HC Deb 03 August 1877 vol 236 cc410-6

(Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)

COMMITTEE. [Progress 24th July.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 68 to 82, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 83 (Fixing and collection of fees and stamp duties).


(for the O'Conor Don) moved in page 34, line 36, at end, to add— Provided always, That all Stamp Duties levied under the authority of this, or any of the other aforesaid Acts, shall be regulated on the ad valorem principle and in proportion to the value of the property sought to be recovered, or for which a civil bill decree is granted.


said, he could not accept the precise words of the Amendment, but he should accept it substantially on the Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 84 and 85 agreed to.

Clause 86 (Recorders).


moved, in page 38, line 19, to leave out "two thousand five hundred," and insert "three thousand."


asked the right hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 87 and 88 agreed to.

Clause 89 (Transfer of chairmen).


moved the omission of the Clause.

Motion agreed to.

Clause struck out.

Clause 90, 91, and 92 agreed to.

Clause 93 (Certain chairmen not to practise).


moved to omit the clause, which provided that— No person who after the passing of this Act shall be appointed chairman of any county or of any permanent union of counties shall practise at the bar, or as a special pleader, or equity draftsman, or be directly or indirectly concerned as a conveyancer, notary public, solicitor, or attorney. The Civil Bill Courts in Ireland commanded public esteem, and he ascribed their success to the fact that the Judges of the Court were practising barristers, and were never withdrawn from their practice. Those who sought to establish a new system relied upon the fact that the Courts had worked badly up to the present time. It would be very injurious if these gentlemen were taken away from access to the Four Courts Library, and from influence of the Bar in these Courts. The check of the opinion of the Bar was a most valuable one upon the decisions of the Chairman of Quarter Sessions. Nor was that all. It was most desirable that a Judge should keep up his legal reading, and that he should not go down to the country entirely isolated from contact with his own Profession to administer a sort of rough-and-ready justice amongst the laymen. Moreover, a large number of cases coming before their Courts were land cases, and it was impossible for the Chairmen to command the confidence of the poor if they were seen to be living and familiarly associating with the gentry of the county. Of course, if they lived in the county and associated with the upper classes, as they would do if dissociated from practice and their Profession, their impartiality would command far less confidence than at present. He thought it most undesirable that they should be thus dissociated and be thus exposed to local influences, and for that reason he moved the omission of the clause.

Amendment proposed, to leave out Clause 93.—(Mr. Meldon.)


said, he had never found that any inconvenience had arisen from Irish County Chairmen, he would not say practising, but continuing in attendance on the Four Courts. No doubt, the English County Court Judges were prohibited from practice; but the sheriffs depute of Scotland retained their practice, and it was even made a condition of their tenure of office that they should continue in attendance on the Courts of Session in Edinburgh. The analogy of Scotland was much more pertinent to Ireland than that of England, because in England there were no land cases, nor were there any criminal cases coming before the English County Court Judges, as there were before the Irish Chairmen and the sheriffs depute in Scotland. What sort of confidence, he might ask, would tenants feel in the decisions of Judges who had dined the day before with the landlord? Or how could they be sure that proper confidence would be felt in the decision of a Judge resident in a district and exposed to local influence in the case of a party riot, which would unfortunately happen again as it had happened before? Let the Judge go, as now, into the country to do his work, and when that was done, let him return to his usual practice in Dublin. He would support the Motion for the rejection of the clause.


said, that he trusted the Government would assent to the omission of the clause. He thought that it was desirable to protect the Judges in Ireland as much as possible from the suspicion of being influenced by local circumstances. And as the result of this clause would be to expose them to that suspicion, he trusted that the Government would consent to its omission.


said, that although the Scotch sheriffs and their substitutes were at one time required to attend the Courts in Edinburgh, this obligation was no longer imposed on them.


supported the clause. He contended that the true analogy for the Irish Chairmen was the English County Court Judges, who were prohibited from private practice.


observed that if the principle of the clause were carried out, there would be nothing to prevent the Judge of one Superior Court practising in another.


hoped the Government would abide by the clause, and ridiculed the idea that an assistant barrister could be bribed by a dinner given to him by a country gentleman.


said, these gentlemen were not getting one single penny in addition to their salaries, but were getting a very large amount of additional labour. The Chairman in the West Riding of Cork dined with no man, and he did so upon the ground that he felt he ought to be above suspicion. He had asked him to dine with him, and the Chairman had invariably refused, his feeling being that he ought to be above suspicion of taking a bribe. That was the feeling of the Chairmen in Ireland themselves, and the majority of the Chairmen in Ireland would not dine with any country gentleman. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Charles Lewis) seemed to think that that was an argument in favour of the clause. He also said that when County Court Judges sat at table, they sat with the magistrates among whom they were working. They were sitting with them, acting with them, deciding with them, and passing judgment with them. Was that the case in England? The county Court Judge of England made acquaintance with the gentlemen in the county, and that was also the case in Ireland. He, however, supported the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kildare upon different grounds. If this Bill became law, he defied any first-class Chairman to discharge the duties of the county and also practise. He thought the effect of the clause would be that if they excluded the County Court Chairman from practising it would come to this—they would be dissociated altogether from the Bar. He thought the Attorney General for Ireland would do well if he would eliminate the clause from the Bill.


could not see the force of the arguments adduced by the hon. Member who had last spoken. The Chairmen must live somewhere and dine somewhere; if they did not keep houses and did not dine with the landed proprietors, then they must dine at hotels, where they would meet with the farmer class, and the same objection might be taken with equal justice against their dining with the farmers.


observed that the greatest dressing he ever received in respect to his duties as a landlord was from the Chairman of his own county, and yet that gentleman had frequently dined with him,


could not see why the clause should be retained.


thought it of considerable importance that the County Chairmen should be kept au courant with the changes of the law.

Captain NOLAN

pointed out that the Chairmen ought to be above the suspicion of taking a bribe. The adoption of the clause would have the effect of cutting off, or rather preventing, the Chairmen from having any association with each other, or consulting together over points of importance certain to spring up in the course of their jurisdiction.


hoped the Government would not accept the Amendment. There was little fear that a Chairman would cut himself off entirely from legal opinions; but the habits of the Bar were certainly not those to bring on to the Bench. If these gentlemen, though sitting on the Bench at other times, were in the habit of receiving large fees from parties, it would be impossible for them altogether to free themselves from the influence of pounds, shillings, and pence.


argued against any change in the existing system. There were many gentlemen whose decisions were accepted and generally quoted with the greatest confidence, and carried as much weight as the decisions of any Judge on the Bench.


in supporting the clause, said, much had been said on both sides for and against it, and had been well said; but the best course the Committee could adopt was to retain the clause. They were now trying to establish a new system of Judicature in Ireland, and by the provisions of the Bill the Chairmen of the County Courts would receive £1,400 a-year each. In his opinion there need not be any apprehension that the Judges, in associating with the magistrates and country gentlemen, would in any way be influenced by their decisions.


said, the clause meant this—It was proposed that eight Judges should retire on pensions of £1,050 a-year, and that new Judges should be appointed at £1,400 a-year each. He considered the arrangement bad, and he hoped the clause would be rejected.

Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 105; Noes 32: Majority 73.—(Div. List, No. 299.)


moved the following clauses:— (Extension of jurisdiction of sec. 5 of Act 22 Vic. c. 14.) The fifth section of the Act twenty-second Victoria, chapter fourteen, shall be read and construed as if the words ten pounds were therein substituted for the words two pounds, wherever the words two pounds occur therein, and the jurisdictions thereby conferred shall be extended accordingly. Under the Act he had mentioned the jurisdiction of the petty sessions was extended to the recovery of small debts not exceeding £2, and to the extent of £10 in certain cases of dispute between master and servant, and of £5 in sales in markets or fairs. The extension of the jurisdiction to £10 would be a great convenience and saving of expense to both debtors and creditors in the small towns of Ireland.


opposed the clause, remarking that he believed a more disastrous change in the law was never proposed. If his hon. Friend who had moved the clause only looked at the Returns which had been made to the House he would see that it was a remarkable fact that the people of Ireland did not make use of the jurisdiction which was now vested in the Petty Sessions Courts. Was it to be expected that unpaid magistrates would give their time to do the work for which the County Chairman were now paid?

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule D.


moved, in page 46, line 5, to leave out " £1,200," and insert "£1,300." Page 46, line 6, to leave out " £1,100," and insert " £1,200."


hoped the Committee would not agree to increase the salaries of those gentlemen. Their offices were sinecures, the little work there was to do being done by deputies.


said, that this was the largest creation of new places that had taken place for some time, even in Ireland. He thought it would have been better to have abolished the office of Clerk of the Crown and Peace and substituted the officer who did the duty in England—namely, the Clerk of Arraigns. He would not vote for any increase in any of those Votes.


said, the duty of the Clerk of the Peace in Tipperary was performed by deputy.


hoped the Government would stand by their Schedule.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. CHARLES LEWIS moved, in page 46, line 19, to leave out "900," and insert "1,000."


said he could not accept the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved in page 46, line 34, to to leave out "£600" and insert "£700."

Amendment negatived.

Schedule agreed to.

Schedule E agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.