HC Deb 22 February 1884 vol 284 cc1725-7

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether, in the proceedings about to be taken by the Crown against Mr. Bradlaugh, for the recovery of penalties which he may have incurred for sitting and voting in the House without having taken the Oath of Allegiance, he intends to appear in person; and, whether the Crown will be satisfied with the decision of an inferior Court of Law, or will carry the case up to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords?


Before the hon. and learned Gentleman answers that Question, I would ask whether there is any precedent for the Law Officers of the Crown pledging themselves to appeal against the possible decision of the Court in the event of that decision being adverse to them; also, whether there is any precedent for an appeal by the Crown to a higher tribunal in a Crown case, except when the officers of the Crown are of opinion that the decision of the Court is wrong in law?


The noble Lord asks me whether I shall appear in person in the suit against' M. Bradlaugh? The word "appear" may have two meanings. A suit for penalties on behalf of the Crown is in the nature of an information by the Attorney General on behalf of the Crown, and therefore the Attorney General appears on behalf of the Queen. If the noble Lord means to ask me whether I intend to conduct the argument of the case in person, I do not think the House will wish me to give any pledge upon the subject. I am aware that I have to bear the responsibility of conducting this suit, and that, whatever course I may take, I shall be subject to considerable criticism—perhaps censure—but I shall not shrink from that responsibility, seeking such professional assistance as I may think desirable; and I must be content to let my conduct be judged when my duty has been fulfilled. The noble Lord also asks me whether I shall be content with the decision of an Inferior Court? I must take exception to the term "Inferior Court." I presume the noble Lord means a Divisional Court; but that is a Superior Court. Whether I shall be satisfied or dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court must depend upon what that judgment is; and therefore I should prefer to delay answering the noble Lord until I am aware whether the Court should decide in favour of or against the views I have to present. But if the Question means, as probably it does, whether I should be disposed to appeal against an adverse judgment, I must appeal to the House whether I ought now to say that, whatever reasons maybe given in support of such judgment, I shall regard them as erroneous and appeal against them, for it seems to me to do so will certainly not be respectful, scarcely decent, towards a Court of Justice. I presume the Questions of the hon. Member for Northampton were intended to be of an argumentative character, and that he scarcely requires an answer.