HC Deb 03 March 1856 vol 140 cc1768-70

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he must ask the Government, considering the late hour (twelve o'clock) of the evening, to postpone the second reading, as he considered that the Bill contained some startling propositions, and under it a person charged with high treason might, at the will of the Crown, be removed from the remotest part of the country for trial at the Old Bailey.


said, that, at present, although the Court of Queen's Bench might direct trials for criminal offences to be removed from one county to another, they could not remove such trials from any county to the Central Criminal Court, which was the highest criminal tribunal of the country, at which three of the Judges might be present, and at which two of the Judges must attend; and the object of the Bill was simply to remedy that defect in the law.


said, he must remind the right hon. Gentleman that they had together sat on a Committee, a few years ago, on crime and outrage in Ireland. They then asked for power to try a prisoner in another county, in case of terror being prevalent where the crime was committed. The principle involved was the same as the Bill now before them contained. They had a majority for it in the Committee, but they were afraid to bring it forward in the House, in the face of a strong Whig opposition. If a man were tried for high treason it would be easy to procure from a Judge at chambers an order that the person charged should be brought to London to be tried. He thought the Government ought to give time for the consideration of the Bill.


said, he should claim the vote of the hon. and learned Gentleman on this measure, for he had on a former occasion strongly insisted on the principle of the Bill; he, therefore, hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would not revenge himself upon England by refusing to it a benefit which he had on a former occasion been desirous of conferring upon Ireland. The object of the Bill was to remedy a defect in the law, for while a trial could be moved from one county to another, say from Cornwall to Essex, the county of Middlesex was excluded. The object was to include Middlesex, as containing the highest criminal court in the kingdom.


said, it was notorious that the Bill had been introduced to meet a particular case, that of Palmer, because it was pretended that he would not obtain a fair trial from a jury in Staffordshire. He (Mr. Otway) would undertake to say, for the jurymen of Staffordshire in general, that such an accusation was most unjust and unfounded.


said, he would suggest that any opposition the Bill might encounter would be considerably mitigated if it was provided that the consent of the accused party should be required before a trial was removed.


said, that under the existing law, even when, as in the present case, both parties concurred, there was no power of trial at the Central Criminal Court.


said, he would remind the House that at present the removal of a case to the Court of Queen's Bench gave the prisoner all the advantages attendant upon a civil proceeding. He could obtain a new trial for misdirection, or in case the verdict should be against the evidence; but if the proposed Bill should pass, the prisoner would be deprived of that advantage, and would be left at the mercy of the Judge and jury who tried him.


said, he had intended to move the rejection of the Bill, but, after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State he considered that it would not be advisable to do so. He believed, however, that there need be no apprehension that an impartial jury could not be obtained at Stafford.


said, the question was not whether a prisoner should be tried at Stafford or at the Central Criminal Court; but whether he should be tried upon a solemn trial at bar in the Queen's Bench, or whether the more convenient and expeditious course of a trial at the Central Criminal Court should not be adopted. The prisoner himself in the case alluded to was an acquiescent party to the arrangement which the Bill proposed, and it would be a public convenience to supply the omission in the existing law.


said, he hoped the Bill would be read a second time without delay.


said, he wished to know whether the principle of the Bill was to apply to Ireland?


replied in the negative.

Bill read 2o.

The House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.