HC Deb 21 July 1856 vol 143 cc1113-4

said, he wished to ask the hon. and learned Attorney General whether he intended to proceed this Session, with the Criminal Appropriation of Trust Property Bill?


said, he was glad to find the hon. Gentleman had put a question which afforded an opportunity of stating what were his views with respect to that Bill. When he had first obtained the consent of the House to the introduction of a measure for the amendment of the law in reference to the criminal appropriation of trust property he had hoped to go on with it and to pass it in the course of the present Session. But he found that the Master of the Rolls and some others of the Equity Judges were of opinion that the Bill, as it had been introduced, might be productive of considerable mischief, inasmuch as it would enable trustees who had been guilty of fraudulent malversation to shelter themselves by refusing to give evidence before the Courts on the ground that they did not wish, and that they could not be required to criminate themselves. In consequence of the representations which had thus been addressed to him upon the subject, he had hesitated to go on with the measure. But on the other hand he had been very strongly pressed by many of the leading practitioners in the Court of Chancery to see whether he could not overcome that difficulty. After having further considered the subject, he had, he hoped, framed a Bill which would meet the objection he had stated. He now proposed to take away from trustees, who were called upon to answer in a Court of Chancery, the privilege of sheltering themselves under the plea of crimination, and to give them instead the same security as was possessed by bankers and others who were charged with the fraudulent appropriation of securities—namely, that if under the pressure of the Court they disclosed transactions in which they had been concerned, they should not, in respect of such disclosure, be subject to a criminal proceeding. With the introduction of such a provision, he hoped to be able to propose a measure which should put an end to the fraudulent appropriation of trust property. It would be too late, however, to carry such a Bill in the present Session, and he should therefore propose it early in the Session of 1857.