HC Deb 21 July 1938 vol 338 cc2425-6
74. Mr. Cassells

asked the Lord Advocate whether he is prepared to advise all clerks in the inferior criminal courts of Scotland that, having regard to the terms of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1887, the Summary Jurisdiction (Scotland) Act, 1905, and the Circuit Courts and Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1925, no reference is to be made to previous convictions of an accused person until a conviction has been entered and sentence is about to be given?

The Lord Advocate

The circumstances in which reference may be made, or evidence led, with regard to previous convictions are the subject of detailed statutory provisions in the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1887, and the Summary Jurisdiction (Scotland) Act, 1908, and of numerous decisions in the High Court of Justiciary. I have no reason to suppose that the existing law and practice are not familiar to, and observed by, the clerks to the criminal courts in Scotland.

Mr. Cassells

Is the Lord Advocate aware that in the light of a recent decision many sheriff clerks in Scotland are in doubt as to what the present procedure ought to be, with the result that many of them are, in point of fact, prior to conviction, intimating to the court previous convictions? Therefore, in these circumstances is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman prepared to exercise his influence in connection with this matter, which is highly important?

The Lord Advocate

The recent decision to which the hon. and learned Gentleman refers merely applies a provision of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1908, and I am afraid that without further legislation no action could be taken to modify the effect of that decision.