HC Deb 12 June 1872 vol 211 cc1630-46

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the measure was a supplement to the Bill for the amendment of the jury system in Ireland which was passed last Session by Lord O'Hagan. In the drafting of that Bill some mistake had occurred which had hitherto rendered the Bill a dead letter, and another Bill was now before the House to give life and operation to the Act of last year. By that Act it was proposed to reform the qualification of jurors, to distribute more equally the duty of serving upon juries, and to purify the administration of justice by putting some check on the unlimited discretion of sheriffs in selecting and returning jury panels for the trial of civil and criminal cases. So far it was good; but it was defective in not dealing in any way with the monstrous and unjust practice which allowed the Crown an unlimited number of peremptory challenges. Before Lord O'Hagan's Act passed, the sub-sheriffs in Ireland had absolute discretion to return what names they pleased to serve on juries, with the exception that they were bound to take the names from the existing jurors' book, and the effect was, that in almost every case in which political or religious feelings were involved, objections had been raised that the jurors had been unfairly returned. The best remedy for that state of things would probably have been to confine sheriffs to the duty of summoning the jurors, and to leave the selection to be made by Ballot in open court; but this course was not adopted, and in lieu of it the Bill of last Session provided that the sheriff should return in future one juror from each letter in the alphabet in succession, going regularly through from first to last as often as occasion might require. This was, no doubt, a great improvement upon the present system; but time alone would tell whether it would carry out the object aimed at. His (Sir Colman O'Loghlen's) present Bill dealt with a most important matter—a matter which the Bill of his noble Friend in no way touched upon—the right of challenging jurors; and it was intended to provide that jurors in criminal trials in Ireland should henceforth be chosen, as in civil trials, by Ballot, and to abolish the power of the Crown in such trials to set aside jurors without cause assigned to an unlimited extent. Under the existing state of the law, in civil cases there was no right of peremptory challenge, and no juror could be challenged without cause. In criminal cases, however, the law was entirely different. The accused had the right of challenging a certain number of jurors peremptorily without assigning any cause, and in all criminal cases the Crown could challenge as many jurors as it pleased without assigning any cause. The whole system of challenging jurors was at present very anomalous; for a person charged with treason or felony was entitled to a challenge peremptorily, but a person charged with a misdemeanour was not Now, considering that in these days misdemeanours were punishable with penal servitude for 10 or 15 years, or even for life, he thought the right of peremptory challenge should be extended to misdemeanour as well as to felonies. In the case of the Tichborne Claimant, for instance, it was in the power of the Crown to try the prisoner either for a felony or for a misdemeanour; and, if tried for felony, he would be entitled to object to 20 jurors, whereas, if tried for misdemeanour, he could object to none at all. By an ordinance of Edward the First, it was intended to do away with the right of peremptory challenge on the part of the Crown which existed under the common law, and to compel the Crown whenever it challenged to assign a cause. Unfortunately, however, that ordinance subsequently received a judicial construction—especially from Chief Justice Pemberton, and other Judges of the 17th century, when the Bench was disgraced by men like Scroggs and Jeffreys—which had the effect of practically repealing it, and of giving the Crown an unlimited power of challenge. The object of his Bill, therefore, was to provide that, on all criminal trials, the Crown should have the same right of challenge only as the subject, and should not be allowed to bid jurors to stand by till the panel was gone through. The last time the question was raised in the Courts was in 1838, when, in Frost's trial, Sir Frederick Pollock, afterwards the Lord Chief Baron, asked the Court to set aside the old decisions of Charles II. as erroneous. On that occasion that distinguished lawyer drew the attention of the Court to the fact that the panel consisted of 240 names; that the challenges for cause, coupled with the 35 peremptory challenges to which the prisoner was restricted by the law, could hardly be expected to exceed 50; that deducting those 50 from the 240 names on the panel, there would remain 190 jurors, and that the Crown would have the right by postponing its challenges for cause to select precisely the 12 individuals out of the 190 that it might think most convenient for the administration of justice to select, and that thus the Crown would have the means of packing the jury. And, again, Sir Fitz Roy Kelly, the present Lord Chief Baron, on the same occasion, said that if their Lordships were to give their sanction to the doctrine contended for by the Crown, then the officers of the Crown would have the right to pack the jury and to select the 12 jurors that were to try the prisoners, and that he could hardly believe that, in a Court of Justice now-a-days, when the point was put forward and made intelligible to those who heard it discussed, the Officers of the Crown would stand up and defend so monstrous and unjust a claim. The Bill which he now asked the House to read a second time proposed that jurors in criminal as well as in civil cases should be selected by Ballot, and that the Crown should have just the same rights of challenge as the prisoner had and no more. He could not say exactly what was the practice in England; but he knew that in Ireland the excessive right of challenge on the part of the Crown had been most injurious to the proper administration of justice. In 1839 a Committee of the House of Lords was appointed to inquire into what was called "crime and outrage" in Ireland, when Judge Perrin, one of the most distinguished constitutional lawyers who ever sat on the Bench, gave evidence to the effect that the practice of setting aside jurors by the Crown was most disagreeable to the jurors personally, and that it was generally injurious to the administration of justice, by tending to create a feeling in the minds of the people that the verdict was not the result of a cool, deliberate, and impartial trial, but might have been affected by the opinion of particular individuals designedly put upon the jury, and by enabling the prosecutor, especially in misdemeanour cases, to set aside any jurors he pleased in order to prevent a vigilant, searching, impartial, and painstaking inquiry by persons whom he thought able and likely to institute it, if he thought his case an infirm one. The learned Judge further said that the practice amounted in many cases to packing the jury, and that he thought the names of the jurors should be drawn by Ballot as in civil cases, and that the right of peremptory challenge should be equal in the case of the prisoner and of the Crown. The learned Judge also said he had known many instances in Crown prosecutions where he thought the practice had been improperly and injuriously applied. In 1834, in a trial for the murder of a clergyman of the Established Church, arising out of the Tithe Agitation, a number of persons were set aside by the Crown. A Return of the names of the persons so set aside was made to Parliament on the Motion of the then hon. Member for Kildare, from which it appeared that a considerable number of persons were set aside who were principally Roman Catholics and persons who were connected with Roman Catholics by marriage. There was thus ample evidence that up to 1838 the power of the Crown in the matter of challenge was frequently abused, and he regretted to say that even up to the present time cases had occurred in which he himself had witnessed an abuse of that power. He had been present at most of the political trials of recent years, and he had seen many instances which seemed to show that the practice was still in force, and was capable of being put into force in all cases in which the feelings of the Irish people were excited. Those who at one time seemed to be very acute in their opposition to the practice, and who were aware of all the evils which resulted from it, lost their acuteness and changed their opinions when they became Attorney Generals for Ireland, as they then undertook the defence of the system which they had before condemned. In the language of Pope— Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet, seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace. He intended this measure as a supplement to Lord O'Hagan's Act, and he only regretted that the noble Lord had not had last year the courage to go a step further than he had done, and to have rendered his measure complete by embodying in it the proposals which were put forward in the present Bill, for he thought all must coincide with him in saying that it was an odious system which gave power to the Crown to pack juries as at present. Not only that, but as a matter of principle it was most important that the practice should be done away with, because it was calculated to make the people say when a fair trial had taken place, that the reverse was actually the case. If, as it had been said, a conviction could not be had in Ireland without packing juries, it would be better to abolish trial by jury there, and allow Judges in criminal cases, as in Election Petitions, to be Judges of law and of fact. He was happy to say that the English Law Officers of the Crown had introduced a Bill into that House, in which they proposed that jurors should be selected by Ballot in criminal as well as in civil cases, and to limit the number of peremptory challenges by the Crown to 24 as against 12 on the part of the prisoner. Under those circumstances, he could not see how it could be contended by the Government that a change in the law which would be beneficial to England would not be equally beneficial to Ireland. Although he was afraid that he should not be successful in carrying his Bill during the present year, he intended to divide the House on the Motion for its second reading, and if it were rejected he should bring it forward Session after Session until it became the law of the land. The right hon. and learned Baronet concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Colman O'Loghlen.)


said, he should have been glad had some other hon. Member risen to address the House upon this subject before he spoke upon the Bill on behalf of the Government—in the first place, because he was anxious to hear all that could be said in favour of the Bill; and, secondly, because he was the only Member of the Irish Government present on that occasion. As, however, no one had risen to support the Motion, he had to say on the part of the Government, that they could not assent to it, and he therefore hoped he should be able to satisfy the House that it would be inexpedient to read the Bill a second time that day. He was convinced that the measure could not become law during the present Session, and he deprecated the practice which had sprung up of reading Bills with the principle of which the House disagreed, a second time, when there was not the slightest chance of their ever being committed, merely, with the view of making things easy. Even if the House were to agree with the principle of the Bill, he thought the time had not yet arrived for the introduction of this measure. His right hon. and learned Friend said that the Government had passed a Jury Act last Session, and that it was a step in advance, and a great improvement in the law, but seemed surprised that it had not come into operation yet. No doubt, it was a great step in advance, but it could not come into operation until the first day of Hilary Term in 1873. There were provisions in the Act which would have enabled it to come into operation sooner; but, owing to an error, the City of Dublin could not be included in the Order in Council, which was a condition precedent to the Act coming into operation before the term he had mentioned. It was considered advisable, therefore, not to bring it into operation as to the rest of Ireland. His right hon. and learned Friend had alluded to his want of acuteness in not discovering certain points in connection with this subject; but he should recollect that the Bill came down to him from the House of Lords, where he (the Attorney General) supposed there was as much acuteness running to waste as there was in the House of Commons. Therefore, if he found fault with him for want of acuteness, he would have to find fault with others also. The Jury Act, it had been said, when it came into operation, would cause a great reform in the jury law. Reform was very much needed. He was of that opinion, both before he took office as Attorney General and now that he filled that office. He had forfeited none of his opinions upon the question for the purpose of taking office, as some hon. Gentlemen might think; and if he had to sacrifice any of his opinions in order to hold office, he would gladly give it up to-morrow. Turning to the arguments of his right hon. and learned Friend, what did the 19th section of the Jury Act provide? It provided that those who were to serve upon a jury panel should have their names drawn up in alphabetical order. The intention was, in fact, to have a sort of roster; when that was done, the list was made out, and constituted the panel. That was the mode of proceeding, and the sheriff was deprived of the objectionable power now possessed by him of selecting the jury. The right hon. and learned Member for Clare had coolly said that his Bill was a supplementary Bill to that of Lord O'Hagan's. It might be supplementary, but it was supplementary in such a manner as to do away altogether with the one to which it was supplementary. His right hon. and learned Friend had given them to understand that Lord O'Hagan was entirely of his opinion in this matter; but that, as he did not like to interfere with the Prerogative of the Crown, he had left it to be dealt with by a private Member. [Sir COLMAN O'LOGHLEN said, he did not for a moment mean to say that the Bill was proposed to him by Lord O'Hagan.] Well, then, his right hon. and learned Friend meant to say that Lord O'Hagan did not propose it to him, but left it lying about for any private Member to take up. ["No, no!"] Very well, let that pass. He would ask the House the question, were they never to have an end to legislation of the present kind? In Ireland, the House should remember, there was a public prosecutor, who represented the Crown in the conduct of prosecutions, except in very few instances, such as those of libel or private fraud. That, he contended, was a wise arrangement, because the Crown imposed the responsibility of the prosecution upon the Attorney General, who was a Member of the Administration, and therefore amenable to the Government for his conduct. There was no danger, therefore, of any abuse of the power now possessed, while in private prosecutions the power was taken away by the Act of 1871. It would be far better to leave matters as they stood at present, and wait and give the Act which would come into operation in 1873 a fair and impartial trial. There were too many little useless Bills like his right hon. and learned Friend's smuggled through the House at an early hour in the morning—indeed, Parliament had passed not less than 4,000 public statutes during the present reign—and he did not think the present Bill was any better on the ground that it was being discussed at half-past 1 in the afternoon instead of at the same hour in the morning. It was a Bill, moreover, which ought never to have been brought in, as there was a deliberate arrangement entered into last Session with respect to the jury laws. Had his right hon. and learned Friend thought fit to bring into effect such a principle as was proposed in his Bill, he should have moved it as an Amendment to Clause 24 of the Bill, to which he said it was supplemental; and it was no excuse for any hon. Member to say he was absent from the House when the Bill was in Committee. While that Bill was passing through the House not one of the Irish Members made the slightest suggestion with reference to an alteration of that clause. That great reform of the law relating to juries in Ireland, which was introduced by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland last year, passed through the House of Lords with the assent of the Law Lords and of the other Lords, and it passed through the House of Commons also in a friendly spirit. That Bill was a great settlement, which ought not to be disturbed by such a measure as this. His right hon. and learned Friend had referred to the Bill which the Attorney General had introduced with regard to juries in England. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) was anxious that the same laws which governed England should govern Ireland; but the most advanced Irish Member would admit that peculiar circumstances might require different legislation for the two countries. Moreover, the Bill introduced by his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland had not yet passed into law. It had gone before a Select Committee, of which he (the Attorney General for Ireland) was a Member. The Committee were endeavouring day after day to make it a perfect Bill, and he was anxious that, whatever was proposed for England might be extended to Ireland; but his right hon. and learned Friend must not suppose that that Bill had yet received the sanction of the Select Committee. If, when that Bill came from the Select Committee it should be found to contain principles which might be advantageous to Ireland, let them be extended to that country. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) contended that no case was made out for an alteration of the law; indeed, in some respects, the English Bill was less liberal than the Irish Act, for the Bill now before the Select Committee proposed that the qualification of a juror in England should be much higher than it was in Ireland by law at this moment. His right hon. and learned Friend wished that a jury should be taken by Ballot; well, the Bill introduced by Lord O'Hagan provided that a jury list should be prepared in alphabetical order, that, he contended, answered equally well. The Irish jury law tended to strengthen the confidence of all classes of the community in the juries selected; but he maintained that the Bill of his right hon. and learned Friend in that respect would not create such confidence; while with regard to the cases of injustice referred to, and the reference of his right hon. and learned Friend to Judge Perrin, in which he (the Attorney General for Ireland) coincided, as condemning them, they belonged to a past time, and did not arise under the present system. His right hon. and learned Friend had said much of challenging jurors, and so-called "packing" of juries; but his right hon. and learned Friend, who was second Serjeant-at-Law, and who was one of the Crown prosecutors in Ireland, had, if his statement was correct that agreeable duty to perform, for he was his (the Attorney General's) official deputy on the Munster Circuit, and he hoped his right hon. and learned Friend preached different doctrines when on circuit than he did in that House. But, of course, his right hon. and learned Friend had a right to say in that House what he liked for himself. He (the Attorney General for Ireland) believed that the Crown solicitors who had the management of such matters, had no desire but that of doing their duty irrespective of religion or politics; and the rules which governed them with reference to their dealing with jurors prevented them from taking exception to any juror on the ground of religion or politics. He hoped no person would think he was defending jury "packing." He objected to such a practice, and would never sanction it in any way. He knew that misrepresentations were frequently made to the people of Ireland of the course pursued by him in that House. Probably, the telegraphic wires would flash throughout Ireland with reference to his opposition to this Bill—"Dowse is at his old work again," meaning that he was taking a course opposed to the interests of the people of Ireland, but he was indifferent to such misrepresentations. His right hon and learned Friend said that Members of the Government advocated principles very different from those which they had advocated before they obtained office. Well, on that matter, he might observe that his right hon. and learned Friend was more lively now than when he sat on the Ministerial bench; but he disliked such a tu quoque argument. He denied that he now advocated any principle which he would not advocate if he were out of office. As long as he was in office he would not be a party to any measure prejudicial to the rights or interests of his fellow-countrymen; for he was as anxious as anyone to see the same laws for Ireland as for England; but he did not agree with those Irish Members who were constantly standing in the front shouting out in indifferent Latin—"Excelsior." The Bill of his right hon. and learned Friend sought to disturb the settlement of a great question, and had he known that there was a real desire to bring it on he would have put down an Amendment to it. That he had neglected to do so was for the reason he had given, but not because he was afraid to meet the question. He should now move that the Bill be read a second time upon that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Attorney General for Ireland.)


said, there was a great difference between the nature of crime committed in England and the nature of crime committed in Ireland. In England, generally speaking, crime was committed for the sake of personal revenge or plunder; but the principal portion of the crimes committed in Ireland were agrarian, and the offenders received a large amount of public sympathy. It was, therefore, the duty of the Government to take care that the persons charged with agrarian crimes in Ireland should be tried in such a way that if they were found guilty, there might be a fair prospect of their being convicted, and that at the same time innocent persons should have the protection of the law with regard to life and property. The Act passed last year with regard to juries in Ireland had gone far to remove any theoretical objections to the criminal law in that country, and he concurred with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland in thinking that the right hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Clare, instead of introducing this measure, ought to have dealt with this question when that Act was under the consideration of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had referred to the placarding of hon. Members as opponents of the people of Ireland, because they took an unpopular side, although in fact they advocated a course which they thought was beneficial to that country, Well, he (Mr. Bagwell) had spoken all his life for the people of Ireland, and on this occasion he had no objection to be described as a satellite of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.


said, he did not think that anything the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had said in opposition to this Bill called for a reply. The objection of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it was useless to read the Bill a second time, because there was no time to pass it through the subsequent stages, would apply equally to five-sixths of the Bills which were now among the Orders of the House; and, further, if the present was not the time for settling this question, when would that time come? Had the right hon. and learned Gentleman adduced a particle of evidence to show that the right of challenging 20 persons might not be safely conceded alike to the prisoner and to the Crown? Was it right, as under the present system, that a power should be given to the Crown of challenging every man on the jury list, until a jury that could be relied on to convict the prisoner was found? In his (Mr. Synan's) opinion, it was not; and he maintained it was the duty of Parliament to devise some system which would not lead the Irish people to the suspicion that juries were packed in order to procure a conviction. The right hon. and learned Gentleman contended that there was no reason to complain of the way in which juries were empannelled. But there was evidence in the the Blue Books of the House to show that juries in Ireland had been packed. His right hon. and learned Friend objected to the use of the word "packed." But Chief Barons Pollock and Kelly in England, and Judge Perrin in Ireland, had used the word. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had failed to show that on principle this Bill was objectionable, and he (Mr. Synan) denied there was any inconsistency in it, or that it was a repeal of the Act of Lord O'Hagan. His right hon. and learned Friend who had moved the second reading (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) had said that sooner than have the system of packing juries continued he would prefer to leave the prisoner in the hands of the Judge. In that he could not agree with his right hon. and learned Friend. If he saw Judges in Ireland conduct themselves with that discretion which his right hon. and learned Friend no doubt presupposed—if he saw them treat subjects from the Bench in the manner and with the language which as Judges they were bound to do, he might be reconciled to such a change. But bad as the present system was, he preferred that it should continue when he saw instances in which Judges brought their own passions, prejudices, and heat, to bear on the decision of questions. His right hon. and learned Friend was, moreover, willing to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, and therefore there ought to be no objection to read it a second time.


remarked that the question must be considered with regard to the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, and that it should be borne in mind that the Crown, in exercising the right of challenge, did so under a full sense of responsibility, with full publicity, and with the knowledge that the Ministers of the Crown were liable to be called to account in the House of Commons. The judicial system in Ireland was surrounded with difficulties, for owing to political and religious differences the administration of justice there and in this country could not be looked at altogether in the same way, and he had often been struck by the great moral courage shown by Irish juries in finding verdicts, sometimes at the hazard of their lives. If, however, as proposed, Parliament was to take away from the Crown the power of setting aside jurymen, it must be prepared to consider how long the unanimous finding of a verdict could be enforced, for it appeared to him contrary to nature to expect that 12 men, taking such opposite views of things as was usual in Ireland, should find unanimous verdicts. At present, it was no uncommon occurrence in that country that a man should be put on his trial, the witnesses undergo a long cross-examination, the Judge sum up impartially, and yet no verdict be returned after all. The prisoner was then sent back, and often tried a second, and sometimes a third time. He had in such cases often asked himself what was the good of trying a man over and over again? On the one hand, it seemed a pity that a man who in the opinion of everybody was guilty should escape punishment; but on the other, even if innocent, he did not escape, for heavy bail was required which could rarely be obtained, and the man really underwent a long imprisonment, though he had never been convicted. The Jury Bill of Lord O'Hagan which had been passed last year was, no doubt, in many respects an improvement; but there was one peculiarity in it to which his attention had been called by a sub-sheriff, and that was the provision for taking the names alphabetically. In some parts of the country there was a great number of Celtic names which began with the letters M and O, and the religion and politics of the people went all the same way. If one of the co-religionists of these men was put on his trial, and he happened to get into this series of names, he might have a great chance of acquittal, but, on the other hand, if he got into the Protestant series his chance might be very little. He would only add, that if the law on the subject was to be changed at all, it ought to be changed on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, and not on that of a private Member; and when Government were of opinion that this power of challenge—which he disliked extremely—could be got rid of, he would be the first to vote for it. Remembering, however, the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, he should in this instance feel obliged to support the Amendment.


, in support of the Bill, said, that the object of the Bill was to secure a fair jury impartially chosen, and what was wanted was not only a jury which should be fairly and impartially chosen, but which would be recognized as such by the people of Ireland, so that no Irishman could say that anything unfair had been done. There was no doubt that persons whose guilt was as clear as noonday had at times been acquitted in Ireland, and that took place under the present system. But if justice could not be administered, and the law enforced by means of juries impartially chosen, it would be better that even guilty persons should escape conviction rather than that the constitutional form of justice should be strained in order to insure a conviction. If the jury system would not work when impartially administered, some other means of enforcing the law must be resorted to. It was better, when occasion required it, and the necessity was shown, to set aside the Constitution for a time, rather than to strain it habitually. He regretted to say that the administration of justice had long been regarded in Ireland as a contest carried on between two parties, or as a hostile proceeding, and therefore it was of the greatest importance that everything that was done should have the moral advantage of being above suspicion.


said, it had often been stated that there was a rooted belief in the minds of the people of Ireland that justice was not impartially administered. Whether that belief was well or ill-founded—whatever could be done to remove it would be for the benefit of the Empire at large, and it was therefore the duty of the Government to introduce some reform in the administration of justice in its initiatory forms. This Bill did not propose to deprive the Crown of the right of challenge, but only to place both sides on an equality, to allow the Crown 20 challenges, or whatever number might be considered right, and the prisoner as many. When it was remembered that for the future jurors were to be taken from the lists in alphabetical order, an equal power of challenge might be conceded to the prisoner without the smallest fear that the object of the prosecution would be frustrated. The object of a prosecution should be not to obtain a conviction, but to ensure that an innocent man should not be unjustly convicted, and that in all cases in which verdicts of guilty were brought home to the accused, those verdicts should carry with them the weight of public opinion. If a failure of justice sometimes occurred, the Judges were not always free from blame, and there was an impression that in some instances they acted too much like partizans. He therefore trusted the House would read the Bill a second time.


said, he thought the Bill ought to be considered quite apart from all party considerations, and having done so, he had come to the conclusion that he ought to support the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, because there was no proof that the present law had worked injustice in Ireland.


said, he hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland would allow the Bill to be read a second time and referred to the same Select Committee which was considering the English measure, for there could be no doubt that considerable distrust was felt in Ireland in the administration of the criminal law, owing to the present jury system. The failure to secure convictions was sometimes attributed to the juries; but that was both incorrect and unjust, for Sir Joseph Napier stated before the Select Committee of 1855 that the real cause of the failure was often the slovenly, slobbering manner in which cases were presented by the Crown Prosecutor. He moreover knew of no circumstances which should justify one law on this subject in Ireland and another in England.


said, the principle of the Bill was admitted by the Law Officers of the Crown in England, and the House ought to require some ingenious arguments and strong facts for refusing to apply the same system to Ireland. In case of a strong feeling against the Crown in a particular district, the Attorney General had power to change the venue, and that rendered it all the less necessary to preserve the present right of challenge by the Crown.


said, that in the South of Ireland great dissatisfaction existed with the present state of things, and it was felt that there was nothing more necessary than a reform of the law, for loyal Catholics there had been over and over again offended by the arbitrary order to "stand aside" as jurors. He had himself known instances in which the jury panel was manipulated in the most scandalous manner, and afterwards Catholics left on it were challenged by the Crown, and their feelings grossly insulted by this outrage. As to the Irish Judges he had a longer experience of Ireland than his hon. Friend (Mr. Mitchell Henry), and believed that, as a rule, the Irish Judges laid aside the advocate the moment they assumed the ermine. Men previously known as eager advocates, and in this House as keen partizans, became on the Bench fair and impartial in the administration of justice. He might mention the name of Chief Justice Whiteside, who was a keen partizan here, but whom he had seen conducting himself on the Bench with great dignity, moderation, and impartiality. He could say the same of many others. ["No, no!"] He maintained that the Irish Judges, as a rule, conducted themselves with as much decorum, gravity, and dignity, and with as great a desire to administer the law impartially, as the Judges in England. But, unhappily, there were exceptions, or, he might say, there was an exception, which proved the rule, though the rule made that exception more scandalous. He hoped the House would take away from the Crown the fatal and flagrant power exercised by subordinates of removing jurymen from the panel, and of making a most offensive distinction between one class of religionists and another, for it would be infinitely better that at every Assizes the Crown should fail to secure a conviction, than that the impression should go abroad that convictions were brought about by this right of challenge, or rather the abuse of this right of challenge.


, in explanation, said, he had not cast imputations on the great body of the Irish Judges; but he had referred to the belief entertained in Ireland that there were Judges who forgot that they ceased to be advocates when they went upon the Bench. He could refer to trials in which juries had acquitted prisoners in consequence of the vehemence of the charges of the Judges.


, in reply, said, he should be quite willing to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, or else defer further progress with the Bill until the English Jury Bill was reported.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:— Ayes 28; Noes 165: Majority 137.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for three months.