HC Deb 07 June 1832 vol 13 cc505-6
Lord Howick

moved for leave to bring in a Bill to enable the Governor and Legislative Council of New South Wales to make provision for the prevention and punishment of crimes committed in the islands of the Pacific Ocean. It was well known, the noble Lord observed, that runaway convicts, who got to some of those islands not within his Majesty's dominions, were in the habit of committing great crimes there, often inciting the inhabitants to make war on each other, and assisting them in those wars. The object of the Bill was, to give the Governor and council power to make certain regulations, which, as the law now stood, they had not the power to do.

Mr. Hume

asked why they had not this power already?

Colonel Davies

asked, was it intended to give jurisdiction over any of the islands in the Pacific which did not belong to us?

Mr. Dixon

It seems to me quite necessary that we should give power to the Government to repress the horrible crimes that are committed in New Zealand. But, at all events, it is in vain to debate this Bill till we see its contents.

Mr. Burge

I do not understand the intention of this Bill. If these islands are within the King's dominions, the Governor can do what is necessary, without any law. If they are not, this House cannot legislate with respect to them.

Lord Howick

At the present moment, by the New South Wales Act, the Courts there can try offences committed in these islands; but the Governor has no authority to make those regulations which are necessary for bringing the criminals before the Court. As an instance of the present defect in the law, I may mention the case of the captain of a merchantman, who went to New Zealand for flax; and, in order the more easily to obtain his cargo, he assisted one tribe in making war on the other, and actually allowed the former to eat their prisoners on board a British ship; and yet this miscreant escaped all punishment, from the defect in the law. I think that, if the House will allow me to bring in this Bill, they will perceive that it is calculated to answer the end of preventing such impunity in future.

Mr. Croker

If these horrible crimes of murder and cannibalism were commited on board ship, they must have been committed on the high seas; and surely there is a law to punish any crime committed on board a British vessel on the high seas.

Lord Howick

The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have understood me. The Courts at New South Wales have power to punish crimes; but they have no power to bring persons who have committed offences at New Zealand before them, so that a man may be living at large in that island, and the Government has no power to apprehend him. With respect to the particular circumstances of this case, it is some time since it happened, and I do not profess to remember the precise technical difficulties that arose. This, however, I remember, that the man was brought to trial, and escaped punishment, owing to certain defects which could not be got over.

Mr. Hume

wished to know, whether the Bill was to empower the Governor and Council to bring natives or British subjects from any of those islands?

Mr. Spring Rice

suggested, that it would be better to defer all remarks on the subject until the Bill should be before the House.

Mr. Croker

did not mean to object to the Motion, but on the case stated by the noble Lord he saw no necessity for the Bill.

Leave given.

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