HC Deb 13 March 1834 vol 22 cc179-81

Mr. O'Dwyer moved for a return of the amount of costs payable to the Crown Solicitor, and the sum to counsel engaged for the Crown in the case of the King v. Barrett, tried in the Court of King's Bench in Ireland, in Michaelmas Term, 1833; with a specification of the various occasions, whether on motions, arguments, opinions, consultations, trial, or otherwise, counsel received fees; describing when counsel appeared in Court, the number of counsel employed or consulted on each occasion, and a statement of the rank of all counsel employed, and their names, and the amount of fees paid to each on the several occasions, and in the aggregate. The single prosecution against Mr. Barrett cost 700l. Such an enormous sum should be accounted for. It was known that 50,000l. had been expended by the Government in criminal prosecutions in Ireland, and the country ought to know how so much money was expended, There was one peculiar feature in the late prosecution, and it was, that an eminent barrister, who was never employed in that department of the bar, but who might have been employed by the traverser, was retained by the Government; and the object was to buy him up. He did not wish to impugn the motives of the Attorney General; but then he was a member of the Privy Council, and advised prosecutions which he was afterwards to conduct. He would not say, that the Attorney General advised prosecutions to pocket the fees, yet he should say, that it was not advisable to give a lawyer an interest in prosecutions. He wished to direct the attention of the House to the very imperfect manner in which the return of the correspondence between the Government and the Stamp-Office, relating to the suppression of the Pilot newspaper, had been made. The return did not set forth the letter written by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, directing the attention of the Stamp Office to the Act of Parliament, as it should have done; the way to explain this, as certain advocates of the Government bad tauntingly defied any attempt to show that the Irish Government bad interfered, or that the proceeding, which had excited so much condemnation, was not the work of the Stamp Office alone. He was certain that the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, would not hesitate to give every explanation on the matter, in order that the credit or discredit attaching to it should be appropriated to the right quarter.

Mr. Littleton

begged to say, in reply to the call made upon him by the hon. member for Drogheda, that he had already twice or three times over, in reply to the hon. Gentleman himself, explained the transaction. He now begged leave to repeat a communication which had been addressed to him by a person in Ireland, whose name he did not feel himself called upon to disclose, directing his attention to the clause of the Act of Parliament which applied to the case. It was not in his department to deal with this information; and he, as was customary in official matters, desired his private secretary to transmit this letter, addressed to him, to the department to which it referred. He had reason to believe, however, that before he had sent the communication made to him, the Stamp-office department had determined to adopt the course which they ultimately did. He had no objection to the production of the bill of costs, but then he hoped that the House would be put in possession of the particular expenses incurred in the several stages of the prosecution. The ordinary expenses of the prosecution would be undoubtedly light, and the additional expenses arose from the delays, vexatious he would not say, and the opposition caused. As to the number of counsel employed, he would say, that as many had been employed in criminal prosecutions in England—Sir James Scarlett employed as many. It was usual, in Ireland, to employ the Serjeants and the senior King's Counsel in such prosecutions, and, in case any accident might occur to prevent their attendance, to give retaining fees to counsel to fill their places. Now it so happened, that the Solicitor General, Serjeant Pennefather, and Serjeant Perrin, were absent from Dublin, and the Attorney General directed that Mr. Holmes, the Gentleman to whom the hon. Member alluded, should be employed in their absence. That was the cause why so many lawyers were employed; eight, or even seven, were, perhaps too many, but he had stated the reason for employing eight. He would tell the House, that the Attorney General, though a member of the Privy Council, was not consulted about those prosecutions. He had neither voice nor influence in directing them, and from that learned Gentleman's well-known liberality in pecuniary matters, of which he had some knowledge, he was far above encouraging prosecutions for the sake of making money. The right hon. Secretary then moved an amendment, to the effect that the return of costs should distinguish the proportion of costs in the several stages of the prosecution.

The Motion, as amended by Mr. Littleton, was agreed to.