HC Deb 03 April 1832 vol 11 cc1267-9
Mr. R. Grant

would trouble the House, but very shortly, in bringing the subject of his notice before them, and did not anticipate that it would on this occasion give rise to any discussion. The measure he wished to introduce had for its chief object the holding of the Assizes for the county of Norfolk twice a-year in the city of Norwich, and putting an end to the practice of having the Lent Assizes holden at Thetford. The effect of this would be, two gaol deliveries in Norwich, an object in itself of great importance every where, but particularly there, where it now happened that prisoners were frequently confined eleven months before they were brought to trial. By a Statute passed in the reign of Henry 2nd, the Assizes for every county were directed to be held in the county town of each county, and by another passed in the second year of Richard 2nd, the Judges were empowered to fix the holding of Assizes in other considerable towns besides the county towns, if the circumstances of the counties should render it advisable. In consequence of the common operation of these two statutes, some of the counties had their Assizes at the county towns only, while in others, the Assizes were held alter- nately, at the county town and at some other large town in the county. That was the case with the county of Norfolk: but whatever was the reason for which the Judges originally appointed the Assizes to be held at Thetford, the holding of them there had now become a great inconvenience. Thetford was a small town at an extremity of the county, and it was surrounded by a thinly inhabited country, whereas Norwich was a large city, and in the centre of the wealth and population of the county. From a variety of calculations it appeared, that the convenience to the county generally, both as regarded population and distance, was double in the case of Norwich as compared with Thetford. Under those circumstances, he begged leave to move to bring in a Bill to remove the holding of the Norfolk Assizes from Thetford to Norwich.

Mr. Baring

observed, that Assizes had been held at Thetford from the year 1264 up to the present time. He admitted all that had been said with respect to Norwich, but still must ever contend against any statement which would represent Thetford other than as a thriving place. He did not feel the force of the arguments for holding the Assizes at the central point of the county; and, even admitting their validity, he saw no reason why Norfolk should be singled out for the trial of a geographical experiment. Let there be a general re-division of counties, as at present with respect to elections, and not a Bill for a single exception case like the present. Besides, admitting the expediency of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion, he thought the prerogative of the Crown a more desirable mode of attaining its end than a legislative enactment.

Sir John Sebright

said, he must support the Motion, because, to have justice administered in the centre of a county would save time, trouble, and expense. At the same time, he thought that much benefit, by way of example, would be derived from the executing criminals at the place of their crimes, and not promiscuously at the Assize town.

Mr. Ridley Colborne

opposed the Motion, urging that, if any change were necessary, which he denied, it ought to be effected by the prerogative of the Crown, and not by an Act of Parliament. The question had already been discussed, and decided in the year 1825.

Mr. Hume

would not pretend to say whether what was proposed should be accomplished by the King in Council, or by Statute; but of this he was certain, that it was most expedient to hold the Assizes only at Norwich, as the most central and populous situation. The counties were differently divided when Thetford had been named as one of the places at which Assizes were to be holden.

Mr. Wason also supported the Motion.

Leave given to bring in the Bill.