§ On the question that the Speaker do leave the chair,
§ Mr. Law
rose, pursuant to notice, to move that this bill be committed that day six months. He very much regretted that a question of so much importance as was involved in the bill now before the House, should be discussed when there was so thin an attendance of Members. That deficiency in numbers he attributed to the late period of the Session, and to the exhaustion felt by many hon. Gentlemen after protracted and wearisome attention to the business of the House, and not to any indifference to this question. But a question of greater importance could scarcely be submitted to the consideration of Parliament, and therefore he was compelled to trouble the House with some lengthened remarks thereupon. His objection to the bill now before the House, applied both to the principles and to many of the details which were to be found in its numerous clauses. If he gained no other advantage from offering his opposition to the bill, he should, at least, probably draw from the opposite side of the House, and from those who were the authors of the measure, a declaration of those modifications which they were disposed to make. He found that by this bill an enormous amount of patronage was to be vested in the hands of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He confessed that this was a circumstance of which he was jealous. He had the highest respect, apart from political considerations, for the noble Lord who presided with so much ability in the legal department of Ins office over the interests of the people; and if he could suppose that the noble Lord would have an opportunity of investigating the merits of every person offering himself for situations under this bill and under his jurisdiction, be might feel less disposed to press his opposition on that head, because 532 although he differed, as he most essentially did, on almost every political question with the noble Lord, he was bound to acknowledge both the capacity and ability he had displayed in the legal department of his office. His objection then was to the constitution of a power to be administered by the Secretary of State, and not to the personal administration of patronage by the noble Lord. There were no less than twenty-seven magistrates to be placed at the disposal of the noble Lord, he being at liberty to remove magistrates at pleasure; to grant to those removed two-thirds of their salary; and to increase the existing emoluments of magistrates from the sum of 800l. a-year to 1,200l. a-year, and the salary of the chief magistrate to be 1,400l. a-year. He was not one who wished that important duties should be discharged without a competent remuneration, and he was certain that if such duties were intrusted to members of his profession, they would be fully entitled, if it were safe and proper to confine such jurisdiction to their hands, to the emolument proposed in this measure. But still his objection remained untouched, as to the vesting of any gentleman with the unconstitutional powers proposed by this bill without a certificate from the judges of Westminster-hall, so that some security might be had that he would not be a person who should be deemed a creation of political favour, and therefore inadequate to exercise the great and important, not to say unconstitutional, powers proposed to be conferred. There was also in this bill, what he was perfectly aware now existed in a modified shape, a power on the part of the Secretary of State, to remove at pleasure the gentlemen occupying the situations of justices of the peace in the police offices. He would not impute to the noble Lord that he had taken upon himself, without any legal advice, to fill up such offices; his objection was extended much more to the power intended to be conferred on these functionaries. He believed that if that House, although it was supposed to be so much improved since the passing of the Reform Bill, were constituted as it was before that event—notwithstanding it was then so much vituperated as not representing the feelings or guarding the rights of the people—such a bill would be resented and resisted, as a most arbitrary measure directed against personal liberty. He accounted for the difference of feeling in the House by this circumstance—that her Majesty's Ministers and those who had advo- 533 cated the Reform Bill were anxious to place at the disposal of those, merely in a subordinate station formerly, such powers as would make them subservient to their political purposes. But when great political and civil powers, and public and personal liberty were concerned, when the spirit of our ancient constitution, and the trial by jury, that great bulwark of purity of justice, were concerned, those who had promoted the Reform Bill had not been found wanting to abridge freedom, and place at the disposal of arbitrary functionaries the rights and liberties of the people. A more arbitrary measure than the present could not have emanated from the most despotic Power and Government that ever existed. He was certain that the administrators of justice would assume a new character and present a new feature to the public. When he found that the Government were prepared by a side-blow to demolish the greatest security of the subject—trial by jury—he was not disposed to give them credit for the manner of effecting a mitigation of the criminal code, because it would seem that by a plea of administering justice with a greater mixture of mercy, they aimed, and aimed successfully, a deadly blow at the constitution of this country, by depriving men of the privilege of being tried by the judgment of their peers. And he was not at all disposed to concede to any Government from whom such a measure might emanate, any real and sincere disposition to mitigate the criminal code of this country, when it was to be effected at the price of public liberty, and by the most ancient of British rights and privileges. He found by this bill that the discretion of summary jurisdiction was infinitely extended, and that instead of being exercised, as at present, in cases where parties approached the commission of a felony, it was by this bill intrusted to a magistrate who was to hold his office during the pleasure of the Secretary of State, to convict any man of felony without the intervention of a petty jury; and because the blow was not heavy enough when dealt at an individual in that shape, power was further given to the magistrate, on the commitment of a party, to frame an indictment, and thus to put him, whose case he had heard, upon immediate trial without the intervention of a grand-jury. The effect and leading principles of the measure were, that a man might be convicted of larceny or felony, not being of an important character, without the intervention of a jury, while, if the magis- 534 trate, having dealt with the circumstances of the case, deems it of sufficient importance to be submitted to another and a superior tribunal, he could at once, and of his own authority, frame an indictment, and put the party whose case he had adjudged upon his trial, without the intervention of a grand jury. He conceived this to be one of the most fatal and deadly blows ever aimed at the liberties of the subject by any Government in this kingdom. He was not to be deterred from these observations by the cheers of the hon. Member for Lambeth, because he believed that those who had been loudest in their declamations in favour of political freedom and personal liberty, now disregarded both to an extent never exhibited by Members on his side of the House; he believed that the hon. Member for Lambeth might carry to his constituents whatever professions of the love of personal liberty he pleased, but understanding men, men capable of forming a judgment, would tell the bon. Member his professions were one thing—his acts another; that to him grinding tyranny was acceptable, and, that though he stated to the contrary, they were not disposed to support him. He did not apprehend that such propositions as those contained in this bill, would, at any former period of the history of the country, have been entertained for one hour. He could not believe that such propositions as the dismissal of trial by jury, the superseding the functions both of petty and grand juries by a new law, to embrace a circuit of ninety miles round the metropolis, could have been entertained for one moment, if the country had not arrived at that state of indifference and despair which the maladministration of hon. Gentlemen opposite had eminently contributed to bring about. It would have been sufficient, formerly, to have stated that the Secretary of State, or his representative in the House, had proposed such a measure as the present, to have excited the public mind against it. The idea of such a law would have been scouted. But now that the people were habituated to disturbances created with political views—when they were distracted by the means used to carry political objects into effect, and when there was such a ferment in the country—such general distrust and alarm, both as respected property and personal safety—the Government to hoped take advantage of these circumstances, and to induce the people to have recourse to a measure which dealt, as he had already said, a 535 fatal blow against their best rights, interests, and privileges. On the subject of patronage he might state, that this bill created twenty-seven offices of 1,200l. per annum each—one of 1,400l.—besides so many clerks at 500l. per annum, and so many second clerks at 300l. All these offices were to be appended to the personal patronage of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. But his objection went to higher ground than that arising from this patronage. The Home Secretary had, under the provisions of this bill, power to remove, not only for cause, but without cause, any magistrate he thought fit, apportioning to the party so removed a portion of his salary, and of filling up the vacancy so created by the appointment of some expectant for political favour. The bill proposed, that the office of police magistrate should be filled by gentlemen who had the qualification of a seven years' standing at the bar, and these gentlemen were not only to perform all the functions confided to the judges of Westminster-hall, but were to embody in their persons the powers both of petty and grand juries, and yet their existence was not to rest on public approbation, but on that of a single Minister of the Crown, who was to be empowered in the way he had stated, to remove them from office at his own will and pleasure. Whether her Majesty's Government had been induced to seek this power, from having seen the wretched appointments which, from time to time, they had made, and feeling the consequences which had arisen from the way other magistrates of their selection had conducted themselves, he knew not. It might be they had looked at Birmingham, and seeing how their friends had acted there, had thought it would not be safe to intrust magistrates, acting within a circuit of ninety miles round the metropolis, with such important powers as those created by the bill, unless the Secretary of State for the Home Department had power, at any moment, to remove them from office. He contended, that if it were fitting (and he trusted the House would not think it fitting) to confide to any man the powers specified in the act, the party holding the office ought to hold it on the same terms as the judges of the land, responsible only to public opinion, and not removable at the will of a political functionary If any man was intrusted with the powers proposed, he ought not to be removable merely because he might be displeasing to the Secretary of State, but only for such dereliction of duty as would render 536 a judge of Westminster-hall removable from his office. But, in addition to the powers proposed to be intrusted to these magistrates in their criminal jurisdiction, it was sought by this bill to confer on them all the powers held by any civil court—in other words, it was intended that, in addition to their duties, as police magistrates, they should administer the civil affairs cognizable by any local civil court, and here again to supersede the functions of a petty jury; and the public were to have no security in the matter beyond the fact, that these functionaries were pleasing to her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department. Another important feature of the bill was, that all the acts done by two justices, under the existing laws, might be performed by one justice. Again, by the 16th clause, the gentry of the neighbourhood, the unpaid magistracy, were precluded from forming an element in the administration of criminal justice, for that section provided "that no justice of the peace, not appointed of the said court, shall act as a judge," &c. By a method, the merit of which nobody knew better than her Majesty's Government, gentlemen acting as justices, were precluded by the provision that no fees should be taken except at the police court. The bill then contained powers to apprehend without summoning the parties accused of any offence. Again, it contained a curious distinction with regard to the powers to be exercised by a single magistrate; he was empowered to act summarily in the cases of petty thieves and the receivers of stolen goods. What induced the party who drew this bill to mix up petty thieves with the receivers of stolen goods, he was at a loss to comprehend. It had ever been the gist of legislation to reach at and punish receivers, and yet here they were introduced as parties with whom the magistrates might deal as with petty thieves. But in order that too much disgust might not be created by this measure, and bad as its provisions were, some consolation was afforded by the fact that a summary conviction by a single magistrate should not make a forfeiture, but still there were powers to deliver up goods charged to have been stolen; a single magistrate was intrusted with powers to award compensation for wilful damage by tenants, to deal summarily with cases of excessive distraints, and to order the delivering up of goods unlawfully detained. Now, all these were matters which every man who was conversant with civil law, well knew involved questions which were peculiarly 537 proper to be submitted to the consideration of a jury; and there was no honest man who had ever administered the duties of a judge on mixed questions of law and fact, but had felt himself relieved by the circumstance that the facts were decided by the jury; and he was quite sure, if, instead of consulting the highly respectable persons, commissioners of police and others, who had been examined before the Police Committee, the opinions of the judges of the land had been resorted to on this point, those opinions would have fully justified his position. A Lord Chancellor had been examined—certainly with the leave of the House of Peers—before a Committee of that House, and he was not aware of anything that excluded the other lights of the law from giving this information to a body of laymen—men unconnected with the legal profession—who were sitting in comparative darkness and obscurity on the question they had in hand. He was surprised that those who pretended to be the friends of the liberties of the people should make such an attempt as this measure was, to interfere with the rights and privileges of the people. By the 48th section the police magistrates had power to apprehend parties even where no information had been taken in writing; and then the bill went to provide, that convictions were not to be quashed for want of form, and should not be removable by certiorari; and then, though an appeal against convictions was given to the Quarter Sessions, it was confined to cases where the parties had been ordered to be imprisoned more than a month. Such were the propositions of the friends and advocates of the liberties of the people, and from no other parties, indeed, could they have come. It was not his intention to exhaust the House by alluding further to these leading propositions. He had felt, in common with the public, that authors of this bill meditated a very dangerous infringement upon public liberty. He had felt, administering as he did, a large portion of the criminal law of the country, and thereby unhappily called on to inflict a great deal of pain, that those persons who were often subjects of his criminal jurisdiction had a claim on whatever little experience he had had of their sufferings and severity of punishment for example's sake, in order that those sufferings and that severity might not be aggravated unnecessarily, and that these objects of punishment and their friends should have at least the consolation of 538 feeling and knowing that they were not submitted to severe punishments, to loss of liberty, and to entire degradation, without the intervention of that constitutional privilege and. protection which hitherto had been deemed by Englishmen essential to their liberties. His experience with regard to the conduct of magistrates sitting at Quarter Sessions and elsewhere, had led him to know that, however zealously the duties of police magistrates were discharged, in cases where there was no appeal, the most grievous and intolerable injustice was frequently committed. Feeling this, from an experience partly at the bar, and partly in a judicial capacity, of more than 20 years, he should deem it an injustice to those who had a claim on his humble services, if he did not exert himself to the utmost of his power to oppose a measure which he believed to be fraught with pernicious consequences, and to be entirely subversive of the liberty of the subject. Under these circumstances he would move that this bill be committed that day six months.
§ Mr. Hawes
said, that considering the hon. Gentleman who spoke last was a judge, he certainly had never heard a speech possessing so little of the judicial character, or more mixed up with party feeling. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that this bill grossly infringed upon the liberty of the subject in abolishing trial by jury in certain cases. Now the report of the Committee on which this measure, was founded, had undergone the most careful consideration: there were on that Committee Sir Robert Peel, Lord Hotham, Mr. Estcourt, Mr. Robert Clive, Sir Eardly Wilmot, and several other Gentlemen who sat on the same side of the House with the hon. and learned Gentleman, but none of them had dissented from the report. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that no Government, however bad, had hitherto ventured upon such a proposition as doing away with the trial by jury; but hon. Gentlemen must know, that it bad been done in an infinity of cases; that this principle formed part of the ordinary statute law of the country, as administered throughout England without a single complaint. Surely the hon. Gentleman could not be ignorant that this principle pervaded the whole of Sir R. Peel's admirable Act, consolidating the Criminal Laws of England, every statute in which was founded on the basis of summary jurisdiction. What said the third report of the criminal-law commissioners? They 539 stated, that they considered the trial by jury, when applied to petty cases, as derogating from the dignity of an inferior court of justice, and as not having the effect of deterring the offenders from again transgressing the law, for that the slightness of the offence, and the probable youth of the offender, generally rendered the prisoner an object of compassion to the jury, who either acquitted him, or recommended him to mercy, so that the sentence became merely nominal. Mr. Alderman Harmer, too, a gentleman of great experience, had also spoken most decidedly in favour of a summary jurisdiction in slight offences. Many of the cases tried before the Central Criminal Court were of the most trifling description. From a list which he held in his hand of persons convicted and sentenced to imprisonment of three months and upwards, it appeared, that one man was sentenced for stealing a handkerchief, another for stealing an awl, another for stealing a pair of old boots, another for stealing a kettle, and so on. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say, that such potty offences as these were fit and proper cases to be made, without mitigation or exception, the subjects of trial by jury. If he meant to say this, why did he not rise and propose the repeal of all the Acts of Parliament which give summary power to the magistrates? Why did he not propose to repeal Peel's Consolidation Act? Why not repeal the Vagrant Act, the Pawnbrokers' Act? The Police Act, which would expire this year, gave the magistrates this power:—if a man was brought before a magistrate on suspicion of committing a felony, he might be sentenced at once to certain punishment and imprisonment; but if he was convicted of a felony, he could not be so punished without being sent to take his trial, and it was well understood that the majority of the offenders much preferred to come under the summary jurisdiction than to be sent to trial. The House of Lords, in their report on the subject of criminal law, strongly supported the principle of summary jurisdiction for trifling cases, while the hon. and learned Gentleman, in his ad captandum speech, had cited no sort of authority for his opinion. The hon. and learned Gentleman had taken a most unusual course in choosing to raise a debate on this occasion, on the principle of the bill. Where was the hon. and learned Gentleman when the bill was proposed to be read a second time, the occasion on which a discussion on the principle of a bill was generally 540 taken? The principle of a measure on that occasion was fully considered, and the House decided in its favour. It was a most unusual course to have the debate on the principle of a bill taken twice over. The delay and expense of proceeding was an extreme hardship on the great body of the public, and they strongly felt the injustice done them. The hon. and learned Gentleman knew much better than he did, to what an extent reform had been carried in the superior courts—how much the process had been simplified, the delay lessened, and the expenses cut down. But when we came to the police courts, which were, in fact, the courts both of common law and equity to the poorer classes, the hon. and learned Gentleman jumped up and strongly opposed any change in these courts, although he must be fully aware of the hardships to which the poor suitors were exposed in them. The bill conferred great advantages on the public, and would be productive of much good to many classes who were now exposed to a virtual denial of justice. The Committee showed, that the poorer suitors had no remedy for the evils which he had alluded to, but were obliged to submit to the greatest injustice, and the consequence was, that they were rather induced to look upon the law as an avenger, rather than as a friend. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, was opposed to a change by which the poorer classes would be able to get rid of the grievous expense and delay, to which they were exposed before they could get redress for any wrong done them. He need only read over the heads of the bill to show some of the hardships the lower classes were now exposed to, and the simple remedies that would be afforded them under this bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman must know, that in case a poor man took lodgings, and got into a dispute with his landlord, and owed some four or five shillings for a week's lodging, that he might have his box of tools seized, and himself thrown out of work. If he went to a magistrate to complain, he would be told to bring an action of trover, as if this was any remedy to the poor man who had no means of getting his daily bread without his tools. This was no imaginary case, but one of daily occurrence, and it was felt as a most serious hardship. It was clear, that the superior courts could not supply any means of redress, as the poor man had no means of resorting to them; therefore it was absolutely necessary, that in one shape or other they should supply some cheap, ready, and 541 accessible mode of civil process for persons in these walks in life, This was a part of the bill to which he would particularly direct the attention of the hon. Gentleman. If, however, the principle which the hon. and learned Gentleman advocated was adhered to, the poorer classes would still be exposed to this great injustice. He did not wish to weary the House by going into the details of the bill now, as that could be done with more advantage in Committee; but he rose to defend the report of the committee on which it was founded, and he would continue to do so as long as he had a seat in that House. When the hon. and learned Gentleman talked slightingly of the labours of the police magistrates, he would tell the hon. and learned Gentleman, that he was not justified in speaking in such a manner of Gentlemen who had a most laborious and important duty to discharge, and who were engaged in it from early in the morning until, often, late in the evening, and who rendered the greatest services to the public. The duty which the hon. and learned Gentleman performed, and that which those magistrates had to discharge, would bear no comparison. He now spoke of the head of the Central Criminal Court, and not of the hon. and learned Member personally, and he found that he enjoyed a salary of 3,000l. a-year, while the magistrates under this bill would receive only 1,200l. a-year. He would now proceed to show, that the head of the Central Criminal Court did not discharge half the laborious duties, with his salary of 3,000l. a-year, that those magistrates would have to perform for 1,200l. a-year. If this question were raised, it would be for the corporation of London hereafter, to look after the salaries they paid to their judicial officers, always, of course, having due regard to existing interests. He had got a return of the number of cases determined in the Central Criminal Court within a certain period. He would not occupy the time of the House by taking a return for a long period, but would take the returns for the months of March, April, and May, for this year. He would confine himself to the number of cases tried by the Recorder, and he found, that in the month of March, the number of cases tried by the hon. and learned Gentleman was seventy-nine; he had already described to the House the nature of some of the cases. In the month of April, sixty-three cases, and in the month of May, forty-four, making together 186. The business done at one of the largest police- 542 offices, during the same space of time, bore no comparison to this. He begged the House to recollect, that he was comparing two things exactly coincident in time. The number of cases disposed of at Union-hall police-office during the same months of March, April, and May, was 1,844, which were to be put against the 186 cases which he had just referred to. And these were charges made by police constables, and formed by no means the whole duty of the magistrates. The total number of the charges decided at Union-hall, in three months, was 1,844, and of these upwards of 600 involved cases of felony or stealing, or crimes against property. The remaining 1,244 cases were for assaults and the usual variety of police charges. Besides this number, however, the magistrates of this office heard and decided 817 cases of summonses and warrants taken out by private parties. The business of the office extended from ten in the morning until five in the evening, and often to a much later hour. He had no hesitation in saying, then, that it did not become any Gentleman holding a high judicial situation, to raise the question about the expense, or the money it might cost, when the interests of the administration of justice were so deeply involved. He took it for granted that the hon. and learned Gentleman had read the report of the committee on which this bill was founded, and he would find there strong and urgent reasons stated, for raising the salaries of the magistrates, and he was perfectly willing to take his share in the responsibility of joining in the recommendation of the committee. He was satisfied, that if there was one department connected with the administration of justice which more than another required talents and ability, and coolness and discretion, on the part of the administrator, it was that of the magistrate; and this he said with perfect confidence, when he recollected how much the proceedings before the magistrate affected the large portion of the population of this country, in all the various cases that came before him. If, then, the police magistrates were underpaid, and their offices were not filled by men of such high ability and character, was it not desirable that they should place them on such a footing, that Gentlemen possessing adequate qualifications might look to as worthy of accepting. He always held it to be bad policy to raise a question of money, when they bad to look to the discharge of duties, which could only be adequately performed by men of 543 education and acquirements—situations not to be held by men who had left the profession they belonged to, because they found they could not succeed in it, but by men who accepted them, because they felt confident that they were able to discharge the duties devolving on them, with honour to themselves, and with advantage to the public. He would not go into the question of the appointments made of magistrates, but he could not help observing, that when the allusions were directed to them, made by the noble Lord, the hon. and learned Gentleman should have recollected, that many of these appointments were made before the noble Lord was appointed to that office. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, had poured out the vial of his wrath on these appointments, and protested against the ends of justice being defeated by these appointments. He believed that the appointments made by the noble Lord, were quite as good as any that were made by any of his predecessors; but it was the hon. and learned Gentleman who had raised the question, and be was responsible for it. The hon. and learned Gentleman undoubtedly raised the question of patronage, and connected it with the appointments to be made under this bill by the Secretary for the Home Department. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not seem to object to the appointments being given generally to the Secretary of State, but only to the noble Lord as Secretary of State. The hon. and learned Gentleman then said, that he would give thes appointments to the judges; but he did not state any grounds why he would not give them to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Did he forget that the right hon. Gentleman near him had been Home Secretary, as well as Sir Robert Peel, and other persons connected with the party opposite? He had never heard the question raised before, that it was improper to make appointments, because men had been political partisans at one period of their lives. The hon. Gentleman, by a kind of Herculean exercise of force, had chosen to introduce the Birmingham riots into the subject, and somehow or other, had mixed up the appointment of magistrates in that town, with the abuse of patronage which he said would take place under this bill. He did not condescend to show the House how any extra patronage would arise under this bill. He, however, did not neglect the opportunity of slyly insinuating, that the patronage might be 544 exercised under it in a manner which had not been tolerated with regard to any previous Secretary of State. Let the hon. and learned Gentleman look into the report of the committee, into the nature of the evidence, and into the character of the witnesses that gave evidence upon this subject. He would only refer to the evidence of one Gentleman, namely, Mr. Empson, the distinguished jurist, who had rendered the greatest service to the public on this as well as on all other subjects connected with the administration of the criminal law. That Gentleman said, I think that the poor ought not to suppose that they get the worst justice that is administered in the country. There is a great deal, however, besides a legal education, that is required for the purpose of duly discharging the duties of a judicial situation. The requisite amount of legal knowledge will only go a short way; but it certainly is indispensable if you add such duties as have been of late added to offices of this description. Nobody objected to such a power being given to the Lord Chancellor; but the greatest outcry was raised against the smallest power being given for a magistrate, under the Metropolitan Police Bill, to act in minor cases in a civil capacity. With respect also to single jurisdiction, no one thought of objecting to it in the case of the Lord Chancellor; but Gentlemen opposite protested most loudly against the principle being brought in practice in the case of magistrates. Hon. Gentlemen might say, that in theory the practice of two magistrates sitting together was sound and good, because they served as a check, the one upon the other. But he entertained a very different opinion upon the subject, for when a magistrate was sitting alone on the bench, in the face of the public, and in the face of a rigid and vigorous public press, he was more likely to act with decision and caution, than if there were two magistrates to decide, dividing, as they would, the responsibility. He, therefore, was satisfied, that it was better to leave the decision to a single magistrate than to refer it to two, for he was satisfied that the real check, after all, was the presence of the public. There were various other parts of the bill which it would be better to discuss in committee. There were two or three heads of the bill, however, which he might refer to as conferring the greatest benefit on a large portion of the public, and therefore the bill should not be characterized in the terms bestowed upon it by the hon. and learned 545 Gentleman. For instance, in petty and frivolous cases, the magistrate had power to enlarge a person on his own personal recognizance. Another clause enabled a magistrate to order a restitution of goods which had been stolen or fraudulent obtained. By another clause, a magistrate had power of adjudicating in various matters between landlord and tenant again, if the hon. and learned Gentleman were out of the House he might hear words uttered which he considered slander, and might go into a court of law to vindicate his character. For instance, what he (Mr. Hawes) had said that night, and as no means of summary process existed at present—for he knew the hon. Gentleman objected to that, and he trusted that he would never resort to anything of that kind against him—he might then go into a court of law to vindicate himself at considerable expense. But what was the case with the poor man? He was debarred from any remedy of the kind. He might hear his wife, or the nearest female members of his family, grossly abused and slandered; if he went to a magistrate and made his complaint of the character of his wife and family having been taken away, he could now only be told that he must resort for redress to a higher court. But what was that to a poor man but a virtual denial of justice? Under this bill, however, a short and easy remedy was afforded, and, if it passed, a poor man would know that his feelings might not be outraged with impunity merely in consequence of his poverty. He would venture to say, that for some years, no bill had been introduced into that House which regarded so much the wants and feelings of the poorer classes. He thanked the House for concurring in this answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman, in respect-to the insinuations which he had been pleased to throw out in respect to him, not of the most charitable kind. He trusted, however, he had shown sufficient to justify him in introducing this bill.
§ Mr. Law
wished to deny that he had made any attack or brought charges against the body of magistrates at the police offices. His observations were entirely confined to the immediate patronage that would be placed by this bill in the hands of the Ministers of the Crown. He did not insinuate that the salaries to be paid under this bill were too high, or that the gentlemen appointed would be overpaid. He denied that he had made any attacks on his brother magistrates. The hon. Gentle- 546 man who had been pleased to throw out certain insinuations towards the conclusion of his speech, which he could not help feeling that the hon. Member had made, having regard to the situation that he filled. His objection to the patronage was not to that patronage being placed in the hands of the noble Lord in particular, but in those of any Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Hume
could not see what objection there could be to going into committee. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman object to the ameliorations which this bill would effect? If he did not, then the minor points to which he had alluded would be much better considered in committee. He was disposed to think, with the hon. and learned Gentleman, that the salaries were too high, and, in his opinion the salaries of all the judges were too high. He thought they had erred in that extreme in the past, and he trusted that in this bill they would return to the just medium. He would entreat the House to consider well the provisions of this measure, and, as a member of the committee, on whose recommendations it had been framed, and judging by the evidence which had been adduced, he must say, that it was the unanimous wish to give the people a cheap means of obtaining justice, which they had not at present. He thought the bill would effect that end, and he therefore trusted that it would be calmly considered. It was no doubt true that many improper persons had been appointed magistrates; but he trusted that, under this bill, the Minister would pay due regard to the responsibility under which he was placed.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that when the hon. Member for Lambeth complained of the course which his hon. and learned Friend had adopted, the hon. Member must have known, that his hon. and learned Friend had only availed himself of a privilege which was common to all the Members of the House. His hon. and learned Friend had done no more than he was fully entitled to do, and the course which he had pursued was by no means unusual, for it was one which had frequently been followed in the present Session. There had been many instances of the principle of bills being discussed, upon the question that the Speaker do leave the chair. With regard to the remarks that had been made upon his right hon. and learned Friend and colleague not deciding as many cases as were decided by a police magistrate, the 547 same remark would apply to any other judge. As it was essential that some bill for the regulation of police-offices should pass in this Session of Parliament, the provisions of the existing act being on the point of expiring, he thought it would be best for the House to go into committee upon the bill, in the hope of being able to make it such a bill as ought to pass, but at the same time he did not mean to pledge himself to support all its clauses; to many of them, those which had been adverted to by his right hon. and learned Friend, there were the greatest possible objections. It had been made a matter of charge against his right hon. and learned Friend, that he had objected on personal grounds to the patronage and power supposed to be given by this bill. Now, he had never heard personal topics more carefully excluded from a discussion than they had been by his right hon. and learned Friend, who had expressly said, that his objection was not to trusting this patronage and power to any particular individual, but to trusting them to the Secretary of State generally. He quite concurred with his right hon. and learned Friend in this view of the matter. The Secretary of State was, by the present bill, not merely to have the power of filling up vacancies occasioned by death, as was at present the case, but by this power there was now super-added an unlimited authority to displace magistrates at pleasure, and appoint new ones in their stead. It had been asked, whether he had not possessed and exercised the power of appointing magistrates. He had admitted that he had done so, and so far was he from being ashamed of the appointments which he had made, that he was convinced he had appointed no one who was not fully qualified to discharge the duties of his office. He would only refer to one appointment—that of Mr. Jeremy, who was universally acknowledged to be an able lawyer, and a diligent man, adequate to discharge his duties to the satisfaction of every one. He did not object to the salaries proposed to be given to the magistrates, but what he did object to was, the proposed extension of the district to which the jurisdiction of the police courts was to apply. As he was not opposed to going into committee, he did not think it necessary to trouble the House at present with the details of his objections to the bill.
§ Mr. Fox Maule
said, that there was one 548 question to which his hon. Friend behind did not fully advert in his admirable answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite; and it was due to his hon. Friend, and the committee over which he presided, to give that answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman. He could not but admire the tact of the hon. and learned Gentleman, in fixing on that topic for attack, knowing that it was one on which his side of the House was peculiarly vulnerable. The hon. and learned Gentleman dwelt at large on the increase of patronage belonging to the office of Secretary of State. Did he forget that the twenty-seven magistrates to be appointed under this bill, existed under the present act? Did he forget that the Secretary of State had the power of appointing all those magistrates already—that all Secretaries of State had the same power ever since there had been the same number of magistrates—and that the Secretary of State had power at this moment of dismissing those magistrates exactly in the way which it was proposed to continue that power? The only addition was, that when the Secretary of State thought proper to remove a magistrate from office, that he shall have power of doing so, upon giving him something to retire upon. As to the increase of expense proposed by the bill, it would be only 400l. The present salaries were 800l.,and the proposed amount was 1,200l. There was one thing that struck him upon which he must make a remark. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, he did not mean to make any reflections on the conduct or his noble Friend at the head of the Home Department—that he alluded only to the office of the Secretary of State, as held by anybody, and not by his noble Friend. If it was not his intention to make a personal allusion, why did the hon. and learned Gentleman introduce the Birmingham riots? Why, but to insinuate that his noble Friend made bad appointments at Birmingham, and might make bad appointments elsewhere. If ever there was a personal allusion, the impression on his mind certainly was, that the hon. Gentleman had made one. The whole tenor of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech appeared to him to be not so much against the bill, as against the side of the House from which it came. He hoped for the credit of the office which the hon. and learned Gentleman held, that he would take the advice tendered to him by his 549 right hon. Colleague (Mr. Goulburn) and the hon. Member for Kilkenny, and, having delivered his opinions on the subject, that he would not divide the House on going into committee. If the hon. and learned Gentleman persevered in dividing, there was one point which he would entreat the House to bear in mind. Upon the second reading of the bill, the only thing dwelt upon by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, was this—he desired to be convinced before voting for the second reading, that the bill was founded (and it was so founded) entirely on the report of the committee, which sat in 1838, and of which the right hon. Baronet was a member. If there was anything of value in the bill founded on that report, the Government were most willing to denude themselves of the credit which belonged to the committee who framed the report. If there was anything, on the contrary, that could be found fault with in reducing the recommendations into the clauses of the bill, the Government was quite ready to take the responsibility, and further to discuss those clauses in committee, and make such concessions as the House might require. They only desired that the measure should receive full consideration, and the impartial judgment of the House.
§ Mr. Estcourt
bore testimony to the fact, that this bill was framed upon the recommendations of the committee of which the hon. Member for Lambeth was chairman; and he must say, as a Member of that committee, that he had never seen a chair filled with greater ability, or with a more complete freedom from party spirit.
§ Amendment negatived, and the House went into committee.
§ Upon Clause 1,
§ House resumed.
§ The Chairman reported progress, and asked leave to sit again on the next day.550
Mr. F. Mauls
was satisfied that there would be a full attendance of Members when the House met on the next day, and that a full discussion would be given to the measure. He therefore, hoped the hon. Member would not press his amendment.
§ The House divided on the original question: Ayes 50; Noes 18:—Majority 32.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adam, Admiral||Parker, J.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Pechell, Captain|
|Baring, F. T.||Philips, M.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Pigot, D. R.|
|Bernal, R.||Pinney, W.|
|Brotherton, J.||Pryme, G.|
|Cavendish, hon. C.||Redington, T. N.|
|Clements, Viscount||Rice, E. R.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Rice, rt. hon. T. S.|
|Evans, W.||Rolfe, Sir R. M.|
|Finch, F.||Salwey, Colonel|
|Fleetwood, Sir P. H.||Scholefield, J.|
|Gisborne, T.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Gordon, R.||Stanley, hon. E. J.|
|Hastie, A.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Hawes, B.||Teignmouth, Lord|
|Heathcoat, J.||Thornely, T.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Wa.ace, R.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Warburton, H.|
|Hoskins, K.||Williams, W. A.|
|Howick, Viscount||Wood, C.|
|Hutton, R.||Wood, G. W.|
|Langdale, hon. C.||Worsley, Lord|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Maule, hon. F.|
|O'Ferrall, R. M.||Steuart, R.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Archdall, M.||Lockhart, A. M.|
|Attwood, W.||Palmer, G.|
|Broadley, H.||Sandon, Viscount|
|Bruges, W. H. L.||Thomson, Alderman|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Williams, W.|
|Duncombe, T.||Wood, Colonel T.|
|Gore, O. J. R.||Young, J.|
|Irton, S.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Kemble, H.||Sibthorp, Colonel|
§ Committee to sit on the next day.