HL Deb 27 June 1881 vol 262 cc1347-8

(The Earl of Dalhousie.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the object of the Bill was to make the Law of Summary Procedure in Scotland more uniform, to regulate the amount of costs payable on conviction, and also to confer on the Courts of Summary Jurisdiction a certain amount of discretion to mitigate the penalties in the various cases which might be prosecuted. The Summary Procedure Act of 1874 revised the machinery applicable to all cases of summary procedure, but not so completely as should be the case, and the result was that prosecutions took place under a variety of Acts as well as Common Law, consequently the proceedings were not uniform. The Bill was also to enable a limit to be placed upon the costs of conviction, for the reason that at present they were frequently excessive, and there was no power on the part of the Judge to diminish the costs which were incurred. For instance, the other day a man in Aberdeenshire was fined £1, and the costs amounted to no less than £5 6s. 2d., and as the man was unable to pay that sum he was committed to prison. Again, three persons were convicted at Peterhead for offences against the Weights and Measures Act. The offences were very venial, as was shown by the amount of the fines, the total for the three defendants being only £2 15s. 6d.; but the amount of costs came to no less than £57 6s. Under such circumstances as that, their Lordships would readily understand that the difference between the amount of the fines and the costs created great discontent amongst the people. There was also very great discontent about the present state of the law, because if the offence was serious enough to have the prosecution taken at the instance of the Lord Advocate, the defendant was not cast in any costs whatever. Another object of the Bill was to assimilate, to some degree, the Scotch and English law by adopting the several provisions of the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1879, which gave great discretion to the Courts with regard to the mitigation of punishment. That was very much wanted, because, as he had said, the law was so defective now that if an offender under the Act; however venial the offence, were convicted, he must be sentenced to the exact amount of imprisonment prescribed by the Act. The Judge had no power to vary it, or even to dispense with hard labour and sureties for future good behaviour. The draft of the Bill which he asked their Lordships to read a second time had been considered by all the Sheriffs in Scotland, and they had one and all reported favourably upon it.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Dalhousie.)

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.

House adjourned at half past Seven o'clock till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.