HC Deb 20 August 1833 vol 20 cc790-4

Lord Althorp moved the Order of the Day for the further consideration of the Report on the Trial of Offences (Ireland) Bill.

The Order of the Day having been read,

Mr. Littleton moved, that the Amendments be read a second time.

Mr. O'Reilly

had hoped, that Government would not impose on the people of Ireland such a harsh and arbitrary Bill, and he submitted whether it would not be more satisfactory to the country if the Jury Bill were first passed, in order that it might be seen whether all the objects proposed to be attained would not be affected by that Bill. He hoped Government would be induced to defer the present Bill; but if they would not consent to that, he should endeavour to convince the House, that the Bill was wholly unnecessary. If the object of the Jury Bill were to cause impartial justice to be administered to the people of Ireland, it was wholly unnecessary to bring forward this measure. The object of the present Bill was to give the power to the prosecutor, in all cases in which it was apprehended that impartial justice could not be obtained, to remove the trial to the neighbouring county, or to Dublin, upon application to the Judges. Now, if the Bill were to operate fairly, the same privilege ought to be extended to the prisoner. [The Solicitor General: So it is.] If that were so, he should show that the Bill was unnecessary. They had already seen the effects of partial legislation in Ireland. Now, a prisoner could not make an application to remove the trial until after the indictment was found, because otherwise he could not know whether he would be tried or not; and then, as the Assizes would be sitting, he would be hurried to his trial without having an opportunity to apply in the regular way for a removal of his trial: whereas the prosecutor could at all times be prepared to apply for a removal of the cause. Again, the Bill gave the prisoner no advantage that he did not previously possess, but a great advantage was given to the Crown prosecutor, who could, on the most trifling grounds, obtain a removal. No case had been made out to convince him that there was such a defect in the existing law as to justify the present measure. It might be said, that in some parts of the North of Ireland there was a reasonable suspicion that Juries had not done their duty; but that did not Show, that the law was bad. This new measure would not restore the confidence of the people, or give greater security that justice would be more impartially administered, and therefore he should give it his decided opposition.

The Solicitor General

said, he hoped that the Jury Bill, to which the hon. Member referred, and the present Bill would go hand in hand together; they were in perfect harmony, and he hoped they would pass—and pass for the benefit of Ireland. He had nothing nearer to his heart than that justice should be administered satisfactorily. The present Bill was perfectly in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution; and, far from being opposed to Trial by Jury, would support it, by giving impartial and satisfactory trials. By the common law of England, the Court of King's Bench possessed in this country almost all the powers which were given by this Bill; but the powers given by this Bill were more safe and more for the benefit of the accused, than any given by the common law. The Court of King's Bench, upon being informed that a fair trial could not be had, might change the place of trial either for felony or mis- demeanor, and upon the application of the prosecutor or of the prisoner. He knew an instance in which his right hon. friend near him (Mr. Littleton) prosecuted a person for a misdemeanor, in the county of Stafford, in which case he (the Solicitor General) was counsel; the defendant applied to the King's Bench to remove the trial to Gloucester, on the ground of his right hon. friend's extensive influence in Staffordshire; and it was tried in Gloucester, and the defendant was acquitted. He could also instance the case of the King v. Thomas, for murder, which, on application, was removed from Rochester to Maidstone. There was also the recent case of the King v. Hodson, which, at the defendant's request, was removed from a distant county to London. The Bill introduced no new or dangerous power. It took from the parties the difficulty of removing the trial to another county, which now existed, by enabling any two Judges to appoint a trial in a county wherein justice might be done, with the great advantage of obviating the necessity for that bargaining and huckstering which were now practised, before any application to the Court of King's Bench for removing a cause to a distant county could be carried into effect. And not only would there thus be a great saving of expense, but the case might be moved directly. There would be a difference in the operation of the law as contrasted with England; when, according to the strict letter of the law here, the venue could only be changed to the adjoining county. By this Bill, however, a case might be taken from one of the most remote counties, and tried in the county of Dublin. In Scotland, this course had already been adopted, as it was customary in that country to remove the venue from any county, however distant, to the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, and no complaint of the system had been made. That great partiality in striking a Jury had been practised in Ireland no man could doubt, and it was one of the objects of the Bill, to avoid all possibility of partiality. Under these circumstances, he should give it his entire support, and declare his conviction in full that it accorded strictly with the spirit of the Constitution and the statutory law.

Mr. O'Dwyer

should lament to see the Bill become a law, because he believed it to be unnecessary. He was sorry to see the same feeling continuing, which prompted the Coercion Bill. He objected to this measure upon principle, and from a conviction that it would have no good effect; but although he objected to it himself, he would not divide the House, as he thought it would be scarcely fair to do so after the feeling which the House had evinced at the first reading.

Mr. Littleton

said, the hon. Gentleman entertained an erroneous opinion with respect to the feelings of the people of England towards those of Ireland, as evidenced by the Acts of that House. He was convinced, that if such scenes as had unfortunately disgraced and disturbed that unhappy country had taken place in any county or counties in England, the Legislature would not have been less prompt, nor the people less willing to have had such counties placed under coercive laws. And nothing, he was convinced, could be more necessary than a change in the system of empanelling Juries. The necessity for that change was proved from what was so well known on the subject as regarded striking for Juries, both in the South and the North of Ireland.

Lord Althorp

could not see how any reasonable objection could be raised to the Bill, as it secured the Trial by Jury in a manner more secure than any Jury Act could be passed. It also secured that country against the repetition of those offences which have been so lately prevalent in Ireland. On that ground he supported the Bill, being perfectly sure there was nothing in it unconstitutional, and that it would be found most beneficial for Ireland.

Mr. Lynch

could not agree with the noble Lord, that this was a beneficial law for Ireland. He saw the same spirit pervading it that suggested the coercive measure. If there was any necessity for the measure, it ought to have been carried long since. He should like to ask, whether there had been any defect in the administration of justice, either at the Spring or Summer Assizes in Ireland? In his opinion this was a violent alteration of the law, and would take away one of the greatest safe-guards—the Trial by Jury. There was no precedent for such a measure, except that which had occurred in 1772. He hoped, if the measure were passed, it would not be made universal, as he was of opinion it ought to be applied only to those counties that required it.

Mr. Shaw

thought the Bill a most salutary measure, and he should therefore give it his support. He, however, agreed with the hon. and learned Member who spoke fast, that it ought to have been brought forward at an earlier period of the Session.

Mr. O'Reilly moved, that the Amendments be read this day six months.

The House divided—Ayes 6; Noes 41:—Majority 35.

Amendments made by the Committee agreed to.

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