§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Constitution of juvenile courts in the metropolitan police court district, 3 & 4 Viet. c. 84.
§ 1.—(1) An Order in Council made under subsection (5) of section one hundred and eleven of the Children Act, 1908, for the establishment of one or more juvenile courts for the metropolitan police court district may, notwithstanding anything in the Metropolitan Police Act, 1840, provide for any such court being constituted of a police magistrate (who shall be the president of the court) nominated by the Secretary of State, and two justices of the peace for the county of London, of whom one shall be a woman, and both of whom shall be chosen from amongst a panel of such justices nominated for the purpose by the Secretary of State:
§ Provided that nothing in the Order shall prevent a police magistrate sitting alone in any 796 case where he considers that it would be impracticable for the court to be constituted in manner aforesaid, or that it would be inexpedient in the interests of justice to adjourn the business of the court.
§ (2) The Order shall provide for the justices who are to sit at the several sittings of the court being chosen by the panel, or, if necessary, by the police magistrate, and in case of the absence of the police magistrate through illness, leave or other cause, for the appointment of a deputy to act in his stead, being either another police magistrate or a justice of the peace approved by the Secretary of State.
§ (3) The Order may for the purpose of facilitating the establishment of juvenile courts provide for the discontinuance of any of the existing police courts or for the use of an existing police court solely for the purposes of a juvenile court.
§ The EARL OF DESART had Amendments on the Paper to subsection (1) to make it read as follows—
§ 1.—(1) An Order in Council made under subsection (5) of section one hundred and eleven of the Children Act, 1908, for the establishment of one or more juvenile courts for the metropolitan police court district may, notwithstanding anything in the Metropolitan Police Act, 1840, provide for any such court being constituted of the police magistrate of a metropolitan police district (who shall be the president of the court) sitting with two justices of the peace for the county of London, of whom one shall he a woman, and both of whom shall be chosen from amongst a panel of such justices nominated for the purpose by the Secretary of State:
§ The noble Earl said: The Amendment that I have ventured to put on the Paper—which will receive, I will not say the favourable consideration, but I am sure it will receive the consideration of the Lord Chancellor—does not touch the principle of the Bill. At any rate it is not intended to do so, as I understand the Bill. The essence of the measure, as I followed it on Second Reading, is that in the metropolis, as in other towns in the country, children should be dealt with by a Court composed, as in some cases, of Stipendiary or Metropolitan Police Magistrates, or two lay magistrates of whom one should be a woman. Nothing in my Amendment touches the establishment of such a Court or the status or position of the lay justices, the woman or the man.
§ Having entirely accepted the decision of the House on Second Reading, my only object now is to give such assistance as may be possible or to raise any questions which seem to me to be germane which will assist in the working of the Bill in the best way for the children, for the parents, and for general administration of the purposes for which the Courts are to be created. 797 Of course, one of the main questions is as to the test way to utilise the excellent material you have in the Police Magistrates of this metropolis. That is one of the very important elements in it. As regards the whole Bill, I have had a number of communications since the Second Reading, and, as the Lord Chancellor said, it is quite clear that there is a good deal of difference of opinion among magistrates and other people who are competent to judge as to the general provisions of the Bill. I do not wish, however, to touch on that, and I am not entitled to do so on this Amendment. But I think the Lord Chancellor, if I may respectfully say so, has been in some way misled as to the point whether all magistrates have been consulted. He told us that they had been consulted and that some of them differed from the Bill. Not only is there the letter from Mr. Mead which appears in The Times to-day, but I have heard from other magistrates whom I know that they are not of the opinion that they were consulted, though they heard of the Bill. I think the explanation probably is that the Lord Chancellor was quite properly informed that magistrates had been consulted, but that the statement did not mean all of them. It is the fact that there is a considerable difference of opinion on a great many points in this Bill.
§ The sole object of this Amendment—and it is the only one—is that the Metropolitan Magistrates who are to sit—probably the most important element in these Courts—should not be limited, as they are in the present form of the Bill, to magistrates specially nominated by the Secretary of State, but that all Metropolitan Magistrates should be qualified to sit in their own Courts, or elsewhere, with the two lay magistrates in their own districts, in their own Courts, or in some room near the Court. I understand that many of the Courts have been specially constructed for the purpose of enabling children to enter them by a separate door, and other conveniences added for the purpose of dealing with juveniles. It would be a pity if these conveniences were wasted. It is common ground that the law relating to children only has been very satisfactorily administered up to the present time, and this was really the only ground on which I offered any comment on the Bill on the Second Reading. In my Amendment I am trying to secure that children and their parents should have 798 this form of jurisdiction administered in their immediate neighbourhood, and, if possible, by the magistrate whom they know by sight, with whose decisions they are familiar, and who is in daily communication and well acquainted with the wisdom and discretion of the Court missionary and the lady probationers who advise him.
§ There are, I think, ten Children's Courts in London now sitting twice a week. I do not know how many magistrates are to be appointed under the Bill, but if it is only one or two I think it would be a very heavy task for them to attend twenty times in the week at these Children's Courts; and I confess I cannot see the necessity for it. I do not know on what principle these magistrates are to be nominated; whether they are to be married or bachelors, or whether they are to be lawyers. But all the material is so good that I should deprecate any discrimination. I should endeavour—and that is the object of my Amendment—to secure that the magistrate should sit as nearly as possible in his own Court (or some place quite near), the lay magistrates sitting with him, and hear cases in his own neighbourhood where he has the advantages to which I have referred.
§ I am not quite clear what is intended as to Courts. I hope it is not intended that there shall be just two or three Courts selected for this purpose. I gather that this is not the intention, but I should like to be quite clear about it; otherwise it might occasion children having to go long distances. As I have said, I do not think that is the intention, and I only mention it because it is believed by some people; indeed, some believe that there is to be only one Court, one Central Court. That, of course, is clearly not the case if I understood the Lord Chancellor aright, but I should like to know what the plan is. If you are going to have only a limited number of Courts my Amendment would hardly be applicable. The whole point of my Amendment is that the Children's Court should be administered by the existing magistrates in or near the localities where they sit. There would be great advantages in that, for the reasons I have indicated.
§ I would ask the Lord Chancellor whether any real advantage is to be gained by nominating special magistrates for this purpose when you have a record of good work satisfactorily done over so long a period by the existing magistrates, and 799 whether they should not continue to exercise their functions when the new Court is constituted, as I hope in their own districts, in their own neighbourhood, where they know the case of the parents and children and know the character of the people who habitually advise them. I now move the first of my Amendments.
Page 1, line 10, leave out ("a") and insert ("the").—(The Earl of Desart.)
§ LORD PARMOOR
Before the Lord Chancellor answers, I should like to say a word or two in support of the Amendment. I have had rather a long experience of magisterial work both on its actual judicial side and also on its administrative side. I quite agree with what I understand is the attitude of the Lord Chancellor. He approaches the Bill entirely from the point of what is the best way of dealing with juvenile offenders. I am very much in favour of the Court proposed to be constituted; and the giving of the assistance of two lay magistrates, one of them being a woman, is a very important reform as regards the constitution of the Court dealing with juvenile offences.
With regard to the question raised by the Amendment I think, in the first place, that there ought to be no limitation in the number of Courts in which these juvenile offences can be entertained and considered. It is extremely important that the children should not be carried further away from their homes than is necessary. I share the doubt expressed by Lord Desart as to what was meant by the constitution of the Central Court, by means of which Courts in various parts of the metropolis might be arranged and distributed. I see no reason whatever for diminishing the number of centres which now exist at which juvenile offences can be entertained. That is an extremely important point. In the second place, I dislike any notion of superseding any Metropolitan Police magistrate particularly within the district where he has exercised his functions and where he is known. A very important part of magisterial jurisdiction is that what I may call the "friendly attitude of knowledge" should come in as well as the judicial attitude. It is very prominent in country Courts, and it is also prominent in the Metropolitan Police Courts with admirable effect.
800 What the noble Lord desires in his Amendment is that there should be no supersession in any sense of the existing Police Magistrate when he is exercising jurisdiction of this kind in his own district now that he has the assistance of a special Court constituted of two lay magistrates, one woman and one man, to sit with him. The Lord Chancellor might say that this is difficult because there are not sufficient Courts constituted. A good many of the existing Courts have been arranged so that juvenile offenders can be dealt with apart from ordinary offenders, and considerable expense has been incurred in that direction. I do not think that objection in any way applies to the present Amendment, because if you are to have what is essential, a sufficient number of these Courts distributed throughout the metropolis, you mast arrange for places where the Court can sit; and having arranged places where the Court can sit, instead of bringing in a man who may be an outsider, you merely say that the existing Police Magistrate is to exercise his jurisdiction with the assistance with which the Bill provides him.
The Lord Chancellor mentioned that there was a good deal of difference of opinion upon this point, and I think said that one of the Police Magistrates who was in favour of the Bill as it stood was the present Chief Magistrate. After all, the present Chief Magistrate has not had a very prolonged experience, because, as we know, he succeeded Sir John Dickinson only a short time ago; but there are to my knowledge a very large number of experienced Police Magistrates who view this proposal with disfavour, not so much because of the constitution of the Court, but as introducing outside jurisdiction within the limits of their own jurisdiction. It is just the same with regard to the probationers. They have done excellent work in the past, and they could go on in the future playing just the same excellent parts as in the past, if you provided as I suggest ought to be provided, for local Courts to be held in the districts where they are held at the present time. I much hope that the Lord Chancellor will see his way to regard this Amendment favourable. It appears to me to be in no way inconsistent with the general principle of the Bill, and I think that if it were adopted the whole scheme would work favourably in the interests of juvenile offenders.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
May I say a word before the Lord Chancellor replies, as this is a subject on which I have had some experience as Lord Lieutenant of this county, and also in other ways. In one respect I think that the Amendment of the noble Earl meets the case, if he desires—I am not quite sure he does—that there should be complete liberty of action in this matter; that it should not be supposed that in every case the Police Magistrate should as a matter of course sit in these Courts, but that there should be no reason on the other hand why he should be debarred, or feel debarred, from doing so. I think I am right in saying that there is this difference of opinion among the London Police Magistrates, both as regards the education cases and the juvenile cases generally, that a number of the Police Magistrates would resent not taking part in them. They take a special interest in these matters and would be sorry for it to be supposed that they could be or ought to be superseded. But I also believe I am right in saying that there is, and always has been, a certain proportion of the London Magistrates who would prefer to stand aside and would welcome the establishment of a quite different sort of Court, in some cases perhaps without the presence of a Stipendiary Magistrate at all. That, however, is not provided for by the Bill.
In those circumstances I should have thought that the noble Earl's Amendment was scarcely necessary, because, as I comprehend the Bill as it stands, it makes it possible either for the Police Magistrate to act, with the necessary assistance, or for him to stand aside, or in a conceivable case to be asked to stand aside, in order that some magistrate more specially fitted for, the particular work may take his place. Where, however, I am not in complete agreement with the noble Earl is as regards the place where the Juvenile Court should sit. He appeared to conclude that in normal cases there was no reason why the Court should not sit in the ordinary Police Court, provided arrangements were made for a separate access. I confess that I feel strongly that it is highly desirable that invariably the proceedings should take place somewhere else—that the atmosphere of the Police Court, the mere excitement to a child of attending, the possible attraction of feeling that even at that tender age he is attaining the full status of appearing in a Criminal Court—all those things must be radically 802 bad, and the proceedings ought to be, I venture to think, far more conversational in character than they possibly can be in a Police Court. Therefore it is desirable in every case that some other premises should be obtained.
For that reason I am in sympathy with the Amendment which Lord Askwith has on the Paper, in which he desires to make it impossible that a Police Court should be set aside for the purpose. But in saying this I desire to guard myself against the supposition that I am in favour of an extremely limited number of Special Courts. I think it is desirable that there should be multiplication to the necessary extent which will make it possible for those who have to attend them not to travel far. On the whole, therefore, I confess that I do not see, subject to anything which the Lord Chancellor may say, the precise necessity for the noble Earl's Amendment, because it does not seem to me to add to what I think is so desirable— namely, the complete elasticity of the proceedings.
Before the Lord Chancellor answers I should like to say a word in support of the Amendment which is before us, and I also claim to speak from very considerable experience of this kind of business in London. Not so much in the Police Courts, but in enforcing bye-laws, I have had a long experience of this type of case. I am satisfied that you want at least as many places as there are at present Police Courts, and I think it will even be convenient to have more. I am sure that if you are to secure the attendance of parents you must bring the hearing as near as possible to the parents. I cannot help thinking that if the sittings are held twice a week it would be quite possible for the magistrate to announce the sittings, and I think that there are many boroughs which would put a room in the Town Hall, or similar building, at his disposal for that purpose. I do not attach much importance to the atmosphere of the Police Court, because there is no atmosphere in bricks and mortar, and we are told that many Police Courts have separate entrances,
By-and-by we shall come to Lord Askwith's Amendment. I see no objection to facilitating the securing of a different, building, but I think it would be unreasonable to put an absolute veto upon using any Police Court. I feel also that it would be very invidious if you were to 803 disfranchise any magistrate. I quite agree that there are magistrates with local experience. I believe there are fourteen or fifteen Police Courts in London. If you are to say that ten or a dozen of those magistrates are to be recognised you put a distinct slur upon the few that you do not allow to deal with these cases, and that would very much diminish their value in sitting in their Courts. We all know that magistrates differ in quality. Some are more sympathetic and tactful then others. You cannot get a perfect man in every post. It would be invidious to disfranchise any particular Judge because of his way of conducting business, and the same thing, I think, applies to police magistrates. They have judicial functions, and you ought not to throw a slur upon them merely in order to select those that you think most fit.
I rather agree with the noble Marquess. You do not want to violate the law, but these are cases in which the law is not so important as is a very broad sense of human understanding, and I think there is a good deal to be said for the Lord Chancellor's Amendment on page 2, line 2. He contemplates that you should bring in other magistrates, if necessary a barrister-at-law. I am sure in London, with the great developments of local activity, municipal and social, it would not be difficult to find a large number of people, men of experience, with legal training and of social sympathy, who would be very willing to put their services at your disposal once a week, or from time to time as required. I mean the same type of man who acts as Chairman at Petty Sessions in the country. That type of man, I think, is very well suited for this kind of work, and if you took power to extend your Bench of magistrates by having a roster of these other gentlemen, who are quite as fit to deal with these cases as stipendary magistrates, you might multiply your Courts and hold them perhaps more often away from the Police Courts, so bringing the hearing nearer to the parents. In that way you would be able to do what you desire.
It may be said that the number of women who have the necessary experience and judgment is very limited at present, but there will he more of the right type of women available as their work in public affairs extends. If you have twenty to twenty-five Courts sitting, and you call in women, I do not think that it would be desirable to have your professional and 804 technically-skilled woman going round from Court to Court carrying out and enforcing merely one kind of social reform. I would rather have a broad-minded ordinary woman who has had experience of affairs in her home and in ordinary life. You want the genial, liberal, reasonable mind of a trained, experienced woman. If this Amendment is carried, and if the Amendment of the Lord Chancellor on page 2 about bringing in a barrister-at-law is also carried, with perhaps some alteration, I think you will very much improve this Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD BIRKENHEAD)
The noble Earl who moved this Amendment spoke of a statement contained in a letter which appeared in the Press this morning to the effect that my observation was not accurate that the London magistrates had been consulted at every stage. I think it right to say that the practice of judicial personages entering into controversies in the Press in such matters is not usual, and in my humble judgment it is not edifying. To state and enforce one side of a controversy in the public Press by one magistrate is very likely to invite a controversy in reply from another, with results which, if they were extended throughout the judicial world, would be, I think, likely to produce a very undesirable state of affairs.
I make an observation on that not because the learned magistrate thought proper to address a controversial letter to The Times. I should not have thought it right to enter into controversy with him upon any point that was not raised by a noble Lord in debate. But the noble Earl has raised this point, and I gladly make an observation upon it. The chief magistrate, Sir Chartres Biron, has stated since the debate that the observation which I made, not, of course, on my own initiative, was substantially correct. He himself had been consulted at every stage, and all his criticisms had been met by Amendments. He had consulted other magistrates, either collectively, as in the case of the first proposal, or individually; he would not say all of them, but a sufficient number to ascertain their general view as regards subsequent developments. I think that statement will satisfy your Lordships that I was not too sanguine when I made the claim which excited this criticism. 805 The Amendment of my noble friend Lord Desart has a very clear purpose. It is to substitute for the present policy of the Bill—which is that one of the Police Magistrates should he told off for the particular duty of presiding at Children's Courts—an arrangement under which all the existing Metropolitan magistrates would be available for that purpose, and of course their duties would necessarily be discharged at the present Courts. Although a magistrate or magistrates specially assigned for this purpose would feel no inconvenience in resorting to the substituted places, it is plain that the magistrates who have to discharge other functions must discharge those functions in the same spot.
I am quite unable to agree with the view taken by the last speaker to the effect that there is nothing in the atmosphere of a Police Court to winch he objects in the case of children. I take a wholly different view, and I take it more strongly than I can explain. The noble Lord said there is nothing demoralising in bricks and mortar. Of course, there is not. But the question is, what are the surroundings and the associations within the structure which is itself of bricks and mortar? No one who has seen day by day the depravity, the drunkenness, the squalor, uniformed policemen, the dock, or the terrible punitive atmosphere of our minor crimes, can, I think, on reflection share the view which I was taken by the last speaker. I certainly am of opinion that one of the most important reforms of this Bill will be a change that will enable us in many cases, by the kindness of public bodies, to have no Courts at all, but rooms lent to us at the town halls and assembly rooms and so forth, in which the atmosphere, instead of being that of public correction, will be parental, paternal, and partially maternal, in which no policeman in uniform will appear, arid in which the mild corrections will be suited to the tender age of those to whom it is necessary to apply them.
Nor can I in the least agree with the noble Lord who spoke last when he talks of disfranchising magistrates. Language like that ought not to be held by anyone who has given any attention to this matter. The magistrate has no right to consider himself disfranchised because those who are responsible, and to whom he is responsible, take the view that the public purpose is better served if one peculiarity of the work which magistrates sit to try is moved to 806 another magistrate. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice is here, and I have no doubt, if he addresses your Lordships upon this point, that he would say that it is constantly the practice for him to make a selection among his colleagues of puisne Judges. To one, perhaps, bankruptcy is assigned; to another, Inland Revenue; to another, divorce. I have no doubt, among all the able men for whose work my noble friend is responsible, there are some who, for instance, have never tried an Inland Revenue ease, and it is probable that there are others who have never entered the portals of the Divorce Court. But no learned Judge holds himself to be affronted if the decision of those who are in authority is in the sense that a certain part of his work should be subtracted.
The merits of this Amendment make it, I think, both technically and, I am rather inclined to think your Lordships will say also, substantially unacceptable. The Amendment as it stands would not be a possible one at all. There is only one Metropolitan Police District, and that extends many miles on every side beyond the Metropolitan Police Court area. What my noble friend really means, I suppose, is the Metropolitan Police Court District. The object of the Amendment then, if I understand it aright, would be to provide that in each Metropolitan Police Court District there should be a Juvenile Court presided over by one of the Magistrates who usually sit for that district.
THE EARL OF DESART
I should like to explain that I never committed myself to his presiding in that Court. I really think that was not germane to my Amendment. I referred quite incidentally to it, and it has led to a debate. My point was that the existing magistrate should function whether in his Court or in some other room in his own district. I carefully avoided discussing it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
But I pointed out to my noble friend that if the magistrate functions, as he calls it, he must function in his existing Court. It would be quite impracticable, as any one who has had experience of this matter will agree, that magistrates all the time should be moving from their own Courts into these substituted premises. Practical convenience would not tolerate it. 807 But what I think your Lordships would be interested to hear is a stage in the history of these proposals. I was originally asked by the Home Office to apply my mind to this question with the object of making a suggestion as to the best method of dealing with it. I will be perfectly frank. The first suggestion that occurred to me was a suggestion which substantially corresponded with the proposal now made by the noble Earl, though I think it was less open to a technical objection. It was the same proposal that the existing magistrates should sit, that it should be a subject of consideration whether they should combine their ordinary work on the existing premises with the new work on substituted premises. But the main proposal was that as they discharged their functions now so they should continue to discharge them, with the association of lay justices, male and female. That proposal made by me, and sanctioned, though I think with more doubt than I had, by the Home Office, was resolutely and unanimously refused by the magistrates. This is the language they used—If it means—as it did mean, and as the noble Lord's Amendment means—that the woman justice is to sit with us with equal powers, we are agreed in offering our strongest opposition to such a proposal.In other words, the magistrates unanimously objected to women sitting with equal powers, and that was the whole controversy, or rather the whole subject of discussion—because nobody desired a controversy on such a point—between the Home Office and myself on the one hand, and those who were representing the magistrates upon the other. And it was only when I became convinced that there was not a willingness on the part of the whole body of the magistrates that women should possess these powers—they did not object to sit with them in principle, they objected to women having equal power—that I abandoned the first intention. I stated on the Second Reading the grounds on which I and my colleagues were quite clear that, as far as we were concerned, we would not be parties to putting women in London in a position inferior to that occupied by women in other parts of the country. On that matter of principle we were inflexible.
That being so, I had to consider a new plan, and I discussed it with those who are 808 very familiar with these matters. I came to the conclusion that the most promising scheme was that one or more magistrates, known to be most specially competent in these matters—renowned, if I may say so, in this sphere of jurisdiction for their humanity and their experience—should be selected to be what one may call permanent magistrates dealing with this class of work, and that there should be the central office. I fear I must have been greatly lacking in lucidity in my explanation on the Second Reading, because I find that the noble Earl is not alone in having completely failed to understand my meaning. Let me try now, with the utmost possible simplicity, to tell the House how the matter would proceed if this Bill became law.
There will be, as I have said, this Central Court. The Central Court, besides affording the general and central accommodation to which I referred on the Second Reading, will also be the scene of sessions of the Court, consisting of the permanent Judge and his two lay justices for the particular district in which it is situated. In addition to that, and just as the Judges go circuit over the whole Kingdom, so this permanent Judge and these two lay justices—from a panel of course, so that they will be varied—will go to the districts (I do not say every single district in which there is a Police Court, as one noble Lord has said, because that would be impracticable, and, I can assure your Lordships when we coins to that Amendment, wholly unnecessary), but it will go to every single geographical area in which it would cause the slightest hardship to a child to make a longer journey. One speaker asked whether it would be within the power of one panel, so to speak, to discharge this work completely and thoroughly. I am advised that it would. But experience will show that, and the machinery is so elastic that it would be quite easy to vary it if it is found that the work exceeds the powers of a single Court, but those who have had the most experience in this matter and who realise what the difference will be when the Court gives its whole time to this class of work assure me that it would lie within the competence of the Court to deal with it.
I hope I have said enough to show that this is not an Amendment which ought to be accepted, but I am most anxious that 809 it should not be supposed that either I or any of my colleagues came down here with a cut-and-dried scheme which we were desirous of thrusting down the throats of your Lordships. Very deep consideration was given to this proposal, which received the support of almost every child's association with whose work I am acquainted—the Howard Association, the State Children's Association, the Wage-earning Children's Committee, and so forth—and it is, I am persuaded, in the main only opposed by those who have experienced a certain feeling of resentment, with which I largely sympathise, but to which I do not think it is my duty to yield. I hope, therefore, that the Amendment will not be accepted.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I confess some little bewilderment as to how we stand. I certainly am one of those who had failed to understand with clearness exactly what it was the Lord Chancellor proposed on the last occasion. I ventured then to support the Bill, though I had come down with the intention of opposing it, because I believed that this matter of the Central Court had been completely and entirely misunderstood. But it does not seem to me it was so completely misunderstood as I had thought the other night. I had had some knowledge—no very remarkable knowledge, it is true—for many years and more or less experience and intimacy with Police Court Magistrates and their work. If, as I now understand, the centralisation which would be brought about by this Bill, if it became law, meant that there would be one Police Court magistrate for children who would travel about from Court to Court but would retain in his own hand the magisterial part of the work which is to remain, I think we should be losing a very great deal of help, which is at this moment exceedingly valuable, and which is available. It may be perfectly true that not all Police Court Magistrates are particularly suited for doing this work, but some of them are, and, if they are, the fact that a man knows intimately the facts of the neighbourhood in a way the travelling magistrate cannot possibly do would surely be an asset of great importance which ought not to be lightly set aside. If it means there is no longer to be the power to allow the existing magistrate to have any say with regard to the Children's Court within the area over which he has hitherto 810 presided, and that he is always to be superseded by an itinerant magistrate who is going to do it instead, I should feel greatly disappointed as to what I understood the other night to be the intention of the Lord Chancellor. I thought the centralisation, which in some degree must be necessary, would be subject to the power at all events of the jurisdiction being exercised not by one man who is constantly itinerant but by men who know the localities, who are familiar with the people, and who are accustomed constantly to deal with the very group of persons whose lives may be involved, and the kind of little questions which come up about the children. I think we shall lose a great asset if that man is to, be ruled out and the whole power is to be in an itinerant man who comes there from a distance. It is impossible to exaggerate the paternal relationship which seine magistrates have succeeded in establishing in some of the worst streets in London. Their work is beyond praise; and I have again and again marvelled at the amount of knowledge shown by magistrates, not only of the subjects with which they are dealing, but of the very individuals to whom one casually refers. To sacrifice all that would be a very formidable thing indeed. I do not want to say that it should remain necessarily with the local magistrate, but I understand that the local magistrate is to be ruled out.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
No. The lay justices, of course, would be always drawn from the locality, but the president will be peripatetic.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I am speaking of the magistrate who has for years established a kind of paternal relationship in regard to these particular streets and districts. That man would no longer have a say in the matter. The point on which I now feel a difficulty is that a lay justice cannot have the kind of knowledge that the magistrate of the locality has; and the male or female persons may be totally without the kind of qualifications that he has. That seems to me to be sacrificing an asset of rare importance. I should have thought it was possible so to arrange the Bill as to retain that. At all events, I had a little misunderstood the degree of centralisation which I now understand will be insisted upon.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I should like to say a word in connection with what the most rev. Primate has said. I said enough when I last addressed your Lordships to make it quite plain that I had no original prejudices in favour of a travelling magistrate. I should be prepared, if the noble Earl withdraws his Amendment at this stage, to consider sympathetically whether it might not be possible to revive the original proposal made by me, which corresponds closely with that made now by the noble Earl. That would enable the sitting magistrates to continue to do this work, and it would also enable the Government to do what we regard as fundamental—to place the women magistrates in London in the same position as they are in the country.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
What the Government consider fundamental is that women who become magistrates shall become magistrates with the same degree of responsibility and power in London as is conceded to them in every other part of the country.
§ THE EARL OF READING
May I say a word before the noble Earl replies to the invitation of my noble and learned friend? I say it only because of some observations I made on the Second Reading. I do not desire to enter into any discussion upon the subject in view of what the Lord Chancellor has just said, but I confess that the explanation which he has given has rather surprised me. I did not understand on the last occasion that it was proposed that there should be one magistrate, and notwithstanding the explanation as to the building and as to the use that was to be made of the Central Court I certainly never gathered it was intended that there should be what I think I might describe as a Central Magistrate who was to be peripatetic, who was to go round the various districts, and that he was always to be the president of the Court having the assistance of the two lay magistrates. I do not want to discuss it now because of what my noble and learned friend has said, but I hope he will find it possible to give effect to the views which I think are held by most of your Lordships that the assistance to be 812 given by the lay magistrates—by the woman and by the man—should be afforded to every Court so that you preserve what is really of importance, namely, the knowledge which the local magistrate has of the people in his own district, who consequently is in a better position to exercise that parental influence to which reference has been made. You would lose all the benefit of that in the president of your Court if you make him one magistrate to go round to each of the Courts; because he cannot have the knowledge which the sitting magistrate has of the locality and of what may be necessary in that particular locality. But I think my noble and learned friend has given what seems to me, if I may suggest it to the noble Earl who moved, the best possible answer to the debate that has taken place. His proposal seems to meet exactly the kind of objection in the minds of most of your Lordships when we understood what was the proposal which would be made and what is the proposal which the noble and learned Lord Chancellor will put upon the Paper.
THE EARL OF DESART
I gladly respond to the invitation of the Lord Chancellor, and I am sure that, knowing the views which have been expressed tonight, he will give such consideration to them as I hope will enable us to meet him on perfectly even terms on another occasion. I need not say more than that on the general point. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, in his speech imputed to me an opinion which I do not think I ever expressed. I referred absolutely incidentally to the question of the Courts, not in the least saying it was necessary that the magistrate should sit in his own Court but that he should sit in his own district. I did not labour that, and I was not prepared to speak about it because I did not think it was in order on my Amendment. I do not propose to speak about it now, except to explain that I think I really was not justly subject to the criticism I received on that particular point. In the few observations made by the Lord Chancellor in the opening of his speech, I hope he did not think I made any suggestion at all. I really referred to a matter which had come to my knowledge that there was a difference on the point, and I hope he did not attribute to me the suggestion that he had done anything improper. I am obliged to the noble and 813 learned Lord for the way he has met me, and I ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw the. Amendment.
Before the Amendment is withdrawn I should like to say that I merely referred to the Court as the noble Earl did. I thought it would be more easy, if you multiplied the Courts, to have them in a place like the town hall. The noble and learned Lord seems to have forgotten that in nearly all the Police Courts of London there are two magistrates who sit alternate weeks. It would be possible to arrange that these Children's Courts should be held in the town hall while the other magistrate was holding the ordinary Court in his own district. But as the matter will come up again on Report I will say no more about it now.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR had Amendments on the Paper altering the wording of subsection (2) as follows—
(2) The Order shall provide for the justices who are to sit at the several sittings of the court being chosen by the panel, or, if necessary, by the police magistrate and in the ease of the absence of the police magistrate through illness, leave or other cause, for his place being taken by another police magistrate or by a barrister-at-law in practice for at least seven years appointed or a justice of the peace approved by the Secretary of State. A barrister-at-law so appointed shall have all the powers of a Metropolitan Police Magistrate so sitting in such Juvenile Court as aforesaid.
(3) The Order may for the purpose of facilitating the establishment of juvenile courts provide for the discontinuance of any of the existing police courts or for the use of an existing police court solely for the purpose of a juvenile court.
The noble and learned Lord said: I do not propose to move my Amendments, because they were designed to deal with the state of affairs contemplated in the Present draft of the Bill.
LORD ASKWITH had two Amendments on the Paper the object of which was to make subsection (3) read as follows—
(3) The Order may for the purpose of facilitating the establishment of juvenile courts provide for the holding of a juvenile court in suitable buildings or rooms other than any of the existing police courts or for the use of an existing police court solely fur the purposes of a juvenile court.
Provided that all charges against children and young persons for offences committed within a district assigned to a metropolitan police court shall be heard and determined at a juvenile court situate in such district.
The noble Lord said: I think the same remarks as were made by the Lord Chancellor may be made about my Amendments. I therefore do not move them.
If there is no Amendment inserted there can be no Report Stage. I think we must have some Amendment carried.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.