I do not agree at all with the Senator that this offence is less serious than what he calls common drunkenness. I think common drunkenness is much less serious. I think it is a shame to give a man who is drunk-quite a human sort of weakness, and often quite inadvertent—jail, and to allow a man who steals a large sum of money, in a respectable way, off with a fine. I think our standards are all wrong in this regard. If a man going down a street lifts a package of eggs he will get jail. If a big trader with a turnover of from £30,000 to £40,000 makes £1,000 to £3,000, as he might make it by persistently breaking the regulations, he is not to be put to the indignity of going to jail. I think he should be rammed into jail with the "political prisoners" and kept there. I think that the man who goes into a shop hungry and steals a pound of butter has a far better case in law and morals than this big trader who persistently breaks the regulations and puts anything from £100 to £1,000 into his pocket at the expense of the honest trader. I think we have all the equities, whatever about the law, of this case.
Of course, as Senator Johnson pointed out, it is only for a second offence, and it is at the discretion of the court. I draw the attention of Senators to the fact that a similar amendment was put down to a number of other sections. There are seven amendments of the same character put down by Senator MacEllin to different sections. All these sections deal with offences against the Act, and if these amendments are carried what can happen? Remember the egg trader, the eggler, to use an expression that is usual, is in no small way of business. In towns in the West, like Tuam and Ballina, most of the business men do the biggest part of their trade in eggs. The turnover of a big man would be something like £20,000 a year and of a small man something like £5,000 and £10,000 a year. Senators will see that if a trader persistently breaks the regulations he can make good money out of it at the expense of the traders who do not. Suppose eggs are described as "extra selected" and half are good and half are bad and you get the "extra selected" price. That is done persistently by traders who deal with houses on the other side. Look at all the money a dishonest trader can make! Why should he not go to jail? Our standards in this are all wrong. A man who goes into a shop, steals one egg, and on coming out is caught by a policeman is rammed into jail, whereas a trader who persistently makes money by breaking this regulation is a respectable man and it is a disgrace to put him into jail. I do not think it is. I think he ought to go to jail quicker than the poor man who when passing a shop steals an egg. I have not the slightest hesitation in asking the Seanad to insist on a man who persistently and flagrantly breaks these regulations going to jail. He is a common thief, a respectable thief if you like, but a common thief, and should go to jail. There is not the slightest danger that the law will be unjustly administered.
Senator MacEllin suggests that such a man can be removed from the registration scheme, and says it is a more serious sentence. It may be a more serious sentence. The Minister can do that. It is no disgrace. But he cannot impose a fine. That must be done by a District Justice, and the District Justice cannot impose anything except a fine for a first offence. It is only for a second, a third or a fourth offence that he can impose imprisonment, and he has the option of imposing a fine. He will hear the case in open court. He will be the best judge as to whether or not it is an inadvertence, but in 999 cases out of 1,000 where the wrong mark is put on a box it is fraudulently done. The District Justice is supposed to have common sense, and he can use his discretion. He will hear both sides; he will hear that it is done by an employee, if in fact it was done by an employee. The owner of the premises can come forward and prove that it was done without his knowledge. If he is in a position to do so, he can bring forward any other evidence to show it was inadvertently done, and the District Justice can exercise his discretion in a merciful way. The penalty will be imposed in open court by a Justice after hearing both sides, and not until then. I suggest that that gives absolute security to the exporter, and I would ask the Seanad to leave this provision in. I see people getting jail for a number of offences for which possibly they deserved to get jail, but I would like to see an odd exporter who is making a lot of money out of defrauding the State, who has no civic sense, and is breaking these regulations persistently, getting jail. I do not believe they will. The real trouble is that no one will get jail in this way. We had similar penalties under the original Act and nobody that I know of got jail. I think the real danger is that the District Justices generally will take a lenient view of the man with a collar and tie, who is in a big way of business, and will not send him to jail. But I hope that somebody who deserves to get jail under this Bill will get it. I think then we will have a more wholesome public spirit.