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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 20 Apr 1977

Vol. 298 No. 8

Courts Bill, 1977: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The main purpose of this Bill is contained in section 1 which provides for an increase from seven to nine in the statutory maximum number of ordinary judges of the High Court, ignoring for the moment the terms of section 14 of the Law Reform Commission Act, 1975, which provide inter alia that, in certain circumstances, the number shall be one more; an increase from nine to 11 in the statutory maximum number of ordinary judges of the Circuit Court; and an increase in the statutory maximum number of justices of the District Court—in addition to the President—from 34 to 39.

The Bill also contains certain changes in existing legislative provisions regarding assignments of Circuit Court judges. These changes are to some extent made necessary by the increase in the number of ordinary judges proposed in section 1. However, the opportunity has been taken to consolidate in one Bill all the existing provisions relating to assignments. Section 3 contains certain consequential provisions, including the necessary substitution of a new paragraph for paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section 14 of the Law Reform Commission Act, 1975.

Recent years have shown a very substantial increase in High Court business. Between 1970 and 1976 the number of cases set down for hearing increased by 151 per cent and, although there was an increase of 143 per cent in the same period in the rate of disposal of cases, serious arrears have accumulated. As a result, the position at the end of the Michaelmas term in December last was that 1,335 cases awaited hearing. This unsatisfactory state of affairs has been exacerbated by the fact that Judge Pringle was appointed full-time chairman of An Bord Pleanála in January of this year which has resulted in the time of one of the ordinary judges of the High Court now being fully absorbed by sittings of the Special Criminal Court, and this will continue while the existence of that court continues to be necessary.

To highlight the seriousness of this situation it is sufficient to point out that the average time-lag between the setting down of a jury action and its coming on for trial is now about ten months. The last occasion on which an increase in the number of High Court judges took place was in 1973 when the Courts Act, 1973 increased the number of ordinary judges from six to seven. At that time there was a time-lag of about 12 months between the setting down of a jury action and its coming on for trial. As a consequence of the appointment of the seventh judge this time-lag was reduced by mid-1975 to five months.

I should also mention here that in the past two years there has been a sharp increase in the number of family law cases coming before the High Court. The coming into force of the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act and the Family Home Protection Act during 1976 has intensified that increase and the growth in the number of such cases is expected to continue. The position has already been reached where the hearing of these cases accounts, for all practical purposes, for the full time of one judge. I am sure the House will agree that, having regard to the nature and special urgency of such cases, any avoidable delay in dealing with them cannot be justified.

As Deputies will be aware, I have already arranged for the provision of special additional court facilities for the hearing of family law cases in rented accommodation in the immediate vicinity of the Four Courts. These facilities are intended as a temporary measure pending completion of the redevelopment of the Four Courts Hotel site which has been purchased for the purpose of enabling the existing courtroom accommodation within the Four Courts proper to be considerably increased.

The Government are satisfied that the growth in the volume of High Court business generally will continue for the foreseeable future and that, accordingly, the proposed increased complement of High Court judges will be fully occupied even after sittings of the Special Criminal Court cease. This, then, is the background to the proposal to increase by two the statutory maximum number of ordinary judges of the High Court.

The maximum number of permanent ordinary judges of the Circuit Court authorised by statute—section 2 of the Courts Act, 1964—is nine. However, section 14 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1936, authorises the Government temporarily to increase that number whenever it appears to the Government that such a step is necessary to prevent the work of the Circuit Court getting into arrears either generally or in any particular circuit or circuits. Successive Governments have, over the years, found it necessary from time to time to increase temporarily the number of Circuit Court judges to cope with the persistent growth in the business of that court and, in recent years, to contribute judicial time to the sittings of the Special Criminal Court. At the moment the full complement of Circuit Court judges includes two "temporary" judges. These appointments were necessitated by the continuing growth in the volume of court business and the involvement of Circuit Court judges in sittings of the Special Criminal Court the membership of which now includes three such judges.

The business of the Circuit Court has, as I have already indicated, continued to grow over the years and this growth has accelerated in recent years. Between 1970 and 1976 the growth in the overall business of the court has been of the order of 30 per cent. The Government are satisfied that the business of the Circuit Court will continue to grow for the foreseeable future and that, accordingly, the existing complement of 12 judges including the President of the Circuit Court, is the minimum number that is now required and that will continue to be required to cope with the business of the Circuit Court even when sittings of the Special Criminal Court cease.

The Government are also satisfied —and I am sure the House will agree with them in this—that in such circumstances it is unjustifiable that two judges should continue to hold office on a temporary basis. Accordingly, the Bill provides for an increase of two in the statutory maximum number of ordinary Circuit Court judges. I may add that it is the intention of the Government that the two serving "temporary" judges be made permanent so that the question of new appointments does not arise as a result of this provision.

Section 28 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act, 1961, provides that the number of justices of the District Court, in addition to the President of the District Court, shall not be more than 34. However, as in the case of the Circuit Court, the Government are authorised to increase that number temporarily whenever it appears to them that such a step is necessary to prevent the work of the District Court getting into arrear. This authority is contained in section 51 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1936.

At the present time, in addition to the complement of 34 permanent justices, five "temporary" justices stand appointed. One of the temporary justices is, of course, required to make good the loss of the permanent district justice who acts as full-time chairman of An Bord Uchtála. The number of such justices was increased from one to five during the years 1973 and 1974 because of the need for more justices to cope with the then rapidly increasing volume of business and the substantially increased demand that sittings of the Special Criminal Court were making on the services of district justices. The overall volume of District Court business increased by about 43 per cent between 1970 and 1976 and the Government are satisfied that the volume of business will continue to increase.

Another pertinent factor is the growth in the number of maintenance cases following the enactment of the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976. Due to their complexity and delicateness each of these cases can account for a proportionately large amount of court time compared with, for example, parking cases. The position has been reached where the existing complement of 39 justices, in addition to the President of the District Court, is the minimum number that is now required and that will continue to be required for the forseeable future to cope with the business of the District Court even when sittings of the Special Criminal Court cease, and also to continue to provide a full-time chairman for An Bord Uchtála.

As I have already pointed out in relation to the Circuit Court, it is, in the Government's view, unjustifiable that in such circumstances five justices of the District Court should continue to hold office on a temporary basis. Accordingly, the Bill provides for an increase of five in the statutory maximum number of District Justices. Here again, it is the Government's intention that the five existing "temporary" justices should be given permanent appointments so that the question of new appointments does not arise.

From the Minister's speech and from this brief Bill itself, it is clear that the net effect of this legislation is to increase the number of High Court judges by two. This will effectively enable the Government to make the appointments of the two temporary Circuit Court judges permanent and will also enable the Minister to make the existing five temporary District justices permanent. This would seem to mean that the number of extra justices and judges available at District, Circuit or High Court level would be two. Taking into account the fact that Mr. Justice Pringle, who served in the Special Criminal Court, has now been assigned to the planning board and that a High Court judge has to act constantly in the Special Criminal Court, this means that one extra High Court judge is being appointed over and above the complement that existed when Mr. Justice Pringle was sitting in the Special Criminal Court.

To summarise, this Bill enables the Government to appoint one extra judge. It also enables the Minister to make permanent the temporary appointments of Circuit Court judges and District Court justices. It might be no harm to see to what extent that is an adequate proposal to deal with the position in the courts at the moment.

As the Minister pointed out, a very serious backlog of cases in the courts has been developing at every level. I would like to state as a first principle that the cheapest time of all—I do not mean the cheapest to the State but to get the best return in terms of money paid for services rendered—is judicial time. There can be a long delay in dealing with cases. Even when a case is called, people can be delayed in the courts for two or three days before their cases are heard. This means that expert witnesses, engineers, doctors and so on, are queueing up to give evidence. We have this delay because there are not enough judges to hear the cases.

If one were to analyse the situation one would realise that to appoint an extra judge at the appropriate salary would be a saving to the public—and they are the people we are concerned about here. This could mean a great saving for litigants and that should be our first concern. The public must get the best service at the lowest cost and I do not think this Bill goes far enough to do that.

It can be reasonably argued that this Bill goes further than we ever went in our time. It has become quite clear, because of the unfortunate increase in crime or the natural increase in population—about which we will not know very much over the next few years— that there has been a considerable increase in litigation, whether civil, criminal or otherwise, coming before the courts.

An example of this emerges from the Minister's statement. When talking of the High Court he said:

As a result, the position at the end of the Michaelmas term in December last was that 1,335 cases awaited hearing.

May I bring him up to date? Those 1,335 cases on jury actions alone have become 2,060 and, on non-jury actions, have become 562. That seems to make a grand total of 2,622 in comparison with the 1,335. I do not know if we are comparing like with like. I am working merely on the abstract available in the central office showing that total.

I do not know whether the Minister is talking about jury actions here. No, he seems to be talking about High Court business generally. That is a huge increase in the amount of business and is symptomatic of what is happening at other levels. I am told further by those who practise in the Dublin Circuit Court that that is the worst of all, that the delay there in getting a case on for trial at present—it is civil litigation—is between one-and-a-half and two years after the case has been entered for trial. I understand that there are four judges in the Dublin Circuit Court. I understand that two of them deal permanently with criminal work. One deals with motions, District Court appeals, licensing applications and title work generally and the third is available. My apologies, I was wrong; one deals with motions, District Court appeals and licensing work generally. The fourth seems to be available for all the other civil work needing to be done in the city and county of Dublin —one circuit judge for income tax, malicious injury applications, ejectments and all other civil actions needing to be dealt with. The reality of the situation is that citizens of this city and county who want to have these matters dealt with by the court— and I am speaking now only of civil actions—have to wait not less than one-and-a-half years to have their cases heard and sometimes up to two years. That is the information given me by those who practise in that court.

That is merely a measure of those who are determined, no matter how long they wait, to put their cases down. There are so many others who obviously ask themselves: "What is the point? If one has to wait this long it will not be worth a candle by the time the case comes to be handled." The issues may have been clouded, the parties involved could have died and so on and many of them will not proceed to have their cases dealt with. It is the old maxim of: justice delayed is justice denied. I should like to know if that is not so but I believe at first hand that it is so. If the Minister can convince me that my informants are wrong, I shall be glad to hear the basis on which he can assure me that they are wrong. If they are correct— and I believe they are—equally I shall be glad to hear what steps the Minister proposes to take to deal with the situation.

It does seem that, like every other business of the State, the pressure of court business has increased enormously. One must add also that the pressure on judges and judges' staff has accordingly increased enormously, which is something that must also be taken into account. But in the final analysis what we are all concerned about and what we are concerned about here is that the public get the best and most expeditious service at the cheapest possible rate. I question whether this Bill goes even a small way towards providing those answers. Merely securing the appointment of two temporary Circuit Court judges who will become permanent ipso facto does not constitute any move towards dealing with the huge backlog of litigation cases obtaining in the city and county of Dublin.

The appointment of extra judges is only one aspect of it. The provision of extra accommodation is equally important. When I speak in terms of providing extra accommodation the need will not be very great now because we are providing for only one extra High Court judge over and above the complement existing while Mr. Justice Pringle serves on the Special Criminal Court. There is one extra man only at all levels, High Court, Circuit Court and District Court. Assuming that we were going to tackle the problem—which does not appear to be the case at present—then the provision of adequate accommodation would be as vitally important as the appointment of judges to deal with the business.

I welcome and support entirely the provision of a separate complex to deal with family law cases. The fact that the complex will be located near the existing courts is equally vitally important for a lot of good social and practical reasons. To take the social reasons first, at present at every level in our courts— certainly in the District Court and again I am relying on information provided to me by practitioners there—it seems to be a matter of very great concern not merely to the practitioners but to all concerned. All the people involved in the normal issues that arise in family law in many cases have to sit cheek by jowl with people in the corridors, sometimes in the courts, who are before the courts for criminal offences, unfortunately, young people sometimes involved in these family law cases who are not segregated to the extent they might be from others before the court not because of anything their parents have done but because of offences they have themselves committed. I know the Minister accepts the desirability of ensuring that these cases be treated differently. They are very different from any other type of litigation, be it criminal or civil to be dealt with by the courts. It has become a great social issue. The media have become very concerned and many concerned pressure groups have been promoting the need for reform of family law. However, one must, at the same time, recognise that the fewer family law cases there are the better. Generally, they derive only from the breakdown of the existing fundamental structure in our society, namely, the married unit. The only time people will need to have recourse to the courts on family law issues is when the normal agreement and harmony existing in the ordinary married unit—allowing for the regular stresses and strains that occur in every marriage—have broken down.

The provision of separate family courts, far from being an inducement to people to litigate, where they should settle their differences is simply a recognition that these are different from other types of court cases and should be dealt with in a different atmosphere. As we provide separate facilities in court equally we must ensure—and this is probably a matter of less concern to this Minister than to others—that, as our law develops in this area, that our social services, advisory services, school services and educational services for young people in the preparation and training for marriage are developed to an extent that the need for recourse to family courts will diminish rather than increase. If we do not tackle that side of it we are only treating a symptom that will spread and spread. That symptom, unfortunately, will only be seen at the last stage, when one goes to court.

I hope the Government have in mind, in conjunction with the provision of adequate facilities and separate judges at every level to deal with family law, the need for the necessary social and advisory services, marriage councils, and the extension of that service, to service these courts, to take them out of the atmosphere of litigation but, more important, to prevent people in the first instance having to go near a court. That concerns education and recreational facilities and the other things which create the environment that makes crime more likely in built-up cities than in rural Ireland. That means that the Department of Education must show a greater awareness of the problem of overcrowded classrooms and the problems teachers face in dealing with such classes. If that problem is not tackled the children who are being neglected in these crowded classrooms have only one road to travel which eventually leads them to the courts we are at present discussing, a road we must ensure they do not travel. We must have adequate recreational facilities for our children.

During my term as Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for youth and recreational facilities I got a magnificent response from the voluntary organisations dealing with those matters. I was made aware that those people did more to maintain the harmony, happiness and security of the young people of our towns and cities than any number of judges can when they finally adjudicate on problems. I cannot understand how the Government turned their backs on them. We achieved a minor breakthrough in this regard and it was most satisfying to work with people who were trying to ensure that our young people were provided with adequate recreational facilities. However, as with so many other things, the Government have no plan. We had a plan but it is dead. Those who refer to the increase in juvenile crime should ask themselves if anything has been done over the past four years to provide facilities that would ensure that children do not get into this inevitable tunnel of crime from which there is only one exit, into court and then to prison. It is our job to ensure that they are diverted to something more meaningful. There is little evidence of any awareness of the need to do that. I acknowledge that that is not the function of the Minister for Justice. He is only here like the surgeon who is called in at the terminal stages. The Minister is here not to deal with preventive medicine but to provide the facilities whereby judges, practitioners and those concerned at that level, can deal with the diseased body. Many of us would prefer to see social circumstances in which families can grow and prosper in a healthy environment.

It is significant that the view expressed by the group calling themselves "community councillors" was to a great extent telling the people that they believed such facilities should be provided to prevent children getting into trouble. There was a response to that view by the people of Dublin and we should all take account of that. That is an indication of the concern people have. If it reaches the stage when juveniles are brought before the court we must try to find the best way of dealing with such cases. On the family law side there is, unfortunately, an increasing number of such cases being litigated at every level in the High Court. I say "unfortunately" because it is an indication of the breakdown in the ordinary marriage unit. However, we should not go overboard because it is not always quite as overwhelming as it is sometimes presented. Yesterday I checked with the central office of the High Court to find out how many family law cases are awaiting determination. The House will be surprised to hear that there are 50 cases awaiting determination. Most of those cases, as distinct from the ordinary provisions of custody or family home protection or rights within the home, would be what we call divorce a mensa et toro, separation proceedings. The number is a lot less than most people felt would be in the High Court. I cannot say what the issue is in all those cases but from my experience in the High Court it is reasonable to say that perhaps 80 per cent of those cases awaiting determination would be cases involving the seeking of a decree of separation. Some of them might have been cases consequent on decrees which had been made previously. It is perhaps less than most of us would have expected and if it is it is encouraging.

When talking about the breakdown of marriages we must recognise that there are many people working on a voluntary basis, and otherwise, and people living normal family lives, who are setting standards which are maintaining that figure at such a low level. Nothing that anyone can do by way of providing court facilities can ever be as effective as the collective will of the public which is to ensure that the best standards are maintained. It is fair to say that in Britain, America and other countries they have more effective separate facilities with sophisticated services in courts and elsewhere in areas of family law. That is as it should be but it is true to say that the need for them is more intense in those countries than it is here. That is not to say that we are holier than anybody else, far from it, but we have an obligation at every level, particularly educational, to ensure that the need to go to court does not arise.

If these cases come to court there is a lot to be said for having them heard in an informal procedure that for one reason or another does not operate under the present system. The general provisions of family law provide that these cases should be heard in private, and generally, that trend is followed. I would go further and suggest that they be heard in private with an informal type of procedure, and if possible, ensure that the ceremonial dress of judge and advocate is dispensed with so that the children or people appearing before such family tribunals would feel that they were not being adjudicated on but were having the opportunity to consult, be advised and helped by people qualified and concerned to do it. The less of the ceremonial dress and procedures of the ordinary court they meet in such circumstances the better.

I am not asking that a judge be required to take a casual approach. I am sure judges would not but the least formal and most convenient procedures should be adopted to ensure that everybody presents the real issues to the presiding judge or justice and have all relevant facts considered in the interest of the family unit appearing before the tribunal. In relation to the Circuit Court position in Dublin I have been informed that there are 10,000 civil actions awaiting trial in the city. I am also informed that that means a wait of at least two years. I am also informed that many people adopt the attitude that it is not worth waiting that long. If that is so we cannot sit back and say that we are providing a service for the public because we are not. The public always take a collective view towards a group they do not belong to and it is possible that, as I belong to the legal profession, they will say I am looking for the appointment of more judges but that is not my concern. I do not hope to have any responsibility of sitting in that position but it is wrong that citizens of this city should be asked to wait for two years to have their ordinary civil cases determined— this applies to everything from title ejectment proceedings to injury and other kinds of actions. We all meet people who express frustration about such delays. Because of the delay that arises in having cases reached for trial even after they have been set down that poses a special obligation on the legal profession to ensure there is no delay on their part in getting cases to that stage. Normally, before a case is set down for trial in the High Court there can be a delay of up to 18 months. If the preliminaries take from three to six years, as in some cases they do, then we all have a greater responsibility because that is outside the scope of Government. Deputy Esmonde is uneasy when I say that because he has a better track record than most in getting cases dealt with.

It might help the Deputy to indicate that my information with regard to the time lag in the Circuit Court civil business in Dublin is that the interval is eight months between notice of trial and hearing. When the Deputy speaks of two years that possibly takes in the pleadings and the professional end of it but as far as the administration of the courts is concerned eight months is the period.

If that is so, I am glad to hear it. I based my statement on information I received yesterday from practitioners. I accept the Minister has recourse to more precise figures than I but those figures were given to me yesterday.

They were taking into account their part in the trial.

They were not doing so, as I understand. Otherwise, they were blaming themselves.

I will check this matter out and deal with it when replying. Does the Deputy's figure include malicious injury claims?

No. Many malicious injury claims are disposed of before they reach court.

There is still a big list of them.

I am glad to hear the Minister say that the position is not as crucial as I was given to understand in relation to the Circuit Court.

That is on the civil side; it is not good on the criminal side.

It is not and I do not know the reason for the delay. However, judging by the increase in crime in Dublin over the last number of years one can see that there are many more cases to be dealt with. On the criminal side the courts only fulfil one function, the function of imposing a penalty. Every other function in the related area of crime, preventive or otherwise, is fulfilled by somebody else. The first people who come to mind are the gardaí. There is no doubt that one of the most abiding worries at present is the lack of adequate gardaí on the beat. Everybody is concerned about this. People complain that the situation is disastrous because of the lack of gardaí to do the normal work they are trained to do, prevent crime by their presence and be kept informed by the public of undesirable developments that may lead to crime. This can only start with the gardaí on the beat. Many more judges can be appointed but if we do not have adequate gardaí we are not dealing effectively with the problem. Like family law, the problem must be tackled at every level with the courts as the final stage. Judges often admit that they would prefer that such matters be dealt with at an earlier stage. We must provide for a greater increase in the Garda.

I believe the public generally recognise that and accept the burden laid on them as taxpayers as very well warranted. My party have made clear our position. Because of the continuance of security problems in the North and the unfortunate consequences they are having for us here members of both the Garda Síochána and the Army have to be deployed on a quasi-permanent basis along the Border and that naturally results in fewer gardaí being available in this part of the country. The lack of gardaí in towns and cities has led to a huge increase in crime. Everyone of us has become abundantly aware of the problem. Irresponsible and ruthless men and women must be dealt with. We are all aware of the attack directed against the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Cluskey, in his home yesterday. In passing, may I say I deplore what happened and so does every member of my party? It was a most vicious attack directed not just against the individual but against the institutions of the State. Nothing could justify that kind of attack. We all recognise the need for the Government to deal effectively with the situation. I am glad to have the opportunity of saying this but, having said it, how can the Government ignore reality when the ordinary criminal is having a holiday in every city and town at the moment?

That is a gross exaggeration and it is the sort of thing which encourages criminals to think they have open house. It encourages crime. Irresponsible exaggeration encourages the criminal to think he has open house.

Perhaps "holiday" is an overstatement and I withdraw it. The Minister says it is gross exaggeration. That may be, but ordinary people are very, very concerned. Is that an exaggeration?

I do not know how one can quantify the concern of ordinary people.

It is time we started to do it and that is the Minister's job, not mine. People will not stay in their own homes. Is that concern? I am aware of the situation and I presume my experience is no different from that of others. The situation can only be dealt with by increasing the number of gardaí so that the courts can deal effectively with those brought before them. We need 2,000 extra gardaí and not 500 and we must pay them in accordance with the responsibilities they have thereby enabling the courts to operate effectively.

The Minister must have statistics with regard to the cases in which there is delay and I would like to have these figures. Unconvicted criminals out on bail invariably commit more crimes. The problem must be tackled and the appointment of two temporary judges as permanent judges is not the solution. What is it intended to achieve? When I have the answer to that question I shall be better informed than I am at the moment. What is needed is more judges with accommodation and staff. The appointment of more judges will call for the appointment of more county registrars, district court clerks and registrars to deal with the ever-increasing burden of work. Staff play a vital part in the administration of justice. Only with sufficient staff can there be expedition. I would support the appointment of more staff to ensure effective and expeditious service. At the moment staff are very hard worked indeed.

I presume the Minister will shortly be announcing a comprehensive scheme of civil legal aid to ensure that family law will operate without regard to the means of the parties concerned. We want to see a proper code of social justice. There must be every guarantee that those affected will not be prevented from benefiting because of lack of finance. I presume the Minister will be able to tell us what long-term proposals he has in this area to allay the concern on the part of the public at the moment.

In talking of delay, how much of that, I wonder, is due to understaffing in the office of the DPP and the Chief State Solicitor? I have not had much experience of the office of the DPP and I am glad to have this opportunity of putting on record that I have never prosecuted, even during the long period of Fianna Fáil Government, because I thought it inappropriate for a Member of this House to prosecute. I have not done so either now. However, I believe from those who do prosecute that there is a lack of adequate personnel to prepare cases for trial in the Criminal Court. That is not at all to criticise those who are there, because those of us who know them are aware of the very diligent way in which they go about preparing these cases for trial. Having regard to all the statements that have to be prepared to be presented to the accused and their solicitors, and all the necessary procedures that have to be implemented to guarantee the rights of the accused person and to ensure that justice is done, a great deal of paper work and preliminary work has to be done in consultation with the gardaí concerned. It has been suggested to me that just as there is a shortage of gardaí in this critical area, there is also a shortage of adequate personnel in these offices.

Any shortage of personnel, whether it is in the Garda Síochána, the office of the Chief State Solicitor or that of the Director of Public Prosecutions must be corrected. The Minister is in the privileged position of having both the information and the authority to do something about it. I have neither one or the other except to judge from observation and from comments made to me. If that is so, the Minister should, rather than tell us about the delay in bringing cases to trial on the criminal side, tell us what he proposes to do to ensure that delay will be minimised in the interest of both the accused and of the public.

I want to turn now to something that will not necessarily win me the support and applause of all my colleagues at the Bar. In the High Court, to which the Minister made reference in his opening remarks, particularly on the jury side, the general position is that 12 to 15 cases are listed for hearing in Dublin every day, more than likely in three courts. I have no comment to make on the fact that it is necessary to put that number of cases in for hearing other than to wonder whether we will ever get to the stage of breaking down that backlog that I referred to earlier. However, it is not possible to hear 12 cases per day with only three courts to deal with them. Each case will take about one day, some more, some less. Therefore the public are sometimes, by that simple fact, pressured into settling cases that otherwise they might want to have litigated by a court. It is a good thing in its own way that cases should be settled but not on the basis that the rights of either party are being compromised. I am not suggesting that they would themselves compromise their own interests. Their professional representatives have the obligation, and I am sure so act, to ensure their rights are not compromised, but it may be that the doctor or the engineer who is a witness or the litigant himself may wish to get home and if it looks as if the case will not be taken that day, the litigant may feel that he should agree to settle the case.

I do not blame the President of the court for putting in these cases for hearing, because otherwise there would be no prospect at all of dealing with that huge backlog, but the answer might be to provide an extra judge and an extra court—which would be much cheaper than having expert witnesses waiting around—and thus ensure that people can have their cases disposed of as is their constitutional right. I know it is easy to point out the problems, that it is much more difficult to provide the remedy. Nevertheless there must be a very radical and determined approach by the Minister and his Department in every area we are dealing with this morning to ensure that the problems we are trying to cope with will be dealt with as effectively as possible and that the rights we are trying to protect will be protected.

There are one or two other anomalies to which I should like to refer as well, and jury actions in the High Court give me an opportunity of referring to one of them. The position in court at the moment is that young people over 18 years are qualified to serve on juries. That is perhaps as it should be having regard to the attitude that has been adopted towards over 18's in the last few years. However, is it not extraordinary that while he is qualified to determine the rights and compensation as between two parties, the litigant must be over 21 before he can act in his own right? There is obviously an anomaly there that needs to be corrected. If young people are qualified enough to decide (a) the liability between litigants in court and (b) the amount of compensation which should accrue to injured litigants, which is a much more complex operation than simply being a litigant, surely they are qualified enough to represent themselves in their own right without having to be represented by a parent or guardian. I know there is protection for people under 21 that once proceedings have issued there must be a judicial determination as to settlement terms and so on. All I am saying is that while those protections are desirable, there is an anomaly. If we as a society take the view that people over 18 are capable of assuming certain responsibilities like voting, for instance, or sitting on juries, surely we should be consistent and say that that same generation, that same age group, are also capable of bringing their own cases to court as any other citizens would do. I should like the Minister to let me know what proposals he has— and he must have some—to deal with that anomaly. Anomalies are inevitable from time to time because as one makes progress in some areas it means that the areas in which progress has not been made must be brought up to date. It is ludicrous that an obviously intelligent and well-informed 20-year-old has the issues in his case determined by a jury of people who may be two or three years younger than him and many of whom may have less education and experience than the person bringing the case before the courts. I should like to have some response from the Minister on this.

On the overall, as with our gardaí so with our judiciary. We are especially fortunate to have a judiciary that operates independently and that must operate independently of this Parliament and Executive. Generally the people most concerned here are the Government and every step they make in their association with the judiciary, in appointments and otherwise, should have one fundamental concern and that is to ensure that the judiciary generally will be allowed to operate entirely independently of the political representation in this House and of the Executive. That is vitally important. Our judges are constitutionally independent and that is one of the greatest guarantees we have. Those of us who have had the privilege of practising before them recognise how important that is and how much the public are protected by that. Sometimes the public may have doubts or suspicions for one reason or another. Irrespective of who is in Government the only thing we can do here is ensure that in our relations with the judiciary and in appointments to the judiciary we will discharge those responsibilities with one aim only in mind and that is the upholding of the dignity of the courts and the guarantee that justice will be administered effectively. We can be very happy with the performance of our judges and the status which they have and the responsibility lies on us to ensure that that situation will continue.

I know that the independence of the courts is the most precious asset they have. At the same time, that does not mean that consultations cannot take place from time to time between the Minister and the representatives of the judiciary. Inevitably in the District Court, where there are 39 judges operating in areas as far apart as Donegal and Wexford, there will be a difference of attitude and style and different reactions from the judges. Because they operate in different conditions there will be a difference of attitude towards certain offences and there will not always be the consistency in sentencing that we would like to have in the best of all worlds. Consistency generally is commendable, though it is not for us to comment on it. To the extent that there would seem to be an inconsistency I would hope that it would be possible for the Minister to convey to the President of the appropriate court—not in regard to a particular case because that would be totally outside the functions of the Minister—the desirability of the judges meeting from time to time to maintain a liaison which normally might be difficult. They would be able by constant discussion to maintain a fairly consistent pattern, particularly in response to criminal offences, so that the law throughout the country would be seen by the public to operate on an even pattern. I do not think that would infringe at all on the functions of the judiciary. If I thought it would I would be the last to suggest it. If the President of the appropriate court were to tell the Minister that it was none of his business, then the Minister would have to live with that. I feel it is desirable that uniform standards should be maintained.

There is another point I want to make and I want some information from the Minister in relation to it. Some time ago we spent a very considerable time in this House discussing the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill, 1976, otherwise known as extra-territorial legislation. This took a very considerable time and the Government have sometimes suggested that the Opposition have been responsible to a considerable extent for delays in putting business through the House. We were told that this Bill was vitally necessary and urgent. There was obviously a considerable difference of opinion between the Government and this side of the House as to how necessary and urgent this legislation really was and as to how effective it would be. We said that it was neither necessary nor urgent and we said also that it would not work and would impose unreasonable hazards on our judges if it were to work. We were told that all of these views were wrong and that some of them were irresponsible. I want to ask the Minister what case, if any, has come before the courts under that legislation. What judge, if any, of our Special Criminal Court has been called upon to deal with any change under that legislation? If there have been no charges, can the Minister tell us why not? Can he tell us why it was that we spent all that time here with all the consequences, all the debate and divisions and arguments, to no effect? I want to know why that was so. The Minister introduced the Bill on the basis that it was necessary and urgent. Why was it so urgent and why did he not listen to our argument that it was not urgent and certainly was not workable? We are not complaining that these things have not happened but we want to know why. The Government must answer for having taken up so much time to such little effect except to arouse a degree of concern, to cause divisions where divisions should not have existed and apprehension where apprehension should not have existed. They should have looked at what would have been more effective, namely, an all-Ireland court.

We are talking about courts and the problems of society at the moment, about civil and criminal litigation. Unfortunately we must talk more and more every day about the security position and the peace and the security which people want in their homes and what that means to them in their own land. We still say that the best guarantee of that peace is to have a properly constituted court operating throughout this land with representation from both sides of this divided country. That is the only way to deal with this problem. We said this long ago and we say it again now with due respect to what courts can achieve, not just in imposing penalties and sanctions and also in upholding the fundamental rights of the individual where such may seem to be transgressed by the institutions of the State, if there are complaints to that effect. We want to ensure that the courts which have done such a great job for us in this part of the country and which we have come to respect can spread that benign and effective influence throughout this land. It is another argument, but in so far as one has not obviously been necessary to that extent it has failed. It is not too much to ask the Minister if there is any consideration of a desirable alternative in dealing with what is still a very urgent problem, namely the terrible continuing violence throughout the whole of this land and if there is a way that this can be solved through the other system it is time we took another and more effective look at it this time than we did on the last occasion. We seem to have spent so much time in this Parliament to so little effect.

There is nothing else that I need to say. Perhaps the Bill does not really deal with the problem because it does not provide for extra judges and it does not deal in a radical way with the problems that exist at every level of the courts, District, Circuit or High Court. Perhaps the Minister has better experience of the District Court than I have. I would like to hear what long-term plans he has. To come back to the point at which I started, no one is interested in simply providing extrajudicial appointments to the extent that they are being made. There is an obligation on us to make sure that they are made in the best interests of the people on whose behalf they are being made. We are obliged to be interested in servicing the public needs. As far as one can see from the undue delays which occur in the courts at the moment, that is not being served adequately and this Bill does not go far enough to deal with it. I would like to hear the Minister's response to some of the queries raised when he is replying to this Stage and I hope we can leave this legislation in the knowledge that we have taken some steps to deal with these problems in using the courts to the best possible advantage.

I fully support this short Bill in which there are five sections. There are only two material sections, 1 and 2, and they are designed to increase the number of judges and justices throughout the country. The Minister has convinced the House fully that this is absolutely necessary to the administration of justice. I should like to use the opportunity of this Second Reading to say something which is not said often enough, that the judiciary are completely independent of the Government, of this Dáil and of the Oireachtas, and they carry out their functions, administer justice and interpret and apply the law to the citizenry of the State free from any interference whatsoever from the Government or anyone else. The independence of the judiciary is the greatest safeguard that the individual has of his liberty. Many civil rights people who speak about everything but civil rights never mention the independent nature of the judiciary which should be emphasised very strongly to the public at all times. One reason I mention this is that because I am a Government Deputy people approach me in the streets and in all kinds of places and say, "I was reading the paper the other day about the case down in Mullinavat"—or a case in the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, or a case here or there—"why did that happen? What are you doing about that?" Somehow they identify the administration of justice with the Government of the day.

The day-to-day running of the mechanics of the administration of justice are left to the judges and justices themselves and thank God for that. It would be a sad day for democracy and for the populace if any Government or even a Government agency of any description could interfere with the day-to-day running of the courts. This was brought home to me very forcibly recently because a lot of publicity was given to the case of a number of British army personnel who crossed the Border. Many people came to me and expressed very strong feelings about that case and they said that this and that should have been done, that so many things had not been done. I pointed out to them at all times that the case was brought and conducted independent of the Government and this Government had nothing whatsoever to do with it. That is not said often enough. The independence of the judiciary must be stressed to each member of the public. Certain members of the public do not understand the day-to-day running of the courts in this respect. This Government have done more for the independence of the judiciary than any previous Government in the history of this State. They have gone further than any other Government in appointing a Director of Public Prosecutions and so have copper-fastened and made stronger the independence of the judiciary. That will stand to their credit.

I feel very strongly about people's reaction to certain cases and particularly to the British army personnel case but that was initiated by the Director of Public Prosecutions and dealt with by the courts and this Government had nothing whatsoever to do with it. There were different reactions to that case, but one reaction I would like to see from all quarters is that each and every person who interests himself in such a thing realises that the judiciary are fully independent. I say that not because people came up to me in the streets talking about that or other cases. There was a lot of comment in the Press as well at the time. There is a cardinal rule in politics that a pressman is never wrong, that the pressman is always right. That may be true for politics, and I would be the last as a politician to tell any pressman how to go about his job or how to do his work. However, in reporting court cases in the paper the Press can slant things sometimes and this is not done from any malice or ill-conceived intention. Many Press reporters, not only in the Special Criminal Court, the High Court or Supreme Court, but in the District Courts, do not fully understand the mechanics of the administration of justice. I often read in the newspapers the reports of cases in which I have been involved and I am astonished at how different the reports are from what happened. I am not preaching to the Press. That is the last thing I want to do, but I say that the people's reaction to the Press has a tremendous possibility in this respect. We read of one man being charged with an offence and the following day another man in a different area being charged with a similar offence, both cases having completely different results. The snippet that one sees in the newspaper gives the impression that justice is not being administered in a fair and impartial way. The Press have a tremendous responsibility and politically motivated crimes should be handled with the utmost care.

There are all kinds of descriptions of political prisoners in newspapers. There is no such thing. A prisoner is in prison simply because he has been convicted of an offence under the criminal code. The crime may have been politically motivated, but nevertheless it is a crime. Reading about such cases people often let their hearts sway them instead of depending on their intellects. Everyone concerned should stress at all times to the public the complete independence of the judiciary. We have had it since the foundation of the State and it has worked well. In times of stress it still works well. It is to the credit of this Government that they appointed a Director of Public Prosecutions and the public can be consoled by the fact that at all times the Government have nothing whatever to do with the conduct of any case in any court.

The Minister referred to the increase in court work. It is extraordinary that from 1970 to 1976 there was an increase of 151 per cent in the volume of High Court work. Similarly, in the Circuit Court over the same period there was an increase of 30 per cent, and in the District Court an increase of 43 per cent. On top of all this we hear that in jury actions there has been an average time delay of ten months from the setting down of a case for trial until it appears in court. I do not need to belabour this point, Shakespeare said it better than I when he talked about the laws delay. It is proverbial. It does not do any good for the administration of justice or for people's respect of the law, if the law's delay is responsible for people not getting justice.

I have been in cases in which all the complicated work had been completed when suddenly everything was put up on the top shelf in the solicitor's office, and we were told that we would not hear any more about that case for a year or a year-and-a-half. This not alone has a serious detrimental effect on practitioners but it is highly injurious to the public. When delayed cases eventually come into court and the solicitors and other people involved have performed the miracle of getting the plaintiff, the witnesses and the experts and so on into court, they are told that the case cannot be heard until the next week or the week after. At that stage a little pressure comes on and a settlement is sometimes made. I have never seen anyone being forced to make a settlement but I do not like to see a settlement being made due to the fact that there is such pressure of court work the case cannot be heard that day.

Irish people like to have things resolved. A parish priest of whom I was very fond once said to me "If you are going to have a row make sure you have a damn good one". If one is going to court, it is better to see the judgment of the court rather than have the case settled on the doorstep. Many of these cases could be resolved with better justice in the courts, if there was not such a backlog of work. This is simply a measure designed to increase the number of judges. It is the only way that this Government or any Government can demolish the backlog of cases in the courts throughout the land. I support this measure which has the agreement of the House.

I am glad that Deputy O'Kennedy said that this was a measure for a few more judiciary appointments and that he fully agreed with it. Many things have been said in this House in relation to the judiciary which were politically contentious but which would not have been said outside the privilege of this House. These appointments are absolutely necessary and no one could honestly say that this is just another measure to bring in a few extra judges just for the sake of appointing judges. Without being patronising, the judges and justices of this country are doing a tremendous service for the people.

We heard on the radio and television and read in the newspapers yesterday of an attack made upon Deputy Frank Cluskey, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare. I could not believe my eyes when I saw that on the television.

The Deputy should not stray from the Bill.

Deputy O'Kennedy referred to it. I was glad to hear that he deprecated what happened. I am merely taking this opportunity of expressing my horror that such an incident should have occurred. It was a sad day for democracy. However, I am aware of many instances in which attacks have been made on judges. There have been many instances, too, in which attacks on judges have been prevented. No judge wishes to have a guard on himself or on his property but in the present circumstances it is necessary that they be guarded. This is another aspect of a judge's life that, perhaps, people do not appreciate fully. We must condemn outright any attack on the person or on the property of a judge or district justice.

This Bill has been introduced as a measure for dealing more effectively and speedily with the backlog of cases that have been building up in the courts during the past number of years but this is a problem that will have to be tackled not only by appointing more judges but by considering closely the work of the courts. In this respect I should like to see the recently established Law Reform Commission examining the situation. Much of the litigation coming before the courts could very well be decided on by arbitrators, by county registrars or-some other semi-judicial persons. Deputy O'Kennedy referred to the number of civil cases listed for hearing in the Dublin Circuit Court but the Minister rightly asked the Deputy promptly if he would include in that category malicious injury claims. I have always considered that malicious injuries cases should not be brought inside a court at all. It may be all right for the court to have to decide on the question of malice but it is another matter when the court must spend many hours in assessing damages, in talking about the price of slates or timber, for example. Much of the time of the Circuit Court is taken up in this way while, as I have said, such matters could be decided on by, for instance, a county registrar although he, with the extra workload imposed on him by reason of the Landlord and Tenant Act, is a hardworking individual.

These problems are of huge dimensions and that is why I should like the Law Reform Commission to give attention to them. I am aware that in order to provide for the sort of change I envisage, new legislation would be required but the task would be worthwhile. It is not my intention to talk about the malicious injuries code except to say that it must be the most unconstitutional legislation on the statute books. It, too, is an area that requires a complete review and a thorough reappraisal in terms of the mechanics of its administration.

In regard to the Circuit Court, too, the first cases listed are the criminal cases so that on a Tuesday morning at the beginning of the week's sitting there may be up to ten such cases listed for hearing but all of Tuesday and possibly Wednesday and Thursday could be devoted to the first case listed. On the other hand, the first case might be heard in only an hour on the Tuesday with the result that the whole list would collapse. I agree that the stamping out of crime is the main function of the courts but the conduct of these criminal cases has a serious effect on civil legislation and on the smooth conduct of civil cases. It may be said that this situation is responsible for the long delays experienced by civil litigants.

I have talked about delays in this respect in so far as the High Court is concerned and I do not wish to go into the matter again in respect of the Circuit Court except to say that some method should be devised whereby litigants would know the day and even the approximate time of hearings. There is a huge amount of work involved in bringing to court all the interested parties such as surveyors, architects or doctors and this is all the more reason why it is unfair to have a situation in which there is so much uncertainty as to the time of hearing. Not only is it unfair to witnesses but it is very unfair to civil litigants. So far as the law is concerned we are all equal.

Another point that occurs to me in regard to the hearing of criminal cases in the Circuit Court concerns the practice whereby a number of prison wardens arrive in a town in which the court is sitting. These people reach the town concerned at about 9 a.m. but they may have to wait all day before being able to take the accused back to custody, that is, if he is convicted. I would suggest that prisoners be put in the custody of local gardaí on the day on which they are awaiting the outcome of their cases. This would constitute a saving in terms of prison wardens. This may be a small point but I am taking advantage of this opportunity to bring it to the attention of the Minister.

Deputy O'Kennedy spoke at great length about family law courts and about the absolute necessity for reforming these courts and making sure that they were as informal as possible and that the minimum of ceremonial dress—I think these were the words he used—was brought into them. While some people may entirely disagree with ceremonial dress I think it has a very useful purpose in our courts in the sense that if a judge came in in an ordinary suit and advocates appeared in their shirt sleeves it would certainly be highly informal but it would not be as much respected just as if a priest saying Mass came out in a soutane, it would not create the proper impression. The whole purpose, to my mind, is to induce people to have a genuine respect for the laws of the land.

Deputy O'Kennedy also dealt at great length with another subject and made what I consider to be a very serious charge against the Government when he spoke very emotively and extravagantly about the numbers of gardaí and the absolute necessity of recruiting gardaí. Coming from Fianna Fáil at this stage that is nothing short of false indignation. Deputy Briscoe is shaking his head but he should remember this. It was Fianna Fáil—I know this, coming from a Border constituency—that closed down the small Garda stations. We are doing our utmost to open them again. I agree there is a necessity for more gardaí, more Army and more of all these people, but to charge the Government with neglecting their duty is highly outrageous and I entirely refute that charge.

I want to finish on a point that is very material to the Bill, which is designed to appoint a number of extra judges and justices to deal with the serious backlog of cases. The backlog is not altogether accounted for by the increase in crime. I have no figures for that increase before me at present but, speaking not only for my own area but for the regions of Monaghan, Cavan and Leitrim, that very sensitive Border area, I note that the recent statistics published by the Garda Commissioner show that there was actually a decrease in crime there. That could be accounted for by the extra gardaí and Army personnel and so on in these areas. I am very glad to see that decrease but the reason I mention crime in this respect is to state that this extra volume of work in all the courts is not entirely accounted for by the increase in crime. There is a huge volume of business, Government regulations and different aspects of legislation affecting more people every day, and the only way we can get redress, appeal against provisions and see that rights are safeguarded and that people discharge their duties is by coming into court. This is done from the civil point of view.

The other main factor in civil legislation in the courts is the running down cases—we have only to look at the number of extra motor vehicles coming on the roads every day. I would appeal to the Minister and ask him to appeal to the law reform commission to consider the matter of civil liability in running down cases and see if something could be done to take the great load of this work away from the courts.

If they hear in the Law Library that you were talking like that you will not be let back.

I know that, but I am trying to speak objectively.

Is that a closed shop?

When one can have a case involving say, £2,500 and have a Dublin jury coming in for three days studying maps, looking at engineer's reports and so on there is something to be said for expediting such cases and trying to deal with them in some other way without having to bring in so many people, take up their time and the time of the courts. I am not minimising the seriousness of a running down case which may have very great effects on the rest of the lives of some of the parties concerned but at the same time I think that a certain load of this work could be taken away from the courts and that this would be of benefit generally.

Finally, I want to ask the Minister to have another look at the regulations governing jury service. Speaking not as a lawyer but as a public representative—because some people have come to me as I am sure they have gone to others also in regard to this matter—I am talking about women in particular, newly married with small families who are suddenly served with a notice to attend for jury service. Their obligation of attendance for jury service should be given the widest possible interpretation and judges and all concerned should try to excuse them if they cannot attend.

I fully agree with the measure before the House and sincerely hope that it will promote smoother administration of justice.

It is with some trepidation that I trespass on what might be regarded as the preserves of the legal profession to refer briefly to some points regarding the courts and the administration of the law. The Bill affords this opportunity.

First, the Bill would seem to make permanent a number of temporary appointments and to me, it is mainly an effort to copper-fasten the position lest anything might happen towards the end of the year to upset the prospects of permanency of individuals. Otherwise, I do not think the Bill seriously tackles the problem of the backlog of cases awaiting attention in the courts. Perhaps when the temporary appointments become permanent other temporary appointments will be made to increase the personnel at High Court and District Court level to expedite litigation.

Some time ago the Department of Justice—or perhaps it was some newspaper correspondent—gave a breakdown of the hours worked by members of the Judiciary and I thought they looked appallingly skimpy in the face of what is regarded as normal for other professions.

Could the hours recorded by the Judiciary and their long holidays be adjusted upwards or downwards as the case may be to ensure that more time is spent dealing with cases?

There is another matter with regard to the District Courts in rural Ireland to which I have referred previously. The rumour still persists that the present Garda Commissioner insists that every member of the force must have a specific number of prosecutions every year. That negatives what is meant by the proper administration of the law. We are living in a time when proper relations between the police force and the public are more essential than ever before. Good relations will not be fostered by persecuting people by bringing prosecutions because they are required by the top brass in the Garda Síochána.

I do not want to interrupt the Deputy, but I do not see the connection of the Deputy's remarks with the Bill, and I want to put on record again that there is no substance whatsoever in that charge.

I would be the first to admit that the Minister has said that on a number of occasions. However the fact remains that the rumour persists and members of the force have told me—

If the Deputy would believe me and not repeat this rumour, it might begin to die.

If such an instruction has been given, would the Minister issue an order that it be disregarded?

I have already mentioned at Question Time that no such instruction was given.

Then the Minister should do it elsewhere.

I am making a factual statement that the feeling is still abroad, and nothing has been done to counter it, that the members of the force are frowned upon if they do not produce a certain number of prosecutions. I am putting down a question to the Minister about the number of fines and the amount of money collected in fines over the last few years. That might help to dispel the feeling that exists about this matter or it might confirm it. From my examination of the day to day situation in the courts there seems to be some evidence for that accusation. As the Minister said, I hope it is not correct.

The proper administration of the law is to be found in prevention. Prevention means many things. For our youth, a healthy mind and body is a basic requirement for proper behaviour. They should have respect for the law. The GAA have done more to reduce crime and breaches of the law than any other body or person. Our youth have not been given the facilities necessary for their physical and mental development. The smoky nightclub and disco are poor substitutes for the sports arena, whether it be the playing field, the boxing ring or the swimming pool. If our young people are interested in sports they will not have time to get involved in crime or to develop a twisted outlook. To tackle this problem from the preventive side means providing gymnasia in our schools, which is not being done at the present time for economic reasons, and to provide social centres where there will be libraries and sports facilities. These fundamentals are necessary to prevent crime and to develop the minds and bodies of our citizens of tomorrow.

Unemployment is not conducive to a healthy society. Unless we tackle these problems our courts will be chock-a-block with people who have been prosecuted for breaking the law.

There are many things which contribute to respect for the law. The most important is that the public should have confidence and respect for the independence and integrity of our Judiciary. I remember debates in this House on the Estimate for the Department of Justice when we were accused by the then Opposition of political appointments to the Judiciary. These self-righteous people said we should be guided by the highest motives when making appointments to the most important institution of the State, our Judiciary. Have this Government followed what they then advocated? All our appointments were based on the ability and suitability of the person to discharge his important duties, either at the level of district justice or in the higher courts.

Nothing contributes more to respect for the law than that the public have confidence in the independence and integrity of the Judiciary. The Government have not practised what they preached when we were in power. In the issue of Hibernia of 30th January, 1976, in the course of an article under the heading “Jobs For The Boys,” a list of the appointments made by the Government is given. To my mind they were disgustingly political. Without one single exception the appointments made were of prospective candidates for Fine Gael or the Labour Party, defeated candidates or people who were at one time TDs. It is on record that one man was appointed one day after he was defeated in a by-election; he had made an excellent contribution to having his colleague elected.

He is a poor man and a bad citizen who has not his political outlook and affiliations and that is what it is all about here, but I do not think the sole qualification for appointment to the Judiciary at a time when we have a serious situation in regard to lawlessness should be that the person in question was a political hack. That article gives a list of appointments from the highest level to the lowest. The serious view which the public must take of such appointments is not relieved by the fact that one district justice when dealing with his first case imposed a fine on a Member of this House that was far above anything justifiable or in any way related to the offence. It was blatant political victimisation and vindictiveness. This is the type of thing that springs from over zeal to have political friends appointed to the Judiciary. It is not good enough. Looking at this list I see that every person appointed was either a Fine Gael candidate, an aspiring candidate, a Fine Gael county councillor or secretary of a constituency executive. I do not think we can expect the high respect which our legal institutions demand while we have that sort of thing going on. I do not want to name the people concerned but 18 appointments were made in a short period.

One of those appointed was defeated in the general election while another went before a local convention and another was a constituency secretary. They had the qualifications which are appended to every individual in relation to appointments made over the last four years. The appointments were made by people who frequently accused us here of making political appointments and advocated support in the election to do away with jobbery. I should like to hear any Member on the Government side defend their attitude in that respect bearing in mind the attacks they made on us when we made appointments. We were not solely concerned with a man's political background. In fact, we frequently appointed Fine Gael supporters. I am not apologising for that because they were good men and turned out good. Irrespective of political affiliations, we ensured that those appointed would administer the law fairly, would be above suspicion and command public confidence. That can be said of all our appointments.

The fundamental matters which contribute to respect for the law are the things we must tackle rather than recruiting thousands of gardaí and hundreds of members of the Judiciary to deal with a community that is now experiencing a period of decadence, a society that has gone into lawlessness due to lack of proper facilities to develop and concentrate on the higher things in life. I should like to see more money spent on the things which occupy young people in the pursuit of their proper development. We should not be miserly in our approach to this all-important duty of any Government and that applies to the position in relation to employment as much as to the provision of facilities for sport and the mental and physical development of our youth. Plans were withdrawn for local amenities and school buildings are being contained by the cutting out of gym rooms. This is the wrong approach. In my view we would not be appointing additional members to administer the law if we tackled instead the root cause of lawlessness. If the Minister is seriously concerned about killing the rumour that our police force are literally compelled to have prosecutions he will instruct the Commissioner to have them go in for prevention rather than prosecution. I do not see what is wrong with a garda sergeant telling a local motorist that his tyres are too smooth.

There is nothing wrong with that and he is encouraged to do so.

That is what I am saying. And tell him: "The next time I meet you, you are not to have those." Why do we read in the provincial papers of 50 to 60 cases per week of people being brought into court without warning?

How does the Deputy know they were not warned? They may have been warned.

If the Minister is going to condone that approach, we are not moving in the right direction. The Minister is not properly informed as to what really happens. The minor offences with which the district courts are crowded lead up to an alienation of the local people and the decent members of the force. I am not saying people should be allowed to break the law but there is such a thing as creating a resistance which leads to a multiplicity rather than an easing of crime. The present state of crime here has reached an all-time high. Perhaps for the first time in our history—Deputy O'Kennedy was perfectly right—people are afraid in their houses at night. Children and teenagers are not safe going out alone, even in numbers, unless accompanied by adults. It is quite a serious situation and we do not seem to really comprehend its seriousness in relation to crime and potential crime.

I agree with Deputy Toal when he spoke of the many cases going to court that should not go at all but could be dealt with otherwise. If the Labour Court can have rights commissioners I do not see why the ordinary courts could not have some such commissioners also which would obviate neighbours spending money unnecessarily about rights-of-ways, roads, fences and stupid things which could be settled out of court. I would go so far as to say that two-thirds of the cases, both criminal and civil going to court need not. We should endeavour to move in that direction rather than that of sneaking up behind, waiting to get somebody. That is the simplest thing in the world to do. Prevention is much more difficult.

I want to allow the lawyers their field day on this Bill. But unless we can convince the public that we are not merely interested in jobs for the boys, we are not doing much to enhance the reputation of our judiciary and courts. To revert to that list I was going to read but which, in fairness, I think I should not, which anyway goes only to January, 1976 and, in this respect, I should like the Minister to mention the appointments since then—one will find that those appointments fall into the same mould and qualification. While we do that, expecting the community to have respect for the independence and integrity in our courts, perhaps we are presuming too much.

To date our courts have functioned reasonably well, with the exception of the occasional, blatant type of case I have mentioned in relation to a Member of this House brought up for a trivial offence, the fine being out of all proportion to the offence involved. If we want the courts to enhance the reputation they should have as an important State institution, we must have regard to some basic things which could very easily undermine our people's confidence, some basic matters which would help in obviating crime rather than merely concentrating on capturing people when they have been dragged into the net from which they cannot easily extricate themselves.

The Bill does little other than make permanent some temporary appointments. Something much more practical will have to be done if the bringing of cases before the courts is to be expedited, if the question of civil cases waiting for years is not to become a complete mockery. Anybody setting out at present to recover debts will know the cumbersome machinery involved. In the end such people come to the conclusion that they are sorry they ever bothered. That is the type of thing requiring something more than just jobs for the boys. We should now pay serious attention to that aspect and regain the confidence people must have in our judiciary and courts, ensuring that we do nothing to destroy that confidence. That is something of which we have been proud in the past. The same applies to our Garda. From the old days of the troubles our people were not noted for their respect for the police force. It took several years for our police force to attain the high reputation they now enjoy. It took many years for our people to realise that this was our own force for our own protection, built up by ourselves, paid for by ourselves, and of a very high standard. To erode that confidence in or respect for that force or for the judiciary now would constitute a serious retrograde step. However much the Government may feel the haste to do certain things now they should not be over-zealous in providing for their friends. There are other people around, too, with ability who should be considered when it comes to making important appointments.

I do not intend to go down the byways introduced by Deputy Brennan at the behest of the Fianna Fáil think tank. I noticed that he was briefed with an article in a journal, and that was the Fianna Fáil think tank contribution to the debate and I do not think very much of it. I, therefore, do not intend to pursue that line.

As Deputies know, I have been a practising member of the Bar for more than 20 years and one thing that has struck me forcibly in that period has been the attitude of mind to our courts of law. When one looks back on history, all judicial appointments were made by a foreign power. The administration of the police force came under the auspices of a foreign power. That left a rather indelible impression on the minds of the Irish public. It was an attitude of mind that was antipolice force, anti-judiciary, anti-courts of law.

I think we have got out of that. We have come to our majority in the sense of thinking on these matters, but it is important that every citizen in the State, no matter where he comes in the ranks of society, should have respect for our legal system, our judicial system, and this means not alone respect for judges and the decisions that they hand out but respect for the entire legal procedure that leads up to the decisions of any of our courts of law. This means that the legal profession have to be careful of themselves to see that they comport themselves correctly and act efficiently and in the best interests not only of their clients but of the fair administration of justice.

It may not be appreciated by many people that any lawyer appearing before a court of law not alone has to have the interests of his client at heart in real terms but also a sense of respect and responsibility for the court or tribunal before which he appears. I think that the record of the Irish legal profession has been good in that respect. I appreciate that there have been incidents in history when lawyers have not always come out with honour. There have been very severe pressures on lawyers. I do not think there is any practising lawyer here who has not had pressures brought to bear on him at one time or another in his career. They could be pressures that would be utterly antagonistic to the fair administration of justice and the fair care of clients' interests. When a lawyer gets a case, he cannot just always accept at its face value what has been stated to him. He has to use his intelligence and his experience and knowledge——

Could I suggest that the Deputy might take this over to UCD or Trinity College or somewhere else, or get to the Bill before the House?

I am a bit surprised at that interruption. Possibly the Deputy is a bit annoyed that I am speaking before him—he offered to speak at the same time—but I should like to point out to him that I have been here for a considerable length of time this morning. Deputy Briscoe left the House and rushed to get a copy of the Minister's speech to try to find out what the Bill is all about. He may be a very eager little beaver to get in and have his little say on this matter. I am dealing with matters that are possibly not apparent to the judgment of people like Deputy Briscoe. It may be interesting to listen to him because he will probably speak with a certain amount of ignorance of the matter, but he is a public representative and he is entitled to have his say in due course.

I represent the public, not down in the law courts or in the constituencies——

As was pointed out by the first Opposition speaker—of course Deputy Briscoe was not here —the administration of justice and the work of our judges are very intimately connected with every legal case. Deputy O'Kennedy spent quite a time dealing with the various aspects that the courts of law have to deal with, and I intend to take time to deal with the various matters that lead up to the outcome of a judicial decision. It has often been said that justice delayed is justice denied. That is true, but we are all aware that nobody can get instant justice except, possibly, in an application for habeas corpus, or for an injunction, or summary ejectment. Bar these cases, most cases that come to court take a considerable amount of time to germinate, if I may use the word, to fructify and to be ready for trial.

Figures were mentioned here earlier about the large number of cases pending before the various courts. That may be so, but one must bear in mind that many of these cases are not what one would call truly contentious in the full sense of the term. Many of them are applications for procedural relief, or involve procedures that have to be adopted because the law says so. I am afraid there has been a tendency in this House when people discuss arrears in the law courts to give undue emphasis to jury actions. One must bear in mind also that there is a tremendous amount of contentious and non-contentious matter that falls within the non-jury action category. These mainly deal with family properties, company affairs and chancery actions, and generally speaking such cases are sometimes very time consuming and detailed.

I have been discussing the situation in regard to these types of law case with my colleagues who have the feeling that in a number of these cases there are what one might call preliminary steps to be taken, what one would be inclined to call miniactions under the umbrella of the main actions. Judges have been very hard pressed to get through that type of work and there has been the sort of feeling that perhaps we may have been spending too much time on a particular stage of an action. Nobody should ever be put in that position, be he a judge, or an advocate before the court. Not alone must justice be done, but it must also be seen to be done, and must be felt to be done to everybody who participates in an action.

It is quite right, as the Minister pointed out in his introductory statement, that there has been a considerable increase in litigation, and that it is anticipated litigation will continue in an upward direction. This increase in litigation has been brought about largely by the fact that new legislation dealing with family law matters has been brought before this House and passed in the past four years. This recent legislation has given people extra reliefs which were not given to them before. Naturally this has increased the load of work in the law courts.

There is another aspect which has been commented on from time to time by practicising lawyers more than anybody else as a small matter of note. In boom times in business, generally speaking, there is a drop off in litigation, but when things get harder and more difficult there is an increase in litigation. This can be seen on an area basis in the Circuit Court. I am making a comparison between different rural areas and rural counties. Historically in certain areas there is a great deal more litigation than there is in other areas. In the better off counties there is less contentious litigation than in the poorer areas.

There may be various reasons for that, but it is an interesting fact. It has been apparent for a long number of years. The present increase in litigation may have been due in part to the worldwide business recession. Many people failed to complete their contracts or adopted a negative attitude to a business deal and the other party had to pursue them in a court of law to make them come up to the mark and complete the deal. This is a fairly well-known fact. The courts of law have often been used as a delaying tactic to give a person time to collect his assets and his money so that he could complete a deal.

The question about the lack of gardaí was raised and there was a certain amount of worry in the public mind. Deputy Brennan said more should be done for youth. It would be interesting for this House to hear I took part in a seminar in my constituency dealing with youth. Basically, the discussion was on youths' involvement in crime. A very good cross-section of people took part. Members of the Garda were involved in the discussion, not in their official capacity, but purely in their personal private capacity as people very interested in youth work and deeply involved in it over the years.

It seemed to me that the consensus at that seminar was that it was not a question of how many garda were on the beat or how many garda were not on the beat, but that the real problem arose at domestic level. It has been stated before by people far more prominent than myself in public life, and it has been said with some truth over the years, that the trouble starts in the cradle. Instead of complaining about the lack of gardaí, the parents might well examine their own home circumstances, and examine themselves to see what they are doing for their children. In the past when acting for youthful criminals my experience has been that basically the trouble has arisen at home. Children may get into bad company. A lot of that could be avoided and ameliorated if the parents assessed their responsibilities properly and lived up to them. When appearing as a lawyer for youthful offenders it is sometimes tragic to see the parents take no interest whatever in their welfare. They are not interested in the court case which may be dealing with the liberty of their child.

These are factors the courts have to deal with. Sometimes the courts are ill-equipped to deal with them. This might be another reason for the increase in the number of cases before the courts. In such circumstances, judges try their very best to avoid having to send a young person away. They try to speak to them. They try to convey a message to them. They try to get them to pull themselves together and get themselves out of trouble and go straight. Cases are adjourned. Any of us who have had anything to do with the courts appreciate that cases come up again and again. They are under review and they are kept that way until the delinquent gets himself or herself on the right road, and then the case is dealt with under the Probation Act, or struck out or some other procedure is taken —anything to avoid the stigma of being a criminal on a person.

Deputy O'Kennedy referred to the question of the listing of jury actions in the High Court and to the matter of the 12 cases for the three courts. That is a sensible arrangement. It has been known to work. Usually the number of cases put in before the High Court when jury actions are on is dealt with by the registrars. They have proved themselves to be very capable men in making the decisions as to how many cases should be put in for any particular day. I should tell the House also that, when this is being done, the lawyers involved in the cases are consulted by the court staff in relation to the length of time a case will take, or whether there is some little discussion going on, as we call it, and there is a likelihood that the case might not be fought.

I know this gives rise to certain hardship at times because one must always over-compensate so as to see that the courts lists are full. You do not want judges sitting there doing nothing. Litigants want to get their cases on, and there is always a slight backlog, so you try to get as many cases on and through the courts as you can. Sometimes this can cause hardship. People may have travelled from Tipperary or Wexford to the High Court in Dublin and their case is not reached. They have their witnesses there, and it costs money to have witnesses in court. One has to put up with that. This is the system we have. By and large, it works exceedingly well. The listing of cases is done very much on a co-operative basis between members of the profession, the staff of the courts, and the judges.

Deputy O'Kennedy mentioned consistency of sentences at District Court level. As I understand it there is a system of consultation among the members of the District Court bench in relation to the work of those courts. I do not know how far that system of consultation goes in relation to sentences. There is a difficulty here. The same crime may be committed by two people in different areas of the country. One person could be a criminal charged with that offence for the third time and the other person could be in court for the first time. There might be a reason why the person charged for the first time had committed that particular offence. There is a lot of evidence that does not appear in the media when the report is published of a certain sentence having been imposed. There are particular circumstances in relation to every case and every human being is different.

In relation to crimes of trespass, to use a generic term, that is, assault on the person, interference with personal property, breaking into houses and threatening people, there is a view abroad that the sentences meted out by the District Court are far too light, do not match up to the severity of the crime and that sentences are no longer a deterrent to people who might consider taking up the same risky course of crime. This has become a matter of some concern. I am aware that there was a certain type of crime being committed in this city. A new judge was appointed and he went up to deal with the criminal list and gave out far heavier sentences than had been meted out before to a certain set of criminals. The crime was the bashing of night filling station attendants and a couple of men were beaten up every night. When this case was dealt with a sentence of something like seven years was meted out and that was the end of it. There was no more coshing of night filling station attendants. It had a deterrent effect, which meant that the courts were prepared to get down to work and clear up this type of crime.

When all is said and done, when dealing with crime the only organ in the State that can prevent further crime and show that crime is not worth it is the court of law. I think certain members of the bench should bear this in mind because there seems to be a tendency for the motorist to be victimised while other criminals are having a light time of it when they come up before the courts. I think it is right that I should say this in this House because it is being said repeatedly abroad. It is well to say it at this stage. I hope the statement will be noted, because the situation is becoming a matter of worry to the public and a source of serious disenchantment to the Garda Síochána.

We must remember that when a person commits a crime he is not always seen committing the crime. The evidence has to be collected and the criminal must be tracked down. It must be very frustrating for the gardaí investigating serious crimes of violence when, having tracked down the criminal, they find that he gets a very light sentence. This should be borne in mind by the Judiciary. The time of training for a member of the Garda Síochána is comparatively short. A large part of his training is picked up by experience in the field and through working with his colleagues. Whilst he can collect the facts he also has the very difficult function of translating those facts into a legal formula known as acceptable legal evidence before a court of law. In other words he has two jobs to do. He is not given any particular or extended training in regard to the latter. Very often there has been an undue strictness by some courts in relation to proof of crime and there is a failure to hand out penalties that bear a better relation to the crime that has been committed.

This brings us to the most serious matter of all, and that is the confidence in the Judiciary. If these matters are not seen to be right or acceptable to members of the public, then there will be a lack of confidence in the Judiciary. I have noted a slight hardening of attidude on the part of the Judiciary in the giving of sentences in recent times, but some members of the bench have a long way to go in regard to serious crimes of violence. That is my contribution to this debate. I am very much in support of this Bill; it is badly required. I think more judges may be required but it is better to hasten slowly than to overdo it.

Having listened to the last speaker, all I can say is that he is out of touch with reality, the reality which meets the people in the streets of our cities and towns. It pains me to listen to him because I know that if the people I was speaking to only the other night, the people who have these problems of vandalism, were to listen to him they would throw up their hands and give up the ghost altogether. We have reached the stage of the demoralisation of the people of this country and I can speak from first-hand knowledge of my own constituency. Unless something happens very quickly we will witness within a very short time the complete overthrow of all the institutions which we regard so dearly. That is not alarmist talk. I welcome this Bill. It does not go far enough, but I will pursue these points later on.

Debate adjourned.
Business suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.