Juries Bill, 1960—Committee and Final Stages.

Before we take up consideration of the Committee Stage of this Bill, I should like to indicate that I have ruled that amendments Nos. 1 and 4 standing in the name of Senator Sheehy Skeffington are out of order on the grounds that they are outside the scope of the Bill as read a Second Time. The Senator has been notified accordingly.


Question proposed: "That Section 1 stand part of the Bill."

I received notice from you that these two amendments, Nos. 1 and 4, are out of order. Their purpose is to extend liability for jury service to women, except women who are mothers of children under ten years of age. I accept your ruling, of course, but it seems to me that, the stated purpose of the Bill being to remove the onerous burden from the shoulders of male jurymen, that purpose would be served by extending the liability to women. With respect, I submit that my amendments on this issue do come within the scope of the Bill.

Is it not very ungallant of the Senator to extend the burden to women?

I am thinking of the accused. I am surprised Senator O'Quigley does not consider the accused as the most important person in the court.

He is always courteous.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

This is the section in which, as the Minister told us on the previous occasion, the practice which now obtains in Dublin is extended. I think I am not distorting his words when I say he said the purpose of this section was to relieve the burden on jurors in Cork. I notice it is also now to apply to Limerick and Waterford.

If the purpose of the Bill is to relieve the pressure upon Cork jurors, it seems to me that portion of this section does not serve that purpose. It relates to Limerick and Waterford. I should like to hear the Minister upon the necessity to extend it to these two cities.

I gave a full explanation of that on Second Reading. If the Senator will look at the Official Report he will see what I did say. We are equalising the cities I named at that time with Dublin. It will bring relief to Limerick, just as it brings it to Cork and Waterford.

Is the situation so grave in Limerick and Waterford?

No, they are not in the same category but, as I said, we are availing of the Bill to bring relief to these other counties as well.

It seems to me that to avail of this Bill for the purpose of bringing relief to other counties where it is not immediately needed is a very close parallel to my attempt to bring in another type of relief.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 3 and 4 agreed to.
Amendment No. I not moved.

I move amendment No. 2:—

In line 4, before "a court" to insert "deemed to be".

At present Section 5 reads as follows——

Perhaps the Senator would prefer to discuss amendments Nos. 2 and 3 together.

Yes. Section 5 reads as follows——

Whenever a panel of jurors is lawfully in attendance before a commissioner under a commission de lunatico inquirendo, then, for the purpose of the application of Part V of the Principal Act, the commissioner shall be a court and also the judge of such court.

My amendment would mean that the phrase would read: "the commissioner shall be deemed to be a court and also the judge of such court." In reading the Bill it seemed to me absurd to imagine that we in the Oireachtas have the power to turn a commissioner into a court and I wondered if he is the court where is the panel of jurors going to sit? You have got a jury in this court and the court is the commissioner. Does the jury have to sit in the commissioner's lap? Are we not making ourselves ridiculous by saying that the commissioner shall be a court and also the judge? It seems to me that he will have to try to swallow himself if he is to be both court and judge and contain an extraneous body such as a panel of jurors. It would be more logical to say that we deem him to be the judge and deem him to be the court.

So far as making ourselves ridiculous is concerned, we have been doing so since 1927. However, I am accepting the amendment. The wording of the section as drafted follows the wording of Section 65, subsection (2), of the Juries Act, 1927 which the Bill proposes to repeal.

When I hear a reference to an Act of 1927, I am naturally inclined to take the view that whatever was contained in that Act was good, enacted in good times by good people.

That is a superstition.

It is a fact.

It is based upon experience.

We find in the Agricultural Credit Bill that the Government are going back to other Acts and you find that in other legislation. Senator Sheehy Skeffington may be under some kind of misapprehension when he talks about a jury sitting in the lap of the court. That kind of statement reminds me of the story of Lott's wife being turned into a pillar of salt. Here we have a kind of living metamorphosis whereby the commissioner is turned into a building of stone. No such thing was intended or envisaged in the 1927 Act. Senator Sheehy Skeffington might know that there is a phrase, frequently used in statutes of ancient origin and in statutes of more recent and modern origin, which refers to a court consisting of three judges or a court consisting of five judges, and a court, Senator Sheehy Skeffington will be pleased to know, will be relieved from the nightmare of having a panel of jurors sitting in the lap of a single commissioner.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment 3 not moved.
Section 5, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 6 and 7 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 8 stand part of the Bill."

I should like to express regret that the Minister did not avail of this opportunity to do other things also in repealing certain sections of the Principal Act. It seemed to me that here was his opportunity for amending the stupid regulation which precludes women from liability for jury service and militates against the possibility of having a just and fair trial before a balanced jury. I should like to express the hope that the Minister will soon introduce legislation to bring that about.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 9 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages today.
Bill received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

This Bill is necessary because of a shortage of jurors, because of the difficulty of getting juries for the many cases for which jurors are now used and because it has been found that juries have to act too frequently. The fact of the matter is that, at present, juries are acting in a great number of civil cases as well as in criminal cases. They are acting, for instance, in the ordinary running-down actions which are quite distinct from criminal actions or from defamation actions. In my opinion, it is quite unnecessary to have a jury in the ordinary running-down action or in many of the cases in which they are used at present. It does not strictly arise under the Bill, but I believe that the Minister should look into the possibility and desirability of limiting the type of case in which juries are used, limiting them to criminal cases and to a certain category of civil cases such as defamation cases, where a jury is necessary. They are quite unnecessary in many of the civil actions heard today and the Minister should consider the possibility of introducing amending legislation to deal with the problem.

I have no doubt that when the pressure, the very severe pressure, which is on the Department at present, has been relieved, the questions to which Senator Ryan refers will be given the necessary attention and a Bill to cover the many aspects which have been mentioned in the course of this debate will be considered.

In regard to the amendments of Senator Sheehy Skeffington which were ruled out of order as being irrelevant, I merely want to express the opinion that what has been said by Senator Ryan and the Minister is totally irrelevant at this stage. In those circumstances, I do not see why Senator Sheehy Skeffington's amendments were not allowed to be debated.

Question put and agreed to.
The Seanad adjourned at 10.40 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 17th May, 1961.