I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 35 together.
These two questions take their inspiration from the findings of a survey commissioned by a Sunday newspaper.
All scientifically conducted surveys obviously have a value. It is always necessary, however, in looking at survey findings to keep things in perspective and to avoid any overstatement either of their content or significance; those who specialise in taking surveys are themselves the first to acknowledge this.
It is necessary also to look quite carefully at the actual survey findings. The Deputy in this case appears to have read the findings to mean that only 9 per cent of those surveyed had confidence in the courts. The more complete picture is that a total of 38 per cent expressed themselves as being either very confident or what is described as fairly confident.
A relevant consideration in relation to the courts is that very often public opinion tends to be influenced to an extent by media reportage of a relatively small number of decisions which are considered somewhat unusual. I do not suggest, of course, that the media are to be faulted for this — the fact is that the thousands of cases which go through the courts without controversy of any basis for controversy do not make news. It is necessary always to bear in mind that the task of the court is to dispense justice having sifted all of the evidence presented in the court itself. Nobody in this House needs reminding of the importance of giving full weight to defence as well as prosecuting evidence and the importance of excluding extraneous material. Deputies may be aware that the topic of sentencing policy is one of a number of issues in the criminal law area that has been referred to the Law Reform Commission. It will be valuable to have the Commission's observations in this regard in due course.