HC Deb 21 July 1869 vol 198 cc398-401

(Viscount Enfield, Mr. Headlam, Mr. Denman.)


Order for Second Beading read.

VISCOUNT ENFIELD, in moving proformâ the second reading of this Bill, said, that its provisions were based upon the recommendations of a Select Committee of the House of Commons, submitted to and approved, with one exception, by the Judicature Commission. The Bankruptcy Bill and other import- ant measures had prevented the Law Officers of the Crown from taking charge of the Bill themselves, but the Attorney General, with great courtesy, had placed the draft in his hands. He accordingly proposed shortly to state the heads of the Bill, in order that they might be discussed during the Recess, and, he hoped, passed into law early next Session. The proposed qualification of householders to serve on common juries was in towns with 20,000 inhabitants and upwards, £50; and in towns with less than 20,000 inhabitants, £30. For special juries the qualification was to be the occupation of a dwelling house rated on not less than £100 value in the larger towns with the population already stated, or not less than £60 value in towns under that size; or else, in the case of a farm, a value of not less than £500. The qualification for jurors in Wales was to be assimilated to the qualification of England. Aliens, after ten years' domicile, were to be qualified to serve as jurors, and the trial de medietate linguŒ was to be abolished. Some old exemptions from serving upon juries existing under local charters were to be done away with; and several great objections hitherto existing to the mode in which jury lists had been prepared would be removed. No juror would be summoned a second time until the whole list was exhausted. Jurors, in accordance with the recommendations of Sir William Erle, would be entitled to remuneration for their services at the rate of £1 1s. per day for special jurors, and 10s. for trying common jury eases. They would also be allowed fire and reasonable refreshment at their own expense. In addition to the points which he had stated the noble Viscount said there were various matters of detail which were dealt with in the clauses. He concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Viscount Enfield.)


said, he thought that the Bill was not drawn up with sufficient care. He objected to the clauses repealing the exemptions now enjoyed. Officers in the Volunteer and Naval Reserve Forces should be exempted from serving on juries.


said, he approved of many of the enactments of the Bill, but he thought it required careful revision. He was of opinion that in some cases the jury might consist of a less number than twelve. In Australia the practice had long been to have juries of four to try civil cases, and the system worked satisfactorily. If a verdict of three-fourths of the number might be taken, after a certain period of deliberation, the result would be more satisfactory.


said, he thought that suitors were entitled to have a common jury to try their cases as a matter of right, which they should not be called upon to pay for. If they chose to have their cases tried by a special jury, of course they must pay the extra expense thereby incurred themselves, but all common juries should be paid for by the State.


said, he thought common jurors should have some increase of pay over that which they at present received. It was very hard upon them that they who could the least afford it should be kept away from their business for three or four days at a time and only receive a mere trifle for their attendance.


said, he hoped that the case of common jurors who tried criminal cases would not be lost sight of. Aldermen and town councillors ought to be exempted from serving on juries.


said, he hoped that the House would agree to the second reading of the Bill, although there was not much probability of its passing into law during the present Session. The Bill ably embodied the recommendations of the Judicature Commission, and was well worthy the attention of the House when it had time to attend to such matters. He thought the suggestion of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) deserving of notice, and that nothing was more unfair than the working of the jury system with regard to criminal trials. According to the letter of the present law, every man properly qualified ought to be on the common jury list, and special jurors ought to be liable to serve on both juries. It was unfair that common jurors, who could least afford to lose their time, should be paid only at the rate of 8d. a cause, whilst grand jurors were allowed £1 1s. The intention, of the law was fair enough. It meant that special jurors were to do double work, and therefore to receive double pay; but in practice special jurors were not taken out of the common jury list, but were placed in a special list, and did not serve on common juries. In Lancashire the law was properly carried into effect, and the jurors were generally of a very good class.


said, he thought it impossible that a Bill of this kind could be properly dealt with by a private Member; the matter ought to be taken up by the Government. It was questionable whether the figure at which jurymen were taken should be increased. A great number of the people tried in the criminal courts were in a very humble class of life, and he did not think it fair that they should be tried by persons far above them in condition. There was nothing in the Bill to prevent a man who found a bill as a grand juror against a prisoner from trying him afterwards as a petty juror.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time; and committed for this day month.