HC Deb 28 January 1960 vol 616 cc351-2
19. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the average length of time which elapses between the issuing and hearing of summonses by Metropolitan stipendiary magistrates.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I regret that it is not possible to give an average time in the form for which the hon. Member asks, as the interval between the issue and hearing of summonses varies in different Metropolitan magistrates' courts and in different classes of cases. I am glad to say that delays have been reduced as a result of measures taken in recent months; but all concerned are agreed that some of these intervals are still too long and my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, and I are keeping the situation under review.

Mr. Lipton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many weeks, and sometimes months, elapses between the taking out of a summons and disposal of the matter? Does not that indicate that we do not have sufficient Metropolitan magistrates, or that they do not sit sufficiently often, or both? Is it not very unfair to the police who have to deal with these matters that they should be kept dangling in this way before these matters are disposed of?

Mr. Butler

Certain steps have been taken. Additional magistrates have been appointed; premises at Marylebone have been acquired; lay justices have been sitting to form extra courts; Metropolitan magistrates have been sitting on extra days. Any other steps which can be taken in conjunction with the Lord Chancellor will be taken.

Mrs. Braddock

While I appreciate that the Question refers to the Metropolitan area, may I ask whether the Home Secretary is aware that this situation applies all over the country and requires very active investigation? Is he aware that in Liverpool only last Friday I dealt with a case in which the summons had been issued in July? Does not he agree that it is most unfair that motorists or anybody else should have this sort of summons hanging over them, particularly when the magistrates have to try a matter so long after the event and when the facts still have to be stated in the magistrates' court? Will the matter be considered nationally as well as locally?

Mr. Butler

This Question related to Metropolitan magistrates, but I am obliged to the hon. Lady for information on the area which she has in mind. Perhaps she will send me further information with a view to my looking at it. We must try to avoid the law's delays in our time as much as in Shakespeare's.