§ MR. HUNT
said, he rose to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of the present system of payment of the expenses of prosecutions, with reference to the due administration of justice, and to report to the House whether it was desirable that any alteration should be made in that system, either as to rates of payment, or as to the fund out of which such payment should be made. Various authorities showed that the inadequacy of the present scale was the cause of prosecutions being abandoned; amongst others, be might refer to an opinion which he understood had been delivered by the Lord Chief Justice of England from the bench on the circuit which had just expired. From that reason the ends of justice were frequently defeated.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he should not resist the Motion. He might remark, however, that the expenses of prosecutions had become so heavy a charge on the Consolidated Fund that some check was necessary to prevent further increase in the amount. Accordingly, in 1857, when he was Home Secretary, a new scale of allowances for witnesses, &c, was adopted, which he was bound to admit had caused 829 a great deal of dissatisfaction in many parts of the country. No evidence had been laid before the Government, however, to show that there had been a failure of justice arising from the present scale; and he must observe that all witnesses had a right to expect was a fair compensation for their expenses and loss of time. No profit ought to be made by any person on account of his evidence in a court of justice. In support of his opinion he would refer to the following extracts from the Report of the Commission on the subject:—We find that the greatest differences prevail in the different parts of the country as to the charges usually allowed—differences for which we cannot account by any such satisfactory reason as might be afforded by the contrast between urban and rural districts, or between districts thinly inhabited and without roads, and districts traversed by roads and railways. Nor, while it is alleged that failure of justice will be the necessary consequence of reduced allowances, do we find that in jurisdictions like those of Surrey, Kent, Hants, Somerset, and others in which the scale is low, crime escapes punishment from a reluctance either to prosecute or to give evidence.It will probably be objected that some of these allowances are too low by the counties in which larger allowances have heretofore prevailed; but we find that they exceed the allowance in the counties on the Oxford and Norfolk circuits, in some on the Western and Home circuits, and several other places where no failure of justice has ever been alleged to exist.. In point of fact, the scale of the Home Office was based on evidence derived from the countiesIn conclusion he would say, that if the hon. Gentleman should succeed in establishing such a state of things as he represented, the Government would only be too glad to act upon such information.
§ MR. DEEDES
said, he was bound to say, so far as regarded the county which he represented, that the scale of allowance to witnesses was not an impediment to justice. At the same time, as there had been complaints, he thought it well that a Committee should be appointed.
§ Motion agreed to.
Select Committee appointed,
To inquire into the operation of the present system of payment of the Expenses of Prosecutions, with reference to the due Administration of Justice, and to report to the House whether it is desirable that any alteration should be made in that system, either as to rates of payment, or as to the Fund out of which such payment should be made.