——have so worn off that he will realise that he owes it to the House to come a long way on this occasion to make up for the previous one.
Quite apart from the rights of the accused and the desirability of the accused himself making the selection, as the Bill was framed by the Minister, a most unpleasant and invidious task would be put upon the court. I took the opportunity, since the previous discussion, of discussing this matter with many legal personages, both those who adjudicate on the Bench and who address the Bench, and it seemed to all of them that it was most invidious for them to be put in the position of having to choose, particularly at the district court level, between one solicitor and another. Unless a choice is expressly left to the accused person, it means, in effect, in the district court, that the district justice must look at the bench in front of him and say: "I nominate so-and-so," although, perhaps, four or five other solicitors are sitting in court waiting for other cases, or for other business.
That is a choice which the good district justice will find most invidious, and he will certainly wish it was not thrust upon him if there is any way out of it. It is a choice that, quite frankly, the bad district justice will misuse. We all know that there are, in every walk of life, one or two people who do not conform to the high honourable average of the remainder, and justices and judges are no exception to that rule. No one, least of all themselves, would suggest they are an exception to that rule. For the 90 cases that will be dealt with perfectly correctly in relation to the exercise of this discretion, there may well be ten cases that are not dealt with correctly. There is a very simple method of ensuring that that difficulty and that objection are taken away.
We all understand that the Minister has decided that it will be operated, not through the legal profession as is the case else where—and which decision is a pity—but on the basis of setting up a panel from which people shall be chosen, and that again is not the ideal way. The ideal way would clearly be that the accused would apply to the court for a certificate of free legal aid, and having got that certificate, would go out and get whatever person he wanted to defend him, that person would hand in the certificate and in due course be paid fees according to the schedule which is to be set up.
As I say, we know it will be run on that basis, not the ideal basis, but it is certainly desirable that if it is done on that basis every possible opportunity is availed of to make quite certain that every accused person gets just as much of a chance to defend himself and have himself declared innocent as his more fortunate and well-heeled neighbour who is charged, perhaps, with the same offence. It is fundamental to our system of law that we accept that a person is innocent until he is proved guilty. The whole basis for this legislation is to ensure that because a person is not fortunate enough to have the means to defend himself he should be put in a position, and will be put in a position by the community at large, to defend himself, just as is his neighbour who may be more wealthy and can defend himself.
It would be grossly improper and grossly unfair to declare that he must accept legal representation not of his own selection, but made by someone else for him, and by the person who will declare whether he is guilty or innocent. Putting him in that position will make him feel he has no chance. It will lead to practices none of us want to see, and it will lead to the very greatest embarrassment for those people who are presiding in courts, people who, we are all satisfied, endeavour to do their best. They will have to make the selection. That is entirely invidious and entirely unnecessary, and for the man himself it will be something that contravenes the natural justice of our principles of law.