Thursday, 6 December 1962
Dáil Eireann Debate
That a supplementary sum not exceeding £10 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st March, 1963 for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Justice including certain other services administered by that Office.
Minister for Justice (Mr. Haughey): Deputies have made quite a number of points in the debate on this Estimate. I do not propose to reply to them all or deal with them in detail but I do want to assure all the Deputies, who spoke and have made known points of view on particular aspects of the work of my Department, that everything they said will be carefully considered. If it seems to me, after careful consideration, that anything appropriate or useful can be done, then that will be done. I am grateful to the Deputies who commended the work of the Department in one way or another.
In regard to others who have been critical of myself or my activities, I say that I appreciate their criticism is offered with the highest possible motives, I am sure, and with the laudable object of improving the situation. I recognise that it is of the essence of Parliamentary democracy that these criticisms should be freely voiced and, indeed, cheerfully accepted on this side of the House.
Deputy T. Lynch, Deputy Donegan and Deputy Timmons spoke about boys' clubs and suggested that State assistance for these clubs should be made available in some form or other. I fully realise the value of the activities of these boys' clubs and I think that a proper view of the working of the Department of Justice with  regard to the enforcement of law and order and the prevention of crime would not regard the Department's work as commencing at the time that a crime is committed. Indeed, a broad view of the work of the Department and of the Garda Síochána should regard it as extending back beyond that point to the origins of crime and endeavouring to foresee the causes of crime, and, where possible, to take action to eradicate those causes. In that regard, the activities of boys' clubs and similar organisations of that nature are invaluable.
The State, of course, does come to the aid of these clubs in many ways. Substantial amounts of financial assistance are made available, not through my Department, but from other sources. I will examine and see whether there are any additional ways in which my Department or the Garda Síochána can be of assistance to these clubs in their very laudable activities.
Some Deputy mentioned the probation system and Deputy Timmons suggested that we did not have sufficient probation officers in Dublin. I, my Department and, I think, most people, who have studied the problem, are firmly convinced of the enormous value of the probation system. Indeed, the inter-Departmental Committee, which is sitting at the moment, is going very carefully into all aspects of the system. As far as I know, for the manner in which the system is operated at the moment, the number of probation officers is adequate. It may be, however, that the system itself and its operation could be very considerably expanded and that that extension would necessitate the appointment of additional officers. If that is so, we will not hesitate to make available whatever resources are necessary to make the system work as efficiently and as beneficially as possible.
Of course, the probation system can be abused. One of the distressing things about the present situation is that very often the probation system is not invoked when it should be and frequently it is used when it should not be. Deputies may have been horrified to read in the newspapers of the  probation system being applied in cases where hardened criminals are up before the court for the fifth, sixth or seventh time. On the other hand, I frequently come across cases where the application of the system would have been invaluable but, for some reason, the justice in his discretion decided not to avail of it.
I am very grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for the many useful things he said about juvenile delinquency, psychiatric treatment, Marlboro House, industrial schools and so on. I can assure him that everything he has said will be very carefully considered. Indeed, any offers of the sort he mentioned which may be made to us will be very gladly availed of, if at all possible. Marlboro House is, of course, the responsibility of the Minister for Education. I know that the Minister has in mind replacing the existing building. I think that the “go ahead” has actually been given for a new building on the outskirts of the city to replace it.
Here again, let me repeat my invitation to the Leader of the main Opposition Party to come and see St. Patrick's, where really useful and valuable work is being done. I cordially invite any Deputy who is interested in these matters to pay a visit. We will facilitate in every way any Deputy who wishes to visit this institution. The same applies to Mountjoy Prison where Deputies will also find that a great many new things are being done.
Deputy Clinton mentioned traffic wardens and suggested that the Department of Justice was to some extent remiss in these matters. The true picture is that the Department of Local Government are responsible for traffic matters generally—traffic legislation and so on—and the local authorities also have a responsibility and a participation. In fact, the Department of Justice and the Garda enter the matter only in so far as the enforcement of the law is concerned. If local authorities decide to provide traffic wardens, that is a local authority service which they provide in pursuance of their duty as a local authority and it does not in any way relieve the Department of Justice or the Garda of any of their responsibilities. It is something which local authorities must decide to do of their own accord.
Mr. Haughey: I shall refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Local Government, who is responsible for things of that sort. Deputy Colley mentioned a number of matters and I was interested to find a clash of opinions between him and Deputy T.F. O'Higgins on the matter of civil juries. I hope that the committee sitting at the moment will very soon get down to a full examination of this matter and let us have a recommendation which can be brought here to the House and  decided on one way or the other. In that respect, I would appeal to all members of both professions, solicitors and barristers, to submit any useful ideas they may have to that committee in regard to the workings of the courts generally, reduction of the cost of litigation and so on.
Deputy Colley spoke about law reporting and I want to tell him that very question is being examined by my Department at the moment. We all agree that the present system of law reporting is not satisfactory; we have been carrying out an examination of the position and are considering an alternative system of law reporting. I hope to come up with some suggestions soon in that regard.
In the matter of law of evidence also, I readily agree with Deputy Colley that a number of questions could be agreed between the parties before the hearing. Expert evidence and so on could be agreed by the parties before coming to court. That is something I hope the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure will deal with and on which we might get a recommendation.
Deputy Colley mentioned the question of the removal of the sum of £14 which up to quite recently in the solicitors profession was levied on apprentices and paid over to the Benchers. I want to claim some credit for bringing about that valuable and noble reform but I also should pay tribute to the Benchers who graciously agreed to the change, which was long overdue. I think the Benchers are to be complimented on their agreeing to that change. It is not easy for any of us to give up a privilege which we have held for many years.
Deputy Colley also mentioned the question of registration of title and the system which obtains in the Registry of Deeds and in the Land Registry. Again, I can assure him that we are at the moment working on a new Registration of Title Bill which is well advanced and which, with any luck, will be introduced in the next session.
Mr. Haughey: I am glad the Deputy reminded me of that because it is something I had intended to mention. I agree with him on the general principles of the approach to law reform and the manner in which he suggests it should be pursued. The normal system of law reform is to proceed by way of amendment, first of all, followed by a consolidation measure. That is the practice which is followed on most occasions where Departmental legislation is concerned, such as the Housing Acts and the Fisheries Acts.
Mr. Haughey: Would you think so? I think a lot of the legislation with which we are dealing does not readily lend itself to that particular procedure and indeed the other procedure of amending, consolidating and codifying at the same time is sometimes better in the case of a lot of the legislation which comes within the ambit of the Department of Justice. The method which Deputy Dillon outlined is undoubtedly the best where most of the existing law on the subject is contained in statutes and where the amendments are not terribly significant. Then it is almost certainly advantageous to amend first and then have a consolidating measure, but where you have a situation, as we had in the Hotel Proprietors Bill where a lot of the law is common law and where the amendments are fairly substantial, then I think it is desirable, and you get quicker results with adequate safety, to proceed in the way we did—doing it as one operation.
Where a lot of the law is old and outmoded, I think it is as well to clear it off the Statute Book at one operation rather than repeat and carry it forward in a consolidation measure. This latter system has this advantage: it enables the House, when a Bill comes before it to review in full debate all the law on the subject, whereas if you come into the House with an amending measure, the House can deal only with the amendments  in that measure without being able to advert to the whole of the law affecting that particular subject. Both methods are valid and both are suited to different types of operation. My approach to the matter would be to use whichever is more appropriate to the particular type of operation you are trying to carry out.
Deputy T. Lynch mentioned the question of persons coming to the aid of Gardaí Síochána and incurring injury. He wished to know what the situation was with regard to their being compensated. I am not sure what particular case he had in mind. In all types of cases of this sort we make ex gratia payments to the people concerned. We have no reason to believe that anybody has been dissatisfied with the payments we make. I can assure Deputies that any public-spirited citizens who come to the aid of the Gardaí in this way are never at a loss and that we make reasonably generous provision in the form of ex gratia payments.
Mr. Haughey: Deputy M.J. O'Higgins and Deputy Corish mentioned the grading of films and the issue of limited certificates. It is a difficult subject and one on which there is scope for genuine and honest disagreement. Both systems have advantages and both systems have disadvantages. So far, none of my predecessors has been persuaded that there is any real advantage in making a change. I am prepared, certainly, to look at the system again and to see whether circumstances have so changed that we should make a change at this stage. I doubt if that is so but since the matter has been raised I feel I should give an assurance that I shall examine the matter. The difficulty, of course, is that we are trying to apply an arbitrary age limit.  It is terribly hard, at the point of entry to a cinema, to decide between the ages of 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 or 21——
Mr. Haughey: ——particularly if it is a woman, as Deputy Sweetman says. The question of the proficiency tests in Irish in the Garda Síochána was raised. I think everybody is now satisfied with the position. This Irish proficiency test was introduced in 1959 and made, to apply, retrospective to an earlier date. The Garda Representative Body came to see me and protested about this. They pointed out that it brought about a situation where a member of the Force could have passed an examination and been fully entitled to be promoted and could have gone along for years on the understanding that he was in a position to be promoted but, suddenly find that his position had been changed and he was no longer entitled to be promoted. There was an element of unfairness in that, I think. The Government agreed that that was so and they altered the situation to make the requirement for the test apply only from the date it was announced — July, 1959. Therefore, it applies only to persons after that date and any element of unfairness in the situation has been removed.
Somebody mentioned the rather silly type of interview given to a newspaper some months ago by a former chief superintendent. I feel I should be restrained in dealing with that sort of action. I agree fully with Deputy Murphy who deplored the fact that a former officer should lend himself to that sort of thing. It would be very undesirable if officers generally in the Army or the Garda Síochána——
Mr. Haughey: —or in the Department of External Affairs or in any other Department were to proceed, after their retirement, to divulge confidential information of any sort. I do not know what prompted this officer to engage in that type of activity. Some  of the statements attributed to him seem to me a little unreliable, to say the least of it. He is quoted as saying that he had sent appeal after appeal to the Department of Justice to remedy conditions. There is no record anywhere in my Department that they ever received any appeals from him. That is only to be expected. He had no function in regard to matters of that sort nor was it ever his duty to communicate with my Department in regard to these matters. I may say that these matters were dealt with through the Commissioner and the Representative Body. I feel I should not say too much and that I should be restrained in dealing with the gentleman concerned.
Deputy M.J. O'Higgins asked for an assurance that the present Representative Body machinery is adequate and that there were no complaints with regard to it. As far as I know, it is entirely adequate. Certainly, no complaints have been communicated to me or to my Department or, as far as I know, to the Commissioner about it. I have said on a number of occasions and I am glad to take this opportunity of repeating that if there are any complaints or if the members of the Force at any level feel that their machinery can be improved in any way then we shall sympathetically consider any suggestions for such improvement.
There has been some public comment recently and some Deputies have mentioned Communist activities in the country. I want to assure the House that I am fairly fully informed on everything that goes on. While my Department or the Garda Síochána can never be complacent about any form of activity of that sort, I can say that a very great deal of what has been said or written in the newspapers recently has been grossly exaggerated.
Mr. Haughey: What is said at the Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheis is privileged. However, a large number of the reports which have been put out and statements that have been made  exaggerate the position entirely. There has been no deterioration in the position in regard to Communist activities in recent years.
Deputy Murphy also mentioned, and Deputy Corish adverted to a similar subject, the question of court funds and funds lodged in court for minors and others. As far as I can gather, the situation with regard to the payment of moneys to persons who have been made wards of court is unsatisfactory at the moment. This is a matter which is entirely within the jurisdiction of the High Court and I have no official function with regard to it. I understand that there is some ground for complaint on the grounds of delay. In any case which came to my notice, I did what I could to expedite it and I shall continue to do so. I understand that there has been some dislocation because of changes in personnel in the office of solicitor to the wards of court in recent years. It is a matter in which my Department has no particular function, but in so far as my good offices are of any help I shall be glad to use them at any time.
Mr. Haughey: Deputy Corish is coming to a different point now. I was going to deal with this matter Deputy Corish mentioned, the question of sums lodged in court for minors and juveniles which are invested and which are reduced in amount when they come to be paid out, are less than the amount awarded. I am afraid some instances of that sort did happen and the case Deputy Corish adverted to is typical. It arose through nobody's fault. Court funds of this nature were invested in a particular type of security which had no redemption date. That is where all the trouble arose, but it was not just the court funds alone that were invested in this security.
A number of Government funds of different types were also invested at the same time and also suffered loss.  While we must regret very much that unfortunate people whose money was lodged in court suffered loss, nevertheless I am afraid there is nothing we can do about it at this stage, except to ensure it will not recur, and I can assure Deputies that is the position. Steps are now being taken to ensure that all these moneys are invested in such a way that there will be no loss of capital when the time comes to pay them out of court.
Mr. Haughey: We cannot help that. That arises out of general economic conditions. The case Deputy Corish mentioned was even worse in so far as, apart from the normal decline in the value of money, the actual amount of money paid out was only about half what it should have been.
Deputy Sherwin asked some questions about the situation in our prisons and made some suggestions. I am glad to be able to inform the House that things are improving consistently in our prisons. First of all, to deal with one specific point Deputy Sherwin made, there is no case where there is more than one prisoner to a cell. Fortunately, our prison population is not high and we have adequate accommodation to cope with our needs. This inter-Departmental Committee which has been set up is very energetically tackling the whole question of penal reform and has already made a number of valuable suggestions  for improvements which are being implemented in our prisons.
An illustration of the sort of thing we are doing is the proposed appointment of prison welfare officers. It may come as a surprise to Deputies to know we never had prison welfare officers up to now. A moment's reflection will convince anybody of the value of such people. This is the sort of work this committee is doing in regard to our prisons and I think really valuable results will come from what is being done. As I mentioned in my introductory remarks, prison nowadays must be regarded just as much as a place of rehabilitation as a place of punishment and the object should be as far as possible to send the person out of prison ready to take up the life of a useful member of society.
I do not wish to pretend I am dealing fully or exhaustively with all the points made. However, these are the ones which seem to me to call most for comment. In conclusion, I wish to repeat my assurance that everything which Deputies have said and suggestions which they have made will be carefully and earnestly considered and, where necessary, action will be taken in regard to them.
Mr. Sweetman: Would the Minister like to offer any comment on the undesirability of his using his position for the appointment of pals, either of himself or his colleagues in the Government? In case he would, I should like to send him across a little document that will assist him to realise that what he does is known, even though it may not be commented upon.
Mr. Corish: May I ask a question? I was not in the House when the Minister commented on the censorship but perhaps he would say, in view of the fact that films that are shown in cinemas are subject to censorship in this country by a board appointed by the Minister, whether there is any legislation which requires the submission of TV films to the Censorship Board?
|Last Updated: 15/09/2010 20:51:21||Page of 49|