[From 1911 MacDonnell Inquiry]


31. The Judicial Staff of the Isle of Man is as follows :----Beginning with the inferior
courts, we find 38 Justices of the Peace, whose duties correspond with. those of
English Magistrates. They are unpaid, and sit in Petty Sessions at each of the four
towns of Douglas, Ramsey, Castletown, and Peel. They are advised by clerks-to-
justices, who are trained lawyers, the total of whose salaries amounts to 2201.

Next, we find there are four High Bailiffships, or Stipendiary Magistracies, now
held by two High Bailiffs, with salaries of 5001. and 3001. respectively. The High
Bailiffs, who are lawyers, have criminal jurisdiction similar to that of the Justices
of the Peace, although slightly more extended; and they have civil jurisdiction
in matters of small debts. They are also Chairmen of Licensing Committees and are
free to take private practice.

Thirdly, there are three Judges, one known as the Clerk of the Rolls and two
as Deemsters, each of whom. receives a salary of 1.,0001. a year. In practice the
Clerk of the Polls takes Equity, and the Deemsters Common Law cases ; they are
of co-equal authority on the Bench, and each is entitled to sit in any Department.

Fourthly, His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor sits and presides at the
Court of General Gaol Delivery, consisting of three Judges and himself; and also
sits as President of the Staff of Government Court, consisting of two Judges and
himself acting as a Court of Appeal from the decisions of the third Judge.

In addition to these judicial functionaries there are the Attorney-General, with
a salary of 1,0001. a year, and the Vicar-General, with 2301. a year, both being
entitled to take private practice. We may add that the members of the legal
profession in the Island, some 37 in number, are known as Advocates and discharge
the duties which in England are divided between Barristers and Solicitors.

The total charge therefore on the Insular Revenues in respect of Legal Appointments
is 5, 2501., not including the cost of the various clerical. establishments working
under the Judges.

32. We find this judicial staff to be unnecessarily numerous in view of the work
to be done, while for an island of 52,000 people the cost is, in our judgment,
excessive. It has been admitted in their evidence by the Clerk of the Rolls and the
Attorney-General, and we are ourselves satisfied, that the work of all three Judges
could be done by one Judge sitting as in England. At present the judicial duties
of the Island Judges represent about a day and a half sittings per week of term.

The only ground put before us for the continuance of three Judges was the need
for a Court of Appeal, a matter which we deal with later on. But we recognise
that the reduction of the staff to a single Judge would lead to difficulties during
vacation time or if the Judge were ill, and would. also unduly stereotype legal decisions
in accordance with a single personality and impede the establishment of a proper
Appellate Court. W e therefore recommend-

(1) The reduction of the number of Judges from three to two, the two to have
full and equal power over all branches of law and to be known as Deemsters.

(2) We recommend the formal reduction of the High Bailiffs from four to two,
and desire to place upon record the opinion that the two Judges and the unpaid
Magistrates could between them discharge the duties of the High Bailiffs as well as
their own and. thereby effect a further saving of 8001. a year. But, in view of the
Island's sentiments on this subject and the desirability of testing the effect of the
reduction in the number of Judges which we propose before making further
economies, we do not recommend the immediate abolition of the High Bailiffs.
Should the Island Legislature, however, at some future date desire to make a
reduction, we recommend the Home Secretary to agree, and in that event it might
be acceptable to local feeling if the ancient title of High Bailiff were then attached
to the Chairmanship of each of the four Petty Session Divisions.

(3) It came to our notice, during our examination of the Attorney-General,
Mr. Ring, that he regards himself, and is in practice treated, as the servant of the
Crown and not of the Insular Government. He holds himself to be quite free to
take briefs, and to act, against Tynwald or any of its Boards ; and he has
frequently done so. He considers himself also in no way bound to act for the
Harbour Board or any other Insular Government organisation. While we agree that,
in the rare case of the Imperial and Insular Governments coming into collision, it is
the duty of the Attorney-General to represent the Crown if so required, we are
unanimously of the opinion that the existing practice which permits the Attorney-
General to hold briefs against the Insular Government which pays his salary, and
against the Boards which are part of that Government, should. be discontinued. When
the Crown, as owner of property, becomes a party to litigation with the Insular
Government, we think that the Crown should employ another legal adviser than the
Insular Attorney-General.

We have considered the question whether the Attorney-General should be a
whole-time officer, with a higher salary than at present, or whether he should be
allowed to take private practice. We agree in thinking that his whole time should
not be at the disposal of the Insular Government, for there is not sufficient work to
occupy him and keep him au courant with legal practice; we think he should be
allowed to take private practice, but should be bound, in consideration of the salary
of 1,0001. per annum, to conduct all legal work for the Insular Government and
all Government Boards, and to draft all Government Bills.

(4) We recommend the abolition of the office of Vicar-General, so far as it is
concerned with secular dirties and is paid from the Island Revenue.

At the present time the only civil duties discharged by the Vicar-General, i.e.,
duties other than those connected with ecclesiastical property and affairs, are those
of a Judge in affiliation cases. We recommend that these should be transferred
to the High Bailiffs. If the office of High Bailiff be discontinued, then they should be
transferred to the Justices of the Peace, with an appeal to the Deemster similar to
the appeal to Quarter Sessions in England.

This would effect a saving in expenditure of some 1501. The present gross
charge on the Island Budget is 2301., against which must be set the fees payable for
the granting of faculties and analogous ecclesiastical duties, which are now credited
to the Insular Revenues. These fees should in future be paid direct to the ecclesiastical
authorities and be available for the remuneration of the official discharging
such duties. We understand that they represent no larger sum than 501. per annum.

(5) We recommend that the High Bailiffs, if also practising Advocates, should
cease to be Chairmen of Licensing Committees. We attach importance to this
recommendation: as the union of the functions of High Bailiff and Chairman of
Licensing Committees in the persons of practising advocates has justly excited
unfavourable comment in the Island.

33. As regards legal procedure apart from the question of salaries, we recommend
as follows :--

Criminal Law.-(I) His Excellency the Governor should be relieved from the
duty of sitting in the Court of General Gaol Delivery. His Judicial
functions are such as call for the experience of a trained lawyer to
discharge; while the discharge of them by the Lieutenant-Governor may
be incompatible with his exercise of the prerogative of mercy.

(2)The Court of General Gaol Delivery should be constituted by either of the
Judges and a jury of twelve.

(3) We recommend that the Court of a Deemster and six jurors which now
enquires whether an accused person should be committed for trial, in
other words acts as a Grand Jury, should be abolished as unnecessary.
If a Grand Jury is desired in the Island it might consist of the Justices
of the Peace as at an English Assize Court.

(4) We recommend that all offences which are not triable by Justices of the
Peace should go by indictment to the Judge sitting as a Court of General
Gaol Delivery; and we think that the present practice whereby a Deemster
with a jury of six may try certain criminal cases, at the discretion of the
Attorney-General, should cease. If the case be one fit for trial by jury,
it should not be in the discretion of the Attorney-General to say that the
jury shall be one of six jurors and not of twelve. Such a discretion
involves different treatment of accused people.

(5) An appeal from the Court of General Gaol Delivery should, in our opinion,
lie to the English Court of Criminal Appeal, with the proviso that only
Manx advocates should have audience in such appeal.

Civil Law.-(1) We recommend that his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor
should be relieved from sitting in the Staff of Government Court. The
duty is one which only a trained lawyer can properly discharge ; and as
a rule Lieutenant-Governors do not attempt to discharge it.

(2) We recommend that a Court of Appeal in matters of civil jurisdiction
should be established in place of the present Staff of Government
Court. This Appeal Court should, we think, consist of an English High
Court Judge sitting at Douglas twice or three times a year with the Island
Judge whose decision is not appealed against. We presume that as the
Isle of Man is not part of Great Britain for judicial. purposes, the Judge
would have to sit as a Commissioner. In the case of difference of opinion
between the two Judges the judgment of the Commissioner should prevail.
Adequate notice of such appeals should be given to avoid the unnecessary
journey of an English Judge to Douglas.

(3) We recommend that the final appeal to the Privy Council should remain as
now, and should be an appeal from the Island Court of Appeal as constituted
in the previous recommendation.

34. It may be desirable, and we put it as a suggestion, that in particular cases
involving important points of law, an Island Judge should have the right, with the
consent of both parties; and with the sanction of an English High Court Judge.
sitting in Chambers, to send a case for appeal to a Divisional Court of two Judges
sitting at Liverpool instead of to the Island Court of Appeal sitting at Douglas.
In such cases there would still be the final appeal. from such Divisional Court io
the Privy Council, but in our opinion the alternative, with the safeguards as above,
might help to avoid expensive appeals to the Privy Council. in all save the most;
important matters.

In this case also Manx advocates alone should have audience.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2005