§ LORD MORRIS
said he regretted extremely that he found it necessary to call their Lordships' attention to what, upon the statement of the Lord Chief Baron and Mr. Justice O'Brien at Cork Assizes, was a departure from an invariable practice that had existed from time immemorial in Ireland in connection with the administration of justice. In his charge to the Grand Jury at Cork Assizes the Lord Chief Baron mentioned the circumstances, and with the account he ventured to trouble their Lordships. The Lord Chief Baron—referred at some length to the action of the Treasury in having refused to sanction the expenses of the usual military guard at the Judges' lodgings during the holding of the assizes, on the ground apparently that the expenditure could not properly be charged to either the civil or military list, though it had been going on for centuries. The Lord Chief Baron said there had been a departure at the present assizes from the constitutional usage which had existed as far back as our judicial records in this country went. Personally, he thought it a very small matter indeed, but he felt bound not to allow any privilege that belonged to the Judges of assize to be lost. It was a matter of importance that everything which ancient usage had ordained in reference to their proceedings should be observed until it was altered in the only mode in which it could be altered, namely, by Act of Parliament. They thought it right to communicate with the Lord Lieutenant and to request that immediate directions should be given by him in reference to the matter. His Excellency investigated the matter, and that morning they received a reply, in which it was explained that the sheriff made the usual requisition for a military escort and received a reply that it would be provided if the sheriff made arrangements for the accommodation of the men. In conjunction with his learned brother, Mr. Justice O'Brien, he had considered the question, and he did not hesitate to say that the action on the part of Her Majesty's Treasury was utterly unwarranted in law. Mr. Justice O'Brien, referring to the same subject, said that the demand made upon the sheriff for the expense of the accommodation was entirely groundless in point of law, and the duty should in any degree not be undertaken by the sheriff.Speaking himself from an experience second to no one living, for on this day he completed a period of 30 years since he became one of Her Majesty's Judges—["hear hear!"]—he could say that this was the first occasion of a departure from the practice in the reception of Her Majesty's Judges upon holding an assize, 1287 and this in the leading city of the South of Ireland, the third city of that country in importance, and where there was a large military force that he should say was not very busy. This was the first occasion on which this practice, which added to the dignity not of the Judges, but of Her Majesty's Commission, had been departed from, and sentries on guard at the Judges' lodgings refused. The learned Lord Chief Baron was a Judge to whom every respect should be paid, and his learned colleague, Mr. Justice O'Brien, who in troublous times had asserted the fearlessness of the Bench. The matter concerned the administration of justice and the homage which in every free country was paid to the administration of justice through the functionaries who were charged with the administration. Why had there been this departure from ordinary practice, and on whose authority had it been made? The Lord Chief Baron seemed to think it was done by Her Majesty's Treasury, and he had the same thought himself, for he observed that in the House of Commons a Member asked, had not a saving of 14s. 1d. been effected? [Laughter.] He was credibly informed that that was an incorrect estimate, and that the actual sum was 15s. [Laughter.] But on whose authority had the recognised practice existing for centuries been departed from? Mr. Hanbury was reported to have said that the Treasury had nothing to do with it. So then the Department was absolved, and he should have been astonished if they had been the cause of the change, for during his long career he had had considerable intercourse with the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury for the time being, with former Secretaries now respected Members of their Lordships' House, and with the present Permanent Secretary, Sir Francis Mowatt, and speaking from no inconsiderable personal experience in connection with judicial business, he could say he had ever met every consideration and desire to comply with every reasonable request. But Mr. Hanbury had disavowed the charge on the part of the Treasury, the Irish Executive had disavowed it, the Lord Lieutenant being communicated with said substantially that he knew nothing about it, so the only remaining 1288 authority he could find by a sort of inductive process was the military authority. If it were not the Executive authority, if it were not the Treasury, as he had feared it was, endeavouring to make this 15s. a set-off against the balance of 2¾ millions, then he could only imagine it was the military authority; and seeing the Secretary for War in his place, he asked did the War Office take the responsibility of this departure from old established practice? The Lord Chief Baron would have been within his right, as representing the Queen's Commission, in ordering this to be done, and in inflicting a reasonable penalty for disobedience to his order. He further intended to move for the correspondence which had taken place between the Judges and the Lord Lieutenant on this subject. Personally he took no interest in it beyond that of wishing that the position of Judges should not be lowered by any underling in office, for he had often found that when these things came to be investigated they were found to have been done not by those high in authority, but by somebody masquerading in the high-sounding name of some official. Having called attention to this matter, he now asked, if this had been done by the military authorities, why it had been done, and he also moved for copies of the correspondence with the Judges acting under Her Majesty's Commission at the Cork Assizes on the subject.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said the matter to which the noble and learned Lord had referred concerned more than one Department of the Government, and he had been asked to give the explanation required. There was one observation he might make at the outset, and that was that, whatever Department or Departments were responsible, there was no intention in any Department of the Government to be lacking in respect for the learned Judges. The facts, as he understood them, were as follows. In the first place the practice of using military guards at Judges' lodgings was a practice which obtained he believed only in Ireland. In other parts of the United Kingdom the necessary duties were performed either by the police or the "javelin-men," as they were termed, of the sheriff. The practice in Ireland was not quite the same. For some years past—not, he thought, for 1289 centuries, as the noble and learned Lord had told the House, but from comparatively recent times—it had been usual to set sentries over the. Judges' lodgings when they were travelling on assize, and obviously there was a time when the country was in a very disturbed state when this precaution was by no means unnecessary. ["Hear, hear!"] Then arose the question who should be liable for the expenses occasioned by these guards. The noble and learned Lord had indulged in some pleasantries upon the smallness of the sum, and it was not very large, though not so trifling as the noble and learned Lord implied; at Cork it was an expense of between £40 and £50 a year. That charge was certainly borne for many years on Army Votes, and last year—1896—the charge was challenged by the War Office. The matter was not brought to his notice at the time, but it was one which the financial authorities at the War Office naturally considered they were bound to watch on the part of the Department, and he thought the House would admit there were some grounds for considering whether the charge was one that ought properly to be borne on the military funds. The necessity for the continuance of the practice as a measure of protection and for the personal safety of the Judges had certainly ceased to exist, and the ordinary maintenance of order was rather a duty for the Royal Irish Constabulary than for the troops. It was evident that these sentries were attached to the Judges' lodgings rather in order to enhance the dignity of the learned Judges, which, of course, all would desire to uphold—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
That was the view of the War Office, and he believed that view was accepted by the Treasury. Their Lordships should know how this expense arose. It arose in this way. If the barracks were close to the Judges' lodgings the sentries were supplied from the barracks themselves; if, on the other hand, the barracks were at a considerable distance from the lodgings, it was clear that some special accommodation in or about the Judges' lodgings was required for the guard. It was the hire of that accommodation at Cork 1290 which had involved the cost which formed the subject of this discussion. They communicated in 1896 with the Government of Ireland upon the subject, with the result that the War Office was left under the impression that the charge would be defrayed by the sheriffs, and the military authorities in Ireland were accordingly given to understand that these charges would not in future fall upon the Army Votes. Unfortunately the matter did not go any further at the time, and no steps were taken by the Government of Ireland to arrive at an understanding with the sheriffs. The result was that the matter was left in suspense until the present year. In the present year, shortly before the Judges went on assizes, the sub-sheriff of the county put in a claim for the usual guard and also for an escort of troops. The demand for an escort was complied with at once, but the Assistant Adjutant General at Cork, acting under instructions, replied that he was not able to supply a, guard unless accommodation for the men were forthcoming. The sub-sheriff intimated to him that no accommodation weal be provided, and, therefore, no guard was sent. Upon that the learned Judges addressed to the Government of Ireland a remonstrance upon the action of the military authorities. That was how the matter stood at this moment, and nobody regretted more than he did that the result should have been to lead the learned Judges to suppose that there was any lack of desire to show them due respect. He thought the difficulty was one which could easily be met, and which certainly ought not to be allowed to recur. He could even indicate the direction in which they might look for a solution of the difficulty. He knew that there was very general apprehension, not only in Ireland, as to the undesirability of throwing any additional expense upon the sheriffs. [Cheers.] There was great difficulty in obtaining suitable sheriffs in Ireland, and they felt that if that difficulty were to be increased by involving them in any new liabilities the matter might become very serious. He was able to state, after communication with the Treasury, that the whole case of the liabilities and obligations of sheriffs was under consideration, and that no pains would be spared in order to render 1291 their position less irksome than it is at present. ["Hear, hear!"] As part of any settlement of the question that might be come to, he was prepared to say that, whether the arrangements for guards for the Judges were the same as those which had obtained heretofore, or whether any new arrangements were made, no additional expense should fall upon the sheriffs on that account. [Cheers.] That would get over the money difficulty, and the money difficulty was, after all, the only difficulty which had occurred in the present case. He hoped the noble Lord would accept his assurance that the matter would be seen to, and that they would endeavour to put it into proper shape.
§ LORD MORRIS
said he could only express his gratification at the conclusion of what the noble Marquess had stated—that the matter would be put in a proper state. But he could not allow it to pass that it was by any condescension on the part of the military authorities that there had always been a guard at the Judges' lodgings. The circumstances of England and of Ireland were very dissimilar in many ways. The Judges of England had their reception in the county towns, which, he was told, was a very imposing ceremony. The Judges of England had a large entourage of marshals and clerks and javelin-men and other attendants. The Irish Judges were never placed upon that great footing at all. It had been said that this was not a matter of very long usage. The Lord Chief Baron had said that as far as the judicial records went back it had been the usage. He himself remembered when Sir William Mansfield, afterwards Lord Sandhurst, was Commander of the Forces in Ireland, the colonel of a cavalry regiment in Limerick declined the request of the sheriff on this very subject. That must be 25 years ago. The sheriff remonstrated with Sir William Mansfield, and Sir William Mansfield gave the colonel a most severe reprimand. He also wrote to the Judges, who knew nothing at all of what had happened, and had not complained, at letter of the most apologetic character, and sent a copy of the reprimand, and asked them whether they would require him to do more, as he was quite ready to do it. This was a matter connected with the dignity of the Judges as Her Majesty's Commission, and with the administration of justice, 1292 and it ought not to be influenced by the consideration of a saving of 15s. a day, for that was really all it amounted to. He did not want to make the matter any warmer than it had been already. The Judges felt strongly upon it, and he would like to know what business the Financial Secretary to the War Office, whoever he might be, had to take it upon himself to decide a matter of this sort without reference to the noble Marquess. On a serious matter of this sort, why was not the Lord Lieutenant communicated with, and, if necessary, why was not a communication made to the Judges on the subject? He was quite satisfied that what he wished to be done was going to be done, and he could not ask for more.
THE EARL of CAMPERDOWN
asked whether the inquiry into the obligations of sheriffs was to be confined to Ireland alone, or whether it was going to be extended to the case of sheriffs in England as well?
§ LORD HERSCHELL
said he was very glad indeed to hear that the Treasury had under consideration the question of sheriffs, and how they might be relieved from the burdens at present falling upon them. He had long entertained the view, and he had expressed it before now in that House, that if the fees which were received in connection with legal proceedings were taken by the Treasury, and if the work were done by persons either appointed or arranged for by them, they would be ample for the purpose of discharging the duties now discharged by the under-sheriffs and also the necessary duties that fell upon the sheriffs. That which might be difficult or impossible in a particular county would be perfectly possible, and, he believed, would impose no burden on the Treasury if it were done in respect of the country at large. He hoped that was the direction which the views of the Treasury were taking, and he was led to anticipate that it was from the speech of the noble Marquess.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said he understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to consider the question, not only of the sheriffs of Ireland, but the position of sheriffs generally. ["Hear, hear!"] He would just like to add that he hoped his noble Friend Lord Morris would understand that the military authorities of Cork 1293 did not refuse to supply the troops. Two things were asked for—an escort to accompany the Judges and a guard. The escort was supplied at once. In reply to the request for the guard, the officer, whose business it was to look after his men, very naturally asked where the men were going to be put. He was told there was no place to put them, and therefore he did not send them.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.