast tomorrow and they must be attended to immediately. Tradesmen and technicians must be transferred to the areas affected immediately in order to maintain essential services. There is a safeguard that personnel who are employed in a clerical or other capacity can be available. If the amendment is accepted it means that personnel can move freely from station to station on a certificate from the secretary. This is reasonable and if the Minister reconsiders the matter I am sure he will share my view.
Part II deals with persons who are excusable as of right and it sets out a large category who are thus excusable. It states:
Chief officers of local authorities for the purposes of the Local Government Act, 1941 (No. 23), health boards established under the Health Act, 1970 (No. 1) and harbour authorities within the meaning of the Harbours Act, 1946 (No. 9) and any employee of a local authority, health board or harbour authority on a certificate from its chief officer that it would be contrary to the public interest for the employee to have to serve as a juror because he performs essential and urgent services of public importance that cannot reasonably be performed by another or postponed.
Those words apply specifically and clearly to the type of person employed by the Commissioners of Irish Lights. Where is the justification for granting this procedure to harbour authorities, organisations who function on land and whose employees operate on land, and not granting it to the Commissioners of Irish Lights? The Minister's position is totally indefensible.
The next paragraph refers to the head or principal teacher of a college, school or other educational institution. The most minor educational institution has this procedure available to it—it need not necessarily be a university or a school. That head or principal has the facility afforded to him of being able to certify that a particular person is engaged on work that cannot reasonably be performed by another or be postponed. That certificate enables the person to be excused as of right.
It is beyond comprehension how the Minister, in the light of those two provisions, can deny a similar provision in regard to the Commissioners of Irish Lights. I am certain if the latter had been aware of what was happening they would have been in touch with the Department of Justice and when the Bill was being drafted the provision would have been included. Simply because we are putting it forward as a necessary improvement in the Bill it is rejected out of hand. We are lectured about the Opposition not doing their job but there has been very little encouragement for a member of the Opposition to go to any trouble on this Bill.
We have been very reasonable about this Bill. We have facilitated the Minister and we have let sections go through which we might have dealt with at greater length because we understand there is some urgency about the matter. Our attitude with regard to this Bill has been one of co-operation. Here we are highlighting for the Minister an absolutely legitimate and necessary amendment but we are not given the courtesy of it being dealt with in a meaningful way.
I cannot see how the Minister can possibly defend the situation, where the procedure is laid down with regard to harbour authorities but is not granted to the Commissioners of Irish Lights. The Minister's argument that lighthousekeepers are covered is not enough; there are countless persons employed by Irish Lights who are in exactly the same position as lighthousekeepers. If the Minister sees it necessary to include the latter he has no valid case for rejecting the procedure we are putting forward. I find it difficult to remain calm about the way the Minister is dealing with this proposal.
(Cavan): The proposed procedure for excusing jurors is far more elaborate than the existing one. It goes a long way towards relieving any hardships that may be imposed on jurors. The present amendment relates purely to employees of Irish Lights. The Deputy concedes that lighthousekeepers are specifically exempted by the Bill but he wants to extend to the secretary of Irish Lights the same rights as will be enjoyed by a secretary of a Department——
(Cavan): Yes. This Bill is required urgently. It was discussed in the Seanad and in this House. I am not saying this in a complaining way but simply as a fact— the present amendment was put down late last evening. It so happens that the Minister who is responsible for the Bill was called away on urgent business and I am standing in for him. It may well be that if the Minister for Justice were here he would accept this amendment. I do not want the House to be at any disadvantage because the Minister for Justice is not here. I have the same rights and responsibilities while I am here as the Minister for Justice would have if he were in the House.
I have listened to the arguments of Deputy Haughey and others in support of the amendment. It may well be that the Minister for Justice, if he were here, would have accepted it, but my opinion is that it will not make a lot of difference one way or another, that it is perhaps not unreasonable that the secretary to the Commissioners of Irish Lights should enjoy the same privilege, if it is not going too far to call it a privilege, as harbour authorities. In the circumstances I propose to accept the amendment.
I would be less than gracious if I did not express my appreciation to the Minister. I understand the situation in which he finds himself and I admire his parliamentary courage.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are consequential. I move amendment No. 7:
In Part II, page 13, line 55, after "pilots" to insert "and".
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 8:
In Part II, page 13, line 56, to delete "and lighthousekeepers actually employed as such".
Amendment agreed to.
First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Second Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Agreed to take Remaining Stage today.