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14 the Judicial System in Eng Land and Wales

county, courts, court, civil, criminal, jurisdiction, times and judges

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14. THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN ENG LAND AND WALES. The English judicial system, like the English law, grew up naturally and spontaneously. It is of native growth. It has never been constructed en bloc on any sci entific or strictly logical principle; but it is per haps none the worse for this. It still contains anomalies, which are relics of Anglo-Saxon cus tom or Norman feudalism; but such anomalies are historically interesting and do not at all seriously impede the working of the more mod ern machinery.

We now draw a sharp distinction between courts of civil and courts of criminal jurisdic tion. In the former debtors are compelled to pay the money which they owe, and wrong doers to compensate those whom they have injured; so that the proceedings, if successful, generally end in a judgment that the defendant shall pay the plaintiff so much money. The object of criminal proceedings, on the other hand, is to punish more serious offences and to prevent their repetition. Hence these proceed ings, if successful, terminate in a sentence inflicting fine or imprisonment on the offender. And for each purpose we now have separate courts. This was not so formerly. At the time of the Norman conquest the most im portant tribunal in England was the Shire gernot, or County Court. This court took cog nizance of felonies, breaches of the peace, nui sances, and other offences which concerned the State, as well as of actions involving title to lands and other civil suits, which concerned only the individual suitors; it also heard appeals from inferior tribunals, such as the hundred court. In Saxon times the County Court met twice or thrice a year. In the 13th century in the larger counties it met every month.

Under Henry II the royal power made itself felt throughout the kingdom. His justices in eyre made their circuits through the land and tried the more important civil and criminal cases in the County Court. By the Assize of Clarendon (1166) all landholders were obliged to attend twice a year to meet the King's jus tices. This was the origin of the County As sizes. To this day the King's judges still come at least twice a year into every county in Eng land. To the larger counties two judges come together, one of whom tries civil causes and the other criminal cases — " The great judge and the little judge, The judges of a size I' From the ordinary meetings of this ancient County Court are descended both the County Quarter Sessions and the modern County Courts. At the Assizes any crime can be tried

which had been committed within the county, whether treason, felony or misdemeanor. At Quarter Sessions no crime can be tried, which is punishable with death or imprisonment for life (except burglary) ; other grave offences, such as perjury and forgery, are also excepted. These Sessions are held at least four times a year in each county; the justices of the peace for the county—unpaid laymen — are the judges.

The civil jurisdiction of the ancient County Court had become almost obsolete, when the County Courts Act of 1846 was passed. This act created the modern County Court, which is held in every town of any size in England at least six times a year. Actions for breach of promise of marriage, libel, slander and seduc tion cannot be commenced in the County Court; nor can actions of ejectment or any other ac tion involving the title to any land worth more than BO ($250) a year, or to any toll, fair, mar ket or franchise; nor any action of contract or tort, in which the plaintiff claims more than f100 ($500). This latter does not apply to ac tions under the Workmen's Compensation Act, where no limit is fixed. Outside of London the County Courts have jurisdiction in bank ruptcy. There are 57 County Courtjudges; they are appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and must be barristers of at least seven years' standing. • So much for the counties. But even in Anglo-Saxon times, cities such as Winchester, York and London had acquired the right of holding courts of their own in which an officer appointed by the citizens themselves would de cide all civil disputes which arose within the limits of the city, and also exercise some crim inal jurisdiction over the citizens. In less im portant towns, however, it was found difficult to exclude the jurisdiction of the County Court. But in the 13th and 14th centuries the policy of the Crown was to strengthen the towns in order to create a .counterpoise to the power of the nobles. The three Edwards and Richard II granted many charters to boroughs, which cre ated borough courts of criminal and in some cases also of civil jurisdiction. The citizens were proud of these local courts, for they were a badge of their independence. Some of them have fallen into disuse; from the others are directly descended our present Borough Courts of Quarter Sessions and our civil Borough Courts of Record.

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