HC Deb 19 July 1883 vol 281 cc1896-7

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether his attention has been called to the observations of Mr. Justice Hawkins, in charging the grand jury at Durham on the 16th instant, to the effect that he regretted that the details of the Criminal Appeal Bill had been kept secret from the judges, and that in his opinion the Bill was uncalled for and unnecessary; whether it is the fact, as stated by that learned judge, that the details of the Bill have been kept secret from Her Majesty's judges; and, if he can state whether any, and, if any, how many, of the twenty-two judges, who under the Bill will be members of the Court of Criminal Appeal, have been made acquainted with and have expressed their approbation of the details of the Bill?


I have seen a newspaper report of a statement by Mr. Justice Hawkins to the effect mentioned in the Question. I trust there has been some misunderstanding of what actually fell from that learned Judge. But, even if he is correctly reported, I think the House will agree with me that I ought to avoid anything in the shape of a retort upon one of Her Majesty's Judges. I must, however, say that if my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridport means to suggest that a Bill effecting a legal reform ought not to be introduced into this House by the Government without a copy of it being sent to all the Judges in order that their approval may be obtained before the Bill is proceeded with, I must, in the public interests, entirely dissent from such a view. I must equally dissent from the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend that, because a Bill is not sent to all the Judges, therefore it is kept secret from them. I have already stated three times in this House that I did send copies of the Criminal Appeal Bill to certain Judges, among others to the Chief Justice, and to my former Answers I must refer the hon. and learned Member for the information he seeks.


I wish to explain that the word "secret," which the hon. and learned Gentleman imputes to mo, was used by the learned Judge in his complaint of the conduct of the Attorney General.