I beg to move:—
To insert after Section 8 a new Section 9 as follows:—
"9. No penalty inflicted under this Act shall be reduced or remitted save on the recommendation of the Judge or Justice who imposes such penalty, and any recommendation for such reduction or remission shall be made at the same time as the penalty is imposed."
I think the effect of the amendment is clear and obvious. I may describe the amendment as one to save the Government in general, and members of the Government in particular, from the importunate advances of their friends. We all know what happens in these cases. A penalty is inflicted, and for some reason hard to appreciate, whether it is lack of sympathy with the law or regard for the individual offender, a petition is got up and actively championed by a number of law-abiding citizens, with the result, as frequently happens, that the course of justice is frustrated. This thing has become so obvious, and so notorious, and has earned for the country such a bad name that I hope, now that there is an opportunity, it may be put right once and for all. The object of the Bill is to put a stop to a very great danger from the point of view of the economic welfare of the country, a form of poaching, hard to detect, and one very indiscriminate and far-reaching in its effects. Judging by our experience, if on every occasion, when a penalty has been inflicted the usual petition comes on, then I think the object of the Bill will be only partly and ineffectually attained. I do not think Ministers can honestly say that they are absolutely immune to all kinds of advances from outside sources. Take the case of any of us, however high one puts duty, or however anxious one may be to do what is right, if from his constituents a number of very important and influential people come forward on behalf of some malefactor, it is almost more than human nature could expect to turn a deaf ear to such entreaty. We have rather to go on our human nature and on facts in considering this matter. I hope that the Seanad by its action will remove all temptation from the way of Ministers and put them in the enviable position of being able to say: "I am very sorry, much as I sympathise with you, but the law allows me to do nothing for you. The law has to take its course." There is this exception provided, that a judge or justice who imposed the fine can recommend remission. While by law the minimum penalty has to be imposed, there may be extenuating circumstances which the judge or justice can best appreciate. If a recommendation for remission is made, and if such a record is made at the same time as the conviction, there will be no possibility of any undesirable influences being brought into operation.