HC Deb 17 February 1837 vol 36 cc636-9
Mr. J. S. Wortley

, in moving that this Bill be committed, stated that he had prepared a clause in conformity with a suggestion thrown out by the noble Lord, namely, that a Deputy Recorder should not be appointed in any borough unless the town council determined that such office was necessary. It was stated on a former occasion that this Bill would be attended with an additional expense to the boroughs in which Deputy Recorders were appointed. Now, there were returns on the table which showed how the system had worked in Leeds and other places, and proved that so far from its increasing the expense, that it had led to a great saving. It had been argued that the appointment of the deputy ought not to rest with the Recorder; but from all the consideration he had been able to give to the subject, he was satisfied that that was the best arrangement that could be made. It would be highly objectionable to leave the appointment of a judicial officer to the town-council of a borough.

Mr. Leader

would ask the Attorney-General, whether he was right in stating, that by the Bill the Recorder might appoint a deputy, if the town-council wished for one? Now, if so, he wished to know whether the council was to have any voice in the appointment, either by a veto or otherwise, or whether it was to rest solely with the Recorder.

The Attorney-General

said, that the council were to have no veto on the appointment. They were to determine whether a second court was necessary or not, but the nomination was to be in the Recorder.

Mr. O'Connell

suggested, that the appointment of the Deputy Recorder should be in the same hands as that of the Recorder.

Sir J. Beckett

was of opinion that the responsibility of the appointment ought to rest with the Recorder, and not with the Government or the council.

Mr. Harvey

thought that the Crown should have a veto on the appointment of the Deputy Recorder. He objected, however to the appointment of Deputy Recorders at all, as he considered that it would be fatal to the independence of the bar.

Mr. Roebuck

begged the House to recollect that, the Recorder was responsible for his own acts, but he could not be so for those of his deputy. The object of the Bill, as he understood it, was to state the period during which the court was to sit. Now, he would suggest a remedy for this, instead of adopting that proposed in the Bill, namely, that the Recorder should be compelled to hold his court oftener than he did at present.

The Attorney-General

said, that although he had not introduced the Bill, which had been brought in by the hon. Member for Halifax, he had no objection to state that he approved of the provision. It had only lately come to his knowledge that great inconveniences had arisen in consequence of the quantity of business in the Recorder's court. Before the Municipal Reform Bill, there were two courts sitting at quarter sessions, but since the passing of that measure only one court could be held. This had given occasion to protracted sittings, and had proved very burdensome to the jury, and expensive to the witnesses summoned. The person to be appointed would not he a Deputy Recorder, but the Recorder's assistant, because he would hold his court conveniently, and he would act only pro hac vice; so that if he were found not to give satisfaction, the Recorder might, at the time he held his next court, appoint another.

House went into Committee.

On the 10th Clause,

Mr. C. Buller

rose to move an amendment to the effect that the sessions should in future be held once a-month.

Mr. Baines

contended, that the gentlemen of the bar could not attend if the sessions were held once a-month, and that the business would in consequence be performed in an incompetent manner. The Bill of the hon. Member met all difficulties, and the Members of the legal profession were anxious that it should be adopted. The opinion of the profession ought to have weight with the House, and they should, he thought, be guided by that opinion rather than by the theoretical opinions of non-professional Members of that House. The measure now brought forward by the hon. Member for Halifax had satisfied all demands, and satisfied them, too, without adding a single farthing of expense to the system at present in operation. The whole profession, as far as he (Mr. Baines) could learn, felt under great obligation to the hon. Member for bringing forward the Bill.

Mr. Roebuck

contended, that there were other persons deserving of the consideration of the House as well as the barristers — viz., the prisoners. Those unfortunate individuals and their relatives had strong claims upon their attention; and the House would best consult the interests and happiness of those persons by consenting that the sessions should in future sit once a-month, instead of once every three months, as at present. Such views were not theoretical. He wished that all should have full and fair justice administered to them; but the oftener the courts sat the better; for in that way alone could the anxiety of the prisoners and their relatives be terminated, and the guiltless be freed from unmerited confinement. Why, ha would ask, should not the Recorder sit once a-month? The hon. Member for Leeds said, that in. such a case, they would require more pay. That was a haberdashery sort of reason, and not entitled to have any weight. The condition of the prisoners was the point to be considered, and to have the sessions once a-month, would, by freeing those persons from confinement, be the means of saving expense.

Mr. Aglionby

thought, that prisoners should not remain in confinement for three, two, or even for one month, if they could be brought to trial sooner. Why should not the Recorder sit whenever there was a prisoner to try? The answer was, that it would be impossible to procure a respectable Barrister for 150l. or 200l, a-year to discharge the duty which would require to be performed were such a plan adopted. It seemed impossible, with the present machinery, to have the Recorder sitting so often as had been proposed; and the question was, whether they should alter that machinery altogether? Was the hon. Member for Bath willing to do that? If he was not, it would be impossible to have the Recorder sitting once a-month. He differed on another point with the hon. Gentleman, as he was of opinion that the presence of the barristers was highly beneficial, From his own experience he could say, that the attendance of the London bar at the quarter sessions had contributed much to inspire the people with confidence, and had been of great advantage to the proper adminis- tration of justice. In his own county, the county of Cumberland, the attendance of the London bar had been productive of the very best effects; and as the proposal of the hon. Member for Bath would render that attendance impossible, he could not consent to its adoption.

Mr. Harvey

, in order that the House might have an opportunity of reconsidering the subject, thought that the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee. In a desultory conversation it was impossible that its provisions could be properly considered. It was proposed to pay the Deputy Recorder ten guineas a day. He (Mr. Harvey) objected to such a mode of paying a judge, as it held out a strong inducement to protract the sittings. Another point was the mode of appointing the assistant-recorders. It was true they were not to be appointed without the sanction of the town-councils, but the clause relating to their appointment was vague, and it did not appear whether they were to be elected once a-year or not; or what was to be the proper proceeding should the first intimation made to the council be unattended to. He was of opinion that the temptation of deputy-recorderships would fill the quarter sessions with a race of stripling barristers, and thus exclude the attornies who had hitherto been of so much use. In a neighbouring county, he could inform the House, two juvenile members of the profession had presented themselves at the sessions, and insisted on clearing the court of the attornies; and those individuals, who had long practised before the court were obliged to give way. Those two barristers made the bar; one taking one side, and the other the opposite, in all cases which were to be decided. But the House could not do justice to such Bills as the present in a desultory conversation. In order, therefore, to give the House an opportunity for reflection, he moved that the Bill be sent to a Committee up stairs. This motion it was suggested could only be made in the House, not in the Committee.

The House resumed and the Chairman reported progress.

Mr. Harvey moved, that the Bill be sent up stairs to a Committee.

Motion withdrawn. Bill, with amendments, to be printed, and taken into further consideration.