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Quarter Sessions Appeal Courts (Women Magistrates)

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 27 March 1952

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to ensure that on any appeals committee, dealing with cases coming from the juvenile courts, at least one of the magistrates shall be a woman.

Quarter sessions are required, in appointing members of appeal courts, to include, so far as practicable, justices specially qualified for dealing with juvenile cases, and I am sure that they can be relied on to use a wise discretion in this matter.

I have made some inquiries to ascertain whether women are in fact appointed to appeal committees, and I understand that the year books of quarter sessions in thirteen counties (including Leicester) show that all the appeal committees have women members. The average ratio of women to men is one to three.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman considers it essential that there should be a woman sitting in a juvenile court when a case is tried, would he explain why it is not equally essential, from his point of view, that a woman should be sitting when a case is submitted to an appeals committee?

The Question dealt with the matter as one for legislation. I do not think it is a suitable matter for legislation.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it is in consequence of legislation that it has been found absolutely essential to have a woman sitting in the juvenile court, and should not that apply to the same kind of magistrates in an appeal committee in which the appeal is lodged against the juvenile court in which a woman has been sitting?

I have a greater faith in quarter sessions than the hon. Gentleman.