HC Deb 09 November 1830 vol 1 cc347-9
Mr. W. Burrell

moved the second reading of the Sussex Jury Bill.

Mr. Campbell

rose to oppose the Bill, and said, he should take the sense of the House upon it. If carried into effect it would produce a most important alteration in the Jury-law, as established by the bill of 1826. By that law the number of Special Jury was to be reduced by chance. The present Bill proposed to effect a division of the county of Sussex into the two districts of Horsham and Lewes; and create one list for one of these divisions, and another for the remaining one. He was opposed to such a division, and thought that the law ought to be uniform. It was said that this Bill was introduced on account of the inconvenient distance of the Assize town from different parts of the county. But the same objection, though existing more strongly with respect to common than to special jurymen, was not made in their favour. In Somersetshire, and in Surrey, the Assizes were held in three places; in Norfolk, in Berkshire, and in Buckinghamshire at two; and if the principle of this Bill was good, other Acts ought to be passed dividing those counties into as many districts as there were Assize towns in them. But he objected to the Bill on another principle; namely, that it would operate to the prejudice of plaintiffs in some cases. Suppose a poor man brought an action against a Magistrate, for illegally committing him to prison, was that action to be tried by a jury of brother Magistrates selected from the same districts with the defendant? Certainly not Besides, as this Bill was now framed, the selection of the jury must depend on the district division of the county in which the Assizes were held. That town depended on the will of the Judge. In Sussex itself the Assizes were once held at East Grinstead; and suppose the Judges should choose to hold the Assizes at Brighton (which he thought would soon be found to be the most convenient) what would become of this Bill? He thought that in every way the Bill was objectionable, and he should therefore move that it be read a second time that day six months.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

seconded the Amendment. The Bill by being limited to special juries, made, in fact, one law for the rich and another for the poor. Other counties needed as much such a bill as Sussex, and if the principle were good, the Bill ought to be extended to them, not confined to Sussex.

Mr. W. Burrell

contended, that juries in the western division of the county would be just as impartial as juries from the county generally. If any suspicion arose, it was well known that in cases of special juries the parties to the action might strike off whom they pleased. As far as common juries were concerned, it was already customary to take them from the immediate neighbourhood of the Assize town.

Mr. O'Connell

referred to one county of Ireland which was similarly circumstanced to Sussex, and expressed his hope that the principle of the Bill would be extended to the sister kingdom. He repelled the objection taken to narrow and local jurisdictions, and argued that it was highly beneficial that every poor man should have a law-shop near his home. In England neither party had an advantage over the other, as juries were drawn by lot.

Sir J. Shelley knew, that the people of Sussex frequently complained of the expense they were put to by going such a distance. The Bill he was convinced would tend to the convenience of the people, and he should support it.

Sir Edward Knatchbull

thought the Bill was calculated to be of use to all parties. The hon. and learned Member who opposed the Bill was mistaken in his view, for experience had informed all Magistrates that jurors might be taken from a limited neighbourhood without the risk of injustice. He felt grateful to the member for Waterford for the disinterested support he had given to this English Bill, and he hoped when he brought forward any local measure for Ireland, that he would receive the same assistance from English Members.

Sir C. Burrell

highly approved of the Bill, and thought its imperfections might be remedied in a committee.

Mr. John Wood

thought the principle of the Bill so good that he would have it extended to other counties of England, requiring the same change; and he particularly instanced Lancashire, where the Assizes were held in a remote corner of the county, whither suitors, witnesses, and jurors were obliged to repair. This circumstance of itself operated as a denial of justice to the poor.

Mr. Curteis

knew from experience the inconvenience of the present state of things, for he had frequently had to travel fifty miles to attend an Assize. This Bill was desired by the county, and it was so simple that he did not conceive any objection could be made to it.

Lord Morpeth

expressed his opinion that such a measure could be advantageously applied to Yorkshire.

Mr. Sandford

wished such a Bill to be applied to Somersetshire.

Mr. Campbell

withdrew his Amendment.

The Bill read a second time.

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