HC Deb 08 November 1971 vol 825 cc638-40
31. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Attorney-General if he will arrange for the establishment of a judicial staff college to provide training for newly-appointed judges, magistrates, court officials and chairmen of tribunals.

The Attorney-General:

No, Sir.

Mr. Davis:

Is the Attorney-General aware that my congratulations have come to an end? Is he aware that there is considerable disquiet that people who preside over criminal courts, in particular, are not always well trained in criminology and penology, that there is a great demand to ensure that those persons study their subjects and consult welfare officers and social workers, and that there are many people—even judges who have come from divisions in which criminal law is not practised—who have no practical knowledge of these matters?

The Attorney-General:

The hon. Gentleman probably knows about arrangements already made by the Lord Chief Justice who holds sentencing conferences and exercises. He held one in September, 1971, and another exercise is to be held in January, 1972. Most members of the higher judiciary have also had experience in sentencing in their time as recorders. It is not right to say that members of the judiciary do not appreciate how important is this part of their task.

Mr. Lipton:

Would it not be a good idea, if we cannot have a judicial staff college, to provide refresher courses for some of our High Court judges, particularly one or two in the Divorce Division who pontificate and sermonise at inordinate length when all they have to do is decide whether they will grant a decree nisi?

The Attorney-General:

The Question is directed to the administration of the criminal law with which judges of the Divorce Division, save when sitting in the Queen's Bench Division, do not normally deal. Judges do have these courses and they are continually held by the Lord Chief Justice.

Mr. Driberg:

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us whether these courses include training both in impar- tiality and in ordinary common sense, which is needed by some judges, such as the trial judge in the Oz case?

The Attorney-General:

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's observations are similar to or likely to be held by many people in this country.