HC Deb 24 November 1959 vol 614 cc200-2
40. Mr. Fletcher

asked the Attorney-General whether, in view of the recent statement made by Mr. Leonard Hackett, J.P., Chairman of the Wokingham Board of Magistrates, while sentencing a 15 year-old boy, he will take steps to remove Mr. Hackett's name from the list of magistrates.

41 and 42. Mr. Lipton

asked the Attorney-General (1) whether he is aware of the statement recently made by Mr. Leonard Hackett, J.P., during a case at Wokingham Juvenile Court on 19th October last; and if he will have Mr. Hackett's name removed from the list of magistrates:

(2) with reference to the Lord Chancellor's letter sent to the hon. Member for Brixton on 17th November last, what assurances were obtained from Mr. L. A. Hackett, J.P.; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)

My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is satisfied that the removal of Mr. Hackett from the Commission of the Peace would not be justified.

The boy in the case, who is almost 16, was charged with, and admitted, an act of buggery with a younger boy, whose father had caught him in the act and struck him. He also admitted six offences of larceny; he has been convicted on previous occasions; and he appeared to the court to be wholly unrepentant and resentful of the treatment he had received from the other boy's father. Mr. Hackett, on behalf of all the members of the bench, addressed him in severe terms in an endeavour to impress on him the gravity of the matter and in the course of his remarks expressed the view that a thrashing was the kind of treatment the accused might expect to receive from his fellow citizens if he continued to misbehave in this way.

My noble Friend has received written assurances from Mr. Hackett and the other justices who were members of the court that in the newspaper reports of the case this part of Mr. Hackett's address was taken out of its context, with the result that those reports were misleading in that they implied that Mr. Hackett would if he could have pronounced a sentence of corporal punishment. My noble Friend accepts those assurances.

Mr. Fletcher

While nobody would wish to condone the offences committed by this boy, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he approves the statement which the magistrate is reported to have made: You deserve a thrashing that will leave you unconscious for 48 hours.

The Attorney-General

I do not think there is any occasion for me to comment further upon that statement.

Mr. Lipton

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman address himself to the contents of the Lord Chancellor's letter to me, in which the Lord Chancellor gave as his excuse for taking no action, first, that Mr. Hackett had been misreported and, secondly, that he himself had no intention of suggesting that the boy should be beaten? As the two bases on which the Lord Chancellor decided to take no action have been proved to be false and misleading—[HON. MEMBERS: "They have not"]—as they have been proved to be false and misleading, will the Attorney-General say that in these circumstances, in view of the outrageous remarks, which he has not yet fully quoted and which I have in front of me, he will, first, tender an apology to the reporters who conveyed an accurate report of the proceedings, and second, in view of the outrageous statements that were made by Mr. Hackett, to which the Attorney-General has not referred, order his removal from the magistrates' bench forthwith, as he is a quite unfit person to sit in judgment on anybody?

The Attorney-General

The hon. Member cannot have listened to the last part of my Answer when I said that in the newspaper reports part of Mr. Hackett's address was taken out of context. If the hon. Member has seen the reports which were taken, which were not reports of the whole proceedings, he will at least recognise that the magistrate made it quite clear that the court had no powers of this kind itself whatever and made it quite clear, as I have said in my statement, that he was seeking to indicate that a thrashing was the kind of treatment that the boy would receive at the hands of his fellow citizens.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

We cannot debate this matter now.

Mr. Lipton

On a point of order. I would like to seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. If it is in order on the Motion for the Adjournment to move for the removal of a magistrate, I shall be happy to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment. If, however, you rule that it cannot be done on the Adjournment and that it must be done by way of Notice of Motion on the Order Paper, perhaps I should follow the procedure that has to be followed when seeking to remove a judge from his office. I would be glad of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, in due course, or, perhaps, at the end of Questions, to enable me to decide the correct procedure that I should follow in this matter.

Mr. Speaker

I will consider the matter and let the hon. Member know.

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