HL Deb 15 February 1856 vol 140 cc829-30

EARL GRANVILLE moved that the Bill be now read a second time.


said, he did not intend to oppose the second reading of this Bill; but he wished to point out something of great importance to the country closely connected with it, and which, he thought, might have been advantageously introduced into it. This Bill dealt with the metropolitan police force, which depended greatly upon the metropolitan police magistrates, who were gentlemen bred to the law, and who, in a highly creditable manner, discharged all the duties belonging to the office. It often occurred that important and difficult cases came before them, which they adjudicated on in a most satisfactory manner. What was wanted to perfect the system was, that these magistrates should not continue to be removable, as now, on the pleasure of the Crown; or, in other words, be liable to be removed at any time on the fiat of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He did not pretend to say that any practical inconvenience had arisen from it, and he was quite certain that the police magistrates were quite safe in the hands of such men as Sir George Grey and the hon. Mr. Walpole, who held office under the Earl of Derby; but the danger which he (Lord Campbell) wished to guard against was that which might arise at a future period, and to prevent the police magistrates and the public from suffering, because the magistrate had firmly discharged his duty. He would suggest to the Government that police magistrates should hold office subject to any complaint, to be investigated by a domestic tribunal, consisting of a selection of Judges, who should have power to remove him on the complaint being satisfactorily substantiated. Such a tribunal would remove a man from his office with less apparent harshness or indignity to the officer than the present system, and the public be in no way injured by it. He did not expect the Government would introduce a clause to that effect in the present stage of the Bill, but he had been induced to make those observations, hoping the Government would give the subject their consideration.


said, that having on a former occasion held the office of Home Secretary for six years, he could not abstain from expressing his opinion on the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord. During that time one or two instances came under his knowledge with reference to police magistrates, that confirmed him in the opinion that the power at present retained by the Home Office with reference to the dismissal of police magistrates should be continued. In the case to which he had alluded, that power was exercised for the benefit of the public. No Secretary of State would venture to exercise that power from any personal or malicious motives, and which the Parliament and the public would be sure to condemn. If they made police magistrates irremovable, he (Lord Panmure) thought they would find very many of them running into extremes in the administration of justice, which would be very likely to bring it into disrepute more than anything else. He hoped the police magistrates would continue to be held responsible to the Home Secretary for their conduct in the discharge of their official duties.


said, that he was quite sure, when his noble Friend was in the Home Office, that he would do nothing but what he believed to be right, and that he would not be likely to err in so doing; but his noble Friend had urged nothing to show that any inconvenience would arise from adopting the proposal which he (Lord Campbell) had made. The noble Lord had said that, in two instances, magistrates were properly removed. Of that he (Lord Campbell) had not the slightest doubt, and he believed that if those cases had been referred to such an independent tribunal as that which he had recommended, there would not have been the slightest danger of their being allowed to continue in office for one hour beyond the time when they ought to be removed. But that arbitrary power, by which the Secretary of State was able, without assigning any reason, and without giving the accused party any opportunity of defending himself, to remove a magistrate from office, ought not to be allowed to exist in this or any other free country.

Bill read 2a; and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Monday next.

House adjourned to Monday next.