HC Deb 21 March 1940 vol 358 cc2108-9
29. Mr. R. J. Taylor

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the appre- hension often resulting from the trial by magistrates of cases in camera, he will issue a circular explaining to magistrates the discretion which they possess, and the need for caution in the exercise of their powers to hear cases in camera?

Sir J. Anderson

The case which I think the hon. Member has in mind is one in which the magistrates were not trying a case but were conducting a preliminary examination with a view to deciding whether the accused should be committed for trial on indictment. In these cases I am advised that justices are not required to sit in open court; but it is the general practice to do so, and I agree with the view expressed by my predecessors in office that justices should not sit in private save in exceptional cases such as those in which they are satisfied that the publicity given to these preliminary proceedings will prejudice the ends of justice. The importance of maintaining the policy of publicity for these proceedings is, I am sure, well understood by justices, and I do not think it is necessary for me to issue any circular on this matter.

Mr. Taylor

Is not the Minister aware that this particular procedure frequently gives rise to harmful rumours, both as to the nature of the charges involved and the identity of the persons concerned?