CEISTEANNA—QUESTIONS. ORAL ANSWERS. - LEVYING DECREES.

asked the Minister for Justice if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in levying decrees in Donegal it is the practice to charge defendants with an attorney's filing fee of 1s. 6d., in addition to the usual sheriff's fees; if he will state the reason for levying this fee, in addition to the debt, Court costs and sheriffs' fees, payable under the Under-Sheriffs' Fees Order, 1926; if the Minister will make inquiries in the matter, and if it is found that this fee has been improperly levied, he will state what action, if any, he intends to take.

My attention has recently been drawn to the practice of which the Deputy complains, and I have already issued instructions to the Under-Sheriff of Donegal that this practice must cease. As the Deputy is, no doubt, aware, the Under-Sheriff will not proceed to execute a decree unless it is accompanied at the time of lodgment by a certificate signed by the plaintiff or his solicitor stating the amount then claimed to be due. It seems that it has been the practice of the solicitors in Donegal to include in the amount certified as due, in addition to the debt, costs and witnesses' expenses awarded by the Court, a fee of 1/6 as a fee for drawing the certificate of the sum due. In other words, the successful party's solicitor was in the habit of claiming not merely the party and party costs in accordance with the appropriate scale prescribed by the District Court Rules, but further costs to the amount of 1/6, which, if payable at all, were in the nature of costs as between solicitor and client, and were not, in my opinion, leviable from the defendant on foot of the decree. The Under-Sheriff did not, of course, benefit in any way from the fee of 1/6 in question, which, if levied by him, was handed over to the solicitor of the successful party; and in cases where the amount certified as due was less than the amount awarded by the Court in respect of debt, costs and witnesses' expenses, as, for example, where the debtor had paid off some of the debt in the interval between the issue of the decree and the execution thereof, it is doubtful if the Under-Sheriff had any option but to levy for the full amount certified. As I have said, I have directed the Under-Sheriff of Donegal that, in future, if it appears that the amount certified as due by the person demanding an execution includes any fee or costs other than those awarded by the Court, he is not to levy for any greater amount than has been so awarded. I do not propose to take any further action in the matter, but it is, of course, open to any person who may have been prejudiced by the improper practice which has formed the subject of the Deputy's question to take such legal action as he may be advised is appropriate.