HL Deb 01 August 1859 vol 155 cc733-7

Report of Amendments received (according to Order).


called the attention of the House to the two clauses which had been introduced into the Bill in Committee, namely, that by which the Judges should regulate by rota, or whatever other mode they deemed most convenient, the attendance of the requisite number of Judges to make a full Court. The second clause was, that the Bill should comprehend the whole United Kingdom, except Scotland. The latter by which persons domiciled in Ireland might sue in this Court for a dissolution of marriage had not been proposed by him, but he saw no objection to it. Some had felt alarm lest this should deprive the Irish of local remedies which they already possessed, and should compel them to come to England to prosecute their suits. In answer to that it would be sufficient to say that the Bill left the parties in possession of any remedies they might already have; and made their suing in the London Court a purely voluntary act. The other objection was that the clause would enable Hindoos, Parsees, Mahomedans and the like, to come here and claim divorces on the principles of their own laws. That was likewise a pure mistake. The Court would have no powers except those expressly conferred upon it by the statute. Nevertheless, as the Amendment was objected to it was not his intention to press it.


said, he was very glad his noble and learned Friend had consented to withdraw this Amendment, for otherwise the greatest confusion and injustice would be occasioned. The Colonies, which had Legislatures of their own, would have great reason to complain, and as for India, there was nothing to prevent Parsees and Hindoos from being brought under the operation of the Bill had the clause remained. In fact it would have interfered most seriously with social rights, especially in those sects and creeds where the marriage tie was held to be indissoluble.


said, he had been given to understand that the Act already applied to the Colonies, and that it was only needed therefore to extend it to Ireland.


said, that when the parties were domiciled in England they might apply to the Court, even although both the marriage and the adultery had taken place abroad. When the parties, however, were not domiciled in England, they were beyond the jurisdiction of the Court.

Amendment agreed to.

LORD REDESDALE moved an Amend- ment in Clause 5, which enables the Court to sit with closed doors where it should appear to the Court desirable to do so in regard of public decency. He objected altogether to the total closing of the Court, as being repugnant to the general principle of the administration of justice in this country; but as their Lordships, on a division in Committee, had affirmed the clause, he thought it would be advisable to narrow its operation as much as possible. It was with this view he proposed this modification, which would limit the power of the Court to exclude the public where decency appeared to require it in suits for nullity of marriage only. The evidence in many of these suits was throughout of a grossly indelicate character, and as these had been cases, and he believed the only cases in which the Ecclesiastical Courts had sat with closed doors, the exclusion of the public from similar proceedings in the new Court might perhaps be permitted, without very seriously interfering with the general principles on which justice was administered in this country.


observed, that the subject had already been most amply discussed by their Lordships, and they had determined, on a division, that the Judge should, on his responsibility, hear a case in private when public decency required it. He trusted, therefore, that the noble Lord would not press his Amendment.


said, he objected to the Amendment as much as he did to the clause. It was a most dangerous power to give by Act of Parliament. If it was right that such a power should exist in one Court, it ought to exist in all. There were as great exhibitions of indecency at the Assize Courts as in this Court.


reminded the House that in criminal courts there was no secrecy, and in eases of rape the girl or woman who complained had to give her evidence in public, and he thought properly, because it was in such cases that publicity and searching investigation were most required. He should support the Amendment, because it would tend to diminish the evil which the clause would create.


thought it would be unwise to tie up the hands of the Judge in cases where his discretion could most usefully be employed. Incases of cruelty the acts complained of were frequently of a gross and revolting character, and it was now required that an injured wife seeking relief should only obtain it at the price of proclaiming her misfortunes in the hearing of a crowded court.


thought that the closing of the Court should be left in the discretion of the Judges. He considered publicity in this particular Court exceedingly injurious to public morality.


wished that the clause were struck out altogether; but the attempt made on a previous occasion to strike it out having been unsuccessful he should vote for the modification proposed by the noble Lord.


said, he was opposed to any infringement of the practice of entire publicity in the administration of justice, and he should have voted, had he been present, against the clause itself. The House had unfortunately, he thought, affirmed the clause by a large majority, and now, although he was ready to admit there was something inconsistent in refusing in one case a concession which was made in another, he thought the clause ought to be restricted as much as possible to what was absolutely necessary. He would therefore support the Amendment if his noble Friend divided the House, and it would give him much more pleasure to support him if he were hereafter to move the rejection of the whole clause.


said, that it was clear that no man ought to be deprived of life or liberty without an open trial, and he should be against anything that would have the slightest tendency to deprive him of that right. The House, however, were here called on to legislate with regard to an exceptional case in a civil suit, and he thought they might leave that discretion proposed in the clause to the Court without the smallest encroachment on the general principle.


said, that the adoption of the Amendment he had moved, would not remove the objection he entertained to the principle involved in the clause, and he had only proposed it as preferable to the unlimited power of exclusion at the discretion of the Judge granted by the Bill. He would, therefore, as there were several Lords who were not present on the former occasion, who appeared desirous of recording their votes against the principle of the clause, ask leave of the House to withdraw his Amendment and move the rejection of the clause, in order that their Lordships might not be subjected to the inconvenience of dividing twice on the' subject.

After a few words from the Duke of ARGYLL and Lord CRANWORTH,

Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.


then moved the omission of the clause.

On Question, That the said clause stand part of the Bill?

The House divided:—Contents 24; Not-Contents 11: Majority 13.

Campbell, L. (L. Chancellor) Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton).
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Cleveland, D. Calthorpe, L.
Newcastle, D. Cranworth, L.
De Mauley, L.
Beauchamp, E. De Tabley, L.
Granville, E. Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine).
Ripon, E. Foley, L. [Teller].
Rosslyn, E. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough). [Teller].
Dungannon, V. Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll).
Sydney, V.
Teynham, L.
Audley, L. Wodehouse, L.
Aveland, L. Wynford, L.
Richmond, D. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore) [Teller].
Exeter, M. Churston, L.
Salisbury, M. Colville of Culross, L.
Redesdale, L. [Teller].
Stanley of Alderley, L.
Derby, E. Wycombe, L. (E. Shelburne).
Lonsdale, E.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Bill to be read 3a To-morrow.