HC Deb 13 June 1873 vol 216 cc959-62

who had given Notice to move— That in the case of 'The Queen v. Castro, alias Tichborne,' 'Copies be produced of the Application to the Lords of the Treasury for aid to the Defendant, and of the Reply thereto; of the Correspondence between Mr. Whalley, M.P., and the Solicitor to the Treasury on the subject of the said prosecution; and for a Return of the sums allowed by the Treasury in respect of Fees to Counsel and other expenses incurred by prisoners in Ireland during the last ten years, said, he would avail himself of that opportunity to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary a Question of which he had given him private Notice. He could not give Notice on the Paper, because it arose out of a communication which had been made to him since the House met. The right hon. Gentleman had informed him, that he should oppose the Motion which stood on the Paper, and he knew it was hopeless to expect that against such opposition, he should succeed in obtaining the Returns. The Tichborne prosecution had now proceeded for near 40 days, and it was stated in the report of the proceedings, that the evidence against the defendant would probably occupy the Court for at least three weeks to come. That prosecution was carried on upon the sole responsibility and management of the right hon. Gentleman as he had himself informed Parliament; and whatever else might be in doubt, it was certain that the public expenditure was something enormous, more probably than the cost of all the other public prosecutions for an entire year. Now, he desired to know on what grounds it was that the right hon. Gentleman considered himself justified in subjecting the country to this enormous outlay. The right hon. Gentleman was, no doubt, well satisfied that the defendant was not the person he had sworn himself to be, and that he was guilty of the offence of perjury for which he was at present under trial. If anyone should entertain a contrary opinion, whether derived from his own personal knowledge, or from reading the report of the proceedings, he was not at liberty to give public expression to it; the most flagrant of all the forms in which the Court discovered that it was treated with contempt having been declared by the Judges to be the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow), that he believed, in spite of the evidence, that the defendant was not guilty. Now, he asked, if that was so, what was the reason for that interminable calling of witnesses? What was the reason for bringing witnesses, at a cost of £500 a-piece, from the end of the earth, when they found in the tattoo-marks, and the evidence of officers and others, conclusive testimony that the defendant was not Tichborne? He considered he was entitled to demand, on the part of the public, at whose cost this extraordinary trial was then going on?


rose to Order. He submitted that it was a most improper proceeding to criticize matters connected with a trial then going on.


The hon. Gentleman is certainly out of Order, in discussing proceedings that are at this time sub judice.


said, he would, after that ruling, discuss the conduct of Her Majesty's Government and the prosecution. He had often asked before, on what ground it was that the Government, if they found it necessary in the first place to take up the prosecution in relief of the parties directly injured by this imposition, and who could and ought to have exposed and punished it within a month of the man's appearance in this country—if he were an impostor—why, he repeated, having so taken it up, should they ransack the whole world for circumstantial and secondary evidence, when the Judge of the Common Pleas and the jury at whose instance they did not take it up, were satisfied with the half-dozen witnesses who spoke to the tattoo marks? Now, the Government, though repeatedly asked, had never given the slightest information on that point, and he considered that every day the trial proceeded justified any Member of that House in demanding again and again such explanation. He now came, however, to the question that still more urgently demanded attention and reply. He had on several occasions urged upon Government the necessity of satisfying the public that the defendant would have a fair trial, and that that could not be unless he was enabled to bring forward such evidence as he might have to offer in his defence, and in support of that appeal he had again placed on the Paper Notice of Motion for certain Returns which bore upon the statements of the right hon. Gentleman and of his Department as to the practice of the Government in respect of the provision for the cost of witnesses, &c., to persons in the position of the defendant.


I have again to explain to the hon. Gentleman, that it is entirely out of Order to discuss the proceedings of a trial now at issue in the Court of Queen's Bench.


If the Government were advised that the guilt of the defendant was as clear as those witnesses declared it to be, what need existed for all that vast expenditure, and such prolongation of the trial as deranged the administration of justice and was a scandal and a discredit to our judicial procedure? And if the right hon. Gentleman should reply to that, that it was necessary, in order to meet and anticipate the case which the defendant might be enabled to set up in reply, he asked whether every day and every hour and every witness that was called against him, did not strengthen the appeal that he should not be deprived—as he had been by the past course of proceedings, and was more and more so by every hour his trial was prolonged—of the means of offering such defence. The right hon. Gentleman knew, or might know, that above 500 witnesses had already declared on oath that he was Tichborne, but not one of them could be brought before the Court and jury unless he had money for that purpose, and he had none, and the Papers that he had asked to be laid on the Table of that House, and which the right hon. Gentleman refused to produce, went to establish the fact that the Government did know that he had material evidence to bring forward, and that he could not do so in consequence of the course which they had taken against him without precedent, as the right hon. Gentleman had admitted, in its hardship, practical injustice, and cruelty. For that purpose, he repeated, he ventured to put on the Paper a Motion for the Return of expenses voted for murderers and traitors in Ireland—deeper-dyed criminals than the Claimant was alleged to be. Was it without precedent that the public money should be granted for the defence of persons in the position of the Claimant? The hon. Member concluded by moving for the Copies of Correspondence referred to in his Notice.


rose to Order. The hon. Gentleman was not now criticizing the proceedings of the Government but the conduct of a trial not yet finished.


said, he would briefly explain why he refused the Returns. In Ireland, in capital cases, it had been the practice for the Government to provide counsel for the prisoners and pay them; but that had never been done in this country.


here interrupted the right hon. Gentleman, and called attention to the fact that the hon. Member for Peterborough had concluded his address with an inquiry whether a Return would be granted for which he had given Notice that he would move. It was irregular thus to anticipate under cover of a Question on going into Committee of Supply, the discussion of a Motion which was set down for future consideration.

Motion agreed to. Copies ordered, "of the Application to the Lords of the Treasury for aid to the Defendant in the case of Queen v. Castro alias Tichborne, and of the Reply thereto: And, of the Correspondence between Mr. Whalley, M.P., and the Solicitor to the Treasury, on the subject of the said prosecution."—(Mr. Whalley.)