I said at the end of Second Stage that I thought it had been an excellent debate, and it was. Unfortunately, as I predicted, the way in which Committee Stage has been dealt with has not done the Senate any service. I do not have to point the fingers in that respect.
I am implacably opposed to the deletion of this section for the simple reason that to do so would be discriminatory. It is purporting to create a situation whereby a registrar fails or refuses to give a form and does not suffer any sanction other than the disciplinary procedures that might be normal for any public servant.
Senator Hanafin and others asked why we should have a criminal sanction if it is not used. The criminal sanction has already been on the Statute Book since 2004 in respect of other offences and whether it has been used, the fact that it is there is a clear statement by the Oireachtas to those people who might, without reasonable cause, fail to do something they are required to do. It is clearly a dereliction of their duty and the Oireachtas should send a strong signal that this is not something that can only be dealt with by a disciplinary tribunal or whatever. It must be dealt with if it is a very serious offence. As Senator Ross said, this is not a victimless crime.
Section 69 of the 2004 Act lists the offences a registrar might commit by not acting in accordance with the Act. It also includes a non-registrar, in other words, an ordinary person. A person who gives to the registrar particulars or information which he or she knows to be false or misleading is guilty of an offence. All of those offences are punishable, on summary conviction under section 70, by up to six months and a fine of up to €2,000, while there are much more serious penalties for conviction on indictment. All of those section 69 offences are punishable by that criminal sanction. What is being proposed here is clearly discriminatory in respect of a failure to give a form concerning civil partnership. The people who are proposing the deletion of this section are effectively proposing that in that instance, there should be no criminal sanction. I disagree because it is clearly discriminatory.
The term "without reasonable cause" is there as a defence if the person has good reason not to fulfil what he is required to do under the section. It is entirely up to that person to prove it in a defence of any prosecution that takes place. Therefore, there is an "out" in that respect. However, what is proposed is discriminatory because it is making a difference in the sanction purely and simply because it refers to a civil partnership registration.