§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL moved, "That this Bill be now Read a Second time." He said he would not detain the House very long, but, as an important change in the law was involved — ["hear, hear!"] — he thought the Bill ought not to be again brought before the House without a statement of the grounds on which it was based. The subject was mooted 30 years ago or more, and during that time public opinion had been maturing. He did not wish to anticipate any arguments that might be advanced against the views he was about to lay before the House; but it was his honest conviction that not only in Great Britain, but in all civilised countries where the question had been discussed, and especially where there had been a change in the system of the law, it was the almost universal opinion that it was absolutely necessary, for the acquittal of innocent persons and the conviction of guilty persons, that the prisoner should be allowed to give evidence. ["Hear, hear!"] We had now for a considerable time been under two systems, and the opponents of the Bill themselves admitted that it was not possible for the two systems to continue, that we ought to admit we had been wrong in allowing prisoners to give evidence, in any cases, or that we ought to make the system uniform, and allow prisoners to give evidence, at their own desire, in any case. Between the years 1872 and 1895 from 25 to 30 781 Acts of Parliament had been passed relating to all kinds of offences. He could justify the Bill by reference to those Acts of Parliament alone, and he could show that in respect to those Acts no distinction could be drawn between the offences in which prisoners were now allowed to give evidence and those in which they were still prevented from giving evidence. No doubt hon. Members were alive to the absurdities of the present system. They had been pointed out by many authorities connected with the criminal law. He would content himself with one or two prominent cases, though he could mention 40 or 50. In trial for libel, if the question was whether the libel was or was not written by the defendant, the defendant could give evidence. But if a mail were charged with sending a threatening letter, or with forgery, or with an attempt to extort, money by writing letters, the defendant could not give evidence. Then, as to fraud, it was perfectly well known that exactly the same issues were tried in civil actions for fraud and in indictments for fraud and conspiracy. He could quote 10 or 11 cases within his own experience where sometimes the proceedings had been by way of indictment, and at others by way of civil action. The issues were identical, and the trial of them should be governed by the same conditions. But in the one case the defendant could not give any explanation of his conduct, and in the other he might go into the witness-box. As to cases of assault, there was a letter in The Times by Sir H. Poland, who, everyone would agree, was one of the greatest authorities on the criminal law, and who approached this question from an impartial point of view. Sir H. Poland pointed out that this absurd condition existed— that a man charged under the Criminal Law Amendment Act with a criminal assault could give evidence, while a man charged with a common assault could not give evidence. Again, in a charge of arson accused could not give evidence; but the man who was charged with a crime the moral guilt of which was the same— namely, with setting fire to his house in order to make a claim against an insurance company—could give evidence. He could multiply these instances four or five-fold, in which the same issues of moral guilt were raised, 782 and in which there was no reason why evidence should not be given by the persons charged. In fact, he believed that it would lead to the acquittal of innocent persons in cases where they had been unjustly charged. And at this point he would mention another anomaly removed by the Bill—the anomaly which prevented a wife from giving evidence for her husband. The absurdity of this rule was well known. He had known cases where a man and woman had been living together as man and wife, though they had not gone through the ceremony of marriage, and where the woman had been allowed to give evidence for her paramour; whereas, where there had been a lawful marriage, the wife was not allowed to give evidence on behalf of her husband. A greater absurdity could not be suggested. When he had pressed this question on public opinion he had often been asked, Do you know of any cases in which innocent persons had been convicted? He honed that the cases were rare, but he was perfectly convinced that they did exist, and in many cases had occurred, because innocent persons had not been able to give evidence. The late Lord Chief Justice had a strong opinion on this matter, and he would quote a case which had been commented on in connection with him. An elderly gentleman—whose name need not be mentioned publicly—who had long been in business, was charged with fraud in connection with a company, was indicted before Baron Pollock, was tried and convicted, and underwent six weeks or two months' imprisonment. After that a civil action was brought and tried before the late Lord Coleridge, the plaintiff being represented by Sir Charles Russell, and the defendant by the present Attorney General. Sir C. Russell opened powerfully a case of fraud, which was apparently unanswerable, and the late Chief Justice more than once suggested whether there could be any answer. Nevertheless, the case for the defence was opened, and the person who had been convicted and imprisoned was examined in the box, with the result that the Lord Chief Justice completely changed his opinion on that man's evidence alone, and the jury stopped the case, saying that there was no fraud of any kind. When this subject was being debated in the House of Lords the late Lord Chief Justice called attention to the 783 case, and said that it confirmed him in the opinion that in the interests of innocent men this change should take place. Sir H. Poland stated that he could count not a few cases where there had been a failure of justice, because the defendant could not give evidence. But, what was more remarkable, he had it from Judges and from counsel, that in their opinion not a few persons would have been convicted under the very Acts he had mentioned if they had not been able to give evidence. In the Australian colonies, in Canada, in the United States—wherever the two systems had been in force—opinion was unanimously in favour of the proposed change in the law. He would ask those who wished to study this question to read a letter in The Times of June 6 last year, from one of the Judges in New South Wales, Sir William Windeyer. He said that he had had five years' experience of the new system, which he had approached with reluctance because he thought the opportunity of giving evidence might be a snare to nervous, innocent persons. But his opinion had completely changed, and he was now satisfied that it was not a snare at all, but that innocent persons, though nervous, had been able to show that they were innocent. This Judge added that, having tried a great many important cases, he would now be unwilling to try an important case in which the prisoner was not allowed to give his own account of the case. A series of questions were in 1877 propounded to the colonies, and to the United States, and, with one exception, the experience of Chief Justices and of Attorney Generals of States was favourable to the change, which they said, gave general satisfaction and occasioned no hardship or injustice to the prisoner. The House would agree that by what he had already said a strong case had been made out for a change in the law, so as to allow the person who knew most about the case to give evidence if he desired. He was sure the House would be influenced by the opinions on this subject of the very distinguished men who had passed away. The late Sir James Stephen altered his opinion in the latter part of his life, and expressed himself strongly in favour of this change; Lord Coleridge also expressed the strongest opinion in the like sense, and so had Lord Bramwell and Lord Selborne, and many 784 other distinguished lawyers. And, coming to living Judges, Lord Herschell had spoken most strongly in favour of the change; Mr. Justice Mathew, Mr. Justice Wills, Lord Justice Lopes—he might refer to almost every Judge on the Bench, for he knew no Judge who held a different opinion. Mr. Justice Mathew, at Manchester, used particularly strong language when, be said it seemed extraordinary to go on closing the mouth of the man who knew most about the matter. Mr. Justice Wills, who always strongly felt the responsibility resting upon him in trying prisoners, said that from his long experience he was of opinion that the ability to give evidence was an advantage to an innocent man, but not to the guilty man. What had been the Parliamentary history of the question? There had scarcely been a Session in which: such a Bill had not been read a Second time in the House of Lords and sent down to this House. He knew no public question which had excited so little opposition or so little adverse public criticism. The Bill was slightly different from those of former years. One important question arose at once; and that was whether or not prisoners, if they elect to give evidence, should be subjected to the ordinary cross-examination, and attempts were made by himself and others in earlier years to meet that point by inserting words to the effect that a man should not be cross-examined in regard to his past history unless it formed part of the chain of evidence in connection with the trial. He was opposed by many lawyers, including Lord Selborne and Lord Bramwell, who urged that it was not right to throw any immunity around a person accused. Upon principle, there was a great deal to be said for that view. He had asked many Judges whether they found that the power of cross-examination had worked hardly to the prisoner who had given evidence, and they one and all said it had not. It seemed better to have one uniform and simple code of law; and, speaking for those Courts of which he had had a long experience, he did not believe our Judges would ever allow the position of a prisoner to be prejudiced, or the licence of counsel to go too far in the matter of the examination or cross-examination of prisoners. He assured the House it was with regret that he had felt it necessary for Parliamentary reasons 785 to exclude Ireland from the operation of the Bill. He wished to be frank. He was extremely anxious to see this amendment of the law passed—[cheers]—and knowing what the difficulties were in regard to Parliamentary procedure, he was afraid he was influenced rather by considerations of prudence than by his own opinion as to what would be best. He wished to say as publicly as he could to hon. Members from Ireland that he dissociated himself altogether from a suggestion once made in this House— [Mr. T. M. HEALY: "By Lord James!"]—that prosecutions were conducted in Ireland in n way which was not as fair to the prisoner as in England. It was not for any reason of that kind that he had felt it necessary to exclude Ireland. But he did not discount the powers of eloquence and amendment of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, and he felt, therefore, that, unwilling as he was to draw any distinction between the two countries, the more prudent course was to bring in the Bill in its present shape. He believed the change proposed was urgently demanded, and he was satisfied that the extension of the privilege which now existed under 26 Acts of Parliament to other similar offences was in the interests of the innocent, and would lead to justice being done. Since the Bill was introduced a few weeks ago he had received a very large number of letters and representations from all classes of people in the community, from most important bodies, such as the Incorporated Law Society, as well as from men of all shades of opinion politically, in favour of the change and not a single objection or protest against it. He begged to move the Second Reading.
§ * MR. J. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen, W.)
proposed to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months." He said that, whatever might be said for or against the Bill, it could not, be seriously denied that there was a strong body of opinion at the Bar, amongst men who had had extensive experience in the criminal Courts, entirely opposed to the views which the Attorney General had put before the House. Compared with former Bills this was by far the worst which had ever been introduce upon the subject. Most other Bills showed 786 some consideration for the prisoner, but this Bill did not. The present practice was perfectly satisfactory. If uniformity was to be introduced it ought to be in the direction, not of extending the facilities to prisoners to give evidence, but of curtailing them. There had been no serious demand for a change in the law. The law was respected, for 80 per cent, of the persons charged on indictments were convicted. The Bill would be made use of by prosecuting counsel and solicitors to force a prisoner into the witness-box in order to supply a missing link in the chain of evidence for the prosecution. The principle of our criminal law was the assumption of a man's innocence until he was proved to be guilty, but this Bill would, entirely alter that. When a prisoner went into the witness-box he would be cross-examined about all kinds of things, and elements of prejudice would be introduced into the case which would be enlarged upon before the jury, and the prisoner would run the additional risk of making a very unfavourable impression. He might wish to conceal something, although not guilty of the offence with which, he was charged, and it would then be urged to the jury that he had not told the truth. The jury would balance the probabilities of the case as they did at present at a nisi prius case. A man might for various reasons say what was not true in the course of his evidence, but that was no reason why he should be convicted of an offence of which he was innocent. The late Lord Justice Lush used to say that a prosecuting counsel in this country ought to act in a semi-judicial capacity. He agreed with that, but he had been long enough in the profession to know that that principle had been very much departed from, and there was an amount of heat put into prosecutions in these days which he could not help thinking would astonish Lord Justice Lush if he were alive. ["Hear, hear!"] Then, if the prisoner did not go into the witness-box damaging inference would be drawn, and a jury would very often convict a man simply for that reason. He referred to a case in which a serious charge impugning his honour was brought against a Member of that House, and he brought an action for libel to vindicate his character. That Gentleman was advised by his counsel 787 not to go into the witness-box because it was not part of his business to refute the charges, inasmuch as those charges had to be established by the person who made them. What did the judge and jury do in that case? They drew their conclusion from his absence from the witness-box, which was positively fatal to him, and had the most injurious consequences on his reputation. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was not a criminal case."] There was the same objection whether it was a criminal or a civil case, and therefore the argument was a sound one. They were not dealing only with assizes, at which a Judge would preside, but with Quarter and Petty Sessions, and though his personal experience of Quarter Sessions did not justify him in making any suggestion that Chairmen of Quarter Sessions would not act fairly, he had one or two cases in his mind in which he should have been sorry to see the prisoner at the mercy of certain Chairmen of Quarter Sessions. There was a case about a year ago where the Chairman did not even allow the jury to say if the prisoner was guilty or not, but merely asked them whether the man had taken the article with the theft of which he was indicted. That case came before the Court of Crown Cases Reserved, and the conviction was quashed. What chance would a prisoner have at the hands of a man like that? He had had a conversation some time ago with a learned Judge of the High Court, who informed him that he never looked at the record of previous convictions until the verdict of the jury had been given, because, said he, if he knew that the prisoner had been previously convicted on several occasions it might unconsciously influence him in summing up the case to the jury. But under the operation of this Bill a prisoner might be examined as to his previous record and character, and the jury would thus be informed of facts of which even a Judge thought it best to remain in ignorance, and this would very likely influence the jury in their verdict, and a prisoner might be deprived of the benefit of the doubt. The result of this Bill, if it became law, would be that juries would convict prisoners on side issues, whereas now there was one plain question before them, namely, whether the prosecution had proved the guilt of the person charged beyond all reasonable 788 doubt. He had a strong objection to the Bill. It would lead to endless perjury. Day after day, in the police courts, the Courts of Quarter Sessions, and Assizes, men would go into the witness-box and commit perjury and no one would take the slightest notice of it, and that would have a most injurious public effect. In his opinion this change in the law would not have the effect of saving the innocent people from being convicted, and he did not believe it would increase the number of convictions. He concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill.
§ MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
seconded the Amendment. The Attorney General, he said, spoke again and again of the prisoner electing to give evidence, and of a privilege being bestowed on the prisoner. In form the Bill was permissive, but it was obvious that in practice it would be compulsory. The Attorney General had also referred to the series of Acts, beginning in 1872, which ran counter to the general rule of law in admitting the prisoner as a witness. If those Acts were examined, he thought it would be found that, with one or two exceptions, the offences to which they related were far more analogous to torts than to crime. The Conspiracy Act of 1875 deliberately drew a distinction between the two systems, which the Attorney General said could not go on together without absurdity. By the Conspiracy Act it was provided, in regard to a breach of contract, that a prisoner might be a witness, but with regard to offences to which Section 7 related—namely, intimidation, that same provision was not made. He admitted in the abstract the proposition that the prisoner should be a competent witness on his own behalf was most plausible, but sufficient consideration had not been given to show how this abstract principle would work in the common experience of the Courts. The Attorney General quoted the authority of distinguished lawyers; but with all respect to them, he should like to ask what was the opinion of the rank and file of the men who practised at the criminal Bar? This question had been much discussed in the robing rooms and at the Bar messes, and, from observation and inquiry, he did not hesitate to say that the large majority of the rank and file of 789 men who practised at the criminal Bar were opposed to the change now proposed. Their opinion was at least as much entitled to consideration as the opinion of great and eminent Queen's Counsel, who very rarely condescended to visit a criminal Court at all, and when they did, sometimes displayed a great ignorance of criminal procedure. But the advocates of this reform were not agreed on the very crux of this case, which was: — "Is the prisoner to be subjected to ordinary cross-examination, or are restrictions to be put on that cross-examination?" That was not a detail which could be settled in Committee. It was the very essence of the case, and went to the root of the matter. The public at large, and the majority of the members of the Bar who advocated the reform, did not contemplate that the prisoner, when in the box, should be subjected to the same kind of cross-examination as the ordinary witness was subjected to. Reference had been made to the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir F. Lockwood). But the hon. and learned Gentleman had said on a previous occasion that "prisoners ought to be protected from cross-examination as to previous convictions," because if this protection were not afforded the old offender could never get off. Apparently the Government were themselves at odds on this question, because when the Lord Chancellor introduced his Bill last year there were very material restrictions on the cross-examination of the prisoner. Had the Lord Chancellor changed his opinion since last year, and if so, on what grounds? He admitted that the Bill of the Government was a perfectly logical Bill. What the public did not understand, and what the Bar did not understand, was this. There was no half-way house between excluding a prisoner from the witness-box altogether and submitting his evidence to the same tests as those which were applied to an ordinary witness. Speaking last year in the House of Lords the Lord Chief Justice said that where once a witness was admitted to give evidence on oath it was possible, by the artificial restraint which the Bill sought to impose, to protect him from the ordinary tests. On what grounds had the Bill been put before the House? On the ground that persons who were guilty sometimes escaped. If that was so, he conceived 790 that persons were occasionally acquitted who would, under this Bill, if they went into the box, be convicted. Was the Bill for the protection of the innocent, or supposed innocent, persons? They were told that the prisoner's mouth was closed. That was an exploded fallacy. Under the practice now established in England the prisoner had four distinct opportunities of telling his own story: (1) when arrested; (2) when formally charged at the police court; (3) at the end of the magisterial proceedings; and (4) upon the trial itself. But to submit to examination and cross-examination would not necessarily be advantageous to an innocent, man. The advantage would not depend nearly so much on the prisoner's innocence as upon his coolness and self-possession. Coolness and self-possession were largely associated with education, and therefore the Bill would give to the educated man a great advantage over the uneducated man. It was the ignorant man charged with a criminal offence who most needed to be guarded. It must have been observed by every counsel who had practised in the criminal courts that an ignorant man, however innocent such a man might be, had a great tendency to tell lies about comparatively immaterial facts. He generally invented some stupid fiction, easily exposed by cross-examination or contradicted by direct testimony. When such a man was exposed by cross-examination the discredit attached to part of the story which he had invented would be extended by the jury to the whole of his case, and he would stand in very serious jeopardy of being convicted, although innocent. The learned Attorney General had supported this Bill on another ground. He had talked about the hardship under the existing law of excluding the evidence of prisoners and their wives, and he had told again the story with the edifying moral, of the man who escaped from the gallows because the woman with whom he lived was not his wife. These stories had been in circulation in Bar robing rooms and Bar messes any time these last fifty years. He should like to put against them the deliberate opinion of a gentleman who—now that Sir H. Poland had retired—might be said to have had as large an experience at the Criminal Bar as any man in the country, Mr. Horace Avory, who, speaking of his 791 experience of the Criminal Law Amendment Act and analogous Acts, said he had never known a person to be improperly convicted because of his inability to go into the witness-box, and when prisoners who had given evidence had been convicted, the same result would have followed if they had not given evidence on their own behalf. ["Hear, hear!"] He himself objected mainly to the Bill because of what he believed would be its effect on the Bench and the magistracy of the country. This change must impair the dignity of the Bench, and if he was told that that after all was only a grace or ornament, and not a matter of first importance, he joined issue, and said that the dignity of the Bench was inextricably involved with its impartiality. If this Bill became law, in numberless cases the Judges must cross-examine prisoners. From time to time he had seen a Judge on the Bench wrestle with witnesses for the defence, and with scarcely a pause proceed to sum up. This was not an edifying scene, but such scenes would be mutiplied a thousandfold if this Bill became law, with the aggravating circumstances that the person with whom Judge or Magistrate would have to wrestle would not be the prisoner's friend, but the prisoner himself. The bulk of prosecutions—or Court briefs as they were called—in this country were conducted by inexperienced counsel, and in many cases by young men just called to the Bar. The defence was almost invariably conducted by an able and experienced counsel acquainted with every twist and turn in criminal practice, and specially skilled in playing on the jury. The prisoner under this Bill would go into the box, and with the skilful aid which his counsel would be able to supply, tell his story and make a great impression on the jury. Then the young man just called to the Bar, to whom the Court brief had been entrusted, rose to cross-examine the prisoner. It was obvious to everybody in Court that he was incompetent to do so. His cross-examination was not only useless, but, with the ill-luck which dogged the steps of the inexperienced cross-examiner, he strengthened the impression, already favourable to the prisoner, made in the minds of the jury. The interests of justice must not be defeated, and the Judge would be obliged himself 792 to assume the function of prosecutor and cross-examine the prisoner exactly in the way most familiar to him while a counsel at the Bar. Such scenes must be reproduced again and again at the Central Criminal Court, the Assizes, and Quarter Sessions throughout the country, and when that had become established, the dignity of the Bench would have disappeared, and with its dignity its impartiality. This change in the law was bitterly opposed by the Nationalist Members from Ireland, mainly, he believed, because of the exasperated feelings between class and class in that country due to the long-continued existence of the land question. But the labour question had often caused bitter feelings between class and class in England. He believed we were on the verge of considerable conflict in the Criminal Courts with regard to labour questions and the law of conspiracy. He hoped Labour Members would seriously consider the effect of this change in the law in regard to labour questions, and whether it was in the interests of justice that members of trades unions, who might be ignorant men, should be compulsorily put into the box and "pulled about" either by a magistrate at Quarter Sessions or Petty Sessions. If the change proposed by this Bill was made at all, it ought not to be made by itself, but be part of a larger attempt to reform the criminal law of this country. We were making still further approximation of criminal to civil proceedings. In civil proceedings there should be a Court of Criminal Appeal in this country. In all the countries in which the prisoner was a competent witness, there was, as far as his memory served him, a Court of Criminal Appeal. He should divide the House against the Second Reading of this Bill, because he submitted that the learned Attorney General had not made out a case for the Bill, and, still more, because he felt that the inevitable effect of the Bill would be to impair the great and historic position of the Bench of this country. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)
said that on this important question he differed in opinion from many whose opinions he highly valued. The Bill proposed a revolution in the criminal law, and he felt bound to state his own views, to act upon them, and, as 793 far us they were of airy use, to give the House the benefit of his experience, He felt indebted to the learned Attorney General for one observation he made. He stated the reason why he excluded Ireland from the great benefits which were to be brought about by the changes in the criminal law proposed by this Bill, and he was glad he dissociated himself from the very unworthy attack made by a late Member of the House, now a Member of a more august assembly, when a Bill similar to this was before the House in 1888. He, himself, was not then a Member of this House, but, in the course of his profesional duties he had considerable experience in the administration of justice in Ireland— ["hear, hear!"]—and he must say that the remarks of the hon. and learned Member, as he then was, showed about the same knowledge of the administration of the criminal law in Ireland as he had courage in carrying out his convictions in that House. He, himself, since then, had had an opportunity of contrasting the administration of the criminal law in Ireland with the administration of the criminal law in England, and he could most honestly and truly say that, if there was any difference as regarded fairness of trial, the difference was certainly in the prisoners' favour in Ireland as compared with England. In ordinary cases in Ireland he had seldom, if ever, known a Crown prosecutor do what was almost invariably done in this country—namely, make two speeches against the prisoner. He was glad that the Bill was not to apply to Ireland, but thought that the reason assigned for that by the Attorney General was a most shadowy one. In 1888, when a similar Bill was brought in, the present Solicitor General expressed the opinion that it would be a mistake to exclude Ireland and to have one law for one part of the kingdom and another law for mother part. Before the introduction of this Bill the hon. and learned Member for Louth asked whether Ireland would be included in its operation, and the Attorney General replied that he would consult the Attorney General for Ireland. The result was that Ireland was excluded. It looked very much as if the Government had been frightened by the threats of the hon. and learned Member for Louth, and a Government with a majority of 150 794 ought surely not to be influenced by such a cause. The administration of the criminal law had largely contributed to the welfare of the country and the diminution of crime. The administration of the law had been effective, and the law itself had been respected. That being the case, they ought to be very cautious about introducing changes in it. He did not believe that there was any public demand for this Bill, and denied that the great body of the profession were in favour of it. Law Officers and ex-Law officers and Judges might approve it, but even among such high authorities opinions differed. In 1879 there was a Commission to consider the subject, consisting of very able English and Irish Judges, and they reported that they were divided in opinion as to the policy of so important a change in the law. Yet in that House, Law Officers had frequently asserted that this was a matter upon which practically everybody agreed. The present Bill went much further than any previous proposals of the kind, In fact the rate at which Ministerial attempts to make changes in the criminal law progressed was rather astonishing. The Bill was a most insidious one; it was put forward as a Measure to enable an innocent man to give evidence, and the Attorney General, with a persuasiveness against which it behoved them to be on their guard, had said that no prisoner need give evidence if he should not wish to do so. That, of course, might be the intention of the framers of the Bill, but as a matter of fact, if the Measure passed, every man on trial for his life would be obliged to present himself for examination and cross-examination; for if he should not do so the prosecuting counsel would at once say, "I am told that from the facts given in evidence you will be asked to draw a different inference from that which I ask you to draw." But who can tell us better than the prisoner himself what inference ought to be drawn, and why is he not called? In making this change they would really be introducing the French system, under which a prisoner was not only cross-examined by the prosecuting counsel, but also by the Judge. The Attorney General said that the proposed system prevailed with success in our colonies. In the Colonial Acts, which he had been able to refer to, he found safeguards 795 which were not found in this Bill. In South Australia, for example, it was provided: —that no presumption of guilt shall be made from the fact of such person electing not to give evidence. The Crown shall not be entitled to a right of reply by reason of such person having given evidence.In New Zealand the law was that if a person charged with an offence should refrain from giving evidence or calling the husband or wife as a witness, such person should not be prejudiced thereby, and no comment prejudicial to him or her should be based thereon. If he was right in saying that this Bill would make it necessary for the prisoner in every case to give evidence, let them consider what that would lend to. The wealthy prisoner would be represented by able counsel, and an able solicitor would have considered whether it was in his favour or against him that he should be produced, and if he were produced, would take care that he got fair play. The educated prisoner would probably be able to think out in his own mind the evidence he should give and the proper method of giving it. But the man for whom he pleaded was the poor, uneducated prisoner, who was not protected by counsel or solicitor. He could conceive nothing that would lead to greater injustice than that an ignorant, undefended man should without a moment's notice be requested to present himself in the witness-box, and, having told his illiterate rigmarole, to subject himself to cross-examination by the counsel for the Crown. How would this unfortunate man go into the witness-box? A primâ facie case must have been made out before the Magistrate; and a true Bill must have been found against him by the Grand Jury; and he would go into the box with the knowledge that unless there had been suspicious circumstances he never would have found himself in that predicament at all. Did the House believe that in these circumstances he would get as fair a chance as he had under the present, system? Unlike previous Bills, this Measure in no wise limited the right of cross-examination; and every one of the suspicious circumstances surrounding a prisoner would be paraded one after another by the cross-examining counsel. The fact that a man had been previously convicted might be the real 796 reason why he was arrested, and he did not in such a case think a prisoner was likely to get a fair trial if counsel were able to cross-examine him with regard to his former offences. The question as to the effect of a prisoner's evidence would depend vastly more upon whether he made what was called a good witness than upon whether he was innocent or guilty, and an ignorant prisoner would find himself at the greatest disadvantage from the fact that he was unable properly to express himself. Many instances were known in which men had so expressed themselves as to leave their statements open to an inference entirely different to that which they meant to convey. The question of impropriety of expression had put many a witness both in civil and in criminal cases at the greatest possible disadvantage, and in regard to confessions made by prisoners on or before arrest. Constructions had very often been put upon expressions used by prisoners which upon mature consideration and further investigation they had been held not properly to bear. Let them take the case of a prisoner on his trial for his life. What must be the nervous feeling of that man as he walked out of the dock to the witness-box, knowing that the question whether he was to be hanged on that day month depended upon the evidence he was about to give? It was impossible for any ordinary man to have complete control of his senses or to do himself justice in such circumstances. The Attorney General said the Judge would take care that the limits of cross-examination were not exceeded. But cross-examination was not a matter depending upon the Judge; it was conducted upon well-defined rules; and they must under the Bill have cross-examination in its ordinary sense or not at all. Everybody had been agreed up to this year that if this great change were to be conceded at all, it must be accompanied with very great safeguards to the man who submitted himself to cross-examination. But now they were to have cross-examination unlimited as to every detail in his past life, which might prejudice the jury. As had been said, it would be looked upon as an outrage by every Judge if cross-examining counsel referred to the calendar of previous convictions against any prisoner. What was to be said of a weak case presented by 797 the Crown being supplemented by the previous criminal history of the man supposed to be having a fair trial? The only result of all this was that they were putting an end to the theory that had been the great safeguard of the citizens of this country for centuries—namely, that the Crown must independently prove their case, and that if they were, not able to do so the prisoner was to have the benefit of the doubt. Assuming what he himself did not believe, that the prisoner would have the slightest protection in regard to cross-examination from the Judge, what did the Attorney General say to those cases in which serious trials were heard—and their number were increasing daily under Acts of Parliament—before magistrates alone? In those cases they would not often have the skilled and responsible counsel who, no doubt, felt a sense of his responsibility and the obligation thrown upon him in the investigation of the trial he was called upon to conduct, but they would have practitioners in out-of-the-way places not in the least guided by public opinion, and who had not got the same high principles of honour in relation to the Bar which had always been traditional in Great Britain and Ireland. They would have these practitioners almost utterly irresponsible, and certainly not responsible to public opinion, allowed all the privileges and licence of cross-examination, not according to the rules laid down by the High Court, but according to the sweet will of the particular magistrate who happened to try the case. ["Hear, hear!"] That would most assuredly be a matter which before many years were over, if the Bill passed in its present form, would bring the law into the contempt and hatred of the people of this country. ["Hear, hear!"] Take the case of a murder trial where the very life of a man depended upon the truth and falsity of the various statements that had been put forward. He asked the Attorney General and other members of the legal profession, what would be their feelings when they were bringing into play against an unfortunate man who might be hanged that day month all the skill and artifices of the trained lawyer in the cross-examination of a man tried on such a charge? ["Hear, hear!"] He thought counsel would look upon such obligations us were thus thrown upon 798 him with horror and that the country would revolt against any such practice being introduced into the criminal law. He hoped this matter would really be reconsidered. There was also, to his mind, the great objection that a prisoner submitting himself to cross-examination would leave himself open to be also examined by the Judge. No one had greater confidence in the Judges of this country and of Ireland than he; but after all they were human beings. It was frequently the case that, after a trial had proceeded a short time, the Judge made up his mind more or less in a particular direction and, while the jury might discard questions put on one side or the other or the inferences to be drawn from the answers, they would never do so in the case of the questions put by a Judge, because they rightly believed he was put there to do justice between the parties. If they were to subject a prisoner to this method of cross-examination and investigation of the facts by the Judge, how far would they be away from the French system, which they in this country detested? ["Hear, hear!"] Having had considerable experience in the Criminal Courts for many years, he declared that he had never yet seen what he could call to mind as any suggested miscarriage of justice by reason of a prisoner not being allowed to be called as a witness. ["Hear, hear!"] There might be a stray case here and there, for nobody supposed their system, or any that could be invented would be absolutely perfect. But were they sure these cases would not be vastly outnumbered in a short time, when the prisoner was subjected to cross-examination in matters as to which he had never been so subjected before? He hoped the House would pause before allowing such a momentous change to be made. As to the clause which not only enabled but compelled the wife of a prisoner to give evidence, suppose a man was put on trial for his life, would the country really expect that his wife was to come up and do her best to have him hanged? If a poor woman in this sore trouble came up and stated something that was false in order to try and save her husband, would the country tolerate that she should afterwards be prosecuted and sent to gaol for thus trying to assist him? Far better was it that an occasional guilty man or woman should get 799 off than that their law should be strained to that extremity. ["Hear, hear!"] That was the second, and to his mind, the serious part of the Bill. Not only had it never been proposed in that House, but it had never been recommended by any Commission of Judges or others, that he was aware of, and it was certainly a, somewhat startling fact that it had remained for a so-called Conservative Party to be the first to put forward these proposals in so extreme and stringent a manner, making revolutionary changes in the law. Their law had worked well; it had been effective and respected, and he did not think this Bill would be any improvement. But that was not the question. There was no public demand for this change; they were not certain what the result would be, and, at all events, when they had good laws which were working well and justly, let them pause before they made a change and took a leap in the dark which might be disastrous. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ MR. THOMAS BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
said it was not because he thought that, in this country, according to the present administration of their law, innocent people were convicted, or that guilty people were very often acquitted, that he spoke in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill. It. was because he thought there was a certain feeling in the country that the administration of the law was not as perfect as it might be, and that, by the admission of the evidence of accused persons, when they so desired it, not otherwise, the administration of the criminal law would be improved. He was opposed to the compulsion of calling a husband or a wife of an accused person to give evidence, but for the moment he confined his remarks to whether the accused person should or should not be allowed to give evidence in his own favour it' he so desired it. He did not believe that the innocent man who got into the witness-box of his own free will would ever be caught or entrapped or bullied by either counsel or Judge into admitting a state of circumstances which was not true. But if perchance, by nervousness or ignorance, an accused person should not do 800 himself or herself justice, he thought a jury would be sufficiently discriminating to know the difference between a stupid and confused witness who was telling the truth and a lying prevaricator who, being guilty, was not telling the truth. He was not afraid of an innocent person being caught, but if a guilty individual should get off by his or her own cleverness and devices and perjury, better that a great deal than that an innocent person's mouth should be shut when by his opening it the whole truth might be known. ["Hear, hear!"] Let them take the case of a man arrested for being in possession of stolen goods. The police would ask him, "Where did you get the goods?" and he might say, "I bought them." "Of whom?" "I do not know his name, but I bought them at such and such a place." It was almost incredible that our law allowed the constable to give the statement made by the accused person to him and did not allow the accused person in the Court to say anything on oath with respect to that statement. ["Hear, hear!"] Again, there was the case of obtaining goods by false pretences. In such a case the Judge had to lay down to the jury that most technical rule which was called a statement of a non-existing fact. The accused was obliged to listen to the prosecutor and was not able to give his own version of the story. In most cases the best evidence was to be obtained from the person who stood in the dock, but who, at the present time, to use an expression found in a book well known, was law gagged. ["Hear, hear!"] Writing to The Times last year, Sir William Windeyer maintained that everybody in the Australian Colonies was now convinced that it was a good Amendment of the law to allow accused persons to give evidence. In the United States of America accused persons were permitted to give evidence on their own behalf, and the system had been found to work well. Why should not the change be tried here? Personally, he believed the alteration would work beneficially. No greater master of the criminal law had been known for the last 30 or 40 years than the late Recorder of London—Russell Gurney; he was a man of infinite wisdom and of absolute justice and tenderheartedness, and, speaking in the House of Commons in 1876, he said he had 801 often felt when he entertained doubts about a case that they would have been entirely removed if he could have put, in no unkind or ungenerous spirit, a few questions to the prisoner. He would not however, give a Grand Jury, who were an inquisitorial body, find as a rule not lawyers, power to interrogate prisoners; and another important point was how far they should allow prisoners to be cross-examined at the sweet will of anybody engaged in a case. Moreover, he did not think a prisoner, if he presented himself for examination, ought to be cross-examined as to any previous conviction. ["Hear, hear!"] Again, as in the case of nearly all the United States of America, no observation should be permitted to be made by the presiding Judge prejudicial to a prisoner because he did not choose to offer to give evidence. There was another part of the Bill to which he took some exception. He did not understand the Government taking such a revolutionary step as to compel a husband to give evidence against his wife or the wife against her husband. He admitted that if they treated the matter logically it should be so, but the law was not always logical. [Cheers.] If they were to complain of anomalies there would be little hope for some of them. There was some nebulous safeguard, but they must do one thing or the other. To be logical, they would have to compel the husband and wife to give evidence against each other. Had the Attorney General changed his mind, and, if so, when did he do it? In 1894, in introducing a Bill for the prevention of cruelty to children, what did he provide? That in any proceedings against anyone under that Act the wife or husband would be "competent, but not compellable," to give evidence. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought that the proposal in the Bill would cause great misery and trouble in that class of society which sent most of the cases to Quarter Sessions and Assizes. He believed a great blot would be removed by allowing a man or woman, if they thought fit to do so, to give evidence. He should support the Second Reading in the hope that the words compelling the husband or wife to give evidence would be omitted.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
said there was a grave difference of opinion among the Bar on this subject, 802 and he should not like to say on which side the balance of feeling lay. He was sorry that a larger number of Members were not present to hear the speech of the Member for Dublin University. The Bill, it was true, did not apply to Ireland, but it applied to the trial of Irishmen in England, and some most painful scenes had been witnessed at the trials of Irish prisoners before English Courts in that limited number of cases where prisoners were allowed to give evidence. In the vast majority of cases the fact that a prisoner was an Irishman told against him. [Ministerial cries of "No, no!"]
§ MR. KNOX
said he was referring to a case where an Irish prisoner might be called upon to give evidence, but it was hardly necessary to elaborate it. It would be a serious injury to prisoners in the vast majority of case s to be compelled to give evidence. If the object of criminal procedure was to obtain convictions this Bill would be a most powerful instrument in the hands of the authorities, but he could not admit that there was such a number of miscarriages of justice as would justify it. The police system was more efficient than it used to be, and year by year it was more difficult for a man to commit a crime and escape. Therefore, if there was an occasional miscarriage of justice—if a guilty man was occasionally not convicted—that evil would become less and less as the years 803 went on, and, at any rate, it was not one the removal of which was a sufficient ground for the passing of the Bill. It was said, on the other hand, that there were some cases in which innocent persons were convicted who would not have been convicted had they been able to give evidence. Cases of that kind were so exceedingly rare that they could not be regarded as an important consideration. But even if there were a few cases in which innocent persons might escape under the Bill, what the House had to consider was the balance of disadvantages; and he asserted that, if the Bill became law, a far larger number of innocent people would be convicted than were convicted under the present procedure. He had some intimate friends who, if they were accused of murder, however unjustly, and were allowed to go into the witness-box, would compel the jury to convict them of the crime. [Laughter.] They had a habit of shuffling and equivocating—[Ministerial laughter and cheers]—when they had to give evidence—though they were perfectly honest, and perfectly straightforward in ordinary conversation—that the jury would be forced to come to the conclusion that they were conceding facts very much to their discredit. That type of men, which was not uncommon, would be in the most serious peril if the Bill became law and they happened to be charged with any crime; and he ventured to think that it was not wise to make a change in the law which might lead to the conviction of men of crimes of which they were not guilty, simply because they were bad witnesses, and all for the reason that there was a certain proportion of cases where convictions could be obtained, and justly obtained, if the Bill became law. It was sometimes said that the present system grew up by accident. That was not historically correct. As a matter of fact, under the old English criminal procedure a prisoner could be examined under torture. In addition to that the prisoner could be examined in Court by the Judge. The cross-examination of prisoners by Chief Justice Jeffries during the Bloody Assize was such a scandal that it led to the establishment of the present system, under which the prisoner cannot be examined at all. He might be told that such a scandal was now impossible. He 804 admitted that it was unlikely that the Judges of the High Court would go too far in the examination of witnesses. But the Bill applied not merely to the High Court and the Courts of Quarter Sessions, but to the Petty Sessions Courts; and he hardly thought that any Member had such, confidence in the discretion, ability, and experience of the Justices of the Peace throughout England, that prisoners who went into the witness-box and were cross-examined by the Attorneys who practised in criminal matters in those Courts would not be unfairly treated. He might be told that in serious cases there would be an appeal from the conviction of the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. But that was not a real answer to his argument. He thought the Bill would inevitably lead to consequences that were not contemplated by its promoters. It had been said that in the Colonies and in America some similar change had been made in criminal procedure; but he did not think the change had been quite so universal as had been represented. He challenged the Government to produce any law passed by an English-speaking country which allowed the examination and cross-examination of prisoners without restriction in anything like the same degree as was proposed by the Bill. In effect the House was being asked to adopt the Continental system. This Bill was sometimes discussed as though the prosecutions were always conducted under some sort of Treasury supervision. In Ireland that was so; but in England, in the majority of cases, the prosecutor was a private person with a personal grudge or spite against the prisoner, and a great desire to secure a conviction. In such circumstances, the counsel for the prosecutor, if he were to satisfy his client, would be obliged to press against the prisoner every question which he was legally entitled to ask. The Bill would require considerable amendment, if gross abuses in that direction were to be prevented. As to the provisions which made a husband and wife compellable witnesses in criminal cases, he did not think that it was likely to become law. The safeguard in Sub-section 3 —that no husband or wife should be compellable to disclose any communication from the spouse made during the married life—was quite illusory. In practice, though the Judge would warn husband or wife giving evidence that they 805 need not answer this or that question, the jury would draw an inference from refusal to answer: and the demeanour of the witness would practically disclose what it was desired not to reveal. Even where a man was guilty, it was an inhuman proceeding to make his guilt clear through the evidence of his wife. The ordinary procedure for the conviction of criminals was year by year becoming more efficient. If this Bill, which would revolutionise the whole procedure of the criminal court, and would violate the tenderest passions and sentiments of the human breast, were passed into law, it would produce in the long run, not a sympathy with crime, but a sympathy with the sufferings which the criminal had to endure, and that, would have the opposite effect to that which was desired by those in charge of the Bill. He hoped that this year, as in previous years, the further progress of the Bill would be defeated.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
said that he did not rise to speak from any anxiety as to the future of the Bill. The support which these proposals had received during the last 20 years at least had been of growing strength, and in favour of the present Bill there was a practically unanimous judgment among all those who, whether in this country or in any other, had had the opportunity of seeing the practical working of the two systems under discussion. There was no country, outside this, in the civilised world where the practice had been adopted of allowing a person accused of crime the elementary justice of giving his own statement as to the facts, and where it had not been acknowledged that that system had led to the ascertainment of the truth. ["Hear, hear!"] In this country, where we had been trying for the last 25 years to mitigate and remove the last remaining barbarism of our criminal code, there was not to be found a Judge who did not acknowledge that by the change which had been made in 25 Acts of Parliament, with regard to certain classes of crime, the best means of securing truth had been adopted. [Cheers.]
§ MR. LYTTELTON (Warwick and Leamington)
There are three Judges to my own knowlege who disapprove of these proposals.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
said that he could not think who those Judges were: and, as far as he knew, the statement which he had 806 made was absolutely true. The latest utterance was that of Lord Justice Lopes, and that was one of the strongest expressions of opinion which had ever been made in favour of the proposals in the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] But he desired to speak on the Measure, because he trusted it was the last time on which it would be necessary to discuss in the House—[cheers, and cries of "No!"]— the principle of a change with regard to which he had felt very strongly for many years past. There were three hon. Members on the other side of the House who had spoken in opposition to the Bill. He was quite sure there was not one of them who would allow that his experience in criminal cases had been somewhat limited. He was quite sure they would allow that his own experience in criminal cases had been long and large, and had not been the experience of a prosecuting counsel, but of one who had had to represent the interests of the prisoner. Before he came into this House at all, when he first issued an address to a constituency asking them to return him to Parliament, he mentioned in that address this reform as one that he longed to be able to assist in passing. From that time, 17½ years ago, he had never ceased to help either Government in flying to push this matter forward; and he did not think he had ever envied the Attorney General until to-night, but he did envy him the opportunity of associating his name with one of the greatest reforms which could be effected in our Administration. [Cheers.] The three hon. Members opposite, who were comparative amateurs in this matter, had suggested all sorts of difficulties. There was an overwhelming answer to any such opposition, and it was this— that it could be proved that upon the administration of the law as it now stood the grievance did recur—he did not say frequently, but in many cases—of an innocent man being convicted because of the present strange and barbarous rule. He had again and again had to defend prisoners who he believed to be, and felt satisfied were, innocent, who remonstrated against the injustice of their not being allowed to make their own statements as to their own case. [Cheers.] A case was suggested to him by something said as to this most extraordinary fact, which revolts one, that if a man on his trial has 807 been living with a woman without being married to her, her evidence may save him, but if he has gone through the ceremony of marriage, and made the union a holy one, her evidence could not save him—she could not be called. In his own experience he secured the acquittal of a man—he could give the name—from a charge made against him at Sessions by proving that his wife was not his wife, but only living with him for a number of years without the sanction of marriage. That man would have been convicted to a certainty if he had been married to the woman. There was a case upon the records of the Courts which he had nothing to do with, but which, standing alone, should be sufficient to satisfy any Member of the House as to the absolute necessity of this alteration of the law. A clergyman was charged with committing a criminal offence in respect of some children. The only evidence that could be called besides himself really was his wife, and she could not be called; he was convicted, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment for each offence, the terms to be consecutive —that was to say, four years' imprisonment. He went to prison in November. The man, from prison, put before the Home Secretary reasons for his release. The Home Secretary declined to make any recommendation until the girls had been indicted for perjury. In the following April or May the girls were indicted for perjury. The jury found them guilty of perjury. Why? Because at that trial the man and his wife were the witnesses, and the girls who had given evidence at the previous trial could not be examined. The girls were convicted of perjury; the man was released from prison. He brought an action against his solicitor for want of care or judgment in defending him, but the question of his guilt or innocence was never tried in a case in which all persons could be heard, [Cheers.] So it came about that the man was convicted of a shameful offence because his mouth and that of his wife were closed; the children were convicted because they could not be heard when a charge of perjury was brought against them; and if it was possible, under any system of law, for so scandalous a thing as that to have taken place, surely it was time that some remedy should be applied. A case in which he appeared as counsel so 808 forced upon him the conviction that there was something wrong in the law, that he felt it was his duty never to rest, but to take every opportunity of securing its amendment. A man kept a small public-house in the outskirts of London. He was assisted by his wife and one servant. He sold it for £1,500; three bills were given at 6, 17 and 18 months for the value of the house. The first two Bills were duly paid; when the third bill became due the man who had given it was not able to meet it, and an action was brought against him upon the bill. He thereupon took out a summons at a police court against the man who had sold him the house for false representation; and the man was committed for trial for obtaining money by false pretences as to the value of the public-house. The case came on for trial at Clerkenwell Sessions, when it appeared that the only persons who could possibly have given evidence were the man himself and his wife. The servant had left the employment 12 months, before, and could not be found. In these circumstances Serjeant Ballantyne, who defended, had no evidence to offer. The man was convicted and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment. Fortunately an action was pending on the third of the bills. He, as counsel, succeeded in getting the case advanced and tried early, but not so early but that this man had had four or live months of imprisonment, and he came up from prison to give evidence with his hair cropped and wearing the prison clothes. Then he and his wife were able to give evidence, and there was not a question about it. He got his verdict upon the Bill, and judgment was given in his favour. [Cheers.] Of course the Home Secretary released him, but the result was that for five or six months he went through all the horrors of a criminal conviction and its consequences which would never have taken place if there had been u reasonable law in this country that the man who was accused of a crime might be allowed to give evidence on his own behalf. [Cheers.] He could tell of another case which touched him almost as strongly, where a man was charged with setting his employer's place on fire. This man, for whom he had been counsel, had one Saturday afternoon left his employer's place, and a fire had then broken out, and it was discovered that petroleum had 809 been poured over the books of the firm. This man, who had been employed there for 28 years, was the only man who had a key of those premises, and the police could find no way in which, anybody else could have entered. It would have gone very hard with the man but for the fact that he had been in his own home, with his wife and a couple of children, the same evening. If the case had gone to a jury, however, there would have been no possibility of proving an alibi, and this man, of whose innocence he was absolutely certain, might have run great risk of being convicted. He had brought the facts to the knowledge of Mr. Poland, who was prosecuting, and Mr. Justice Hawkins, who was going to try the case, with the result that the case was not proceeded with because the Judge said it was not a case in which it would be safe to convict. But these were the dangers to which men were exposed every day in this country. [Cheers.] It was an experience of 30 years' work in practice in our Courts which induced him to speak with all the earnestness which he could possibly command in support of a Bill which he believed to be essential in order to render the administration of our criminal law right and fair. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course there were minor questions with regard to the cross-examination which should be allowed, with regard to the calling of the wife and husband, and so on; but those were matters which might be raised and dealt with in Committee. But for himself he would say he was grateful to the Government for having brought this Bill in in the simplest possible form, and he thought it would be greatly to the advantage of justice that the Bill should be passed in the form in which it was brought in. As to the question of cross-examination, the hon. and learned Member opposite had said that he knew perfectly honest people who had such a habit of shuffling and equivocation that if they were falsely accused they would get into trouble from their persistence in that uncomfortable habit. [Laughter.]
§ SIR E. CLARKE
I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member often sees his friends in the witness-box. [Laughter.] A habit of shuffling and equivocation in the witness-box certainly did not suggest any great confidence in the 810 innocence of the people who were addicted to that habit. There was an idea that when innocent persons accused of crime came to give their evidence they might be so harassed by irrelevant and cruel cross-examination that they would suffer from it, and would be likely to be convicted. He believed that to be an entire delusion. He had had some experience in defending persons in criminal cases, and if he were defending a man who was guilty—[Laughter]—if by any chance he should unfortunately happen to be in that position—he would desire nothing better than that the man should be apparently cross-examined unfairly in regard to other matters. ["Hear, hear!"] Nothing would be more certain to procure his acquittal. [Laughter.] There was no one having experience from day to day in the conduct of trials, civil or criminal, who did not know that it was an immense advantage if the counsel on the other side went a bit too far and allowed the jury to get the idea that the man was being unfairly treated. If that idea existed the man was perfectly safe. In regard to the testimony of husband and wife, surely it was obvious that the wife ought to be allowed to give evidence in favour of her husband. He could not imagine that anybody could suggest that there was any sense or reason in the rule which at present existed to prevent a wife or huband from giving evidence in favour of the husband or wife. Why should not the wife or husband be called upon to give evidence against the person accused in criminal cases? He supposed the desire was to secure a true result. They did not hesitate to call, in criminal cases, the child against the father or mother; it was done every week. They could call upon the husband or wife to give evidence in the case of an offence committed by the wife against the husband, or the husband against the wife. They could not say that the wife might be a witness for the husband, but not against him, without introducing an inequality which obviously would be very difficult to deal with. The object of all administration of criminal justice was to secure the ascertainment of the true facts. At present we had a practice which had seemed to him again and again, when he had been engaged in great criminal cases, to be an absolute and complete mockery; there had been sitting in the dock somebody 811 who by the very hypothesis of the case was the person who might know most about the circumstances, inasmuch as the charge was brought against that person because he or she had been most immediately connected with the circumstances which were being investigated. Then our curious rule had been that the police looked about and had the person who appeared to be most immediately concerned in this matter arrested; and from that moment his or her mouth was shut. It had been said that the prisoner had an opportunity of making a statement. Really, that was a mockery. [Cheers.] The prisoner was charged at the police court, and there a statement was read out to him that anything he said would be taken down and used against him. In 99 cases out of a hundred, as a matter of course, nothing was said there, because it was not the real trial of the case, and if anything was said there he had the strongest feeling about using the statement as the conclusive statement of the defendant. It was most unfair to use it, because the evidence against that prisoner might be supplemented; and then, that which had been an honest statement from the point of view of the prisoner, viewing the case at the time, might appear to the jury to be an incomplete and imperfect statement when they came to deal with the whole case. It was said that the prisoner was allowed to make a statement, but the fact that that statement could not be tested by cross-examination deprived it of all weight with the jury. There had been experience during past years of statements made by prisoners with regard to matters upon which they had been charged. He doubted very much whether there was a case in which a statement made by a prisoner had procured an acquittal, but he felt certain that there were many cases—and he could name half-a-dozen at least—where, if the prisoner had been allowed to make a statement and to say, "I am prepared to answer any questions put to me," there would have been the acquittal of an innocent person. He did not speak on this matter as a theorist or as a doctrinaire. ["Hear, hear!"] Nor did he speak of it from the slightest regard to the question whether the Bill was brought forward by one Ministry or the other; but he knew that those who had large experience in this matter were all absolutely agreed.
812 [Cries of "Carson!"] He did not wish to say anything in the nature of disrespect of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin. But his right hon. Friend's experience had not been large in this country with regard to the defence of prisoners; and he was afraid that his opposition to this Bill was based on two grounds—first, that it was a bad Bill; and next, that it was not extended to the country to which he belonged. ["No!" and laughter.] But looking at the Bill as applicable to Great Britain, he believed they were practically unanimous with regard to it. Since Mr. Russell Gurney, 22 years ago, introduced a similar Bill, there had been a steady accumulation of judicial authority, and of the authority of those who practised in the Law Courts in its behalf. He had never looked on it as a question of legal opinion. Since the time when, more than 30 years ago, he had intrusted to him the responsibility of defending persons who might be innocent of the offences with which they were charged, there had been borne in upon him year after year the absolute, gross, and wicked injustice of forbidding the person against whom the charge was made from going into the witness-box, to face his fellow-countrymen who had to try him, and to tell in his own words the story and the circumstances out of which the accusation had grown. [Cheers.] He hoped, therefore, the Bill would pass. He was glad that it was a simple Bill, and he did not think that any qualifications were required. He trusted that the Attorney General would have the satisfaction—a distinction for which he envied him—of associating his name with the passing of a Bill which he believed would be the most valuable, most important, as it was the most imperative, administration of our criminal law. [Cheers.]
§ * MR. J. L. WALTON (Leeds, S.)
said that as one who had practical experience in the administration of the criminal law he concurred to a large extent with the observations of the last speaker. He doubted whether they could find in any quarter of the House a large body of opinion to dissent from the general abstract proposition which lay at the root of this proposal. Who could deny on lines of abstract justice that it was desirable the accused, who knew most about 813 the occurrences which led to his accusation, should have the opportunity to tell his own story, in regard to which he was the most competent, although not the most reliable, witness? As a proposition it was unassailable; but the difficulties arose in giving practical application to it. ["Hear, hear!"] The interesting and pathetic illustrations from the large repertoire of professional experience with which his hon. and learned Friend entertained the House were subject to this great disadvantage. He gave the House an account of the serious difficulties in which his own clients were placed when he found that he, as their counsel, was not in a position to place them in the witness-box. The difficulty in giving effect to the principle of the Bill did not arise when a prisoner was defended by able and accomplished counsel. It arose when they had to deal with an illiterate man who could not frame a statement in intelligible phrases, give a coherent narrative of the incidents in connection with which he was charged, and to whose untutored skill was left the task of rehabilitating himself after skilful and damaging cross-examination. The principle might be clothed with provisions which might obviate all his objections. Why were there not clauses providing for the representation of prisoners by counsel, insuring that they should be adequately examined, and providing that after the cross-examination (which might be addressed to immaterial topics and directed to prejudice their general credit) it should be the duty of some persons charged with the administration of justice to see that adequate explanation was given in regard to these matters, and, if necessary, that the prejudice which had been elicited should not be allowed to affect the issues upon which the prisoner's liberty depended? He knew of no Continental country where there was not provision for insuring the due examination, both of prisoners and witnesses. According to the law of Scotland no prisoner, however strong the case against him might be, or however trivial the charge, was left without the provision, at the public expense, of adequate representation by counsel, in order that no injustice might be done to him. If this Bill contained such provisions as these, he would be a supporter instead of an opponent of the Bill. As to making a prisoner's evidence 814 compulsory, would anyone who had had experience in the Courts question the practical operation of a permissive Measure of that kind? In the Divorce Court, where the issues were often as serious, painful, and disastrous as in the criminal Courts, the parties were available as witnesses in their own defence. But the common formulary in the Divorce Court, in which counsel announced the fact that the petition was uncontested, was an intimation to the presiding Judge that they were not in a position to put their clients into the box. This formulary, which was part of the ordinary procedure in the Divorce Court, would soon become the ordinary formulary of criminal Courts when the principle had once been recognised in the form suggested in the Bill and had been brought into practical operation. In both previous Bills there were safeguards which had been omitted from this. Why was a prisoner allowed to be asked whether or not he had been previously convicted? Was it proposed to let a common jury, composed of men unskilled in weighing evidence and excluding irrelevant matter, try a man, knowing he was a hardened criminal and had committed many other crimes? The moment it had been elicited that he had been convicted several times before, the issue would be a foregone conclusion. ["Hear, hear!"] The safeguard which protected prisoners from this question appeared in the Bill last introduced. Why was it. excluded from the present proposal? There was another new feature. In our civilisation the loyalty of a wife to her husband was a supreme duty imposed upon her by social canons. That duty was to be sacrificed in the interest of public duty under this Bill when she was summoned to support a charge against her husband. She might make a statement of fact which might insure his conviction. The whole question might turn on whether at a particular hour her husband was at home or not. She must either perjure herself by her answer, if the question were put to her, or involve ruin upon herself and her family. This terrible position for a wife did not arise to a married woman under the last Bill. Its appearance now was a blot, and while it remained part of the present Measure he should conceive it to be his duty to vote against it. This Bill could not rightly be called a 815 simple Measure, for it purported to effect a most important change in the criminal law, and a change so grave ought not to be made without safeguards and limitations.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. GRAHAM MURRAY, Buteshire)
said that as the Bill applied to Scotland he did not wish to remain silent. The principle of the Measure had been under the consideration of several of his predecessors, who had given their hearty assent to it, as he did himself. The practice in Scotland might, he thought, allay some of the apprehensions of hon. Member's opposite. Several of them were afraid of the prejudice which they believed would be caused against a prisoner who should refuse to go into the box and offer his testimony. In Scotland there was what was called the "system of declaration." A prisoner was brought before a magistrate and committed for trial on the primâ facie case put forward by the Public Prosecutor. He might make a declaration, but it was not incumbent upon him to do so. Although, of course, it would be easy at the trial to ask why a person had made no declaration on the subject of the crime charged against him, he could assure the House that the fact that no such declaration had been made was not used against prisoners, for the Judges had been strong enough to prevent their being prejudiced in that way. He did not see why English Judges should not be strong enough to do the same thing here. If among English prosecuting counsel there might be young and keen spirits who could not be restrained, in Scotland prosecuting counsel were under his fatherly eye, and he should be only too ready to restrain them. [Laughter.] The hon. and learned Member who had just sat down had referred to what was said in the Divorce Court when a party was not presented for examination. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's argument was that, after all, divorce was necessarily a civil proceeding, and that the issue in a civil proceeding was a different issue from the issue in a criminal proceeding. It was because there was a difference between the issues that it was fair to draw a certain inference in a divorce case from the fact that a party did not go into the witness-box, while it would be unfair to draw the same inference in a criminal case. There were cases already where a wife 816 was a good witness against a husband— cases of assault by the husband on the wife, for example. As Public Prosecutor, he had been engaged in two cases of child murder within the last 12 months, and in both those cases, although he knew exactly how the crimes were committed, he could not convict the prisoners because the present laws of evidence rendered it impossible. In each case the mother had described the way in which the murder of the infant had been committed by the husband, but conviction was impossible because the wife's evidence was not available. Surely it would be well to render it possible to punish crimes of that character, and to disregard the somewhat sentimental considerations which had been expressed at to the turpitude of putting a wife into the box against her husband, or a husband against his wife. So far as Scotch experience went, they believed that the Bill would do good, and accordingly they gave it their hearty support.
§ SIR FRANK LOCKWOOD
desired to express his warm approval of the Bill, more especially as every other speech from his side of the House had been against it. [Opposition cheers.] This was one of the most important Measures that had been introduced this Session, and he was glad for the honour and credit of the House that it had been debated absolutely apart from any party feeling or party prejudice. [Cheers.] From both sides a certain number of hard cases had been put. Hon. Members on both sides had vied with each other in depicting heartrending scenes where trembling women and trembling prisoners had been placed at a disadvantage according to the views which hon. Members held. It was just as easy to draw a picture— he did not mean in the literal sense— [laughter]—of a poor fellow-creature who was convicted because his mouth was shut as to depict a case of hardship on the other side. He was sure there was no hon. and learned Member who had been in the habit of defending prisoners who did not remember how often he had appealed to juries as to the hardship "to this poor man who stands at the Bar with his mouth closed"—[laughter]—and all the time thanking his stars that he could not put him in the box. [Renewed laughter.] He did not propose to endeavour to illustrate the strength of the 817 case which he advocated by calling up any pathetic picture to its aid. The illustration of the Divorce Court was not altogether a happy one. It was said that the common practice in that Court was for counsel, when he found he was not able to go on, to say in withdrawing that he was not in a position to put his client in the box. But why? Because counsel knew perfectly well that his client was guilty. ["Hear, hear!"] Of course, no advocate would put his client into the box if he knew that he was guilty, and if he thought he would make a bad witness. [Laughter.] It, therefore, did not appear to him that this illustration assisted the argument against the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] He joined in the sympathy expressed with the hon. Member for Londonderry City. It would seem that some of his Friends could not go into the witness-box without making it apparent to the meanest capacity that they were telling what was absolutely untrue. [Laughter.] They were admirable persons in their way, but they had this unfortunate gift, if he might so call it—[laughter]—of impressing everybody who heard them with the firmest belief that they were unconscionable liars. [Laughter.] He sympathised with them and with his hon. and learned Friend. [Laughter.] The extreme case he put, even with regard to persons with whom every right-minded man must have a deep feeling of sympathy, did not appear to be an argument against the Bill. He wanted to say a few words with regard to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for the Dublin University—a speech well worthy the attention of the House, and which was strongly directed against the Bill. His right hon. and learned Friend dealt first of all with the Irish case. Why he dealt with it at such length he did not quite understand, because the Irish case was removed entirely from the Bill.
§ SIR F. LOCKWOOD
observed that the hon. and learned Member for Louth said it was a dodge, and he supposed he must take him to be a good judge. [Laughter.] He himself did not see the object of the dodge. He should like in this connection to make one protest against a 818 statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Londonderry City, who said that Irish prisoners in English Courts of justice had not fair play.
§ SIR F. LOCKWOOD
said, if there was any prejudice against them, they had not fair play. ["Hear, hear!"] He had had some experience in Sheffield, where he was Recorder for ten years. There was a large Irish population there, and be it said to the credit of that population—and he believed it could be said of the Irish population generally throughout their large cities —that they very seldom appeared in criminal Courts charged with felonies. ["Hear, hear!"] They had a rumpus now and then, resulting in charges of unlawful wounding, or trifling offences of that kind. [Laughter.] His experience on the few occasions when they did appear in Courts of Justice was that there were no gentlemen better able to take excellent care of themselves. They were most admirable speakers; they were adept cross-examiners, and so far from any peculiarity of speech, provoking contempt, it was most provocative of a certain amount of good-humoured laughter. He was sure that Irishmen were not treated in English Courts of Justice with the slightest degree of unfairness, and that the hon. and learned Member would himself acknowledge this if he would make further inquiry. [Cheers.] Turning to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for the Dublin University, he had said there was no demand for this Bill. Who would make a demand for it? They did not expect that unconvicted prisoners would go in bands on a Sunday afternoon to Hyde Park and demand that they should have the right to appear as witnesses. [Laughter.] He did not quite see the quarter from which any demand could come that would satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. But there was a strong feeling in favour of this Measure. The great majority of the Judges, he believed, were strongly in favour of it. ["Hear, hear!"] He had some diffidence in saying it, having regard to the views he held with reference to the Bill, but surety, a large proportion of practitioners in the legal profession were in favour of the Bill. ["Hear!"]
819 Surely the long course of Measures which had been introduced since 1879 showed a strong trend of popular feeling in regard to this matter, and beyond that he did not know whence his hon. and learned Friend could expect a demand to come. His hon. and learned Friend drew a pathetic picture of an unfortunate, poor, untutored, uneducated man— innocent it was to be presumed—going into the witness-box to be badgered by vindictive counsel, to be sneered at by the Judge, and apparently ignored by the jury. What a condition of things! A prisoner poor and innocent, a vindictive prosecuting counsel, a jury callous, and a Judge impotent—
§ SIR F. LOCKWOOD
said he was only describing the picture drawn by his hon. and learned Friend, and it involved a condition of things in which the Judge presiding was impotent to see justice done in the Court over which he was presiding. Of course, his hon. and learned Friend had to assume all that, and drew his pathetic picture from his own imagination. He could also draw a picture. A poor, uneducated, and innocent prisoner, a vindictive prosecuting counsel, a callous jury, and a Judge not alive to his duty, and the unfortunate prisoner was called upon to cross-examine various witnesses put into the box. What chance had he of doing that, what chance had he of coping with the vindictive counsel conducting the prosecution, who would re-examine and take advantage of all the inexperienced slips? That was an unfortunate position, no doubt, and he was as much justified in conjuring up such a picture as was his hon. and learned Friend in conjuring up the picture he drew. Hard cases there might be on either Bide, and pathetic pictures might be drawn. He firmly believed that passing this Bill would be a great act of justice, because it would remove what to his mind was a slur on the administration of justice. He should give his hearty support to the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DARLING
said, with regard to some expressions that fell from the hon. and learned Member for Derry as to an Irishman being at a disadvantage in an English Court, that the remedy would 820 be not to reject this Bill, but to enact that an Irishman should not be a competent witness in an English Court of Justice on his own or anybody else's behalf. With regard to the proposal itself, he had never made it a feature in his election address, not supposing the matter had any personal interest for his constituents—[laughter]—but he had formed a very definite view that a man charged with an act of violence in a criminal Court should be in the same position as to giving evidence as he would be in were he charged for the act in a civil Court, and it was not easy to see how any logical distinction could be drawn. It was a question between two different systems of arriving at the truth. The old system of English law was this. They said that any person who was accused either of owing money or of having committed an assault, whether he was accused in a criminal court or in a civil court, was presumably a person who would not tell the truth, and, therefore, was incapacitated as a witness, and they did not allow the defendant to give evidence, whatever was the nature of the charge brought against him. Long ago that view was given up, and it was now considered a barbarous view. They had ascertained that people might have a high interest in not disclosing the truth and yet they disclosed it, and they had acted upon that tentatively so far. By Measure after Measure they had first excepted one cause of action after another from, the operation of that general rule. Then they proceeded further, and by Measure after Measure they had excepted one criminal charge after another from the operation of that rule, and now they stood in this position—that in a large number of cases the prisoner might, and did, go into the witness-box in a criminal court and gave evidence on his own behalf. They have even reached this pass, that it was possible in the same indictment to include a charge upon which a prisoner might give evidence, and another upon which he might not give evidence. One did not need to have been a Commissioner of Assize to see the absurdity of such a proceeding. The argument he would put before the House was simply this—they had gone so far that they must either repeal absolutely all the statutes which permitted a prisoner to give evidence on his own behalf or they 821 must enfranchise him altogether. He would suggest that the hon. and learned Members who were opposed to this Bill should consult what some of them had written on the dial in the Temple— Vestigia nulla retrorsum.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
said he felt confident that if the Debate had been followed by a larger number of hon. Members the result would have been to lead them to vote for the rejection of the Measure. [Cries of "No!"] He was ashamed to confess that he had not studied the question with any great care, and he came to the Debate in a frame of mind to be converted by the arguments he might hear. The Attorney General throughout his distinguished legal career had moved in the serene atmosphere of the civil courts, and he did not think that either he or the Solicitor General, with all their wide experience, would venture to speak with anything like authority from the point of view of the criminal lawyer. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth stood in a different position. In addition to being a distinguished advocate in all courts, he had enjoyed an unique and exceptional career in the criminal courts, and he expected from him not merely general particulars of certain cases, but the enunciation of some great principle which was involved in this proposal. Instead of that he gratified them with very interesting and, in some instances, very graphic narratives of certain cases in which he had appeared and of others of which he had been informed, in which hardships had been inflicted on the prisoners. He admitted it was possible to multiply instances in which innocent, persons might have been acquitted had an opportunity been afforded them of giving evidence on their own behalf, but it was not owing to illustrations of that character that they were going to revolutionise a criminal system which had obtained unchallenged through a long series of generations. In one case, and in one case only, it would possibly be an advantage to a prisoner to allow him to go into the box, and that was where the prisoner's previous career was unimpeachable, but he had no hesitation in saying that to impose upon a prisoner the absolute responsibility of going into the witness-box would inflict 822 hardship which, in the end, would militate largely against the interests of justice. Let them take the case of a man who had been convicted of similar offences to the one with which he was now charged. The counsel for the prosecution would put to him questions relating to his previous career, and human nature being what it is, there would be very little chance of the jury acquitting him. It had been suggested by the Attorney General that a great number of Judges were in favour of this Measure, but at the same time there was no inconsiderable number of Judges who were opposed to it. He put a similar question to a great Judge the other day. He asked him if it was permissible to interrogate prisoners, and his answer was that if you once admitted prisoners into the witness-box, called by solicitor or counsel, the necessary consequence was that they would introduce into England that system which he considered one of the great defects of the administration of justice in France. It would follow, as a matter of course, that there would be interrogation of the prisoner by the Judge. [Cries of "No!"] It would be the natural result, and then they would have the spectacle which so shocked their feelings, of prisoners being tortured as they were tortured in the petty Courts of France. [Cries of "Divide!"] He did not wish to discuss the matter. Exhaustive speeches had already been delivered. He approached the question with an unbiassed mind. It would be undesirable that they should expose a prisoner to the necessity of being interrogated. In conclusion might he call the attention of the House to one very great danger. If a person did go into the box and did give answers which were untrue, resulting in his acquittal, he would be exposed to a prosecution for perjury. That was not a mere phantom of the imagination. He knew of a case where a prisoner was acquitted in that way. The prisoner was acquitted, and as a result of that acquittal the police—it was a police prosecution—at once prosecuted the man for perjury. ["Hear, hear!"] That case was brought before Mr. Justice Wills, who expressed his horror that the prisoner should again stand his trial. If this Bill passed, he hoped it would be passed in a form to avoid such scandals 823 as this. In conclusion he called attention to the fact that a prisoner who was acquitted on false evidence given by himself might be further prosecuted for perjury.
§ MR. J. LLOYD WHARTON (York, W. R., Ripon)
said he took a great interest in regard in the details of this Bill, and was somewhat qualified to say a word or two with regard to it. He wished the House to take into consideration what were the present position and prospects of criminal jurisdiction. A man was put on his trial, evidence was given against him, and he was desirous of making a statement. In accordance with what he thought was the unfortunate system pursued in their Courts, the man was told he must not make a statement now; he might ask questions. That was a course which he never followed, because he thought it was hard on the prisoner. A prisoner ought to be allowed to say what he had got to say in his defence as early as possible in the trial, because at the conclusion of a case an illiterate prisoner might have entirely forgotten what he had intended to advance in his defence. He was in favour of the Bill, and was prepared to vote for it. But he should like to see inserted in the Bill, before it became law, a safeguard against a prisoner being asked on cross-examination any question in regard to previous convictions. ["Hear!"] He was trying only two days ago a woman who had been 105 times convicted—41 of the convictions having been for felony—and if, as might be done under the Bill, he had asked that woman, "Is it not true that you have been convicted 105 times?" the jury without turning in the box would have found her guilty. The law hitherto had been most jealous, and rightly jealous, with regard to what he would call the concealment of previous convictions from the jury until the prisoner had been convicted, and he hoped that when the Bill got into Committee, a rigid provision would be inserted that questions in regard to previous convictions should not be asked. With that safeguard he thought the examination of prisoners would tend to the furtherance of justice.
§ MR. DUNCOMBE (Cumberland, Egremont)
claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker with- 824 held his assent, and declined then to put that Question. Debate resumed.
MR. T. M. HEALY
said the Bill had been described as a Bill of great importance, which jurists had sought for and sighed for for the last thirty years, and it had been said that vain efforts had been made by various Governments, irrespective of party, to place it on the Statute Book. But the Government had placed the Bill on the Orders of the Day after the Berriew School Bill, showing that in their opinion the Berriew School Bill, which interested 37 people and a boy—[laughter]—was of more importance to the country than this great Measure affecting the criminal law. Again, there was another Measure which had been taken up by all sections of judges and jurists, namely, the establishment of Court of Criminal Appeal. No attempt had been made by the Government of a Court of Criminal Appeal. No Measure of real beneficence—but they preferred instead to endeavour to pass this Bill about which, to say the least, opinion was divided. Admittedly the Bill was intended to secure more convictions. It was said that the Irish Members should have no interest in it, because Ireland was excluded from its operation. But his experience was that after a pledge had been given in the House that a Bill should not apply to Ireland, an Amendment extending it to Ireland was inserted in the House of Lords. He was surprised to hear the learned Attorney General giving as one of his instances in favour of the Bill the question of forgery; and his mind went back to the case of the accused person who was allowed to give evidence in his own behalf, and not before a common jury, but before "the first assembly of gentlemen in Europe." A more lame and halting statement than that accused and innocent person made on that occasion he never heard; and the House did not believe it. In speaking on the Second Reading of the Coercion Act of 1887, in regard to a letter which was admittedly forged, Mr. Parnell took the miserable point that the end of a letter was turned down, whereas in his usual signature it was turned up, and the House received the statement with guffaws. That was the statement of the ablest, the astutest, and the coolest man in this country or perhaps any other.
825 He was put before the House on trial, and when the House had heard his defence they believed him guilty. The Coercion Act was passed on that basis; and the learned Attorney General, who was so anxious for the prisoner, passed through his great Bill about charges and allegations, and brought forward Richard Pigott in support of forgery. [Cries of "Divide!"] And was Mr. Parnell acquitted on his own sworn testimony? No, he was acquitted because the case against him broke down upon the miserable testimony of the accusers put forward with all the strength which the British Government could command. It was said that there was every chance in this country for the innocent, and that there was no prejudice against an Irishman. What about the brothers Habron, who were sentenced to death for the murder of policeman Cox, near Manchester, and kept in penal servitude, for no reason but that they were Irishmen— [Cries of "No!" and Nationalist cheers]—until Peace, on his own conviction for murder, admitted that he had killed the policeman. They knew what fair play Irishmen received in the House, and how utterly impartial and unprejudiced were the minds of the educated classes in regard to Irish claims. One of the greatest grudges which Irishmen had against Englishmen was that whatever the actions of the latter might have been with regard to Ireland, they were always graciously pleased to forgive themselves. [Laughter.] This Bill had passed the House of Lords a great number of times, and except for one occasion, when a Liberal Government was in office, the Lords had always inserted Ireland in the Bill. It was said that crimes should be punished. He saw the hon. Member for Battersea in his place, who was recently a criminal before a British jury. Workmen were continually being brought forward charged with conspiracy under the Trade Union Acts. [Cries of "Divide!"] The law of criminal conspiracy was the 826 widest and vaguest on which anyone could be tried—
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
claimed to move "That the Question be now put." [Ministerial cheers and Opposition cries of "Oh!"]
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 185; Noes, 67.—(Division List, No. 107.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 210; Noes, 41.—(Division List, No. 168.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to: — Bill Read a Second time, and committed for Monday next.