§ Lords Amendment: No. 13 in page 14, line 9, at end insert new Clause "D"
§ "D.—(1) A justice of the peace shall not take part in trying the issue of a defendant's guilt on the summary trial of an information if in the course of the same proceedings the justice has been informed, for the purpose of determining the question of the defendant's admission to bail, that he has one or more previous convictions.
§ (2) For the purposes of this section, any committal proceedings from which the proceedings on the summary trial arose shall be treated as part of the trial."
§ Mr. Taverne
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
The purpose is to remove the possibility of prejudice being caused to a defendant by the disclosure of his previous convictions when magistrates are determining whether, under Clause 15(5), they have discretion to refuse bail. It arises out of a point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) in Committee. Once again, this is a case where, somewhat late in the day, the wisdom of remarks made by hon. and learned Members opposite has been accepted.
To a large extent, magistrates' courts now try to arrange their business in the way in which it will have to be done under this new Clause, but it gives statutory force to the principle that the tribunal deciding the issue of a defendant's guilt should not know of his previous convictions. We understand from clerks to the justices in various areas that this procedure can be made to work.
§ Mr. Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
Some years ago, in proceedings on the Criminal Justice Act, I expressed the view that a judge trying a criminal case with a jury should not be made aware of any previous convictions of the defendant because this might 790 tend to bias him in his view. I understand that the procedure now is that the judge has this information before the trial. The Amendment which I moved was unfortunately defeated.
I am, therefore, glad that this Amendment to some extent recognises the position with regard to bail because it is important that justices, whether in summary or committal proceedings, should have no knowledge of any previous convictions, that they should be free from any possibility of bias. This Amendment will clearly help to achieve that. I am sorry that it does not go further and exclude any such knowledge on the part of a trial judge before the verdict.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
How in practice is this to be worked in the case of a stipendiary magistrate, who has to deal with the question of committal and bail at the same hearing? He cannot send the accused to another magistrate without a good deal of delay. I understand that it will be possible for a bench of magistrates to say that a case will be remanded to brother magistrates to consider the matter of bail but how can it be dealt with where there is only one stipendiary magistrate sitting in the court?
§ Question put and agreed to.