HC Deb 16 February 1970 vol 796 cc15-6
24. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Attorney-General what guidance is given by the Lord Chancellor to magistrates with regard to their actions outside their courts which impinge on the proceedings of other magistrates' courts.

The Attorney-General

Magistrates should not engage upon such actions. This is or should be well understood and my noble Friend, the Lord Chancellor, does not consider that any general guidance to magistrates on this subject is required.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Is the Attorney-General aware of a recent case in which 21 Welsh magistrates combined publicly to pay a fine imposed by another bench of Welsh magistrates? When magistrates act publicly to nullify penalties imposed by other magistrates, does it not undermine the authority of the courts?

The Attorney-General

The right hon. Gentleman said that they acted publicly, but the names of those concerned are not known to my noble Friend.

Mr. Anderson

Both today and in his reply last Friday, my right hon. and learned Friend has said that the names of the magistrates concerned in that recent case are not known. In fact, they are now known, as several of these people have confessed; they have come out from underneath their stone. What further action, in the light of this, does my right hon. and learned Friend intend to take?

The Attorney-General

If my lion. Friend has information to that effect, I shall be very glad to receive it. No one is obliged to accept a judicial appointment, but if he does he must accept it with all that the appointment entails. Those who accept office as magistrates must not become actively involved in controversial matters which may suggest a bias in favour of one section of the community or against another section. They must see that their conduct does not bring the administration of justice into disrepute. I think that I made this clear in answer to an earlier question last week.

Sir P. Rawlinson

If the Attorney-General receives the names of the magistrates, will he ensure that they are passed forthwith to his noble Friend the Lord Chancellor with an expression that action should be taken?

The Attorney-General

I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the names will be passed on, and that the matter will be considered by my noble Friend.