rose to present a Petition from the untried prisoners confined in the gaol of Newgate, in Dublin. They complained that they had been for a long period immured in the dungeons of that gaol, and that they had not an opportunity of being tried, in consequence of the absence of the Recorder, who was attending his parliamentary duties in that House. He was bound to consider the petitioners innocent until they were found guilty, according to law, and he conceived that they had just reason to complain of this hardship. The petitioners were in number ninety-five, who had been confined on various charges, and they could not obtain a trial in consequence of the circumstance which he had stated; they were thus kept, in prison, because the Recorder of Dublin, who ought to be at his post to try them, was a Member of that 1357 House. He had also heard a complaint from a constituent of the learned Gentleman, who was now in London, and who said, that he could not get the Recorder to attend to his duty in Parliament, as he had gone back to Dublin to attend his duties as Recorder. That fact proved that the duties of the two offices were quite incompatible. These unfortunate prisoners were confined in dungeons, and could not obtain a trial because the learned Recorder said, that he must attend his duties here—and when a respectable constituent of his, a gentleman connected with the silk-trade, and who was anxious to have something done in Parliament for the employment of the people, called upon him here to bring; the question before Parliament, "oh!" quoth the Recorder, "I can't go to the House when that question comes on, for I must return to Dublin to discharge the prisoners untried an Newgate gaol." Was there not reason then for the petitioners to seek for redress at the bar of that House? Was it not hard that many of them who might be innocent should be immured at this season, when every man wished to be at home with his family? It was an exceedingly great hardship upon them. One gentleman who had signed this petition, and for whose respectability he could vouch, Mr. A. M'Donnell, stated, that he was confined in Newgate, on a charge of assault—that he had been confined for a length of time, and that he could not obtain a trial in consequence of the absence of the Recorder. He (Mr. M'Donnell), also alleged that certain abuses existed in connection with the gaol of Newgate, which, if the allegations were true, should be remedied. He stated, that on one night he sent for the Protestant chaplain attached to the gaol, intimating, which was the case, that, he was seriously ill, that it was a life and death case, and wanted his assistance, and that the chaplain would not come, because it was past ten o'clock; and he also alleged, that the medical men connected with the gaol refused to attend him that evening too, on the pretence that they had regular hours for attendance, and that time was not included in them. The incompatibility of the two offices of Recorder and Member of Parliament was so obvious, that some remedy should be applied to the evil in this instance. Last Session he understood that the Legislature had passed a law rendering the situation of 1358 Member of Parliament and Master in Chancery incompatible; that was the case of Mr. Ellis, who was allowed to choose between the two offices. He thought, that the same rule should be applied in this instance. There was a grant of Parliament in addition to what was allowed by the Corporation of Dublin, to the Recorder of that city; he believed it was about 500l. or 600l., and he now gave notice, that whenever that vote came before the House, he would move, that it be withheld until the Recorder of Dublin made his selection between the office of Recorder and that of Member of that House. He repeated, that the two offices were perfectly incompatible, for even with a limited portion of ubiquity—it was impossible that the learned Gentleman could discharge the duties of both properly and efficiently.
§ Mr. A. Lefroy
remarked upon the unfairness of making such an attack in the absence of the Recorder, who was, he was certain, able to clear himself from any imputations which the petitioners or the hon. Gentleman might cast upon him. He wished to know from the hon. Member, whether he was certain that the discharge of the prisoners in question was cot owing to other circumstances besides the absence of the Recorder. This he knew, that previous to the Recorder coming over here, he had tried all the prisoners who were then ready for trial, to the perfect satisfaction of the public. He was also desirous to ascertain from the hon. Gentleman whether he had acquainted the Recorder with the charges which were preferred against him in this petition, previous to his presentation of it?
said, that one of the allegations of the petitioners was, that many of them had been confined in prison for thirty and forty days—a term too long for those who were innocent, and even the guilty had a right to be brought to trial. These men would not, surely, have been so long confined had the Recorder been at his post. He did not want to throw any imputations on the Recorder. It was manifestly impossible for him to communicate the contents of this petition to the Recorder, for he had received it since the departure of that learned Gentleman for Dublin. He must repeat, that the two offices were quite incompatible, if the learned Gentleman possessed a limited extent of ubiquity.
§ Sir Robert Peel
apprehended, that the 1359 hon. member for Clare laboured under some misapprehension or mistake in this instance, with regard to the duties of a Recorder. The hon. Gentleman had contended that the office of Recorder and that of Member of Parliament were incompatible—upon that point he should not now enter, but the hon. Member derived his proof from the fact, that some prisoners were lying over for trial in New gate gaol, in Dublin. He believed it "was the case in Dublin, as in London, that certain Sessions were held at certain periods of the year, at which the Recorder attended as the assessor of the Corporation, and at which the prisoners ready for trial were put on their trial accordingly. If the Recorder attended regularly at these Sessions, he did not think that the administration of justice suffered from his being- a Member of that House. He doubted whether any injustice were done to the prisoners if they were tried at the first Sessions after their commitment, provided they were ready for trial. That appeared to him the true state of the case, and if his memory served him right, the Sessions were held in Dublin as here, at stated periods in the year.
conceived that this was a most important question indeed. The duties of the two offices were perfectly incompatible, and when the subject was mentioned, the right hon. Baronet, who was lately Minister of Justice, rose to find excuses for it. If the Recorder attended to his duty in Dublin, it was impossible that he could attend to his duty in that House. It was the duty of a Member of Parliament always to be in his place, and how could the Recorder of Dublin fulfill that duty? He wondered that his Majesty's late Government did not take up this question. He was surprised that the right hon. Baronet below him, the late Home Secretary, did not prevent this judicial officer from exercising functions so completely incompatible. He trusted that the present Government would direct their attention to the subject. At all events it was the duty of the House, when the Estimate came to be voted which included the grant for the Recorder of Dublin, to withhold it until he had made his selection between the situation of Recorder and Member of that House, the respective duties of which were so utterly incompatible.
§ Sir R. Peel
was prepared to answer any charges which could be properly 1360 brought against the late Administration; but he was not prepared to reply to all the charges which the most utter ignorance of the law and constitution of the country might prefer against it. Nobody could have made such a charge unless he were more utterly ignorant than a gentleman holding the situation of the hon. Member ought to be. He would tell the hon. Member that no principle of the constitution was better established, than that the persons holding judicial situations ought to be independent of the Crown. The Recorder of Dublin was completely independent of his Majesty's Government, and he knew of no law to disqualify the Recorder from sitting in Parliament, if the electors of Dublin chose to send him to that House. The hon. Member seemed to think that the Minister for the Home Department could make the Recorder give up his situation, or resign his seat; but that Minister had no power to remove any Judge from his office. He had no more power to make the Recorder of Dublin relinquish his office than he had to make the hon. member for Middlesex relinquish his seat in Parliament. He would not enter into the question, whether or not the office of Recorder was compatible with the duties of a Member of Parliament. If the House thought the two situations were not compatible, it was for the House to alter the law, but on that he would give no opinion. He only wished to correct the misconception of the hon. Gentleman, and state that he supposed, though; he did not recollect, that the custom of Dublin was like that of London, where Sessions were held at stated periods. As for the House withholding the salary now given to the Recorder, that was not under consideration; and when that part of the question came before the House in voting the Irish Estimates, the hon. member for Middlesex might take the opportunity of bringing it to an issue.
§ Mr. Ruthven
explained, that the Recorder of Dublin held Sessions more frequently than they were held in London. In Dublin, he believed, the Sessions were held every fortnight. He was of opinion that there was no want of attention shown by the proper authorities to the state of the several gaols in Ireland. He knew that any letter from any prisoners to the Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, was sure to meet attention from that officer; though he believed that trials had 1361 been postponed longer than usual, in consequence of the absence of the Recorder.
wished to set the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) right as to one fact. In Ireland there are no stated periods for the sitting of the Recorder. It altogether depended on his will, and this was generally guided by the state of the calendar; and if it should not please the Recorder to sit for a considerable time, or it he was absent attending his parliamentary duties, the unfortunate citizens of Dublin were mulcted in order to support the increased number of prisoners. Now, the keeping persons in prison who were supplied by the common funds, was an injury to England as well as Ireland. He held in his hand a document, giving an account of 550 English having been relieved in Dublin, 440 of whom were sent home to their own country. By keeping people in prison, the means were diminished for relieving distress. There was another circumstance, which he conceived rendered the presence of the Recorder at. all times absolutely necessary. It was his duty to receive bail in the absence of the Judges of the land. This duty could be delegated to no other person. The Courts of Dublin were different from those of London— there they were empowered to issue Writs, on oath, for the recovery of debts, from the sum of 40s. to 60,000l. In a late case, a merchant of the greatest respectability, and of a most ancient family, was, on the oath of a common prostitute, obliged to find bail to the enormous amount of 120,000l. Had the Judges been on circuit, and the Recorder attending his parliamentary duties, that gentleman would have been obliged to remain in prison, as none but these officers were empowered to receive his bail.
§ Sir R. Peel
wished again to declare, that he had not intended to canvass the question, whether the Recorder should sit in Parliament or not. He had only wished to state, that the prisoners were detained by the rules of the law, and not by the absence of the Recorder.
said, that he did not expect that the right hon. Baronet would take up the question in the manner he had done, making an attack on him in not a very courteous and civil tone. He wished the right hon. Baronet to understand, he was not one of those men who pretended to be acquainted with every thing, nor did he say that he was not, like other men, liable 1362 to mistakes; but he was one of those men who never palliated nor protected any abuse, like the late Minister of Justice. He did not accuse Ministers; he only put a case, and said, if the late Ministers had not done so, he hoped the new Ministers would. They had only been fourteen days in office, and in that time they had not power to remedy all abuses. The right hon. Baronet, however, seemed disposed to justify his own conduct by a reference to the conduct of his successors. [Sir R. Peel intimated that he had done no such thing.] The language of the right hon. Gentleman implied that. He said, that it was impossible for the Government to remedy the abuse that was complained of. Why, he wanted to know, was he accused of ignorance? Because the right hon. Baronet supposed that he (Mr. Hume) thought that a Minister could displace a Judge. That was not what he said. The hon. Member opposite had made a statement, and he understood the right hon. Baronet had risen to palliate what he considered an abuse. In support of his own opinions he would refer the right hon. Baronet to his own relative, who was lately the opponent at the hustings of the learned Recorder, and was, he understood, at those very hustings. Did not the right hon. Gentleman to whom he alluded declare openly, that the two situations ought not to be held by the same person? so that if this was ignorance, he shared his ignorance with the protegees of the right hon. Bart. He thought the language he had used uncalled for, and the accusation of gross ignorance as ill-timed as it was unfounded.
§ Sir Robert Peel
was obliged to the hon. Member for the lecture, which he had read to him about the use of courteous and civil terms. He had no interest or motive whatever to palliate what the hon. Member called an abuse. He had no interest in the question, and he had declared, that he would give no opinion on the compatibility of the two situations. The hon. Member condemned the Ministers for not having prevented the union of the two situations in the same person— an argument he could only have used from supposing that the Recorder held his office under the Crown.
§ Mr. A. Lefroy
said, that the present Recorder of Dublin had performed the duties of his station with attention and impartiality, and he thought the charge brought against him might have been 1363 better made in his presence, or, at least, he should have had some notice of it.
said, he was wrongfully accused by the hon. member for Longford for assailing the learned Recorder in his absence. He had never uttered a word of accusation against him; all he had done was, to repeat the statements of the petitioners, for which he was in no way answerable; and as to giving the learned Gentleman notice, that would have been very difficult, as he was not in the way to receive it. The very complaint against him was, that he was not present where he ought to be, to perform his duties; but if he had been here when he was at home—then he might have received the notice. The fact was, he was not to be found anywhere. When asked for in Dublin, he was on the stage for London; and inquired after in London, was perhaps, in a steam-packet bound for Ireland. He hoped the hon. Member for Longford would withdraw his charge against him, of having assailed the learned Gentleman in his absence.
§ Petition to lie on the Table.