Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, to delete line 31, and in page 8, to delete line 1.

These provisions, which substantially affect other Acts, are not normally included in the general definition or interpretation of the Act. In other words, they do not normally find restriction to another Act or a definition or interpretation in the section.

An exception to this would be providing a different definition from one of general application in another Act, that is, providing a different meaning to a word or phrase that provided for this in the interpretation, giving a different meaning to land rather than the interpretation of the Act. This is not the case, however. I await the Minister of State's response on these very technical amendments.

As no other Member is offering I will ask the Minister of State to address the amendment.

The line Minister is awaited.

He is on his way into the Chamber.

Deputy Naughten has proposed the two interrelated technical amendments regarding the placement of section 1 of this Bill and the non-application provision in respect of section 21(3) of the Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020, which relates to the statements of truth.

Taken together, the effect of these two amendments would be to delete the application element from section 1 of the Bill and move it into a new and separate section 2. There will be no change to the wording. While I understand that Deputy Naughten may prefer a structure where this application provision, which, of course, has substantive effect, is not in section 1 but in a separate stand-alone section, I did not believe that such a change is necessary.

Having consulted the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, I am satisfied that this provision is appropriately situated in section 1(2) of the Bill, that is, in its own standalone section. The heading of section 1 was amended by way of a clerk's amendment on Committee Stage and now reads "Definitions and Application", which allows for this provision's inclusion as a subsection of section 1. Although there would be nothing wrong with having the application section as a standalone section, if the Bill had been drafted that way, there is equally no reason that the proposed change would be required. There are multiple examples in the Statute Book where the definitions and application sections are together, as they are in this Bill. As the amendments are unnecessary and confer no benefit in terms of the functioning of the Bill, I am, unfortunately, not in a position to support them.

I note what the Minister of State said but the key point I am making is that one does not normally find a restriction on another Act included in a definition or interpretation section. I accept that it is not legally wrong to do so and that this is, in effect, a technical issue. I will not be pressing the amendments.

This Private Members' Bill was introduced by former Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh in 2018. I commend him on his determination in getting it passed. The Bill seeks to remedy some of the issues in the law of perjury by codifying and consolidating the law in this area. It provides a definition of the offence of perjury and consolidates the various ancillary aspects provided for in legislation over the past several centuries. It also makes extensive amendments to various, often ancient, Acts to reflect this consolidation. The Bill is long overdue and, when enacted, will make perjury a statutory criminal offence in Ireland for the first time. The absence of a statutory criminal offence of perjury weakens our court system and opens it to abuse.

The Bill was well drafted with the assistance of Mr. Kieran Mooney of the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers. His expertise has been invaluable. I thank the Minister of State and his officials, Barry Fulham and Sandra Smith, for working closely and engaging with the Regional Group over the past few months in strengthening the Bill. It has had full cross-party support since its introduction in the Seanad. I thank the Members of both Houses for their support for it. I thank my Regional Group colleagues for continuing to keep the legislation highlighted and moving forward since its reinstatement last July. This Bill demonstrates how much can be achieved by working together.

I thank Deputy Canney for his contribution and for not pressing the amendments. I take his point, which is a stylistic one. I would like to be associated with his comments thanking former Senator Ó Céidigh for introducing and pursuing this very important Bill. I acknowledge Mr. Ó Céidigh's significant contribution.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.
Bill received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I would like to be associated with the compliments to former Senator Ó Céidigh for his work on this important legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

A message will be sent to the Seanad acquainting it accordingly.