HC Deb 17 June 1936 vol 313 cc994-5

asked the Attorney-General, having regard to the impossibility of obtaining a jury unfamiliar with the earlier findings of the Budget Tribunal, he is prepared to recommend legislation applicable to criminal trials in England, bringing the same into line with that at present in existence in Scotland?

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Donald Somervell)

I presume that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the pro- ceedings in a criminal trial which takes place before committing justices. The procedure of the Budget Tribunal was quite different from the proceedings before committing justices. The Budget Tribunal made express findings of fact, and further, the evidence was not restricted to evidence admissible against definite persons charged with a specific offence. The committing justices make no findings of fact but determine only whether or not there is a case proper to be sent for trial elsewhere, and objections to inadmissible evidence can be made before them. With regard to the last part of the question, the procedure in Scotland is wholly different from that in England, and without suggesting any criticism of the Scottish procedure, I am not prepared to recommend legislation substituting that procedure for our own.


With the legal procedure as it presently stands, would the Attorney-General consider that—


The hon. Gentleman appears to be reading a carefully prepared supplementary question, which is out of order.


Does the Attorney-General suggest, in the light of the procedure in England in regard to murder trials, that he can criticise Scottish practice?


The last thing I would desire to do is to criticise Scottish practice, with which, indeed, I am not perfectly familiar.


Does the Attorney-General suggest that it is possible, with the legal procedure as it stands in England to-day, to have an unbiased jury sitting on a murder trial, as has been suggested by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers)?


I would certainly repudiate any suggestion that juries who sit on murder trials in England are not capable of bringing unbiased minds to bear. I am not aware of what the hon. Gentleman has in mind, but if he can make a practical suggestion which will combine the advantages of publicity with the advantages of privacy, I shall be prepared to consider it.