HC Deb 07 March 1946 vol 420 c483
26. Mr. Lang

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it is the usual practice to bring prisoners accused of breach of discipline before one visiting justice only; and if he will see that at least two justices should sit in all cases.

Mr. Ede

The Statutory Rules provide that those offences with which the governor is not empowered to deal may be reported to the visiting committee or one of them, except in cases in which corporal punishment may be awarded, which must be heard by three members of the committee. The visiting committee is not required by the Rules to meet more than once a month, but one member of the committee visits the prison each week, and prisoners awaiting adjudication are ordinarily brought before the visiting magistrate. In present circumstances it would be difficult to arrange for two magistrates to visit every prison each week.

Mr. Lang

Does not the Home Secretary realise that, invariably in these cases, there are conflicts of evidence between the prison officers and the accused persons, to the latter's disadvantage, and does he think the responsibility ought to rest with one justice?

Mr. Ede

The difficulty is that, it there was a conflict on the tribunals, two justices would not be sufficient and it would be necessary to have a third. With the existing difficulties, I do not think it is possible to arrange for the visit of a sufficient number of justices each week to every prison.

Mr. Thurtle

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is any age limit for these visiting justices?

Mr. Ede

Not that I am aware of.