HC Deb 07 June 1962 vol 661 cc629-30
2. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to reduce delays in the hearing of cases before Metropolitan magistrates.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke)

My right hon. Friend is in consultation with my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, and with the Chief Magistrate, on measures to help the Metropolitan magistrates' courts to deal with the heavy and increasing volume of work falling upon them.

Mr. Lipton

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that I can let him have details of a case to be tried at Clerkenwell in September in relation to a motor offence committed last November? Is he also aware that the average waiting period is anything from six to seven months in the case of parking meters offences, and is not this a very deplorable state of affairs?

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

I await with interest these details, but I should doubt if that is the real average. We know about the problem, and we are taking measures, including the appointment of an additional stipendiary and an increase in the existing court buildings, as well as the building of a new court house at Lavender Hill, which should be open next spring.

Mr. Fletcher

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether this congestion means that an increasing number of people are unnecessarily kept in custody, without bail, awaiting trial?

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

I do not think so. I think that, from what the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) said, this is mostly a question of motoring and parking offences, in which, on the whole, the question of bail does not arise.

Mr. MacColl

Would the Minister say what is preventing the use of lay justices' courts to supplement the work of the stipendiary magistrates?

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

As a distinguished lay justice, the hon. Gentleman is, of course, interested in this. We have accepted in principle the Aarvold Report on integration, and we are urgently considering ways in which lay justices can be brought in to help us in the trouble.