HL Deb 04 July 1836 vol 34 cc1168-70
The Earl of Shaftesbury

moved, that the Church Discipline Bill be committed.

Lord Ellenborough

said, his objection to this Bill was, that it introduced Jury trials upon new principles. The Bill ought to state more clearly in what way these Juries were to be summoned, or how the chairman was to decide on the character, property, and even existence of offending clergymen. He bad prepared some clauses on the point, and wished them to be printed for the consideration of the House.

The Bishop of Exeter

also had some clauses to propose in points which now pressed heavily on the Church. At pre sent, it was hardly possible to carry on proceedings against a delinquent clergyman, in consequence of the enormous amount of the costs. If they made the costs extremely light, they might be overwhelmed with the number of applications for proceedings, but at the same time they should not be of such magnitude as almost to prevent the possibility of proceeding. The object, therefore, of the clause which he wished to propose was, that there should be some species of precognition in cases of this kind, which should have jurisdiction somewhat to the same effect as that now exercised by the Grand Jury. He also intended to propose, that provision should be made to have a promoter of the proceedings against a clergyman, against whom an accusation was brought.

Lord Wynford

complained of the clause which subjected prosecutors to costs in case the prosecution failed; but expressed him- self generally favourable to the measure, and anxious that, after it had been amended in a few particulars, it should be allowed to pass. He hoped that the noble Lord on the Woolsack would consent either to such a postponement as would afford him sufficient time to prepare his amendments, or do that which he considered the better course—viz., to send the Bill to a Select Committee up-stairs, not, however, he could assure their Lordships, with any view on his part to the final rejection of the measure, which he trusted might be rendered highly serviceable to the interests of the Church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

was obliged to the noble Lord (Lord Ellen borough) for the assistance which he was ready to afford in the amendment of this Bill; but it appeared to him that the noble Lord, though he decidedly expressed his approbation of the Bill, had, nevertheless, at the same time objected to it, and, in some respects, he thought rather unfairly. The clause of which he had complained in particular, was no departure from the ancient laws, but actually in accordance with the present custom at Doctors' Commons. For his own part, however, he was disposed to support that proposition, be cause it was necessary that some security should be afforded to clergymen against malicious and unfounded prosecutions. He was acquainted with several instances in which the want of some remedy of the nature now proposed, had been attended with grievous and oppressive effects upon parties who had been unjustly accused. He had himself, when Bishop of London, been engaged in a case respecting the patronage of a school, in which a caveat had been entered against his licence, which he forbore to sign until it should be deter mined to whom the right belonged. The prosecutor who commenced this case, was not at the conclusion of it, in any way before the Court, and he himself was accordingly left to pay the costs to the amount of 70l. or 80l. He had no objection to the postponement of the Committee; his object was to get as good a Bill as possible, and he knew not how that could be better effected than by having all the amendments printed, for the consideration of the House.

Lord Lyndhurst

wished to call their attention to one part of this measure. It appeared that the mode of proceeding, according to the Bill, was to be this:— A citation was to be issued to the party charged., then the charge given in writing, and the answer to that charge was then to be given in; after which a Jury would be summoned to try the case. But suppose the charge was not a valid charge in law, what would be the consequence of that proposition? Why, that the Jury would have to deal with a matter entirely out of their province, for the object of a Jury was to decide questions of fact, and not points of law. Their Lordships knew, that in such cases, at common law, the proceeding was by a demurrer.

Bill committed pro forma,