HC Deb 29 March 1886 vol 304 cc206-10

Order for Second Reading read.

MR. CROMPTON (Staffordshire, Leek)

Mr. Speaker, by this Bill I hope to remove a great injustice which affects a very deserving class of people. Common jurymen take part in the administration of justice gratuitously. They are not only compelled to give their services gratuitously, but they are obliged to pay whatever travelling expenses it is necessary for them to incur; they have to lose much time, and, in addition, have to pay the expenses they are put to while in attendance at an Assize or a Quarter Sessions Court. When they do attend Courts of Assize or of Quarter Sessions they find that there are no conveniences provided for them as a general rule. Sometimes they may be comparatively fortunate enough to secure a seat in the back row of a close Court; and if they are not as fortunate as that they have to remain in one or other of the passages around the Court, it may be in the midst of a set of the good-for-nothing people who very often hang about the passages of our Courts of Justice. And when the time does come for them to take their seat in the jury-box they certainly are not treated in a way people who give their services deserve to be treated. They are kept, perhaps, the whole day investigating very difficult matters, and exercising their minds in a way in which it is very probable they have had no previous experience. And when dinner time comes they are, perhaps, allowed 20 minutes' leave of absence; and if they return, possibly, three or four minutes late they are reprimanded by the Judge, and in some cases fined a sum of money besides. If by any chance they are called upon to try a case of felony and the trial is not finished when the Court rises for the evening they are not allowed to go home, but are locked up, and are not allowed to separate. When the time comes for them to consider their verdict they are locked up, not allowed refreshments, and only allowed the light from a candle. They remain thus locked up for hours sometimes, and many of them are compelled, practically speaking, to give a verdict contrary to their opinion. ["No, no!"] Mr. Speaker, it is necessary that there should be a unanimous verdict; and I believe it constantly happens that the minority give way to the majority. Well, this is the treatment which common jurymen who give their services gratuitously receive. The Bill, the second reading of which I now move, provides that they should have some moderate remuneration for the services they render. Having seen how common jurors are treated in different county towns, I, for my part, would almost prefer to have a week on the treadmill than be compelled to serve for a week as common juryman. Special jurymen are treated in a very different manner. They are placed, whether legally or illegally I need not inquire, upon an entirely separate list, and they have not to try criminal cases, or to mix themselves up with common jurymen—perhaps it would be better for the administration of justice if they had. Now, my Bill only deals with trials at Assizes and Quarter Sessions, and the reason of that is that when men are summoned to attend trials in their own town the hardship of being taken away from their employment is not very great. They can return to their homes at night, and if there is any particular reason why a juror should attend to his work it is more than probable that the presiding officer will give him leave to do so. My Bill, for instance, does not apply to Middlesex or to London; but it proposes that each common juryman who is summoned to attend an Assize or Quarter Session should receive 5s. for each day's service, 5s. for each night he is away from home, and a reasonable sum for travelling expenses. The remuneration I suggest may by many be considered rather shabby—in fact, I have seen it stated in some papers that it is a very beggarly offer to make. But it seems to me that the farmer or the shopkeeper will not feel he is out of pocket if, when he is called away from home, he is paid 5s. for each day's service, 5s. for each night, and his reasonable travelling expenses; he will find that he is not being put to any expense, though 10s. a-day will not really remunerate him for the loss he has sustained in leaving his business, and for the inconvenience and discomfort he has experienced in having to act as a common juryman. Well, now at Assizes common jurymen have to act in two capacities. They have to act in the trial of civil causes, and they have also to act in the trial of criminals. My Bill provides that the parties to common jury causes should themselves provide a sufficient sum of money to pay for the jurymen. I calculate that five or six causes are tried in the course of a day, and my proposal is that each plaintiff and each defendant should contribute 10s. towards the expenses of the juries. In that way a sufficient sum would be provided for the payment of the jurymen engaged in the trial of civil causes. Then, Mr. Speaker, in order to provide for the payment of jurymen trying criminal cases I propose that a certain amount should be found by the Government. It has been put to me more than once whether it would be advisable that the amount payable to the jurymen should be provided out of the rates or out of the monies of Parliament? I will not be a party to any addition to the rates at the present time, at all events until a proper system of rating is introduced. My Bill, therefore, proposes that the money should, practically speaking, be found by Parliament. It is difficult to calculate how much money it will be necessary for Parliament to vote for this purpose; but as far as I have been able to estimate it will be somewhere about £30,000 a-year. This may seem a large amount, but hon. Gentlemen must remember that this £30,000 a-year represents the amount of money which is taken out of the pockets of the common jurymen, the amount you require them to find in order to discharge their duty in connection with the administration of justice. I may call the attention of the House to one rather important and curious fact, and that is that there is provision made for the payment of the daily expenses of Judges when on Circuit. I believe that £7 7s. is given each day to each Judge when on Circuit. Now, if there were two Judges in attendance at an Assize, the amount paid to them for expenses would cover the amount I propose should be paid to the jurymen who try the cases. I think there will be a great deal of sympathy with these common jurors. I hope the House will think that they ought to be remunerated for the time that they give, and be paid the expenses they incur. This Bill provides that justice should be done in this respect, and I beg to move that it be now read a second time.

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


I look upon this as a most extraordinary Bill, because Clause 2 provides that it is not to extend to Ireland or Scotland, and Clause 6 provides that the money for the payment of the English common jurymen is to be granted by Parliament. I should regard it as a most excellent Bill if it were extended to Ireland. In Ireland we are quite willing that the plaintiffs and defendants should pay 10s. each, in order that the jurymen in the country, who are now shockingly treated, should each get 5s. a-day. The conditions which surround the lot of a common juror are much worse in Ireland than in England, and any Bill to improve these conditions should be made applicable to Ireland first and to England afterwards. I hope the Government, in answering the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Crompton), who made a speech of very great eloquence, will announce that they are quite ready to extend the provisions of the Bill to Ireland. If the measure is so extended I shall be most happy to vote for it; but if not I shall take great interest in it, and endeavour in Committee to amend every line of it.


At this late hour (1.10) of the night, I shall not follow my hon. Friend (Mr. Crompton) in the interesting account he has given of the physical and mental disabilities to which common jurymen are subjected. The sting of the hon. Gentleman's speech was emphatically in its tail, and I will bring my remarks to bear upon that sting. He has told us that, practically, he proposes to increase the expenditure of the country by £30,000 a-year. Now, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained the other night very clearly what he considered a Constitutional function of the Executive Government—namely, that charges of this sort should be proposed by the responsible Ministers of the Crown and submitted to Parliament in that way. We do not feel disposed to raise a technical objection at this moment—possibly it ought to have been taken at an earlier stage—but I think it is impossible that this Bill can proceed. In the first place, it will be necessary for the House to resolve itself into Committee to pass the required money clause. That cannot be done without the consent of the Government, which consent will certainly not be given. Under these circumstances, I think the hon. Gentleman would do well to withdraw the Bill.


Does the hon. Gentleman withdraw the Bill?


Of course, in this matter I am in the hands of the Government. I do hope that the Government will, at no very distant date, deal with the question of the——


The hon. Gentleman has no right of reply. Does the hon. Gentleman propose to withdraw the Bill?


Yes, Sir.

Order discharged; Bill withdrawn.