On behalf of the Regional Group, I am happy to strongly support the restoration of this Bill to Committee Stage. It is really important that this happens and I will explain why.
First, significant work has taken place. The former Senator, Mr. Pádraig Ó Céidigh deserves a huge credit for that. There has also been significant stakeholder engagement. He liaised with, for example, the Bar Council of Ireland, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, ICCL, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, and a host of others including industry representatives such as Irish Small and Medium Employers, ISME. All of that engagement will come to nothing unless we capitalise on it. There has also been a huge amount of not only cross-party support but cross-party agreement to advance this Bill. The only reason this Bill is not on the Statue Book is the premature dissolution of the previous Dáil. We should seize this opportunity and capitalise on the work that has taken place to advance this Bill as soon as possible.
The second reason I am supporting this Bill is that perjury is not a victimless crime. There is a perception that it is somewhat harmless, and that it is just something we do and we turn a blind eye to it but we cannot afford to do that anymore. Deputy Naughten mentioned the insurance industry and I am sure he will also agree that the Bill is not pretending to be a panacea for the ills of that industry. It is going to focus on just one component, namely the perjury aspect. It is a major issue when people exaggerate their personal injury claims and, hopefully, the legislation will get them to think twice before they pursue that course of action. We must always remember that it is not just about insurance claims as there are more serious offences and injuries. For instance, people who have committed burglaries, assaults or sexual assaults are walking free at the moment because they were able to find someone who could create a spurious alibi for them. The Bill also focuses on white-collar crime, which is very important, family law cases and tribunals of inquiry. There have been a number of tribunals over the past few decades where senior businesspeople, and indeed politicians, have lied under oath and gotten away scot-free. That is why it is also important that this be advanced and expedited.
The third reason I like the Bill is that there is an emphasis on deterrence rather just than on punishment or penalties. There is a grey area at the moment to which Deputy Naughten alluded. The Bill will provide the necessary clarity so that when people take the stand or sign a sworn affidavit, they are aware that if they perjure themselves and deliberately try to mislead the courts process, there will be consequences.
Fourth, the Bill is balanced to it and safeguards are included. For instance, it requires more than just one person’s word against another to be convicted of perjury. This Bill will not only cover the little person who is perjuring themselves in the dock. There will be also an opportunity to prosecute the person who incites the first person to commit perjury. As such, not only does one get the little person but one goes after the big fish as well, which is very important. Crucially, there is an obligation not only on the person taking a personal injury claim to be truthful, but also on the person defending that claim. There is, therefore, an obligation on both parties to be honest and truthful.
Finally, this is not just about insurance claims but about the core administration of justice in this country. We are a rule of law country. When someone signs a sworn affidavit or gives oral testimony in a court of law, we must be sure that the evidence is accurate and truthful and there are consequences for those who try to deliberately mislead the courts process. In summary, I am very much in favour of this Bill and I urge my fellow Members to support it.