HC Deb 06 March 1866 vol 181 cc1620-1

on rising to ask for leave to bring in a Bill to prohibit Justices' clerks for counties conducting prosecutions in cases where the offender has been committed by the Justices to whom he acts as clerk, said, he sought to introduce no new principle, but simply to extend to counties the prohibition which had long existed in boroughs. He felt most strongly how much all those who acted as Justices were advantaged by the assistance of well qualified clerks, but the clerks were, he thought, unfortunately, paid by fees, and a very strong impression existed out of doors that in advising decisions the clerks were influenced by pecuniary motives. Certainly, the fees increased by a commitment; and with £6 or £7 looming in the distance if a prosecution was to be conducted by the clerk in the event of the offender being committed for trial, the pecuniary advantages obtained by a Justices clerk by recommending a commitment or conviction were considerable. He asked to be allowed to bring in his Bill to avoid in part this scandal. Clerks in boroughs had been prohibited from conducting prosecutions since the time of the passing of the Municipal Corporation Act. The tendency of modern legislation was to prevent officers having any money benefit from advice judicially given. Coroners were, by statute, forbidden to conduct prosecutions where cases had come before them or their jury. He (Mr. Colville) asked the House to extend the same prohibition to County Justices' clerks. He quoted a judgment given by Lord Campbell in the case of R. v. Fox, where the Judge said— Unpaid magistracy have been and are a great credit to the country, but it is of the last importance that the clerk should have no interest in the prosecutions, that he should have no bias in his mind, and that he should obtain no advantage, either directly or indirectly, from those cases in which he has to give advice. He thought that hon. Members, on whichever side the House they might sit, would agree with the remarks made by the learned Judge, and he hoped they would give their support to his Bill.


said, that the Government had no objection to the introduction of the Bill.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to prohibit the Clerks to Justices in Counties conducting the prosecution of any offender committed for trial by the Justice or Justices for whom they are acting as Clerk, ordered to be brought in by Mr. COLVILLE and Sir HENRY HOARE.

Bill presented, and read the first time, [Bill 53.]