HL Deb 03 July 1967 vol 284 cc357-74

2.53 p.m.

Report of Amendments received (according to Order).

Clause 1 [Committal for trial without consideration of the evidence]:


My Lords, in the momentary absence of my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne, as I know he would like to hear what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is going to say on this Amendment, may I move it formally? I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 13, after ("without") insert ("statements being read aloud in court and without").—(Lord Derwent.)


My Lords, it appears to be the noble and learned Viscount's intention in this Amendment, which he had intended to move, to put it beyond all doubt that when the magistrates decide to commit for trial without consideration of the written statemens under Clause 1 of he Bill there should be no obligation on them to have the written statements read aloud in court, as is required in general by Clause 2(5). This is in fact the purpose of Clause 1: that if the defendant is prepared to go for trial without any consideration of the written statements there should be a purely formal committal without any airing of the evidence at all. The words which the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, proposes to insert in Clause 1 are, in the view of the Government, unnecessary because they are already present in Clause 2(5), which says: So much of any statement as is admitted in evidence by virtue of this section shall, unless the court commits the defendant for trial by virtue of the last foregoing section that is to say, Section 1— … be read aloud at the hearing …". It is quite clear, therefore, that where under Clause 1, a court commits the defendant for trial it is not intended that the evidence shall be read out, and for that reason the Amendment is unnecessary.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for that reply to my Amendment which was so excellently moved by my noble friend Lord Derwent. I tabled this Amendment because of a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, for whose opinion I have the greatest respect. As your Lordships may remember, in the course of the debates which we had in Committee the noble Lord expressed the view that, as the clause was then drawn, contrary to the views held by some of us it was still necessary to publish the contents of the written statement under the Clause 1 procedure. I am glad that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, has disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in this respect, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 [Written statements before examining justices]:

VISCOUNT DILHORNE had given Notice of an Amendment to insert after subsection (2): ( ) The fact that no objection is taken in the magistrates court to a written statement being tendered in evidence under this section shall not prejudice in any way an objection at the trial to the admission of the whole or part of the statement in evidence. The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has written a letter to me about this Amendment in which he has told me that it is intended to deal with this matter by Magistrates' Courts Rules. As I understand it, the procedure to be applied will be that the court will mark on the written statement the parts which they think are inadmissible before they send them on. I think this is entirely satisfactory, and I would only ask the noble and learned Lord to bear in mind the possibility of having marked on the written statement the objection taken by the defence to part of the written statement, even if that objection is not accepted by the court before which the written document is being put in. In his letter to me that point was not quite covered, and I think it would be an improvement. But in view of the full assurances I have received from the Lord Chancellor on this point I do not think it is necessary to move the Amendment.

Clause 4 [Notice of result of committal proceedings]:

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in paragraph (c), to leave out all words after "court", and to substitute: determines to discharge him, describing the offence charged and stating that it has so determined". The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the Government are grateful to the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, for raising on the Committee stage of the Bill the inconsistency and possible ambiguity of meaning in the two phrases "determines to discharge him "and" determines not to commit him" which are used in this clause and in Clause 3 of the Bill. The Government are, of course, concerned to achieve consistency within Clause 4, and the choice here is between "determines to discharge him", in line 28, and "dismisses the charge", in paragraph (c), in line 38. In the view of the Government the former expression, "determines to discharge him", is the better.

The word "discharge" is used in Section 7 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1952, the side-note of the Section being "Discharge or committal for trial", and Rule 11 of the Magistrates' Courts Rules prescribes that: Where a magistrates' court determines not to commit the accused for trial, it shall cause to be entered in the register the words 'Discharged, Magistrates' Courts Act, Section 7'. It is true that whether the accused will actually be discharged, in the sense of being set at liberty, will depend upon whether he is in custody for any other reason, but the Amendment takes account of this point by using the phrase "determines to discharge him" and not "discharges him". That is to say, the magistrates' determination relates only to the offence into which they have been inquiring as examining justices and would not necessitate the release of a defendant who was also in custody on account of other charges or offences.

The term "dismisses the charge", which is deleted by this Amendment, is also technically inaccurate, in that when examining justices decline to commit for trial they do not, in the strict sense, "dismiss the charge". It remains open to the prosecution to initiate fresh proceedings, although this is extremely rare, and indeed, as the noble and learned Viscount knows, when the magistrates decide not to commit for trial this does not mean that the person affected can plead autrefois acquit, if other proceedings are taken against him. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 38, leave out from ("court") to, end of line 40 and insert the said new words—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, I rise only to say "Thank you" to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. I think this is an improvement upon the Bill. It is a narrow and technical point, but a discrepancy in the language between the two clauses might have led to difficulties, and I believe this will resolve it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5 [Privilege of newspaper reports of committal proceedings in libel actions]:

3.0 p.m.


My Lords, in the temporary absence of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, I beg leave to move this Amendment. I have not the advantage of having my noble friend's reasons for wishing this addition to be made, but it would seem to me, on looking at the Amendment, that what he desires to do is to secure that any publication in a newspaper or broadcast of the contents of the notice displayed under Clause 4 shall be protected by privilege. I should think it is not very likely that any such notice published under Clause 4 could be defamatory, but I suppose there is a slight risk that it might be, and it would not be a bad thing to extend the protection under Clause 5 to publication of the contents of the notice. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 41, at end insert ("the contents of a notice displayed under the last foregoing section, or of").—(Viscount Dilhorne.)


My Lords, I was looking around, because while in Committee it is sometimes convenient for a Government spokesman to say his piece early, on Report stage there is no right of speaking again in reply. It being apparent that no other Member of the House wishes to speak, may I say this? I think the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, is quite right in his estimate of the reasons of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, for putting down this Amendment. When the Government first considered the point, we began by taking the view that if reporters wanted to be protected they ought really to be in court; but then, on thinking about it further, we appreciated the fact that if a notice is put up partly for the benefit of the Press, to save wasting their time, a case could at least be made that reports of such notices ought to be privileged.

The question which I then have to consider—and I really have not had sufficient time to consider it—is whether they are not in fact privileged already. There are a number of relevant cases on the point which I am afraid I have not yet had time to consider fully. Apart from that, there is the effect of the Defamation Act 1952. Section 7(1) of that Act provides: Subject to the provisions of this section, the publication in a newspaper of any such report or other matter as is mentioned in the Schedule to this Act shall be privileged unless the publication is proved to be made with malice. Paragraph 6 of that Schedule reads: A fair and accurate copy of or extract from any register kept in pursuance of any Act of Parliament which is open to inspection by the public, or of any other document which is required by the law of any part of the United Kingdom to be open to inspection by the public. It therefore appears to me that the notice will in any case be privileged. While the Government accept the spirit of the Amendment, they still feel, for the reasons I have ventured to give, that it is probably unnecessary. If, on a full review of the law, we should come to the conclusion that it is necessary to make an amendment in order that it shall be privileged, an Amendment will be put down on Third Reading. I hope the noble and learned Viscount, with that explanation, will be willing to withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, I am quite certain the explanation the noble and learned Lord has given will satisfy my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [Proof by written statement]:

3.5 p.m.

VISCOUNT DILHORNE moved to add to subsection (6): The court shall only give such a direction with the consent of the parties to the case. The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, this is an Amendment to Clause 9, which provides for proof by written statement. Under subsection (6) the court is given power to order, in regard to the statement which is admitted in evidence, that parts of it need not be given orally and read aloud. I think that on occasions that can be a convenience, but what worried me—and I raised this point on Committee—was this. Supposing counsel or solicitor for the defence wants the statement read aloud, the court, under the clause as drawn, can give a direction that it need not be read aloud, notwithstanding the objection on the part of the defence. I do not think it is likely that any court would take that course. In my view it would be very wrong if a court did so.

To make it quite certain that a court could not take that course, I have tabled this Amendment. I have had a letter from the Home Secretary about this, which has gone some way to allay my anxieties. He has pointed out that it might be a matter for appeal if the court overruled the objection. I am not quite sure that I go fully with him about that. It is rather hard to assess what the effect might be, when you get to the Appeal Court, of something being summarised and not read out in full at the trial. I believe it would be better if this Amendment were inserted, and I should be grateful if perhaps a little further consideration might be given to this point. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 9, at end insert the said words.—(Viscount Dilhorne.)


My Lords, this is something which already happens every day of the week and is left to the discretion of the court. As your Lordships know, cases vary infinitely. It is expected that statements will be summarised orally only where the evidence is formal or repetitive, and it is hard to envisage the defence, or any party, objecting in such a case. If, however, the defendant feels that he is being prejudiced, he would no doubt object to the admission of the statement in evidence and ask that the witness be called. In the case of committal proceedings (not covered by Clause 9) he may require the attendance of the witness without any notice. His right to require oral evidence in trials (which is covered in Clause 9) is qualified by the time limits in subsection (2)(d), but it would be a bold court which refused to give leave for the witness to be called and which directed in the face of defence objection that his written evidence should be summarised and not read aloud in full. We think that the safeguards are adequate in the clause as it stands, since high-handed action by the courts in overriding any reasonable request by the defence would almost certainly provide a ground for appeal. In these circumstances it scarcely seems necessary to make it a statutory requirement that the defence must give consent.

In this, as in other matters of procedure in the criminal courts, it is, I suggest, preferable, unless there are strong reasons to the contrary, to leave it to the courts to exercise their discretion, and I would appeal to the noble and learned Viscount whether it is not within his experience that in fact this sort of thing goes on all the time. If one has lengthy reports one may summarise them, if the contents are not in dispute, and tell the court what they amount to. Of course, if counsel for the defence says to the court, "I would like you to read page 36", or draw the court's attention to specific parts, or even reads the whole thing out, no court in practice refuses to allow it. For those reasons this Amendment is unnecessary. It would be better to leave it to the court, where circumstances vary so much, and I hope that with that explanation the noble and learned Viscount will be prepared to withdraw the Amendment.

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, of course I am aware of the present procedure, but we are now introducing an extended practice of receiving written statements in evidence, and I must say that I was somewhat concerned lest, on occasion, the court may exercise the unlimited power which is given by this subsection more widely than obviously the Lord Chancellor and I would think desirable. One will still have to see how this operates in practice. I hope it will operate satisfactorily. But in the light of what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13:

Majority verdicts of juries in criminal proceedings


(3) A court shall not accept a majority verdict unless it appears to the court that the jury have had not less than two hours for deliberation or such longer period as the court thinks reasonable having regard to the nature and complexity of the case.

3.11 p.m.

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (3), to leave out from "had", to the end of the subsection, and to insert: time to give adequate consideration to their verdict having regard to the length and complexity of the trial and to the nature and seriousness of the issues involved therein.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 6. Before speaking to it, I should like to apologise for not having been in my place to move Amendment No. 4. Unfortunately I was held up. I would thank my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne for moving it, and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack for replying as I understand that he did.

Amendment No. 6 is an improved version of an Amendment I moved in Committee, designed to give greater flexibility. I do not think that I would have put down an Amendment in the same sense at this stage but for the fact that I received support in Committee from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, who is a much better authority on these matters than I am, and from another noble and learned Lord. It seems to me that this fixing of a minimum two-hour limit will produce an undesirable inflexibility and, in certain simple cases, simple so far as the task of the jury is concerned, they may have to remain in the jury room for a long time after they would have had ample opportunity to consider every aspect of the questions they have to decide, and for a long time after it has become clear that unanimous agreement is not going to be reached.

I appreciate the argument for a two-hour limit, that it is desirable in every case that the jury should thoroughly have discussed the questions before them. I appreciate the further argument that a limit, not only of two hours, but sometimes of a longer period, is the law in certain parts of the Commonwealth and has been found to work satisfactorily. Nevertheless, it still seems to me that the insertion of an inflexible two-hour minimum may in certain cases lead to an undesirable waste of time, and I should like again to put to your Lordships the question whether a rather more flexible form of words such as I am here suggesting might not be more desirable than an inflexible minimum limit. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 16, leave out from ("had") to end of line 19 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


My Lords, may I say a word in support of this Amendment, and for a slightly different reason? I believe that if you have a fixed time limit of two hours for a jury to arrive at a decision you may well get to the point after about an hour and a half where they give up trying to attain agreement, because they know that in another half an hour they are going to be released to come back and give a majority verdict. Therefore, I think it would be much wiser to have a more flexible time, which will encourage them to do their utmost to achieve a unanimous verdict. For those reasons particularly I should like to add my support to this Amendment.


My Lords, on the whole I am in favour of this Amendment, though I can see possible difficulties the other way. Apart from the principle I think the whole point of majority verdicts is to meet the case of what has been referred to as the crook or the crank on the jury. In general, that will be discovered at quite an early stage and therefore there may be a considerable waste of time in which a jury are really "kicking their heels". On the other side of the picture, I think it is only right to realise that we are not concerned with the 37 Queen's Bench Judges, who, I am sure, can be trusted to see that a unanimous verdict will be obtained if that is possible; but there are no fewer than 347 people who to-day are entitled to try indictable offences. Therefore the comment may be made that one or more of those 347 is so anxious to get a verdict that he will not allow a reasonable time to elapse. That, however, I should have thought was a matter of educating the 347. Therefore, as a matter of principle, I would support this Amendment.


My Lords, I am sorry to say that I find myself differing on this occasion from my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, from my noble and learned friend Lord Parker of Waddington, and from my noble friend behind me. I think that this is a most evenly balanced matter, but I come down on the side of keeping the Bill as it is, for this reason. I do not want to see majority verdicts gradually becoming the usual thing, and I think that to keep this two-hour period before which a majority verdict cannot be returned will eliminate that possibility.

If this Amendment were accepted I think we should find that what people consider to be a reasonable time for seeing whether or not they could agree would gradually narrow and narrow; so that when, after a jury had been retired for ten minutes, there was a disagreement with a majority of ten to two, we might find the jury saying, "We have considered this matter most carefully and we are a clear majority. Cannot we return a majority verdict straight away?" In many parts of the Commonwealth a certain time must elapse before a majority verdict can be brought in. I believe it is not too much to ask jurors to spend up to two hours in seeking to reach an agreement., and I should certainly like to stay with that and see how it works before opening the door too widely to the returning of majority verdicts.


My Lords, I think that on the Committee stage of the Bill I spoke in favour of rather more elasticity in this matter, and I would not repeat what I then said were it not for the fact that I am one of the 347 to whom the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice referred. I should like to say, on their behalf, that almost invariably they are fairly experienced in this field. In the old days when I first practised at quarter sessions the chairman at most of them was far from being a lawyer and, because in many sessions a jury case was not then so common, often had not much experience of trying a jury case. A good deal of care has to be taken in the Lord Chancellor's Department before appointments are made to quarter sessions; and I think it would be rare for an inexperienced chairman or deputy chairman to try to hurry a jury along in the way that the noble and learned Lord fears.

It would seem to me that a good deal of this Bill is of an extremely academic character. I can quite imagine somebody sitting down in an office in Whitehall and coming to the conclusion that this was a proper rule—especially if he saw that it was observed in British Honduras or some other part of the Commonwealth. But, having taken the chair at quarter sessions now for something like a quarter of a century, and having a considerable experience of disagreements among juries, I think it would in fact be a distinct mistake to establish this hard and fast rule. I hope the Government will see their way to adopting the rather more flexible alternative which is suggested.


My Lords, it is obvious from the observations which your Lordships have already heard that this is very much a matter of opinion. The purpose of specifying a minimum period of retirement is to provide an absolute safeguard against a too hasty majority verdict; without such a minimum it would rest wholly with the court to decide when the period of retirement had been sufficient. The subsection is drafted to make it clear that two hours is a minimum. The judge would be able to ask the jury to deliberate longer if it were clear to him that two hours were insufficient in the circumstances of the case. The Government have given careful consideration to this matter since the Committee stage, but they still feel that it is desirable to have a minimum period of this kind.

We none of us want juries to get the idea that, now that there are majority verdicts, they will not have to try to be unanimous. On the contrary, we all hope that most verdicts will continue to be unanimous verdicts, and that this is really only a provision which will be required in a comparatively few cases to deal with cranks, or those who have been intimidated or bribed. If therefore there is no minimum period at all, may not juries almost as soon as they retire, if they take a first vote and find that they are 10 to 2, think, "We need not go any further"? I think most Members of the House would agree that that would not be desirable. Some reliance has to be placed on experience elsewhere. This sort of provision is not unknown in the Commonwealth. In Gibraltar, for example, the period is two hours; in Trinidad, three hours; in South Australia, four hours. There has been no complaint at all, and it has given rise to no practical difficulty.

If your Lordships occupied my position, you would know what a large proportion of the complaints which one gets about the administration of justice are about disparity of treatment. Nothing upsets citizens more (and it is quite natural) than the belief, whether it is justified or not—and very often I think it is not justified—that different courts treat people in different ways in respect of the same offences. We all want to see equality of treatment, so far as it is possible. It is idle to think that this can be achieved exactly, but it is understandable when people complain that if they come before one court they receive one treatment, whereas if they come before another they receive different treatment.

As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice said, there are 347 men and women dealing with offences relative to this clause. If it is observed by the public that in some cases a majority verdict is accepted in a quarter of an hour and in other cases juries are kept for hours before they are allowed to return such a verdict, I would anticipate wide complaint; and if there were nothing in the Bill at all about this, nothing could be done about it. There is no way either the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice or I have of persuading people to alter their practices.

Some courts do not work under much pressure. On the other hand—and I say this with no disrespect to them, because it is no fault of theirs—courts like the London Sessions and the Middlesex Sessions are working under very great pressure and with very long lists. They may quite reasonably want to get rid of a jury as soon as they can, possibly because they want to go on to try another case—they may be waiting for the jury. When one takes all these things into account, I submit that, on balance, the proper thing to do here is to have a time limit which at least will introduce that measure of conformity. I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, may be willing to withdraw his Amendment.


My Lords, I am grateful for the increasing degree of support which my Amendment has received at the second stage, and I am greatly obliged also for the further thought which the Government have given to the point. I am sorry that I have not been able to convince the Government that it would be desirable to make the Bill rather more flexible. One appreciates that this is an experimental procedure, and one cannot be quite sure how things will turn out. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor feels that it would be safer to have a definite minimum time limit in the Bill. Perhaps my inclination in a matter like this is not to draw the Statute too tightly just because this is experimental, and because one might regret its tightness. After the experiment has continued for a time, it may be necessary to have amending legislation of one kind or another. However that may be, I recognise that this is a point on which the arguments are nicely balanced. None of those who have spoken wish to go to the stake for the Amendment or against it. For my part, though I still think that it would be wiser to have a flexible form of words, I do not think it would be right for me to seek to press this to a Division. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 [Disqualification of ex-prisoners from serving on juries in criminal proceedings]:

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "£100", and to insert "£250". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that this also is an improved version of an Amendment which I moved in Committee, and I hope that it may perhaps have greater success than my previous one. Here we are dealing with a person who serves on a jury when disqualified from doing so. The fine laid down in the Bill is a fine not exceeding £100.

When arguing for my Amendment in Committee, I pointed out that there might be crooked work in a case like this if it were discovered by criminal friends of the accused that a man with a criminal record was serving on a jury, and that it might be worth while getting at him with money. In some of the cases of which we have heard recently the fact that he would be rendering himself liable to a fine of £100 might be a very small offset against the money with which they were prepared to bribe him. I suggested in my previous Amendment that the £100 should be raised to £500. That was debated, and it was suggested that £500 was rather too high but that £100 might be increased. It is because my original £500 was a spot figure, not arrived at by any careful system of calculation, that I am now venturing to suggest £250. As there was fairly widespread agreement that the original £100 was too low, I hope your Lordships may agree that a fine not exceeding £250 would be appropriate.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 36, leave out ("£100") and insert ("£250").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)


My Lords, I should like to say a word in support of my noble friend. It is rather curious that when one looks at Clause 79 one sees that the penalty for possessing a shot-gun without a certificate is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding £200, or both. I should have thought that most people would take the view that to sit on a jury, when you know you are disqualified from sitting, is a more serious offence. Yet under the Bill as it stands the maximum punishment is only a fine of £100. I think it would be right to bring this up to £250 as a maximum fine, and I am not sure that there ought not to be an alternative, as there is in Clause 79(3), of a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months.


My Lords, this is a matter of opinion as applied to a question of amount. The Government thought, and still think, that £100 was right. At the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, thought that £500 was right. The Government said, "Oh, no! We could not possibly agree to £500. That cannot be right. The most we could possibly agree to is £200". Now the noble Lord tempts us with £250. We do not want to spend time on so small a difference, and I shall be happy to accept the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, I moved this Amendment in Committee. I think I have slightly improved the wording; at least, I hope I have. I shall not deal with it at any great length, but this is an Amendment to provide that it shall be a defence for someone charged with sitting on a jury when disqualified if he satisfies the court that he was not told of the disqualifications imposed upon him. I move this with such brevity because during the Committee stage, when I held over this Amendment, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said: It is left over, but with a very favourable indication."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6/6/67, col. 382.] I hope the weather has not changed since then. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 36, at end insert ("but he shall not be liable to be convicted if he establishes to the satisfaction of the court that, when he received a summons to serve on a jury, he was not told of the disqualifications imposed by the preceding subsection.")—(Viscount Dilhorne.)


My Lords, the weather has not changed but the circumstances have, because since the matter was debated in Committee the Government have accepted that the Bill should place a statutory duty on the sheriff or other summoning officer to send a warning notice to every person summoned for jury service, and the next Amendment on the Marshalled List is an Amendment which I shall be moving to that effect. This should be a sufficient insurance that no person summoned to serve on a jury will be unaware of the statutory provisions as to disqualification. It would, in any case, be unusual to make it a defence to a criminal charge that the defendant had not received a notice formally reminding him of the relevant law.

While it may, I apprehend, be said, "Well, strictly, suppose that he did not get the notice: ought not this to be a defence?", of course one has to balance against that the fact that nothing is easier than for somebody to say, "I did not get the notice." If this Amendment were carried it would be necessary, I suppose, to have some very complicated further Amendments and everything would either have to be personally served or sent by registered post, and in some way the prosecution would always be ready to show that the person had, in fact, received the notice. Therefore, on the balance of consideration, it seemed to the Government that, having now put a statutory duty on the sheriff or other summoning officer in relation to the service of the notice, we should not go any further. I am hopeful that with that explanation the noble and learned Viscount will be prepared to withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, I must confess that I am very disappointed, after the favourable indications on an earlier occasion; nor am I altogether satisfied that the provision in the next Amendment meets this particular case. The next Amendment merely says that the sheriff shall send a notice. That could be sent through the ordinary post, presumably. There is no indication, no assurance, that it will be received by a prospective juror.

The case which I am bothered about is the case where a man who is in fact disqualified, but does not realise it, gets a summons to serve on a jury. He goes along to the court to serve, and it is there that he realises, perhaps for the first time, that he is disqualified from serving. I do not want to have that man put in the dilemma, if it can be avoided, of having to get up and disclose his record in public, and I do not think he ought to be convicted and punished if in those circumstances he kept his mouth shut. That is why I thought it was desirable that, as a matter of defence, he should have the right of establishing—the burden being on him to establish it—to the satisfaction of the court that he did not receive the notice.

Take the case if one likes—and many people go abroad for their holidays now —where notice is sent to a person by the sheriff through the ordinary post. He gets the jury summons but, for some reason, perhaps because he is abroad at the time, he does not get the notice about the disqualification. I should think it would be very hard for the man to be convicted of that offence. We always say that ignorance of the law does not excuse. At the same time I cannot see that it would really do any harm to make this a defence. If the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will lay down more rigid requirements in the next Amendment, such as sending the notice by registered post or by recorded delivery, it would go a considerable way to meet my difficulties. I am disappointed by the reply which I have received to-day. None the less, I will ask leave—


My Lords, before the noble and learned Viscount asks leave, may I also ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor whether he will have another look at this subject? He said that it is quite easy for somebody to say that he never received the notice; but what my noble and learned friend's Amendment says is not that he just comes along and says, "I never received it", but that he must prove to the satisfaction of the court that he did not get it. That means, presumably, that if he received the summons he must prove that he did not get the other notice. So before my noble and learned friend asks leave to withdraw the Amendment, which I understand he is going to do, I would ask the noble and learned Lord to have a look at this Amendment again before the next stage of the Bill, together with the Amendment which the noble and learned Lord is himself going to move.


My Lords, may I endorse what has been said by the noble and learned Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Derwent? Would it not be possible to have as an annex to the summons the particulars which the noble and learned Viscount requires? Could that be considered?


My Lords, I think there is one other point here which is worth considering. The criminal offence with which we are now dealing is not the ordinary kind of criminal offence, where somebody goes out with mischievous intent and thereby renders himself liable to conviction. The criminal offence with which we are dealing arises by the person being summoned by the State to carry out a public duty on behalf of the State. I should have thought that placed this matter in a rather special category, and that we ought to take great care to ensure that nobody is in jeopardy of being convicted of an offence of this kind arising in these rather peculiar circumstances.


My Lords, I am in some difficulty, partly because I cannot, without leave, speak again, and partly because we are also discussing an Amendment which has not yet been called. May I suggest that if the noble and learned Viscount would think it right to withdraw this Amendment, we could then discuss the matter again on the next Amendment?


My Lords, I think that would indeed be a convenient course. I ask leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.