HL Deb 20 July 1936 vol 102 cc93-6WA

asked His Majesty's Government whether their attention has been called to the report of a case on the 2nd July at the Guildhall Justice Room, in which fourteen motorists were convicted of exceeding the speed limit and in which, in spite of the representation by the Chief Clerk that endorsement of licence in speeding cases was automatic and not discretionary, the presiding Alderman refused to direct that the licences should be endorsed, and what steps His Majesty's Government propose to take with regard to the continuance of the Alderman as a justice of the peace?

months in arrear with their payments. Having regard to that and to the concessions that the Government have made, I would earnestly ask your Lordships to feel that we have not been unreasonable in our plea that the existing law should be maintained.

On Question, Whether the proposed words shall be there inserted?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 18; Not-Contents, 35.


The attention of His Majesty's Government had not previously been directed to this matter, but I have caused inquiries to be made and have ascertained that the facts are not stated in the Question with strict, accuracy. On the 2nd July, 1930, at the Guildhall Justice Room the presiding Alderman dealt with ten cases of motorists summoned for exceeding the speed limit. A conviction was recorded in each case. The attention of the Alderman was directed by his clerk to the provisions of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, Section 5 (1), which provides that, unless for any special reason the Court thinks fit to order otherwise, particulars of the conviction must be endorsed on the licence of a driver of a motor vehicle convicted of an offence under this section. The Alderman, exercising his judicial discretion under the Act, ordered that in one case the licence should be endorsed, but in the other nine cases he held that there was a special reason within the meaning of the Act and decided not to order the endorsement of the licences.

If the prosecution had taken a serious view of the magistrate's decision and considered that in all, or any of, these nine cases it could not reasonably be said that there was a special reason why the licences should not be endorsed, they could have appealed to a superior Court by way of a case stated under Section 33 (1) of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, when the Court could have considered whether the Alderman had exercised his discretion according to law.

Aldermen of the. City of London are justices of the peace in virtue of their office, that privilege having been conferred upon them by the Charter of 15 Geo. II, confirming the ancient usage. The Lord Chancellor could not in any circumstances interfere with the exercise, according to law, of the judicial discretion of justices of the peace, even if the decision of a justice was in any particular case in his opinion erroneous. Generally, where the conduct of a justice is shown to the Lord Chancellor to be perverse or corrupt, he takes such action as seems to him appropriate, and in a suitable case would remove a magistrate from the Commission. But the cases, to which my noble friend refers, relate to the exercise of a judicial discretion which may be a matter for appeal to a higher Court, but are not suitable for intervention by the Lord Chancellor in his administrative capacity.

The LORD SPEAKER informed the House that he had received from the Senior Registrar in Bankruptcy, a certificate that Edward, Duke of Leinster (who sits in this House as Viscount Leinster), being a Peer of the Realm, was adjudicated a bankrupt on the 17th of July, 1936. The same was ordered to lie on the Table.

House adjourned at twenty minutes before eight o'clock.