HL Deb 05 June 1805 vol 5 cc165-7

On the motion of lord Auckland, the order was enforced for the exclusion of strangers; and, in consequence, the doors were kept shut for about half an hour. Immediately after our re-admission into the house, their lordships resolved into a committee, lord Walsingham in the Chair, on the case of judge Fox.

The Lord Chancellor stated, that from the best attention he could give to the subject of discussion in the committee, the last evening of their lordships' meeting, he was led to conclude, that it was impossible, consistently with the forms of the house, to give effect to the motion then made. This opinion of the noble and learned lord gave rise to a short debate, or rather conversation, in which earls Spencer and Carlisle, lords Auckland, Mulgrave, and Harrowby, and the marquises of Buckingham and Abercorn, took a part. The noble earls above mentioned expressed their regret, that it should be deemed preferable to adhere to form, in a case where the most important interests of justice were at stake.

The Earl of Carlisle, in particular, adverted to the advantage which he conceived the accusing parties must derive from the proceeding which took place in the former committee, and observed, that if these were not to be communicated to the accused, their lordships would be metamorphosed from their former capacity of grand jury finding a bill, to a petit jury, whose function it was to try the cause.

Lord Auckland called to the recollection of the committee his doubts on a former evening, that the motion could not consistently be acted upon. He regretted part of the proceedings which had taken place, as contrary to his sense of propriety, but had to express his hope, that no copy of proceedings had been communicated.

Lord Mulgrave contended, that full and substantial justice might be done to that parties, notwithstanding the proceedings that had hitherto taken place; these made no difference, and could not affect the proceedings now in train, in which the case would be openly and regularly canvassed at the bar of the house, and evidence heard on both sides. The noble secretary of state observed, that if the officers of the house had done their duty, no communication of the proceedings in question could be made.

The Marquis of Buckingham made a few observations in support of what fell from noble lords on his side of the house. He considered, upon the whole, the learned judge, as being placed in a worse situation, in consequence of the proceedings hitherto adopted. He then adverted to the effect of certain proceedings which had taken place.—After the lord chancellor had shortly explained, it was ordered, that counsel and evidence should be called in. Accordingly Mr. Romilly, for the petitioners, in support of the accusation, and Messrs. Adam and Nolan in behalf of Mr. justice Fox, appeared at the bar. The learned judge himself took his seat below the centre of the bar. Mr. Romilly immediately entered upon the facts of the case. He stated he was counsel for Mr. John Fawcett, and ten other persons, who presented one of the petitions, complaining of certain parts of the conduct of Mr. justice Fox in his judicial capacity, while on the north-western circuit, in the summer of the year 1803, in Ireland. The first witness brought forward was Mr. John Fawcett above mentioned. He was very shortly examined; when Mr. Johnson, clerk of the crown for the county of Fermanagh, &c. was brought forward: this gentleman was examined in brief by Mr. Romilly, and afterwards at greater length cross-examined by Mr. Adam, on the part of Mr. justice Fox. He was shortly examined by Mr. Romilly, and was asked several questions on the part of their lord- ships. Mr. William Armstrong, another of appointed to investigate the papers relative the petitioners, was the third witness called.

The Duke of Clarence objected to the examination of this witness, as he was one of the petitioners, and it was a rule of the house that no petitioner should be examined as a witness in his own cause.

Lord Ellenborough considered this rule as applying only to the civil causes which came before their lordships. In the courts below, the evidence of a prosecutor was always admissible; and, from analogy, he was of opinion that the present petitioners might be examined at the bar.—The house appeared to be of this opinion; and the counsel, who had withdrawn, were again called in. After they were called in, however, the point was argued at great length by Mr. Adam and Mr. Nolan on the one side, and. Mr. Romilly on the other. Their lordships then finally decided that the petitioners should be examined. The witness was again called in; but the farther proceedings were adjourned until to-morrow.

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