HL Deb 24 July 1866 vol 184 cc1366-8

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."—(The Lord Chancellor.)


begged the attention of their Lordships while he repeated the circumstances under which this Bill was introduced. The presiding magistrate at Bow Street, in refusing to give up to the French Government an accused person unless there was sufficient evidence to render probable the conviction of the person demanded, was simply acting upon the principle adopted in the case of an English prisoner, who was not committed for trial unless a primâ facie case were made out against him. The effect of the alterations proposed by the noble and learned Lord would be, that instead of no prisoners being delivered up to the French autho- rities, any person who was accused would be delivered up. Under all the circumstances, he hoped their Lordships would reject the Bill.


My Lords, I very much regret that making the original statement on the introduction of this Bill I should have expressed myself so imperfectly as to have been misunderstood by the noble Lord on my left with regard to the object of the measure. I explained to your Lordships that when treaties were entered into, in the year 1843, with France and the United States, it became necessary to introduce Bills for the purpose of carrying those treaties into effect; and, inasmuch as it could not be expected that the foreign countries should whenever they claimed a fugitive send over persons to give evidence in regard to the guilt of the accused party, the Acts of Parliament provided that the evidence to be adduced before the magistrate to whom the application was made for delivering up the accused should consist of copies of the depositions certified by the magistrate who issued the warrant, and also that such copies should be proved to be authentic by some person sent over for the purpose from the foreign country. I also explained to your Lordships that the mode in which documents sent from France were authenticated was this:—The juge d'instruction certified to the correctness of the copy of the depositions, and his certificate was authenticated by the Minister of Justice—the head of the law in France—who affixed his signature and seal of office. Now, it certainly seems an extraordinary thing that this authentication should be regarded as insufficient, and that it should be necessary for a witness to attend in order to prove that the copies of the depositions so verified and authenticated were true copies of the original depositions; and it is still more extraordinary that the presence of a witness should be required in extradition cases, because, if during a trial in a Court of Justice in this country these very documents verified in the same way had been produced as evidence they would have been admitted, without any further proof being required. The French Government thought it was a great indignity that a certificate under the seal and signature of the highest officer of justice in that country, should not be sufficient to authenticate documents sent over to this country, but that in addition a witness should be required to prove that they were correct copies of the originals. On a former occasion I explained to your Lordships that the magistrate of a former day thought it was his duty to inquire, not as the noble Lord supposes, whether there was a sufficient charge to warrant him in sending the accused party to his trial, but whether the evidence adduced was sufficient to secure a conviction. I think it is perfectly clear that the view which is now taken is the correct one—namely, that all the magistrate has to inquire into is whether there is sufficient evidence to send the accused parties to trial. The Bill which I now ask your Lordships to read a third time will merely assimilate the law with regard to evidence in cases of extradition with the law which prevails with regard to foreign documents in our Courts of Justice; and how that can possibly make the slightest difference in the opinion of the magistrate as to the duty he has to perform I cannot understand. But it does seem to me a most unreasonable thing that more evidence should be required in cases of extradition than is required in our Courts of Justice. The noble Lord evidently does not understand in the least the object of the Bill. On inquiry, however, he will find that what I have stated is perfectly correct. Now, can there be any reason why this Bill should not pass? Its provisions will not confer on foreign Governments any greater advantages than they at present possess with regard to the extradition of criminals. Indeed, a recent case shows plainly enough that there need be no apprehension that persons whose extradition is demanded will not have ample protection. The case in question was heard before Sir Thomas Henry, who thought he was bound upon the evidence to deliver up the prisoner. But a writ of habeas corpus was immediately obtained, and the Court of Queen's Bench was applied to to prevent the extradition. That Court, however, confirmed the decision of the magistrate; and afterwards an application was made on behalf of the prisoner to the Court of Chancery, so that not only the Court of Justice in the first instance but two Courts of Appeal decided his case before he was delivered up. I am quite sure the noble Lord will find that what I have stated is correct, and I think there can be no just objection to the Bill being read a third time.

On Question, agreed to; Bill road 3a accordingly, and passed, and sent to the Commons.