Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/730

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

giving the justices a limited power of fixing their sessions so as not to clash with the assizes. It will be seen that the statutes do not limit the justices to four sessions a year: and they are free to sit oftener by adjournment of the quarterly sessions to another time, and even to another place, in their county, or to hold additional sessions. All the sessions thus held are* “ general, ” though not all may be “ quarter” sessions. The Assizes and Quarter Sessions Act 1908 gave the useful power of dispensing with the holding of quarter sessions if there is no business to transact.

Constitution of the Court.-Such a court sits for every judicial county in England, and is composed of two or more of the justices in the commission of the peace for the county, including ex ojicio justices. The quorum of the court is fixed by the commission of the eace at two. At one time certain specified justices described as olpthe quorum must be present, but under the present commission there are no such persons. In certain counties more than one commission of the peace is issued, e.g. for the three ridings of Yorkshire (N. E. and W.) and the liberty of Ripon, the three arts of Lincolnshire (Lindsey, Kesteven and Holland), the isle ofp Ely and the rest of Cambridgeshire, the soke of Peterborough, and the rest of Northamptonshire! In all counties, &c., except that of London, the justices in the commission elect a chairman and 'vice chairman, neither of them necessarily a lawyer, to preside at the sittings of the court. In the county of London there are a aid chairman and deputy chairman, who must be barristers of at fgast ten years' standing, and are appointed by the crown. There is special legislation as to quarter sessions in the county palatine of Lancaster; and in the Salford Hundred of that county there is a paid chairman. There is also special legislation as to Kent, and arrangements have been made by which in Sussex and Suffolk the quarter sessions for the east and west divisions are virtually distinct courts. Under the Quarter Sessions Act 1858 the court may sit in two divisions of at least two justices at the same time and place, but not simultaneously in separate parts of the same county, except under statutory authority as in London.

The court may sit while the assizes for the county are being held, but usually refrains from doing so because of the inconvenience which would be occasioned, and adjusts its sittings so as to avoid clashing with the assizes. The chief officer of the court is the clerk of the peace, who acts as clerk to the court, records its proceedings, calls and swears the juries, draws many of the indictments, receives the bills returned by the grand jury, arraigns the prisoners and taxes the costs. In a county he is a pointed by a standing j'oint-committee of the quarter sessions ancl)the county council, and as charge of, and responsibility for, the records and documents of the county subject to the directions of the custos rotulorum or the quarter sessions or the county council (Local Govt. Act 1888, s. 83). Boroughs.—The jurisdiction of the court of quarter sessions of a borough does not depend upon the commission of the peace, but upon the Municipal Corporations Act 1882. Many boroughs have a separate commission of the peace (which does not contain the words of the county commission giving jurisdiction to try indictments), but have not received the grant of a separate court of quarter sessions: and such boroughs are within the jurisdiction of the court of quarter sessions for the county within. which the borough lies. Before the Municipal Corporations Act 183 5, many boroughs had criminal jurisdiction under their charters. Under that act and the act of 1882 a grant of quarter sessions to a city or borough is made by the crown in council on petition of the town council. The recorder, a barrister of not less than five years' standing appointed by the crown, is sole judge of the court, though the mayor can adjourn it in the absence of the recorder; he has a discretion to fix his own dates for the holding of the court, so long as he holds it once in every quarter of a year; and it may be held more frequently if he think fit, or a secretary of state so directs; he has no power to allow, apportion, make or levy a borough rate or to grant a licence for the sale of excusable liquors by retail; a deputy may be appointed by the recorder, or in the event of his being unable to make the appointment by a secretary of state. Subject to these qualifications the court has the same jurisdiction as county quarter sessions.

The city of London is not subject to the Municipal Corporations Act 1882, and its court of quarter sessions is created by the city charters, and is held before the mayor and aldermen with In the soke of Peterborough commissions of oyer and terminer, and gaol delivery, as well as a commission of the peace, are issued.

the recorder. It does not now sit to try indictments, which all go to the Central Criminal Court.,

There is special legislation as to quarter sessions in the Cinque Ports. In a borough the clerk of the peace is appointed by the town council and holds office during good behaviour (Municipal Corporations Act 1882, s. 164).

Criminal Jurisdiction, Original.-Courts of quarter sessions in Counties and boroughs have both original and appellate jurisdiction depending on the commission of the peace and on legislation beginning in 1344. This jurisdiction is derived in counties from the commission of the peace, which directs the justices “ to inquire the truth more fully by the oath of good and lawful men of the county, by whom the truth of the matter shall be better known of all manner 0 crimes, trespasses, and all and singular other offences of which the justices of our peace may or ought lawfully to inquire, " “ and to hear and determine all and singular the crimes, trespasses and offences aforesaid ” “according to the laws and statutes of our realm.” “Provided always that if a case of difficulty upon the determination of any of the premises before you shall happen to arise then let judgment in no wise be given ” “ unless in the presence of one of the justices of assize for the county." This proviso has 1 been read as requiring the justices to reserve the graver felonies for trial at the assizes, or to transmit to assizes indictments found at quarter sessions which raised difficult questions. Quarter sessions never dealt with forgery or perjury, but at one time assumed jurisdiction over almost every other form of crime. By the Quarter Sessions Act 1842 and subsequent legislation, they are forbidden to try the following offences: treason or misprision of treason; murder, capital felony or any felony (except burglary) which is punishable on a first conviction by penal servitude for life; offences against the king's, title, prerogative, person or government, or against either House of parliament; offences against the Oliicial Secrets Act 1889; offences subject to the penalties of praemunire; blasphemy and offences against religion, and composing or publishing blasphemous, seditious or defamatory libels; administering and taking unlawful oaths; perjury and subordination and making or suborning another to make a false oath, declarations or affirmations punishable as perjury or as a misdemeanour; abduction of women and girls and offences under the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885; bigamy and offences against the laws of marriage; concealment of birth; bribery and corruption at elections or of agents or public officials (but they can try offences against the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889); setting tire to crops, woods and heaths; stealing or destroying certain classes of documents; offences against the factor sections (ss. 75-85) of the Larceny Act as amended by the Larceny Act 1901; and conspiracies to commit offences which the court could not try if committed by one person. Trials before the court with a jury are governed by the same procedure as trials on indictment in a court of assize. Under the Vagrancy Act 1823 and amending acts, they have special powers of sentencing incorrigible rogues sent to them by courts of summary jurisdiction, and under the act of 1360 and the commission of the peace they -can, but now rarely do, exercise an original and summary jurisdiction as to articles of the peace (see RECOGNIZANCE), They have power to estreat recognizances entered into before themselves or before courts of summary jurisdiction and returned to them for record or forfeiture, but by the Summary jurisdiction Act 1879 the exercise of the latter power has been rendered unnecessary.

Appellate.-An appeal lies to quarter sessions from convictions by a court of summary jurisdiction only where such an appeal is expressly given by statute. The number of statutes giving such right of appeal is very great. The appellate jurisdiction has been considerably increased by the Summary jurisdiction Act 1879, which allows (s. 19) an appeal (with certain exceptions) from every conviction or order of a court of summary jurisdiction inflicting imprisonment without the option of a line. The appeal may be brought in accordance with the act giving the appeal or the Summary jurisdiction Acts. Most of the special procedure in statutes giving Que rigfét to appeal has been swept away by the Summary jurisdiction ct 1 4.

Civil Jurisdiction, Original.-Originally the county justices were confined to the exercise in or out of sessions of the powers given by the commission of the peace and of certain statutory duties as to rioters, &c. Under the Tudors and Stuarts the justices acting under the supervision of the Privy Council and the court of king's bench gradually became the rulers of the county in administrative and social as well as judicial matters (F. W. Maitland, Justice and Police, 1885, p. 80). The process by which thi, s. result was attained is traced in Webb's English Local Government (1907, vol. i.). The effect of the change was the super session by nominees of the crown of the common law authorities and officers of county, hundred and township. But the change extended only to a small extent to municipal boroughs. By legislation in and since 1888 most of the administrative powers and duties of justices in general and quarter sessions have been transferred to the incorporated and elective councils' of counties, boroughs and urban and rural districts. But the justices still possess certain originaf, civil or quasi-civil