DISTRICT JUSTICES (TEMPORARY PROVISIONS) BILL.

I move that the leave of the Dáil be granted to have printed and circulated a Bill, the long title of which is: "A Bill to provide for the appointment of District Justices to hold Courts of Summary Jurisdiction and to make consequential alterations in the law relating to Courts of Summary Jurisdiction and for other purposes connected therewith." The short title of the Bill is: "The District Justices Temporary Provisions Bill, 1923." The Act may be cited as the District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923. There is nothing of a very startling nature in the Bill. It regularises the position of existing District Justices. Up to the present orders and decisions of theirs might have been quashed by a legal pedant on the grounds that they were given at other places and at other times than the statutory places and times. In the past a Petty Sessions Court had a definite territoral jurisdiction, and an offence committed, however small a distance outside that territorial limit. could not be tried at that particular Petty Sessions Court. It will be necessary to re-arrange the districts. Further, the Bill provides for the appointment of people called Parish Commissioners. I will simply state briefly the duties we propose to assign to those functionaries: —Signing Petty Sessions summonses, signing warrants, administering oaths and taking declarations and affirmations, committing dangerous lunatics and idiots to lunatic asylums under Section 10 of the Lunacy Act, 1867, and signing certificates for the admission of pauper lunatics and idiots to lunatic asylums, These Parish Commissioners will also have certain remand powers. They can remand a prisoner brought before them, charged with an indictable offence, on bail or in custody. As it is not proposed to give them a judicial character, they will not have the power to refuse informations or power to discharge. The Bill goes on to deal with the appointment of clerks to these District Courts, and provides that the Civic Guard shall hold the same relations with regard to District Courts which the old R.I.C. had, in the past, with the Petty Sessions Courts. It also provides for an increase of the Petty Sessions fees which were arrived at a very long time ago, and are absurdly low, having regard to the present value of money. With the exception of the dog tax, it is proposed to double all these fees. A clause in the Bill confirms the appointment, and the acts since appointment, of all the present District Justices. That is the Amnesty clause, which was considered unsuitable to be embodied in the Adaptation of Enactments Bill. Then, there are definitions of some schedules. I formally move for leave to introduce the Bill.

The wording of the Bill, as described in the Order paper I hold in my hand. reads:—"A Bill to provide for the appointment of District Justices to hold Courts of Petty Sessions, and to make consequential alterations in the law relating to Petty Sessions, and for other purposes connected therewith." That is somewhat different to the wording of the Bill as read out by the Minister. What I want to know is, if the appointments of the District Justices, whose names have been announced in the Press, are only of a temporary nature? If that is so, I would suggest to the Minister that, for reasons fairly well known to himself, the subordinate appointments should also be held up until the Second Reading of the Bill. When will it be possible to take the Second Reading?

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I am not quite sure that I understand the Deputy. This is called "The District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Bill." The entire system of the administration of law in the country will pass under the review of the Judiciary Committee. This is, merely, a carrying on provision, pending the report of the Judiciary Committee, and the legislation that must follow on that report. The Justices that have been appointed are well aware that their positions are of a temporary nature, and carry no pension rights and no security of tenure. The clerks appointed to their Courts are being appointed—all of them —for a probationary period of three months. They are purely temporary appointments.

Do I understand that the Minister for Home Affairs will accept direct responsibility for the appointment of the Clerks, or is it the District Justices, pending the passing of this Bill, who will have the making of the appointments?

Mr. O'HIGGINS

With regard to that, I accept as much responsibility, as any Minister can possibly accept, for the thousand details of his Department. Taking it that there are a dozen or so clerks in each of the twenty-seven areas it gives a rather big total number. I could not possibly weigh personally the rival claims and qualifications of the very numerous candidates, but I can say, in a general way, that such claims and such qualifications received very real and very earnest attention in my department, and, to that extent, I take political responsibility for these appointments. I could not undertake in the future—I do not say that I have done it in the past—to give close personal attention to matters of that kind which, after all, viewed in perspective, are trifling and unworthy of the personal attention of a Minister with so much work on his hands.

I appreciate what the Minister has said with regard to the heavy task that he himself has in other more important matters, but, pending the passing of this Bill in its final form, is it to be understood that the District Justices have no share or responsibility in connection with the appointment of the clerks who will be called upon to do work of a temporary nature which may lead to something permanent in the end?

That is a matter which, in the ordinary course, should be put as a Question.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

The District Justices do no more than recommend to the Department, and it is the Department that has the responsibility.

Question put: "That leave be granted to introduce the ‘District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Bill.'"
Agreed.