Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Page 75, leave out lines 19 to 23 and insert--
(".--(1) Section 19 of the Administration of Justice Act 1964 (sheriff of Greater London and under-sheriffs for London commission areas) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (1) (appointment of sheriff of Greater London and under-sheriff for each London commission area), for "and for each London commission area an under-sheriff shall be so appointed" substitute "and an under-sheriff shall be so appointed for each area of Greater London (not including any part of the City) specified by the Lord Chancellor by order; and an order under this subsection shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament".
(3) In subsection (2) (application of enactments to under-sheriffs as if London commission areas were counties), for "London commission area" substitute "area specified by virtue of subsection (1) of this section".
(4) In subsection (4) (modification of Sheriffs Act 1887 in its application to Greater London)--
(a) for "London commission area" substitute "area specified by virtue of subsection (1) of this section",
(b) for "a justice of the peace for any of the London commission areas" substitute "any justice of the peace for a commission area consisting of or including the whole or part of Greater London", and
(c) for the words from "shall be sent" to the end substitute "shall be sent to the officer specified by the Lord Chancellor by order made by statutory instrument".").
Page 76, line 26, at end insert--
("23A. In section 6 (residence qualification for justices), after subsection (1) insert--
"(1A) If a person who is the Lord Mayor or an alderman of the City of London is appointed in accordance with section 5 above as a justice of the peace for a commission area including the City of London, subsection (1) above shall not apply in relation to his appointment as a justice of the peace for that area so long as he holds either of those offices."").
Page 77, line 32, at end insert--
(". In section 70(1) (application of enactments to City of London), for "justices for the City" substitute "justices for a commission area consisting of or including the whole or part of the City".").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 52 [Unification and renaming of stipendiary bench]:

Lord Gisborough moved Amendment No. 300:

Page 28, line 9, leave out ("District Judge (Magistrates' Courts)") and insert ("stipendiary magistrate").

The noble Lord said: Grouped with this amendment are Amendments Nos. 301 to 310 and 312 to 317. Although it is accepted that stipendiary magistrates are professional lawyers who support and complement the work of benches, they enjoy the same powers and the jurisdictional limitations as the lay magistrates. Their sentencing powers are identical and the maximum penalties which apply to the bench are the same. To differentiate their role from that of lay magistrates may demean the latter's role in the eyes of the courts' users and the general public.

28 Jan 1999 : Column 1255

Stipendiary magistrates will of course continue to play an important role in the magistrates' courts. A change of title may be confusing and create the appearance, however mistaken, of a two-tier system. We should take into account the views of the lay magistrates, who consider the change of name to be detrimental to the role and image of the magisterial system. Magistrates are often already suspicious that stipendiaries are liable to get the more interesting cases and the change of their name to district judges will increase their concern. I beg to move.

Viscount Tenby: I wish to speak to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough. Most clauses in most Bills have some sort of rationale behind them, but I am bound to confess that the one relating to this clause has been so skilfully camouflaged that I am unable to detect it readily. I am sure we can dismiss as mischievous the proposition that it is included to feed the vanity of stipendiary magistrates. After all, what's in a name, though I am slightly surprised that they would prefer to be called "DJs" rather than "stipes": a sign of the times, I suppose.

I also cannot quarrel with the recommendation that such magistrates should be able to be sent to any commission area in need of them. Such a provision is long overdue. But why should peripatetic magistrates receive a new name? That is the mystery before us tonight. It seems to me that there is an inherent danger in the proposal to call stipendiary magistrates district judges. After all, as we have heard, both they and the lay magistrates operate in the same lower courts, their powers of sentencing are similar, though, since they are full time and skilled professionals, their throughput, to use an awful modern phrase, is much larger. As the chairman of a Bench, I was anxious that as many of my team as possible should watch a stipendiary in action. It was invaluable training for them.

So let there be no doubt of my appreciation of stipendiaries and their work. However, if this proposal goes through, we shall surely be creating a two-tier system in the lower courts. Will defendants become confused and think they are being dealt with by a higher court? What about lay magistrates? In my experience, unpaid workers tend not to be regarded as highly as those who are paid. Perhaps we can counter that by calling JPs District Justices (Lay) in future. That is many questions for a comparatively short provision. I greatly hope that the Minister will be able to provide some of the answers.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: One could think these many amendments superficial and unimportant, but they are not. The great British public today are astonishingly confused about the organisation of the state and the judicial system. The magistrates' courts have a great advantage in being known and familiar throughout the land. That cannot be said of any other part of the system.

I urge strongly that unless there is some reason for change of which this Committee is unaware, we let the names continue. It is an honourable name. The magistracy has 700 honourable years' service and I see absolutely no purpose in potentially confusing the role

28 Jan 1999 : Column 1256

of the stipendiary magistrate with other judicial officers in the civil system through the proposed change. I do not need to repeat the potential implications of such a change vis-a-vis the standing of lay justices. I am sure that every Member of the Committee would wish to uphold to the fullest extent the standing of the lay magistracy who, I venture to suggest, are perhaps the most important single institution in the state outside these Houses of Parliament. I urge strongly therefore that the Government think hard about this apparently superficial, but far from superficial, change.

Lord Crathorne: I too support these amendments. I do so as president of the Cleveland and North Yorkshire Magistrates' Association. I want to put on record how strongly magistrates feel about the change of name. There have been eloquent speeches from all sides of the Chamber in that regard, and I hope that the matter will be carefully considered.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I do not want in any way to play down the importance of names. Those of us who sat through the proceedings on the Police and Magistrates' Court Bill of 1994 will remember how much emphasis there was on names. In that case, as the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, will recall, the proposal of the then Lord Chancellor to call justices' chief executives, as they are now called, chief justices' clerks, caused fury on the Cross-Benches and indeed the Bill was changed accordingly. And why not? We have a better title as a result.

I fully agree therefore that titles are important. But the Government are here pursuing a course which is legitimate from both sides of the fence and not creating an unnecessary fence. We announced our intention to modernise justice and to make it accessible to all. One of the ways we intend to do that is by establishing a unified Bench of professional judges in the magistrates' courts with a new title reflecting their status. The new title is important in recognising the work of the district judge magistrates' court and underlines the role of the unified Bench. But the important point to note is that it will not undermine the lay Bench, nor create a two-tier system; nor will it affect the number of lay magistrates. The new title was sought by the stipendiary magistrates and they have welcomed the offer of this new title, which realistically gives effect to their status as full-time professional judges. It will also assist in launching the new unified Bench, which is provided for in this part of the Bill, by confirming to the public the judicial status that stipendiaries currently hold.

It will also aid court users in that the district judge (magistrates' court) will possess a title which more accurately reflects the work and expertise. No damage is done whatever to the lay magistrates by this proposal, but it does reflect the real work which those who are now called stipendiary magistrates do. I therefore invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page