Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018: Second Stage
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit chuig an Teach seo. Táim an-bhuíoch dó as ucht teacht. Tá súil agam go mbeidh sé in ann tacaíocht a thabhairt don Bhille sin. Labhróidh mé as Béarla anois.
I thank the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for its assistance in drafting the Bill which took many days and weeks in going back over legislation that in one case dated back to the 16th century. I also thank the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, ISME, the advocacy of which on behalf of its members spurred me on to introduce the Bill to make perjury a statutory criminal offence. It is an indication of how long perjury has been a crime in Ireland that it was necessary in the Bill to amend the Maintenance and Embracery Act 1540 and the Perjury Act 1791, but unlike in Great Britain and Northern Ireland where perjury was made a statutory criminal offence, rather than being left as a common law offence, as it is in Ireland, we have never included it in the Statute Book.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association, rightly, on behalf of its members, has identified the cost fraudulent insurance claims impose on the real costs of businesses and the insurance premiums small enterprises have to pay.The association's interest in seeking to have perjury made a statutory criminal offence is in order to create a deterrent for those who seek to abuse the legal system in pursuing fraudulent claims to the detriment of hundreds, if not thousands, of small businesses. From a business perspective, the association's aim to have perjury made a statutory criminal offence is laudable. However, as a former solicitor, I know that the necessity for defining perjury in law is justified for bigger reasons than protecting small businesses; it is about protecting the administration of justice in this country
In advance of drafting this Bill, we met several stakeholders, including the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, the Bar Council, the Law Reform Commission, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. We also corresponded with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions who, perhaps understandably, deemed it inappropriate to provide observations on a Private Member's Bill. I hope that if the Minister supports my Bill in principle, however, a mechanism can be established within his Department for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to deliver its input on the wording relating to the offence. I say that because many people will be very surprised that, according to the CSO, there have been only 31 recorded incidents of perjury within An Garda Síochána in the past ten years, with not a single recorded incident last year.
While certainly not a scientific exercise, a search of the written judgments handed down by the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court judgments in the past year alone shows that the question of perjury was considered or referenced in 13 separate cases. There is no doubt that the charge of perjury is very often levelled at persons in highly contentious proceedings when there is no evidence of perjury having been committed. This is further evidence that perjury requires a definition in law that judges, An Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions and, ultimately, a jury can unambiguously understand.
While it is wrong for people to level charges of perjury against someone who does not knowingly give false or misleading evidence, the consequences of a person doing so are much greater and longer lasting. Put simply, people need to know that, regardless of the proceedings, if they are swearing evidence on an affidavit in court or delivering oral testimony and they knowingly provide misleading or false evidence, they will be investigated, prosecuted and could ultimately face up to seven years in jail. Under the Bill, the maximum sentence for perjury is seven years. This is in keeping with Northern Ireland's punitive sanction and ensures an all-island synergy in respect of the offence.
Perjury is not a victimless crime. Murderers have no doubt evaded jail through the connivance of sworn witnesses. People’s reputations have been destroyed and lives ruined as a result of deliberate lies told in court. Businesses have faced soaring insurance premium costs as a result of the actions of fraudsters seeking to game the system. Whistleblowers have been put through the mill because people feel they can lie with impunity and without fear of prosecution. What message does it send about the fair administration of justice when a tribunal of inquiry established to examine the mistreatment of whistleblowers found that senior ranking police officers told lies in sworn court affidavits? How can those seeking justice before the courts, or individuals facing prosecution, be satisfied that there will be consequences for those who knowingly provide false evidence?
While the principles underpinning the legislation are simple, the technicalities are anything but. The wording I have used in respect of the offence of perjury is analogous to that used in the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004. In the latter, the Oireachtas attempted to make it a criminal offence and a civil wrong to give false or exaggerated evidence before a court in the context of personal injury litigation. I am open to alternative wording regarding the offence of perjury. It is extremely important that the final wording is one which the Garda Síochána properly understands in order to allow it to investigate and on the basis of which the Director of Public Prosecutions can prosecute.
As we move forward, I hope the Minister can work with me and can provide constructive assistance in the context of this Bill becoming law and making a positive difference to the fair administration of justice.
I congratulate Senator Ó Céidigh on his persistence and determination in bringing this Bill forward. It is one thing to say that one will do something but quite another to do the necessary work. I echo his words regarding the gratitude owed to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, which is open to Members of the Oireachtas, for the remarkable work that has been done.
When we consider that the law with which we are dealing stretches back through the mists of time to common law and that we still do not have an easily workable law which An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions can clearly understand, it is no mystery that perjury is committed day in and day out in our courts by people who feel there is no real likelihood of a sanction against them. Senator Ó Céidigh mentioned the 2004 Act, which was introduced when I was Minister for Justice and which relates to personal injuries litigation. That Act has had some effect. I do not know whether there have been any successful criminal prosecutions under it but I am aware that solicitors and lawyers acting for their clients are under a duty to warn them that they may commit an offence which carries, I believe, a ten-year penalty for falsely making or exaggerating personal injury claims. I also know that members of the Judiciary, some more reluctantly than others - every judge is different - have had resort to the provisions of that Act which allowed them to entirely dismiss a claim which is materially and knowingly falsely made. That has been some improvement.
The point about Senator Ó Céidigh's Bill, which deals with perjury, is that civil liability is only one area in respect of all of this arises. The purpose of some of the provisions of the 2004 Act is to penalise people who supply false information with a view to the institution of proceedings. The Bill before us is more concerned with the proceedings themselves. It is the case, however, that people falsify information and deliberately tender false evidence in cases which do not just involve matters of personal injury. Individuals produce forged documents in court cases. People testify in cases relating to wills, in commercial cases and in licensing cases and there are those who testify in contract commercial cases in circumstances which are false. More importantly, in the context of the entire process of discovery on oath in criminal cases, people swear affidavits which, unfortunately, turn out to be deliberately false in that certain documents are concealed which ought to be admitted. As Senator Ó Céidigh stated , it is a matter of huge importance to the victims of perjury that there should at least be some penalty for those who attempt to inflict injustice on them. I refer here not only to cases which are lost as a result of perjury but also to those which are brought on the basis of perjured evidence, which proceed some considerable distance down the track and in which costs are incurred by, for example, small businesses.This is an important step forward. It is not the first time it has been suggested that the law of perjury should be put on a statutory basis. As Senator Ó Céidigh has said, it is entirely open to anyone to suggest an amendment or suggest different formulations of the ambit of perjury or what constitutes perjury. In any event, I believe that we need a modernising statute and that we cannot simply rely on a vague common law idea of perjury in this day and age.
Unfortunately, the proof is in the pudding. There are so few prosecutions and so few convictions for perjury. In the course of my career as a barrister I have seen many judges in civil cases say they will send the papers on the matter in question to the Director of Public Prosecutions, thus inviting the prosecution of someone for perjury. However, it all goes into the sand and no one ever hears about it thereafter.
Some people say we are in a post-religious age. This legislation is not premised on the original notion of perjury, which was a declaration before God sworn on the Bible and so on. It encompasses false statements made in statutory declarations or unsworn testimony such as testimony on affirmation. It would apply whatever one's religious beliefs, whatever God one worships or whatever view one takes of the oath. Some varieties of Christianity object to the administration of an oath in matters they consider to be profane. Whatever view one takes on that, the administration of justice and its quality depend, in the last analysis, on the quality of the evidence received. If it inures to the benefit of the person tendering false testimony that there is no real prospect of being penalised or punished in criminal law, then we can only expect that the quality of justice in our courts will be diminished. Conversely, if we can put in place a workable statutory basis for the criminal prosecution of those who perjure, either on oath or in affirmation in documents or oral testimony, then we can only look forward to improvement in the quality of justice. I commend the Bill to the House and I congratulate Senator Ó Céidigh on his initiative in bringing the Bill before us.
I too commend Senator Ó Céidigh on what I believe to be an important Bill. One learns a good deal with these types of Bill. I had thought there was significant sanction in the case of perjury being committed. People committing perjury have destroyed other people's lives. Certainly, it calls into question the integrity of the justice system having listened to Senator McDowell and his reflections on the last analysis. The last analysis in the legal system is singularly important. It is vital that the integrity of the last analysis is protected.
The Bill is inspired and the motivations behind it are appropriate. I am informed that the Government does not intend to oppose the Bill on Second Stage. I imagine on Committee Stage the Bill could be enhanced. We have some excellent legal views in the House between people like Senator Bacik and Senator McDowell. I have no doubt they will enhance the Bill. Indeed, they have already assisted in terms of ensuring the Bill is at the standard it is at now.
The Seanad is an ideal place to have these discussions. It is something that might not necessarily be mainstream and that is not in our faces every day in the media. Often we see that the Lower House tends to operate to large extent on that basis whereas this House is more reflective. People here drill down and deep to ensure that we pass legislation that matters to people's lives and that people are treated in a just and fair way. Certainly, what is being proposed is perfectly reasonable and it is something of which the Fine Gael group would be altogether supportive. Senator Ó Céidigh deserves our support in the passing of the Bill through the House as swiftly as possible. I hope we will see a situation this evening whereby it will pass on Second Stage. I sincerely hope that when and if that happens we could move to Committee Stage quickly, perhaps even this side of Christmas, and drive the Bill on.
I have no doubt that the Minister of State may have issues or concerns and that he will outline them if he does. If that arises, we can work on those issues on Committee Stage. I support the suggestion of the Minister of State that officials within his Department would commence an engagement process to ensure the speedy passage of the Bill. I believe this will make for good law and it is obviously necessary. With that, I wish the Bill well. Certainly, Fine Gael will not oppose it.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. The Minister of State is very welcome. Ar dtús báire ba mhaith liom an Seanadóir Ó Céidigh a mholadh as an mBille seo a leagadh os ár gcomhair. Beidh sí á plé ag Seanadóirí anocht. Mar atá ráite cheana, is píosa reachtaíocht tábhachtach í agus beidh lucht Sinn Féin ag tacú léi sa Seanad anocht.
I welcome the Bill and I commend its proposers. My understanding of the intention behind the Bill is that it is to consolidate and simplify the law relating to perjury and related offences. It is also my understanding that, as has been outlined by the proposer and seconder, the Bill seeks to update penalties in cases where someone is found to have committed perjury or to have perjured themselves.
The Bill, introduced by Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh last week with the support of Senators Marshall, Boyhan and McDowell, provides for prison sentences of up to seven years for perjurers. This is a significant sentence for someone who is actively working to deceive or misrepresent evidence before a court of law. I hope that it could act as an effective deterrent. It is not unusual – I realise that sounds like a song – in court cases in both the civil and criminal courts for the judge in summing up to dismiss a person's evidence as lacking credibility. In some cases judges go as far as to state that the witness, who may be a garda witness, lied under oath. Sometimes, a judge will add a recommendation that the matter be referred to the DPP. More often than not, it is fair to say, that is usually the last we hear of the matter.
I will not prolong tonight's debate necessarily. There seems to be an emerging consensus around the sentiment and intent behind the Bill as well as for what it mechanically and legislatively seeks to do.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I rise to support my colleague, Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, in this Bill. I wish to lend my support fully for the Perjury and Related Offences Bill introduced by my colleague and co-sponsored by my other colleagues, Senators Michael McDowell, Ian Marshall and Victor Boyhan.
On a weekly basis, business owners, motorists, school clubs, schools, sports clubs and householders are dragged before the courts by plaintiffs with false or exaggerated personal injury claims. Yet, no matter how many of these cases are thrown out, there is no disincentive for the plaintiffs. Many of these cases are taken on the basis of no foal, no fee. It is almost impossible to prosecute these people for perjury because no definition of the offence exists in common law or statute law.
A statutory offence of perjury will not eliminate false or exaggerated claims but it will place dishonest claimants in real moral hazard when then go before a judge, because claims are brought to court under an affidavit of verification. Defining the offence will make it far easier to prosecute. Many have watched the conduct of senior officials before the disclosures tribunal and other such tribunals. A perjury statute would also have a significant impact in tackling white collar crime.I support fully the four overarching objectives of the Bill, and, in particular, that we will now be able to define a statutory offence of perjury. It will be one that will be easily interpreted by gardaí, the legal profession, defendants and the courts. Providing a statutory perjury related offence includes false statements on oath, false statutory declarations and false declarations to obtain registration for carrying on a vocation or profession. Clear statutory penalties will act as both a deterrent for the act of perjury and will be significantly punitive to reflect the substantial effect that perjury can have. This Bill will also update, repeal and consolidate historical statutory provisions concerning the offence of perjury or that relate to the offence of perjury.
We have all seen the videos of the people going into bathrooms. In my home town of Galway, thanks to closed-circuit television, CCTV, there was a case of personal injuries where people claimed there was a spillage but they were clearly seen practising the fall. In a situation like that, small businesses are being severely damaged. If we put this into context, increasing costs of insurance mean that one person's lie becomes everybody's financial liability. That encompasses what Senator Ó Céidigh is trying to do. He has the full backing of the commercial world and small and medium enterprises in particular. They are very concerned with the damage claims and false claims can do to such businesses and, indeed, also to schools. We have, thankfully, recently seen where vexatious claims brought against schools for the normal day-to-day carry-on of kids have been thrown out by the judges. I congratulate my colleague on bringing this timely Bill forward.
First, on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, who cannot be here, I thank Senator Ó Céidigh for introducing this Bill to this House last week on Wednesday, 17 October. It is moving very fast indeed. I also thank Senators Boyhan, Marshall and McDowell for supporting its presentation to the House. This is an important issue. There are no two ways about that. It has an impact across all court proceedings and many statutory functions.
I wish to state that, on the recommendation of the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, the Government has decided, as the Senator mentioned earlier, not to oppose this Bill. The view of the Government is that the principle of the Bill, to consolidate the law on perjury and related offences, is entirely reasonable. The Government recognises the work that has gone into producing and publishing this detailed Bill. It is a welcome development in the consideration of the issues involved. Given the wide-reaching scope of the Bill, however, it requires careful examination. This has not been possible in the short time since its publication last week. My officials only got it last Thursday. I heard Senator Ó Céidigh saying he has been working on this for quite a while. It is very impressive. From looking at it, up to 100 pieces of legislation are referenced in the Bill. I noticed one of them dates from 1540. When Senator McDowell mentions going back into the mists of time, he was not joking. It is a long time to reach back 478 years to do this. There is much work involved in this.
The Department of Justice and Equality, but also other Departments, need to confirm its impact, not only on court proceedings but also on day-to-day matters relating to the conduct of business and individuals working in their occupations. I accept and welcome the Senator's offer of engagement with officials and they stand ready to do that. The usual way that works is that it goes to various Departments and we get feedback from them. This impacts on every section and on a huge range of people, so we have got to get it right. It is very good work.
The other thing we are missing here is pre-legislative scrutiny. The Bill would have benefited from that on Committee Stage. In my five years on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, I found that very useful because it let people feed into the committee. That is not possible with Private Members' Bills for some strange reason. Government Bills have to do it but Private Members' Bills do not. Perhaps the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality might have an opportunity later on to have a look at this, but only after the Bill has been on Second Stage in the Dáil.
As Senators know, perjury is provided for in common law but it has proven problematic to prosecute. Suborning perjury is also an offence in common law but has historically proved difficult to prosecute as well. There are also specific offences which have been created in circumstances that would amount to perjury such as the offence in section 18 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 of giving false evidence to a commission and section 3 of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act 1979. Furthermore, section 25 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 makes it an offence to give false or misleading evidence in personal injury actions. If convicted of this offence on indictment, a person can be sentenced to imprisonment for up to ten years or a fine of up to €100,000 or both.
The offence of perjury has been the subject of media commentary recently by stakeholders and, in particular, the business community. It has called for new legislation to be put in place to make it easier to prosecute the offence, especially in regard to personal injury claims. Last year, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises association, ISME, made representations to the Minister. It requested the Government to make perjury a statutory offence given concerns about false statements in civil liability proceedings. At the time, a working group was examining these very issues on the cost of insurance. The cost of insurance working group was established by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, in July 2016 and is chaired by the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy D'Arcy.
The objective of the working group is to identify and examine the drivers of the cost of insurance, and recommend short, medium and longer-term measures to address the issue of increasing insurance costs. A significant factor identified by the working group in its reports, which are available with action updates on the Department of Finance website, is the impact of fraudulent insurance claims. In its report published in January 2018, the working group reviewed sections 25 and 26 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004. It noted the number of recorded prosecutions and convictions for the offence of false evidence in section 25 is very low, as has been pointed out here by my colleagues, and that this suggests a need for further co-operation between the insurance industry and An Garda Síochána. The working group recommended a number of measures to ensure sections 25 and 26 can have their intended effect regarding insurance fraud.
The cost of insurance working group found that few allegations of perjury are referred to An Garda Síochána for investigation. According to the Central Statistics Office, CSO, the average number of recorded perjury offences over the past ten years is around three per annum. The Courts Service has provided data which indicate there were no convictions for this offence in 2015 and 2016. By contrast, in England and Wales, where the offence is codified, the number of perjury convictions has averaged around 100 in recent years. In making this comparison, one needs to allow for the great difference in population. The low number of perjury prosecutions in Ireland has resulted in stakeholders such as ISME, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, IBEC, calling for the introduction of new legislative provisions in this area. That is why this Bill is welcome.
In response to the working group’s report, the Department of Finance is convening a round table to listen to the views of key stakeholders on insurance fraud. I understand it has met several times to progress a number of specific recommendations contained in the working group’s report of January 2018. Recommendations 11 and 12 of that report concern the production of statistics by An Garda Síochána and the Courts Service on complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions relating to fraud within the personal injuries area. The Department of Justice and Equality is liaising with the Garda authorities on the production of these statistics and has been informed that the necessary PULSE update will go live before the end of October.
Recommendation 13 of the same report recommends that Insurance Ireland, An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions agree a set of guidelines on the reporting of suspected fraudulent insurance claims. While guidelines were published in 2004, the working group noted that these have only been used to a limited extent over the years, and it proposed that a new set of guidelines should be developed. Following consultations with stakeholders, these new guidelines have been finalised and published on the Garda website and disseminated within the Garda organisation and will be further promoted internally as part of training shortly.
The fraud round-table process also examined the follow-on procedure in circumstances where fraud or exaggeration is identified in court or acknowledged by a judge and is following up with the Courts Service in this regard. I understand the round table has often touched on the theme of perjury more generally and the desire to see more prosecutions. The round table has noted that there is a perception that if someone appears to have lied in a court and this is noted by the court, this should automatically result in that person being convicted of perjury, but it understands the reality of securing convictions for perjury can be rather difficult. This is a result of several factors. Perjury is an offence in common law that may be tried summarily in the District Court. The offence is committed when a person, to whom a lawful oath or affirmation is administered by a person having the authority to do so in a judicial proceeding, swears absolutely and falsely in a matter material to the issue in question. The maximum penalty for perjury is seven years’ imprisonment.However, to sustain a conviction, the prosecution must prove the authority to administer the oath, the occasion of administering it, the form of oath administered, the materiality of the matter sworn, the falsity of the statement and the corrupt intention of the person making the perjured statement. It is also a requirement that there be at least two separate witnesses to the act of perjury for a prosecution of perjury to succeed. Where someone is found to have lied in court, this is likely to be based on the civil standard. For example, he or she would be found on balance of probability to have lied. If one wants to convict such a person of perjury, a criminal standard of proof is required. It would have to be proven beyond reasonable doubt that a person lied. Therefore, it is necessary for the prosecution to prove that the person lied to or misled the court and did so intentionally.
A separate Private Member's Bill, the Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2018, aims to amend the 2004 Act. The purpose of this Bill is to ensure that when a person has been found to have made a false statement, such an action will have to be reported to An Garda Síochána for investigation. The Government has not opposed this Bill either. However, the Government has stated it considers that substantial amendments to the Bill will be required.
A concerted policy approach is being taken with the support of the cost of insurance working group to address the issue of insurance fraud. The Government is acting to alleviate the concerns raised in particular by the business community in relation to false statements in court proceedings. This Bill as published is more wide-reaching and will impact beyond statements made with regard to court proceedings. As already stated it includes provisions relating to statutory instruments, such as accounts and inventories and the registration of an individual's vocation or profession. This is clearly acknowledged and illustrated in the Schedules to the Bill which list legislation dealing with matters which range from harbours, docks and piers to child abduction.
Any legislation with such general application needs careful consideration and the Department of Justice and Equality needs to consult all Departments, which in turn need an opportunity to consider the impact of this Bill and its provisions on matters within their remit and the agencies they work with. It is understood that the law on perjury is likely to be included in the forthcoming work programme of the Law Reform Commission. If that is the case, it would also be sensible to await and take account of its input before progressing this Bill beyond Second Stage.
The Government does not oppose creating a statutory offence of perjury and this Private Member's Bill is a welcome development in the consideration of this matter. Given the Bill's general application, it is important to fully assess its impact across Government and civil society. The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, will therefore carefully consider the detailed provisions of this Bill. As part of that process, he would be very happy to arrange for officials to discuss the Bill with Senator Ó Céidigh and his colleagues if he thought that might be useful.
I strongly support the intentions behind this Bill. I thank Senator Ó Céidigh for introducing it with the support of Senators Ian Marshall, Victor Boyhan and Michael McDowell. I also welcome the Minister's response. A lot of energy, effort and thought has clearly gone into this.
The Alliance for Insurance Reform had ten requests and this was one. It is not that somebody would be arrested automatically for perjury but that once a claim fails and there is evidence of duplicity or fraud, a person would be automatically referred to the gardaí for further investigation. The Minister of State outlined to the House how few people are prosecuted for perjury in this country. It sends a loud message to those who engage in this activity that they will be all right and not to worry about it, hence we have all these problems with recidivists. Members might remember the case from years ago where a man with a broken arm sued, sequentially, Dublin City Council, Bord Gáis and the Electricity Supply Board, ESB. I think he was on to the fifth case before the judge recognised the case from another case and said it was ridiculous. I do not think anything awful happened to that individual as a result of his actions.
We need action. We know the maxim: "Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done". If there was ever a case of that being applicable, it is in this instance, where a loud message needs to go to those who fraudulently make claims and drive up the cost of insurance as a consequence. There are many other things involved here too. I thank the Minister of State for his response and the Senators for bringing this forward. It is a huge burden on business and puts many people on the verge of going out of business.
This is important legislation. I thank Senator Ó Céidigh for bringing the Bill to the House and taking the initiative. It is important to recognise that court proceedings and the rulings of courts are independent of us. The Government is not opposing the Bill. The Minister of State's remarks on the consolidation of the laws on perjury and related offences are reasonable. Prior to becoming Minister of State, Deputy Stanton was a proactive Chair of the Committee on Justice and Equality and dealt with many issues which were perhaps unpopular or left by people for others to handle. We need to have a conversation about perjury. When we were growing up, when going before the court, one put one's hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We cannot allow for any dilution with this issue.
Sometimes, if one speaks to people who go before the courts, they will say that a certain thing happened but listening to others, one would swear that it did not happen at all. The Minister of State said that it is difficult to prosecute. I smiled because I remembered that a friend of mine was before the courts. Listening to the testimony, one would think that two different things happened. I believe it is important to have that conversation, especially in the world of social media. Twitter gives people, in their own minds, a licence to say what they want about anything and everything without any consequence.
I am acutely conscious that the Minister of State has given a commitment about the working group. We need to have a debate on the issue of insurance, its costs and the awards given. The working group on insurance made a number of recommendations. It is important that we ensure that insurance fraud and costs are reduced, whether it relates to perjury or other issues. I know the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy is working on it.
White collar crime was discussed during the Order of Business yesterday. That exasperates people. The working group has recommendations relating to fraud and a "round table" has been established. I hope as a consequence of this legislation and of the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy's, working group on insurance that we will see action. I accept that it is difficult to prove that people lied in court but there is a duty to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is the maxim we should all work from. I thank Senator Ó Céidigh for bringing the Bill before the House and the Minister of State for not opposing it. We need to have a conversation about this. I apologise for repeating myself.We need to look at where we are going as a society and the values we uphold and stand for. This Private Members' Bill will allow us to discuss that.
Tá mé an-buíoch don Aire Stáit as ucht an tacaíocht atá sé ag tabhairt don Bhille seo. Is rud fíor mhór é domsa go pearsanta. I appreciate the genuine support of the Minister of State and my senatorial colleagues, across all benches, for this Bill. It is an important Bill as it gives out a signal as to how Ireland operates as a nation and a people and the integrity of the system and the process, in both ways. Sometimes there are accusations made about people, not only in court proceedings or in quasi-judicial proceedings, but also outside of that. As politicians, we seem to be exposed to that kind of stuff which can be unreasonable. I am delighted at the recent tribunal finding that the previous Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, was totally exonerated. That is important. She is a fine person and should not have had to go through that process. We need to look further at that. I strongly support Senator Buttimer when he speaks of a need for a wider and deeper conversation about all of this. Where are we going as society? What are our values? What kind of future do we want to build and what is the fabric of that future? Openness and honesty is a part of that.
The Cathaoirleach worked, as I did, as a solicitor. A District Court judge, who passed away a number of years ago, said to me when I was learning the trade as a young solicitor that he learned in his job that the truth can be often overrated. I found that sad, but that was his experience. That is unfortunately sometimes the experience in our society and particularly in our courts.
I thank my colleagues, Senators Marshall, Boyhan and McDowell, and my technical group, for supporting me with this Bill. In particular, I thank all the Senators here and the Minister of State for their support. I would be delighted to meet with the Minister of State, the Minister for Justice, Deputy Flanagan, and officials from the Department to strengthen and improve the Bill for the overall betterment of our society.