HC Deb 13 August 1834 vol 25 cc1251-3

A Conference was held with the Lords on the County Coroner's Bill, and a Report presented, stating, that the Lords insisted on their Amendment.

The reasons having been read by the Clerk,

Mr. Cripps moved they be agreed to.

Mr. Warburton

opposed the proposition, and said, that it was his intention to move that the reasons of the Lords be taken into consideration on this day three months. He referred to a case in "Barnwall and Creswell's Reports," contending, that it had been misquoted and misunderstood, and that the question whether the Coroner's was an open or a close Court had never been brought before the Judges. He also read an opinion given by Sergeant Russell upon the same point, in which he argued upon the notoriety of the proceedings in the Coroner's Court, as a Court of Record from which the public could not be excluded. To the same effect had been the opinion of the Attorney-General. He admitted, that the House had placed itself in a difficulty by making the clause it had inserted, and which the Lords had struck out, enacting instead of declaratory. Had he had the framing of the clause, he should have worded it otherwise. On the whole it seemed much more expedient that the measure should be dropped for the present Session, and such would be the result if his Amendment were carried, than passed in its present imperfect state. It was quite clear, that the House ought not to give the go-by to the great principle involved in the question with the Lords. If the Court of the Coroner were a close Court, and if he could exclude the public at his pleasure, there was possibility that that office might be bribed either to screen the guilty, or to inculpate the innocent. In all these cases, the House would have to decide upon the balance of good and evil; and it seemed to him, that the evil which might possibly arise from making the Coroner's Court open, would be infinitely less than the good to be derived from the publicity of its proceedings. He moved, that the Lords' reasons be taken into consideration on this day three months.

The Attorney General

regretted extremely that the Bill, after the minute consideration which it had undergone, should be allowed to drop; but, all circumstances considered, he was nevertheless disposed to support the Amendment of the hon, member for Bridport. The clause which had been struck out by the Lords involved matter of infinite importance, and it was the duty of the Legislature not to pass a Bill on the subject of Coroner's Courts without setting the question at rest, whether they were open Courts. In his opinion they were open Courts, Coroners having the power, on particular occasions, to close the Court, in the same way as Judges of other Courts of Record. A declaratory clause to that effect ought to be introduced, requiring at the same time, that the Coroner should Report to the Court of King's Bench or the Secretary of State what passed in his Court when the doors were shut, and the reasons which induced him to exclude the public on any particular occasion. He hoped the Bill would be introduced and considered next Session; he should then give all the assistance in his power to improve its provisions and accelerate its progress.

Lord Granville Somerset

expressed his regret that the Bill should be thrown out.

Mr. Cripps

had had many difficulties to contend with, and he could not help regretting, therefore, that all his pains would be thrown away, if the Amendment were carried. He felt satisfied, that the object of the Lords was, to prove that the Coroner's Court ought to be an open Court. His opinion, supported as it was by the opinion of the learned Attorney-General, was, that the Coroner's Court ought to be an open Court. Of course he was in the hands of the House, and whatever they might deem right he should at once bow to.

Motion and Amendment withdrawn, and the Report of the Conference was ordered to he taken into consideration that day three months.