HC Deb 22 July 1845 vol 82 cc955-9
Mr. Escott

, in moving the Second Reading of Fees in Criminal Courts Bill, said, persons brought up to a court of justice had certain fees to pay if they were not convicted; and those who were found guilty, had frequently to pay more than ten times the amount of the fine imposed on them in the shape of fees. Interests had sprung up from these fees to defend this system. There were those now living, who remembered when the office of clerk of assize was sold for several thousand pounds, and by a Judge of assize. He trusted that the Bill would be read a second time. If, in preparing its provisions, he had gone too far in any particular, that might be considered in Committee. They could not possibly stop short as regarded the great principle involved in the measure.

The Attorney General

observed, that the House should take care that they were not hurried into rash legislation as to this matter. To a certain extent, he entirely agreed with the hon. and learned Member. The hon. and learned Gentleman was induced to take up the subject, by reason of great abuses which existed in the county with which he himself was more intimately connected. These abuses principally consisted in exacting fees from persons before they were allowed to plead, in taking fees from parties who were acquitted, and in compelling persons to traverse, and so obtaining fees from them. He entirely agreed with the hon. and learned Member, that these were great abuses, and that they should also be remedied; and he was quite prepared to introduce any measure which might have the effect of remedying them. But his hon. and learned Friend had been led too far by his own strong feelings. In the Bill which he had introduced, the House would at once perceive that the principal object was to abolish all fees, in all cases whatsoever, whether of acquittal or conviction; and, whether on trial or indictment, or upon more summary proceedings. By the 55th George III., the fees on acquittal, taken from prisoners, tried either for felony or misdemeanor, were entirely abolished. That Act did not certainly go to the extent for which his hon. and learned Friend properly contended, because it only applied to the case when the parties were in prison, and charged with felonies or misdemeanors, and afterwards acquitted. It was a great evil, that parties out on bail, charged with misdemeanor, and afterwards acquitted, should be made to pay fees on that acquittal. He thought that no parties should be called upon to pay fees, before they were admitted to plead. Nor should any party be compelled to traverse, for the purpose of giving fees to the officer; but he was not disposed to say, if a person was disposed to traverse, that all fees on traverses should be abolished. He agreed, that with regard to acquittals, no fee should be taken from a party, whether he were discharged out of prison, or out on bail, and tried for misdemeanor and acquitted. He concurred with the principle so far, as that it was improper to demand fees before parties were permitted to plead; that was a grievance, and that he would remedy; and to that extent he went with his hon. and learned Friend. His hon. Friend had said, there were cases in which the fees on conviction were more than the fines imposed by way of punishment. That, he admitted, was also a grievance which should not be continued. Provide a remedy for these cases; but as the Bill now stood, extensive and general as it was, he must oppose it.

Mr. Aglionby

approved of the principle of the Bill, and was glad the subject had fallen into such hands. The object was to remove a grievance which pressed severely on many of Her Majesty's subjects; and, if the Bill went too far, and repealed Acts of Parliament, some of which the Attorney General admitted should not remain on the Statute Book, he thought they had a right to expect from the hon. and learned Attorney General a statement of what particular Acts of Parliament he was willing to extend the operation of the Bill to. He would suggest that the Bill should be allowed to be read a second time; and, that in the mean time the Attorney General should consider to what Acts of Parliament the Bill should extend.

Sir J. Graham

had understood, that the object of the hon. Member was merely to abolish fees charged upon the acquittal of parties, of fees exacted from persons admitted to bail, and from persons forced to plead. To that extent, as he had stated last year, he was prepared to go with his hon. Friend; but this Bill went further, and proposed to repeal some Acts of Parliament under which fees were imposed under other circumstances, to its full extent, therefore he could not concur in it. Being prepared to support the object of his hon. Friend so far as he had said, he should vote for the second reading of the Bill, upon the understanding that it would be modified in Committee.

House divided:—Ayes 40; Noes 6: Majority 34.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.
Bentinck, Lord G. Gaskell, J. Milnes
Blake, M. J. Goulburn, rt. hon. H.
Borthwick, P. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Greene, T.
Brotherton, J. Harcourt, G. G.
Cardwell, E. Hope, A.
Dickenson, F. H. Jermyn, Earl
Duncan, G. Jones, Capt.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. McNeill, D.
Forster, M. Martin, C. W.
Mitchell, T. A. Thesiger, Sir F.
Muntz, G. F. Thornhill, G.
Nicholl, rt. hon. J. Tollemache, hn. F. J.
O'Connell, M. J. Wakley, T.
Pringle, A. Warburton, H.
Pusey, P. Wawn, J. T.
Rashleigh, W. Young, J.
Scott, hon. F.
Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C. TELLERS.
Somerville, Sir W. M. Escott, B.
Spooner, R. Mackenzie, W. F.
List of the AYES.
Berkeley, hon. C. Trollope, Sir J.
Bruges, W. H. L.
Darby, G. TELLERS.
Ingestre, Visct. Rolleston, Col.
Masterman, J. Cripps, W.

House adjourned at a quarter to two o'clock.