HL Deb 23 June 1845 vol 81 cc1018-20
On the Motion of Lord Brougham

, the Small Debts Bill was read 2a.

Lord Brougham

then moved the suspension of the Standing Orders, Nos. 26, and 155. Standing Orders considered and dispensed with. House in Committee. Bill reported without amendment.

The Duke of Richmond

objected to the clause giving to gaolers the power of taking the affidavits of a prisoner seeking for release. He disapproved of allowing the gaoler to administer the oath, and wished that this office should be assigned to the visiting justices. The gaoler was often required to be absent at the assize town, and was, besides, an inferior officer.

Lord Brougham

remarked that the Clerk of the Papers in the Queen's Bench, as well as other officers, very inferior in place to the gaoler, administered oaths. A prisoner had no means of drawing any of the visiting justices to the prison to take his oath. The gaoler never could be absent, except when at the assize town, which very seldom happened, for they were generally held in the same town. He would have no objection to insert the words "or the visiting justices."

Lord Portman

thought it desirable to confine the administration of oaths to the visiting justices.

The Earl of Wicklow

thought the clause introduced an objectionable novelty, unnecessary for its purpose.

Lord Campbell

had no objection to allow the governor of the gaol to exercise this function. The governors of gaols were extremely respectable men; he knew many instances in which they had been officers in the Army or Navy, and were above all exception.

The Lord Chancellor

said, unless the provision of the clause were adopted, the persons whose case it was intended to meet would be left without remedy, for there were no means of procuring the attendance of Masters Extraordinary, who might administer the oaths.

Lord Brougham

added, that oaths might be administered by gaolers with as much solemnity as in that House. During the judicial proceedings of that House oaths were often administered in a corner, in a whisper, and in a manner not likely to make any serious impression on the minds of the witnesses.

The Duke of Richmond

suggested that the wording should be amended, so as to make the oath administerable by the visiting or other justices, or if their attendance could not be procured within a certain number of hours, by the gaoler.

The Earl of Radnor

entirely concurred with his noble and learned Friend as to the lamentable carelessness and levity with which oaths were often administered in the judiciary proceedings of England, and hoped that a remedy would speedily be acquired, now that their Lordships' attention had been called to the subject.

Lord Brougham

had no objection to the noble Duke's suggestion, and would make the oath administerable by the visiting or other justices, or if their attendance could not be procured within twelve hours, by the gaoler.

Amendments made. Bill read 3a, and passed.