§ The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE moved the Second Reading of the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Bill, which, he said, whilst simplifying the administration of justice, did not alter the principle of the existing law. The Bill repealed wholly or partially several Acts regarding summary jurisdiction in Ireland; and undoubtedly it in some degree extended the power of magistrates, but in certain cases the right of appeal was given. No material alteration, however, being made in the existing law, it was not necessary to call attention to any particular point, especially as he anticipated no serious objection to the measure. The Bill had been prepared with great care; it had been thoroughly sifted and examined by a Committee of the House of Commons, and he hoped their Lordships would agree to it.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
gave a qualified assent to this Bill, which in many respects was a great improvement on the existing law. It did not, however, embrace all the points on which reform ought to be introduced. The question of trespass was entirely overlooked in it. Besides, it introduced not only a discrepancy between the statute law of England and Ireland, but also a discrepancy in the principles of the common law applicable to both countries. This Bill, for the first time in the history of Ireland, enabled a single magistrate to act in petty sessions. It conferred on a single magistrate all the privileges and all the authority which had hitherto been invested in two or more magistrates at petty sessions; such a provision might be necessary in some parts of Ireland, and for a time, but it ought to be limited to those districts, and to a certain duration, and ought to be considered as made for an exceptional case. As an exceptional case, he would support it. He would not confer on a single magistrate in Ireland power which they would not confer on a single magistrate in England; and he used that expression without intending to cast any slur upon the magistracy of Ireland. He was of opinion that the stipendiary magistrates of that country should not be made its only acting magistrates. This Bill gave to a single magistrate the power of adjudicating corporal punishment on juvenile offenders. Now, such a power could only be justified by the exigency of the 930 case, and should be limited to such exigency. He trusted that the defects and omissions which he had pointed out in the Bill would be corrected and supplied in the Committee. If those objections were removed, no one would support the Bill with more alacrity than himself.
The EARL of WICKLOW
was in favour of the Bill, and should be loth to have its passing this Session endangered by the proposal of any Amendments. His noble Friend was, he thought, mistaken in the principal objection which he had urged against the Bill. Under Lord Wellesley's Act, passed in Earl Grey's Administration, a single magistrate was empowered to act in petty sessions. From the circumstances of Ireland, and from its circumstances in every part of it, whether distressed or not, it would be impossible to carry on the petty sessions, if one magistrate could not act by himself. He recommended that a proviso should be introduced into this Bill to this effect, that nothing in the Bill should enable a single magistrate to act in petty sessions, except where he was authorised so to act at present. The Bill would be so beneficial to the administration of justice at the sessions that he hoped it would pass without delay.
§ After a few words from the Earl of GLENGALL.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
said, that there were various parts of Ireland in which, if the other magistrates did not act, or were unwilling to act, and if this provision enabling a single magistrate to act were not carried, they might as well shut up the doors of all the courts of petty sessions in the country.
§ After a short explanation by Lord MONTEAGLE,
The EARL of LUCAN
said, this was a most valuable measure; and every one in Ireland ought to be thankful to the Government for it. He quite disagreed with the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) in thinking that one magistrate being empowered to hold petty sessions was an evil; on the contrary, he thought it would be a great benefit. In the unfortunate county with which he was connected, they would frequently not have had a petty sessions at all if there had not been a stipendiary magistrate. Something should be done to let magistrates know that, if they continued in the commission of the peace, they must attend petty sessions. It was the fault of the Government that they had 931 not insisted upon the attendance of magistrates before.
§ Bill read 2a.