HC Deb 05 March 1877 vol 232 cc1363-5

asked Her Majesty's Government, Whether their attention has been called to the refusal of costs of prosecution by Lord Coleridge on the conviction of three men for night poaching, when he is reported in the "Times" to have said— That it was the first occasion any such application had been made to him, and he hoped it would be the last, for he certainly never should order the costs in any such case. He wished it to be distinctly understood that he was only following the dicta of eminent Judges. The law ought undoubtedly to be enforced, but as the law protected the amusements of rich people, they must pay for its enforcement. If he would inform the House what are the dicta on which Lord Coleridge relies, and who are the Judges who have uttered them; and, whether this doctrine is in conformity with the Law of the land?


Sir, as I, of course, have no jurisdiction in the matter, I think the best thing I can do is to read to the House a letter which I have received from the noble Lord for that purpose— Sir, I am much obliged to you for calling my attention to Sir Charles Legard's Question, of which I should have been otherwise entirely unaware, for that Gentleman has not extended to me what I think is the usual courtesy, when such Questions are intended to be made, of inquiring whether the words to be made the subject of question or comment were used, in fact, by the person to whom they were ascribed. Of the general accuracy of the report quoted from The Times I have no reason to complain; I did not, however, use the word 'dicta,' but the word 'practice,' which makes some difference. As far as I know, there are no dicta on the subject; nor is it likely, from the nature of the case that there should be. I spoke of the practice of Judges, and the Judges I had in my mind at the time I spoke were Justices Maule, Erskine, Patteson, and my own father. I believe, as a matter of fact, the list might be largely extended, but these are enough. I did not, however, and do not, wish to shield myself under any authority, however venerable. I acted according to law, with, I hope, a proper sense of duty, on my own sole responsibility, and (disclaiming offence) I must add that I am not accountable for my acts to any Member of the House of Commons. A letter addressed to the Secretary of State to be read in the House of Commons is not, I think, a convenient medium for any discussion of the general question; but, by law, the costs in prosecutions for breaches of the Game Laws cannot, without the authority of the Judge, be inflicted on the ratepayers; and the offence tried before me at Durham is an offence which, by law, justices of the peace cannot try. The experience of other men may be different, but this was the first occasion on which any attempt has been made before me to inflict the costs of such a prosecution upon the ratepayers. I refused them, and shall probably continue to refuse them, upon grounds which appear to me conclusive, but with the statement of which I do not think it necessary to trouble you or the House of Commons.


intimated that, on the earliest opportunity, he would call attention to the subject and move a resolution.