HC Deb 19 July 1850 vol 113 cc11-3

House in Committee.

Clause 70 agreed to.


said, that Clause 71 being much objected to, he would withdraw it.

Clause struck out; Clauses 72 and 73 were postponed; Clause 74 agreed to.

Clause 75.


said, this clause as it stood would be productive of great mischief, as there would be conflicting jurisdictions, and the powers of neither of the courts were properly specified. Suppose one of these courts ordered a man to be flogged, and he resisted, and in doing so killed one of the sailors who was endeavouring to carry out the order of the court, could such case be regarded as one of murder, as the court might not legally have the power of inflicting punishment, unless it was specified?


attached the greatest importance to this clause. It was necessary to give the power proposed to be conferred upon the naval courts in somewhat vague and general terms, and, indeed, it was a question between justice to be obtained in the way specified, or no justice at all. It was important that our ships, scattered as they were over the whole world, should be able to find courts for the administration of justice. It sometimes happened that a ship remained away from this country for several years, and it was a monstrous state of things that during that time no means should exist of checking abuses on the part of the captain or sailors. It was his belief that the mere possibility of summoning naval courts would prevent many abuses. This was the case in the Dutch service. He had lately received a letter from an intelligent English shipowner in Holland, who had examined the Dutch maritime code—one of the wisest in the world—and the writer informed him that naval courts similar to those proposed to be established under the Bill had long been part of the Dutch maritime code; and that the knowledge that the courts could be summoned almost entirely superseded the necessity of calling them. The captain and sailors of a Dutch ship at Java, or any other distant part of the world, knew that a naval court could be summoned, and that prevented abuse. He would listen to any suggestion for the amendment of the clause offered by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire with the respect which was due to anything that fell from that hon. Member; but he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not object to the establishment of the naval courts.


did not understand that his hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire wished to interfere with the appointment of these courts, but that the clause should define the powers of the court. All that he required was, that the clause should be made intelligible. He challenged any human being to understand it as it now stood.


thought it was unnecessary that the powers of a court of this kind should be specifically defined. With respect to the case put by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, that if any person in resisting the orders of this court, and in doing so killed another, he was satisfied it would amount to murder.


said, the clause was crude and indefinite, and the best course the Government could pursue was to postpone the clause, and remodel it.


thought it would be better to leave a good deal to the instructions which would be sent out by the Board of Trade to naval officers and consular agents in ports abroad as to the authority of and course of proceedings to be taken before these courts.


admitted this to be a most important clause. His own as well as his hon. Friend's object was so to improve it as to make it as clear as possible; and therefore they wished to have a definite description of the powers and constitution of those courts.


said, that in some ports abroad there might be no British naval officers or consular agents. In such cases how was the court to be constituted?


replied, that provision was made in the clause for the purpose. It enacted in such a case that the places should be filled by masters of British merchant ships, or respectable British merchants.

After some further conversation, Mr. LABOUCHERE consented to postpone the clause.

Clause postponed.

Clause 76.


said, the effect of this clause would be to cause every case determined in these naval courts to be tried over again in this country.


thought the clause might be safely struck out of the Bill.

Clause struck out.

Clauses up to the 98th were then agreed to.

House resumed; Committee report progress; to sit again on Monday next,

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