HL Deb 22 October 1985 vol 467 cc1002-4
Chapter 12 & 13 Vict. c. 16. Short title Justices Protection (Ireland) Act 1849. Extent of repeal The whole Act so far as unrepealed.").

99 Schedule 8, page 66, line 27, at end insert—

("Limitation of damages against resident magistrates etc. in Norhern Ireland 13. Nothing in section (Limitation of damages in respect of acts by resident magistrates etc. in Northern Ireland) shall apply in relation to an action if the sentence or order in respect of which the action is brought was passed or made before the passing of this Act.".).

("Increase of penalties under Soliciotrs Act 1974 14. Nothing in paragraph 5A or 5B of Schedule 1 shall affect the punishment for an offence committed before the commencement of that paragraph.".).

These amendments all concern the same point. Those of us who follow Northern Irish affairs will remember a decision of your Lordships' House in its judicial capacity a year ago, in 1984, in a case called McC v. Mullen and Others. That case made it clear that a civil action for damages may be brought against a magistrate for acts done without or in excess of jurisdiction, notwithstanding that the plaintiff may have been guilty of an offence and suffered no greater punishment than that prescribed by law for that offence.

The new clause follows the pattern already set for England and Wales by Section 52 of the Justices of the Peace Act 1979, which, while retaining the right of access, will limit to one penny the amount of damages a plaintiff may recover in such circumstances. At last Northern Ireland has caught up with us. I beg to move that this House do agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 45.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, the House will be happy to welcome this proposal. When one bears in mind the life that resident magistrates and justices and those applying the criminal law in Northern Ireland have to undergo, the least we can do is make this concession to the magistrates and those who are covered by the clause. I remember with sorrow those who gave their lives for the performance of this duty. This is the least we can do for them.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, I personally—and I speak for my party—think it is high time this was done.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I am grateful both to the noble and learned Lord and to my noble twin Lord Donaldson of Robertsbridge.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, it is Kingsbridge.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I should like to be associated with what they have said about the magistracy in Northern Ireland, which is a constant source of anxiety to me and, alas, too often a source of unhappiness. I am grateful for what they have said and hope that people will take note of it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.