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Judicature Act, 1873—The Summer Assizes—Question

Volume 229: debated on Thursday 18 May 1876

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to a letter in "The Times" of Monday the 15th instant, stating that—

"By a list of the Summer Circuits of Her Majesty's Judges published on Friday morning, the Circuits are to commence at least eight days before the time at which they commenced last year;"
and if such statement is correct; if so, whether it was the intention of the Judicature Act that the Circuits should be commenced at so early a date as to withdraw nearly the whole judicial strength from London and Middlesex, diminishing thereby the opportunities for the trial of causes in these important places; also, as several of the Circuits if commenced at the times mentioned will conflict with the County Quarter Sessions which by law must be held in the week commencing on Monday the 26th of June; and, whether any provision will be made to obviate the difficulties which must necessarily arise there from?

, in reply, said, he had consulted the Judges, and he was informed that the statement in The Times was correct. He must, however, decline to say what was the intention of the Judicature Act on the subject, as that ought to be gathered from the Act itself. By that Act the Courts created by Commission of Assize, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery were among those transferred to the High Court of Justice; and by one of the Rules framed by the Judges under the Act, and which were laid before both Houses of Parliament, the sittings of the Court were fixed. Michaelmas Sittings were to commence on the 2nd of November and end on the20th of December; Hilary Sittings on the 11th of January, and end on the first Wednesday before Easter; Easter Sittings were to extend from the first Tuesday after Easter week to the Friday before Whit Sunday; Trinity Sittings from the Tuesday after Whitsun week to the 8th of August, and the Long Vacation was to commence on the 10th of August and terminate on the 24th of October. The Judges considered that the Courts of Assize, of Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery, being part of the High Court of Justice, were subject to those Rules, and that it would not be proper that they should sit after the 10th of August, and it was with that view he was informed that the Circuits had been fixed. With regard to the withdrawal of jndicial strength from London and Westminster, he would remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that three Judges sat at Nisi Prius in London and Westminster during the time of the Assizes, and that during the whole of that time sittings in banco were held in each Court once a week.