HC Deb 18 July 1811 vol 20 cc1025-7

"Whereas the Honourable Thomas Cochrane Esquire, otherwise the Honourable Sir Thomas Cochrane, Knight, Companion of the most Honourable Order of the Bath, commonly called Lord Cochrane, escaped out of the custody of James Houghton Stevens, the Deputy. Marshal of the Vice Admiralty Court of this Island, from the Prison of the Castellanea during the course of last night. This is to give notice, that whoever, will apprehend or cause to be apprehended the said Lord Cochrane, and deliver him into the custody of the said Deputy Marshal, shall receive a reward of Two Thousand Scudis currency of Malta, and that whoever will give such information as may lead to the apprehension, of any person, or per son, who was or ere aiding and assisting, the said Lord Cochrane, in such his escape, shall receive upon such conviction, if only one person was so aiding and assisting, the sum of One thousand Scudis, or if more persons than one were so aiding and assisting then upon the conviction of each of such persons the sum of Five hundred Scudis, not withstanding that in such latter case the person so giving information shall himself have been aiding and assisting to the said escape.—Witness my hand, this sixth day of March, 1811.—JAS. H. STEVENS, Deputy Marshal.—No. 188 Strada Stretta."

Now, Sir, although the treatment which I received is altogether foreign to the main point, yet I am desirous to learn from you as Speaker of this House, whether my imprisonment was or was not a breach of the privilege of parliament?

The Speaker.

—I do not know whether the House expects me to reply to the questions which the noble lord has put to me, perfectly new as one appears to be; but, as far as my information goes, I will give it, if the House thinks fit that I should do so. (Hear, hear!) With respect to the privileges of the House, I know of no means of enforcing its privileges, but in the usual way, from time immemorial, by its own officers; and I never knew one instance of any-officer having been sent across the seas at the instance of any member, on a complaint of insult offered to him personally (Hear! hear!) So much for the question of privilege. In the next place I never knew ah instance in which any member of parliament, properly before a court of justice, was at liberty to treat with impunity the proceedings of that court, or to say that what was done in respect to himself was done in contempt, or that could authorise him to say that the privileges of parliament were infringed in his person for such conduct.

Lord Cochrane.

—Sir; It was at first my intention, to have moved an address to the Prince Regent, to recall the Judge Registrar and Marshal, to answer for their conduct and proceedings, contrary to the ex-press words of acts of parliament; but on consideration, and in compliance with the suggestion of the first lord of the Admiralty, I have thought it better to move, "That a Committee be appointed to examine into the conduct of the Judge Registrar and Marshal, and their Deputies, of the court of Vice Admiralty at Malta, for the violation of the 37th, 38th, 39th, and 41 St sections of the 45th Geo. 3, c. 72."

Mr. P Moore

seconded the motion, not from any knowledge of its merits, but thinking, that if the matter of charge was not inquired into, it would reflect upon the House.

Mr. Stephen

could not avoid applauding' the benevolent motive of the hon. gentleman, who had seconded the poor outcast of the noble lord. With respect to the conduct of the learned judge alluded to, he was satisfied it was the opinion of the House that he had done nothing amiss—that the dignity of his office required that he should exert his authority after the direct insult that the noble lord had offered to the court. The charge against the noble lord was for taking down the public document of the court, a charge which he, had not denied, nay indeed, the noble lord had exhibited what he termed a fac simile of the table of fees, and so closely imitated, that the very impression of the wafers—the document itself, and its smoke-dried appearance, seemed to proclaim its originality. The conduct of the noble lord, when required to answer for this contempt, was not merely that he refused to obey the monition, but that he pulled out a pistol and threatened to shoot any man, who at tempted to execute it upon him Chapman, the officer, therefore (and the fact was confirmed by two witnesses), thought it not prudent to execute a warrant at the point of a pistol, and had, not the courage to act. The noble lord had stated that he refused to answer interrogatories, and that he made a protest against the proceedings of the court. It was not regular for the court to receive protests arraigning its proceedings, and upon the inquiry it did not think there was sufficient grounds for discharging the noble lord from his arrest. If, however, he was aggrieved, there was a channel through which he might have had redress, without coming to the House, by appearing before the privy council, and stating his charges against Dr. Sewell, who would, if proved, be removed. But should there not have existed, in the executive government, a disposition to redress the noble lord's grievances, then it would have been open for him to appeal to the House: but to come at the end of the session was not very regular. Dr. Sewell was a person of correct conduct, and unlikely to act with injustice to any individual.

Lord Cochrane

replied, and repeated his former statements.

Mr. Yorke

agreed with his hon. and learned friend in objecting to the motion on three grounds; first, because the case was one of the most frivolous ones he had ever met with: secondly, because the noble lord, if he had just cause for complaint, should have made it at the Admiralty, and that board would have investigated the complaint; and thirdly, because the complaint, instead of being Made by the noble lord, was, by his own shewing, a complaint against himself. He had this to state to the noble lord, that if he had not been an officer on half-pay, he would have heard from the board of Admiralty in a different Way. With respect to the Marshal exercising the office of Proctor in conjunction, be would recommend an inquiry to be made, as it was contrary to the express provisions of an act of parliament. But with respect to the noble lord's case it Was, he must repeat it, one of the most frivolous cases ever brought before parliament.

The motion was negatived without a division.