HC Deb 25 July 1864 vol 176 cc2056-67

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, he rose to move that the House resolve itself into a Committee upon the Bill on that day month. The measure had arisen from a convention signed in London, March 5, 1864. He held that it was not respectful or decorous to the House that such a Bill should be delayed to so late a period of the Session. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had just informed him that this measure had passed the House of Lords. That might be a strong recommendation to the hon. Gentleman, but with all respect to the House of Lords, it was not the slightest recommendation to him (Mr. White). The Prussian Government would have the power, under the Bill, to follow an unfortunate exile into this country, and, upon suspicion that he had attempted to commit murder, to have him captured, and sent back to Prussia. After the atrocious conduct of Prussia in Posen — he would say nothing of later transactions— he thought there were very strong reasons to hesitate before they entered into an extradition treaty of this kind with that country. If any Prussian subject were supposed to have sympathy with the Poles across tie frontier, and had entered the British territory, the Bill would give the Prussian Government power to persecute that individual by trumping up a charge of attempting to murder against him, and demand that he should be given up to them. The Bill also gave the Prussian Government power to demand the extradition of a subject who had fled to this country, who was supposed to be guilty of robbery with violence. There was something ludicrous in the idea of Prussia coming to ask for justice against persons who had been guilty of robbery with violence. The murderer of Mr. Briggs was believed to be a German; but with regard to such a man there was no difficulty, as our laws were sufficient to meet a case of that kind. Now that we had a well-grounded belief in an association or a Holy Alliance of the great Northern Powers it seemed to him (Mr. White) somewhat suspicious that M. Bismark should want a Bill of this character. If the measure were passed, the time would come when Austria would apply to us for a similar measure; and Russia afterwards. He believed that the Bill was not intended for its ostensible purpose. He looked upon the measure as one aimed against political exiles and that it was intended to prevent us affording an asylum to patriots who fled here for refuge from the persecutions inflicted upon them in their own country. If there were any-real value in the Bill it should not have been delayed until the end of the Session, when it was almost impossible to discuss its merits. The conduct of Prussia was not of a nature calculated to secure the good opinion of England. At all events, the Bill was not of such pressing importance that it ought not to be postponed until the next Session. Under these circumstances he should move that the House should resolve itself into a Committee upon it that day month.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day month, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. James White,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that the object was merely to confirm a simple extradition treaty such as we had with Italy, France, and other Powers. Although the convention bore date the 5th of March the ratifications had not been exchanged till the 8th of April. The Bill had no political tendency. We had similar conventions with other European nations for mutual convenience; and his hon. Friend (Mr. White) must remember that the provisions of the convention could not be put in force without a legal process. The convention applied to persons accused or convicted of murder; comprehending the crimes of assassination, parricide, infanticide, and poisoning, attempt to commit murder, forgery, fraudulent bankruptcy, burglary, robbery with violence to the person robbed, larceny, or embezzlement by clerks and servants. It would be a great convenience to us to have the convention, and he could assure the House that there was nothing in it which ought to alarm even a Gentleman of the advanced political opinions of his hon. Friend, for there was no desire on the part of the Government to put an end to the patriotic feeling of Prussian patriots.


said, he could not agree that the question was quite so simple a matter as the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs would have them believe, neither did he feel satisfied that the political element was excluded from the treaty. The great difficulty they had to look at was the law of conscription, and what he feared was that under the Bill they would be called upon to apprehend deserters for a despotic Power. Now, a case in point had just happened? Certain Poles escaped from the Russian army and fled to America, and they were demanded by Russia from America under a similar extradition treaty. Conscription was often used as a mere engine of oppression, and deserter was very often used as only another name for political exile, and what he wanted to show was that something of the same kind might be included in the Bill. Burglary by the law of Germany meant a nocturnal breaking or forcing into any dwelling-house or any building thereunto belonging with the intention of committing a crime. It did not mean an English crime but a Prussian crime, and that might mean desertion. So that a soldier who escaped from his barracks and broke through an outside building for the purpose of desertion would come within the clause in the Bill, He thought it would have been much better if the Bill had stated distinctly the exact nature of the crime, and not have given two lines of German to explain an English word. [Mr. LAYARD: That is childish.] He would thank the hon. Gentleman to refute his argument. What he objected to was that the Bill took cognizance of a Prussian crime and not an English crime, without any attempt to define it. The same kind of objection applied to the crime of embezzlement. We might call it embezzlement, but by the German it was breach of duty; and what he feared was, that by the terms of the treaty we should be delivering over those who came to our shores to an extent we little thought of. He did not say that all the things at which he had glanced would happen, but they might happen. The Bill was not drawn with that caution and circumspection that was necessary, considering the particular country with which we were dealing and the spirit of our own laws. He thought the Bill should be delayed and further time given for its consideration.


said, he thought his noble Friend had not rightly apprehended either the provisions of the Bill or the general principles which pervaded all measures of the same nature. If his noble Friend would consider the matter be would see that in conformity with the treaty itself the Bill provided expressly that no one should be delivered up except such evidence was produced as according to the English law would justify a magistrate in committing him for the offence in this country. That principle was perfectly well settled. The matter was fully considered in the case of the slave Anderson, who was demanded for extradition from Canada on the ground of his having committed what by the law of the United States was considered murder—namely, killing the person who sought to apprehend him and deliver him back to slavery. But it was held by the highest authorities in this country that he could not be delivered up, for this reason—that a man who killed another while defending his own liberty could not be guilty of murder according to the laws of this country. And in the cases instanced by the noble Lord the crimes should, according to the laws of the United Kingdom, have amounted to burglary or embezzlement, and that was the language not only of the statute but of the treaty also. In truth, the words to which the noble Lord had referred were used only for the purpose of making clear to the German mind what the English words burglary and embezzlement meant. English words must be interpreted by English magistrates in an English sense—the German terms were merely equivalents. No one could doubt that according to the Bill and the treaty an English magistrate must be satisfied that the accused person had been guilty of what would be the offence of burglary or larceny according to the English laws.


said, he would remind the House that the Question had really arisen, not as between England and Prussia, but as between Russia and Prussia. He found that one of the crimes included in the schedule was robbery with violence. Now what had happened? A certain number of Polish refugees were apprehended in Prussia, under a similar treaty between Russia and Prussia, and when England and France remonstrated, the answer was that they had been apprehended on a charge of robbery with alleged violence, they having stolen some forage, or something of that sort. The consequence was that the political refugees had been given up to Russia. Now it was remarkable that it was the first time not only that the Prussian word for burglary would come into an Act of Parliament, but also the words "robbery with violence." That was the definition of burglary which it was sought to introduce into an English Act of Parliament. He had no confidence in the Bill after what our Government had done with our own police. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, unfortunately for his own reputation and also that of the Government and the country, sent two English detectives, at a critical time, to Russia. He (Mr. Hennessy) stated at the time that the two detectives received £1,000 each from the Russian Government, and he would now inform the House why it was they were paid that money. Before the Polish insurrection broke out the Grand Duke Constantine applied to this country for two detectives to be sent to Warsaw, and by the Home Secretary's permission they went there, at a time when the severity of the Prussian rule was so great that almost every country in Europe had remonstrated. A Polish exile, who had been many years in this country, went to Warsaw with a British passport in the name of Brett. He (Mr. Hennessy) hoard when at Cracow, that Walker, one of these detectives, saw Brett in the streets of Warsaw, recognized him, and he was arrested. That was before the insurrection. Brett was cast into prison, and three months after the insurrection broke out Brett was taken out and hanged in the Streets of Warsaw. That man travelled under a British passport in an assumed name, He was a refugee, but he never fought against Russia. However, the unfortunate man was hanged, and the two English bullies received £1,000 each. It was notorious that the Duke Constantine was assisted by the English and French police in detecting the Polish refugees from Paris and London, some of whom it was desirous to place in the list of proscriptions, and others in the list of conscription. They had seen enough of these proceedings to be cautious how they allowed a Bill of this kind to pass. The Prussian Government strained laws such as that before them against political offenders, and he hoped the House would reject the Bill.


said, the hon. Gentleman had recurred to a subject with regard to which the fullest information had been afforded last year. Every paper connected with the matter had been laid upon the table; the hon. Gentleman did not last year make the charge which he had just now made, and he (Sir George Grey) utterly disbelieved that there was any foundation whatever for it. The House was perfectly satisfied, when the subject was last year before it, with the explanation that had been given. The hon. Gentleman had said that Prussia had delivered up the Polish refugees under a treaty similar to that before the House. But had the hon. Gentleman compared both treaties? If he had he would admit the force of his argument; if not, he could not admit that it was good for anything.


said, that no answer had been given to the Question asked by his hon. Friend (Mr. White)—namely, whether a person was to be given up charged with murder or attempt to murder without any qualification. It was said he was not to be given up unless he was guilty of an of- fence the commission of which would make him liable to be convicted of murder in England. If a man engaged in an insurrection in England he might be liable to be tried for murder, because any act contrary to law that ended in death was murder in England. Therefore, under the Bill, all political refugees might be given up if engaged in acts which in England would be illegal if carried on against the Government. If so, he did not see what was to prevent the Poles who took refuge in England after an insurrection being charged with simple murder—that is to say, killing or attempting to kill any of the subjects of the Czar. They would all be liable to be claimed and given up under this Bill.


said, that the explanation of the hon. and learned Attorney General appeared to be satisfactory as respected persons accused; but the convention also contained a provision that fugitives convicted of crime should be given up on a copy of the conviction being produced. Some further safeguards were necessary.


said, he thought there was great force in what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman (Sir Francis Goldsmid). In foreign countries a man might be convicted of crime in his absence par contumace. A man who was a political refugee might be convicted of any crime in his absence. There ought to be something to guard against a conviction such as that. If he understood the Attorney General, the learned Gentleman stated that a man could not be given up unless a magistrate here was satisfied that the circumstances were such that the man would be convicted of the crime if the circumstances occurred in this country. But take the case of burglary. That was a technical crime, and must be committed in certain hours between night and morning. Was it meant that the same circumstances which constituted the crime of burglary in this country must be proved in every case under the treaty?


said, he had no hesitation in saying that the circumstances required in this country must be proved in order to justify extradition.


said, he wished to know if there was any difference between the treaty and other extradition treaties which we had concluded with foreign countries. The other treaties had worked well, and inasmuch as we had not been called upon to give up under them political offenders or persons who had been engaged in insurrection, he did not see that there was any objection to that before the House, if it was similar to the rest. An answer to that question would, he thought, prevent the discussion being protracted.


I think the explanation given by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General ought to be sufficient. It is not true, as has been supposed, that a Foreign Government would send here and claim a man, requiring that a statement of his guilt should be taken without any further inquiry, and that its own explanation of its own law is td be the rule according to which a man should be given up. The treaty requires that proof shall be given to satisfy a magistrate that if the offence charged had been committed in this country, it would, according to our law, justify the committal of the man. Therefore, that clearly excludes any foreign interpretation of any crime under which a man can be claimed under the treaty in question. This treaty is exactly the same with what has been concluded with Denmark. I may state from my own knowledge, that in regard to the treaty with France difficulties have arisen, and complaints have been made by the French Government in consequence of the conditions attached to the delivery of the man. We have required that witnesses should come over, and that oral testimony should be given to prove that the man has committed in France a crime which in England would justify his committal. The French Government required that written documents should be sufficient. But this we have not admitted, and that has sometimes prevented our delivering up a French criminal claimed by the French Government. It is quite clear that no political offender could be claimed under this treaty. As to the notion that the fact of a man having been concerned in an insurrection would bring him in this country under the description of a murderer, that is really not for a; moment to be entertained. The laws of this country would not construe that to be murder which is simply being engaged in civil war against the Government of the country. Therefore, there can be no sort of apprehension that this treaty could be used for the purpose of enabling Foreign Governments—whether Prussia, or Russia, or any other—to claim a political offender. As to the assertion of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Hennessy) that political offenders may be claimed, as between Prussia and Russia, under the extradition treaty between those countries, that may be true, because the crime of insurrection may be a crime which under that treaty may justify one Government in claiming a refugee from another. It does not, however, follow that a political refugee can, under the operation of the English law, be claimed under the provisions of this treaty.


said, that the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Clay) had asked the noble Lord whether the present treaty was identical with the extradition treaties with other countries? He understood the noble Lord to state that this was quite a different extradition treaty. [Viscount PALMERSTON: I said it was the same.] The noble Lord had pointed out the inconvenience which the present extradition treaty with France had caused.


said, he wished to explain. He had stated that the present treaty was the same as other extradition treaties, and, as a proof of the safeguards which the treaty gave to persons claimed, he stated that with regard to the treaty with France difficulties had arisen about giving up a man because oral proof had not been given that the man had committed a crime in France which in England would justify his committal.


said, that there was an inconsistency between the noble Lord's explanation and the second clause of the Bill. It would be necessary for some legal Member of the Government to point out the words in the clause that corresponded with the terms of the extradition treaty now in force.


said, he thought the Attorney General had clearly explained that it must be proved that a fugitive had committed an act which in this country would justify his committal, otherwise he would not be given up.


said, he wished to point out that the paragraph of the section headed "thirdly" provided that, in the case of a fugitive convicted of crime, an authenticated copy of the conviction should be produced, and proof of the identity of the person convicted he given to the satisfaction of the magistrate. Therefore, if either a man was convicted in Prussia en contumace of an attempt to murder, and was convicted in his presence and afterwards escaped, his only offence having been that he was engaged in au insurrection, all that the Prussian authorities would have to do to obtain his surrender by this country would be to produce an authenticated copy of the conviction and give evidence that the man they claimed was the person named in it. He did not know whether that provision was identical with those contained in other extradition treaties, but we certainly ought not to strain any point in favour of Prussia, who was doing her best to put down liberty on the Continent.


said, that as it was a Bill which greatly affected the character of the country, he should move the adjournment of the debate, in order that the measure might be discussed at a proper period of the evening.


said, he wished to call attention to the circumstance that the paragraph of the second section headed "secondly" contained a provision— That depositions or statements on oath, certified under the hand of the magistrate by whom the original warrant was issued, and attested by the oath of the party producing them to be the original depositions or statements, or true copies thereof, may be received in evidence of the criminality of the fugitive apprehended. That appeared to be a departure from the principle upon which the noble Lord stated that we had acted under the treaty with France. If he was not mistaken, in consequence of the objections of the French Government, an Act was brought in which would have authorized the reception of depositions under the treaty with that country, but was rejected by the other House, the late Lord Campbell saying that he would never admit such a departure from the principles upon which criminal justice was administered in this country.


said, that he held in his hand the treaty with France, and it was in all the points that had been mentioned exactly similar to that before the House. In the treaty under consideration, however, murder was much better defined than it was in that one. Here it was stated to comprehend assassination, parricide, and two other offences. [Mr. HENNESSY: Assassination?] He apprehended that the laws of no civilized country would say that "assassination" included the taking of life in an insurrection where the parties were openly and fairly in the field. The provisions of the French Treaty as to the production of convictions were precisely the same as those which were contained in this convention. In both cases, of course, it would be ne- cessary that the magistrate should be satisfied not merely that the fugitive who was claimed had been convicted of an offence which was called murder, or whatever it might be, in the country from which he had fled, but that the offence of which he had been convicted was such as would have amounted to that crime in this country. The House must be satisfied that in carrying out the treaty which had been entered into with Prussia there would be no risk of our abandoning those safeguards of liberty which had in all similar cases been maintained in this country. It ought to be remembered that the administration of this law would be in the hands of the judges of the realm, who had always been most jealous of any extension of the interpretation of Acts of Parliament of this kind, and who would take care that the law of this country was not made instrumental to the surrender of persons as criminals for acts that would not in this country constitute the offences charged. He trusted that the House, having regard to the fact that this treaty had actually been entered into with Prussia, would not hesitate to give it its sanction.


said, he begged to point out that there was a most extraordinary difference between the convention with France and that before the House, and the hon. and learned Gentleman, when he said that the cases were exactly similar was entirely in error. According to the clause of the Bill before them a fugitive convicted of crime might be given up on authentic proof of the conviction and identity of the party. Now, in the 6 & 7 Vict, there was not a word enabling this country to give up a person, on certificate of conviction, on the ground that he had been convicted before. So far from the cases being identical, they were exactly the reverse. The treaties between England and France were the same as between England and Prussia; but Parliament had omitted the clause which was inserted in the present Bill. He should like to know what justification there was for putting into this Act a clause which had no effect between this country and other powers. The noble Lord had intimated that the treaty was the same, and that the Acts of Parliament were the same. Now, if any hon. Member could prove that the stipulations between this country and foreign countries were the same as in that case, he should be out of court; but he contended that the Bill pro- posed to give powers for the extradition of criminals which were not given in the case of France, and he for one was not disposed to extend the law in favour of Prussia.


said, that when the Attorney General, with that eloquence by which he was characterized, had talked in glowing terms of English principles and English justice, he could not help thinking that the American term "bunkum" might with great propriety be applied to his speech. The fact was that the Bill before the House had nothing to do with English principles or English justice, but rather with Prussian law and Prussian injustice. Political offenders were frequently condemned in their absence by foreign courts as they termed it par contumace, as was the case with M. Mazzini, who if he had been a Prussian might be delivered up on the following day under the operation of the Bill at the request of the Prussian Ambassador. That being the nature of the measure, he should offer it all the opposition in his power, believing it, as he did, to be a flagrant and atrocious violation of the right of asylum which was the boast of this country.


said, he would point out that the treaty between England and Prance, to which the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Seymour Fitzgerald) had adverted, was not that which was at present in force. The treaty to which the hon. Gentleman referred was that of 1843; whereas there was one of 1852, to which an Act giving effect had been passed in 1853.


As there appears to be some doubt about the treaties, I have no objection to the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.