HC Deb 21 March 1870 vol 200 cc326-8

said, he wished to ask the Solicitor General, Whether it is true that the Record has been withdrawn in the case of the contemplated trial for bribery at Beverley; and, if so, under what circumstances; or whether the trial has been postponed; and, if so, till when?


Sir, I am glad to answer the Question, as I was to have conducted the prosecution at York. The facts are, as my right hon. Friend has stated. The record has been withdrawn, and the trial has been postponed under these circumstances—When the learned Judges were at Lincoln, I placed myself in communication with Mr. Justice Smith, to appoint a day for the trial of the Beverley bribery cases. He sent me a letter in reply, explaining that, after the days for the circuit had been fixed—and a longer time I than usual had been allowed to York on account of the Beverley eases—the Thorncliffe rioters had been committed for trial to the number of twenty-three, all of whom would be strongly defended, and almost all of whom had, when before the magistrate, called witnesses to prove an alibi. That case was certain to last a long time, and in consequence Baron Cleasby would certainly have to assist him in the criminal court. Upon the receipt of that letter, I directed that the earliest possible application should be made to the Judge when at York to fix a day. It was done, and he refused to do so, but directed Mr. Overend to renew the application. I have the notes of what passed in court on the second application; but it will be sufficient to state that Mr. Baron Cleasby declared himself entirely unable to fix a day, but that the course to be adopted by the Crown was perfectly clear. Mr. Overend telegraphed to know if he had not better withdraw the record; and it was obvious that unless that had been done an enormous amount of expense and inconvenience would have been occasioned, not only to the Crown, but also to the defendants, without any result. It seemed, therefore, that the fairest thing to be done was to withdraw the record, and to give immediate notice to the defendants and to the witnesses of the course that had been taken. After it had been done, it occurred to me whether it would not be possible to try the case at Leeds, which had lately been made an assize town for Yorkshire. But upon looking to the Order in Council it was found that although indictments could be moved from York to Leeds by order of the Judge, an information could only be so removed by order of the court in which it was filed. That court is the Court of Queen's Bench; but that court can only act as a court in term, and it is not now sitting. I may add that I have received this morning a letter from Mr. Justice Smith, in which he says that he is very glad that we took the course of withdrawing the record, because he was then trying only the first batch of the Thorncliffe rioters, and that a number of remanets would certainly have to be made. It is with great regret that we have felt the necessity of postponing the trial, which will now come on in the ordinary course, in summer; but, if there is any desire on the part of the defendants to expedite it, and to bring it on sooner in London, the Law Officers of the Crown will offer no objection to that course being taken.


said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had received private notice of a Question which he had intended to put on Tuesday, but which he might, perhaps, be allowed to ask now; and it was, whether there will be any objection, on the part of the Crown, to re-entering the trial, so that it might be held at York immediately after the conclusion of the Leeds Assizes?


I am not aware that there is any objection, on the part of the Crown, to that course; but as my hon. and learned Friend is aware, the record cannot be replaced except by consent, and by the leave of the Judge; and, knowing what I do of the state of business at the York Assizes, it seems very unlikely that that leave would be given.