HC Deb 22 March 1836 vol 32 cc447-50
Mr. Hume

presented a Petition from M. H. Hitié and M. L. Letond, agents in this country for the inhabitants of the Mauritius, complaining of having been obliged to pay l,000l. for the detention in this country of Mr. Jeremie. The petitioners complained of the undue administration of justice in that colony; and that, though they had been sent over to this country to obtain and conduct an inquiry into the subject, Mr. Jeremie, a most important witness in support of their case, had been sent out of the country by the Government. It appeared from the statements contained in the petition, that the petitioners bad applied to the Colonial-office for the detention in this country of Mr. Jeremie, a most important witness on behalf of those who were claiming justice for the inhabitants of the Mauritius; and the Colonial Department of this country had refused to interfere, unless these claimants consented to pay the expenses attendant upon Mr. Jeremie's detention. Rather than allow that learned gentleman to take his departure, they consented to pay 1,000l. into the hands of some individual in the Colonial-office, This they had done certainly under protest, in order to obtain, with a view to the furtherance of justice, the evidence of a public servant. The money was, however, paid as an indemnity to Mr. Jeremie, and the petitioners calculated that, this being done, it was the intention, as a matter of course, of the Government, to proceed with the inquiry sought for; but when the Motion for the appointment of a Select Committee came on, his Majesty's Government, by the mouth of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Devonport (Sir G. Grey), objected to the Motion, and thus prevented an inquiry as to whether the charges and allegations contained in the petition were well or ill-founded. The petitioners then asked for the payment to them of the money back; and the answer they had received at the Colonial-office was, that the money had been paid over to Mr. Jeremie. The petitioners, as a last resource, now came to the House, praying its interference, in the hope that the circumstances of the case would be taken under favourable consideration, and that such justice would be done as the merits of the case might require. In conclusion, he must say, that it little became the Government to turn parties round, like a paltry attorney, and avail themselves of a mere artifice to frustrate the just demands of the petitioners. He trusted, however, that the good feeling and liberality of the Government would induce them to do the only justice now in their power—namely, to return the sum so paid and deposited.

Sir George Grey

said, that he could not but thank the hon. Member for Middlesex for having furnished him with a copy of the petition which he had just presented to the House; at the same time he was bound to say, that the statements contained in the petition were wholly at variance with the facts of the case. He invited the hon. Member for Middlesex to an inspection of the correspondence, from which he would see the variance in the statement from the fact of the case as it really stood. The petitioners came from the Mauritius in February of the last year in the same ship with Mr. Jeremie, and from their habits of intimacy with that Gentleman must have known that he had been appointed in October last to a Judgeship in Ceylon; and yet, though it was said to have been intended to bring the subject forward during the last Session of Parliament, it was only on the 8th of January last that any hint was suggested that, in respect to the inquiry sought for, Mr. Jeremie's evidence was necessary or important. When the notice was given last Session for a Committee of Inquiry, the petitioners were told that Lord Glenelg would give no opposition to the production of Mr. Jeremie as a witness. The noble Lord expressed his readiness to grant an extension of leave of absence to Mr. Jeremie, but refused to detain him except on Mr. Jeremie's express consent. The petitioner, Mr. Hide, was told, that if he could arrange with Mr. Jeremie, that gentleman might remain in this country, and as an indulgence and favour to the petitioners, all difficulties in the shape of Mr. Jeremie's removal would be destroyed, provided a deposit was made to indemnify Mr. Jeremie, the balance to be repaid on the inquiry terminating. The petitioners availed themselves of this favour and indulgence, and deposited the amount stated in the hands of the cashier of the Colonial Department, Mr. Jeremie having stated, that being himself an officer of the Crown, he would not receive the money, except through the Colonial-office. The money was, however, so deposited, and it was almost immediately afterwards paid to Mr. Jeremie on the written order of M. Hitié. On the whole circumstances of the case, he was prepared to deny that any blame could attach to the department to which he (Sir G. Grey) belonged. He could not consent to charge the public with expenses alone consequent upon the delay attributable to the petitioners. The petitioners not only impeached the conduct of the Colonial-office, but also that of almost every public officer in the colony of the Mauritius. Seeing this, was it, he asked, possible that the Colonial Department could interfere?

The Speaker

remarked, that before the discussion on the petition should go further, it was desirable that the House should be aware, that it would preclude the possibility of the important business on the paper for to-day being proceeded with.

Mr. Wilks

thought the contents of the petition well deserving the immediate attention of the House. It was impossible that the statements which had been made, could be allowed to go forth to the public without observation.

Mr. Roebuck

said, that the present moment was the time to deal with this matter. The petitioners merely claimed from the Government an act of justice, and to that they were entitled. He complained, that pending a motion, of which last session he had given notice, with reference to this matter, Mr. Jeremie had been appointed and sent out to the judgeship at Ceylon, the Government well knowing at the time that it was his (Mr. Roebuck's) intention to make such a motion. Not only was this the case, but Mr. Jeremie had actually been sent out of this country against his will, for he sought for and wished the inquiry. This fact had been kept back—there had in this instance been a suppressio veri by the hon. Baronet. He (Mr. Roebuck) had been himself a party to the transaction, and he owned that he had felt that some apology was due to the Colonial-office on the offer to deposit the sum of 1,000l. for the purpose of detaining a witness necessary for the ends of public justice. He, however, had been astonished when the money was accepted, and he was still more astonished when, after receiving it, an inquiry had been refused. There had been the grossest injustice in the whole transaction, and he felt that the only means or chance of wiping off the stain cast upon the Government in respect to it was, the repayment by the Colonial-office of the money so paid and deposited.

Petition to lie on the table.

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