HC Deb 20 October 1972 vol 843 cc659-701 Lords Amendment: No. 14, in page 21, line 10, at end insert new Clause "B"— "B.—(1) Subject to the following provisions, every person shall be qualified to serve as a juror and be liable accordingly to attend for jury service when summoned under Part V of the Act of 1971, if—
  1. (a) he is for the time being registered as a parliamentary or local government elector and is not less than twenty-one nor more than sixty-five years of age; and
  2. (b) he has been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for any period of at least five years since attaining the age of sixteen,
but not if he is for the time being ineligible or disqualified for jury service; and the persons who are ineligible, and those who are disqualified, are those respectively listed in Parts I and II of Schedule (Ineligibility and disqualification for, and excusal from, jury service) to this Act.
(2) A person summoned for jury service shall be entitled, if he so wishes, to be excused from jury service if he is among the persons listed in Part III of Schedule (Ineligibility and disqualification for, and excusal from, jury service) to this Act, but (except as provided by that Part of the Schedule in the case of members of the Forces and others) a person shall not by this subsection be exempt from his obligation to attend if summoned, where the summons has not been withdrawn under section 31(6) of the Act of 1971 and he has not under section 34(2) of that Act been excused from attending. (3) A written summons sent to any person under Part V of the Act of 1971 shall be accompanied by a notice informing him—
  1. (a) of the effect of subsections (1), (2), (4) and (5) of this section; and
  2. (b) that he may make representations to the appropriate officer with a view to obtaining the withdrawal of the summons, if for any reason he is not qualified for jury service, or wishes or is entitled to be excused;
and where a person attends in pursuance of such a summons or of a summons under section 33 of the Act of 1971 (summoning without notice in exceptional circumstances), the appropriate officer may put or cause to be put to him such questions as the officer thinks fit in order to establish whether or not the person is qualified for jury service.
(4) Where it appears to the appropriate officer, in the case of a person attending in pursuance of a summons for jury service, that on account of physical disability or insufficient understanding of English there is doubt as to his capacity to act effectively as a juror, the person may be brought before the judge, who shall determine whether or not he should act as a juror and, if not, shall discharge the summons; and for this purpose "the judge" means any judge of the High Court or any Circuit judge or Recorder. (5) If any person—
  1. (a) having been summoned for jury service makes, or causes or permits to be made on his behalf, any false representation to the appropriate officer with the intention of evading jury service; or
  2. (b) makes or causes to be made on behalf of another person who has been so summoned any false representation to that officer with the intention of enabling the other to evade jury service; or
  3. (c) when any question is put to him in pursuance of subsection (3) above, refuses without reasonable excuse to answer, or gives an answer which he knows to be false in a material particular, or recklessly gives an answer which is false in a material particular; or
  4. 660 661
  5. (d) being ineligible for jury service under Group A, B or C in Part I of Schedule (Ineligibility and disqualification for, and excusal from, jury service) to this Act, or disqualified under Part II of that Schedule, serves on a jury,
he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than £400 in the case of an offence of serving on a jury when disqualified and, in any other case, a fine of not more than £100.
(6) The fact that a person summoned to serve on a jury is not qualified to serve shall be a ground of challenge for cause; but subject to this nothing in this section affects the law relating to challenge of jurors. (7) In this section "the Act of 1971" means the Courts Act 1971; and that Act and the foregoing provisions of this section shall ve construed and have effect as if this section were contained in Part V of that Act. (8) Any enactment included among those repealed by this Act which would otherwise have any effect in relation to coroners' juries, or a person's qualification or liability to serve on such a jury, shall cease to have that effect.".

Read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

I have selected Amendment No. 3 to the Lords Amendments. With it we may discuss Amendment No. 4, in line 10, leave out 'sixteen' and insert 'thirteen', and Amendment No. 10, in line 20, leave out 'twenty-one' and insert 'eighteen'.

Mr. Carlisle

On a point of order. Would it not be for the convenience of the House to discuss all the provisions about juries together? That would mean also taking Lords Amendments Nos. 15, 16, 35, 47 and 49, together with the Opposition Amendments to those Lords Amendments. That would widen the issue into one major debate.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

I should not be happy with that suggestion. The group that you have selected, Mr. Speaker, raises an issue distinct from the others and I think that it would be better to debate that alone.

Mr. Speaker

In that case, I call the hon. and learned Gentleman to move his Amendment.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, in line 6, leave out 'twenty-one' and insert 'eighteen'.

The purpose of the group of Amendments is to enable young men and women to accept the responsibility of jury service at the age of 18 instead of the present minimum age of 21. They follow the pattern of recent years in the course of which the 18-year-old has accepted the responsibility of the vote and of full civil liability. The question that the House must ask itself is simple and clear. If at the age of 18 a man or woman is sufficiently mature to be entrusted with the responsibility of choosing his Member of Parliament, of electing his local councillor, of entering on his own account into binding agreements, is he none the less insufficiently mature to be entrusted with the responsibility of sharing in the judgment of the jury box? If he is old enough to share in the choice of a Government, to judge between the merits of one political party and another, is he none the less too young to judge between the guilt and innocence of his fellow citizens?

No debate on this important issue would be complete without reference to two major reports that have been presented to Parliament in the course of the last eight years. They are the Morris Report on Jury Service, which was presented in April, 1965, and the Latey Report on the Age of Majority, presented in July, 1967. Those two reports show a considerable degree of common wisdom when dealing with the issue of minimum age. Both avoid the paternalism that is so great a temptation when discussing the responsibility of the teenager. Although our proposal departs from the letter of the Morris Report, I am convinced that it accords with the spirit of both reports.

There are those who deprecate the jury system altogether and who would reduce our reliance upon it in courts of law. To them the answer invariably is that there is no better tribunal than one composed of the defendant's peers. But in the past that has been of only limited truth. The effect of the new provisions will be to bring it much nearer to the truth.

The criticism made of the typical jury as being middle-aged, middle-class and middle-minded will no longer be valid. What we are now considering is how far we should go towards the goal of trial by the defendant's peers. Do we go far enough if we perpetuate the present minimum age of 21?

The distinguished Committee which sat under the chairmanship of Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest gave no consideration to any minimum age below 21. There was no reason for it to do so, because Latey was still over two years away. The Latey Committee had not even been appointed when Morris reported, and therefore no one could have expected the Morris Committee to recommend a minimum juror age below the age which was then the age of majority. Therefore, we find when we study the Morris Report that his Committee was more concerned with whether 21 was too low an age for the responsibility of jury service. But what the report said about the then age of majority being the right age for jury service applies with equal force to the new age of majority which followed the Latey Report and the judgment of both Houses of Parliament. The philosophy of Morris is contained in paragraph 71 of the Report, which says: A further argument which has been put forward is that an accused, particularly if middle-aged or elderly, might feel concern at being tried by a jury containing individuals much younger than himself. This argument is doubled-edged. An accused person can always remove individual jurors by use of the peremptory challenge … and a young accused person might reasonably welcome the presence on the jury of some people near his own age who would be more likely to understand his motivation and perhaps be better equipped to assess the truth of his defence. This consideration is the more forceful when it is remembered that the great bulk of offenders are relatively young, though of course only a small proportion of young persons come before the courts. In the next paragraph the report gives us statistics relating to the year 1963, statistics which experience shows are just as valid today, if not more valid. They show clearly that by far the largest group of offenders convicted in the higher criminal courts was the age group 17–21. The number in 1963 was nearly one third more than the next largest age group, 21–25. It was far larger than any comparable age group in the table of statistics.

The principle of trial by one's peers was admirably summarised in the Morris Report in paragraph 74, which says: If trial by jury is to be trial by a representative cross-section of an accused's fellow citizens, good reason must be shown before removing from jury service that section of the adult population nearest in age to the great majority of offenders. When Morris reported, that section of the population nearest in age to the great majority of offenders was not one that was considered to be adult, because the age of majority was then 21. The nearest section of the adult population which complied with Morris's criterion was then that section which began with the age of 21 years. But the nearest section which came within the Morris criterion regardless of the question of majority was quite clearly the section between 17 and 21.

11.45 a.m.

It was of the 21-year-olds that Morris was speaking when in the next paragraph, paragraph 75, he said: We take the view that there is a greater measure of maturity in people between the ages of 21 and 25 than some of our witnesses were prepared to concede, and that while such people may have less experience than their elders they may nevertheless possess experience which is relevant to the duties of a juror. The inclusion in a jury of one or two younger people could be valuable and should not, we think, be made impossible. Elsewhere the report makes it quite clear that the statistical probability of having more than one or two within those ages on a jury of 12 is very low.

Today the adult age group nearest to the great majority of offenders is the age 18–21. Everything that Morris said in 1965 about the 21-year-old applies with equal force to the 18-year-old today. It is clear that that was the view that the Latey Committee held.

Our proposal is not a plea for juries full of teenagers, any more than Morris was a plea for juries full of 21-year-olds. I have already quoted his view of the statistical probabilities. Ours is a plea that there should be at any rate the possibility of having one or two jurymen of an age equivalent to that of the age group 17–21, which is the largest group likely to be tried and convicted in the courts.

The Latey Committee was appointed about three months after the Morris Report was published. The Latey Committee's concern was with civil law rather than with civic matters. Nevertheless, it is interesting to observe that in paragraph 25 of its report the Latey Committee makes the following observation: We have to confess that it would not actually keep us awake at night if people under 21 were to serve on a jury—if, that is, one eighteen-year old were liable to take his seat with eleven older people, since it is statistically unlikely to be more. The report refers to an experiment in the United States in which young people were empanelled on unofficial juries, and says that the experiment was a considerable success.

In paragraph 125 the Latey Committee considers the advantages of taking the age of 18 as the overall age for reaching majority, although of course it was not dealing with civic matters. Since Latey they have been dealt with by this House, and Latey's views have been followed with regard to the age for voting. Putting forward the main arguments in favour of reducing the age to 18, Latey says:

  1. "(1) There is undeniably a great increase in maturity towards that age.
  2. (2) The vast majority of young people are in fact running their own lives, making their own decisions and behaving as responsible adults by the time they are 18.
  3. (3) Those of our witnesses who seemed most closely in touch with the young favoured 18 as the age of which it was not only safe to give responsibility, but undesirable, if not indeed dangerous, to withhold it."
That was a very striking way of putting the matter. The report goes on to say: (4) This was the age at which on the whole the young themselves seemed to reckon themselves of age. Some of their arguments may not be sound. … Nevertheless this was a point which weighed with us. We felt that an important factor in coming of age is the conviction that you are now on your own, ready to stand on your own feet and take your weight off the aching corns of your parents', fully responsible for the consequences of your own actions. If, as we are convinced, the young on the whole react badly to the feeling that they are being 'protected' past the age at which they think they can look after themselves, then lowering the age to a point which still seemed to them too high would not have the desired effect of putting them on their mettle as adults. The resentments and irritations of feeling that responsi- bility was denied to them would remain. We think that, given responsibility at 18, they would rise to the occasion; but … the results of waiting too long might be as disastrous as acting too soon. Those are formidable arguments advanced by the large majority of a Committee which spent some two years in considering what the age of majority should be. Its report has been adopted by the House and followed with regard to the responsibility of the vote. Since the report was written we can truly say that the young man or woman between 18 and 21 no longer has the paternalist protection which is accorded to the infant in law. The theme of Latey was that at 18 young people are ready for the responsibilities of the adult, and one of those responsibilities is the responsibility of jury service.

If we study Morris and Latey together, what do we find? We find that the 18-year old will bring into the jury box an understanding of the motivation of the young which Morris believed to be necessary to achieve a truly representative cross-section of the offender's fellow-citizens and which his report believed to be highly desirable. We further find that at the age of 18 our fellow-citizens are ready, so it is believed—so this House has accepted—for the full responsibilities of citizenship.

This House now has the opportunity to show that it has fully cast off the paternalism which so often goads the young into rebellion. It is, as has been pointed out in the reports, in any event only a small minority of the young who act in a way which hits the headlines and is shown on the media and causes the middle-aged, of whom I must count myself one, to declaim against the villanies of young people. The vast majority are responsible and mature, and by the age of 18 they are earning their livelihood and they are often married.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, ltchen)


Mr. Silkin

They are often earning their livelihood and they are often married. There is no possibility of doubt on that and that is the view which Latey expressed on the evidence which was before his Committee. This is the opportunity which this House has to complete the process begun by Latey and continued by this House in a previous Parliament. It will be a sad day if the opportunity is missed and it will be an even sadder day if this House is whipped into missing it.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

I had the honour of being a member of the Morris Committee and I want to take this opportunity of supporting as strongly as I can the arguments put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin). When the Morris Committee deliberated, the age of majority was 21 and we did not think for a moment of going below that. We put forward all the arguments in favour of getting a really representative number of people on a jury and came to the conclusion that persons between the ages of 21 and 25 ought to be on a jury to represent that section of the community. Now the legislature has decided that 18 is the proper age for election purposes, for contract purposes and for many other things. It would be an extraordinary anomaly to allow the legislature, having done what it can to fix the age of 18 in these cases, to prevent a person between the ages of 18 and 21 from serving on a jury.

My hon. and learned Friend has read extracts from the Morris and Latey Committee reports. Clearly the philosophy behind the reports is that the younger element should be represented on a jury. Had we for a moment thought that the age of majority would be reduced, as it has been, to 18, I am certain that the Morris Committee would have recommended a lower minimum age of 18. My hon. and learned Friend has made a powerful case and the opportunity ought not to be lost today to rectify this matter and to ensure that persons of 18 are allowed to sit on a jury.

12 noon

Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)

I would like to support this Amendment with all the vigour I can command. I am particularly desirous that it should be carried because I represent the University of Loughborough and I am on the council of another university and have some dealings with young people. I once taught medical students. My impression has been, talking to the students with whom I am at present associated, that there is considerable resentment that they are kept off juries. They feel that it is some indication that they are considered to be irresponsible. This resentment is a divisive force which cannot do the country any good.

I will not pursue the question of the Latey and Morris Reports dealt with by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) but the House ought to be greatly persuaded by the fact that we have heard from a member of the Morris Committee who has been able to give an authoritative view as to what it would have done if the age of majority had been 18.

There are certain economic arguments in favour of the Amendment. Jury service is, by and large, something of a nuisance to the majority of people. It does, to a small and limited extent, interfere with the economic life of the nation by preventing people from doing their business or pursuing their professions. This Amendment, by making another 3 million people liable for jury service, would spread the burden considerably more equitably. I put that forward as an economic argument not so far mentioned.

The important argument is that a man is entitled to be tried by his peers. I understand that in 1970, 30 per cent. of all persons convicted at assizes and quarter sessions were under the age of 21. Young offenders should have the opportunity to have someone on the jury who can understand their point of view, their motivation and their defence. There must inevitably be some injustice in trying young people with juries consisting wholly of people who are very different from them in their social strata and in their attitudes towards life.

Another important aspect is that jury service would be a valuable education for young people. It would get them into the habit of weighing evidence and avoiding emotional assessments, making assessments instead on the basis of known facts. I cannot help thinking that this would be useful educationally. It is a scientific fact that intelligence is at its maximum extent between the ages of 18 and 21. It may be disagreeable news to some hon. Members that one's intelligence steadily deteriorates thereafter.

Mr. Joseph Harper (Pontefract)

I do not think that anyone is objecting to that, but intelligence is not in question. It is experience that is important.

Mr. Cronin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point because there is a natural and real danger that lack of experience might make a young person unfit for jury service. My hon. Friend might feel that young people are rather impulsive and not accustomed to making judgments based on assessed facts. We have to accept that we put young people in a position in which they must use their judgment. We have talked about giving them the vote, but in many other spheres young people carry responsibilities, for instance in the armed forces. Young people between the ages of 18 and 21 carry out enormously responsible tasks, for instance operating the mechanism of submarines and maintaining aircraft. If we go to Northern Ireland we see young people with human beings in the sights of their rifles and it is their decision whether they pull the trigger, although they are given instructions.

Mr. Neville Sandelson (Hayes and Harlington)

Would my hon. Friend enlighten us as to his views about the eligibility of young people at the age of 18 to become members of this House?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must resist that temptation.

Mr. Cronin

I was about to say that, while I was grateful for the suggestion, I did not think it would be an appropriate occasion to take advantage of it. It is a very much wider subject. The most important point is that there is a wide psychological division between young people and their elders. The Government have rightly been criticised for having had a divisive effect on the country. I very much feel at present that the country is sharply divided between the rich and those not to well off, between trade unions and employers.

Another equally important divisive element between young people and their elders is that there is a general feeling among young people that their elders are rather cynical, devoid of ideals and rather less competent. On the other side there is some distrust of the attitudes and motives of young people. It is important that we overcome, as far as possible, this division between young people and people of mature years. The Government have an excellent chance in the Bill to reduce this divisiveness, which has been such a source of criticism in the past.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

I am sorry to strike a slightly discordant note but I am not entirely convinced by the arguments put forward in favour of the Amendment. The main argument appears to be that because we have given the vote to people at the age of 18 then automatically 18 is the right age for everything else. This is rather a dubious proposition. One of the qualities required for jury service is experience, particularly of the world. I would be much happier with an 18-year-old on the jury who had left school at the age of 16 and done a couple of years' apprenticeship, than with an 18-year-old who had remained at school and was going on to university. The latter may have more intelligence but he has not got the experience.

The second argument appears to hinge upon the point about trial by one's peers. If that argument is extended to its logical conclusion there would be a case for appointing 15-year-old magistrates to the juvenile bench because most people coming before them are between the ages of 15 and 17. I do not accept this argument. There will still be a few people of 21 who have not had the experience I am talking about, but far fewer than at the age of 18. If I were before a jury charged with an offence, I would be far happier in the knowledge that the jurors were men and women with experience of the world and not people who had gone straight from school to university with absolutely no experience outside the academic world.

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

Is the situation not met by the point that a defendant always has a right of challenge in respect of jurors? If in certain circumstances a person feels it wrong that a young juror between 18 and 21 should play a part in his trial, he can challenge that juror. Is not that a safeguard?

Mr. Mitchell

It is a partial safeguard. I am not talking about individual cases but about the principle involved. I happen to feel that we have gone a little youth mad today. We are assuming that 18-year olds are in all respects as mature as older people. Many of them may be mature, but many others are not. Therefore I have grave doubts about this proposal. I hope it will not be argued that because we reduce the voting age to 18, we must reduce the age for everything else to 18.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

This is the second time my hon. Friend has made that point. He has not followed the point I was seeking to make. I was not trying to say that because 18 has been fixed as the age for voting it should be the age for everything else. I was seeking to say that 18 is accepted as the right age of maturity and it is for that reason the vote has been given at 18.

Mr. Mitchell

I am saying that an important quality for a juror is experience of life and not merely experience within the narrow confines of an academic life. Many people at 18 do not have wide experience of the world.

Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

This is not a matter on which conclusive arguments can be adduced. At one time I was of the view that we should have more information on this topic, but when we consider what kind of questions we should ask researchers we see how difficult it is to formulate them. Supposing we ask for more information about the attitude of a particular age group, what kind of attitudes would impel us to exclude or include them? In the end perhaps we can only back our own hunches.

There are three questions to which we should address ourselves. First, how far should we carry the principle that the jury is essentially representative of the public, a public which has deficiencies as well as virtues and which contains inexperience as well as expertise? Surely, only categories which there are specific reasons for excluding should be excluded from the whole cross-section of the public which is included in a jury.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) expressed fears about the effect of including inexperienced people on a jury, as if he envisaged a jury consisting entirely of people from 18 to 21. Statistically we are likely to have one person in that age group on a jury. Therefore, it would follow that the burden of giving reasons as to why this age group should be excluded is upon those who would seek to exclude it.

Secondly, if we did exclude them, would the under-21s feel dreprived and resentful? My hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) said that in his experience they probably would feel deprived. I would not pretend that there is any great crusade in the country for jury service at 18, but nor is there a great crusade for any age group to take on jury service. Unhappily, jury service is regarded as a burden, just as at one time service in this House was regarded as a burden, to be escaped if possible.

12.15 p.m.

But I have noticed that jurors, having served some time in that capacity, become interested in the legal system and become full of enthusiasm to know how it all works. If we want to encourage public participation in our system, then it may be a good thing if we can induce the public willingly to take part. The earlier the age at which a person participates on the side of justice, and not against it, the better.

Thirdly, it is true that, apart from considerations affecting the jurors, there is an individual on trial who is entitled to justice. If any one group of arguments is overriding, it must be that group. We should look to see whether there is any reason to think that 18 to 21-year olds would be less suitable than any other age group to contribute to the process of reaching a just verdict.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Joseph Harper) agreed, the intelligence of these young people is not in question. Such evidence as is available about this age group leads me to believe that it is probably more alert than those of us who are passing much more rapidly to advancing years. Are young people any less concerned about justice? My observation of them is to the contrary. Sometimes their concern for justice is less mellowed than that which comes to some of us in later years. But that this age group passionately wants to achieve justice would seem to me to emerge from any evidence we now have.

Then are they disqualified by lack of experience—though I am not even sure that that is the case today. Many people in this age group have had wider experience of some aspects of life than many of their elders of 60 years of age. This is true for obvious reasons—among them easier travel communications, and there is more money available for young people to spend on seeing the world. Therefore, I am not sure that that argument is made out on the facts. But in any event, if we were not to include one member of this age group in a jury of 12, this would deprive them of a method of gaining experience.

Mr. Weitzman

We often talk in the law about "the man on the Clapham bus". Is not a person between the ages of 18 and 21 very likely to be the man on a Clapham bus?

Mr. Archer

For the benefit of lay members, may I tell them that the man on the Clapham bus is a character invented by the lawyer in deciding what is a reasonable man. I agree entirely with my hon. and learned Friend that he may be young.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that I live at Clapham and travel by bus?

Mr. Archer

We all know that my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen is a reasonable man. He is entitled to his view, but even a reasonable man may on occasion be misguided.

The only remaining question appears to be whether this age group is liable to some particular prejudice which does not afflict the rest of the community. If prejudice were a disqualification, which of us would be entitled to be included in a jury? Perhaps it is desirable that a wider cross-section of prejudices should be included, since we cannot exclude all of them.

I recently discussed this proposal with a fellow member of the Bar. He was against it since he thought it would lead to a higher number of acquittals. But on inquiry, he thought that the proposal to remove the property qualification would itself lead to more acquittals. I see no reason to think that that will occur. The reason why, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich reminded us, we are traditionally entitled to trial by our peers, it is that they are likely to have an insight into people's motivation. It does not follow that that would lead to an increased number of acquittals. My hunch is that we should try this experiment. I believe that it will work, but any of us may turn out to be wrong.

Mr. Norman Fowler (Nottingham, South)

It seems a little churlish to quibble about this Lords Amendment because the Government have gone a long way upon the path along which they were pressed in Committee. I very much welcome it. I think that tribute should be paid to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) who originated the discussion and proposal on the Clause.

One reason why there has not been much pressure upon the 18 to 21-year-olds is that the campaign in Committee and eventually in the House of Lords was to get more women as jurors than young people. That was the campaign being run at that stage. Therefore, it is a title unrealistic to expect that there would be a mammoth campaign mounted for the 18 to 21-year-olds.

I still cannot understand why 21 should be the age for jury service and 18 the age for voting. It makes a great deal of sense to have a standard age for the rights of majority, unless some conclusive reason can be shown to the contrary. The only reason that can be advanced seems to be that put forward by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell): that young people between the ages of 18 and 21 lack the experience and understanding necessary for a juror. I think that is an extraordinarily dubious argument. People in this age group can take responsibility.

I should like to go back to the point that was made about the troops in Ulster. I have just come back from Ulster. For a practical illustration of young people in the very age group about which we are taking responsibility in an extremely difficult situation, one has only to look to Ulster. It is not a question of when they press the trigger. It is a far more complex job of community relations and policing.

My point is that when people in this age group are given responsibility they respond to it. Therefore, if we are searching for a practical example of responsibility having been given, and given with extraordinary success, we need only to look at Ulster to see the fantastic maturity that the troops are displaying.

If I were to worry about this general question of lack of understanding of what goes on in the courts, I should be more concerned with another point made by the Morris Committee, namely, the basic lack of understanding of language. This is not a point that is made in the Bill or, indeed, in the Amendment. It is a difficult subject, but I should be far more concerned about a juror who was unable to understand the language and to have a perfect grasp of the arguments being advanced rather than the question of age.

If we are to aim at a basic representative cross-section of the public serving on juries—surely that must be our aim—young people must be part of it. In the Clause we recognise at long last not only the contribution that many more women can make to juries, but the part that young people between the ages of 18 and 21 can play. Reluctance to go the whole way on this matter seems to represent an all too general attitude in this country. We eventually make concessions to young people, but with apparent and obvious reluctance. We complain about the sins of the young, but we are reluctant to involve them fully in our society. Basically this is a bad policy on our part.

I believe that young people between the ages of 18 and 21 have a contribution to make. I cannot see that they lack the experience and understanding, which would be the only argument against them. I cannot see how they will swamp juries in any sense. We will be lucky to have one or two on a jury. It must be a basic presumption that people in this age group should have the right to serve on juries. I hope the Government will accept the proposal.

Mr. Clinton Davis

I support the views expressed by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler).

My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) seemed to evince grave suspicions and doubts about the ability of young people between 18 and 21 years of age to undertake jury service. In fact, I thought my hon. Friend went wider than that. In basing this argument upon experience he is being extraordinarily selective. After all, those of us who have been involved in assisting operation of criminal procedures have come across jurors who are totally unsuitable. For example, does an academic of perhaps 45 or 50 years of age, who has spent his life cloistered within the walls of a university acquire that necessary experience? Of course not. Obviously, some young people between 18 and 21 years of age do not have that experience, just as other sections of the community do not.

This point was made during the debate in another place by the noble Baroness Elles, who said: Many people of 18 to 21 remain blissfully innocent of many of the crimes committed by fellow citizens. I think that is a somewhat doubtful proposition. I have a teenage daughter. My experience is that she is not all that blissfully innocent of the crimes committed by her fellow citizens. Young people are alive to what is happening today. They know what is going on in the world. If we want to apply an alert and intelligent attitude towards these matters, we can do no better than to include young people within our jury system.

The noble Lady went on: We therefore did not feel it was right, especially in the more rural areas of the country, that people from 18 to 21 should be asked to sit on juries and listen to the kind of criminal case that sometimes come to the courts."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 27th July, 1972; Vol. 333. c. 1588.] I find it a remarkable proposition that young people should be protected from hearing about countryside crimes or be denied the experience. Therefore, the burden which falls on those who are trying to resist the proposition has not been discharged either in this House or in another place.

In my capacity as a solicitor I have had occasion to defend many people who had the misfortune to come before Crown Courts. My experience—I am sure it is also the experience of barrister Members—is that often when young people are involved they have the utmost suspicion about being tried, allegedly by their peers, when they find that their peers are exclusively middle-aged. If this can be remedied so that we do not have the accused saying to his defending lawyers, "Can I get a fair trial before these people; why are not any young people able to be here so that they can understand what I am trying to say?", it can only be an advantage.

It has been rightly said that young people are sometimes in revolt against the established norms of society. Perhaps in the past they felt excluded. Some of the reasons for these doubts have been removed, but there still remains this one if the Government are to have their way today. There is no justification to exclude them from carrying out this essential rôle or burden, this essential responsibility in a democratic judicial process. I hope, whether jury service may be agreeable, disagreeable or burdensome, that they will be able to carry out that responsibility, bearing in mind at all times that there is the essential safeguard peremptory challenge.

12.30 p.m.

Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)

I am surprised by the argument that we should not allow people between the age of 18 to 21 years to serve on juries because they lack experience. I have always been under the impression that juries are directed to remove all prejudices from their mind and to judge the case on the basis of the facts which are put before them. People between the ages of 18 and 21 years are able to assess the case as put, judge the facts and make a decision as well as anybody else whatever their age may be.

When we are talking about experience we are also talking about prejudices. Throughout life, various people build up prejudices which may have an effect on the judgment which they make on a particular case. Under those circumstances, people with fewer prejudices would be able to make a better judgment. In that respect, it is possible that the judgment of a person aged between 18 and 21 years would be better than the judgment made by a person over the age of 21 years, and particularly so as the age progresses.

When we talk about people who are able to serve on juries at present, are we suggesting that it is good that Alf Garnett should be able to be a member of a jury, with all his prejudices, but that the President of the Oxford Union perhaps should not be allowed to serve on a jury? Surely we are not suggesting that. However, on the basis of the argument against the proposal, that seems to be what the opponents are suggesting.

We have decided that people between the age of 18 and 21 years should be able to elect Members to this House and to vote for or against a Government. That exercise of judgment is more important than judgment which is exercised as a juror. Members who serve in this House are capable of making decisions on issues of peace and war, which are very important matters. The people who are elected to local government are elected to represent people and to take decisions on a wide range of issues. In so doing they will be spending millions of pounds of ratepayers' money. The exercise of judging who are best suited to do that job is much greater than the exercise of judgment which would have to be made by a person serving on a jury, who is basing his judgment on the facts which are put to him at that time.

Mr. Carlisle indicated dissent.

Mr. Stoddart

It is no good the Minister of State shaking his head. The Minister should consider seriously these argument. The arguments are relevant and he will be doing a great damage it he does not accept the Amendment. We have a duty to see that young people are made aware of their responsibilities to society, and we should impose upon them the duties that they should accept throughout their lives.

Mr. Carlisle

I assure the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. David Stoddart) that I have listened with interest to what has been said throughout the debate. Much of the debate has been very persuasive. When I shook my head at one stage, I did so on the basis that I was not impressed by the argument which the hon. Member was advancing at that time. One can put up a persuasive case based on the fact that the age of majority is now 18 years, and that when we are making the changes in the jury system which the Bill proposes, we can go the whole way and lower the age for jury service to 1[...] years. However, I am sure that those who have advanced that argument will fully appreciate and accept that it is not a question which the Government have not considered. Obviously the Government have considered the matter. Obviously there are arguments which could be advanced in favour of doing so. Equally, I suggest that there are stronger arguments for retaining the age of 21 years as the lower age for jury service.

If I wanted to sum up the arguments which have been adduced, I should do so in two ways. First, I agree with the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) that because the age of 18 years is the right age for one matter it is not necessarily the right age for everything. Secondly, I agree with the intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) by his hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Harper)—we are not dealing with intelligence but with experience.

I take up the point which was made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen, that because 18 years is the right age for one set of circumstances it is not necessarily the right age for all circumstances. Listening to the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin), I formed the impression that that was what he was saying, but I remind the House that within the law and the criminal courts we do not accept that argument in many other ways. Although we have lowered the age of majority, following the Latey Report, to 18 years, I have not heard it seriously argued from the Opposition that 18 years would be the right age at which to divide people from the point of view of punishment. It has been accepted that we are right to continue the present system regarding sentencing where the dividing age is 21 years.

Mr. Clinton Davis

The 18-to-21 year group is dealt with in the same adult court which deals with other people above the age of 21 years.

Mr. Carlisle

Of course they are, but equally the penalty imposed on their conviction is not the same. Not only are there the alternatives of the detention centre order and the Borstal order against imprisonment, but even those who go to prison within that age group are kept in different prisons. We are encouraged to do so by Members on both sides of the House. It is right that those under 21 years should be treated differently from those over 21 years. I confirm the point made by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen, and I point out that in practice, when we look at the criminal law, we do not deal with people, because we have lowered the age of majority to 18, in the same way. We do not say that it must be 18 for everything.

I am sure that I would be the first to be attacked by the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich if I suggested that in future everyone over 18 should be regarded as having matured in every way and that they should be sent immediately to an adult prison on conviction and not dealt with in any different way. However, what is the argument for dealing with such a person in a different way? It is because it is expected that he cannot have the same degree of maturity and experience as a person over twenty-one.

Equally, in some of the arguments—particularly that advanced by the hon. Members for Loughborough and Dulwich—if one pursues the case of trial by one's peers, one gets to the extreme which the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen reached. But even going nowhere near that extreme, the fact remains that many people tried before the courts are 17 years old, and if it is argued that we should drop the age of jury service to 18 in order that those between 18 and 21 could help sit in judgment on their own age group, the argument could equally be applied to lowering the age to 17 or 16, which is the age at which people can marry and which was advanced as a justification for saying that they are mature and capable of taking decisions at that age.

As the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen says, one has to look at each particular aspect, whether it be that of marriage or of majority for the purpose of entering into contract, or whether it be suitability to vote or to stand for Parliament, which is a matter which the House has decided to refer for further consideration to Mr. Speaker's Conference. Surely it is no argument that because one fixes the age of 18 for one thing it must necessarily follow that the age of 18 is right for everything. One has to look at all these matters individually.

Mr. Fowler

Would it not also be fair to point out that a sub-committee of the Penal Advisory Committee is examining the whole question of young offenders, so that it is unrealistic to say at this stage that the age for sitting in judgment on young offenders should be lowered? However, if the Committee comes forward with such a proposal, the Government will presumably not stand in the way.

Mr. Carlisle

The Committee is considering the whole range of penalties available for those under 21. It was not set up to consider the contents of the Latey Report.

I want to turn now to the Morris Committee Report. The hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) was a highly respected member of that Committee. It does not follow from the Morris Committee's Report that had the Latey Committee reported earlier it would have recommended an age of 18 rather than 21. It is true that the Committee did not or does not appear to have considered lowering the age of 21, presumably because that was the age of majority but it is abundantly clear that it gave serious consideration to the arguments whether the age should be higher than 21. In the end it came down with the view that it should remain at 21, but only after carefully considering the many arguments why the age should be higher.

I want to read two comments from the Morris Committee Report. I accept that the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich will say that they are selective, but they are no more selective than the passages he read out. The report said: The arguments for an age limit higher than 21 would have compelling force if there were any likelihood of particular juries being entirely, or largely, composed of persons not much over 21. One of the effects of reducing the age from 21 to 18 would be, statistically, substantially to increase the number of people of either just over or not much under 21 serving on a jury as against the present situation. The report also said: There is nothing unusual or irrational in an inquiry to ascertain facts being undertaken by persons who are older than those whose actions are being considered. 12.45 p.m.

I assure the House that it is not a question of not accepting that the youth of today are as responsible as youth has ever been. It is in no way denigrating people between 18 and 21. It is a question of asking, as the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen, said, "Have they really the necessary experience to sit in judgment on others?". That is the point of distinction from what was said by the hon. Member for Swindon. It is one matter to cast one's vote, having made up one's mind as to whom one would like to see representing one; it is quite another to sit on a jury where one is deciding on the actions of another which can affect not one's own future but that person's future—whether he is to be at liberty or otherwise.

I know that it was not really meant in this way, but I was slightly appalled by the argument of the hon. Member for Loughborough that it would be a valuable education for young people between 18 and 21 to sit on juries. If I were being tried, I would not like to think that those trying me were treating it as a valuable educational exercise. I appreciate the point the hon. Gentleman was trying to make—that it would be valuable education in learning to assess facts—but I think he concedes the point that although the intelligence at 18, or 21, or any other age may be as high as in older age groups, the younger people will not have had the opportunity to gain a degree of experience by which they can assess facts and behaviour in the outside world in circumstances in which it is not their future which is at stake but the future of someone else.

Mr. Cronin

I take the point that people between the age of 18 and 21 lack experience, but what the hon. and learned Gentleman is overlooking is that statistically it is very unlikely that any jury would contain more than about one person of that age. Thus, that person would be able to draw on the experience of his fellow jurors and at the same time contribute his knowledge and understanding of about one-third of the people tried before juries.

Mr. Carlisle

I accept that, statistically, lowering the age to 18 would provide about a similar proportion of people on the jury as the age group 21 to 25—namely, one or two per jury. But I think that in 15 cases a year the majority of the jurors would be likely to be under 25 if the age were lowered to 18.

Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)

The hon. and learned Gentleman will recall that the Home Secretary at the Conservative Party conference made the strong point that the obligations of citizenship should go alongside rights. One of the points which my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) indicated strongly was that the obligation to jury service as one of the aspects of citizenship appeared to him and to many of us to go alongside the right to vote at 18. Would the hon. and learned Gentleman consider this aspect of the problem?

Mr. Carlisle

I accept that obligations go along with rights, but the fact that we as a House have agreed to lower the voting age to 18 does not mean that a person of 18 is also necessarily capable of undertaking the obligation to sit on a jury. The distinction I have pointed out is that the person sitting on the jury is being asked to use his experience, and so on, to assess and adjudicate on matters which affect the liberty of another person, which I think should require a reasonable entitlement for the individual concerned to be satisfied that those trying him are likely to have experience and knowledge of the world. As the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen pointed out, many people of 18 are probably still at school or are just leaving school or are in the process of entering university or college.

Several hon. Members have spoken of the maturity of our troops in Northern Ireland. I do not doubt that in any way, but is it not a maturity that the troops have gained by their dreadful experiences and the responsibilities they are undertaking? Is it maturity that they had at 18 on going to Northern Ireland? Or is it maturity that they have gained rapidly as a result of their experience in Northern Ireland? In any case, of course, if they were serving in Northern Ireland they would be entitled to exclusion anyway under the general principles of jury service. To say merely that a person of 18 fighting in Ireland is mature I do not think is the equivalent of saying that everyone of 18 is mature and therefore fully suitable to serve on a jury.

Mr. Laurance Reed (Bolton, East)

Surely a person of 18 casting a vote in an election is deciding on issues which may affect the future of other members of society, as he would be deciding, if he were a juror, the future of a prisoner in the dock?

Mr. Carlisle

He is, in a way, I concede, in that he is casting a vote in deciding what type of representation or government he wants, but he is doing it along with many millions of others, and I would suggest that that is not as direct an involvement as being in a group of 12 deciding on the future liberty or loss of liberty of another.

Let me draw my remarks to a conclusion by saying this: Morris looked at this, considered 25, and recommended 21. The rest of the provisions which we shall shortly be debating for implementing the Morris Committee's Report will itself have the effect of substantially lowering the age of jurors. It is the property qualification which causes the middle-class or middle-age aspects which the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich mentioned. If we pass certain Lords Amendments shortly, we shall be doing away with that qualification. By that alone we shall be substantially changing the image of the jury and lowering the age of jurors. The hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) says that we can only have a hunch on these things. I should have thought it unwise and dangerous, in the field of jury reform, to act merely on a hunch. I would suggest to the House that making this major alteration, as we are, lowering the age of potential jurors, as we shall in effect be doing by removing the property qualification, would be as much as it would be wise for us to do at this stage. It will always be open to review the age and whether it should be lowered. On the evidence put before Morris I do not believe, nor do I on the basis of what I have heard in this debate, that we would be right to lower it at this moment.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

By leave of the House. I would add a few words. I certainly shall not keep the House for long because we have had an extremely good debate.

The views which have been expressed generally and clearly show that the predominant number of those who are taking part in it favour the idea of having a minimum age of 18 for jurors. I was particularly impressed by what the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler) said about that when he put the point that in the circumstances it is not for those who are below the age of 18 to justify it but rather for those who say that 18 is too young an age to justify that.

That seems to me to be precisely what the Morris Report was saying, although dealing, for reasons which have been canvassed, with a higher age, when it said, If trial by jury is to be trial by a representative cross-section of an accused's fellow citizens, good reason must be shown before removing from jury ervice that section of the adult population nearest in age to the great majority of offenders. What we have to consider now before we vote on this matter is whether good reason has been shown for removing from the jury that particular section which is the 18 to 21 year old section.

The only serious argument which has been put forward for removing them is the argument that they do not or may not possess the experience of their elders. Of course, in passing this Lords Amendment as a whole we are opening the way into the jury box of very many people who will not have the experience of the majority of those who at present act as juriors. We are widening the field very considerably, and doing so deliberately for the reasons which Morris has suggested.

We think that it is more important to have a representative cross-section of the accused's fellow citizens than to have the qualities of experience, knowledge and so on. If we were limiting ourselves to that criterion we would probably be going back to the idea of the special jury or some kind of test of education, which Morris specifically rejected. Experience is only one of the factors one needs to take into account, and the factor of having a true cross-section, of having true trial by the peers of the defendant, is most important, for so many reasons which have been advanced in the debate.

In considering experience we are entitled again to refer to Morris, where he deals with the whole question of experience: While such people"— he is there talking of those between 20 and 25— may be less experienced than their elders they may nevertheless possess experience which is relevant to the duties of the juror. I gather that that is the view of the House, because the House has not challenged the view that one should come down to 21. What Morris said about that, rightly, in my view, can properly be said about those between 18 and 21.

If we do not think so ourselves—and I certainly do—then the two-year study of the Latey Committee, which produced the proposals for a general reduction in the age of responsibility to 18, surely ought to have convinced us. Indeed, in a large field it has already convinced us. It is responsibility with which Latey is concerned, and it is responsibility which Latey feels, and which those who supported his report felt, is available at the age of 18. They felt it to be a view which should be recognised by society—in the way that Parliament itself recognised it by giving the vote at 18.

It is that responsibility which is in issue here. We are dealing with the age at which a person should be liable for jury service, and it is that responsibility which is just as applicable, in our view, to jury service as it is to casting one's vote whether nationally or locally, and in many other respects, for it is not just a matter of the vote but of other things which, as a result of the Latey Report, are now within the responsibility of those of our fellow citizens who have reached the new age of majority.

I am sorry, therefore, that the Government feel they must stand firm on this. I had hoped that the Minister of State could be persuaded. If that is not the case I shall certainly invite the House to support this Amendment in the Division Lobby.

1.0 p.m.

Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)

The Amendment to the Lords Amendment expresses exactly what many of us have been arguing over the years as nothing more than common sense. I, like the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin), am sorry that the Government see fit to take a stand on an age which first became the lower age for jury service as long ago as 1825.

Since then, much has happened. Today we recognise 18 as the age of majority. We recognise it as the age when people become responsible to fulfil their duty as citizens in perhaps one of the most important matters, namely, voting in a parliamentary election. There has been serious discussion by the Government about whether we should make 18 the age at which a person qualifies to stand as a parliamentary candidate.

Mr. Carlisle

My hon. and learned Friend knows far more about this than I do. Surely the basis on which the age was fixed at 21 in 1825 was that it was a property qualification and that the person concerned was a householder. Presumably, therefore, the ability to have that qualification arises only at 18. If the qualification were to be a property one, it would apply to anybody above that age.

Mr. Gardner

On that logic it follows that if the property qualification had been 18 in 1825, then 18 would have been the lower limit. Today the age of majority is 18. It is logical and realistic that the lower age should now be 18. The majority

Amendment to the Lords Amendment accordingly agreed to.

of people who come before the courts for trial are, alas, below the age of 21. No one is better qualified to understand young people than young people. No one suggests that we should have Mick Jagger or somebody like him as foreman of a jury of teenagers. That would be unrealistic and artificial. But there would be a useful smattering of youth on a jury, contemporary in many cases to those being tried.

I see no force in the argument that we should retain the age of 21 as the lower age limit. I am sorry that the Government do not see what I recognise as the compelling reasons for reducing the age to 18. I am equally sorry, as one who has advocated over the years that the age of majority should coincide with the age of qualification for jury service, and as a former member of the Morris Committee who advocated the same, that I shall be compelled to vote against the Government and for the Amendment.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 53, Noes 47.

Division No. 342.] AYES [1.2 p.m.
Albu, Austen Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Hattersley, Roy Pavitt, Laurie
Armstrong, Ernest Heffer, Eric S. Perry, Ernest G.
Atkinson, Norman Janner, Greville Prescott, John
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Sandelson, Neville
Booth, Albert Kaufman, Gerald Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Concannon, J. D. Kelley, Richard Skinner, Dennis
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Lamborn, Harry Spearing, Nigel
Cronin, John Latham, Arthur Stallard, A. W.
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Lipton, Marcus Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Mackie, John Tuck, Raphael
Deakins, Eric McNamara, J. Kevin Weitzman, David
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Marshall, Dr. Edmund Wellbeloved, James
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Meacher, Michael Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Faulds, Andrew Mendelson, John
Fowler, Norman Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Fraser, John (Norwood) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Mr. Joseph Harper and
Gardner, Edward O'Halloran, Michael Mr. Tom Pendry
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Fry, Peter Monks, Mrs. Connie
Atkins, Humphrey Goodhew, Victor Murton, Oscar
Batsford, Brian Gurden, Harold Onslow, Cranley
Biggs-Davison, John Hawkins, Paul Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Hayhoe, Barney Scott, Nicholas
Bossom, Sir Clive Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Jessel, Toby Shelton, William (Clapham)
Carlisle, Mark Jopling, Michael Soref, Harold
Chapman, Sydney Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Spence, John
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Kirk, Peter Stanbrook, Ivor
Clegg, Walter Knox, David Tebbit, Norman
Cormack, Patrick Lamont, Norman Weatherill, Bernard
Costain, A. P. Luce, R. N. Winterton, Nicholas
Crouch, David McAdden, Sir Stephen
Eyre, Reginald Macmillan,Rt.Hon.Maurice (Farnham) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Maginnis, John E. Mr. Tim Fortescue and
Fox, Marcus Meyer, Sir Anthony Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Amendment to the Lords Amendment made: In line 10, leave out 'sixteen' and insert 'thirteen'.—[Mr. S. C. Silkin.]

Mr. Peter Archer

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, No. 5, in line 42, after 'physical', insert 'or mental'.

With it I understand we are to take the following Amendments to the Lords Amendment:

No. 6, in line 44, leave out: 'the person may be brought before the judge who' and insert 'the question shall be referred to the judge, who may, if he thinks fit, question such person in chambers and thereupon'. No. 7, in line 46, after 'summons', insert: 'and may, if he thinks fit, declare him to be ineligible for jury service'. No.17, in line 93, at end insert— 'Persons judicially declared ineligible A person who has by virtue of the powers contained in subsection (4) of section ("Qualification for jury service") been declared by the judge to be ineligible for jury service'. This is a series of Amendments directed to the question of what happens when a person arrives in court in answer to a jury summons and it then transpires that for some reason that person is unsuitable for jury service. It is not a matter which was specifically considered by the Morris Committee and it would have been wholly unreasonable to expect that Committee to go into such administrative details. But these are matters which may be of considerable importance for the individuals who are affected by them.

It sometimes arises now, but it is more likely to arise under the new Clause. Subsection (4) of the new Clause attempts to grapple with a solution of the problem. The present solution rests on the rather blunt instrument of challenge and most of us have at some stage in our legal careers found ourselves wondering on the spur of the moment whether, on a hunch, we should object, knowing that if we fail to do so it will be too late to do anything about it, but condemned to make that decisison on the basis of wholly inadequate information.

I hope that most of the weeding out process will take place before attendance and there was a discussion in another place as to how that could be done. As I understand the position, when the summons is served there will be included with it an information sheet setting out the categories of those who may be excused jury service and stating simply but in detail what action should be taken by those who wish to be excused. If I am wrong no doubt the Minister of State will correct me, but if I am right I should welcome his confirmation of the fact, because this is the matter about which the profession and the administrative officials would like some guidance.

1.15 p.m.

We hope that as much of the process as possible will take place before attendance for at least two reasons. First, if someone attends at court, he has missed a day's work and laid down his business affairs in order to attend. If he is then told that he is not required, it is not a light matter, and he will probably comment that it is a pity he could not have been told that he was not required at an earlier stage. Second, the discussion at the court of the circumstances which render a person unsuitable for jury service is likely to be an embarrassing experience for the person concerned and if it can be done quietly before he arrives at the court, so much the better.

But there will be some matters which will emerge only when the prospective juror attends court, and as I understand it the draftsmen of the new Clause have already envisaged examples like the juror who, when he arrives at court, transpires to be so hard of hearing that it is unlikely that he will be able to follow the proceedings. Amendment No. 5 to the Lords Amendment takes account of the juryman who through mental illness or some defect of the intellect, or through being included in the category which in a younger age group is labelled "educationally subnormal", is unlikely to be able to follow the proceedings or to be able to read essential documents. It is not easy to know where to draw the line, where lack of judgment ends and where a defective understanding begins. As was said more than once in the last debate, we are all agreed that the jury should represent the general public with its deficiencies along with its virtues.

But as the Minister of State emphasised in his concluding speech, we are dealing with the liberty of an individual, and it is essential that as far as possible he shall be tried by people who understand what is in issue. The Amendment proposes that on these grounds, in addititon to grounds of physical defects, it shall be possible for the judge to exclude a person from the jury. Clearly it is a jurisdiction which the judge will be required to exercise with some judgment and discretion but that, one hopes, is why a judge is there.

Amendment No. 6 to the Lords Amendment will be, we hope, a concession to compassion. We have arrived at the stage where the responsible official at the court has noticed that someone who is answering a jury summons has those characteristics which in the words of the proposed new Clause cast doubt on his capacity to act effectively as a juror". Clearly, then, the issue whether he or she shall serve as juror must be decided by the judge. There is no one else to whom that jurisdiction can be entrusted at that stage. So, quite properly, the prospective juror will be brought before the judge. What is not clear from the text, but what seems implicit, is that he will be brought before a judge in open court, and that could lead to an embarrassing situation.

Turning to the example of the deaf person, it would be most unfortunate if there were to be an inquiry in open court as to the extent of his deafness and whether he was capable of following the proceedings.

If we are to invite the co-operation of the public in the administration of justice, we ought to turn every possible somersault to show a proper concern for people when they arrive at court. Witnesses are not likely to assist justice by coming forward if when they arrive at court they are stuck in some squalid room, and if when they arrive in the witness box, they are ridiculed or bullied. Most of us accept that without question and, happily, that kind of situation arises much less frequently than it once did. But in all our legislation we should be on the lookout for the kind of situation that discourages the public from coming anywhere near a law court, and if it is possible to avoid gratuitous embarrassment to a juror we ought to do so.

Amendment No. 7 is designed to reduce inconvenience and embarrassment. If it is clear that when a person has attended and has been brought before the judge his capacity to act effectively as a juror is affected by some characteristic, he should be excused jury service on that occasion; but if the characteristic is likely to be permanent, it seems pointless to send him away to take his chance of being called again on another summons, and to be dragged back again to have to go through the same embarrassing process a second time, and possibly a third time. Our proposal is that if it is clear that the characteristic is likely to be permanent, the judge should be entitled to declare him ineligible for further jury service, so that he will not be troubled again.

Amendment No. 17 is largely consequential upon that. If the House accepts that Amendment and a judge so declares, clearly that disqualification ought to be included in the list of disqualifications in the proposed Schedule.

It is not likely that a judge will exercise this power light-heartedly when circumstances may change, but in a proper case the judge should be entitled to exercise it as a matter of simple decency, and it is a matter of simple decency that this group of Amendments is largely about.

Mr. Carlisle

The hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) said that the purpose of the Amendments was to inquire as to the method whereby it was proposed that those suffering from physical or other defects making them unsuitable to serve on a jury was to operate in practice and whether it would be humane.

Mr. Peter Archer

I should not like to mislead the hon. and learned Gentleman. That was not the purpose of the Amendments. I simply seized the opportunity to inquire.

Mr. Carlisle

The Amendments are concerned with the proposed scheme and it may be easier if I explain how the scheme will work, for I hope that that will satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman that there is no need for the Amendments.

As he knows, subsection (3) of the new Clause that we shall shortly discuss provides for the ability of the person who receives the summons to make representations to the appropriate officer with a view to obtaining withdrawal of the summons if he wishes to be excused. It is the intention that a notice accompanying the summons will point out to people suffering from a physical disability, such as blindness or deafness, or to persons who do not understand English and who therefore would not be able to take their part in the deliberations of the jury, that they should consider whether they come within any of those classifications and whether they should apply for excusal on that ground. They will have an opportunity at that stage, in what might be described as complete privacy, to write to the appropriate officer asking to be eliminated, and it is hoped that most of them will be eliminated in that way.

However, should a person disregard that invitation to apply for excusal and if it becomes apparent on his arrival at court that he is physically or linguistically incapable, the provisions of subsection (4) will have effect. It provides that if it appears to the appropriate officer that on account of physical disability or insufficient understanding of English there is doubt as to his capacity to act effectively … the person may be brought before the judge, who shall determine whether or not he shall act as a juror. I assure hon. Members at once that there is no intention of bringing him before the judge in open court. If necessary, he may be brought before the judge in chambers and it is proposed to ensure that by the rules of court. The second part of one of the Amendments is thus met without there being any need to write it into the Bill.

However, it is hoped that only seldom will matters reach the stage of bringing the person before the judge. It is hoped that when the appropriate officer of the court notices that a person is clearly physically or linguistically unsuitable for sitting on a jury, he will point out to him that he is entitled to be excused on that basis, and it is hoped that that will be enough and that the person concerned will accept that advice and probably be only too grateful to be excused. It is only a fall-back position that one should be able to take him before the judge; it is when, despite the view of the appro- priate officer, the person concerned is still adamantly of the view that he wishes to serve on the jury, the appropriate officer feeling that he is not suitable to do so.

A defect of the Amendment is that by converting "may" into "shall" it has the effect, no doubt unintentionally, that in every case when a person got as far as the court and the appropriate officer thought him inappropriate, the matter would have to be referred to the judge in chambers. Giving discretionary power, as we have, means that there will be no need to pursue the matter for most of the people concerned if the appropriate officer does not regard them as suitable to sit on the jury. But there is no suggestion that these matters should be dealt with in open court.

Equally, although I understand the motive, I do not see any advantage in giving the court power to declare a person to be ineligible. The majority of people in this category will have replied to the summons, or will have talked to the appropriate officer, and if they were unfortunate enough to receive another summons, they would presumably know the necessary routine to ensure that they were still exempt. Equally, the attention of the summoning officer will be drawn to the fact that these people have been thought by the court not to be suitable to sit on a jury.

However, one has to face the fact that there may be some whose incapacity will be only transient. It may happen that a person suffers from a physical disability which affects his ability to sit on a jury at one time, but which improves over the years until he is able to be a juror. Equally, a person who is linguistically incapable at one stage of following a trial adequately may have a command of English 10 years later making him thoroughly suitable. Rather than having the power to declare ineligible on the basis of what might be a transient incapacity, it is better to leave it to the summonsing officer and the appropriate officer of the court to make sure whether a person is capable.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

At first sight subsections (3) and (4) read together do not appear to give an officer of the court power to excuse somebody once a written summons has been sent to him. It looks as though the intention is that when the person makes representations or attend in accordance with the summons, the officer may question him, the case then going to the judge, who decides. There may be a provision which I have overlooked giving a different effect, in which case I entirely assent to what the Minister said.

1.30 p.m.

Mr. Carlisle

There is power under Section 34 of the Courts Act, 1971, and this is merely the method by which the application is made.

I see the purpose behind the hon. and learned Gentleman's first Amendment, to add the word "mental", but it could raise more difficulties than it cured. Those who are clearly mentally ill are already ineligible for service anyway if they come under the Mental Health Act. Therefore, a severely sub-normal person or someone of that nature is not eligible in any event. The difficulty is in drawing the line, in the powers to be given to an officer of the court to look at a person and say, "To be blunt, you appear pretty dim. I do not think you are very suitable". That is probably why Morris never tried to do anything of the kind, and rejected the idea of any form of educational test. It is very difficult for an appropriate officer to assess whether a person is mentally ill. He can tell whether a person is physically handicapped to such a degree as to make it difficult to follow the case, but it is much more difficult to say whether a person is mentally affected.

Since those who are mentally ill in the normal meaning of the words are already covered by the Schedule, I can only advise the House that the exercise of this power of selection is one which could cause abuse, and I think that it would be unwise to include it.

Mr. Peter Archer

With the leave of the House, may I say that we are grateful for that explanation. There are matters here which could be debated at much greater length, and perhaps with the benefit of experience we shall feel that they should be debated again in the future. But for the moment we are grateful for the Minister's explanation, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment to the Lords Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Archer

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, in line 63 to leave out 'being' and insert 'knowing that he is'. I believe that it would be convenient to consider with it the following Amendment: In line 74, at end insert '; and it is hereby declared that the verdict of a jury in criminal proceedings (as in other proceedings) is not void by reason only that a member of the jury is for the time being ineligible or disqualified for jury service'. My first Amendment is directed to the provision that a person who is ineligible for jury service but who nevertheless serves on a jury is liable to a penalty. That appears to create an absolute offence, but surely it is not the kind of situation in which we want to see a person who had no guilty intent declared guilty of an offence. It may be argued that all the grounds for disqualification are in the Schedule and are likely to be known to the persons concerned. So ignorance of the facts is unlikely.

But there are two situations which could operate harshly, even given that ignorance of the law is not necessarily a defence. It is unrealistic, and could work unjustly, to assume that everyone must know every detail of our modern, complicated body of law. It would be hard for someone to find that he had committed an offence simply because he was not familiar with the contents of the Schedule. It is not a regular topic of conversation in the public houses and clubs of the Midlands. And it would be unrealistic and hard to tell someone, "You have been employed in a forensic science laboratory in the past 10 years. You answered a summons for jury service and consequently served upon the jury. That makes you a criminal." Secondly, the person concerned may have forgotten the facts. We can imagine a man of 26 who at 16 had spent one month as a lab. boy in a forensic science laboratory, and who if he then serves on a jury becomes a criminal.

It may be said that the Court would probably take a lenient view and afford him a conditional discharge, but that is not sufficient. A person is entitled not to be deemed guilty of an offence in those circumstances and not to be in mercy. [Interruption.]

The amiable indication I have received from the Minister encourages me not to delay the House further on this Amendment.

I turn to my second Amendment, which deals simply with a situation which is puzzling to us. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) delightedly pointed out to me last night, the law as it is sought to be in consequence of the Amendment, is the law already. I understand that that is so by reason of Section 15 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1967. But it had not escaped the eagle eye of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) that in the Schedule of repeals, in Lords Amendment No. 49, it is proposed to repeal sections 14–16 of that Act. It would appear to follow that the law will be changed in that respect, and the Amendment is simply directed to ensuring that the law shall remain unaltered. If there is something that we have overlooked, we shall be happy to be corrected, and need not carry the matter further, but if the Minister intends to direct serious argument to the suggestion that the law should be altered, that may be very different.

Mr. Carlisle

I learnt in Committee to have great respect for the eagle eye of the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin), but on this occasion the eagle has slept, or whatever is the appropriate metaphor. Whereas the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) is right to say that we have repealed certain provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1967, in Schedule 3, he will find that the point about which he is concerned, as to the verdict of the jury not being void on the basis of the ineligibility or disqualification from jury service of an individual member of the Jury, is covered by paragraph (d) of Lords Amendment No. 47. At present the provision that a jury's verdict shall not be put aside as void because of the ineligibility of someone serving on the jury is to be found in Section 40(2)(b) of the Courts Act, 1971. We are deleting the words at present in that Section of the Courts Act and saying, there shall be substituted the words 'qualified in accordance with section (Qualification for jury service) (1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1972'. I am assured that that has the effect of doing what the hon. and learned Gentle- man wants to make sure that we succeed in doing.

As to the hon. and learned Gentleman's first Amendment, it is unlikely that in practice anyone would ever be prosecuted for sitting on a jury if it later turned out that he was ineligible and was not aware of it. But that is not a complete answer. I readily accept that the House should not pass absolute offences unless there is good ground for doing so. Clearly, knowledge should be a necessary ingredient of the criminal offence of sitting on a jury when ineligible; the person concerned should know that he is ineligible. I am advised that the wording of the Amendment is perhaps not ideal, but at this stage in the Bill's passage I take the view that the Opposition's proposal is better than the Government's original proposal, which unintentionally made an absolute offence, and therefore I recommend that the House accept the Amendment, which I hope will be acceptable to their Lordships' House.

Mr. Peter Archer

With the leave of the House, may I say that we are most grateful to the Minister for what he has just said. It shows that even at this late stage scrutiny of the Bill within the House is not without its profit.

As for the second Amendment, we are grateful for the Minister's explanation. But there is a little concern in our minds for those who may later have to operate these provisions, who will not have the benefit of being able to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman direct questions. The kind of situation we are in is likely to arise whenever draftsmen insist on legislating by reference. But we are grateful for the explanation, and clearly no Amendment is necessary. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That Amendment was selected for discussion only, so it need not be withdrawn.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Carlisle

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment, as amended.

This is a major Amendment, only parts of which have been referred to. I wonder whether it might be possible to discuss with it Lords Amendments Nos. 15 and 16.

Mr. Speaker

If that is the will of the House, but I must call the attention of the House to the fact that privilege is involved in Lords Amendment No. 16.

Mr. Carlisle

Lords Amendment No. 14 is of major importance because it makes a major change in the system of qualification for jury service, which has remained the same ever since 1825.

The Amendment incorporates the recommendations of the Committee on jury service under Lord Morris of Borthy-Gest, which reported as long age as 1965. The recommendations were accepted by the previous Government, but they never got round to implementing them, and they are now being implemented in the course of this Bill. I am glad that we have been able to implement all the Morris recommendations, even though we have had to do it during the Bill's passage through another place.

The important matter to realise is that the existing property qualification for jury service in England and Wales—that of being the householder of a house with a rateable value of £30 in London or £20 elsewhere—is abolished. Instead, subject to certain qualifications and age limits which have been changed yet again today, and which will now depend on the outcome of the Lords debate on the subject—they are certainly an upper limit of 65 and a lower limit of 21 or 18—the basic qualification is citizenship as evidenced by inclusion in the electoral roll as a parliamentary elector.

One of the major effects of this, and one which I welcome, is to bring far more women back on to the roll of those eligible for jury service who are now excluded by the property qualification. As one who was involved before the last General Election in a Committee looking into discrimination against women in the law, and one who made in the Committee's Report the recommendation that the Morris Committee proposals should be implemented, I am very glad to be the Minister responsible for carrying that into effect. It puts right what many women have felt was a completely unjustified discrimination against them. They have a great deal to offer to future juries and I believe that the widening of the roll from which jurors will be called accords with the wishes of the country. It was pointed out earlier that the present qualification has lasted since 1825.

The only other comment I need to make, although I will attempt to answer any questions, is that as well as implementing the major recommendation of the Morris Committee, the other effect is to implement those proposals which are aimed at the simplifying and modernising of the basis of excusal from jury service, either on the basis of ineligibility, disqualification or right of exclusion. It does not in any way limit the existing right under the Courts Act for the appropriate officer to use his discretion to excuse. There are now listed in a simpler, and I believe better, way those who by their occupation are ineligible, those who by their criminal record are disqualified, and those who by their occupation are entitled to excusal as of right.

In future the summoning of jurors now rests with the Lord Chancellor under Part V of the Courts Act. I hope that the House will agree to welcome this batch of Lords Amendments which carry out the undertaking given by the Government, having accepted in principle the proposals of the Morris recommendation, to implement them at the earliest stage. That we have done.

1.45 p.m.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

I join the Minister of State in expressing the thanks of this side of the House to the Morris Committee, despite the length of time which has elapsed since it made its admirable report. I also welcome the fact that the Government, following the pressure placed on them from both sides in Committee, have now included these matters in the Bill as it reaches us from another place. There are two points of a general nature, one flowing from another, I wish to raise.

I am not in any way criticising the Minister or the Government. An undertaking was given which the Minister has fulfilled but what has happened is that there is being presented to us by way of Lords Amendment a radical change in the law relating to juries, without the normal opportunity which this House would have of scrutinising such a change line by line in Committee. This is simply the procedure of the House and is no fault of any person. We have already found one or two respects in which the Clause could be improved. There may be others which more prolonged and careful scrutiny such as we are able to give these matters in Standing Committee would reveal. However, we do not have that opportunity.

I invite the Government Front Bench to consider whether there is some way, if we are presented with this sort of situation in future, of ensuring that this House has the opportunity of making the thorough scrutiny which such radical changes require. This may well arise in the course of next week with another Bill.

The second point to which I refer emerges from that and it is that the Minister may well feel that, now there have been changes in the law relating to juries, which will be partly in this Bill, partly in the Courts Act and partly in other legislation, it might be desirable, if the Law Commission were prepared to tackle the task, for the procedure of consolidation with Law Commission Amendments to be adopted. It is a valuable procedure in the course of which anything that this House has omitted to notice because of the way in which it has been dealt with could be cleared up. I hope that the Minister will give thought to that and perhaps discuss it with the Law Commission.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to. [Special Entry.]