HC Deb 28 February 1839 vol 45 cc1019-20
Sir F. Pollock

then rose to move for leave to bring in a bill to amend the law relating to double and treble Costs, and relating to pleading the General Issue only in certain cases. The learned Gentleman was understood to say, that the present state of the law in these respects was productive of much inconvenience and injustice. No road-bill, or dock-bill, or railway-bill now passed without a clause giving double and treble costs, though he could not understand why such parties were to be so protected. He proposed, in the first place, with reference to all local and general bills, to abolish double and treble costs altogether. He proposed that, where a provision now existed that a public officer was to recover double or treble costs, he should receive a full and complete indemnity, but without having unreasonable costs. He remembered a case in which a man brought an action for an infringement of the Building Act. The question was referred to arbitration. The award was, that the defendant had intended to comply with the Act, and that, therefore, his intention should protect him from the liability of his conduct. In this case, the plaintiff suffered from the defendant in the first instance—he got no redress—and because he did not, he was called upon to pay treble costs. As for pleading the general issue, he would take away all such privilege from private speculators, and all under Government protection—such as magistrates, constables, excise-officers, and the like. He also proposed to repeal those enactments which now obliged parties to give notice of action There were not less than 700 or 800 Acts of Parliament relating to this subject. He would take away the obligation of giving notice of action, except for public officers entitled to public protection; and he did not see why the advantage of having notice of action should not be taken away from Dock and Railway Companies, and from mere private individuals. Great hardships were sometimes suffered under this provision of giving notice of action. A short time since, a man brought a case of injury against a Railroad Company, and proved his case, but he was turned out because he had not given notice of action. The several limitations of actions he would reduce from six to three years.

Leave given.