Juries Bill, 1960—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The principal aim of this Bill is to provide means to remedy certain hardships which can and do arise in connection with jury service in the county boroughs other than Dublin. For circuit court sittings in these county boroughs, jurors have at present to be drawn from either the county borough or the county according to the area to which the particular case is related, with the result that in a very large county, such as Cork, a considerable journey has to be travelled by jurors from remote parts of the county when required to attend at the county borough. It also happens in Cork that the volume of county borough cases is so great in relation to the number of jurors at present available that the turn of each juror to render service arises about once every year and a quarter as compared with a frequency of about once in every 10 to 15 years in the adjoining county areas.

This is not the position in counties which do not contain a county borough because there the existing law provides that, for the purpose of calling jurors to a circuit court sittings, the county may be divided into districts and a district from which to call jurors to a particular sittings may be prescribed so as to avoid jurors having to travel excessive distances. In prescribing such a district regard would be had, of course, to its being, at the same time, large enough to provide a sufficient number of jurors.

In Dublin, too, the position is different and more satisfactory. There is no distinction between county borough and county case and mixed panels of jurors from both areas are called to try all cases. This is the system which the Bill now extends to the other county boroughs, with the addition that the Minister for Justice will be enabled to limit the distance from which to call jurors from the county areas by prescribing a district for this purpose convenient to the county borough.

In this way, it will be possible in the case of Cork to prescribe an area surrounding the city, from which county jurors will be called to form mixed panels with the county borough jurors. Those outside this district would no longer be called to county borough courts while those within would be of sufficient number, when combined with the county borough jurors, to have an average frequency of service of about once in four years, which is not excessive.

It will be noticed that the Bill contains a number of minor provisions in relation to commissions de lunatico inquirendo. I would like to explain, that the purpose of these provisions is to make clear that a court of this particular type is, for all jury purposes, in the same position as the other better-known courts.

As Senators will have observed, the Bill is very restricted in its objectives. It will, however, in its present form, bring worth-while relief to persons on whom the obligation of jury service at present constitutes a particularly heavy burden; and I am satisfied that this limited improvement should be implemented as soon as possible, without considering, at least at this juncture, more general issues which are raised sometimes in relation to jury service. The Bill makes no change in the longstanding arrangements which apply to liability for jury service and to the compilation of Jurors' Books.

I think it is right that this House should express its appreciation of this effort by the Minister and his Department to improve the machinery in relation to juries in certain respects. I take it from the Minister's concluding remarks that he was appealing to us not to be too hard on him for not producing a bigger apple or something of that sort. The Bill is in no way open to objection, except that on Committee Stage we might have some discussion about the necessity for Section 5; but, as I say, that is a matter for the next Stage.

There are one or two questions in relation to juries which might be mentioned. There is, first of all, the smallness of the remuneration which they have been getting and there is, secondly the possibility that the use of juries in certain types of action—for example, in road accident cases—might cease as it has ceased in Britain. We might not find a great deal of difference but the very excessive awards which are sometimes made by juries in road traffic accident cases might not arise if these cases were left to a member of the courts of whatever rank, whether district justice, circuit court judge, or high court judge, acting with assessors.

However, in view of the Minister's request, these matters can be left over for some other occasion. As I said at the beginning, the Minister is to be complimented, and indeed his Department over the past decade have brought many improvements in administration, without a great increase in the administrative staff in the Department. I welcome the Bill.

The main purpose of the Bill as I understand it, as the Minister has put it before us, is to deal with a situation in which a particularly heavy burden, in his own words, falls upon certain people who are not exempt from jury service. Despite what the Minister says about not tackling other problems of jury service, I feel he has missed one opportunity which would just about double the people available for jury service, that is, by admitting women to jury service; by amending the Act and ceasing to allow exemption for women.

That opens a wider question. I, personally, would not base my plea for admitting women to jury service simply on the fact that there is a shortage of men for jury service, though that fact seems to have been enough in the case of the admission of married women to the teaching profession. The shortage of teachers has meant that married women who were more or less excluded are now being admitted again. My plea would not be on those grounds. It would not be based upon the ground that women have a right to serve on juries which is not my burden of contention at all, but upon the much more basic right of men, women and young people to be tried by a jury of both men and women. That appears to me to be a far more natural body of opinion than a purely all male jury.

It is not a question of whether women would be more lenient or less lenient with particular types of crimes or offenders. That is not the point. The point is that you would get a far more balanced consensus of opinion from a body of men and women, than you would get from simply a body of women or men. It is far closer in fact to the atmosphere in a family where most judgments and decisions are referred both to the man and to the woman.

I feel that both men and women and also young people have the right to be tried by a mixed jury. It might be the cause of serious disability— and I think frequently has been—for particular offenders, be they men or women, to be tried solely before a jury of men. I do not want to specify and I do not think that it would always follow that women offenders would be either better or worse treated by a jury of women or by a jury of men, but you would have a more balanced judgment from a jury composed of both men and women.

Therefore, it seems to me that in all equity the accused person—and that is what I regard as a more basic thing than anything else—should have the right to have what I contend to be a more balanced jury. The fact that it would also help to solve the problem to which the Minister referred of the particularly heavy burden on men at present called for service would be an additional advantage.

In the Juries Act of 1927 which is being amended in certain of its provisions by this Bill, I find that the qualification for liability for jury service is described as follows in Section 3, subsection (1):

Subject to the provisions of this section, every citizen of the age of twenty-one years or upwards and under the age of sixty-five years who, either in his own name or in a trade name and whether alone or jointly with any other person or persons or as a member of a form or co-partnership, is rated for the relief of the poor in respect of land in a jury district shall, if the total rateable value of all the land in respect of which he is so rated in such jury district equals or exceeds the minimum rating qualifications for such jury district, be qualified and liable to serve as a juror for trial of all or any issues which are for the time being triable with a jury drawn wholly or partly from such jury district, unless he is for the time being disqualified for or exempt from serving as a juror.

That is the first provision: one has to be between 21 and 65 and a ratepayer of a certain minimum rateable holding.

The second subsection, I feel, reads rather oddly:

Subject to the provisions of this section, every male citizen of the age of twenty-one years or upwards and under the age of sixty-five years who is not qualified and liable to serve as a juror by virtue of the foregoing subsection and whose wife is rated for the relief of the poor in respect of land in a jury district shall, if the total rateable value of all the land in respect of which his wife is so rated in such jury district equals or exceeds the minimum rating qualification for such jury district, be qualified and liable to serve as a juror for the trial.

So a man, if he is a ratepayer of a certain category or husband of a ratepayer of a certain category, is liable for jury service, but the wife whose rated holding gives him the right to be called on a jury is not so liable. I find that very odd indeed and I link that with the fact that in Section 2 subsection (1):

The Minister shall by order prescribe for every jury district the rateable value of land which is to be the minimum rating qualification for jurors in that jury district and may by any such order prescribe different rateable values in respect of different classes of land.

I make the double point there: first, in certain circumstances, a man becomes liable for jury service simply by the property qualification of his wife who is not so liable, a very anomalous position which should be removed by such an amending Bill as this; secondly, you have for jury service a property qualification and I would like to question whether that is a wise provision or whether it is based upon sound principles.

The person, apart from the exemptions I mentioned, who is liable for jury service is a male citizen and a ratepayer or the husband of a ratepayer. There is, in other words, a property test to select the owner of certain landed property, of real estate, and I should like to ask the House why does the ownership of property confer upon one the capacity to judge of the credibility of a witness, for instance, or of the authenticity of a fact? Why should we be bound by this concept that if you own property, you are in some way a more satisfactory judge of fact, of character or of credibility than if you do not own property?

It is contended, of course, that if you own property, you become by that fact a more responsible person, a person with a stake in the country and so on, but I regard that as entirely irrelevant to the duties of a member of a jury whose duties are, as I see them, to judge on matters of fact, not of matters of interest. Obviously, a property owner has a certain vested interest in the continuance of certain observances but it is not the function of a jury to act in accordance with this enlightened self-interest but to make decisions as to facts.

I would suggest consequently that jury service should in fact apply, with certain exemptions, to all electors, all those on the electoral roll, men and women over 21 and under 70. I find the age limit of 65 rather odd because for the purposes of the old age pensions, we do not consider a person to have retired from active life until he is 70, but he is not eligible for jury service beyond 65. However, apart from age, which is an unimportant point, it seems to me that all responsible electors—obviously, there would be some exemptions such as those mentioned in the two Schedules of the 1927 Act like idiots, illiterates, and men of certain professions whose absence from those professions might disorganise things—all responsible citizens, all adult citizens who have the right to vote should have, not the right to serve on juries, but the duty. I regard that as a necessary preliminary for the fair trying of every case.

Persons absolutely exempt are referred to in Part I of the First Schedule and Part II refers to people exempt but who are entitled to serve on application and in that category come all women, so that the onus is placed upon the individual woman, if she is a ratepayer, to make application to serve on a jury. Some women have been public-spirited enough to do that and they all have the necessary ratepaying qualifications.

I would suggest that to put an obligation upon women to make this application is doubly unfair. It is unfair to the person who is being tried and unfair to the individual woman. If she is in employment, it could be extremely awkward for her, if she were called for jury service, to have to explain to her employer that she had applied to be put on the jury panel, although she did not have to. That applies to men in the exempted category, teachers, doctors, and so on. If they are employed and have applied to be on the panel, it could be very awkward for them vis-à-vis their employer. Therefore, I regard it as doubly unfair to exclude women not from the right but from the duty to serve on juries.

I believe one of the provisions of the Bill should be a revision of those portions of the 1927 Act which exempt all women merely by reason of the fact that they are women. I feel particularly ashamed of that provision in this country. I am sure the Minister will, in memory, support me here. The very birth of this State was due so very much to the sacrifice of so very many women, who sacrificed without a thought of reward or prominence in position, and so on, and who played an absolutely full and equal part in the whole Republican movement which brought about the existence of this Oireachtas, that I feel ashamed that, not merely in 1927, we did not recognise there is a right to a woman and a man to be tried by a mixed jury, that the woman is a full citizen in the fullest sense of the word, but also that, in 1961, when we are amending the principal Act, we have not yet evolved to the point where we recognise that the accused person, in equity, has the right to be tried by a jury of men and women and we are failing in our duty unless we remove from the principal Act the absurd exemption applied to women simply because they are women.

I feel that Senator Sheehy Skeffington is in error. One can imagine court cases which would be sordid, brutal and not the sort of thing a woman would desire to spend six days considering.

Most men do not desire it, either.

Most men do not desire it, either. However, it is true to say that men are generally made of sterner stuff.

The exemption in the old Act and in this Bill whereby a woman can opt out, and that seems to me the easiest way of terming it, is a good one. If a woman feels her duty to the State and her fellow-citizens is to be on a jury, and she is qualified on the ordinary conditions, then she can be a juror and should be a juror. However, I can think of many women who, by reason of their mental and physical make-up, of their kindly disposition, of their maternal instincts, would not be people who should be faced with days on end during which they would be asked to try, perhaps, a brutal person who had been guilty of robbery with violence in the case of an old person.

These jury cases have had very bad effect on jurors' health at times. I know a case where a young man was convinced that a criminal on emerging from jail would, because he happened to live reasonably close to him, try to get his own back on him because he had been one of the twelve who judged him guilty. I could imagine women who could fulfil everything that the State could ask of them in life and who could be the most excellent citizens— much better than men who could try a man without a thought—who could possibly go to the verge of a nervous break-down or beyond because of having to decide whether or not a man had been guilty of a brutal crime and whether or not he should receive the most severe punishment.

It could well be that a justice could excuse a woman from such a trial by jury but there have been cases where solicitors, from the one hundred jurors who are called, have made many objections, so that, in fact, of those who were not objected to, there were hardly the twelve necessary. In such a situation, I could imagine a woman, if she were forced to be on a jury as a man can be forced to be on a jury, in an unenviable position. I feel the existing provisions in the old Act and now in the Bill before us are wise and are in keeping with the reverence and respect with which we would wish to regard our womenfolk. I think their position should not be interfered with.

I must presume it is legitimate for Senators to raise matters which are not contained in the Bill but which are related in some respect or another to the Bill. It is extraordinary that what we have been discussing here are matters which are not contained in this Bill at all.

They are germane to the shortage of jurymen.

I admit that. I say that while they may not be contained in the Bill, Senators are entitled to raise them. Otherwise, I am pretty certain the Cathaoirleach would deal with the Senators. I have to presume that although the matters to which they have referred are not contained in the Bill, they may be discussed.

I want to assure the Seanad that this Bill is the answer to urgent representations of the Deputies of Cork city. They made it clear to me on a number of occasions, both by questions in the House and by interviews, that the position of the Cork city jurors is pretty desperate, especially when compared with the service jurors in other areas have to give. For instance, in Cork city, a juror has to give service every 16 months, whereas in other districts they do not have to give that service except in a period of between 10 and 15 years. In other words, jurors in other districts were exempted for that particularly long period.

I had to regard it as a very serious aspect of a citizen's service to the State that in one city jurors were called on to give this excessive service as against long exemption in other parts of the State. The result was that I decided that rather than wait to bring in a more comprehensive Bill, a Bill that might touch on some of the points Senator Sheehy Skeffington has referred to, and what Senator Donegan referred to, this was an urgent relief which was required and, in my opinion, urgently required. I was actually hoping that as a result of our discussion, the Seanad would think it desirable to give me not only the Second Stage but the remaining Stages now so that the Bill might become operative in the shortest possible time.

I do not know if Senator Sheehy Skeffington is aware that at the birth of this State women had compulsorily to give service on juries and it was a complete failure. The women just did not give the service and it went on for some few years until eventually, when the Bill was being amended—I am not sure of the actual date; it might have been 1927 or earlier—the Legislature thought it desirable then to take women off the panel.

I am not sure but I think Senator Sheehy Skeffington is aware of the fact that women can give voluntary service and very few women do opt to come in. If they wish, they can volunteer to give service and they will be put on the jury book. To date, the number of women who have volunteered for that type of service has been very small. I do not want to exaggerate; I was going to say the number could be counted on the fingers of two hands, but that might be an exaggeration. The number who have volunteered is very small. At all times I have supported feminist organisations because I believe in the right to equality between the sexes. I have always believed in that and there would not be any desire on my part to keep women from giving that service, if I thought it desirable.

However, when I consider examining the question of whether women should give compulsory service, I begin to think in terms of the housewife who has to look after a family of young children, and who has to provide the meals for her husband. Then I begin to ask myself if this woman were compelled to attend the courts in order to be heard as to whether she was prepared to give jury service, or whether she would be challenged against giving service, or whether she might be called to give service, it might be possible that she would be called to give that service for two or three days, and I shudder to think of the results of that on the organisation of that little family.

She would make a very good jury woman.

I am sure she would make an excellent one.

What about the right of the accused to get the best possible jury?

I hope the Senator is not suggesting that an all-male jury is not the type of jury that will give justice.

They represent only half of the society we live in.

We need not debate that aspect of the case because, in actual fact, we are discussing something which is not in the Bill and it may be that I am taking up more time than I should, but the fact of the matter is that if a woman feels she would like to give jury service, she can volunteer to give that service and her service will be gratefully accepted.

If she is a ratepayer.

If she complies with the conditions with which the male has to comply.

The male can merely be the husband of the ratepayer.

I agree that that is so; if he is the rated occupier of the house and if the house has the prescribed minimum valuation, he becomes entitled to give jury service. Matters of this kind were discussed in the other House, the question of pay and things of that kind, which were completely outside the Bill. I had to make this appeal that these things may or may not be desired but I do not know what the view of another Minister for Justice might be on these matters. I do not know what the view of the Government would be on them because I have not attempted to entangle myself with any views other than the measure which I was bringing before the House, and therefore I cannot say what the views would be.

I did say, however, in the other House, and I repeat it here, that all these things could be examined with a view to being brought into an amending Bill which could be brought to the Legislature and if the Legislature thought they were desirable or suitable, and if the Government were prepared to stand over them, then it is in that comprehensive Bill that matters of this kind could be decided. But this Bill is a very restricted Bill. As I said at the beginning, it is a Bill designed to bring relief to a hard-pressed set of jurors and it does not attempt to deal with anything else. For that reason, I did not think that bringing me back on Committee Stage would add anything to the Bill because, as I say, it is a restricted type of Bill and I will not be prepared to accept recommendations of the type that have been discussed here this evening.

Question put and agreed to.

I think we could take the remaining Stages now.

We have no objection.

I certainly should like to put down at least two amendments and I should like to have the opportunity of framing them and putting them to the House.

The Senator will have to be extremely skilful to frame an amendment.

Is Senator Sheehy Skeffington insisting?

I do not want to delay the House but I feel I would like to put down these amendments, and I should like to have time to put them before the House. I did not understand that the Committee Stage was to be taken today. I think we should have at least a week.

As the Minister explained, this Bill is urgent in the sense that it has been asked for to meet a pressing need in Cork and a delay in regard to the remaining Stages will further delay the enactment of the measure. I hope Senator Sheehy Skeffington realises that.

There is just one point which I should like to draw to the Senator's attention, that is, any amendment that he might frame will have to be related to the Bill as it stands.

I think that should be possible. It will be subject to your ruling, Sir, but the Long Title says that it is "An Act to repeal and re-enact with amendments certain provisions of the Juries, Act, 1927, relating to Juries for the High Court, the Central Criminal Court and the Circuit Court". I feel certain my amendments will come under that heading.

The Senator is deluding himself by quoting the Title.

It is the contents of the Bill which are important, not the Long Title. Does the Senator insist?

I might also advert to the fact that there was at least one amendment in the Dáil which, I think, we could fruitfully discuss and it was my intention to put down something similar. It was on the question of the remuneration of jurors.

That amendment was ruled out of order.

I presume that if Senator Sheehy Skeffington insists upon not having the other Stages taken now, we will have to agree. I would appeal to him not to do so.

I am sorry I must really insist on my right to put down amendments. I feel that the amendments I want to put are in order, subject to your approval, Sir, and the rules of the House.

Committee Stage ordered for next sitting day.