HC Deb 23 March 1859 vol 153 cc623-5

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of this Bill, referred to the antiquity and dignity of the office, and to the extravagant expenses with which in old times it was burdened. Most of these were now done away with, and his Bill was directed to what remained. A Committee which sat in 1832 recommended that the practice of meeting the Judges should be done away with, and that the number of javelinmen should be reduced. In 1839 Mr. Hume introduced a Bill to reduce and define the expenses to which Sheriffs were liable: the Bill passed that House but failed in the Lords. Several other attempts had since been made to deal with the subject, but they also failed. Now, however, the position of the counties was entirely changed, for a rural police had been established in every county in England, and the javelinmen were less necessary than ever, except for the delight of little boys and the lovers of street pageantry. As the police were employed in Westminster Hall, he could not see why they should not be employed in the County Assize Courts. It was obviously a great anomaly that the Sheriff who sat on the same bench of justice with the Judge, was not only unpaid, whereas the other had a great salary, but was liable to be unlimitedly victimized by his brother functionary. It was impossible to say how far the Judge could push his notions of contempt of Court. He believed a Judge could fine the Sheriff for not having the windows of Court opened; there had been instances where he had been fined for not having candles ready. The attendance of the Sheriff upon the Judge was intelligible in the old feudal times, when hospitality was practised on an unbounded scale, and when the Sheriff was the great man of the county, equal to the Lord Lieutenant of the present times. But this in the present state of things was completely altered. The inconvenience was so much felt, that clubs of gentlemen had been formed to bear the expense; but these were mere private arrangements. Among other liabilities of the Sheriff he was responsible for the whole expense of elections; and there was an instance of the last election of the Sheriff of Kent having been called upon to pay £ 150 for the share of the election expenses of one of the candidates— a man of straw, who refused to pay his share. It was also too bad that while the country threw upon the Sheriffs the disagreeable duty of executing criminals, it did not allow them more than one-third of the expense to which it put them. Thus, in a recent case in Wiltshire, the cost of executing an unfortunate man named Frances, had been £33 odd, but the country had only allowed about £12. It was said that this was an honorary office, but it should be remembered that no other honorary office or distinction in the state was imposed upon a man against his will.


seconded the Motion and expressed the regret he felt at hearing that the Bill was likely to be opposed in "another place" by a noble and learned Lord, who, though a liberal in politics, was by no means so liberal in other respects.


said, the hon. Member had mentioned a number of instances of hardships to which high Sheriffs were exposed in the execution of their duty, but not one of them was remedied by the Bill. The sole object of the measure was to relieve them of the obligation of engaging javelinmen to be in attendance upon the Judges. The wish of the House had always been to relieve those who were called upon to discharge, gratuitously, a public duty from any unnecessary expense, and in the present case, he thought there ought to be no more than was requisite to keep up the dignity of the Judges who represented the Sovereign at the assizes. Since there had been instituted in each county a body of police for the preservation of good order and peace, he had no sort of objection to substitute that organized force for the javelinmen. It was quite unnecessary to provide for the non-payment of fees to the Judges' servants, such payments having been illegal ever since the time of Charles II., he therefore hoped the House would pass the second reading: but when the Bill went into Committee he believed he should be able to show that a great deal of it might very well be omitted.


said, that the clause last referred to would by no means be unnecessary; for he had only the other day been shown some accounts by a friend who had had to provide, amongst other things, 180 gallons of ale for the Judges' servants.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Thursday, 31st March.