§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. LITTON
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, if the Government would agree to that course, he was satisfied the Bill should go to a Select Committee. The object of the measure was to extend to Ireland some very valuable provisions of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, passed in 1879 by the late Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir R. Assheton Cross). It was, in his (Mr. Litton's) opinion, of the highest importance that the beneficial reforms introduced by the Act into the English system of Criminal Law should be extended to Ireland. The Bill, in fact, proposed to assimilate the law of the two countries; and there was no reason why these provisions, which were good for England, should not be good for Ireland. He had introduced no new matter in the Bill except a clause, which he believed would meet with general approval, with regard to the recovery of small debts, which would protect debtors from being liable to such heavy costs as they at present were. It was desirable to relieve the County Courts in Ireland of a certain amount of the business with regard to the recovery of small debts, by giving a small increase of jurisdiction to the Petty Sessions Courts. The jurisdiction, in case of debts, he proposed to extend from £2 to £5. The cost of proceeding at the County Courts was much more than at Petty Sessions. He had no doubt the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) would support the Bill, as he did the measure of the Secretary of State for the Home Department in the late Government. The important features of that measure were that it would enable fines to be reduced at the discretion of the magistrates; it would enable them to direct that fines should be paid by instalments; it would allow security to be given for penalties or fines; it provided that there should be no costs against the accused in cases were the fines fell short of 5s.; it also provided that a magistrate might mitigate or cancel the forfeiture of recogni- 844 zances; and included most important provisions with regard to juvenile offenders, similar to those which had worked so well in England. Under the Act, magistrates also had greater power of discharging accused persons than formerly. There was not the slightest doubt that all these beneficent provisions were quite as much needed for Ireland as for England, and he therefore hoped the Government would allow the second reading, in order that the Bill might be considered by a Select Committee.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Litton.)
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he needed only to listen to the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) to know that the question was a very large and important one, and one which could not be adequately discussed in the time now left to the House; therefore, he should move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Brodrick.)
§ MR. HOPWOOD
regretted the Motion for adjournment, because the Bill was founded on a distinct promise given by the late Government that the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1879 should be extended to Ireland. The measure, moreover, was drawn on the lines of that Bill drawn by the late Government, and thus assimilated the law of Ireland to that of England. Under those circumstances, he thought it was only right they should receive from the Government an expression of the course they intended to take in reference to the matter.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
, in response to the appeal of the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood), said, he found it absolutely necessary to support the Motion for adjournment. He demurred to the acceptance of the general principle that because an Act existed in England it should, therefore, be extended to Ireland. He thought it was desirable that the matter, which was a portion of a large subject, should be postponed for further consideration. The Bill imported nearly the whole of the English Act into Ireland, but there were portions of that 845 Act which were not applicable to Ireland, being utterly unworkable in that country; while other portions of it were already existing in Ireland, and, therefore, to enact those portions would be to do that which was absolutely unnecessary. His right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he believed, contemplated some alteration in the law relating to juvenile offenders, and it would, therefore, be wise to postpone any change in that branch of the law in Ireland until the publication of the plan.
§ MR. GIBSON
hoped the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) would accede to the Motion for adjournment. Practically, the Irish people already enjoyed most of the benefits conferred in England by the Summary Jurisdiction Act. A provision in reference to small debts recoverable at Petty Sessions was introduced in the Act of 1877, and he would like the House, before making a further change, to consider how far that Act had induced the humbler classes in Ireland to have larger recourse to the Petty Sessional Courts.
§ MR. LITTON
said, in the face of the feeling of the House, especially at the present hour, he had no objection to the adjournment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Wednesday 11th May.