HC Deb 27 May 1907 vol 174 cc1326-8
MR. RAWLINSON (Cambridge University)

On behalf ofthe right hon. Member for Dublin University, I beg to ask Mr. Attorney-General if he can state the number of cases now standing for trial or hearing in the King's Bench Division; how many Judges will be available in London for the trial of such cases, having regard to the summer circuits; and whether any arrangements have been or will be made by which such cases, or the greater portion of them, may be disposed of before the long vacation.


The number of cases in the King's Bench Division now standing for trial is as follows:—Special juries, 192; common juries, 208; non-juries, 139; commercial cases, 20; Order XIV., 10; assigned actions, 3—total, 572. This is in addition to Crown Paper, Revenue Paper, and Railway Commission. The number of Judges available for the trial of these cases is as follows:—Provided none are absent from illness or otherwise, for the first fortnight, ten; the third and fourth week, nine; the fifth week, six; the sixth week, from five to seven; the seventh week, five; the eighth week, seven; the ninth week, six; and the last three days, seven. In other words, not counting Saturdays, which are devoted almost exclusively to cases under Order XIV., Rule 8, and omitting the Judge dealing with the commercial list, it would be as if there were one Judge taking special juries for seventy-eight days, one taking common juries for eighty days, and one taking non-juries for forty-seven days. The Government have fully realised the importance of taking steps to ensure that these cases shall be tried before the long vacation. Some weeks ago I communicated to the Lord Chief Justice the desire that this should be done, and informed him, with the concurrence of the Lord Chancellor and the Chancellor of the † See (4) Debates, clxx,, 793. Exchequer, that a sufficient number of Commissioners would be appointed to go on circuit, so as to allow of such a staff of Judges relinquishing their summer circuits and remaining in town as might be adequate to the hearing and disposal of all these cases before the adjournment of the Court for the autumn recess. I have the permission of the Lord Chief Justice to say—and I read from his letter—that "in the event of an additional Judge of the King's Bench Division being appointed promptly, and a second Commissioner nominated to take a circuit, I have no doubt that, unless anything unforeseen occurs, we shall be able to dispose by the end of July of all the cases entered for trial to the middle of the present month" (May). A second Commissioner has been appointed accordingly, and more Commissioners would have been appointed if it had been desired. The creation, with the sanction of Parliament, of an additional Judge is receiving the consideration—I think I may add the favourable consideration—of the Lord Chancellor. I have before mea forecast made in an official quarter, from which it would appear that the estimate of the Lord Chief Justice with regard to the disposal of the business of the King's Bench Division may be unduly sanguine, and that one-half only of the cases can be tried between now and 1st August unless some of the Judges give up their circuits and remain in town. Whether this be so or not, I wish it to be understood that His Majesty's Government are willing to relieve the Judges of the obligation to go on circuit, and to provide the necessary expense involved in their remaining in London in order that the London lists shall be disposed of. The Government have done, and they are prepared to do, what they can to bring about the most desirable object of ensuring the trial of the causes which stand for hearing in the King's Bench Division before the long vacation, and they feel that there will be cause for much disappointment if this cannot be done. I may add, with regard to the future regulation of the business of this division and of the Court of Appeal, that the Lord Chancellor expects in a few days to announce the appointment of a Committee to consider and report upon the subject, including the question of appointing more Judges, so as to provide for the rapid despatch of business. It is not likely that there will be much delay in reporting, as the Committee will consist of persons who are familiar with this subject.


What form will the Committee take?


It will be composed of gentlemen thorougly familiar with King's Bench business, who will be invited to act by the Lord Chancellor.


Will the hon, and learned Gentleman, consider the desirability of employing three or four of the Irish Judges who now have nothing to do?


I beg to ask Mr. Attorney-General whether the Government, having regard to the additional duties thrown upon the High Court by the Criminal Appeal Bill, intend to appoint any, and, if so, how many, additional Judges to the King's Bench Division of that Court.


said this Question was to be considered by the-Committee which the Lord Chancellor expected to appoint in a few days.