Committee on Finance. - Vote 29—Office of the Minister for Justice.

Wednesday, 11 July 1951

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 126 No. 9

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Minister for Justice (Mr. Boland): Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £45,640 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1952, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Justice.

[1414] I propose, if the House agrees, to follow the same procedure as in previous years and deal generally with the group of Estimates Nos. 29 to 37 for which I am responsible as Minister.

These Estimates show little change as compared with previous years and I am sure that the House will not expect me to go into detailed explanations of them. The aggregate amount of the nine Estimates is £3,683,110, an increase of £106,340 on the Estimates and Supplementary Estimate for 1950-51.

The only Estimates which show relatively substantial increases are those for the Garda Síochána (No. 30) and the Prisons (No. 31) which show increases of £139,100 and £9,010 respectively. In the case of the Garda Estimate, the actual increase is £90,550, the figure given in the printed Volume of the Estimates not taking account of the Supplementary Estimate of £48,550 passed last March. In the case of both Estimates the increases are due primarily to the provision which is being made for the purchase of reserve stocks of yarns, cloth, furniture, bedding, etc.

In the case of none of the Estimates has any provision been made for the increases in pay that were recently approved by the Government for the Civil Service generally. It has been decided to treat the Garda Síochána in precisely the same way as the Civil Service but, in the case of the Garda, it was necessary to make a formal Pay Order before the increases could become effective. This Pay Order has now been made. The cost of the increase for the Guards will be approximately £330,000 in a full year. This is in the Estimate, but I thought it appropriate to mention it.

A competition has been held by the Civil Service Commissioners for the purpose of enabling clerks and typists who have been employed in an unestablished capacity in Circuit Court offices to qualify for appointment to established posts in those offices. In all 76 unestablished officers competed, of whom 72 qualified, and it is hoped to be able to offer establishment to all who qualified, subject to their satisfying the Civil Service Commissioners as to health, character, etc.

[1415] The House will recall that legislation was enacted earlier this year, the main purpose of which was to enable unestablished District Court clerks to be granted pensionable status as established officers. Details of the scheme to implement this legislation have not yet been settled between my Department and the Department of Finance, but I am glad to have this opportunity of assuring Deputies that I will use every endeavour to see that the matter is brought to a speedy conclusion.

The work of the Land Registry is still in arrear and it has been necessary to make increased provision this year for additional assistance and overtime which, it is hoped, will bring about an appreciable improvement in the near future. Moreover, photostat machines for the photographic reproduction of copies of documents, records, etc., have now been provided for use in the offices of the Supreme and High Courts, Land Registry and the Public Record Office.

The interim report on crime furnished by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána reveals that the downward tendency in indictable crime from 1944 to 1949 did not continue in 1950 in which year there was a small increase (295), mainly larcenies, as compared with 1949. The total number of indictable offences was 12,466 for 1950 of which 7,687 (62 per cent.) were reported in the Dublin Metropolitan Area. Of the 12,466 crimes, 8,637 were larcenies and 2,034 burglaries or housebreakings.

The number of prosecutions (147,635) for summary offences showed a decrease of 17,411 as compared with 1949. Road Traffic Act prosecutions fell by 10,100 as compared with 1949, and of the 87,807 prosecutions 50,740 were for offences against the lighting regulations, 38,684 being against pedal cyclists and 12,056 against motorists. Prosecutions under the Intoxicating Liquor Acts numbered 15,648 in 1950 as against 16,724 in 1949.

The number of mechanically propelled vehicles registered increased from 122,536 in 1949 to 138,134 in 1950, while the number of persons fatally injured, 213, was the same for both years. We were asked to be brief, so I was as brief as I could.

[1416]Mr. Morrissey: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  I hope to emulate the Minister's good example in that respect as I have very little to say. I was glad to hear from the Minister that he is going to continue the pressure on the Department of Finance regarding the position of District Court clerks under the recent legislation. I hope he will take off the gloves when he is dealing with that Department in that connection. I found that I had some difficulty in making any impression on them and I have no hesitation in saying that the attitude of the Finance Department regarding this matter has been, to say the least of it, not very reasonable. I was also glad to hear about the Circuit Court clerks.

I should like to refer to the strength of the Garda force. I was satisfied in my very short period in the Department of Justice that the force is very much under strength, and I think there is a need for recruitment. I do not think that there is a sufficient number of guards particularly in the big centres like Dublin to give that protection and control which is necessary in the public interest.

I need hardly say that I was pleased to hear from the Minister that the Government have decided to implement in full the previous Government's decision regarding the arbitration award. I was very glad indeed to hear that it was their intention to give the force the full benefit of that award, particularly with regard to its retrospective aspect, because on a former occasion I think that the Guards were not treated as well as they should have been.

May I say, while I am talking about the Guards, that one of the matters to which the Minister might give attention is their uniforms. I do not know whether it is that the material is poorer than it used to be in the old days, but certainly the uniforms of the Guards do not look as well and as smart as they used to in the early years after the formation of the force.

I am trying to cut this as short as I can, as I do not want to take too much time. There is, however, one matter which I think I will have to deal with without any further delay, and that is the question of traffic and [1417] traffic offences—and traffic particularly in the City of Dublin. I think it will be admitted that the position in Dublin City and in some of the suburban roads is a menace. The whole traffic of this city can only be described in the words of the Abbey as being “in a state of chassis”. It is chaotic and it is almost impossible even for people who are living in the city and who are trying to follow the regulations from day to day to know when they can go along a particular thoroughfare or how far they can go along it, but it is utterly impossible for people coming up from the country to do business here. I do not think we have enough Gardaí on traffic duty in the city. There are many points in the city that are really dangerous and there is no traffic policeman on duty at them. I fully understand that that is due very largely if not entirely to what I have already said, that is, the fact that we have not an adequate number of Gardaí.

The other matter in connection with traffic to which I want to refer is dangerous driving and driving while under the influence of drink. I think we have dangerous driving, or driving to the danger of the public, to a greater extent in this country than perhaps in any other country. There are, from my own observation, people driving motor vehicles in this country who, in my opinion, should not be given charge of a perambulator. It is not altogether the drunks who are driving in that irresponsible and dangerous manner. You will find it early in the morning and in the middle of the day as well as late at night. May I say with all respect to the fair sex that they are the principal offenders when they get behind the wheel of a car.

I think all of us are glad to notice that within the past year or two the courts have been taking a more serious view of cases of driving while under the influence of drink which are brought before them and that they have been imposing fairly substantial penalties and particularly in regard to the suspension of driving licences. So far as I know, in no case up to the present has the suspension of a licence been remitted either in whole or in [1418] part by the Minister for Justice. I hope that the Minister will not be tempted to interfere with that practice. As one who perhaps was not always as far removed from a drink as I am now, I say that a drunken motorist is an absolute menace on the road, and that a man who is drunk in charge of and driving a motor vehicle in this country, and particularly on the thoroughfares in and around the City of Dublin, should for his own sake and for the sake of the community be heavily penalised.

I should like further if the Minister would consider the question of appointing some sort of a mobile force. I know there are Gardaí driving around in police motor cars, but I should like to see, say, on the Bray Road, some police on motor cycles who could, there and then, deal with the people who are an absolute menace. There are, perhaps, more accidents on the Bray Road than there are, perhaps, on any similar stretch of thoroughfare in this country or in any other country. I realise that the road itself is rather dangerous. It is narrow and winding: there are dangerous bends on it and very many dangerous cross-roads. Nevertheless, you see as much if not more irresponsible driving on that particular road as perhaps on any other road leading into the City of Dublin. I feel that the system they have in operation in other countries might be worth examination if not a trial whereby the Garda would in certain cases and for certain offences have power to inflict the punishment himself or collect the fine himself on the spot.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  That is done in Paris.

Mr. Morrissey: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  And it is done in places other than Paris. That system might be worth examination and a trial in this country. I make no apology for stressing this matter because, literally, it is a matter of life and death. If one looks at the number of traffic accidents in this country—the number of accidents in which people are crippled or maimed for life, and the number of people who are actually killed on the roads of this country in any one year—the figure is rather staggering. I know that no matter how careful drivers may be, no matter how [1419] efficient the Gardaí may be in regard to the enforcement of traffic regulations, you will have accidents, but I am equally satisfied that the accidents could be reduced, and very substantially reduced.

There are many other matters of detail which one would like to raise but I do not think I should go into too many matters of detail at the moment. I think that, from what the Minister has said in regard to the matters in which I was principally interested, he is following the right line. I shall be glad if he will be good enough to look into the few points which I have sketched very briefly indeed.

Mr. J. Lynch:  Under ordinary circumstances it is unusual for me in my present position to speak in this debate but I speak only on one subject, and that is the question of the establishment of a High Court of First Instance in Cork. Last week, in answer to a question by a Cork Deputy, the Minister said he would examine the feasibility of establishing a High Court in Cork. I feel that I am in a position to put a fairly good cross-section viewpoint before the Minister—a cross-section viewpoint as between the litigants and the legal profession in Cork. I take this opportunity to present these views because I believe that the question will be examined by the Minister's officials before it comes to the Minister himself. I suggest that the first point of view from which this question should be examined is that of public convenience. From that point of view I believe there is no answer to the claim of Cork and of the South generally to the establishment of a permanent High Court of First Instance in the South. The experience is that when somebody brings a High Court action in Cork or Limerick or Waterford, he has no alternative but to bring the action in the City of Dublin.

His first job will be to provide for his advisers a certain amount of money in order to finance the trip for himself, his solicitor, his ordinary witnesses and his expert witnesses. In many cases litigants who are about to bring proceedings in the High Court are asked to put [1420] down at least £100. Many of the cases that come before the High Court are running down actions, and it is a case of determining where negligence lay in a collision between two cars, or between a car and a cyclist or a pedestrian. As anybody knows, no matter how strong your case may be, nobody can determine beforehand whether or not he will succeed. It is, therefore, a risk in the first instance to bring a case before a judge and jury in the High Court.

The Circuit Court limit at the present time is £300. If in the opinion of a litigant a case is worth £500 the litigant is often very reluctant to take a chance of incurring heavy expenses in bringing his witnesses to Dublin and if the insurance company, which is usually the real opponent, puts up a sufficiently tempting offer and one that cannot be ignored, but which is possibly really too low to satisfy the litigant, nevertheless the litigant, rather than take the risk of being defeated and having to undergo heavy expenses will accept that lower offer in settlement of his claim.

There is, too, the chance that having brought an action for £500, if he succeeds in getting £300, or less, the costs allowed by the High Court will be computed on the Circuit Court scale, a scale which will in no circumstances pay for the cost of his action and the cost of bringing his witnesses to Dublin. The result is that out of the £300, or less, that he succeeds in getting as damages, he may eventually find himself owing money rather than find himself in pocket as a result of injuries sustained in an accident.

Another uncontrollable difficulty arises in relation to the listing of cases in the High Court. There is first of all a warning list and that is followed by a day to day list. There is no guarantee that any case will be reached on the particular day in which it appears in the list. On the contrary, experience has proved that the case is much more likely not to be reached until the following day and often not until the following week. Nevertheless, the litigant, his solicitor and his counsel must be in attendance accompanied by all the professional and medical witnesses. It frequently [1421] happens that a whole retinue of witnesses come to Dublin from the south and spend from Monday to Friday here without the particular case in which they are interested being reached. They return to their homes for the week-end and duly appear again the next week. The next week the possibility is that the case may be settled out of court and there is, therefore, a consequent waste of time and money. Heavy expenses are incurred which need not have been incurred in the first instance had a suitable offer been made or had there been a convenient court in which the action could be heard.

From the litigant's point of view there is always the difficulty, particularly in running-down actions, that if the case is one for the High Court it means that serious injury has been sustained. A serious injury usually requires highly-skilled medical or surgical attention. A highly-skilled surgeon or doctor is a very valuable asset in his own particular area. That is particularly true of Cork where we have men of outstanding medical and surgical skill. Surgeons will do anything from five to ten operations per day. If they have to go to Dublin for the purposes of a High Court action it means the people in Cork are deprived of their services and suffer unnecessary hardship thereby. These men, because of the inconvenience caused to their patients do not want to come to Dublin and for that reason solicitors are very often reluctant to serve subpoenas on them.

In most cases the solicitors are continuously on the phone trying to tell these doctors as nearly as they can when the case will come on for hearing in an effort to obviate the necessity of a doctor or a surgeon wasting his time in Dublin. These highly skilled men can command very high fees. Very often they demand quite justifiably a very high fee for their attendance in Dublin. If an unfortunate litigant loses an action that fee falls upon him.

There is another point of view which affects the solicitors' profession more than any other. The big insurance companies which are usually involved on one or other, or both, sides in these [1422] actions prefer to do their business in and through Dublin. As soon as a man goes to a solicitor in Cork and High Court proceedings are launched the big executive insurance companies tell the Cork firms to transfer the papers forthwith to their Dublin representatives.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  In other words, Dublin is Ireland.

Mr. J. Lynch:  Or, as I have heard it said, Ireland is the capital of Dublin. The papers are promptly delivered from the Cork solicitor's office to the Dublin solicitor's office and there and then the Cork solicitor's interest ceases. It often happens, too, that a junior barrister who must attend to his ordinary business in Cork cannot afford the time to come to Dublin. The action in Dublin may clash with a fixture in which he is already committed in Cork and it is to the detriment of the litigant and to the barrister that the man who was in the initial stages of the case cannot pursue it to its conclusion when it comes before the Court in Dublin.

There may be questions of technical difficulty. The question of accommodation may be possibly one of them. But may I point out that in Cork there is a Court house sufficiently large to accommodate a permanent sitting of the High Court. There are two very fine rooms there in which the District Court and the Circuit Court sit. There is also a court which is very little used, the Bankruptcy Court. Usually when the High Court comes on circuit the District Justice sits in the Bankruptcy Court and finds it reasonably adequate for his work. I do not think the question of accommodation would provide a difficulty if we had a permanent sitting of the High Court in Cork. There is ample accommodation for judges' chambers.

There is another point which merits consideration. Dublin jurors have to devote their time to trying cases from all over the country. At least 95 per cent. of the civil actions in the High Court are tried by jury. Dublin jurors have also to attend in the Circuit Criminal Court and the Central Criminal Court. They have to give up their business or their everyday occupations with consequent personal loss.

[1423] I have heard Dublin men complain that it is hardly fair to ask them to thrash out the differences arising between litigants from other parts of the country. I know there will be opposition from the insurance companies in Dublin because they feel that when an action is tried away from the local venue they are more likely to get a fair decision on the merits of the case particularly in relation to the amount of damages. I do not think there is any danger that insurance companies or litigants will not get a fair crack of the whip if a case is tried by a local jury, because the area of call for a jury can be made as large as anyone likes.

I would suggest that such a court could serve not only Cork, Kerry and Waterford but possibly South Tipperary as well. The area of call for the jury could be extended to most if not all of that area. One should also remember that Cork is the biggest county in the country, comprising approximately one-sixth of the total area of the country so it is hardly likely that a jury called from that wide area would in respect to either the venue or the parties concerned, occasion any dispute. I think on that score there could be no real opposition from any of the interested parties. As I have said this court could be made to serve places like Waterford, Kerry and South Tipperary. In each of these counties, you have big towns which are a two hours' or less than a two hours' journey from Cork. Witnesses and litigants could travel from their homes to and from Cork in one day. They need not remain in Cork overnight waiting for their cases to be taken.

It may be that opposition will come from the judges, but I believe myself that the first point of view to be considered is the public convenience point of view. Secondly, I doubt if any judge would object to having to spend two or three weeks in term, four times a year, outside Dublin. Many of them are not Dublin-born men and are still used to living in the country, and when they come to Cork I can assure them, as they very well know, they are not going to the wilds or anything [1424] like it. Opposition might come from members of the Senior Bar, but even members of the Senior Bar are sometimes glad of opportunities to get away from home and enjoy themselves for a week in more congenial surroundings.

Mr. O'Gorman: Information on Patrick James O'Gorman  Zoom on Patrick James O'Gorman  “On the banks of my own lovely Lee.”

Mr. J. Lynch:  We have in Cork the only resident Bar outside Dublin. Like most professions, the Bar profession in Cork is becoming overcrowded. We have men there who normally would be ripe to be called to the Senior Bar, but for one reason or another—perhaps because of attachment to the banks of their own lovely Lee—are reluctant to make the plunge and take silk. If this court were established there, it would provide them with an opportunity to take silk and to live in their own town.

There are several other points of view that I should like to put up for the consideration of the Minister, but I do not want to detain the House any longer, as I have already spoken for a quarter of an hour, far beyond the time I intended to occupy. I feel that whatever technical or practical difficulties might arise in the carrying out of this suggestion could easily be adjusted. I do not believe that legislation would be necessary and I think there is no moral answer to the claim of Cork and the South for a permanent sitting of the High Court of First Instance. Without wishing to make a pun, I do not think there is any answer in justice to it.

Mr. D. Costello: Information on Declan Costello  Zoom on Declan Costello  I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to a reform in the administration of justice in this country which I think is desirable and long overdue, and to which I should like the Minister to direct his attention during the months in which the Dáil will be in recess. I refer to the necessity for legal aid for poor prisoners in our criminal courts. I should like to see introduced here, when the Dáil again sits in the autumn, a Bill which I think would get support from every side of the House to enable prisoners who are unable to provide legal aid out of their own resources, to obtain such [1425] legal aid by means of local funds, if necessary subsidised out of the Exchequer. Such a system of legal aid has been in existence in England since 1903, when the first comprehensive Act, the Poor Prisoners Defence Act, 1903, came into operation. That Act was not, for some reason, extended to this country, and we have had no similar Act. The result has been that the only system by which people who are unable to provide legal aid out of their own resources can obtain such aid in this country, has been the system of the dock brief, which is obsolete and which is rarely used in this country. There is also a system whereby in capital charges poor prisoners who are unable to provide counsel and solicitors out of their own resources have counsel and solicitors assigned to them. Apart from that instance, where in cases of murder the prisoner can have counsel and solicitor assigned to him, there is no system by which poor persons can obtain legal aid if their own resources do not permit of it.

The 1903 Act, which was a short Act of five sections, was substantially repealed in 1930, by an Act which merely extended its provisions in order to ensure that whenever what is referred to in the Act as a legal aid certificate was given to prisoners in courts of summary jurisdiction, such aid would be forthcoming. A system obtains in England by which a prisoner who is unable to provide legal aid out of his own resources can have a solicitor and counsel assigned to him if, in the opinion of the justice who is trying the case, it is in the interests of justice that legal aid should be obtained for him.

The system works by means of a panel of solicitors and counsel who voluntarily put themselves on such a panel and who are assigned by a system of rota when their turn arrives. It should also be remarked that in England the fees paid to counsel and solicitors in these types of case are extremely small. The system has worked in England and it has been extended by the recent Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949. That Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949, introduced for the first time in England a very comprehensive [1426] system of legal aid and advice for litigants, not only in criminal cases but in civil actions also. Regulations have been drawn under it and have been in force for about a year. I do not know whether that wider system of legal advice for litigants has been a success but I understand that, by and large, apart from a few cases, it has been a successful measure. Such a measure would entail, and does entail, the expenditure of a very large amount of money from the Exchequer in aiding the societies which administer this aid. Perhaps, at present, in view of the large commitments on the Exchequer, such a system of legal aid in civil cases would not be practicable. However, I am convinced that a system of legal aid in criminal matters would be practicable and would not require any large State funds. In fact, the charges of counsel and solicitors are very small and under the English Act, I understand, are borne by the local funds. The principle is a good one and it is the local funds which bear the cost of the proceedings. I think also that in criminal cases where a person is charged the cost of defending him, where a defence certificate has been issued by the justice or the Circuit Court, as the case may be, should be borne also out of the local funds.

The whole question of legal aid was gone into in fairly large detail by two commissions—the Finlay Commission in 1927. and the Rushcliffe Commission in 1945. The evidence before these commissions appeared to establish that no great injustice can be said to be done as a result of failure to provide legal aid to prisoners, and that in point of fact justice is, in the vast majority of cases, done whether or not the prisoner is defended by counsel and solicitors. However, it is quite clear and it must be the experience of most lawyers that there are cases where, because a person has not been advised properly in the conduct of his defence, a conviction is entered against him which would otherwise never have been entered if he had been properly represented. I do not think these cases are many, but they exist and the fact that they do exist is sufficient argument for the necessity for such legislation.

There is also of course the case of [1427] people who are guilty of the offences, or one or two of the offences, with which they are charged in which, if properly defended and if proper aid is given to them at the right time, the sentences which they would be subjected to could be reduced as a result of the manner in which the case is handled either in the District Court or the Circuit Court, as the case may be. These are the arguments for such a system of legal aid. I understand that such a system not only obtains in England but in many American States, including States in South America. Many of the old systems of law going back to the days of Roman law and to the Middle Ages provided for such legal aid to persons unable to help themselves in the defence or prosecution of their case. It is overdue in this country. We have no system of free legal aid and the Minister should be in a position to draft a very short comprehensive Bill, which would get the support, I think, of all Deputies, giving the right to the district justice or to the trial judge, as the case may be, to certify that in the interests of justice a prisoner should be entitled to the aid of counsel and solicitor in the defence of his case.

There are just one or two other matters to which I should like to refer. The first is the question of law reform and revision. The last Government had brought in, I understand, a Bill for the reform of certain aspects of our law. Most lawyers will agree that there are many branches of law which require revision and reform, and the Minister should establish a law revision committee to investigate the revision and reform of the law. I understand that there is a commission at present constituted to consider the reform of the company law. I should like to see a general committee set up to consider the reform of other aspects of the law as it stands at present.

Then there is a matter of small detail in the administration of the Department, but one which affects every prisoner tried in the courts, and that is the question of the payment for copies of depositions taken in the District Court. It appears wrong that a prisoner who is sent for trial from the [1428] District Court to the Circuit Court and who is presumed to be innocent until he is proved to be guilty has to pay for copies of the depositions, the cost of which sometimes runs into several pounds, and which are given freely to the State. I do not think that legislation is necessary for that and I should like to see the Minister introduce some regulations by which depositions in criminal cases in District Court proceedings will be given free to the defendant's solicitor and counsel.

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara  Zoom on Thomas O'Hara  I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to an incident which occurred some months ago in County Mayo with which I am very conversant. An attempt was made to have two members of the Garda Síochána committed to a lunatic asylum. I am a member of the Mayo County Council to which I have been elected for a number of years. Having heard of this extraordinary happening, I felt it my duty as a public man and a member of the county council to have the matter investigated. I proposed that a public sworn inquiry should be held to have that matter thoroughly investigated. I felt that I was within my right in doing so. From the information which I received from the county manager and the county secretary, I understand that £4 4s. of the ratepayers' money was paid to a medical man or medical men in the town of Castlebar to have these two members of the Garda Síochána examined to ascertain if they were lunatics. It is my conviction that rarely has it been heard, thank God, that two members of the Garda Síochána went mad simultaneously. In any case, the truth of the matter is that this extraordinary attempt was made to have a sergeant and an ordinary member of the Garda committed to a lunatic asylum. If the particular individual who for some strange reason, tried to do that, had his way, these two members of the Garda would now be in the asylum. Thanks to the intervention of a medical man, or medical men, they were not committed.

Although I brought this matter by way of resolution to the notice of the previous Minister for Justice, Deputy [1429] MacEoin, as far as I am aware, there was nothing done about it. I feel that it is the duty of the present Minister for Justice to have this matter investigated at the earliest possible moment, and to let this House know at a later date who is responsible for this incident, and who is responsible for the spending of £4 4s. 0d. of ratepayers' money on such a matter. As I have said previously in the Mayo County Council, £4 4s. 0d. is a rather small sum. At the same time, if an old age pensioner in the country or in the city for that matter, received £4 4s. 0d. by way of old age pension, which the investigation officer considered was wrongfully received, I am sure he would be taken into the courts of law and brought to justice. If we have law for the ordinary poor people, we should have law for the rich and those who have power in this country.

I want also to inform the Minister for Justice that I have in my possession numerous copies of Press reports of the happenings at meetings of the Mayo County Council at the time, which I am prepared to make available to him. I also want to tell the Minister that I have in my possession a letter which I received from the Secretary of the Mayo County Council at the time, which was sent to the particular secretary by the chief officer of the Garda Síochána in County Mayo. I consider that that letter contained a lot of abuse against myself as a public man, and contained certain insulting language. That is another matter that in my opinion should be investigated thoroughly by the Minister for Justice.

As I have said, I felt that so long as there was £4 4s. 0d. of ratepayers' money involved it was my duty to expose this whole affair. I am a newlyelected Deputy and I am availing of the first opportunity to bring this matter to the present Minister's notice. I am sure that, having had it brought to his notice he will be in a position, perhaps at a later date, to tell us what action he proposes to take in the matter. It was a very peculiar incident. Those who were responsible for attempting to have two sane men committed to a lunatic asylum should not get away with it. I would ask the Minister, therefore, to have the whole [1430] matter investigated and to let us know at a later date what he proposes to do about it.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Colm Gallagher  Zoom on Colm Gallagher  To my mind there are few Votes that come for discussion in this House that are more important than the Vote for the Department of Justice. It might well be said that the democracy which we enjoy is maintained and fortified by the administration and conduct of this Department. In this regard I would say the people of this country are acutely conscious of the debt owed to the Garda Síochána and I need hardly impress on the Minister that any steps which he may take during his period of office that will improve conditions within the force will be warmly welcomed both in the House and by the people generally.

I intend to follow the line adopted by the Minister, Deputy Morrissey and others and to be as brief as possible. Therefore I do not intend to dwell on the points where improvements can be effected within the force. I take it that these matters have already been put before the Minister by the representative body and by the commission set up by his predecessor. I would stress that we owe a debt to the Guards to put into effect any changes which are due to improve the conditions. By doing that we will attract the very best type into the force.

It was mentioned during the debate on the Estimate for Defence that a young man and his parents when deciding on the career that he would follow would take into account the possibilities in the Army of an Army officer compared with his chances in commercial life. The same could be said with reference to the Guards. A young man and his parents discussing the chances he would have in the Guards would compare it with commercial life. It is up to the Minister, therefore, to do everything he possibly can to improve the conditions in the Garda Síochána and make it attractive so as to bring in the best type possible.

It will be remembered by Deputies that much was done by the present Minister before he left office in 1947 to improve conditions in the prisons. I sincerely hope that the Minister will continue that policy. In particular, I [1431] would earnestly appeal to him to introduce more widely the element of occupational therapy, particularly in the case of the long-term prisoner. My information is that the only trades open to long-term prisoners at the moment are farming, boot-making and tailoring. It should be possible to embrace other trades most likely to assist the long-term prisoner. It may be that the Minister has received opposition from the trade union groups. Deputy Davin may be able to help us there. If that is the position, it should be resolved as soon as possible and attempts should be made to provide proper training for prisoners serving sentence.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Tell us what you know yourself.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Colm Gallagher  Zoom on Colm Gallagher  In this way prisoners would be better equipped to face the period of readjustment which follows long sentences. It may seem strange for a new Deputy like myself to speak on such a subject but, as a social worker in the City of Dublin, I have come across this matter a great deal over a period of years. In doing social work I have met many long-term prisoners and I know their difficulties. I took it that Deputy Davin thought that I was a long-term prisoner.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  No, I do not.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Colm Gallagher  Zoom on Colm Gallagher  Personally, I feel that something should be done to help a long-term prisoner to meet the readjustment which follows a long sentence. I take it Deputy Davin will smile, but I am sure he will appreciate that it is a pity and a great shame that people generally fail to realise that the suffering and punishment involved by a prison sentence extend far beyond the limit of the actual sentence. That will be agreed. A man on release carries with him the stigma of the prison. It is difficult to get over that. It often happens that such a man has no option but to resort to crime. I am not telling Deputies anything they do not know already but, as a social worker, I personally feel and submit to the Minister that our concern for the after-care of prisoners is completely [1432] inadequate. In many cases prisoners on release are punished in a way never envisaged by the court. I am satisfied that the prejudice on the part of the citizens induces bitterness in the released person and often defeats the aim of reformative justice and makes him a hardened criminal. I hope, therefore, that during the life of this Dáil we shall see this matter tackled in a more enlightened manner and made the direct responsibility of the Department of Justice.

I had intended to say something on the question of legal aid for poor prisoners. I was glad to see Deputy Declan Costello raise it. I agree with everything he said, and I hope that the Minister during his term of office will be able to do something about the matter. If a man had legal aid at the right time when appearing in court it might mean a great deal for him. As it is, the accused has no one to present his case to the justice who, in that situation, has to decide on the evidence before him. A prisoner, on his first appearance in court, may suffer from shock and cannot give his evidence properly, whereas if he were properly advised and were represented by counsel or solicitor, it might mean all the difference in the world to him. I have known of a case where a fellow got three months in jail in the District Court. On appeal to the Circuit Court, where he was represented by counsel, the conviction was reversed simply because the evidence was properly put before the circuit judge.

I was looking over the debate on last year's Estimate. I saw there was some question raised about housing for Gardaí in rural districts. I hope that the Minister will get after the local authorities and see whether anything can be done to overcome that difficulty. In Dublin the position is not so bad, but when a married Guard is transferred to a rural district he finds great difficulty in getting a house for his family. I think it is only right that the local authorities should make some effort to provide facilities in that direction. That is the contribution which I have to make to the debate on this Estimate. I hope the Minister will not think it strange of me making [1433] a case for the long-term prisoner. I ask him to bear in mind what I have said.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  I want to endorse all that Deputy Lynch has said about having a High Court established in Cork. He made an admirable case for it. I can assure the Minister that there are many complaints that it has not been done before now. Unlike Deputy Lynch, I do not think there is any need for an inquiry into the matter. I suggest that the Minister should take this question into his own hands, and see that such a court is established in Cork. No inconvenience can be caused to the judges. The people require this service and, as Deputy Lynch has pointed out, there is an urgent need for the establishment of such a court in Cork.

I also want to endorse the statements of Deputy Gallagher about the treatment of prisoners, especially those who have completed a sentence. I think that the best way to bring home to the House the importance of that matter is to give an experience which I had myself within the last fortnight. A young man accosted me and asked for assistance. Having regard to the demand for labour I was somewhat reluctant to believe that he was in need of assistance. On putting some pertinent questions to him he told me that he was out of jail for the past two months. I inquired why he had been in jail. He was frank enough about it and told me.

I then asked him was he not getting assistance from the labour exchange. He said he was signing on there but that he could not get anything because he was after serving a sentence in jail. That, I understand, is the position under the law, that a man who has served a term of imprisonment will not get any assistance from the labour exchange for at least three months. If he goes to the home assistance officer he is told that he is not a case for relief and that he cannot be helped. Treatment of that kind is, I suggest, calculated to make a man a hardened criminal. He comes out of jail and is regarded as an outcast of society. I think some arrangement should be made to help people in that position [1434] and encourage them to be good, honest citizens.

Deputy Morrissey, I think, referred to the ease with which people can get licences to drive motor vehicles. It is alarming to find that any young boy or girl of 18 years of age can, by paying 10/-, get a licence to drive a motor vehicle. It is issued on their word that they are capable of driving. There is no test of any kind. One has to compare that with the regulations which govern the employment of motor drivers in Córas Iompair Éireann. If a man applies there for a job as a bus driver, even though he can produce references from previous employers showing that he is a competent man to drive a lorry or a motor car over, maybe, a period of six or seven years, he will not get employment until he is put through a very severe test as to his ability to drive a bus in public. On the other hand, we have the position that boys and girls can get licences simply by saying that they are able to drive a car. The Minister should do something about that.

Mr. Boland:  That is a matter for Local Government. The Deputy is on the wrong horse at the moment.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  I think that the different Departments concerned should consult about matters of this kind. Suppose a young person gets a licence, takes a motor car out on the street and knocks down two or three people, the State then comes in through the Department of the Minister for Justice. These are matters on which there should be consultation between all the Departments concerned. I do hope that the matter raised by Deputy Gallagher about longterms prisoners being treated as outcasts of society on their discharge will be taken up and considered by the Minister's Department.

Mr. O'Gorman: Information on Patrick James O'Gorman  Zoom on Patrick James O'Gorman  My intervention in this debate is just that of the ordinary man in the street. In speaking on this Estimate, I am not fortified with any legal knowledge, but there are a few points to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention. Some of them have been referred to by previous speakers. I realise, as I think most of [1435] us do, that the world in which we live to-day is a world of speed: speed in every respect, speed in business and at the moment speed in dealing with the business which is before this House. As one who lives in a town in rural Ireland, I suggest to the Minister that some law should be passed to control the speed of motor cars passing through our towns and villages. I have been a member of public bodies for very many years. We have discussed this question on numerous occasions but we never seem to have got anywhere with it. I live in the town of Youghal, a fairly large town with narrow streets in the greater portion of it. It horrifies me at times to see high powered cars and, very often ten horse power cars too, flying through the streets. Only yesterday I saw motor cars passing through at 40, 50 and 60 miles an hour. I think it is just murderous that cars should be allowed to travel at that speed through the streets of our rural towns.

This may be a matter for the Department of Local Government, but my suggestion to the Minister is that a speed limit should be fixed and enforced against people driving motor vehicles. No car should be allowed to go through any town or village at a greater speed than 20 or 25 miles an hour.

I drive a car and I know that 20 or 25 miles per hour in a car is rather slow, but there is one thing about it: when you drive at that speed, you have your car under perfect control, and, if a child rushes across the street from a byway or alley-way you can pull up the car within its own length. It often amazes me that people can call themselves decent drivers and still travel through a town at such excessive speed. I have seen people from Cork City driving through various seaside resorts in my area, Youghal, Ballycotton and Trabolgan, going through Midleton, where there are wide streets, at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. That is an appalling thing and the driver who does that is tempting Providence.

As the Minister is now sitting before me, I should like to urge on him that a speed limit should be fixed for every town and village in Ireland. A man [1436] driving on the wide open road from Cork to Dublin, where there is not much danger, can drive at 50, 60 and 70 miles per hour, but not through towns and villages. On several occasions this year and last year, people living on the Esplanade in Youghal implored me to try to get something done in this matter. Every house there is occupied in the summer and you have children running across the road to the beach and the Atlantic. The roads are crowded, but you find some of these road-hogs, who have no consideration for ordinary pedestrians, driving along the road and keeping up a continuous blowing of their horns, as if to say: “Keep out of the way. I own this road.” I suggest that, in the case of towns and villages, a mean speed should be insisted upon, and, as one who drives a car, I think that 20 or 25 miles an hour through a town or village is quite fast enough.

We read of tragic occurrences taking place on our roads by reason of persons driving cars after imbibing an excessive amount of drink. I am fortified with no legal knowledge of these matters, as I say, but, if I had my way, if I were a judge or justice, and a man were brought before me for being drunk in charge of a car, I would disqualify him from driving for ever.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  You would have to wait until he had been convicted.

Mr. O'Gorman: Information on Patrick James O'Gorman  Zoom on Patrick James O'Gorman  I am assuming that he is convicted. That is where Deputy O'Donnell's legal mind comes in, and it would cost you 10/- if you went into his office. In the world in which we live, it is a matter of speed in every phase of life. Men who have imbibed a considerable quantity of alcohol have not got proper control over their driving faculties. Their brain becomes befogged, and in fact they do not know what they are doing. I would disqualify such people for ever. Men or women walk along the road on a Sunday evening or Sunday night, and a man who has consumed too much liquor comes along in his car, fails to see them, and hurls them into eternity. Such a man will have something to remember for the rest of his days, but [1437] that is very poor satisfaction for the children or parents of the people who have been hurled to death.

There is also the matter of the incessant sounding of motor horns which one notices in many towns. When people retire at night, as the ordinary man does about midnight, it is unfair that people in cars should continue to sound their horns to attract the attention of somebody who may be missing, and disturb their slumbers. In prewar days in London, any policeman could pull up such a motorist, and have him brought before the court for blowing his motor horn at night. It is a matter which should be looked into by the Minister. Being a Corkman, or at least a County Cork man——

Breanndán Mac Fheorais: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  Is there a difference?

Mr. O'Gorman: Information on Patrick James O'Gorman  Zoom on Patrick James O'Gorman  A slight difference. They are the city boys and we are only the small boys from the country. I know cases where litigants find it very hard to raise the cash necessary to attend the High Court in Dublin and that fact places them at a very unfair disadvantage. I know of people who would prefer to sacrifice a case—it would be cheaper for them to do so— than go to the expense of bringing it to Dublin, in view of the expense of bringing solicitors and witnesses to the Four Courts. We are very proud of our courthouse in Cork. As Deputy Lynch said, it is one of the finest in Ireland, and as the ordinary people of the country, through their votes or otherwise, have placed the judges in the high positions in which they are, these judges might think of their small days, the days when they were ordinary barristers looking for work and think of the people who made them by sending the High Court on circuit down to Cork.

Deputy Gallagher and other speakers mentioned the matter of Garda pay. I know of no body of men—I have been very closely associated with them since 1922—who got, shall I say, a rawer deal from two Governments than the Garda. They came into existence in 1922 at a rather turbulent period in Irish history and they gave very good service to this land of ours. After 29 or 30 years, they [1438] are deserving of somewhat better treatment than they have got. I know men with families of five and six, boys and girls who have been well educated at the Christian Brothers or Presentation Colleges and who, if their parents could afford it, would go on to one of the universities for higher education. I know that at present there is a move towards an improvement in their position and I appeal to the Minister to expedite the granting of the extra payment which I know is coming for them. Nobody deserves it more, and the Minister being a humane man he will, I feel sure, treat them in a humane fashion.

There is another matter which I should like to have drawn to the attention of the Garda authorities. It is the practice of cyclists of cycling three and four abreast. I notice that this practice is growing, although for a short time it seemed to have died away. As the law stands, cyclists must not cycle more than two abreast, but even this morning coming to Dublin, at several points, I passed cyclists riding three and four abreast. One sounds the horn, but they merely beckon you on and keep on in the four abreast formation, and, if anything happens, it is always the unfortunate motorist who is blamed. I believe that pedestrians walking haphazardly across the streets and cyclists cycling in spiral curves cause a lot of the trouble. It is the unfortunate motorist, however, who is always blamed because he is a fairly good target or at least belongs to a good insurance company from which one could look for £5,000 or £6,000.

Those are a few points from an ordinary country Deputy and I hope that you will bring them to the notice of your Department and of the responsible authorities.

Breanndán Mac Fheorais: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  I was not here to hear what has been described to me as the excellent case made by Deputy Lynch for the establishment of the High Court in Cork. I have the utmost sympathy with the people in Cork. One cannot help having sympathy with the Cork people when one listens to the army of Deputies from Cork that we have here. However, I [1439] should like to remind the Minister that there are such places as Mayo, Donegal, Kerry and even Wexford without the facilities about which the Cork Deputies are complaining at the present time.

I want to make a plea to the Minister at the risk of being told by members of the Fianna Fáil Party that we could have done it during the past three and a half years. None the less, sincerely I would make a plea on behalf of the Guards, not in connection with their pay—many Deputies have made a case in that respect—but in connection with their uniforms. I do not see what difficulty there could be in providing summer uniforms for the members of the Garda Sióchána. I think it is a scandalous thing to see any man on point duty, more especially some of the hefty men we have on point duty in the City of Dublin, on a warm day in June or July buttoned up to the neck in a stiff collared tunic. If the present uniform which is issued is meant to last for two years or one year, or whatever it is, I do not see why, if two uniforms, one for winter and one for summer, were issued, they could not be made to last twice as long as the single uniform.

American policemen look smart not alone in winter, but in summer, and in other countries I think the police have summer uniforms. It allows them to move more freely, and a different type of tunic allows them to do their duty rather more comfortably and maybe more quickly. I think that a coatjacket, such as the one I have on at the moment, with a blue shirt, would look very smart on members of the Garda and would be appreciated by them. I do not know whether the Garda representative body has made any case to the Minister or his predecessor in that respect, but I think that is the general opinion amongst the Garda. I think that the ordinary civilian, as well as the Guards, would like to see a different uniform—not a free and easy one, perhaps, but something that would not choke them and swelter them in summer. Deputy Hickey reminds me that a change has been made in soldiers' uniforms.

[1440] The second thing to which I wish to refer is traffic congestion in the City of Dublin. I know that to some extent it is the responsibility of the Department of Local Government but the Department of Justice could do quite a lot to help. I asked a particular gentleman on one occasion if it would not be possible to have a certain number of the Guards specially trained in traffic control. The indignant reply I got was to the effect that every guard was trained in traffic control. I thought it rather a stupid reply at the time because it would not be possible to give to all the Guards that intensive training required to control the traffic in the City of Dublin. We have excellent men and anybody who travels around the city knows who these excellent men are. I can travel down Dawson Street and be stopped at the bottom of it for ten minutes; 20 yards further on I am stopped for another ten minutes, and then I can lay ten to one that the usual man is not at the top of Grafton Street but some stand-in or some unfortunate fellow from the country who is doing traffic duty for the first time. I suggest that there should be a special squad and special training for those picked men.

For one example, the streets of Dublin were recently being repaired and it was necessary to discontinue the use of traffic lights. We had the usual good regular men at the different points like Butt Bridge, Pearse Street, College Green and the top of Grafton Street and these men kept the traffic going far more quickly than it moved when the lights were in operation. If we had more men of that calibre trained as they are at the present time, traffic congestion in the City of Dublin would be very much eased.

I appreciate all the difficulties in the city, not alone of the actual layout but because of the presence of so many thousands of bicycles. Deputy O'Gorman complains of the bicycles; of course, the cyclists complain of the motorists; the two complain of the pedestrians and the pedestrians complain both of the motorists and the cyclists. We have a somewhat chaotic position in Dublin which is not so much the fault of the Guards or of the Department of Justice as of the fact, in [1441] my humble opinion, that our motorists, cyclists and pedestrians have not the fundamentals of road manners. Deputy O'Gorman blames the cyclist but the cyclist would blame him.

The cyclists are anxious to get home to their lunch and the motorists are the same. The cyclists ride three or four abreast and will almost ride up on the wing of your car. Until we have some voluntary body of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians in the City of Dublin which will try to instil into the minds of their fellows some sense of road manners we always will have that chaotic congestion in the city.

The Department of Justice have helped a great deal in recent years. I refer to the mobile units which have been of tremendous value. Many a cyclist or bunch of cyclists are affected when they hear a roar from a hefty member of the Guards from Kerry or Cork: “Push in. You are three abreast. I mean you with the ginger hair.” In many parts of the city I know that is a great help.

Deputy Hickey complains that every Tom, Dick and Harry gets a driving licence. It is only necessary, he said, for any young whippersnapper—that was the word he used, I think—to present himself——

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  I never used such a word.

Mr. O. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  That is not offensive. It is quite parliamentary and is a term often used here.

Breanndán Mac Fheorais: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  ——and to say he wants one and he gets a driving licence. The remarkable thing, however, is that it is not the new driver that has the most accidents but the experienced man who has been driving for a long time.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  What about the woman with the one eye?

Breanndán Mac Fheorais: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  Deputy O'Gorman complained about a speed limit. I suggest with all respect that it is up to Deputy O'Gorman as a member of a local authority to see about it.

Mr. G. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  It is time that some [1442] Deputy said that that is a point for the Department of Local Government.

Breanndán Mac Fheorais: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  The Garda Commissioner has the same rights and responsibilities as the local authority, but if Deputy O'Gorman wants to appeal for the operation of a speed limit in Youghal I am sure that both the Department of Local Government and the Garda Commissioner will show him the utmost sympathy.

Again there are as many accidents at 20 miles an hour as at 40. It is an amazing thing, but you could drive a car through the main street of Wexford at 20 miles an hour and be in danger. Wexford is somewhat like the town or city of Youghal—I do not know how the Deputy would describe it.

Mr. O'Gorman: Information on Patrick James O'Gorman  Zoom on Patrick James O'Gorman  Wexford town has the narrowest streets in Ireland.

Breanndán Mac Fheorais: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  If one is to suggest that 25 miles per hour is sufficient speed to drive in any of the towns of this country we would be very much wrong. I think it all comes down to the question of road sense and road manners. Until we get that, the public generally in this country will still have the same conditions about which Deputy O'Gorman complains.

Once again I ask the Minister to consider seriously the issue of two uniforms to the members of the Garda Síochána — a winter uniform and a summer uniform.

Mr. O'Donnell: Information on Patrick O'Donnell  Zoom on Patrick O'Donnell  I move to report progress.

Progress reported: the Committee to sit again.


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