HC Deb 30 July 1840 vol 55 cc1161-2
Viscount Morpeth,

in the absence of Lord John Russell, moved for leave to bring in a bill to amend the act for the better regulation of Ecclesiastical Courts in England. The noble Lord observed, that although this would appear to open a very important and very extensive subject, the real object of the bill which he sought to introduce was, in fact, confined to one specific point. He did not propose at that moment to enter into the merits of the case of John Thorogood, or of the sentence under which he was suffering. But as it seemed to be felt very generally on both sides of the House when the subject was last under discussion, that the imprisonment of Thorogood had already lasted for a very considerable time, the object of the bill which he now proposed to bring in, was to enable the court which committed the recusant to discharge him with the consent of the parties at whose complaint and prosecution he was originally committed.

Mr. H. Vernon

was understood to state, that notwithstanding the stricture pronounced upon the opinion which he had ventured to offer when this subject was last under consideration, he was still disposed, after more mature deliberation, to adhere to it. He repeated his belief, that in the case of Thorogood, if the churchwardens being contented by any means, or disposed to relinquish their claim upon that person, came by their proctor before the Ecclesiastical Court, and proposed to withdraw the citation, the judge would have felt it his duty to sign a certificate that would have occasioned the immediate release of the prisoner.

The Attorney-General

observed, that that also had been his own opinion, but a contrary opinion having been expressed by a learned judge for whom he had a most sincere respect—he meant the learned judge who presided in the Consistorial Court of the Bishop of London—he felt bound at once to yield to it; and as there appeared to be a general feeling in the House that the imprisonment of Thorogood should cease, the present bill was proposed to effect that object. Whatever his own opinion might have been, he thought that the House was bound to act upon that which had been expressed by the judge of the court in which cases of this description were dealt with.

Leave given. Bill (No. 1) brought in, and read a first time.

Dr. Nichol

obtained leave to bring in a bill to alter and amend the law regarding process upon contempts in the Courts Ecclesiastical in England and Ireland, and to facilitate the discharge of persons who now are or hereafter may be in custody for contempts of any such courts. The hon. and learned Gentleman explained that the object of this bill was similar to that just introduced by the noble Lord. He objected to the mode in which the noble Lord's bill sought to obtain its object, and therefore, with the consent of the noble Lord, had prepared the measure he now proposed. It would be for the House to determine between the two.

Bill (No. 2) brought in and read a first time.