HC Deb 03 July 1871 vol 207 cc995-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether, having regard to the exceptional magnitude of the case Tichborne v. Lushington, now being tried before the Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas, and the advanced age of several very important witnesses, and in consideration of the opinion given, and the regret expressed by the learned Judge on the 20th instant, that a legal disability would prevent the possibility of the Court of Common Pleas continuing that trial after the 10th of August next, whether he has considered if the ends of justice might not be advanced by the introduction of a Bill to authorize that court to sit if necessary during the Long Vacation until the conclusion of the trial; and, whether Her Majesty's Government is prepared to introduce such a Bill, or if introduced by a private Member, to support it?


Sir, the Government have been in communication with the learned Judge who presides over the trial, and the Lord Chancellor, towards the end of last week, requested the opinion of the Chief Justice as to whether it was necessary an Act of Parliament should be passed in order to enable the Court to sit during the Long Vacation. The Chief Justice wrote an answer to the Lord Chancellor which the learned Judge asked me to read in substance to the House. He says— That he was fully sensible of the evils which might probably arise from the adjournment of the Tichborne trial, adding that if the parties were desirous it should be continued during the vacation, he would be prepared to sacrifice his own rest and comfort in this respect, as he had already done in other things, and to continue sitting as long as his health would permit. Not only, however, had no such wish been expressed to him on behalf of either party, but the counsel who represented them had most unequivocally stated their wishes to the contrary. Unless they and the jury were willing to concur it would be impracticable to continue sitting, and therefore it seemed to him (the Lord Chief Justice) practically useless to attempt the special legislation which the Lord Chancellor proposed in this case. The Lord Chief Justice added that his health had already given way under the pressure of the case, and that it was only the care of his physician which enabled him for the present to bear the continued strain and exhaustion of this protracted trial, and after having been at work almost continuously since the 2nd of November, and given up for this case his few days' rest at Whitsuntide, he felt that there was little probability of his being physically able to continue sitting for any lengthened further period. On Saturday last I wrote to the Chief Justice, referring to the statement which appeared in the paper with reference to the power of the Government to make arrangements to enable his Lordship to continue his sitting from the 10th of July to the 10th of August, which, of course, would require no Act of Parliament. The Chief Justice addressed to me a letter, which he has also requested me to read to the House. He says— In answer to your letter of yesterday, which did not reach me until late last evening, I beg to state that if there had been the slightest prospect of the Tichborne trial being concluded by my remaining in London instead of going to the assizes, or if there had been any other sufficient grounds, and an application had been made to me by the counsel to continue sitting during the period of the circuit, I should not have hesitated to have submitted the matter for your consideration. It would then have rested with you to determine whether you thought it right under the circumstances that some arrangements should be made by which I should be relieved from the circuit and fresh commissions should be issued for some other Judge or a Commissioner to take the assizes in my place. Of course, I should not have ventured to make such an application to you except upon the strongest grounds, involving, as it would have done, much trouble and expense, as well as throwing my work upon some one else, and also involving the necessity of the Government providing for the expenses of the circuit, which would probably not be much less than £300. Having ascertained, however, that there was no chance of the trial being concluded by such a course being adopted, and the counsel representing both parties to the cause having distinctly stated that they desired the adjournment to take place about the 10th of this month, the adjournment was fixed for that time, and with the concurrence of the jury. I feel that I have no other course to pursue than to carry out that arrangement, and I have, therefore, not made, and do not now make, any application to you, or express any desire upon the subject. I may add, that if all the parties interested, including the litigants, their counsel, and the jury, were now desirous of having the arrangement altered, and you were willing to make the necessary arrangements for supplying my place upon the circuit, I should be prepared to endeavour, as far as my strength would permit, to carry out any fresh arrangement that might be agreed upon, and quite regardless of my own personal comfort and convenience; but I have received no intimation whatever of such a general concurrence that would justify me in making an application to you, or in attempting to alter the arrangements which have been made with the consent and, indeed, upon the application, of the counsel for both parties. Under the circumstances, the Government are of opinion that no legal obstruction should, either in this or any similar case, be allowed to interrupt the progress of a trial involving enormous cost and inconvenience. A Bill will therefore be introduced repealing the 95th clause of the Common Law Procedure Act, 1854, to enable the superior Courts to appoint a sitting during the Long Vacation from the 10th of August to the 24th of October.