The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 was signed into law by the President on 2 August 2011. The Act provides for certain provisions, concerning private security services, bankruptcy and family mediation services, to come into operation on such days as the Minister for Justice and Equality, by order, appoints. All other provisions of the Act came into force on 2 August.
The Act introduces a number of important reforms across a broad range of areas, including:
- Civil Liability of Good Samaritans & Volunteers
The Act puts on a statutory footing, the protection of Good Samaritans and Volunteers, from personal liability for negligence, in giving assistance, advice or care, or carrying out voluntary work, except where they act in bad faith or with gross negligence. The Act sets an ordinary standard of care for Volunteer Organisations, but account is to be taken of the benefits accruing to society as a result of the organisation's work, when determining whether it is just and reasonable to impose liability.
- Codes of Practice in regard to the Sale of Alcohol
It provides for the preparation and publication of Codes of Practice for the purpose of setting standards for the display, sale, supply, advertising, promotion or marketing of alcohol. While breach of a Code would not be an offence, it would constitute a ground on which an objection could be lodged to a licence renewal.
The Act provides for a number of amendments to the Bankruptcy Act 1988. The Act provides for automatic discharge of bankruptcies existing for 12 years or more. It also allows for an application for a reduction in the discharge period from bankruptcy from 12 years to five years, subject to certain conditions being met. As noted above, these provisions require a commencement order to come into operation.
During Dáil and Seanad debates, Minister Alan Shatter, T.D. commented that the reduction on the discharge period from bankruptcy to five years was a "significant advance" and that it would be necessary to see how this provision operates in practice before going further.
The Department of Justice has indicated that major reform of this area of the law will be effected through the Personal Insolvency Bill, which is expected to be published in early 2012.
- Registration of Rights of Way
It provides for amendments to the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009, and the Registration of Title Act 1964, to allow a land owner to apply directly to the Property Registration Authority to register rights of way without the need for a court order, where there is no disagreement between the parties concerning entitlement to the right concerned.
- Taxing Masters
It extends eligibility for appointment as Taxing-Master, currently confined to solicitors of ten years' practice, to barristers and professional legal costs accountants of ten years' practice.
- Tribunals of Inquiry
The Act makes provision for the deposition of tribunal documentation following completion of an inquiry. It provides for the availability of tribunal documentation for inspection by the public under the National Archives Act 1986, except material that constitutes departmental records. It also provides for non-application of the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003 to any record relating to a tribunal inquiry, unless the record was created before the appointment of a tribunal, or relates to the expenses or the general administration of a tribunal.