The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Dermot Ahern TD, today announced that he has signed the commencement order for the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008.

In making the announcement, Minister Ahern said: "I am delighted to announce the commencement of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008. This Act has amended and modernised a number of laws within the Civil Law area. For example, I am aware that the business community has been waiting for the important changes that it makes to landlord and tenant legislation which will liberalise the market in business rentals generally."

The Minister was referring to Part 4 of the Act, which enables tenants of all kinds of business premises, after taking legal advice, to opt out of the statutory entitlement, after a business lease lasting 5 years, to a further lease of 20 years. Against the background of the present law, many landlords have been traditionally reluctant to enter into business leases lasting a full five years. This important change will ease the difficulties that this causes for business tenants, who at present face termination of their leases within that time, with no prospect of renewal. This facility has been available since 1995 for office tenancies, and applies to all types of tenancies from 20 July.

The Act also makes some important changes in courts law. Among those changes is a provision which will permit the Government to appoint 3 new judges to the District Court to deal with cases involving children. Speaking of this change, the Minister said: "The additional judges for the Children's Court will facilitate the delivery of a key Courts objective in the National Youth Justice Strategy 2008–2010 which seeks to ensure speedier handling of cases involving children and a reduction in the number of repeat remands." 

Another change of significance enables a court in civil proceedings to give anonymity to a party or witness in certain circumstances where that person is suffering from a medical condition and being identified as having that condition would cause undue stress to the person. 

Among the other changes affecting the courts, the Act removes the upper age limit for eligibility to sit on a jury. The change means that persons over 70 years are no longer ineligible; but any person over 65 who is called for jury service will, as at present, be able to excuse themselves as of right. This reform comes into effect on 1 January 2009. The Minister said: "This change to juries legislation is reflects the demographic shift in Irish society, where more and more citizens are living longer, more active lives. There is no reason why those over 70 should be prevented from serving on a jury if they are willing and able to serve."


18 July 2008


NOTE FOR EDITORS

A summary of the changes being made by the Act is appended.

Changes to courts legislation deal mainly (though by no means exclusively) with areas for technical change identified by the Courts Service and include—

Changes in the Solicitors Acts include—

Landlord and Tenant law is being changed to enable business tenants generally to opt out of the entitlement that the law gives to a tenant who has held such a lease for at least five years to a renewal of the lease for up to a further 20 years. The ability to opt out in this way is at present available only to office tenants. The effect of the extension will be to ease the situation of business tenants on short (less than five years) leases whose landlords might otherwise have been unwilling to renew a lease for fear of committing themselves for a tenancy longer than they might wish.


The law on statutory declarations is changing in two important respects:

The Juries Act changes in the new measure include—

The Bankruptcy Act amendments are technical changes to certain procedural aspects.

In succession, the new Act makes provision for what is to happen when joint tenants of a property die or are deemed to have died simultaneously. At present, if a property is held jointly by two or more people (e.g. a family home held in the names of husband and wife) and one of them dies, the property does not form part of the estate of the deceased, but passes directly to the surviving joint owner or owners. The law hitherto was unclear as to what would happen if, in that example, both die in circumstances where it is not possible to say who died first. The new provision ensures that in such circumstances, the joint property is divided equally so as to form part of the estate of each deceased.

The Video Recordings Act is amended so as to—

The Censorship of Films Act is amended so as to—

The Parental Leave Act is amended so as to enable parents employed by the same employer, with the employer's consent, to transfer their parental leave to each other in whole or in part.

The Civil Service Regulation Act is amended so as to make the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the appropriate authority for civil servants of Principal Officer grade and higher who are civilian staff of the Garda Síochána.

Provision is made in family law for dealing with the registration of property adjustment orders made in divorce or legal separation cases after those orders have been complied with.

In the area of equal status legislation, provision is made to implement the EU Gender Goods and Services Directive in Irish law.

The Civil Legal Aid Act amendments included in the new Act include—

The Employment Equality legislation is amended to permit the Equality Authority board to have up to 16 members.