HC Deb 11 December 1837 vol 39 cc963-5
Mr. Wallace

wished to call the attention of the House to the petition of Mr. Henry Jones, complaining of the dilatory proceedings of the Sessions Court in Scotland. He believed it had fallen to the lot of no hon. Member before to have had occasion to present two petitions from one individual during the progress of a single lawsuit, but this was the second petition which he had presented from this individual since the proceedings to which the petitioner referred, had commenced. They had had a discussion a few days ago about the Danish claims, and he thought that they would find money enough to satisfy those claims within five years if they appropriated to that purpose the salaries of the useless judges in Scotland. They were to have a Committee upon the pension list, but they ought to have a Committee to inquire into the sinecure offices of the judges of the county courts in Scotland, as well as to those who were not required in the court of session. There were in all fourteen judges who did not sit more than live months in the year, not longer on the average, than two hours a day, during that period. These judges were, moreover, far advanced in life. One of them was between eighty and ninety years of age, and the others were of a very advanced age. The statement of the present petitioner was, that he was an inhabitant of Upper Canada, and that the lawsuit which brought him over to this country had been pending for four years, and that he suffered great inconvenience and injury from the dilatoriness of these proceedings. He had had reason to expect a trial of his case during the Christmas recess, but he now found that the trial was to be postponed to arch next, which would make it altogether four years since the commencement of the proceedings. This delay was the more extraordinary as in criminal cases they had a very efficient and prompt jurisdiction. The hon. Member proceeded to complain that, though a law commission for Scotland had now been sitting for several years, yet they had only made two reports, although so far back as February, 1837, they had been promised another report, which had not yet made its appearance. He concluded by giving notice that he should move that the present law commission for Scotland should be discontinued, and that it should be referred to a Select Committee to inquire into the nature of the jurisdiction of the civil courts in Scotland.

The Lord Advocate

hoped, before the House adjourned that he would be afforded an opportunity of saying a very few words in reference to what had been advanced by the hon. Member, with respect to the particular case which the hon. Member had made the occasion of introducing a great variety of topics. As he was in ignorance of the circumstances of that case he could not of course enter into them; but a delay of four years in the final decision of proceedings was not greater than had often occurred in the courts here. It was no unusual thing for a suit to be delayed for a period of four years in the courts here, and he believed, in the course of a discussion that occurred a few nights ago, the Attorney-General had incidentally mentioned a case in which he was engaged where the delay was equally great. The hon. Member was quite mistaken in his statement respecting sinecure judges. There was one eminent judge of great age, but remarkable for preserving undiminished his great powers, and that judge feeling himself perfectly able to do so, still continued in the performance of his duties. He did not think that whilst a judge was competent to the discharge of his duties he should be expected to resign, and the hon. Member ought also to recollect that when that judge retired from his office he would be entitled to a retiring pension. Now, with respect to these sinecure judges, he would remind the hon. Member that a Select Committee had sat to inquire into the duties and salaries of those judges, and that committee had reported that those salaries were inadequate With respect to the law commission, he believed the commissioners themselves would be the last to object to be relieved of their duties. During the whole time they had acted gratuitously, and whenever their report was laid before the House he was sure that it would be found to be a great been and a great advantage to the country.

House adjourned.