HC Deb 31 March 1862 vol 166 cc328-9

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he rose to move the second reading of this Bill, which had already passed the House of Lords. It arose out of the case of the fugitive slave Anderson, and its object was to obviate the possibility of future disputes with the Colonists by preventing writs of Habeas Corpus from being granted by courts of justice in this country with respect to persons in the colonies.


said, he wished to know whether, as writs of Habeas Corpus were thenceforth not to be issued by the Courts of Great Britain for execution in the colonies, there was any guarantee that in cases similar to that of Anderson a fugitive slave would not be restored?


said, he wished to point out that great doubts existed as to the authority of Her Majesty in Council to hear appeals on matters of Habeas Corpus writs issued by the Colonial Courts, and to ask if such a power of appeal would be given in the Bill?


said, he thought the observations of the hon. Member deserved consideration. There ought to be a power of appeal where an injustice was done to a British subject by the Colonial Court. The Bill seemed to him to involve Imperial as well as Colonial questions, and that the rights of the Crown ought to be reserved to meet the former.


contended, that it was the inalienable right of the subject, whether in the colonies or the mother country, to appeal to the highest authority in the realm, which in that case was the Queen in Council. It had been decided that an appeal lay from the Courts of Jersey and Guernsey to the Courts at Westminster. He doubted, however, the expediency of passing a general law, applicable to all colonies, merely on account of a single case in a particular colony.


said, the Bill would not apply to all the colonies, as its phraseology confined its operation to such colonies and possessions of the Crown as already possessed Courts with authority to issue the writ of Habeas Corpus and to secure its due execution. Neither was anything in the Bill to prevent the right of appeal to Her Majesty as then allowed by law; but if there was any doubt on the matter, it was a matter to be considered Committee.


said, he would put the case of an Englishman, who, having been accused of committing a crime in the United States, had escaped to Canada; and he would ask what would be done in case he was demanded under the extradition treaty? Was he to be deprived of his right of appeal? He hoped that sufficient time would be given to consider the matter, though he had no objection to the second reading.


wished to explain that it was only by warrant from the Executive that a prisoner could be given up to the American authorities. The Canadian Court, therefore, though it had power to liberate Anderson, would have had none to deliver him up to the American Government. That could only have been done by the Governor General of Canada.

Bill read 2 °, and committed for Monday next.