HC Deb 22 February 1832 vol 10 cc632-5
Mr. O'Connell

presented a Petition from the Trades' Political Union of Dublin, praying for the Extension of the Principles of the 6 Geo. 4th, cap. 50, for Regulating Juries in Ireland. The petitioners claimed this as a fair measure of justice to create reciprocity of rights between the two kingdoms. They particularly complained of the power which was given to Magistrates in Ireland at Quarter Sessions to strike the Lists of Special Juries, they considered themselves neglected when seven years had passed over since the Bill was enacted for England, without its provisions having been extended to Ireland. He trusted the House would bear in mind that the power of striking Juries was given to Magistrates when they themselves might be parties to the suit, that is, that they had the power to select their own Jury, this was rather too bad even for Ireland.

Mr. Crampton

felt surprised at the remarks of the hon. and learned Member, for he had understood that he approved of the Irish Jury Bill generally, and only wished that in extreme cases an appeal should be given to a higher tribunal. As to the complaint of the hon. and learned Member, that the power of selecting Juries was given to the Magistrates, that was only following the plan of the Bill he eulogized as being in operation in this country.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the hon. and learned Member could not have read either the Irish or English Jury Bill, when he made that assertion. The law with respect to England was according to the 41st section of the Act, that the names of a certain number of persons of the rank of Esquire, or who, being merchants, were qualified to act as Special Juries, were formed into a List as a matter of course, and this was reduced at the alternate pleasure of the two parties to suit the plaintiff and defendant, and out of the reduced number the Jury was chosen by Ballot. Now what was the proposed Irish law but this? The Lists being furnished by the proper Officer, the Magistrate affixed the letter X to such names as he thought fit to nominate, and consequently political partizans, or dependants of the Magistrate, might be placed on the panel: this plan was an outrage on common sense, and never could be tolerated.

Mr. Crampton

said, the Irish Bill was based upon that of England, although there might be some difference in the superstructure and working of the measure, on account of the difficulty of finding persons of the qualification of Squires and merchants in some parts of Ireland; therefore power was given to Magistrates to select persons of a lower station in life.

Mr. Ruthven

objected to the Bill on the same ground as the hon. and learned member for Kerry; he disapproved of the power given to Magistrates to select Special Juries, because he knew that in many instances, they were strong political partizans, and they might use the authority vested in them for selecting the Juror most invidiously. At the same time he was aware that the present law required amendment, for he had heard of Sheriffs who boasted that they could select a Jury to suit the cause to be tried.

Mr. James Grattan

said, it was notorious that, by the existing law Juries were frequently packed, and he feared the proposed alteration would not remedy that defect.

Mr. O'Connell

in moving that the petition be printed, would only call the attention of the House to the following words of the Bill, "when the List of Persons shall have been so made out, the presiding Magistrate shall affix the letter X." He thought that gave the power of nomination to the Magistrate, and he believed there was no such provision in the English Bill.

Sir Edward Sugden

merely wished to say, that he took the same view of the case as the hon. and learned member for Kerry.

Mr. Leader

said, there had been such instances of packed Juries in Kilkenny as had created very strong feelings of hostility against the present law, and he did not anticipate much improvement in its workings by the proposed alteration. In England the Overseers of the poor returned a List of persons to the Magistrates supposed by them to possess the necessary qualification, the Justices had undoubtedly the power to examine the Overseer as to the correctness of his List This office was, therefore, only Ministerial, and there was all the difference in the world between inquiring into a qualification and branding a Juror by an arbitrary mark. The Common-law of the two countries was the same, and the Statute-law ought to be similar, and the practice of striking Special Juries, from which England had received so much benefit, ought to be fully extended to Ireland.

The Attorney General

said, he did not see the objection to giving the power to Magistrates so strongly as other hon. Members; if they improperly corrected the List of Jurors, they would be amenable to the Court of King's Bench. He was ready to allow, that it would be difficult to prove a case against them; but he thought the chance of a Magistrate striking a name off' a List or leaving one upon it on account of some particular cause in which he was interested, was very remote, and it must be further recollected that the List would not be made up for some particular occasion, but for the county generally, and for the whole year.

Mr. Lefroy

said, the Magistrates of Ireland had been much maligned during the discussion, if the power of selecting Jurors could not be intrusted to them, it was in vain to seek for a purer source. With regard to the particular question raised by this petition, he was well convinced, and he knew the same opinion was entertained by some of the highest law authorities in Ireland, that the proposed alteration could not be an improvement in the impartial administration of justice.

Petition to be printed.

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