HC Deb 18 April 1839 vol 47 cc233-4
Mr. E. Tennent

had to beg the indulgence of the House for a very few minutes, to explain some mis-statements, unconscious ones, he must hope, of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Solicitor-General for Ireland, in his reply last night to his (Mr. E. Tennent's) speech of the evening before, and which, as indisposition had prevented his attendance last evening, he was unable to detect on the moment. He perceived in one of the morning papers, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had represented him as stating, that "at the special commission for Tipperary, juries had been selected by sheriffs appointed for the purpose of corrupting justice at its fountain head." On this assertion the hon. and learned Gentleman had actually commented, but he (Mr. E. Tennent) had never made any such absurd and monstrous statement with regard to the Irish government. What he had said was this, that the effects of the system by which sheriffs had, till lately, been appointed by Lord Normanby, had been to admit a very low and very dangerous class of cess-payers on the petty panels, and thus to lead to the undue acquittal of prisoners; but, that so far from imputing any such conduct to the sheriff of Tipperary on the late occasion, he had instanced his conduct only to praise it as an illustration of a totally opposite system, by which a higher class of jurors had been summoned and convictions obtained. Again the hon. and learned Memher had represented him, as saying, that the government "had utterly abandoned the privilege of setting aside jurors, and, that this accusation was unsustained by the fact." He (Mr. E. Tennent) had never made any such accusation. On the contrary, he had quoted the very words of the two noble Lords (Morpeth and J. Russell), to show the exact limitation which had been placed on the actual interference of the Crown Solicitors; and he had confined his strictures to the one single observation, which was within his own knowledge, that the impression of interference at all being discountenanced by the government, and the apprehension of a rigid investigation into cases where they had interfered, had prevented and would prevent the Crown Solicitors from interposing in cases when it was their duty to do so, but when their self-interest prevented it. But so far from saying the government had never interfered, he had instanced a case of this kind to show that they did. A third misrepresentation was, that he (Mr. E. Tennent) had charged the Crown counsel "with waving in every case their right of reply to the counsel for the prisoners;" and this was another subject of the hon. and learned Gentleman's comment. He had said, that it had been a prevalent practice to do so, and had been attended with the worst consequences; and the hon. and learned Gentleman, in endeavouring to show, that it was not "universal," had been able to produce but one instance to the contrary. But as his statement had thus been made a matter of direct contradiction, he begged leave to say, that it was based on a published declaration of the Attorney-General for Ireland, Mr. Brady, then Crown prosecutor; and never, so far, as he (Mr. E. Tennent) was aware, contradicted—"That so long as the present Crown lawyers had the conducting of criminal prosecutions, they would not exercise the right to reply;" and he had been informed by numerous legal friends, that they very seldom did. It was on these grounds, which he had now shown to be utterly misrepresented, that the hon. Member (Mr. Pigot) had attacked his speech, and as he had now demonstrated their inaccuracy, his strictures and comments of course fell to the ground.