Senators will be familiar with the main principle of this Bill, so that I do not think it is necessary to elaborate in any way the details of it. The Bill briefly proposes to raise what is generally known as the age of consent from 16 to 17 years, and the offence is made a felony under the age of 15 years instead of the age of 13, as at present. The penalties are increased, particularly for a second or subsequent offence. The defence that was formerly available, that the accused person had reasonable cause for believing that the girl was over that age, will not now be available according to this Bill. The Bill also makes more definite and stronger provision for dealing with offences against weak-minded people. As the law is at present, there is no power to issue a search warrant to deal with brothels. That has been remedied in this Bill. Section 17 forbids the sale or the advertising of, or the importation and sale of contraceptives. Section 18 relates to improper conduct in public places. In certain towns such offences could not be dealt with summarily in the District Court as the law is at present.
I would like to mention, in connection with this Bill, that there was what was known as the Carrigan Commission. It was set up some years ago. A good deal of evidence was taken by it and recommendations made. Subsequent to that a Committee, what may be called an informal Committee of the Dáil, was set up by the then Minister for Justice to consider those recommendations and the evidence given before it. Numerous representations came through the Ministry of Justice while that informal Committee was sitting. All those representations were considered. The Bill, as it is now before the Seanad, is the result of the recommendations of that informal Committee. I should say, however, that that informal Committee had not what might be called the formal sanction of the Dáil itself. It was a Committee that was representative of all Parties in the Dáil, the members of which gave a good deal of time and consideration to this question in an effort to try and bring in on what is a delicate matter— a matter that is not perhaps easy to discuss or debate—what they believed would receive the approval of all Parties in the House.