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Jury Service

Volume 652: debated on Thursday 1 February 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the anomalies which exist at present in the selection for jury service in general and particularly in regard to the selection of women jurors; and what legislative proposals he has to deal with the situation.

My right hon. Friend is aware of certain criticisms of the present methods of selection of jurors, but any changes in the law would require very careful consideration and he can hold out no prospect of early legislation.

Is the Minister aware that his reply will be received with very considerable disappointment by those who believe, and I think are correct in their belief, that the vast majority of the adult population in this country is not eligible for jury service? There is an anomaly of a very serious nature in that only a householder or property owner, whether a man or a woman, is entitled to be called, in spite of the tendency nowadays for a woman sometimes to have possession of a house, in which case her husband is not entitled to go on to the jury, or a man to have possession, in which case the wife is not entitled to go on the jury? Does he not think that a very simple alteration of the law might meet that?

It would be simple but whether it would be desirable is a different question. For a defence of the present system of recruitment of jurors, I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the Hamlyn Lectures of Mr. Justice Devlin, as he then was.