11. The Twentieth Century

Brian Ward JP, a clockmaker, was chairman of the Guildford Juvenile Panel from 1967 to 1986. Courtesy of Surrey Magistrates Association.

Politics still played a part in appointments. In 1906, the Liberal government abolished the property qualification for Justices of the Peace (JPs) in order to reduce the predominance of Conservatives on the Benches.

The Children Act of 1908 decreed that young offenders should be treated differently from adults. It abolished prison for children and set up special juvenile courts.

Miss F.M.Douglas JP of Dorking, c.1949. Soon, half of Surrey’s JPs were women. Surrey History Centre ref CC888/1/35.

Although it was never enshrined in law, women were not commissioned as magistrates until 1919. The first women JPs in Surrey were appointed on 1st January 1920. The Magistrates’ Association was formed in 1921 and in 1947 recommended there be more women magistrates. Now over half of Surrey’s 354 JPs are women.

A motorist is stopped for speeding in the 1920s. Courtesy of the Surrey Police Museum.

At the beginning of the twentieth century drunkenness was the most common offence dealt with. However, Surrey soon saw the greatest rise of car ownership of any county in Britain. Motoring offences quickly became more prominent and now represent about half the magistrates’ work.

The Courts Act of 1971 abolished the Quarter Sessions, replacing them with the Crown Courts. In 2005 the magistrates joined with the judges in Her Majesty’s Courts Service.

Contributor:Mr Matthew Alexander, Hon. Remembrancer of Guildford

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