HC Deb 01 May 1879 vol 245 cc1562-6

[Progress 28th April.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 3 (Establishment of office of Solicitor for Public Prosecutions).

Amendment proposed, In page 2, at the end of the Clause, to add the words "No Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions shall be appointed for any longer term than five years; but any person vacating his office by reason of this provision may be re-appointed."—(Mr. Rathbone.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


said, he should certainly oppose the Amendment.


said, the Amendment was proposed merely pro formâ to be negatived, and the words "seven years" substituted.

Amendment negatived.


moved to add these words to the end of the clause— No such Director of Public Prosecutions shall be appointed for any longer term than seven years; but any person vacating his office by virtue of this provision may be reappointed.


pointed out that in another part of the Bill there was a clause requiring these Directors or Assistant Directors to give their whole time to their duties. But if a barrister or a solicitor gave up his practice to take this appointment, and at the end of seven years was to be thrown on his own resources, it would be very hard on him, for he would have lost his practice entirely. If a man were allowed to keep his practice, he could understand the Amendment; but, on the other hand, he thought it was most unfair to ask a man to give up everything to take the ap- pointment, with the risk that at the end of seven years he would be thrown upon the world.


thought the Amendment very fair. Any man who was appointed who did his duty properly would certainly be re-appointed; but, on the other hand, it was very desirable to retain this power, in order to prevent a person from obtaining a vested interest in his office simply because he had once been appointed to it. The only objection to the Amendment would be that it would prevent them from getting thoroughly efficient men, and he did not think there would be any difficulty about that.


pointed out that the Amendment distinctly made the officer eligible for re-appointment, and he was sure that no public servant was ever dismissed except on public grounds. No person, once appointed, would be dismissed, unless there was a bonâ fide reason for the dismissal.


reminded the Committee that whoever accepted the office accepted it under conditions which would be perfectly well known to him beforehand.


was of opinion that a good deal depended upon the salary, which was not yet fixed.


replied, that it would be £1,000 annually.


considered the salary to be given a very important point. Of course, they could get good men if they paid them well; but it was an objectionable feature that the whole of the regulations under the Bill were to be made by the Attorney General. He had the highest personal and professional respect for the present Attorney General; but still he thought they ought to know something about the arrangements which were contemplated. Were the Assistants to be one for a county and one for a be rough, or what? Again, when it was said that they were to have good men, at a good salary, that depended in a great measure upon what work they were to do. If there was to be one Assistant only for each county, it might be worth their while to give that Assistant a good salary; but could they do it if there was to be one for each be rough? Barristers, of course, would not take appointments of this sort, and even to solicitors in good practice, respectable men, they would have to give a very good salary to induce them to take such a situation. In ordinary boroughs he could not conceive that there would be sufficient work to enable them to pay a fair salary, or if they did pay a fail-salary, it would constitute an enormous charge on the Consolidated Fund. If they knew what the regulations were going to be, they could deal much better with the Bill; but at present they did not know anything of them. The Bill was a mere skeleton Bill. What was to be done, for instance, in be roughs like Bristol, Plymouth, and Devonport? One Assistant would be enough, but in places like Liverpool they would want two or three.


said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cole) had declared that he had no notion how many persons were to be appointed under the Bill. He would point out to him that, in a former sitting of the Committee, words had been put in the Bill showing the number of persons to be appointed—namely, one head-man, and six under him. They had also inserted in the Bill the salary to be paid the head officer, and the hon. and learned Member would find that it had been fixed at a sum not to exceed £2,000 a-year. The salaries to be paid to the persons under the chief officer would be graduated by a scale similar to that. The hon. and learned Member also complained that he had not the slightest notion what duties these officers would have to perform. With regard to that matter, at the instance of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Durham (Mr. Herschell), a clause had been inserted defining those duties, and expressly indicating the way in which the duties were to be performed.


understood that on the occasion to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded, when the Bill was in Committee, it was between 1 and 2 o'clock in the morning, and no notice had been given of any of these Amendments now said to have been made. Certainly, he thought that such important Amendments as had been mentioned to him ought to have appeared in the Orders of the Day or have been reprinted in the Bill.

Amendment agreed to; words inserted accordingly.

Clause, as amended, agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4 (Delivery of recognizances, inquisitions, &c, to Solicitor for Public Prosecutions).

On the Motion of Mr. ASSHETON CROSS, the following Amendments were made:—

In page 2, line 9, leave out "Solicitor for," and insert "Director of;" page 2, line 14, leave out "Solicitor," and insert "Director;" page 2, line 18, leave out "Solicitor," and insert "Director;" page 2, line 20, insert as a separate paragraph— It shall be the duty of every clerk to a Justice or to a Police Court to transmit, in accordance with the regulations under this Act, to the Director of Public Prosecutions, a copy of the information and of all depositions and other documents relating to any case in which a prosecution for an offence instituted before such Justice or Court is withdrawn or is not proceeded with within a reasonable time.

Clause, as amended, agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 (Saving as to private prosecutors, and binding over persons to prosecute), verbally amended, and agreed to.

Clause 6 (Making of regulations); and Clause 7 (Interpretation), severally agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8 (Commencement of Act).


said, that this was a most important Act, and he thought a late date should be fixed for its commencement. Latterly, there had been complaints that Acts of Parliament had been quietly passed and had come upon people unawares. If the 1st of April were substituted for the 1st of January, 1880, he thought it would be better.


promised to consider the question before the Report.

Clause agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.


moved, in page 1, after Clause 3, to insert the following Clause— (Qualification of Director of Public Prosecutions and of Assistants.) A person appointed to be the Director of Public Prosecutions, or to be an Assistant of such Director, shall be either a barrister-at-law or a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Judicature, and shall be in actual practice, and of not less standing, in the case of the Director, than ten years, and in the case of an Assistant, than seven years. The Director of Public Prosecutions, and any Assistant of such Director, shall devote his whole time to the Public Service.

Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.


said, that the new clause which stood next on the Paper was proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), who was not then in his place. He was willing to move it with some slight modification. The clause, as it now stood in the name of his hon. Friend, ran as follows:— (If Director abandon prosecution aggrieved parties may proceed.) Where any criminal proceeding has been instituted or undertaken by the Director of Public Prosecutions, any person who would otherwise have had the right to institute and carry on such proceedings may, if he have good cause for so doing, show by affidavit to any Judge of the High Court of Justice, that such Director of Public Prosecutions has abandoned such proceedings, or has neglected duly to carry on the same, and such Judge, after hearing such Director of Public Prosecutions, may give such directions as to the mode in which such proceedings shall be continued by such person so applying, or by the said Director of Public Prosecutions as to the said Judge shall appear right. It seemed to him that, as the clause stood, it would be very likely to materially interfere with the existing power of the Attorney General to enter nolle prosequi. He proposed, therefore, in order that his hon. Friend might have an opportunity of bringing the matter up upon Report, to move a clause similar to his with a slight modification. He proposed that aggrieved parties might show, by affidavit to the Attorney General, that the Director of Public Prosecutions had abandoned proceedings, and that the Attorney General, after hearing the Director, might give such directions with regard to the continuance of the proceedings as he should think fit.

Clause, as amended, agreed to, and added to the Bill.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 147.]