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Spring Vacation Arrangements, 1866.
LORDS JUSTICE-CLERK AND DEAS.
Ayr—Thursday, 12th April.
ROBERT L. STUART, Clerk.
LORDS COWAN AND JERVISWOODE.
Inveraray—Tuesday, 24th April.
GEORGE H. THOMS, Esq., Advocate-Depute.
WILLIAM HAMILTON BELL, Clerk.
LORDS ARDMILLAN AND NEAVES.
Dundee-Wednesday, 18th April.
ÆNEAS MACBEAN, Clerk.
BILL-CHAMBER ROTATION OF JUDGES.
Wednesday, 21st March, to Saturday, 31st March—LORD MURE. Monday, 2d April, to Saturday, 14th April—LORD CURRIEHILL. Monday, 16th April, to Saturday, 28th April—LORD BENHOLME. Monday, 30th April, to Friday, 11th May–LORD KINLOCH.
BILL-CHAMBER, 10th March 1866.
JOURNAL OF JURISPRUDENCE.
SHERIFF COURT REFORM.
MR. BAXTER'S RETURNS.'
SINCE we last directed attention to the subject of Sheriff Court reform, a portion of the returns moved for by Mr. Baxter on 6th June 1864, and having reference to the state of the courts during 1863, have been laid before Parliament. The document is entitled, “Return of the Districts into which Scotland is divided for the purposes of the Sheriff Courts, showing the population, extent, and value of the property in each district, the number and value of the various actions brought therein, with the average length of time occupied, and expenses incurred in the actions for debt; the number of, and average length of time occupied in the appeals from the Sheriff-Substitute to the Sheriff, and other particulars." It is evident that a body of statistics of the character here indicated must prove of the greatest advantage in the discussion of all questions of Sheriff Court reform, and should be published annually, and not merely made the subject of occasional call. We regret, however, that the returns are not yet complete, the officials of certain counties having neglected to obey the injunctions of the House of Commons. The defaulting counties are seven in number, viz., Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Fife, Forfar, Kinross, Linlithgow, and Perth. These counties contain the important towns of Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth, and Aberdeen, and various other populous jurisdictions, and it is very much to be lamented that the officials have not furnished the returns from them in time to be presented along with those which have already been printed. We observe that Mr. Baxter has given notice of a motion upon the subject, but we trust that an early compliance
VOL. X. NO. CXIII.—MAY 1866.
with the injunctions of the House will render it unnecessary for him to proceed with that motion.
The returns, even in their present imperfect condition, are sufficient for the purpose for which we at present call attention to them, viz., as showing the imperative necessity for an immediate revision of the districts and emoluments of the Sheriff-Substitutes. In a recent number we pointed out the great inequalities that exist among these officials in the matter, both of work and of remuneration, and the more minute attention to the subject which the returns have enabled us to give, entirely confirms us in the justice and expediency of the changes we then suggested. We think that it is now made perfectly clear that at least twelve Sheriff-Substitutships might at once be suppressed with the greatest advantage to the public service, and an amount of public money would thereby be set free, which would enable the treasury without increasing the demands upon exchequer to give a substantial increase of salary to those of the Sheriff-Substitutes who have not participated in the recent augmentation.
We give a tabular statement of the twelve Sheriff-Substituteships which we should gladly see abolished, together with such particulars from Mr. Baxter's returns as are sufficient to enable our readers to judge of the necessity of such seats of jurisdiction being retained.
That it is perfectly unnecessary to retain a resident judge at each of the twelve towns included in the above list is abundantly evident from a mere glance at the figures. In only one case (that of Falkirk, of which we shall speak in the sequel), does the population of the district exceed 25,000, and in one case it does not reach 8000. The idea of maintaining a judge for such a microscopic jurisdiction is simply absurd, and we should much have wished that the county of Kinross had not been one of the defaulters, in order that we might have had some idea how there can in it exist even the semblance of business. The plea of overwork as an excuse for disregarding the orders of Parliament will surely not be advanced in this case.
We give a table shewing the amount of business in the different districts, which we think should be absorbed. We have added, printing the name in italics, those relating to one or two others, that our remarks may be the more easily followed.
ORDINARY COURT ACTIONS.
Sched. A. Sched. B.
No. of Solicitors.
Salary of S. S.
Tried by Jury.
NAME OP SHERITF-SUBSTI
(lain and Cromarty),
The figures given here are taken from the “Edinburgh Almanack.
$ Cases of this class, we understand, are treated as police cases in Glasgow.
Let us consider the case of each of the jurisdictions which we propose to suppress, and see how easily its work could be accomplished without overburdening the judge to whom it should be transferred. Commencing in the South, we find the little county of Selkirk with a population a little over 10,000. The Sheriffdeputeship will, on the occurrence of a vacancy in either county, be amalgamated with that of Roxburghshire, with a population of about 54,000; and one Sheriff-Depute, with one Sheriff-Substitute, will be amply sufficient for the care of 64,000 inhabitants, the county towns of Jedburgh and Selkirk being connected by railway, and within an hour of each other. This arrangement would also have the effect of remedying a local inconvenience which arises from the manufacturing town of Galashiels being situated partly in each county, and which has been the source of such embarrassment that the Lord Advocate, if we mistake not, is under pledge to promote legislation on the subject.
On a vacancy occurring in the Sheriff-Deputeship of Peeblesshire, that office is to be merged in the Sheriff-Deputeship of MidLothian. Let the same course be followed with regard to the Sheriff-Substituteship, and the addition of 11,000 inhabitants will make scarcely any appreciable difference in the work of the three Sheriff-Substitutes of Mid-Lothian. It would give an average population to each of only 95,135—less than many of their brethren in other districts have to deal with. Indeed were Linlithgow, with its 38,645 inhabitants, also merged in Edinburgh, it would still leave a smaller population allotted to each than it is found that elsewhere a single Sheriff-Substitute can satisfactorily attend to.
The absence of returns from Perthshire makes it difficult to speak with precision, but we should suppose that the Dunblane district does not contain more than 30,000 inhabitants; so that if Clackmannan were annexed to it, the district would only contain about 50,000. Moreover, Clackmannan lies as it were in the very centre of the Dunblane district; for the Perthshire officials have, if we mistake not, in the discharge of their duties, to drive right across Clackmannanshire, from one side to the other, in order to reach Culross, which is under their jurisdiction. The distance between Dunblane and Alloa is but trifling, and easy railway communication exists between the two towns.
The county of Fife furnishes no statistics, but probably the Dunfermline district contains rather above 40,000 inhabitants. Kinross is only fourteen miles distant by railway, and an amalgama