Page images

732 2. Causes set down for trial under Order XIV show an increase over 1912, 81,234 compared with 64,843, but a decrease, compared with the annual average for the quinquennial period 1909-13, of 96,178. Actions set down in the Commercial List, however, though less by 11,266 than those in 1912, are well above the annual average for the quinquennial period 1909-13, viz., 56,068, as against 49,058.

The increase of business on assize recorded last year has not been maintained. In fact, there has been a considerable decline. Causes entered for trial numbered 829, as against 952 in 1912. The annual average for the quinquennial period 1909-13 is 909'o. Of actions tried in Court or otherwise disposed, the decline is also noticeable, being 594, compared with 683 in 1912. The annual average for the quinquennial period 1909-13 is 6606. This decline is again manifest in the amount recovered, viz., £78,622, compared with £120,246 in 1912, and with the annual average for the quinquennial period 1909-13 of £105,968. The Northern circuit continues to hold the record for business. Causes tried and determined numbered 203. The NorthEastern is second with 100, and the Midland third with 90. This relative position is also the same in the amounts recovered, viz., £27,871 by the Northern, £10,773 by the North-Eastern, and £9,556 by the Midland.

We may again refer to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Delay in the King's Bench Division, "that the judge of the circuit should be empowered to alter the venue of any cause entered for trial to the last place on circuit, unless at least four causes have been entered at the place originally fixed for its trial, or unless, in his opinion and with the consent of the parties, any particular cause involves boundary questions, necessitates a view, or requires a specially large number of local witnesses, and would therefore be better tried on the spot." Out of the

104 assizes held during 1913, at no fewer than 65-the same number as in 1912-the number of causes for trial At 25 assizes there was only one

was less than four.

solitary case apiece.

Successful plaintiffs in the King's Bench Division numbered 25,086, a little under the quinquennial average; whilst successful defendants were 516, a little above the quinquennial average. The amount of fees received by the Division was £125,014. This, it is true, is £6,584 less than in 1912, but well above the annual average of £103,389 for the quinquennial period 1909-13. On the whole, there is no cause for pessimism with this analysis of business in the Division.

In this dry record it is refreshing to find that the trial of the Pyx, by a jury of goldsmiths, was presided over by the King's Remembrancer at Goldsmiths' Hall, and the verdict duly recorded.

Turning to the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division, business in the Divorce Court is still on the up grade. Suits commenced were 1,267 compared with 1,159 in the preceding year, and are well above the annual average of 1,0784 for the quinquennial period 1909-13. Reviewing proceedings commenced in this Court for the last decade and comparing them with the growth of population, the figures show a steady increase, particularly during the last three years. The increase in the case of husbands' petitions for divorce since 1904 is 22:32 per cent. and in the case of wives, 65'44 per cent. The increase of suits for restitution of conjugal rights is very marked, being no less than 285.71 per cent. over 1904. As a preliminary to a petition for divorce, this method of obtaining relief is evidently becoming more popular. Whilst from some points of view we may deplore this evidence of an increasing number of unsuitable marriages, on the other hand we may rejoice that so many have the courage to determine an intolerable

situation. As usual, verdicts or judgments for the respondent were few-36 as against 1,040 for the petitioner. Judicial separations are still out of favour and just touch the annual average of 22.6 for the quinquennial period 1909-13. Trial by jury is not viewed with much favour by suitors in this Court. The number was 72 only, rather below the annual average of 75.6 for the quinquennial period 1908-13 and of 82.8 for the quinquennial period 1904-08, whilst petitions tried without a jury amounted to 1,043.

The large number of matrimonial suits in which the duration of the marriage was between ten years and twenty is once more a curious feature, and is some evidence of "the dangerous age" theory in the case of women, discussed in some recent novels. These number 481, whilst there were 146 suits in which the duration of the marriage was from twenty years upwards. The large proportion more than a third-of these unhappy marriages which are childless is once more a striking feature. Other comparisons which we were enabled to make last year cannot be repeated, since the materials on which they were based have been omitted from Table L, as mentioned above.

Admiralty business also, on the whole, shows a tendency to increase. Actions commenced numbered 544, which is below the annual average of 562.8 for the quinquennial period 1908-13, but above that of 532'4 for the preceding five years. The majority of these cases were claims for damages caused by collision, and numbered 366. This constitutes a considerable increase over the annual average of 3418 for the quinquennial period 1909-13 and that of 3278 for the preceding five years. In three-fourths of the cases judgment was given by consent, and the figures do not disclose which party was successful; probably they were, in effect, judgments for plaintiffs. That business was on a larger scale is shown by the total amount of accounts reported due in matters submitted to the Registrars, viz.,

£438,310, compared with the annual average of £404,636 for the quinquennial period 1909-13 and that of £292,772 for the preceding five years. The total amount of costs brought in for taxation, viz., £57,835, was not quite so large as in 1912, but was above the annual average of the quinquennial period 1908-13 by £5,822, and above that of the preceding five years by £3,238.

In the Probate Court, the reduction which took place in 1912 has in most departments been effaced, and business tends, on the whole, to increase. Juries were more favoured by suitors in this Court than elsewhere; whilst 48 were tried before a jury, 82 were taken by a judge alone.

Proceedings in Lunacy, which showed a marked increase in 1912, have fallen, although they were still well above the annual average for the quinquennial period 1909-13.

Of the proceedings before the Railway and Canal Commissioners, which totalled 129, it is interesting to note that 25 applications were presented for alleged undue preference; 27 for alleged unreasonable increase of rates; and 34 for other disputes as to rates and charges. Of the total, only 20 cases were disposed of, leaving 109 pending at the end of the year. In view of the importance of a speedy decision in questions so vital to traders, this state of affairs is most unsatisfactory. As the Court only sat on 29 days, it could not be expected to make greater headway with the list. Two of the Commissioners are permanent judges of the Court, whilst the third judge who makes up the Court is one of the judges of the superior Courts of England, Scotland and Ireland. It rests with the permanent judges to explain the unwieldy state of the list.

In all the inferior Courts other than the County Courts, Sir John Macdonell reports a decline in proceedings begun and heard and determined. This diminution of business we

recorded last year. In the Mayor's Court, London, the proceedings fell from 9,180 in 1912 to 8,646 in 1913. The

popularity of this Court is probably not much diminished; it is only suffering like the rest from a general falling off in litigation. One feature to which Sir John Macdonell draws special attention is worthy of note. Out of 259 actions tried or otherwise disposed of in this Court, no fewer than 250 were taken before a jury. Sir John suggests that the probable reason is a belief that a jury suitable for the trial of mercantile cases is generally available. This may afford

a useful hint to the authorities who desire to attract business to the Courts generally.

The figures as to jurors summoned by the sheriffs to serve at Assizes, Quarter Sessions, High Court of Justice, Sheriffs' Courts, &c., are very large-73,149 in all, of whom 15,992 were grand jurors. Special jurors were about one-third of the common jurors, 14,836 as against 42,321. To the above number must be added 11,192 grand jurors and 18,040 petty jurors summoned by the clerks of the peace for the boroughs, making a grand total of no fewer than 102,381.

Sheriffs' Courts, once of supreme importance, are now, owing to the wider powers conferred on County Courts, in a state of comparative atrophy. Only 113 writs of enquiry were lodged, and the Courts only sat for 91 days, of which 29 were in respect of the County of London Sheriff's Court.

The large and wholesome reduction in Bankruptcy proceedings recorded last year has not been repeated in 1913. There was, however, a slight decrease of business in almost every department, the figures, with few exceptions, being well below the annual average for the quinquennial period 1909-13. Bankruptcy notices increased from 5,794 in 1912 to 5,810, whilst petitions filed fell from 5,011 to 4,843. The net total of receiving orders also fell from 3,546 to 3,326. The number of petitions. and receiving orders is the smallest since 1884. Of petitions presented for the winding-up of companies, the number was slightly increased from 297 to 315. The net

« PreviousContinue »