§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee. (Lord Danesfort.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4:
§ 4. Any person guilty of an offence under this Act shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, and to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.
§ LORD DANESFORT moved to substitute "four months" for "three months." The noble Lord said: On the face of it, this Amendment is merely to make the maximum period of imprisonment which can be inflicted under the Bill four months instead of three. The real object, and the real effect, of the Amendment is to give the defendant in these cases an absolute right to be tried by a jury. I put down the Amendment in order to carry out the wishes of many noble Lords in this House and to give effect to a suggestion made by Viscount Cave in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, 689 that this right to be tried by a jury if he so desires should be given to a defendant. Many of your Lordships thought that cases might arise in which it would not be easy for a bench of magistrates to decide even with the safeguard of an appeal to Quarter Sessions, and there were others, including the Lord Chancellor, who thought that it was only reasonable in the interest of the defendant himself to give him a light to be tried by a jury if he so desired. The effect of the Amendment making the maximum period of imprisonment four months will give him that right automatically.
This right to be tried by a jury arises under the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, Section 17, and I will read the Section from Stone's Justices Manual, 1922 edition, page 44, where the words of the section are correctly reproduced. The section reads thus:—
A person when charged before a court of summary jurisdiction with an offence, in respect of the commission of which an offender is liable on summary conviction to be imprisoned for a term exceeding three months, and which is not an assault, may, on appearing before the court and before the barge is gone into but not afterwards, claim to be tried by a jury, and thereupon the court of summary jurisdiction shall deal with the case in all respects as if the accused were charged with an indictable offence and not with an offence punishable on summary conviction, and the offence shall as respects the person so charged be deemed to be an indictable offence …
§ There is a subsection in this Section 17 with which your Lordships are probably familiar. The effect of it is that the defendant is entitled before the charge is gone into to be informed of his right and to be told that if he chooses he can be tried by a jury instead of being dealt with summarily, and if he desires to be so tried he is so tried.
§ The Amendment anticipates and meets the desire of Earl Russell who has a similar Amendment on the Paper, not, I think, quite so satisfactory in its terms. I think he will agree that this Amendment meets his views. It will certainly remove the main objections to the Bill which were urged by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord President of the Council on the Second Reading. I should be very sanguine if I supposed that it would remove all the objections of the Government to the Bill, but I trust better counsels will prevail. Be that as it may, I 690 hope the Amendment will recommend itself to the majority of your Lordships.
Clause 4, page 2, line 22, leave out (" three ") and insert (" four ").—(Lord Danesfort.)
This Amendment, as I have been advised, does meet objections that were taken to the question of conviction on summary trial. That is to say, it gives the defendant an absolute right to trial by jury, which is one of the points desired. The noble and learned Lord is quite right, in thinking that it by no means removes all the objections to the Bill. in my opinion, it still remains an extremely foolish measure and one which I am satisfied is much more likely to do harm than good. The Amendment, however, removes the objection that you are changing the law. You are not now substantially changing the law; you are not depriving a prisoner of a right which he had before. I agree that my Amendment is not couched in words of art. The noble and learned Lord's Amendment is much better and I am quite satisfied with it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD DANESFORT moved to add to the clause the words: "and the provisions of Section seventeen of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, shall apply." The noble and learned Lord said: It appears that the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, does not apply to Scotland or Ireland. It is my desire, and I think the desire of your Lordships, that this Bill, if passed, should apply to Northern Ireland and to Scotland, and therefore as the Act of 1879 does not apply to Ireland and Scotland I propose to put in the words of the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clause agreed to.