HC Deb 10 February 1837 vol 36 cc412-4

The Solicitor-General moved, that the Recorders' Court Bill be read a second time.

Mr. Harvey

said, there was much novelty, much expense, and much violation of important principle, in this Bill. He wished particularly to draw the attention of his Majesty's Attorney-General to it, and to know whether it had his sanction. The Corporation Reform Act gave the town-councils the power of suggesting to the Crown the salaries they were prepared to pay to the Recorders to be appointed. This Bill proposed to give these Recorders the power of appointing deputies in all cases in which the business of the quarter sessions extended beyond three days, including the day upon which the court was opened; and these deputies were to be paid out of the corporate funds, or where these were insufficient for the purpose, out of a rate to be levied upon the inhabitants of the borough. But it was to the unconstitutional power of delegating to the Recorder, who was a high judicial officer, the power of naming a deputy that he more particularly objected. Nor was it proposed to restrict the power of the Recorder to the naming of his deputy merely. He was also to have the power of unnaming him; for his appointment would be by a power of attorney, or some similar instrument, which he could revoke at pleasure. Surely such a power was in the highest degree objectionable. If these gentlemen found their duties too heavy for them, they were at liberty to retire; but it was rather too soon for them to come to that House for a power to add to the expenses of the boroughs to which they had been appointed. but it seemed that there was to be not merely a deputy Recorder; there was also to be a deputy town-clerk, and a deputy town-crier; the whole expenses of which were to be thrown upon the town. Then, let him call the attention of the House to this fact, that the Recorder was a judge, not only in civil, but in criminal cases also; having, in some places, a jurisdiction commensurate with that of the judges in the superior courts at Westminster, holding pleas of any extent, and taking cognizance of matters of life and death. He was to be allowed to name a deputy; well, was it right that such an officer should be paid by the day? Was he to have a sort of flying interest in the protraction of the cases he had to try? He was to have his three guineas or his five guineas a-day, he (Mr. Harvey) supposed; but surely that never could be the mode in which the judges of the land should be paid. Then let him ask who these deputies were to be? Some small Barristers, who were one day without a brief, and the next deciding upon evidence, and awarding sentences. Was that seemly or proper in any point of view? He trusted that before the Bill was suffered to pass, the several points to which he had adverted would receive due attention, and that the whole measure would be rendered less exceptionable than he could not but feel it now was. While he was up, he would take the opportunity of stating that when the Bill went into Committee, it was his intention to move the insertion of a clause to the effect that no person appointed to fill the office of deputy Recorder should be capable of representing in that House the borough in which he presided. He would also give notice to the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney-General) that when his Bill for amending the Municipal Corporation Act was in Committee, he intended to move the insertion of a clause to the effect, that no person hereafter appointed Recorder in a borough should be eligible to hold a seat in that House.

Mr. Wortley

could assure the hon. Gentleman, that so far from throwing a greater expense on the borough, this Bill would be a relief to the witnesses, to the prosecutor, to the jury, and to the borough itself. He hoped, therefore, the House would allow the Bill to be read a second time.

Mr. O'Connell

thought it would be against the principles of law and justice to allow the Bill to be passed into a law. It might be well enough to allow the councils to appoint a locum tenens for the Recorder, but to allow the judge to appoint his own deputy was a power which would never be allowed in superior courts. Let him suppose that Lord Denman was to appoint a Deputy Chief Justice of England, he would be very apt to lose whatever glory he had acquired by proscribing that House as a publisher of libels. He must certainly vote against the Bill.

Lord John Russell

did not object to the general objects of the Bill. He thought that, in such cases as that of Leeds it was likely enough that a deputy might be required—but he trusted that the hon. and learned Member who had charge of the Bill would take time to relieve it from some of the objections which now seemed to he against it.

Bill read a second time.