HC Deb 05 March 1822 vol 6 cc917-8
Mr. Kennedy

rose, to move for leave to bring in a bill to alter the mode of chusing Juries to serve on Criminal Causes in Scotland. It was well known, that the justiciary, or criminal court, sat in Edinburgh at all times of the year, except while it was going the circuits, which occurred twice a year. To this court all matters of a criminal nature might be referred. Besides this, there was another, under the jurisdiction of the sheriff, who was not art officer chosen as in this country, but a magistrate appointed by the Crown, with the power to administer justice in certain civil and criminal cases. In all cases, except those of high treason, the lord advocate proceeded by a process similar to our ex officio information, there being no grand jury. A jury of fifteen persons decided upon the guilt or innocence of the accused; but in this decision it was not necessary that they should be unanimous, a majority of them being sufficient. On the day of trial 45 persons appeared, from whom the jury was afterwards selected. Now, the measure which he intended to submit would not object to the manner in which those 45 persons were brought into court, but to the mode in which the 15 who were to try the case were selected; namely, by the presiding judge. They were taken by fives and fives; and being thus selected, they sat down to try the case. The parties accused were not allowed to object to the selection as such; for that would be to impute an improper motive to the judge, which would not be admitted. The only objections which could be made on the part of the accused were certain legal ones. They might object to persons against whom a conviction for any crime had been recorded; to parties as bearing spite and malice against the accused; and to persons who were deaf or dumb, or who were under age. All these, no doubt, were very proper objections, where they could be made, but he believed it rarely occurred that they were made. The alteration which his bill would make was small in appearance; but be considered it of import in principle. It was, that instead of the selection of 15 being made by the presiding judge, it should be by ballot out of the 45; and he would also propose that both to the accused and the prosecutor, certain challenges should be allowed. This alteration was not his own; it was modelled on a measure which had been recently introduced into Scotland, in juries appointed to try civil actions. This was enacted by an act of the 55th of the late king, and, after an experience of four years, it was made permanent by the 59th; which was a proof that it was considered a salutary measure. The hon member concluded by moving for leave to bring in the bill.

The Lord Advocate

did not rise to offer any objection to the introduction of the measure, but begged of the House not to allow itself to be prejudiced by the statement which the hon. member had made, for he should be able to show, on the second reading, that a more uncalled for and unwise measure could not be devised.

Leave was given to bring in the bill.