ENFORCEMENT OF COURT ORDERS BILL, 1926—FOURTH STAGE.

Government amendment. Section 2.—To add at the end of the section the words " or delivering to him specific property."

I beg to support this amendment. It is quite right these words should be added.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I beg to move:—

Section 13, sub-section (1).—To delete all the words from the word "debtor" in line 24 to the end of the sub-section and to substitute therefor the words "unless a declaration sworn before a District Justice or Peace Commissioner by the husband or wife or parent or child of the debtor shall have been served on the under-sheriff or his representative within three days of the seizure, claiming ownership of such goods, animals or other chattels."

I do not think the amendments that have been already agreed to cover sufficiently the cases of the wife, husband, parent or child of the debtor. I gave notice on the Committee Stage of the amendment which I have now moved. I think a sworn declaration by the person claiming the property ought to be sufficient evidence for the sheriff not to seize. I cannot imagine that any person would be so foolish as to run the risk of prosecution for perjury by making a false declaration.

I second the amendment for the sake of getting some reply from the Minister. It seems to me to be a little ineffective in that it gives three days in which a sworn declaration shall be served on the under-sheriff, while the Bill enables him to sell within 48 hours. The amendment urged by Senator Brown. which has been carried, does not in my opinion materially improve the Bill, and it does not touch the really vital problem with which we are concerned. I am very disappointed with the fact that the Minister has not put down an amendment, because he came to me after the last sitting and showed me words which I was prepared to accept, and which in my opinion were eminently satisfactory and would have saved a good deal of possible abuse in the future. I expected to see them in the Order Paper to-day, but they do not appear. We must remember that the Court Officers Bill provides that the court registrars shall in the future, as under-sheriffs retire, become the under-sheriffs. The court registrar is a man with a multiplicity of duties, and he will not be able to give the personal attention and consideration to matters that the present sub-sheriff does. He will have to administer the law according to the letter, and not on the strength of circulars such as the Minister has issued to under-sheriffs. The work will be done for him by civil servants, people who are absolutely detached from the community as a rule, and who will not be able to use the same supervision over local affairs as the under-sheriffs do at present. The result will be that the law will be administered ruthlessly, or what one might term, in a mechanical way. This is a very serious power to place in the hands of people who are not in intimate touch with the community, and are not fairly intimate with the people with whom they are dealing. For that reason I think the section is still in a very dangerous form. I am very much disappointed the Minister for Justice has not put down the words to which he was prepared to agree.

I am prepared to substitute the words "twenty-four hours" for "three days."

I do not know the words to which Senator O'Farrell refers, but this particular matter has been given a good deal of consideration. There was some consultation with Senator Brown, and it was felt that his amendment as put down was a most satisfactory way of meeting with certain difficulties, which undoubtedly did exist in the section as originally drafted. It would certainly prevent the sort of cases occurring which were mentioned in the Seanad, of a son running up debts, and having his father's goods seized simply because his son lived in the house. Senator Brown's amendment would prevent anything like that. On the other hand, the amendment by Senator Linehan would undoubtedly lead to fraudulent claims, claims which people would not be deterred from making by any fear that the persons who made them would be amenable for perjury. There might be fraudulent claims which would lead to the release of goods, and which, perhaps, everyone would know were fraudulent, and that the declaration was in the nature of perjury, but it would be a very difficult matter to get evidence to convict for perjury. I do not know that any person in this country is deterred by fear of a conviction for perjury from making a false declaration.

Does not the Minister realise that that could be imported into any claim which could be made in respect of any case by people who are not relatives?

CATHAOIRLEACH

Everybona fide claimant can have his title investigated if he lodges the money.

If a person has a good claim he will generally be able to put up the money himself, or get the means of putting it up, provided he has a genuine claim. Now he has twenty-four hours in which to do that, and no sheriff, if the value of the goods or the decree, whichever happens to be the lesser, were lodged, would proceed with the sale, and if the creditor disputed the claim of the person who alleged the goods were his, then the sheriff would be able to resort to proceedings by way of interpleader. I think that would provide a sufficient remedy, and a better remedy than would be provided by the mere making of a declaration, under which the goods that had been seized would be released and put in a place where the sheriff could not get his hands on them, and that would enable this whole execution of court decrees to be very seriously interfered with.

Would Senator Linehan alter his amendment by changing "three days" to "twenty-four hours"?

CATHAOIRLEACH

I understood he was willing to do that, but he did not ask to have it done.

I am quite willing.

CATHAOIRLEACH

Is it the wish of the Seanad that the wording of the amendment should be altered from "three days" to "twenty-four hours"?

Leave refused.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided. Tá, 11; Níl, 32.

Tá.

  • M. Duffy.
  • T. Foran.
  • T. Farren.
  • T. Linehan.
  • Sir B. Mahon.
  • Col. Moore.
  • J. O'Connor.
  • J.T. O'Farrell.
  • M.F. O'Hanlon.
  • S. O'Mara.
  • Mrs. Wyse Power.

Níl.

  • T.W. Bennett.
  • H.L. Barniville.
  • W. Barrington.
  • Sir E. Bigger.
  • S.L. Brown.
  • Mrs. Costello.
  • J.C. Counihan.
  • Countess of Desart.
  • J.G. Douglas.
  • J.C. Dowdall.
  • Sir T. Esmonde.
  • Sir N. Everard.
  • M. Fanning.
  • Dr. Gogarty.
  • Mrs. Stopford Green.
  • Sir J. Griffith.
  • H.S. Guinness.
  • B. Haughton.
  • Marquess of Headfort.
  • A. Jackson.
  • A. Jameson.
  • C. Kennedy.
  • T.W. Kenny.
  • J. MacKean.
  • J. MacLoughlin.
  • Earl of Mayo.
  • W.J. Molloy.
  • J. Moran.
  • B. O'Rourke.
  • Dr. O'Sullivan.
  • T. Toal.
  • W.B. Yeats.
Amendment declared lost.
Government amendment. Before Section 19 to insert a new section as follows:—
19.—(1) Any proceedings under Part III. of the Enforcement of Law (Occasional Powers) Act, 1924 (No. 20 of 1924) which were pending in the District Court immediately before the expiration of that Act, may be continued under this Part of this Act, and all steps lawfully taken and things lawfully done in such proceedings before the passing of this Act shall be deemed to have been done under this Part of this Act as if this Act had been in force at the time when such steps were taken or such things were done.
(2) Nothing in this section shall operate to render any person liable to any punishment or penalty for any act (whether of commission or omission) done by him in the period between the expiration of the said Enforcement of Law (Occasional Powers) Act, 1924, and the passing of this Act which would have been lawful if this section had not been enacted.

Are we to understand that, although the Act of 1924 has lapsed, the sheriffs are still proceeding as if it was law after the 31st March?

CATHAOIRLEACH

This can only apply where steps were taken when the Act was in force. If steps were taken after the Act ceased to exist they are null and void. This amendment legalises proceedings taken while the previous Act was in force.

It is quite necessary. Under the Act which ceased to operate on 31st March, District Justices were making orders for payment of instalments, and also making orders for committal if instalments were not paid. After 31st March the Bill went out of operation, and they would have been liable to action for orders they made. This is a very necessary and proper amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
The following Government amendment was agreed to:—
Before Section 25 to insert a new section as follows:—
All rules made and forms prescribed by the Minister under Section 28 of the Enforcement of Law (Occasional Powers) Act, 1924 (No. 20 of 1924) and in force immediately before the expiration of that Act are hereby re-enacted, and shall continue in force and apply to proceedings under this Act in the District Court until rules of court made under Section 91 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924 (No. 10 of 1924) and applying to such proceedings come into force.
Question—"That the Bill be received for Final consideration and do now pass"—put and agreed to.