HL Deb 06 March 1877 vol 232 cc1444-6

said, he had given Notice of his intention to ask the Lord Chancellor, Whether his attention has been called to a report in The Times of the refusal by Lord Chief Justice Coleridge to allow the costs of a conviction for night poaching, when he was stated to have used these words— that it was the first occasion any such application had been made to him, and he hoped it would be the last, for he certainly never should order the costs in any such case. He wished it distinctly to be understood that he was only following the dicta of eminent Judges. The law ought undoubtedly to be enforced, but as the law protected the amusements of rich people, they must pay for its enforcement. He had also given Notice to ask, Whether that report is correct; and, if so, whether the ruling of Lord Chief Justice Coleridge is in conformity with the practice of Her Majesty's Judges? He had purposely given a Notice sufficiently long to enable the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack to communicate with Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, and to enable the learned Judge to return such reply as he might deem advisable. However, since he put his Notice on the Paper a change had occurred in the circumstances of the case. Last evening a Question on the subject was put and answered in "another place; "and, as the Answer was in the shape of' a letter from Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, he hoped their Lordships would not consider him to be out of Order if he referred to it. The letter stated that the report, with the exception of one word—the variation in which did not at all affect the Question of which he had given Notice—was correct; and it further stated that several learned Judges, none of whom were now living, but whose names were mentioned with respect by the Bar, took the same view as that adopted by Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, and that their decisions on the point formed precedents on which he had acted. He had been unable to verify those authorities, and probably they were not in print; but as one and probably more of those decisions had come within the Lord Chief Justice's own knowledge, he thought their Lordships might take it that the learned Judge's statement on that head was correct. Thus two portions of the Questions he had intended to ask had been answered. He would not conceal from their Lordships, however, that there was another branch of the case upon which he was sorely tempted to enter—he was much tempted to ask if this was the judicial utterance of the Lord Chief Justice—that he was determined to refuse costs invariably in all such cases, irrespective of what the circumstances might be—and that the amusements of the rich must be protected at the expense of the rich. He would not, however, enter into that point either, because the Circuit had not closed and the noble and learned Lord was not in his place. He had been most anxious to ascertain at the earliest possible moment the correctness of the newspaper report; but, as the Question he would have put to elicit information on that head had been answered by anticipation, he would not further take up the time of the House.


If I rightly understand my noble Friend he does not put any Question to me. I am glad he has not done so, for, had he done so, I should have replied that, though I should have had great pleasure in becoming the medium of any communication which the Lord Chief Justice might desire to make to your Lordships, on the other hand, I have no jurisdiction at all over and no responsibility at all for the Lord Chief Justice, and no means of ascertaining the correctness of the observation he is reported to have made which is not open to any other Member of your Lordships' House.


said, that in the absence of the Lord Chief Justice, he did not intend to go into a discussion of the subject. He must, however, say that if the Game Laws could not rest on their own merits, they ought to be revised. He believed, however, that they could stand on their own merits. They were intended to protect certain wild animals which were useful to the public in various ways; and it was impossible to say that laws made for the preservation of wild animals indigenous to this country were enacted for any one class of the people. Any amusement which was derived in consequence of that preservation was shared in by the poor, as well as by the rich; and the Bill passed last Session for the Preservation of Wild Birds was passed more in the interests of the poor than in those of the rich—for generally their destruction constituted no sport of the rich. He would not enter further into the subject in the absence of the Lord Chief Justice; but he had thought it his duty to protest against the inference likely to be drawn from the observations of the noble and learned Lord.

House adjourned at half past Five o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.