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Magistrates' Courts (Expert Advice)

Volume 395: debated on Thursday 2 December 1943

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asked the Home Secretary whether, in regard to post-war plans, he will consider the desirability of providing a staff of qualified officers to visit magistrates courts regularly, advise them on matters of general policy and keep all courts informed of successful experiments carried out by other courts?

I am in full sympathy with my hon. Friend's desire that all magistrates' courts should be enabled to get expert advice not only on questions of law and procedure but also on all aspects of the treatment of offenders; and I understand that the Committee which is now sitting under the chairmanship of Lord Roche is likely to make some important recommendations for improving the status and qualifications of the clerks to justices. The suggestion made, in the Question would, I think, be open to objection as likely to impair or to have the appearance of impairing the principle that the courts must be independent of the executive; but it is the practice of the Home Office frequently to issue circulars and memoranda to the justices and to co-operate with the Magistrates' Association in arranging conferences in different parts of the country. Moreover, with the help of the justices the Home Office has been able in recent years greatly to strengthen the probation service and a substantial number of trained probation officers have been appointed who are familiar with modern methods of treatment.