HL Deb 15 December 1925 vol 62 cc1439-57

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 11.

Venue in indictable offences.

11.—(1) A person charged with any indictable offence may be proceeded against, indicted, tried and punished in any county or place in which he was apprehended, or is in custody on a charge for the offence, or has appeared in answer to a summons lawfully issued charging the offence, as if the offence had been committed in that county or place, and the offence shall, for all purposes incidental to or consequential on the, prosecution, trial or punishment thereof, be deemed to hare been committed in that county or place:

Provided that, if at any time it appears to any examining justices during the course of any proceedings taken against any person before them in pursuance of this subsection that the accused would suffer hardship if he were indicted and tried in the county or place aforesaid, the examining justices shall forthwith (but without prejudice to their powers under section twenty-two of the Indictable Offences Act, 1848), cease to proceed further in the matter under this subsection.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT CAVE) moved, in the proviso in subsection (1), to leave out "it appears to any examining justices." The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, this Amendment should be read in conjunction with the third Amendment on the Paper that stands in my name, to add to the proviso. It deals with a matter which I stated during the Committee stage that I would consider. I propose to accede to the view that was then put forward, but I have put down words other than those which were suggested when the matter was debated in Committee.

Amendment moved— Page 10, lines 9 and 10, leave out ("it appears to any examining justices").—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, the Lord Chancellor has been good enough to take this matter into careful consideration, and I am very much indebted to him for it. I think my short Amendment—to insert after "justices," "or to a Judge of the High Court of Justice sitting in Chambers"—would have worked, but am prepared, in a matter of drafting, to yield to him. The substance has been obtained, and very handsomely obtained. I do not, therefore, propose to move my Amendment, but to accept those proposed by the Lord Chancellor.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in the proviso in subsection (1), to leave out "them in pursuance of this subsection" and insert "any examining justices in pursuance of this subsection—(a) it appears to the examining justices." The noble and learned Viscount said: This is consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 10, lines 11 and 12, leave out ("then in pursuance of this subsection") and insert ("any examining justices in pursuance of this subsection—(a) it appears to the examining justices").—(The Lord Chancellor.)


Should not the word "that" after "subsection" disappear? The subsection will not read otherwise.


I think the word should remain, but I will examine it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD PARMOOR had given Notice of his intention to move in the proviso in subsection (1), after "hardship," to insert "or be put, to additional expense." The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this matter was discussed on Committee stage and I was satisfied with the answer which the Lord Chancellor then gave. o I therefore do not propose to move this Amendment.


The next Amendment standing in my name on this clause is consequential.

Amendment moved—

Page 10, line 17, after ("subsection") insert ("and (b)if the accused applies to the justices to discontinue further proceedings under this subsection on the ground that he will otherwise suffer hardship and the justices refuse to comply with the application, the accused may appeal to the High Court against the decision of the justices, and the justices shall, on being informed by the accused of his intention so to appeal, suspend further proceedings under this subsection pending the decision of the High Court. On an appeal to the High Court under the foregoing provision the High Court shall either direct the examining justices to cease proceedings under this subsection or shall disallow the appeal, as it thinks proper").(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 12:

Provisions as to taking of depositions, and caution to and statement of accused on proceedings before examining justices.

If the accused answer to the question states that he desires to give evidence on his on behalf and to call witnesses, or to call witnesses only, the justices shall proceed to take either forthwith, or, if a speech is to be made by counsel or solicitor or behalf of the accused, after the conclusion that speech, the evidence of the accused, if he desires to give evidence himself, and of any witness called by him.

The evidence which may be given by the accused or his witnesses under this section shall be such evidence only as is material for the purpose of enabling the justices to determine whether the accused ought or ought not to be committed for trial, and, if so committed, for what offence.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, at the end of the fourth paragraph of subsection (5), to insert "who knows anything relating to the facts and circumstances of the case or anything tending to prove the innocence of the accused." The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, this is intended to meet an objection, made by Lord Parmoor who desires to strike out the fifth paragraph of subsection (5). I have considered the matter carefully and I think the object of the Bill would be met if those words are struck out and if we insert the words in the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 22, after ("him") insert ("who knows anything relating to the facts and circumstances of the case or anything tending to prove the innocence of the accused").—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, I thank the Lord Chancellor for the Amendment he is now proposing in accordance with the promise he gave in Committee that he would look into this matter. My fear was that the fifth paragraph of subsection (5), which he is proposing to leave out, might interfere with the full freedom of a person who is being charged with an offence, and who is innocent, bringing the whole of his defence to the charge to the notice of the first court before which the charge is heard. In the present Amendment the last words are "or anything tending to prove the innocence of the accused." So long as that is clearly understood I think the position of the accused person is sufficiently safeguarded.

On Question Amendment agreed to.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved to omit the fifth paragraph of subsection (5).

Amendment moved— Page 12, leave out lines 23 to 28.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 26 [Enforcement of recognisances to be of good behaviour]:


The three Amendments which I have put on the Paper to this clause are all drafting Amendments.

Amendments moved—

Page 24, line 32, leave out ("fresh recognisanees") and insert ("a fresh recognisance")

Page 24, line 35, leave("give out security") and insert "enter into a recognisance and find sureties")

Page 24, line 36, leave out ("may order that the") and insert ("shall in either case order that the first-mentioned").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 40:

Penalty for drunkenness while in charge of motor car and for reckless driving.

40. Any person who is drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any mechanically-propelled vehicle shall, on summary conviction, be liable in respect of each offence to imprisonment for a period not exceeding four months or to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds, or to both such imprisonment and fine.

EARL RUSSELL moved, at the end of the clause, to insert: and shall be disqualified to hold a licence to drive for twelve months from the date of the conviction. Provided that a person who is disqualified to hold a licence to drive under this or any other Act may apply to the justices who made the order to reconsider their decision at the end of any period of not less than three months; or, with the leave of the court, after a shorter period.

The noble Earl said: Your Lordships will recollect that last year I moved an Amendment the effect of which was to provide that in cases of conviction for drunkenness while driving a motor car, the motorist should suffer, in addition to any penalty that might be imposed upon him, automatically a disqualification to hold a licence for twelve months. The Amendment commended itself to your Lordships and was inserted in the Bill. I hope the fact that noble Lords who supported me then are now on the other side of the House will make no difference whatever to their views in regard to this Amendment.

I think this is the most appropriate punishment for a drunken driver. He is a person whom you want to remove from the streets, and I am sorry to say that magistrates are somewhat too tender with him. I recognise very fully the Home Office point of view, that one ought not to interfere unnecessarily with the discretion of magistrates. I am very unwilling to interfere with the discretion of anybody who is exercising a judicial function, or to lay down any hard and fast rule which must be followed in passing, a sentence, but this matter of drunken drivers has become so prevalent and is so great a public danger that I think it would be a useful thing, at any rate for three years, to try the experiment of an automatic disqualification for twelve months, whatever view the magistrates might take.

Representations have been made to me regarding a possible improvement. If your Lordships will look at an Amendment which I am sorry was circulated only this afternoon in my name, you will see that I have there provided that the magistrates may reconsider their decision if there is reason for doing so. In ease some of your Lordships have not received the addition to my Amendment I will read it. It is to insert at the end of my proposed Amendment this proviso: Provided that a person who is disqualified to hold a licence to drive under this or any other Act"— I desire to make this proviso apply to existing disqualifications— may apply to the justices who made the order to reconsider their decision at the end of any period of not less than three months; or, with the leave of the court, after a shorter period. I will tell your Lordships the reason for that suggested proviso.

Suppose that a paid driver has been convicted of drunkenness and disqualified for twelve months; suppose that at the end of three months he is able to satisfy the justices that he has been a teetotaller during the whole of that period, that his livelihood is being endangered and that he is likely to come on the "dole"; and suppose that he asks if 'they will re-instate him. As the matter stands now, the justices have no sort of power to make any further order. They are functi officio and they cannot in any way restore him. In cases where it is thought by all concerned—not only by the defendant but by the justices and the Home Office itself—that this disqualification should he removed, even the Home Office has no means by which it can restore him, except by the full exercise of the prerogative of mercy, which, after all, is rather an unreasonable and serious constitutional way of remedying a small difficulty.

I think that this proviso, which would give a certain freedom to the same bench of magistrates, who presumably know the man and can hear how he has been going on, to review the matter in a shorter period, if they think fit, takes away a good deal of the harshness, as it might appear, of an absolute disqualification. I think, too, that it should apply not only to disqualifications under this Act but to disqualifications under the Motor Car Act, and that the justices should have Dower, every three months, to hear applications for re-instatement on the ground of good conduct or the absence of a likelihood of the offence being committed again. After all, if we have succeeded in turning a drunken driver into a sober driver, we have achieved the object which we really have at heart. That there should be an imperative disqualification in the first instance seems to me, I confess, hardly desirable, but I think that this Amendment meets the case and I hope that your Lordships will support it this year as you did last year. I propose to move both Amendments together, but the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack mad perhaps find it for the convenience of the House co put them separately, according to the turn that the discussion takes. I hope that your Lordships will not depart from the course that you took last year and will accept this Amendment, which does not interfere with the discretion of the justices. I beg to move.


Does the noble Lord move the two Amendments together?


Yes, unless the noble and learned Viscount finds it for the convenience of the House to put them separately.

Amendment moved—

Page 32, line 34, at end insert ("and shall be disqualified to hold a licence to drive for twelve months from the date of the conviction. ("Provided that a person who is disqualified to hold a licence to drive under this or any other Act may apply to the justices who made the order to. reconsider their decision at the end of any period of not less than three months; or, with the leave of the court, after a shorter period."—(Earl Russell.)


My Lords, I do not wish any more than the noble Earl to use any words but those of disapprobation and detestation of the drunken driver, whom we all know to be a danger note only to himself, but to the general public. We desire to suppress him as far us possible. But I am very glad that the noble Earl has modified his original Amendment in the direction of giving tits justices some discretion. I suggest to the House that it really would be better to leave that discretion to the justices in some other form of words. The noble Earl might modify his Amendment by using some such words ass "shall suspend the licence for a period not exceeding twelve months." Then the bench could deal with every case on its merits and adjust the punishment thereto. After all, there are different degrees of drunkenness. There is a common saying, "sober as a judge" and there is also a common saying, "drunk as a Lord." There are intermediate stages between them. There may be noble Lords who are Judges as well, and what might be regarded as merely affability on the part of a noble Lord who is a Judge might be misinterpreted in the case of a motorist who was merely a noble Lord.

There is the further case of the man who is earning a livelihood by driving—the taxi-cab driver, and so on. The police may have declared him to be drunk, but the police definition of "drunkenness" has already excited a good deal of debate in this country from the purely physiological point of view. The point at which drunkenness is reached is still in debate amongst the most scientific people. Who can say exactly when a man is drunk and when he is sober? I suggest to the House that this is a question to which the bench might he allowed to apply its own discre- tion. After all, most of us in this House to-day are drivers, and those who are not drivers have a very large experience of the driving of other people, including their own chauffeurs. If a chauffeur were drunk nobody would keep him for a moment. I suggest that chairmen of benches of magistrates, who have had to deal, as I have, with this kind of case for many years past, should be allowed the discretion to impose a penalty up to a maximum of twelve months' deprivation of licence, and I should be wholeheartedly with the noble Earl if he suggested that course, but I think it is desirable that the magistrates should have discretion rather than that the law should lay down that the man must be deprived of his licence altogether and go back to have the question reconsidered.


My Lords, so far as I am concerned the only fault that I have to find with the Amendment is that I do not think that it goes nearly far enough. The speech to which we have just listened from my noble friend was really a criticism of the whole clause, because he said that it was difficult to define when I man is drunk in point of fact or in point of law, and that we ought, therefore, to accept a weak clause and to leave the magistrates discretion. I do not think that we have sufficiently realised the great danger that everybody is in from day to day, particularly with the greatly increased traffic in motor cars both in cities and in the country. I do not think that we have yet sufficiently realised what a terrible weapon a motor car on the highway becomes in the hands of a drunken man. No matter how carefully you drive, whether you drive yourself or have a chauffeur, or if you are a pedestrian, there is no way in which you can protect yourself against the drunken driver of a motor car.

I have watched from my own little house in the country the children going along the road to school and back, hugging the side of the road, and the motorists, and especially motor-cyclists, go by in the most dangerous possible way at a pace utterly indefensible. If any one of those men happened to be in a drunken condition or to have taken too much drink, which I think is really what it comes to, there is not a single one of these children whose life is not in danger on the way to school. What I should like to see in the Bill is a provision that anybody convicted of drunkenness while in charge of a motor car on the highway should have to go to gaol without any option of a fine whatsoever. What right have they to go out and threaten the lives of our subjects under present conditions? What right have they to indulge themselves in drink, if it is their business, as in the case of a taxi-cab driver, to drive motor cars on the highway, and thereby endanger not only their own lives but the lives of everybody else?

We have not yet had brought home to us, at all sufficiently, the necessity for new legislation in dealing with the new circumstances that have arisen in our streets under these conditions. We read almost daily in the newspapers of most terrible accidents occurring, and generally the foundation of them is—and I dare say it is so very much more often than we know—the fact that the driver is drunk, or has taken sufficient drink to prevent him from driving in safety amid congested traffic or even along the high roads, when they will go at the rate they do. I should have been glad if this clause had enacted that the magistrate had no option except to send a motorist found drunk while in charge of a motor to gaol, and I should have been glad if the noble Earl had simply put in "disqualified to hold a licence to drive," fixing no time at all. I do not see why a man who has forfeited his licence for dangerous driving while drunk on the highway should ever get his licence back again. If these people once grow to understand that travelling in a motor car is a serious matter, in which the law is going to protect those who have to walk and those who have to drive, I think we should have a very different state of affairs in our streets in a very short time. I hope that, at all events so far as we are concerned to-day, we shall certainly not weaken the proposal, which seems to me to be a most moderate and mild one, put forward by the noble Earl.


My Lords, this Amendment evidently excites a good deal of sympathy because we are all desirous to do what we can to protect the public against those who drive cars while in a state of drunkenness. I have consulted, of course, the Home Office and the police authorities on this subject, and I am bound to give the House their view, which is that the adoption of this Amendment will not be in the public interest. I am not sure that all your Lordships know the law as it stands to-day. I say that because of some of the speeches that have been made. The purpose of this clause is greatly to increase the penalties for driving a car while in a state of drunkenness. The fine is increased from 40s. to £50, and there are other changes, but under the law as it stands, which would not be affected by this clause, the magistrates, in addition to fine or imprisonment, have power to suspend the defendant's driving licence and to disqualify hire from obtaining a fresh licence for such further time, after the expiration of his licence, as they think fit. So that under that clause and the law as it stands the magistrates may to-day suspend the licence and disqualify the man from holding any licence for such time as they think fit.

The noble Earl proposes to take away all discretion, and to say that automatically a conviction shall involve a loss of the licence for twelve months. It is easy to make speeches in defence of very severe penalties of that kind, but I think I am right in saying that experience shows that that kind of thing often defeats itself. There may be the case of a man who has driven a car carefully for years, and against whom no offence of any kind has been charged, and who has no other means of living. He is convicted of this offence, and the proposal is that automatically, without discretion, he shall not be allowed to drive for twelve months. There is a fear lest the effect of that may be that convictions will not always take place. It has been found that automatic penalties, if so severe, are apt to prevent conviction. We had an instance of that only the other day brought to our notice on this Bill. Your Lordships who were present may remember that there is in the Theatres Act a provision that a theatrical manager convicted of a certain offence shall automatically forfeit his theatrical licence. That has been on the Statute Book for many years and has been found to have the very effect which I have described, so that the Lord Chamberlain came down here the other day and gave it as his experience that it was far better to repeal the existing law and put in its place a discretion of the magistrates. He said he had known cases where the prosecution failed because of that automatic penalty. The magistrates thought that the penalty was too severe for the particular offence) and therefore refused to convict.

Those noble Lords who are anxious, as I have no doubt we all are, to protect the public, ought to consider the matter front that point of view. The magistrates have full power to-day to impose not only the penalty which is proposed in this Amendment but even longer suspension, but you are going to 'out in place of that discretion an automatic suspension. With regard to the proviso to the Amendment I agree that it is an improvement so far as the main proposal of the Amendment is concerned, but I doubt whether it is wise to extend the proviso to all the cases in which licences have been suspended. Every driver who has been disqualified for driving will see a chance of getting his disqualification reversed and the magistrates may be flooded with applications of the kind. But this is a minor point. Upon the main question I have given my reasons for suggesting that the Amendment needs careful consideration.


My Lords, I may possibly be pardoned if I intervene, as one of those who have appeared in both the capacities mentioned by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, not that I have ever been in the condition which he imputes to Judges and Peers, with absolute impartiality. There can be no doubt whatever that the history of the administration of the law regarding crime in this country proves that when automatically the Judges had to pronounce a very severe sentence and the juries had to find people guilty of crimes of which undoubtedly they were guilty, both the Judges and the juries omitted to do their strict duty. When a great many offences were punishable with capital punishment. Judges found a great many reasons for evading the strictness of the law. That was the reason why indictments were drawn in such a way as to appear absurd to people who were not lawyers at all.

The history of it was that the lawyers themselves were shocked at the penalty which would follow, and provided the accused with a great many loopholes for escape, and the Judges summed up in a way to give the prisoner chances which he did not deserve. When capital punishment was abolished with regard to those offences, when discretion was given to the Judge as to what sentence he should pass, there were far more convictions, and to my mind real justice was done. I speak in the presence of lawyers much more learned than myself, but it seems to me that the great difference between our law and the penal codes of many other countries—take France, for example—is this, that far more liberty is allowed to those who are administering the law in this country than is customary among people who are governed by a strict code, where the point at issue is laid down, and where, once the verdict is given, the Judge has no discretion as to what penalty he will award. The genius of our law is totally against that.

I may give perhaps, an instance within my own knowledge. The law was altered, I think, while I was on the Bench, but certainly for a long time, when I was at the Bar in country places, there were often indictments against people for having committed a crime which was sufficiently described in the law books as a crime non inter Christianos nominari. The penalty, on a verdict of guilty, for that crime was ten years' penal servitude. The Judge had no option but to pass it. I have heard Judges pass it most unwillingly. And what was the consequence? In most cases while that was the penalty, the Judges and the juries alike did not give the verdict which strictly ought to have been given upon the evidence. They found a person guilty of an attempt and he received eighteen months' imprisonment. That was altered by law, proper verdicts were given, and the Judge in those cases now gives that punishment which all fair-minded people hearing the case would desire to be given. I think what would happen in the case which we are now considering would be that if you deprived the magistrates of any kind of discretion they would not find a man guilty in some instances where they ought to find him guilty, because they would shrink from imposing the punishment.


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord must bear in mind the character of the punishments, which were so tremendously severe in old days that both Judges and juries connived at the evasion of their duty to find a particular person guilty. I can recollect very well hearing from my father that he was cognisant of one of the last cases in which a man was hung for stealing from his master. He happened to be a butler in the neighbourhood where my father lived when he was a young man. The crime he committed was to take a glass of wine out of a bottle, and for that he was hung. I think that abominable punishment, quite out of proportion to the offence committed, was brought to an end by that case.

I do not agree with what the noble and learned Lord has said about sentences. I think he instanced France, but, as a rule, I believe that sentences in this country are heavier than they are abroad. I have studied them in France, Italy and in Germany. But, of course, he is quite right in saying that if you are going to give a discretion there is not the same objection to a heavy punishment that there would be if you were obliged to give the actual punishment itself. I think the answer to what the noble and learned Lord has said is this. What is there either brutal or inconsistent with justice in disqualifying a man from driving for a space of twelve months because he has been convicted of drunkenness whilst in control of a motor car? It is a terrible thing that a man should be allowed to drive who has been convicted of such a crime. It seems to me a form of punishment, admirably suited to the offence. I recollect, in regard to the Traffic Bill, which I had the honour to introduce in this House, that fault was found with us for not putting in a heavier penalty on drunken drivers. The answer to that was that it was a matter which would be dealt with in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, and when the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill was brought forward this form of punishment was inserted in your Lordships' House—I will not say unanimously, but without any Division, I believe. I entirely agree with the noble Earl that this is a suitable punishment, and there is no harm in putting it in the compulsory form rather than giving a discretion to the magistrate in each case. I shall certainly support the noble Earl if he goes to a Division.


My Lords, my experience, of course, is not equal to the experience of Lord Darling, but I have been a magistrate for some years, and I am inclined to think that if we enact that if a man is found guilty of drunkenness when driving a motorcar there must be a penalty of twelve months' suspension of his licence, certain magistrates will say: "It is a very hard penalty. His livelihood is involved. I do not think that he really was drunk. There may have been a misunderstanding." There is a danger of that. But, we must remember that there is a proviso, which says that at the end of three months the magistrate may reconsider the question, and restore the man's licence. That being so, I think it would be advisable to pass the noble Earl's Amendment, because I do think we want to bring home to the magistrates that there is an enormous danger at present to life and limb from the driving of motor-cars by drunken or reckless people, and that they must give severe penalties in such cases.


My Lords, I venture to suggest that there was a certain fallacy in the argument of Lord Darling. He gave instances of cases in former clays in which there were extravagantly severe sentences, and, not unnaturally, when a penalty bore no relation to the offence, Judges and juries were, very reluctant to convict. But can that be said in any sense whatever in the present day? It seems to me that the offence of driving a thing like a motor car when you are drunk is one of the gravest offences you can commit against the community. You are not only endangering your own life and the lives of those in the car, but you endanger the lives of others, as has been shown in numerous instances.

I entirely agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Carson, that not only is the penalty a moderate one for the offence, but an absolutely necessary one. My noble friend Lord Banbury of Southam says—though I think this is an answer rather to Lord Darling than to Lord Banbury—that if the penalty is too severe the magistrates will not convict. The same thing may be said of the penalty of sending a man to gaol, which is a severe penalty. My noble friend says it is not arbitrary, and I agree, but it might be said that they would not convict because there is this penalty hanging over the man. Be that as it may, I cannot see why it should be said that this is an un- reasonable penalty for the offence, and therefore, I shall vote for the Amendment.


My Lords, I came to the House intending to support the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, but I am bound to say that the course of this debate has entirely changed my mind. The case you are considering now is a very mild case in which the justices might hesitate as to what to do. What we are agreed upon, I think, is that if a man is driving a motor car and his sobriety is subject to the slightest suspicion he ought to be considered as committing an offence which requires some punishment. It is said that the mildest case of intoxication when in charge of a motor car should be dealt with and the extreme case, of course, should be punished with great severity.

I ask your Lordships, many of whom are magistrates, to call to mind the character and disposition of your brother magistrates and the sort of individuals in your neighbourhood, old coachmen and such persons, who are now occupied as drivers of taxi-cabs and for the most part are really sober but are not altogether above temptation. Take the case of such a man who, when in charge of a motor car, was on the border-line between drunkenness and sobriety. He is brought before the magistrates and charged. Clearly the desire of the bench is that they should convict and should mark the offence in some way. But are we not perfectly certain from our knowledge of our own neighbours that in any number of such cases the justices will take a lenient view if they know that the result of a conviction would be that he may be sent to prison for three months?


My Lords, in this case it is hardly a question of deciding whether a man is mildly intoxicated or not, or of whether we want to punish him for driving a motor car when in that condition. It is a case in which we want to prevent a man from driving a car when his faculties are not under control, whether he is mildly or considerably intoxicated. The object is to protect the public. It seems to me to be perfectly wholesome and desirable that it should be understood that any man who, in a state of intoxication, drives a motor car will be subject to this penalty, and that it will thereby be put out of his power to drive again for three months, so that the public may have even that respite.

In regard to what has been said about the magistrates, I have been for a short time a member of a bench of magistrates who are not at all disposed to favour their old coachmen and footmen. They live on a main road running through a large town, and there is a danger of offences of this sort, and I feel sure from my experience that they always give very proper and correct sentences, having regard to the merits of the case and the necessity of protecting the public. Therefore, on the ground that it is necessary to protect the public from this danger, I shall support the Amendment.


My Lords, as far as I have followed the discussion, I am certainly a supporter of those who desire to deal with these offences, and if I understood the noble and learned Lord aright the only issue is as to the best way of bringing that about. I did not intend to intervene in this debate at all but the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, in commenting upon the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Darling, called attention to the atrocious sentences that were passed and the feeling against making them effective that arose in the minds of those on the bench. From my own recollection I can give your Lordships a case of a much milder character and that is really the reason for my remarks. When I occupied the position of Director of Public Prosecutions the Bankruptcy Act then in force made it a punishable offence fee a person to obtain credit without disclosing that he was an undischarged bankrupt and it was held that there was no necessity to prove any intent to defraud. I found that the effect of that was that the jury would acquit, in spite of direct evidence that the man charged had obtained credit without disclosing the fact that he was an undischarged bankrupt, his defence being that he thought there was no harm in it.

In the case we are considering the magistrates dealing with a man who has driven to the public danger, or recklessly, or whatever it may be, would be prepared to punish him for that offence. But where the issue of drunkenness was also raised and the marl was of good character there would be a tendeny for them to consider that they could punish him severely without taking drunkenness into consideration at all. And they would give him the benefit of any doubt there was and would not deal with the case of drunkenness.


My Lords, in saying a word in reply, I might deal first with what the noble Lord, Lord Charnwood, said. If the case is, as he was pleased to say, a border-line case, a case in which there is a reasonable doubt, clearly it will be the duty of the justices to acquit. You do not convict a man of a criminal offence when there is any reasonable doubt about it. I should be the last person to be in favour of a man being convicted of so serious and, as I think, so discreditable an offence as being drunk in charge of a motor car if there were any doubt about it. And I do not think that justices will be so weak-kneed as to be deterred from doing their duty by the fact that the man has to be punished.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Darling, made a speech with which I must say I almost entirely agree in its general principles, just as I agree with the noble Earl who has just sat down. It is the principle of our law, and a most excellent principle it is, to give the fullest possible discretion to magistrates. I need hardly tell your Lordships that I am very sorry to be departing from that principle in this instance. But this is an offence of a very serious character which has been growing and which, I think, requires to be checked by something rather exceptional. When the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack was calling attention to the penalties under this clause, he said that penalties were provided already and that this cause stiffened even them. Be it so. It does in fact happen now, and I am constantly seeing in the daily Press, that people are convicted of being drunk while in charge of a motor car and fined only 40s. That seems to me in all the circumstances to be an inadequate penalty and I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, that nothing short of a sentence of imprisonment is really a proper penalty.

But when we come to the instances that Lord Darling gave of ferocious punishments, they surely do not apply to a thing of this sort. This is not a fine, it is not imprisonment, it is merely saying, in the interests of His Majesty's lieges who have not been drunk, but who have been imperilled by drunken drivers, that that menace shall be removed from the streets for a short period. Observe the proviso. Provided the man is of good conduct, and provided the magistrates are satisfied he is likely to drive carefully and soberly in the future, they can reinstate him after three months. I am sorry, indeed, to differ from the general view of the law with which I entirely agree, but in this instance I think we require to do something. The noble Lord, Lord Charnwood, spoke of a mild case of drunkenness. Well, even a mildly drunken person driving a car weighing nearly three tons at the rate of forty miles per hour is a grave public danger.

Argyll, D. Ullswater, V. Harries, L.
Hemphill, L.
Lansdowne, M. Southwark, L. Bp. Kilmaine, L.
Knaresborough, L.
Beauchamp, E. Arnold, L. Lamington, L.
Chesterfield, E. Askwith, L. Lawrence, L.
De La Warr, E. [Teller.] Atkinson, L. Lawrence of Kingsgate, L.
Eldon, E. Avebury, L. Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Midleton, E. Banbury of Southam, L. Muir Mackenzie, L.
Northbrook, E. Biddulph, L. Newton, L.
Russell, E. [Teller.] Carson, L. Olivier, L.
Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam) Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)
Chaplin, V. Parmoor, L.
Hadlane, V. Clwyd, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Hood, V. Danesfort, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Novar, V. Erskine, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Sidmouth, V. Gainford, L. Stanmore, L.
Wargrave, L.
Cave, C. (L. Chancellor.) Stanhope, E. Ernle, L.
Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Balfour, E. (L. President.) Astor, V. Jessel, L.
Devonport, V. Merrivale, L.
Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.) Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Merthyr, L.
Mildmay of Flete, L.
Sutherland, D. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Bledisloe, L. Oranmore and Browne, L.
Queensberry, M. Charnwood, L. Philimore, L.
Darling, L. Raglan, L.
Birkenhead, E. Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.) Somers, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Desart, L. (E. Desart.) Sumner, L.
Malmesbury, E. Desborough, L. Templemore, L.
Plymouth, E. [Teller.] Dynevor, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Selborne, E. Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.) Wavertree, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

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