It might be necessary, by way of explanation of this measure, to survey briefly the substance of the existing law in the matters dealt with by the Bill. The substance of the existing law on the matters dealt with by the Bill is this, that the duty of preparing printed lists of all persons who are qualified to be jurors is imposed by Statute (Juries (Ireland) Act, 1871, Section 8) on the local authorities in each county who, in turn, are set in motion by a demand, called a Precept, which is issued by the local Clerk of the Crown and Peace. The routine runs as follows: ... within one week after the first day of July in each year the Clerk of the Crown and Peace issues his precept, formerly to the Clerk of each Poor Law Union, but now to the Secretary of the County Council, requiring him to submit to him, not later than the first of August, alphabetical lists of the jurors in each barony in the county. By the first day of August, therefore, the Clerk of the Crown and Peace receives from the Clerks of the Unions, or the County Secretary, lists of persons qualified and liable to serve as jurors, a separate list for each barony, and each list in alphabetical order of surnames.
From these general lists the Clerk of the Crown and Peace picks out the Special Jurors and makes separate lists of Special Jurors, each barony being still kept in a separate list. This is required by Statute to be done not later than 15th August.
The next step is the revision of these lists. This is done by the County Court Judge, save in Dublin County and Dublin City, where (by way of relieving the Recorder) it is done by Revising Barristers—one for the City and one for the County. This revision takes place between the eighth of September and the twenty-fifth of October. The rate collectors are required to attend: there is generally no argument or discussion: the judge is told that A.B., whose name appears on the list, is dead or deaf or seventy years old, he immediately strikes off the name. In the County Dublin revision, names are struck off at the rate of about five hundred per day, or about one hundred per hour, which shows the mechanical nature of the work.
The next step is that in each county the several revised lists for the baronies are consolidated by the Clerk of the Crown and Peace into one alphabetical list for the county: this is "the general jurors book" for the county: it has to be handed by the Clerk of the Crown and Peace to the Under-Sheriff not later than the first day of January, and is the source from which the Under-Sheriff obtains all jury panels during the following year. A separate book of Special Jurors is also prepared in the same way and handed to the Under-Sheriff.
The law for all this will be found in the Juries (Ireland) Act, 1871.
Summarising the procedure, for ready reference, the "calendar" runs as follows:—
1st July.—Clerk of the Crown and Peace issues Precept.
1st July to 1st August.—The rate collectors and County Council Secretaries prepare alphabetical lists of jurors for each barony.
1st August.—Said lists (alphabetical per barony) are delivered to the Clerk of the Crown and Peace.
1st August to 15th August.—Clerk of the Crown and Peace prepares lists of Special Jurors (alphabetical, per barony).
8th September to 25th October.—Revision of lists by County Court Judges.
25th October to 1st January.—The Clerk of the Crown and Peace prepares the two Jury Books, General and Special, from the revised lists and hands the books to Under-Sheriff.
The entire expenses of all this procedure, including the printing, are defrayed by the local authorities, out of rates.
The above system, that is, the existing system, is in itself satisfactory, and there would be no reason to interfere with it but for the fact that it is running side by side with another system, viz., the preparation of lists of electors, and that it is desirable to amalgamate the two systems, so far as possible, in the interests of efficiency and economy. The point is that the Electors' Lists and the Jurors' Lists are to a great extent lists of the same persons, or, to be more precise, the Electors' Lists include the name of almost every juror.
It, therefore, occurred to the Ministries concerned: "Why not have only one list—the Electors' List—distinguishing the jurors by some special mark?" It happened at the time when this proposal was being considered (Autumn, 1923), that printing tenders were being invited by the Stationery Office, for Electors' Lists, to cover a period of five years. It was, therefore, necessary either to take a decision immediately or to postpone the reform, and the consequent economy, for five years. The former alternative was adopted—that is, it was assumed that the present Bill would be enacted within a few months, and the printing work was ordered on the more economical basis of a single consolidated list of voters and jurors.
By departmental action, therefore, taken in anticipation of legislation the necessary information has already been obtained for the current year by the more economical method of adding to the Electors Lists a Jurors Column showing whether each elector was an ordinary Juror, a Special Juror, or not a Juror at all, and in the Electoral Lists now just completed the Jurors Column has been added and filled in.
The present Bill was therefore initiated as a very short Bill, the only object of which was to give retrospective sanction to the consolidation of the Jurors Lists with the Electors Lists. While the Bill was being drafted, however, representations were made to me that much more extensive changes were desirable in the jury system and a conference took place in January last, at which the whole jury system was discussed, and subsequently the Executive Council came to the following conclusions—