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Paid and Unpaid Magistracies.
a competent knowledge of law, and of suitable practical acquirements. Such persons have been especially appointed to preside over the police courts of the metropolis, as newly constituted at the commencement of the present reign; over the police courts of certain of the greater manufacturing towns of the country, as from time to time selected by Acts of Parliament, in concert with, or in dependence on, the local authorities; and over the courts of Quarter Sessions in certain populous places for which the newly adjusted criminal jurisdiction of a Recorder did not provide. The general question of the comparative value of paid professional justices and of the justices existing under the older English system has been much discussed of late years, though it is only in the case of the urgent needs of densely populated places that any systematic change has been attempted or effected. On the one hand, by the older system, which still prevails in the counties and the greater number of towns, a vast amount of unoccupied time and unapplied capacity is utilised for the benefit of the State, in a way highly economic to the public and harmonious with the sort of patronising, not to say parental, relations which some persons look upon as prevailing with great public advantage between the richer and the poorer sections of the country population. On the other hand, it is notorious that in certain districts it is extremely hard to find competent magistrates ; and it is largely the custom to employ the local clergy in the discharge of functions which are ill suited to their spiritual character, which often enough confound their relations with their parishioners, when these relations are at once those of spiritual guide and helper on the one hand and of criminal judge on the other, and which, by increasing the secular influence of the clergy,—already too preponderant, from the freehold tenure of their cures and the connection they thereby have with the land and its fortunes, seriously complicate, in the eyes of Nonconformists, the problem of the conflicting rights of the Church and the State. It is also an evil which in no few cases becomes a scandalous one, that in the large class of quasi-criminal business which falls under the poaching laws, the unpaid magistracy as a class, and particular members of it individually, are judges in their own cause. In adjudicating on local poaching cases, it is impossible to avoid in practice a certain amount of reciprocity of treatment of accused persons in whose conviction individual landholders who are also magistrates are believed to have a personal concern. The constant social contact, the common interest at stake, and the general uniformity of habits of life and thought, all tend to form a combination between country magistrates in respect of the administration of the game-laws, which is as different as possible from anything that could take place between the Judges of the High Court of Justice on their occasional visits to circuit towns, or even between paid professional magistrates, the bulk of whose time is taken up in the administration of law, and in no other pursuit whatever. The criticism here applied to the particular case of the game-laws is equally applicable to all other instances—which are dangerously numerous
-in which the corporate interests or social prepossessions of the landed gentry are cast in an inflexible mould and are adverse to those of any other classes in the community. Such instances are supplied occasionally in the course of the administration of laws
New Offences classed as Crimes.
regulating the relations of employers and employed, of Education Statutes, of Poor-Law settlement laws, and of the Reformatory ard Industrial Schools Acts. Short of the general appointment of paid professional magistrates,-a remedy still a long way off, and one too uncongenial to the national feelings to be thought of as a practical one for the present,—the only remedy for the sort of abuses which occasionally manifest themselves is found in the accidental notice taken by a local newspaper, followed by enquiry in the House of Commons if it be sitting, and an investigation by the Home Secretary, resulting, at the best, in a tardy compensation, or an adjustment in some way of the particular grievance. Public indignation is for the time allayed ; and all the innumerable other cases of hardship, or excess, or glaring injustice are passed over in silence, till a like concourse of favourable accidents once again for a few days rouses the public attention.
The second and third expedients by which Parliament has of late endeavoured to adapt the machinery of criminal justice in its earliest stages to the wants of a new age are, that of largely multiplying the class of offences which are cognisable in the primary courts presided over by Justices of the Peace or Stipendiary Magistrates, and that of simplifying the procedure by which these offences are tried. These two expedients ought properly to be considered together, because the main apology for enlarging the summary jurisdiction of magistrates, increasing the powers of the police, and dispensing with the guarantee of jury trial, is to be found in the peculiar nature of the acts which are only classed as crimes for the purpose of turning to account the administrative machinery already in existence. When it is considered that the Licensing Laws, the Education Laws, the Game Laws, the police regulations for traffic and locomotion in great cities, and an innumerable variety of special or general Acts for promoting the health of towns and of rural districts, are all worked through the same general machinery of police and magistracy as the detection of crimes in the common sense of the term, when it relates to theft or acts of personal violence, it is seen at once to what an extent the liberty of the subject is put in jeopardy by Parliament through a mere extension of the catalogue of offences triable in Courts of Law. For a vast number of the offences so created the machinery of justice is simplified to the utmost possible extent, for the purpose of securing promptness and certainty, in spite of the risk to the claims of abstract justice. Thus, under some Acts of Parliament, a single Justice of the Peace suffices instead of two; the verbal allegation of a policeman may stand in place of an oath for the purpose of obtaining a warrant; a warrant may be issued without a previous summons, or without satisfactory evidence that a previous summons has been properly served and neglected; appeals to the higher Court of Quarter Sessions may or may not be allowed, or may be allowed under very varying conditions ; the penalties may or may not alternate between fine and imprisonment, or may include buth. This extreme variety or plasticity in the procedure of the primary Courts of Justice is an almost inevitable consequence of using the same general administrative process for bringing to justice a persou whose offence is tbat of driving at the wrong side of the street, and another person who is accused of engaging in a complicated fraud or in a murderous assault. Summary Jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, it is to be remembered that there is great danger to the liberty of the subject in incautiously extending the range of offences in respect of which a policeman's word serves in lieu of his oath, and a magistrate's judgment stands in the place of the verdict of a jury. With respect to a vast number of the cases to which this summary jurisdiction is applied, it undoubtedly hạppens that little harm, even to individual persons, is done through the occasional mistakes or incapacity of magistrates and the police. But there are cases in which the question at issue so deeply concerns private character that the very accusation itself carries with it much of the effect of a condemnation. In these cases the most elementary principles of the liberty of the subject are set at nought, if special precautions are not taken to exact from the police more than the wonted securities for circumspection, deliberation, and attention to the principles of evidence. Such securities are afforded partly by receiving no information that is not on oath,—that is, given under the liability of incurring the penalties of perjury,—and partly by multiplying opportunities of testing at every point the grounds of suspicion by cross-examination. It unfortunately happens that in some sanitary matters, which in some of their aspects have a moral bearing, the principle of the legislation is best carried out by insuring the largest possible number of convictions, at any expense to individual rights. If it is an evil that a thief should be at large, it may be held to be far more disastrous to the community that a person with an infectious complaint, and who is reckless with respect to propagating it, should be at large. And yet the imputation of the complaint may conceivably be made with