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dalous profits of his agents. But the most intelligent and conscientious Magistrate, if he relies with implicit confidence on the good conduct of his clerks, and neglects to keep a watchful eye on them, must be more than commonly fortunate in his choice, if they do not gradually fall into the practice of exacting higher fees than they have a right to (e) demand, and of taking premiums for supposed good offices ; 'as for promising to procure begging passes for vagrants, or the next hearing on a busy day for a particular party, or to speak to their superior in favour of a person and his cause; or at least of making improper advantages of their situation, and rendering the attainment of redress expensive to the poor, by availing themselves of legal forms, and artful subdivisions of justiciary proceedings, needlessly to augment the number of their perquisites. Of this last mancuvre an example frequently occurs in the case of recognizances ; where, if five persons charged
(e) This practice might easily be prevented, were care taken to have a printed copy of the fees allowed to be received hung up, according to A&t of Parliament, in a con (picuous part of the office. VOL. I. Ff
as associates in the fame offence, are to be bound, the clerk, instead of including all of them in the fame recognizance, binds each of them separately, and thus carves out for himself five fees instead of one (). Similar tricks are practised in the case of inforınations. On the subject of fees it may be added, that the Magistrate himself may on many occasions shew a very laudable spirit of liberality, by remitting or purposely contriving to lessen his own, where the party aggrieved labours under extraordinary circumstances of hardship or distress. To abstain in general from receiving the common fees of office, (a custom which benevolent Magistrates have sometimes been desirous of adopting, with
with a view to render justice attainable with perfect facility and without charge) would not apparently
(f) In some places the Magistrates have judiciously adopted the plan of giving to every person, when he enters into a recognizance, a printed minute properly filled up, stating the day when he is to appear, and the cause of that promised appearance. A trilling fee is taken for the minute. This plan has proved highly beneficial in preventing instances of distress and hardship similar to those which frequently took place before, in consequence of the individuals who were bound forgetting or neglecting to attend at the appointed time.
be attended with effects beneficial on the whole. The immediate consequence would be an immoderate increase of business to the Magistrate himself; and, what would be still worfe, an increase no less immoderate of squabbles and contentions among the poor, who would carry every frivolous dispute, every angry word, to the nearest tribunal, with equal loss of temper and of time; if they knew beforehand that their complaints and invectives might be poured forth, and their resentment eventually gratified, without the payment of a farthing. He who is difinterested enough not to wish to accept even that small compensation for his trouble in administering the laws, or rather that exemption from paying a salary out of his own pocket to his clerk, which the ordinary fees afford, will be likely to appropriate what is saved by receiving them to some charitable and useful purpose; and thus render a much greater service to the Public than he would have done by declining to receive them.
The administration of criminal justice. ought to be exempt from the operation of any Ff2
bias and influence whatever. It ought not only to be pure, but to be far removed from all suspicion. It ought to hold out no prospects of advantage to. Magistrates, nor to those who ftand in a near relation to Magistrates. Hence appears the propriety with which Magistrates themselves are prohibited to act as Solicitors or as Counsel in carrying on prosecutions. And hence also appears the blame due to the Magistrate who recommends his own clerk to be employed in carrying them on, even though the recommendation should not be urged, as it sometimes has been urged, in a manner scarcely to be refifted (8).
It remains to illustrate and exemplify some of the preceding general observations, by making a few remarks on the leading branches of business which fall within the jurisdiction of a Justice of the Peace.
One of the most important and laborious functions of the Magistrate is the administra
(8) A merited and public censure has lately (1797) been paffed on practices of this nature by the highest authority in the Court of King's Bench.
tion of the laws respecting the poor. To him it belongs to decide all questions concerning the parochial relief to be assigned to those who are unable to maintain themselves and their families. He will have learnt from experience, on the one hand, that parish-officers are very apt to be penurious and hard-hearted; and on the other, that the poor are sometimes guilty of insolent rudeness and imposition, and unwilling to exert themselves for their subsistence to the utmost of their ability. The avarice and cruelty of the former, and the impertinence, idleness, and extravagance of the latter, he will steadily repress. His solicitude however will not be confined to the discovery of the proper quantum of relief: he will be equally anxious to ascertain the best and kindest mode of imparting it; and will study to see cure the observance of that mode by posia tive injunctions, when he is authorised to give them ; when not, by his earnest recommendation. In cases in which the law entrusts him with discretionary power, he will not on flight grounds oblige a poor man to relinquish his cottage, with all his little domestic property and comforts, and take up his abode in a