Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 15 Nov 1979

Vol. 316 No. 11

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Prosecutions for Bigamy.


asked the Minister for Justice the number of prosecutions which have taken place in this country in relation to bigamy over the last five years and the evidence, if any, to suggest that such a situation is being facilitated by the utilisation of divorce in England by such alleged bigamists.


asked the Minister for Justice if reports of bigamous marriages are investigated by the Garda, if so, if the results of such investigations are communicated to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the result of such communications.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 9 together.

Complaints of bigamous marriages are investigated by the Garda Síochána and, if the investigation discloses any evidence that might possibly justify a prosecution, a report is submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions who decides whether criminal proceedings should in fact be instituted. Of course, if it were quite clear to the Garda that the available evidence could not possibly sustain a prosecution, as would be the case if, for instance, no evidence of a previous marriage could be found, the Garda would not normally submit a report to the director as it would be pointless to do so.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that during the five-year period up to 31 December 1978 proceedings for bigamy were instituted in four cases. For clarification, may I say that, due to a clerical error in Garda Headquarters where those statistics are compiled, Deputy Keating was informed in a recent letter from my office that the number of prosecutions in that period was five. As now stated, the correct figure is four. I regret that this should have occurred.

As regards the second part of Deputy Keating's question, I have no function in relation to decisions to prosecute or not to prosecute and accordingly I am not in a position to comment on his reference to English divorces. However, in case the matter is in fact linked to some extent with the wider question of the recognition of foreign divorces, I would mention that the Law Reform Commission are examining various aspects of the law relating to marriage and matrimonial causes and proceedings, including this question of the recognition of foreign divorces.

Could I ask the Minister, first, how are statistics on this question kept, how comprehensive are they and how satisfied is he with them? Secondly, does the Minister accept that there is a problem in relation to marriages annulled by Churches but not, obviously, the subject of a civil annulment, and the difficulty arising when such Church-annulled marriages are the basis for re-marriage, if the separated parties re-marry, although they are already married civilly, in the eyes of the State? Is that a problem?

The answer to the Deputy's supplementary question is that the Garda Síochána keep the statistics. I apologise for the mistake in the statistics given to the Deputy.

It could affect the position, if nothing else.

In answer to the second part of the Deputy's supplementary question, the following relevant aspects of the law are at present under examination by the Law Reform Commission; the recognition and enforcement of foreign marriages, annulments, legal separations and divorces; the concepts of domicile, of habitual residence, the law relating to the nullity of marriage; application of foreign law in cases in which the courts of this country have jurisdiction to grant a decree of nullity of marriage; the substantive and procedure of law relating to matrimony and causes and the nature and basis of existing matrimonial proceedings generally and the law relating to the domicile of married women. This is an extremely complex series of topics, I am sure the Deputy will agree, which is presently being examined by the Law Reform Commission and the results must be awaited.

Could I ask the Minister if there is any statistic available for the past five years of the number of complaints received by the Garda Síochána, in view of the extraordinary figure given here, that there were only four cases which, apparently, warranted prosecution, or where criminal proceedings were initiated by the DPP?

I have not that information on my file but I can get it for the Deputy.

Could I put down a question? Would the Minister not agree that the figure of four prosecutions initiated in the past five years is, indeed, a quite extraordinary statistic, in view of the incidence of bigamous marriages which occur here?

There were only four cases—the Deputy is correct in saying—referred to the DPP by the Garda authorities, but that does not mean that there were not a number of other cases investigated, but because those cases could not be——


——substantiated, there was no point in referring them to the DPP, as I said in my original reply, because he could not take any action on them. I shall get further information on the number of complaints made and the number of inquiries—complete or incomplete—carried out by the Garda. I shall try to get that information for the Deputy.

Would the Minister not agree, further and finally, that the situation now disclosed here would, indeed, warrant the introduction in this country of a rational and sane system, whereby the termination of marriages between both parties can, in fact, be recognised and——

That is a separate question.

——the nonsense disclosed here once and for all dealt with?

That is another day's work.

Would the Minister agree that the annulment nonsense is not going to deal with it?

That is for another day.