HL Deb 28 March 1922 vol 49 cc920-4

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 1:

Alteration of method of preparing jurors book.

1.—(1) After the commencement of this Act, lists of the persons qualified and liable to serve as jurors shall cease to be prepared in accordance with the provisions of the Juries Act, 1825, as amended by any subsequent enactment, and the jurors books shall be prepared in accordance with the following provisions of this section.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this section, it shall be the duty of every registration officer within the meaning of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, in making out in pursuance of that Act the electors lists for the autumn register for any year, to mark in the prescribed manner the names of such of the persons included in the lists as are qualified and liable to serve as jurors and the names of such of the persons so qualified and liable as are qualified to serve as special jurors.

(3) For the purpose of enabling registration officers to perform their duties under this section, the overseers of every parish shall, if so required by the registration officer of their area, furnish to him, in the prescribed manner, particulars with respect to the persons in their parish who are, on the last day of the qualifying period for registration in the autumn register, qualified and liable to serve as jurors or qualified to servo as special jurors.

For the purpose of their duties under this subsection, the overseers shall have power to inspect and take extracts from any duplicates of charge for their parish, and any expenses properly incurred by them under this subsection shall be paid and allowed to them out of the poor rate of the parish.

If any overseer fails to comply with any of the requirements of this subsection, he shall be liable on summary conviction in respect of each offence to a fine not exceeding ten pounds.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (3), to leave out "have power to inspect and take extracts from any duplicates of charge for their parish," and to insert: "on an application in that behalf made at any reasonable time to the collector or other officer having the custody of the duplicates of assessment to inhabited house duty for their parish, be entitled to inspect and take extracts from any of those duplicates."The noble Viscount said: I have to ask your Lordships' leave to move this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 2, line 8, leave out from ("shall") to end of line 9, and insert the said words. —(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:

Abolition of present practice of striking special juries, and provision as to description of jurors in panel, etc.

5. —(1) Subject as hereinafter provided, a special jury shall in all cases be balloted for and called in the order in which they are drawn from the box in the same manner as common jurors, and any enactments providing for the striking of a special jury according to the present practice shall cease to have effect:

Provided that nothing in this Act shall affect the manner of striking a special jury to try a question of disputed compensation under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845.

(2) Where under the Juries Act, 1825, the addition of a juror is required to be stated on any panel, parchment, card or list, it shall be sufficient to set out the profession, calling or business of the juror.

LORD PHILLIMORE moved to leave out subsection (1). The noble Lord said: I ask your Lordships to omit this first subsection. My attention has been called to the Report of the Departmental Committee presided over by Lord Mersey, which recommended that the practice of striking special juries should be abolished, but after studying the Report and the evidence given I am unable to concur with the recommendation, nor am I able to appreciate the reasoning. The evidence given with regard to this matter was to the effect that the striking of special juries was, not common, but did exist. In fact, two of the Committee mentioned cases in, their own knowledge where it was done. Other witnesses spoke of its existence, and one witness spoke strongly in its favour. The only witness who spoke against it was a Member of Parliament who had had a political libel action tried at Northampton in which he said the result had not been, in his view, satisfactory. I do not think on his own case that that was true; even on his own story the striking of a jury did good.

The procedure is this. The names of about forty-eight special jurymen are drawn out of a box. Each party is then allowed to object to twelve. That reduces the number to twenty-four, and out of this twenty-four twelve are drawn by lot. I was told that this practice had gone out, and Mr. Justice Channell, who gave evidence, said that it had. I find that that is not the case. Mr. Justice Channell said he remembered that as a Judge he had given orders, but that it had dropped into disuse. But two members of the Committee were aware of cases in which it had been done, and the Member of Parliament complained in a third case that it had been done. In my own experience at the Bar I remember that it was granted on one occasion; and as a Judge I remember am occasion when a jury was struck in a political libel action which I tried.

I think this power is an occasional advantage and there is no reason for it being taken away from the Courts. It is not in the option of the litigant and is-intended to effect impartial trials. In the case in which I was concerned while at the Bar it had that effect, although the ultimate verdict was against my client. It is subject to the control of the Court, and I see no reason, after having studied Lord Mersey's Report, why this sometimes useful power should be taken away.

Amendment moved— Clause 5, leave out subsection (l).—(Lord Phillimore.)


With great respect to the experience and knowledge of the noble and learned Lord on this subject, I do not think he has really established his case against the high authority of the Committee which was entrusted by Parliament with the task of inquiring into these and cognate matters. The practice of striking a jury in what is known as the "old style" has been very occasional. It is an extremely cumbrous, tiresome, and obsolete performance, involving both officials and everyone concerned in all kinds of inconvenience. I have never known anyone in the world say a good word for it until the noble and learned Lord singled it out for his approval. I do not gather—he will tell me if I am wrong—that he has ever known, in his long experience as a Judge for eighteen years in the High Court, more than one instance in which it was resorted to.


The noble and learned Lord was occupied at the moment I was speaking. I stated that two members of the Departmental Committee mentioned existing cases where it was pending at that moment; that a Member of Parliament complained of the action in his own case recently, and that Mr. Justice Channell stated that he had given such orders as a Judge, though he thought that they had been rather dying out. I also stated that I tried a case at Gloucester in which it was done, and that I had had one case in my own experience at the Bar.


Apparently the noble and learned Lord knows of one case as a Judge and one in his experience at the Bar. There is another case in which a Member of Parliament is concerned; but Members of Parliament are always complaining about something. And in Mr. Justice Channell's experience there is a single case only. It comes to this: if you take the experience in such matters of Lord Phillimore, Mr. Justice Channell and the Member of Parliament who complained, in all that experience—Mr. Justice Channell is, I believe, over 80, though the noble and learned Lord is younger—there are only four of these cases. Against this we have the very authoritative Report of the recent Committee presided over by Lord Mersey who has unique experience as a Judge and extraordinary common sense in all these matters.

This is what the majority of Lord Mersey's Committee said with regard to striking the jury in the "old style." We think that the provision in the Juries Act, 1870, which allows the Court to make an order for the striking of a jury in what is known as the old style, should be repealed. It is not only that we favour the requirement of one fixed and uniform system for the selection of all juries, but we also regard it as extremely undesirable to give any opening for the sense of injury which an unsuccessful litigant is pretty sure to feel, when the jury that has decided against him has been struck in the 'old style.' This procedure may be used by litigants with the sole intention of securing a prejudiced jury, and, so far as our evidence goes, we are disposed to believe that in practice it is seldom likely to be adopted for any other reason. I do not know that I should have gone quite so far as the Committee went, but there is a basis in my judgment for their conclusion that the procedure is little likely to be adopted for any other reason than that of securing a prejudiced jury. I really cannot think that your Lordships will be desirous, in the face of such a Report from a Committee of the authority of that which is under discussion, to preserve a practice which I and many others are satisfied plays no useful part in the modern legal world, and I hope the noble and learned Lord will not think it necessary to press the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment negatived.