asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will publish in the Official Report the substance of his reply to the right hon. Member for Down, South on 16 March regarding his application of the Statute of Limitations (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 to Admiralty actions.
The following is the text of the reply:
During the course of the debate on 1 March on the draft Limitation Amendment (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 you raised a query in respect of the application of the Statute of Limitations (Northern Ireland) 1958 to Admiralty actions.
As I stated during the debate causes of action within the Admiralty jurisdiction of the High Court have not thus far been covered by the Statute of Limitations (Northern Ireland) 1958.A similar situation persisted in Great Britain until the enactment of the Limitation Amendment Act 1980.
The reason for the exclusion of Admiralty actions from the rules laid down in the various Statutes of Limitations is based on the fact that proceedings in Admiralty could be pursued "in rem". Actions in rem are peculiar to the Admiralty Jurisdiction and are distinguishable from ordinary common law forms of action.
An action in rem is one in which the subject matter itself is sought to be affected and in which the claimant is enabled to arrest the ship, cargo or freight and have it detained in the custody of officers of the law until the claim has been adjudicated upon. It was considered that to have the normal rules of limitation apply to actions in rem would have created difficulties. The Law Reform Committee investigated this matter and concluded unanimously that the reason for the exclusion of Admiralty action from the normal rules of limitation was no longer sufficiently cogent and that the abolition of the exception would not in fact give rise to any difficulties in practice.