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The title is used in England in three principal senses
- In law, a proctor is an attorney or solicitor acting in some courts.
- In the church, a proctor represents the clergy in Church of England dioceses.
- In education, a proctor is 1) the name of university officials in certain universities, or 2) a supervisor or invigilator during an exam.
Historical legal office
A proctor was a legal practitioner in the ecclesiastical and admiralty courts. Historically, they were licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to undertake the duties that were performed in common law courts by attorneys and in the courts of equity by solicitors. Later, the Judicature Acts of 1873 and 1875, which created the Supreme Court of Judicature, combined the three roles into the common profession of "solicitor of the Supreme Court".
In the admiralty courts, a proctor or procurator was an officer who, in conjunction with the King's Proctor, acted as the attorney or solicitor in all causes concerning the Lord High Admiral's affairs in the High Court of Admiralty and other courts. The King's Proctor so acted in all causes concerning the King.
Current legal officers
The Queen's Proctor (or King's Proctor) is the proctor or solicitor representing the Crown in the courts of probate and divorce. The office has for many years been combined with that of the Treasury Solicitor, whose formal title is Her (or His) Majesty's Procurator-General and Treasury Solicitor. In petitions of divorce, or for declaration of nullity of marriage, the Queen's Proctor may, under direction of the Attorney General, intervene in the suit for the purpose of arguing any question that the court deems expedient to have argued. His or her powers are set out in section 8 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, and include the power to show cause against a decree nisi being made absolute, usually on receipt of information indicating that the court has been misled into granting a decree. (See also the Family Proceedings Rules 1991 (as amended), Rule 2.46).
Proctor is a term that still survives in Western Australia. Until it was amended in 1992 and later superseded by the Legal Profession Act in 2008, the Legal Practitioners Act 1893 provided for legal practitioners in Western Australia to be admitted and entitled to practise as "practitioners". That term was then defined as 'a person admitted and entitled to practise as a barrister, solicitor, attorney and proctor of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, or in any one or more of these capacities'. Whilst it was theoretically possible to apply for admission in any of these capacities, as there was no separate qualification for such separate admissions, the standard practice (pre 1992) was for all persons to be admitted as barristers, solicitors and proctors of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Many survive today.
A representative of the clergy in convocation. In the Convocation of the English Clergy an ecclesiastical proctor represents either the chapter of a cathedral or the beneficed clergy of a diocese. In the Province of Canterbury two proctors represent the clergy of each diocese; in that of York there are two for each archdeaconry. Every chapter is represented by one proctor.
Proctor has two completely different meanings in education: it refers to either a high official in certain universities, or to any teacher or other staff member at a university, secondary school or even elementary school when they are supervising the administration of a test or examination. In British, Canadian, Australian and South African English, persons acting in this latter capacity are referred to as invigilators.
The early history of the office at Cambridge is obscure, but it seems that the Proctors have always represented the colleges in University proceedings. In the past the Proctors administered the university's finances, acted as examiners for all candidates for the B.A., prosecuted anyone suspected of unfair trading, and had a multitude of other tasks. At present their functions are twofold: (1) taking part in all university ceremonials, and (2) enforcing discipline in the case of members of the University who are in statu pupillari (undergraduates, Bachelors of Arts and Bachelors of Laws).
At Cambridge University the Proctors are nominated every May by colleges identified in a predetermined cycle. They then serve for one year from 1 October, assisted by their Deputy Proctors and two Pro-Proctors. They must be a member of the Senate for three years, and must have resided two years at the university. The two Pro-Proctors are not, as at Oxford, nominated by the Proctors, but are also elected by the Regent House on the nomination of the colleges, each college having the right to nominate a Pro-Proctor for the year next before that in which it nominates the Proctor (Grace of 26 February 1863). Two additional Pro-Proctors are also elected by the senate each year, on the nomination of the vice- chancellor and proctors, to assist the latter in the maintenance of discipline (Grace of 6 June 1878).
The Proctors are ex officio members of the Board of Scrutiny, the Board of Examinations, and various other bodies. Their presence is essential at all Congregations of the Regent House, at which the Senior Proctor reads all the Graces and the Junior Proctor takes the vote of the Regent House. If any Grace is opposed by any member of the senate saying non placet, the Proctors take the votes of those present and announce the result. Graces are offered not only for making changes in University Statutes and Ordinances and for appointing examiners and the like, but also for granting degrees. When a degree is to be taken the college of the candidate presents a supplicat or petition for the degree; this petition is approved by the Regent House, if and when they have satisfied themselves that the candidate has fulfilled the conditions, and is read at the Congregation by the Senior Proctor: these supplicats are practically never opposed, but Graces for new Statutes and Ordinances are frequently opposed, and on very important occasions such as the election of a new Chancellor many hundreds of non-resident members of the Senate come up to record their votes.
The proctors' powers as to discipline have a very long history. As far as concerns members of the university they have authority to impose certain fines for minor offences, such as not wearing academic dress on occasions when it is ordered, and also to order a student not to be out of their college after a certain hour for a certain number of days (gating). In the case of more serious offences the proctor generally reports the matter to the authorities of the offender's college to be dealt with by them, or as a last resort brings the offender before the university court of discipline, which has power to rusticate or expel. The power of the proctors over persons who are not members of the university dates from charters granted by Elizabeth I and James I, which empowered the university authorities to search for undesirable characters, men and women, rogues, vagabonds, and other personas de male suspectas (persons suspected of evil), and punish them by imprisonment or banishment. In recent times this power was often exercised with respect to prostitutes. The proctors promenaded the streets attended by their servants (the bulldogs), who are always sworn in as special constables. (They are now called 'Constables', and retain full police powers of arrest within 5 miles of Great St Mary's Church, deemed to be the centre of the University; Proctors now do not have power of arrest.) If occasion arose, the proctor could arrest a suspected woman and have her taken to the Spinning House (for which Thomas Hobson the carrier had left an endowment); the next day the woman was brought before the vice-chancellor, who had power to commit her to the Spinning House; as a general rule the sentence was not for a longer period than three weeks. For this purpose the vice-chancellor sat in camera and the jurisdiction had nothing to do with that of the vice-chancellor's court. In 1898 attention was called to this procedure by the case of a girl named Daisy Hopkins, who was arrested and committed to the Spinning House. Application was made on her behalf to the Queens Bench Division for a writ of habeas corpus, and when the application came on it appeared that there had been a technical irregularity (the prisoner not having been formally charged when brought before the vice-chancellor); so the writ was granted and the prisoner released. She afterwards brought an action against the proctor, which failed. It was then decided to abolish the practice of hearing these cases in camera. The whole practice was, however, objected to by the authorities of the town, and after conference an agreement was arrived at: the proctorial jurisdiction over persons not members of the university was abolished (1904).
The Junior Proctor has special responsibility for university societies and for resolving disputes arising from the Cambridge University Students' Union and the Graduate Union.
The Special Pro-Proctor for Motor Vehicles is responsible for licensing the keeping and using of motor vehicles (other than mopeds) within 10 miles (16 km) of Great St Mary's Church by University students who have not yet reached MA status and are in residence in term or in the Long Vacation period of residence. The Motor Proctor also has the power to impose a fine of up to £175 for students breaching the regulations on the keeping and using of motor vehicles.
The Proctors of Oxford University are senior officers of the University who are responsible for enforcing University discipline and sanctions, for handling complaints against the University, and for conducting formal examinations (at the Examination Schools). They are elected annually by the colleges. Two Proctors are elected each year: a Senior and Junior Proctor.
The reform of the university statutes in 2002 reorganised the disciplinary system of the University and reduced the powers of the Proctors. However, they still act as ombudsmen for the University, and handle formal complaints by and against students (although more minor disciplinary matters are usually dealt with by the Dean of each college). They have the power to issue fines to members of the University for numerous offences, including cheating in examinations.
Prior to 2003, the Proctors were aided in disciplinary matters by the Oxford University Police (who wore bowler hats and were generally known as "Bulldogs"); the University Police were a private constabulary with full powers of arrest within the precincts of the University and within four miles (6 km) of any University building. However, after receiving public criticism in 2002 for their exercise of authority over citizens of Oxford who were not members of the University, the force was disbanded in 2003 by the University Council, due partly to the excessive expense of complying with new Government requirements on police training and complaints procedures. Today, the Constables have been redesignated as "Proctors' Officers" and continue to serve under the Proctors, but no longer have the powers of police constables.
- About the Proctors' Office, University of Oxford website
- Oration by the Senior Proctor, Oxford University Gazette, 23 March 2005
- p194-5, Bruce, Alastair and Calder, Julian, Keepers of the Kingdom (Cassell, 1987), ISBN 0-304-36201-8
- Oration by the Senior Proctor, Oxford University Gazette, 23 March 2000
- University police branded 'too powerful', Oxford Times, 22 May 2002
- Straw rejoices as Oxford's Bulldogs are put down, The Daily Telegraph, 15 October 2002
- Oration by the Senior Proctor, Oxford University Gazette, 27 March 2003
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.