PROCTOR, an English variant of the word procurator (q.v.); strictly, a person who takes charge or acts for another, and so approaching very nearly in meaning to “agent” (q.v.). The title is used in England in three principal senses.
1. A practitioner in the ecclesiastical and admiralty courts. A proctor in this sense is also a qualified person licensed by the archbishop of Canterbury to undertake duties such as are performed in other courts by solicitors, but this matter is now only of historical interest, since by the Judicature Acts 1873 and 1875 all the business formerly confined to proctors may be conducted by solicitors. The kings proctor is the proctor or solicitor representing the Crown in the courts of probate and divorce. In petitions of divorce or for declaration of nullity of marriage the king’s proctor may, under direction of the attorney general, and by leave of the court, intervene in the suit for the purpose of proving collusion between the parties. His power of intervening is limited, by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1860, to cases of collusion only, but he may also, as one of the public, show cause against a decree nisi being made absolute (see Divorce). In the admiralty court 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.
2. A representative of the clergy in convocation. A proctor in this sense represents either the chapter of a cathedral or the benefices 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. In both alike each chapter is represented by one.
3. The name of certain important university officials. At Oxford the proctors (procuratoroes), under the statutes, supervise the transaction of university business and appoint delegates to look after any particular affairs wherever these are not otherwise provided for by statute. They are ex officio members of all the important delegacies, except that of the University Press. They also act as the assessors of the chancellor or his commissary in particular matters dealt with in the university. They supervise the voting at public meetings of the university and announce the results. They also have, according to the ancient statutes, the power of veto in convocation and congregation: no proposal can be passed into a statute or decree if twice vetoed by them. They are ex officio members of the hebdomadal council, the governing council of the university, and they are the assessors of the vice-chancellor when he confers degrees. When a degree is to be granted they walk down the hall in which the ceremony is performed, nominally to ask for the approval of the masters, and it was formerly the custom for any tradesman, or any other person, who had a claim of debt against the postulant for a degree, to pluck the gown of the proctor as he passed and request settlement of the debt before the degree was granted. The proctors are also responsible for the good order of the university, and they are charged with the duty of inquiring into and reporting on any breaches of its statutes, customs or privileges. They are empowered to punish undergraduates, or graduates under the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law and Master of Arts, by line or by confinement to their colleges or lodgings (familiarly known as “gating”). They have to draw up the list of candidates for examination, and have to be present at all examinations, to see that they are properly conducted. They are responsible for the good order of the streets at night, so far as members of the university are concerned. For this purpose more especially each of them is empowered, immediately on his election, to nominate two masters of at least three years’ standing as pro-proctors. The proctors and pro-proctors take it in turn to perambulate the streets nightly, accompanied by two sworn constables, familiarly known as “bulldogs.” The proctors are elected by the heads, fellows and resident members of convocation of each college in rotation. They are presented to the vice-chancellor with much ceremony, part of which consists in taking over the insignia of their office—a copy of the statutes and a bunch of keys—from their predecessors.
At Cambridge the proctors are nominated annually by the colleges in rotation and elected (a formal proceeding) by the senate. They must have been three years members of the senate and 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 senate on the nomination of the colleges, each college having the right to nominate a pro-proctor the year next before that in which it nominates the proctor (Grace of February 26, 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 June 6, 1878).
The early history of the office at Cambridge is obscure, but it seems that the proctors have always represented the colleges in university proceedings. At present their functions are twofold (1) as taking part in all university ceremonials, (2) as enforcing discipline in the case of members of the university who are in statu pupillari (i.e. undergraduates and Bachelors of Arts and Law). (1) The proctors are not (as at Oxford) ex officio members of the council of the senate or of other boards or syndicates, except those with which their duties are specially connected. But their presence is essential at all congregations of the senate, at which the senior proctor reads all the “ graces ” (already approved by the council of the senate). 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 council of the senate, 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 many hundreds of non-resident members of the senate come up to record their votes. (2) 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 academical dress on occasions when it is ordered, and also to order a man not to be out of his 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 an ultimate 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 dated from charters granted by Elizabeth and James I., which empowered the university authorities to search for undesirable characters, men and women, rogues, vagabonds, and other personas de malo suspectas, and punish them by imprisonment or banishment. In recent times this power was regularly exercised with respect to women of bad character. The proctors promenaded the streets attended by their servants (the bulldogs), who are always sworn in as special constables. If occasion arose the proctor could arrest a suspected woman and have her taken to the Spinning House (for which 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 perior 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 Queen’s 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 now 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 being abolished (1904).