HL Deb 24 October 1972 vol 335 cc2123-31

[No. 3]

After Clause 23, insert the following new clause—

Qualification for jury service

".—(1) Subject to the following provisions, every person shall be qualified to serve as a juror and be liable accordingly to attend for jury service when summoned under Part V of the Act of 1971, if—

  1. (a) he is for the time being registered as a parliamentary or local government elector and is not less than twenty-one nor more than sixty-five years of age; and
  2. (b) he has been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for any period of at least five years since attaining the age of sixteen,
but not if he is for the time being ineligible or disqualified for jury service; and the persons who are ineligible, and those who are disqualified, are those respectively listed in Parts I and II of Schedule (Ineligibility and disqualification for, and excusal from, jury service) to this Act.

(2) A person summoned for jury service shall be entitled, if he so wishes, to be excused from jury service if he is among the persons listed in Part III of Schedule (Ineligibility and disqualification for, and excusal from, jury service) to this Act, but (except as provided by that Part of the Schedule in the case of members of the Forces and others) a person shall not by this subsection be exempt from his obligation to attend if summoned, where the summons has not been withdrawn under section 31(6) of the Act of 1971 and he has not under section 34(2) of that Act been excused from attending.

(3) A written summons sent to any person under Part V of the Act of 1971 shall be accompanied by a notice informing him—

  1. (a) of the effect of subsections (1), (2), (4) and (5) of this section; and
  2. 2124
  3. (b) that he may make representations to the appropriate officer with a view to obtaining the withdrawal of the summons, if for any reason he is not qualified for jury service, or wishes or is entitled to be excused;
and where a person attends in pursuance of such a summons or of a summons under section 33 of the Act of 1971 (summoning without notice in exceptional circumstances), the appropriate officer may put or cause to be put to him such questions as the officer thinks fit in order to establish whether or not the person is qualified for jury service.

(4) Where it appears to the appropriate officer, in the case of a person attending in pursuance of a summons for jury service, that on account of physical disability or insufficient understanding of English there is doubt as to his capacity to act effectively as a juror, the person may be brought before the judge, who shall determine whether or not he should act as a juror and, if not, shall discharge the summons; and for this purpose "the judge" means any judge of the High Court or any Circuit judge or Recorder.

(5) If any person—

  1. (a) having been summoned for jury service makes, or causes or permits to be made on his behalf, any false representation to the appropriate officer with the intention of evading jury service; or
  2. (b) makes or causes to be made on behalf of another person who has been so summoned any false representation to that officer with the intention of enabling the other to evade jury service; or
  3. (c) when any question is put to him in pursuance of subsection (3) above, refuses without reasonable excuse to answer, or gives an answer which he knows to be false in a material particular, or recklessly gives an answer which is false in a material particular; or
  4. (d) being ineligible for jury service under Group A, B or C in Part I of Schedule (Ineligibility and disqualification for, and excusal from, jury service) to this Act, or disqualified under Part II of that Schedule, serves on a jury,
he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than £400 in the case of an offence of serving on a jury when disqualified and, in any other case, a fine of not more than £100.

(6) The fact that a person summoned to serve on a jury is not qualified to serve shall be a ground of challenge for cause; but subject to this nothing in this section affects the law relating to challenge of jurors.

(7) In this section "the Act of 1971" means the Courts Act 1971; and that Act and the foregoing provisions of this section shall be construed and have effect as if this section were contained in Part V of that Act.

(8) Any enactment included among those repealed by this Act which would otherwise have any effect in relation to coroners' juries, or a person's qualification or liability to serve on such a jury, shall cease to have that effect."

The Commons agreed to this Amendment, but proposed the following Amendments thereto:


My Lords, if I may deal at the same time with the Commons Amendments Nos. 5 and 8, which are on the same point, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in the first of these Amendments. They are significant words because they reverse the situation as it was when the Bill left this House. This time the age of 18, as opposed to the age of 21, is mercifully not a matter for the Speaker's Conference so we are not fettered on this occasion as we have been on previous occasions. The right decision for the lower age which another place has now suggested should be put in the Bill, 18 instead of 21, is difficult to arrive at. When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, and his Committee looked at it, they had no lower age than 21 for anything because they considered it some time before the Latey Committee reported. They considered 25 as a minimum age, but came down against that. When my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor moved the jury Amendments in Committee, he said this: The Government considered carefully whether to reduce to 18 the age of eligibility for jury service, which would simplify the administration of the new laws so that the jurors came straight off the electoral list, but on reflection—and we do not think we have been very seriously criticised on that yet—we thought that human liberty was very important and that people might be a little uneasy if they could have their liberty taken away as a result of a verdict of a jury containing a substantial proportion of those between 18 and 21. We may have been right or we may have been wrong, but I think we have not been unduly criticised about it. Of course if it turns out to be wrong after a period of years we can put it right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27/7/72; col. 1578.] In the course of the debate, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, said that he thought that the age of 21 was right, certainly at the present time. I believe those were his words. My noble friend Lady Elles thought so, too, but the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, did not, and she made a powerful speech in favour of 18.

The matter went back to another place, and during the debate there were a number of contributions, including two from Members of the Committee chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, both of whom spoke and voted in favour of 18—one from each side, I believe. I must say that if one wants ammunition for a view on either side one will probably find it—and this is not meant to be in any way derogatory to the noble Lord, Lord Morris—in the Report of his Committee. It was certainly used by protagonists on either side in another place. There are differing opinions on this, and strongly held ones.

I think it is important to say that we recognise that in many contexts—and perhaps in this one, too—young people do mature more rapidly than they used to. Certainly we do not want to go back in any way on decisions which have been made about the age of 18 for other purposes, and I do not think that one could seriously say that young persons would not take their responsibilities seriously if they were chosen for jury service at the age of 18. But if a jury were to go on sitting for more than one trial, as it sometimes does, and if one juror looked as though he were not taking his responsibilities seriously, or if indeed there was some other objection by a defendant to being tried by a jury including somebody so young, there is the peremptory challenge, and this could be used. When one weighs up the arguments one way or the other and considers what was said, including the view taken in another place, I do not think I should be justified in recommending to this House that we should seek to reverse this decision. Therefore I hope that we shall not seek to disagree with another place on this matter and that we shall keep the age of 18, as suggested, as the minimum age for jury service, bringing it into line now with practically everything else except the question of elections for another place and for membership of local authorities. I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 4.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome this Amendment, and I hope that the House will agree with the Commons in it. The first consideration I would advance is that which was put forward by my noble friend Lady Scrota last Tuesday, October 17, in relation to the Local Government Bill, when at column 1714, in supporting an Amendment, she said in moving to make 18 the qualifying age for local elections: I hope that this issue will be regarded as one that goes right across Party since all are now committed, I think, to the need to involve the younger generation as fully as possible in the responsibilities as well as in the rights of full citizenship through their active participation in the practical workings of our institutions, in which of course democratic local government plays a dominant part. Even those who perhaps a few years ago were somewhat hesitant about giving further responsibility to the young have more recently gradually grown to accept that denial of responsibility to those who are ready to accept it can contribute to the development of dangerous irresponsibility and general disillusionment with the established democratic processes of our society. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, did not in any way disagree with that. Indeed, he said at column 1719: I do not want to deny or contradict what the noble Baroness has said about the vitality and the importance of introducing younger members of the community to the responsibilities of sitting as elected representatives, whether in another place or on a local authority. I am sure that she is quite right about this. But he opposed the Amendment on behalf of the Government on the grounds that it would pre-empt a decision of the Speaker's Conference, and that the ability to stand for Parliament and for a local authority should be dealt with at a separate time and in a separate Bill.

I do not think that this is contrary to the real views of the Committee of which the noble and learned Lord. Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, was chairman. Memory can play one strange tricks, but my recollection is that I gave evidence before that Committee, I think on behalf of the Society of Labour Lawyers, and suggested 18 which met with sort shrift from the committee. At that time 21 was the general age for practically all purposes. We had put some obligations on young people under that age, like the obligation to military service or the obligation, where necessary, to be hanged; but we had not given them rights under that age. It was natural therefore that the Morris Committee should think in terms of 21 or higher. The Latey Committee had not been appointed before the Morris Committee reported, and the philosophy of the Morris Committee is in paragraph 71 of their Report which says: A further argument which has been put forward is that an accused, particularly if middle-aged or elderly, might feel concern at being tried by a jury containing individuals much younger than himself. This argument is double-edged. An accused person can always remove individual jurors by use of the peremptory challenge … and a young accused person might reasonably welcome the presence on the jury of some people near his own age who would be more likely to understand his motivation and perhaps he better equipped to assess the truth of his defence. This consideration is the more forceful when it is remembered that the great bulk of offenders are relatively young, though of course only a small proportion of young persons come before the courts. It was pointed out that according to the statistics by far the largest group of offenders convicted in the higher criminal courts was aged 17 to 21, nearly one-third more than the next largest group, which was 21 to 25. They also pointed out that the statistical probability was that there would not be more than one or, at the most, two young people on a jury. The Latey Committee touched on this in their Report. They said in paragraph 25: We have to confess that it would not actually keep us awake at night if people under 21 were to serve on a jury—if, that is, one 18 year old were liable to take his seat with eleven older people, since it is statistically unlikely to be more. I might remind the House that it was the Latey Committee who said that the vast majority of young people are in fact running their own lives, making their own decisions, and behaving as responsible adults by the time that they are 18. That perhaps needs emphasising at a time when a very small number of students at a Scottish university have incurred such a large amount of publicity. I feel, rightly or wrongly, that when Members of your Lordships' House think about young people they mostly think about their sons—that is to say, university students or those at polytechnics which are such a very small proportion of those aged 18, most of whom are out at work, independent and supporting themselves.

The Morris Committee, in paragraph 74 said: If trial by jury is to be trial by a representative cross-section of an accused's fellow citizens, good reason must be shown before removing from jury service that section of the adult population nearest in age to the great majority of offenders. My Lords, on those grounds I support the Amendment, and I hope that the House will accept it.

6.4 p.m.


My Lords, I do not want to quarrel with my noble friend's advice that we should not oppose this Amendment at this stage. I will speak only for a moment and with great diffidence, because I have never sat on a jury and I have very little experience of the working of the courts. I have no lack of sympathy with the young—in fact very much to the contrary, I have a great deal of time for them. Most of them get through the difficult years of adolescence with great credit to themselves and their families. It is true that young people are much more mature in most ways than they used to be—not only physically but in many other ways. Many of them have acquired a great deal of general knowledge by the time they are 18. Anyone who has to do with 18-year olds will agree—as will the 18-year olds themselves—that there is a tremendous difference between one 18-year old and another in their individual maturities. The young are very conscious of this themselves. It is true that by far the best way of teaching responsibility is to give it. That is a strong argument in this case.

I was in favour of the reduction of the coming of age and the Parliamentary vote from 21, though if I had been a dictator —and I suppose I shall never be one—I would personally have fixed the age at 19 instead of 18. I am not going to quarrel with any of the words that the noble and learned Lord. Lord Gardiner, has just used from his great experience. I am sure that the young, if they found themselves on a jury, would in every case do their utmost to carry out their duties seriously and with a sense of responsibility. What worries me is that many of them will be handicapped by lacking a background of practical experience which must be very useful to juries. While reserving my position as a potential dic- tator as to what I should have done, I cannot say that I am happy about this situation. If I had had to vote I would have voted against making young people available at this time for jury service at 18. I am perfectly prepared to believe that at the rate things are moving in another ten or twenty years' time one would find 18 an acceptable figure. I do not feel passionately against this proposal, although if I had to vote on it I would vote against it at this time.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, the second Commons Amendment to the Lords Amendment is consequential on the Amendment to which we have just agreed. I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment to the Lords Amendment.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move the third of the Commons Amendments (No. 6) to the Lords Amendment No. 3. I am very glad that the Commons have suggested this Amendment. Instead of making it an absolute offence to serve on a jury when you are ineligible, as the Bill did when it left this House, the Amendment inserts the words "knowing that he is", so there will be some defence for those who may, for one reason or another, serve on a jury when they should not have done. I think the addition of the police authorities to the Bill that we made at the last moment has widened very considerably the number who might find themselves, either by mistake while they are holding a post or, as is more likely, during the ten-year period after they have ceased to hold a post, serving on a jury when they should not have done. They will not now be absolutely liable they will have the defence of not having served knowingly on the jury in those circumstances. That will ameliorate the situation a little for those caught in this unfortunate way. This is an excellent insertion in the Bill and I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment to the Lords Amendment.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

On Queston, Motion agreed to.