HC Deb 19 August 1833 vol 20 cc758-60

Lord Althorp moved the Order of the Day for the House to go into Committee on Ways and Means.

Mr. O'Dwyer

wished to bring under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, a report of a speech purporting to be a part of a charge delivered to the Grand Jury of Cork by a learned Judge (Baron Pennefather), and which he must say, if it were delivered by that learned Judge, could not be considered in any other light than as an interference with the privileges of that House. The learned Judge was reported to have alluded to the Irish Grand Jury Bill, which had passed that House, and which was in progress through the other House, In the course of his remarks, he stated, that in consequence of that Bill he supposed the present occasion would be the last on which he should have to address a Grand Jury composed of Gentlemen of property, as by the Bill in progress a preference would be given to men of small property.

Sir E. Knatchbull

rose to order. The hon. Member was bringing a charge against a Judge of the land, and he put it to the House whether such a charge should be brought on a report in a newspaper.

The Speaker

said, the hon. Member might ask a question without any preliminary remarks.

Mr. O'Dwyer

would ask the fight hon. Gentleman whether he had any information as to a speech, said to have been delivered by Judge Pennefather to the Grand Jury at Cork, in which the learned Judge said, that he did not expect to have again the opportunity of addressing a Grand Jury composed of men of property; that the Bill (the Irish Grand Jury Bill) was an experiment in legislation, and that it would be found to be impracticable? He would ask, whether such a charge was delivered by the learned Judge, and, if so, whether he could lay an authentic copy of it before the House?

Mr. Littleton

apprehended, that he had no right whatever to interfere with a speech delivered by a learned Judge. All he could say of it was, that he had read the report in the papers with great surprise.

Mr. Shaw

considered the introduction of the subject and the manner of it extremely irregular. He was acquainted with the learned Judge whose name had been mentioned, and from what he knew of him he should think it very unlikely that he would use the language attributed to him in the report; but if he had made remarks on the tendency of the Irish Grand Jury Bill, bethought he had a perfect right to do so. The independence of the Judges was admitted and defended by all who valued the due administration of the law, but he could not see that independence if a Judge were to be called to account for any remarks addressed to a Grand Jury on a question in which such Jury must be deeply interested. Of this he was sure, that the learned Judge named had not gone beyond his duty.

The Solicitor General

said, no one would stand up more firmly for the independence of the Judges than he would, but he must say, that a Judge would expose himself to deserved censure if he went out of his way to deliver opinions as a political partisan.

Mr. Thomas Wallace

said, that the habit of Judges going out of their way to introduce remarks on political questions, in addressing Grand Juries, had of late grown to a monstrous and mischievous extent. Instead of confining themselves to the matter immediately before them, they occupied themselves in discussing politics, with which, in their judicial capacity, they ought to have nothing to do. As to the present case, he would say, that if the speech attributed to the learned Judge in the newspaper were a correct report, the Judge had grossly abused his duty; for certainly, as a Judge, his time and attention should be devoted to very different purposes. He would admit, that a great latitude should be allowed to Judges in their addresses to Juries, but politics should form no part of such addresses. All allusion to them as partisans was a departure from their duty.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

was surprised to hear a learned Judge (Mr. Shaw), an hon. Member of that House, express such an opinion as that a Judge had not gone beyond his duty in referring to politics in his address to a Jury. If the learned Judge referred to had said only half of what had been attributed to him in the report, he (Mr. Cutlar Fergusson) would say, that he had done that which no Judge of this country would sanction. He hoped, that this would be a lesson to those venerable personages, and that they would not travel out of their duty by remarks which were not called for. Was it, he would ask, within the line of duty of the learned Judge in question to say to a Grand Jury, that he did not expect to have again to address gentlemen of property as Grand Jurors? Such language was most improper.

Mr. Littleton

had not the power to take any step to ascertain whether such a speech was delivered by the learned Judge. All he knew of it was, that he had seen an account of it in the papers, which account he had read with regret.

The House resolved itself into a Committee of