HL Deb 19 March 1860 vol 157 cc815-6

said, he wished to call the attention of their Lordships to the state of the Divorce Court, and to ask his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack if there was any objection to lay upon the table the Memorial of the Lord Chief Justice upon this subject. From the great pressure of business in that Court much inconvenience had been experienced by the Judges, and a great suffering by the suitors. The evil did not arise from any incapacity of the learned Judge who presided over the Court, but from the provisions of the Act by which the Court was constituted, and which enacted that no decree for the dissolution of any marriage could be pronounced except by a Court constituted of two Judges of the Common Law Courts in addition to the Judge Ordinary. Since the Divorce Court had been established, such had been the pressure of business in the Common Law Courts, that the time of the Judges was almost occupied there, and they really could afford but little or none to the Divorce Court without suffering the business of their own Courts to get into arrear. The consequence was, that unless the clause alluded to in the Act was repealed, further and greater inconvenience would arise—the only alternative being the appointment of additional Judges, According to the opinion which he (Lord Lyndhurst) entertained, as well as according to the opinion of some eminent persons whom he had consulted, the best course would be to repeal that clause in the Act. A single Judge was quite competent to deal with all cases which arose in that Court. A single Judge had presided in the old established Ecclesiastical Court, and had discharged the business of that Court, so far as judicial duties were concerned, in a satisfactory manner. Cases of the greatest nicety in the Common Law Court, as well as the Equity Courts, were decided by a single Judge; nay, further, only a single Judge presided in cases of life or death; and there had been no complaints that those cases had been improperly decided, and no representations that a single Judge was unable to discharge such duties. His own opinion was that the most direct and effectual way to meet the evil was to repeal the clause in question. No one could say that the learned Judge who presided in the Divorce Court did not discharge his duty in a most satisfactory manner, and no rea- son could be shown why he could not continue to do so unaided by any further judicial help.


I have no hesitation in saying that I shall feel great pleasure in laying before your Lordships the Memorial of the Lord Chief Justice. At present it has rather the aspect of a friendly and private communication to myself; but, as a wish has been expressed by the noble and learned Lord that it should be laid on the table, I think it will be very expedient to do so. The Act of Parliament referred to is founded on a Report made by the Common Law Judges, and, in fact, drawn up by one of them; and their opinion, I think, is entitled to deep respect. As to the other point, the delays of the Divorce Court, I deeply regret them; I have done my best to provide a remedy for them. I should not propose to increase the number of the Judges, for that would be a great evil; but I have already expressed to your Lordships a desire to adopt the expedient the noble and learned Lord has proposed—to allow a single Judge to preside in the Divorce Court, and pronounce its decisions. I will undertake to lay on the table a Bill for this purpose.


expressed his acknowledgments to the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack.