HC Deb 14 April 1948 vol 449 cc1109-12

Paragraph (a) of Subsection (1) of Section seven of the Summary Jurisdiction (Appeals) Act, 1933, is hereby repealed, and the following paragraph shall be substituted therefor: (a) in appointing members of the committee quarter sessions shall, so far as practicable, select justices having special quali- fications of the hearing of appeals, and for appeals against decisions of juvenile courts, justices specially qualified for dealing with juvenile cases."—[Mr. Turton.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This Clause deals with a small but important point in regard to appeals to quarter sessions. Under the Summary Jurisdiction (Appeals) Act, 1933, which I had the honour to introduce to this House, it was laid down that an appeal panel of quarter sessions must be composed of justices having special qualifications for the hearing of appeals. Under the Children Act, any juvenile court justice must be a justice specially qualified for dealing with juvenile cases. It, therefore, results that an appeal from a juvenile court does not go to justices having special qualifications for dealing with juvenile cases, but merely to justices having special qualifications for the hearing of appeals. This is anomalous and undesirable.

The object of the children's courts is to have justices of the father class of age rather than that of the grandfather or great-grandfather class, and it is my suggestion that the courts of quarter sessions should have a panel of justices specially qualified for the hearing of appeals from juvenile courts, who shall combine an aptitude for hearing appeals with an aptitude for hearing juvenile cases. I would remind the House in this connection that appeals from quarter sessions are heard de novo. Unless this new Clause is adopted, it means that the justices hearing a juvenile case have not got the same qualifications in the second instance as they have in the first. The whole House will agree that that is highly undesirable.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

I beg to second the Motion.

There is very little I can add to what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), but it is a most extraordinary anomaly that we are trying to correct. There is a special panel for the juvenile court in the first instance, but if an appeal is to be made from that court, it goes to a body completely unqualified to deal with juvenile cases—the ordinary quarter sessions, without any special qualifications for hearing juvenile cases. I should have thought it was very easy either to have a special panel at quarter sessions to deal with juvenile cases, composed of people experienced in and having an aptitude for such work, or alternatively to have trained a special panel of appeals magistrates from the juvenile panels of petty sessions magistrates who were not engaged in the particular case when it was before the lower court. It is a possible alternative.

In any event, the principle seems to be abundantly clear, that, having fought very hard and successfully for special juvenile courts where cases are entrusted to people qualified in juvenile cases, it is ludicrous that, if there is an appeal and a retrial, it is heard by people without special qualifications. I hope what is intended in the Clause is considered by the Government to be a practical, constructive and sensible suggestion, and that it commends itself to the Home Secretary.

Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)

First, I would say that in consideration of the various Clauses in this Bill it has been generally understood that there is no question of any party consideration being taken into account. I have, therefore, very much pleasure indeed in rising to support this new Clause. I think it is highly essential, and I hope my right hon. Friend will agree that it is essential, that in these cases of appeal where a juvenile is concerned, the circumstances should be as near as possible similar to those which prevail with regard to the original hearing in which regard is had to the special position of the juvenile.

I was sorry that my hon. Friend did not go further, for at a later stage the Home Secretary might consider it advisable not only to see that a panel of this nature is appointed for the purpose of considering juvenile cases, but that the circumstances in which the appeal itself is conducted—the surroundings in which the appeal is heard—shall in some measure approach the lines on which the ordinary juvenile courts are run. But that, of course, does not detract from the importance of the new Clause itself, which certainly ought to be carried and to he conceded by the Home Secretary. Let us recognise that it is quite unreasonable, in the case of an appeal, that those people who are not specially qualified and not so regarded by the Home Office itself to deal with juvenile cases should sit in judgment.

Mr. Ede

I should have thought that if the existing law were properly applied the requirement in the new Clause would be met when the appeal committee of quarter sessions is appointed. As a member of an appeal committee of quarter sessions, I think it is doubtful whether this point has always been considered when the appeal committee has been appointed, and of course, only members of the appeal committee can sit, which is a comparatively modern innovation. I think that on occasions, certainly at London sessions, the appeal was sometimes almost a trial by public meeting, because so many justices turned up, and it was to prevent things of that kind that the law was altered to its present form.

I think it would be desirable for courts of quarter sessions to understand that this point must be met. After all, a justice who is qualified to sit in a juvenile court is one of the justices of the peace for the county or borough in respect of which the sessions are being held, but not all the justices are qualified to sit in juvenile courts. Let us suppose that there are half-a-dozen appeals, only one of which is from a juvenile court. The juvenile court magistrates who have been appointed—magistrates accepted as suitable for juvenile court work and appointed in their petty sessional division to sit in juvenile courts—are qualified to sit as members of quarter sessions, and can be appointed to the appeals committee.

I think therefore that the case for this new Clause is reasonable. It will give to the clerks of the peace, when they advise justices on the appointment of the appeals committee, something definite to bring to the notice of quarter sessions. For that reason, I accept the new Clause.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.