HC Deb 20 October 1972 vol 843 cc732-42

Lords Amendment: No. 35, in page 40, line 23, at end insert new Schedule "A"—

60 A member of a police authority within the meaning of the Police Act 1964; a member of any body (corporate or other) with responsibility for appointing members of a constabulary maintained under statute.
Inspectors of Constabulary appointed by Her Majesty; assistant inspectors of constabulary appointed by the Secretary of State.
65 Civilians employed for police purposes by a police authority; members of the metropolitan civil staffs within the meaning of section 15 of the Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1967 (persons employed under the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Inner London justices' clerks, etc.).
A person in charge of, or employed in, any forensic science laboratory.
70 A person who at any time within the last ten years has been a person falling within any description specified above in this Group.
The clergy, etc.
75 A man in holy orders; a regular minister of any religious denomination.
A vowed member of any religious order (whether of men or of women) living in a monastery, convent or other religious community.
80 The mentally ill
85 (Expressions used in this Group are to be construed in accordance with the Mental Health Act 1959)
A person who suffers, or has suffered from mental illness, subnormality, severe subnormality or psychopathic disorder and on account of that condition either—
(a) is resident in a hospital or other similar institution; or
(b) regularly attends for treatment by a medical practitioner.
90 A person who, under Part VIII of the Mental Health Act 1959, has been determined by a judge to be incapable, by reason of mental disorder, of managing and administering his property and affairs.
A person for the time being in guardianship under section 33 of the Mental Health Act 1959.
100 A person who has at any time been sentenced in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man—
(a) to imprisonment for life or for a term of five years or more; or
(b) to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure or during the pleasure of the Governor of Northern Ireland.
105 A person who at any time in the last ten years has, in the United Kingdom or the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man—
(a) served any part of a sentence of imprisonment or detention, being a sentence for a term of three months or more, or
(b) been detained in a borstal institution.
110 Parliament
Peers and peeresses entitled to receive writs of summons to attend the House of Lords.
Members of the House of Commons.
Officers of the House of Lords.
115 Officers of the House of Commons.
The Forces
120 Full-time serving members of—
any of Her Majesty's naval, military or air forces,
the Women's Royal Naval Service,
Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, or
any Voluntary Aid Detachment serving with the Royal Navy.
125 (A person excusable under this head shall be under no obligation to attend in pursuance of a summons for jury service if his commanding officer certifies to the officer issuing the summons that it would be prejudicial to the efficiency of the service if the person were required to be absent from duty.)
Medical and other similar professions
130 The following, if actually practising their profession and registered (including provisionally or temporarily registered), enrolled or certified under the enactments relating to that profession—
135 medical practitioners,
veterinary surgeons and veterinary practitioners,
pharmaceutical chemists."

Read a Second time.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, in line 102, leave out 'ten' and insert 'five'.

I understand that it is the wish of the House that the following Amendment to Lords Amendment No. 35 be taken also:

Leave out lines 104 to 107 and insert: been sentenced to imprisonment or detention for a term of three months or more or been ordered to be detained in a borstal institution and has served any part of such sentence or been so detained'. The first of these Amendments is concerned with persons who are to be disqualified for jury service. The second part of Part II of the new Schedule refers to persons who at any time in the last ten years has in the appropriate place served any part of a sentence of imprisonment or detention, being a sentence for a term of three months or more, or has been detained in a Borstal institution.

The disqualification arises if someone has been sentenced to a term of three months as a minimum and has served any part of those three months at any time within the last 10 years. Sentences of three months' imprisonment are exacted in a wide variety of cases some of which are relatively trivial and certainly not to be compared with the sort of case comprehended by the first part of Part II, where they are a permanent disqualification. Nevertheless, we agree that there should be a disqualification in respect of these lesser sentences. Our doubts arise on whether it is necessary that in those cases the disqualification should last for as long as 10 years.

Paragraph 143 of the Morris Committee's Report indicates that the Committee shared our doubt because it recommended a period of five rather than 10 years. Our Amendment would give effect to the Morris Committee's recommendation. Perhaps the Minister can explain why it was thought that Morris was wrong and that double the period should be imposed in terms of disqualification in cases which may well have been of a relatively—I emphasise the word "relatively"—trivial character.

Amendment No. 19 is a drafting Amendment, because there seems to us to be some doubt about he meaning of the present form of paragraphs (a) and (b), in Part II. The reference in the first part of Part II is clearly to a person who has at any time been sentenced … to imprisonment for life or for a term of five years …". But here we have a person who is disqualified if he has served any part of the sentence of imprisonment or detention.

What is the situation under this form of wording when a person serves part of the sentence of imprisonment, then takes the matter to appeal and the conviction is quashed or the sentence reduced to a period below the three months that is provided for? This matter is topical since I saw in my newspaper this morning that the Court of Appeal had reduced a sentence, the whole of which had been served, to a sentence of one day's imprisonment. If this applies to the service of the period of imprisonment, that person would presumably be disqualified. But if it applies only to the sentence he would not be disqualified because of the action of the court of appeal. Amendment No. 19, therefore, is a drafting provision intended to bring the form of wording in the second part into parallel with the wording of the first part and seeks to remove any uncertainty by making quite clear that what is intended is that this should apply when a person has been sentenced.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

May I ask who are the Active Elder Brethren of the Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond, mentioned in Group B, in Schedule A, as being persons ineligible to serve on a jury? Then, in Group C we see reference to a man in holy orders; a regular minister of any religious denomination". These, too, are also persons said to be ineligible for jury service. I see a good reason why they should be in the same category as Members of Parliament, that is to say persons who may be excused jury service, but I should like to ask why they have to come under the heading of persons who are ineligible for jury service. Is there any historical reason for this ineligibility?

3.30 p.m.

Mr. Carlisle

First, I will deal with the two Amendments discussed by the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin).

The hon. and learned Gentleman may be concerned that the period of disqualification has been raised from five to 10 years. However, his concern is of recent origin. I was asked why Morris had been overruled and five years replaced by 10 years. The hon. and learned Gentleman must look to his own Front Bench for the answer to that rather than to the Government. In the Criminal Justice Act, 1967, the then Government implemented that part of Morris which prevented people with previous criminal convictions serving on a jury. The Labour Government specifically decided to overrule the Morris recommendations and make the period 10 years rather than five years. We have repeated what is in the Criminal Justice Act, 1967.

The hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong regarding his second point. If a sentence is set aside or varied by the Court of Appeal the original sentence of imprisonment does not stand. The only sentence that stands is the final sentence of the court. Therefore, although a person may have been in prison for four months and had his sentence reduced to three months, that four months is not served as part of the sentence of imprisonment, because the sentence of imprisonment is that finally given by the court. Equally, if it is quashed, although he has been deprived of his liberty, it is not by a valid sentence of the court.

The effect of the Amendment, unintentionally I think, would mean that the situation is not as it is at the moment, namely, that a person should not within the last 10 years have served any part of that sentence but that in the last 10 years should have received that sentence. If both Amendments were accepted, a man sentenced to five years' imprisonment could, less remission, come out in less than five years and be immediately eligible for jury service the next day. It must be right that the period of disqualification should follow from the end of the sentence rather than the date on which the sentence was imposed.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

Before the Minister leaves that point. He has given an interpretation of paragraph (a)—far be it for me to suggest that is wrong—but what about paragraph (b)? There is no reference there to "sentence" at all. It simply says, been detained in a borstal institution. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman take the view that that is covered in a similar way?

Mr. Carlisle

That seems rather a good point. Presumably "detained" means detained in accordance with an order. At first sight, there appears to be a distinction between serving part of a sentence of imprisonment and serving part of an order of detention in a borstal institution. I cannot at the moment explain that difference.

I turn now to the points raised by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell). The Active Elder Brethren of the Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond serve as nautical assessors in the Admiralty Court and therefore are ineligible as being people involved with the judiciary.

The Morris Committee specifically recommended that the clergy should go in the class of "Persons Ineligible" rather than in the class of "Persons Excusable as of Right", such as Members of Parliament, on the basis that the clergy might have private knowledge of a criminal through what had been said to them in a confessional.

Amendment to the Lords Amendment negatived.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, in line 137, at end add— 'Women having charge of young children Any woman who has the regular charge of one or more children under the age of five years'. The purpose of the Amendment is to add to the list of those who are entitled to ask to be excused from jury duty, not by going through the summonsing officer but by being registered among those who may be exempt, the women who have charge of young children under the age of five years. The Morris Report made it clear that the present list of jurors includes only about 11 per cent. of women. Clearly, the Opposition welcome the changes which have been outlined by the Minister of State, which make it possible for far more women to serve on juries. I trust that we will not have an argument about maturity or immaturity of the sort which we had about the 18 to 21 years olds.

The Morris Report pointed out that only two or three women are normally found on a jury and that often a jury is composed entirely of men. It is also the case that a lot of trials nowadays, especially the more complicated trials, may last weeks and sometimes months. Therefore, the burden that falls on jurors is very heavy. We fully accept that that burden should fall on women as much as upon men, except where it is virtually impossible for a woman to fulfil her obligations if she serves as a juror. That puts her in the same position as a doctor, a Member of Parliament or a minister of religion.

We have drafted the Amendment narrowly to include women with children up to the age of five years because it is not unreasonable to suggest that women whose children are at school can normally make arrangements to cover their care during the time between the end of the court case each day and the children's return from school. However, we think that it is probably unreasonable to require a woman to serve on a jury when she has children of such a young age that they require her daily constant attendance. The Minister of State may point out that such a woman would be entitled to ask to be excused by the summonsing officer. However, I draw to the Minister's attention the view of the Morris Report, in paragraph 217, that the power is actually interpreted somewhat narrowly. That is given by the Committee as the reason for exempting people by entitlement.

When somebody is exempted by entitlement they are entitled, as we all know, not to take up that right. It is an absolute right to be excused but not one which anyone needs to exercise. A young woman with children under the age of five years, should she wish to serve on a jury and could easily make arrangements, would not need to seek to be excused. However, we are concerned that so much rests upon the discretion of the summonsing officer, especially when the Morris Report has found that the power of the summonsing officers is not used as imaginatively or as generously as it might be.

Finally, it is reasonable for society to accord a more equal status to women than that which they have had in the past, not least in the acceptance of their obligations as citizens and jurors to society. However, in many ways circumstances are unequal. Even though rights and obligations should, as far as possible be equal, it is important to have regard to inequality of circumstance. I do not need to remind the Minister of State of the tremendous amount of research which has been done to show how much harm can be done to young children if they are abandoned for long periods of time by the parent who mainly and normally looks after them.

I ask the House to consider the special problems which exist for women and to make a distinction or concession. As we do not intend to press the Amendment to a Division, I ask the Minister of State to consider seriously whether he cannot accept it because of the special problems that arise in these cases.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Normally a juror is allowed expenses or some recompense for loss of earnings while he is on jury service. Is a woman who has to employ somebody to look after her children or who has to put her child in a school during her jury service also allowed to claim compensation?

Mr. Carlisle

I am afraid that I cannot accede to the hon. Lady's request to accept the proposed Amendment to the Lords Amendment, but of course I am aware that women with young children may find themselves in a situation where it is difficult to act as a juror. But as she said there is already the right to the existing discretionary power in the Courts Act, enabling the appropriate officer to release anyone from jury service. Despite what the Morris Committee said, I would hope that the summonsing officers would use that power generously.

When the Morris Report said that the officers were restrictive in the way they used their power, it said so when the officers had a far narrower category of people qualifying the jury service. Now, all those between the age of 18 or 21 and 65 are eligible and I am sure that every summonsing officer will be able to exercise his discretion wisely and generously so that young mothers looking after children will be considered sympathetically for excusal from jury service, particularly on longer cases. In defence of my own profession, I would point out to the hon. Lady that it is the normal custom for judges specifically to ask individual members of a jury if they have any personal reason which makes it difficult for them to go on for a substantial period of time.

It would be difficult to transfer to those automatically entitled to exemption as of right this one group of mothers looking after children under five, although obviously such cases should qualify by merit for excusal if necessary. As the hon. Lady herself has said, many mothers arrange for someone to look after their children while they go out to work and I do not think that it would be very difficult to do the same in the case of jury service. The hon. Lady says that jury service is an obligation which women wish to undertake and I think that most mothers looking after children under five could make arrangements with friends or neighbours enabling them to serve on a jury. While I am not without sympathy with the hon. Lady's argument, I believe that it would be wrong to widen further the categories of those excused as of right, which the Morris Report thought should be kept limited the better to enable the summonsing officers to exercise their discretion reasonably and generously.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman reply to the central point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell), since sometimes arrangements can be made with neighbours if expenses are met but not otherwise. Would the hon. and learned Gentleman consider drawing the attention of the summonsing officers to this problem, since the Morris Committee did not have quite such a sanguine view of the imagination and generosity of these gentlemen as the hon. and learned Gentleman has?

Mr. Carlisle

I was not disputing the Morris Report. I was pointing out that the summonsing officers now have a wider range of choice than they had when the Morris Committee reported. I hope that they will be generous in the use of their power. Certainly we will consider giving them advice if that is helpful. I will write to the hon. Lady and to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) about the point he raised. I think I am right in saying that such a case would be covered by the rules of expenses, but I will look at it and write to the hon. Members.

Amendment to the Lords Amendment negatived.

Lords Amendment agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to [Special Entry.]

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