HC Deb 03 June 1839 vol 47 cc1303-4

The Solicitor General moved the second reading of the Summary Jurisdiction Bill.

Lord Granville Somerset

said, that, besides those clauses relating to summary jurisdiction, there were some extraordinary provisions contained in this bill which well deserved the consideration of the House. No doubt the subject of summary jurisdiction was one of both nicety and importance; but, without, for the present, touching on that part of the measure, he must say, that he should strongly object to the 32nd Clause, which went the length of disfranchising the clerks of the magistrates throughout the whole country.

The Attorney-General

observed, that, in point of fact, the clause to which the noble Lord had alluded, had nothing whatever to do with the principle of the bill. He had no hesitation in saying, that it had been inserted per incuriam, and therefore it would be competent to them to adopt or reject it in Committee. The objection to the clause was no argument that the bill should not be read a second time.

Mr. Pryme

objected to that part of the measure which gave magistrates a summary jurisdiction in cases of felony, without the intervention of a jury. Of late years, there had seemed a growing disposition to limit the functions of juries, and as he did not approve of such a departure from the law, it was his intention to raise the objection in the Committee.

Sir E. Knatchbull

objected to the provision rendering it imperative to hold petty sessions weekly, and said, that it was absolutely necessary to allow them to be held at public-houses. This was the practice at present, and it could not be departed from without great inconvenience and expense. There were several other parts of this bill to which he entertained strong objections, but he did not think that the proper opportunity for pressing them.

The Solicitor-General

said, if the right hon. Baronet had read the clause through, he would have found that it did not render the holding petty sessions weekly imperative, but left the matter open to the discretion of the magistrates. Now, with respect to not holding petty sessions in public-houses, he could only say that this was the case in Ireland, and that they were only assimilating the law of the two countries in this particular. It was found to be a good practice in Ireland, and he could not see why it should not be equally so for this country. In reference to the objection of his hon. Friend, the Member for Cambridge, all he could say was, that if it should prevail, there would be no use whatever for going into Committee on this bill. It was quite necessary that magistrates should have a power of dealing summarily with trifling offences committed by children, and although he would be prepared to consent to the withdrawal of the clause disfranchising the clerks of magistrates, he must say that he could not abandon that part of the measure which prevented the intervention of grand juries and trials in public courts of justice in cases where trifling felonies had been committed by juvenile offenders.

Mr. John Jones

objected to the second clause of the bill, and thought that the measure was brought forward at a very improper time. It was a most bungling piece of legislation, and required the fullest scrutiny that a full House could give it.

Mr. Darby

thought, that the principle of this bill was a very extraordinary one to come from the other side of the House. In the Quarter Sessions, they were not content with a full bench of magistrates, an experienced chairman, jury, and a bar attending, as securities for the proper administration of justice, but they must also have a barrister presiding; whereas in this summary jurisdiction they would have no bar, no barrister, no jury—but leave the decision of a felony to two magistrates. As to that part of the bill which prevented the holding of sessions in public houses, he thought it a very unnecessary interference with the discretion of the magistrates, and objectionable as throwing additional expense upon counties.

Sir Eardley Wilmot

agreed in many of the objections to this bill. He thought it had been drawn up without sufficient practical knowledge. But with respect to that part which gave magistrates the power to inflict a fine of 5l. for certain offences which were now felony, he thought it necessary for the object of the bill. There had been a great increase of crime, and it was found that that increase was very much owing to the early imprisonment of children in gaols with convicted felons. To avoid this, the present bill proposed, in the case of juvenile offenders, virtually to convert what was now felony into a misdemeanour, He hoped the House would consent to a second reading, and give time for a dispassionate consideration of the whole subject in Committee.

Bill read a second time.