said, that in consequence of a number of communications received by him respecting the Administration of Justice in Wales, since he had given notice of a motion for excluding the Welch judges from a seat in the House of Commons, he had thought proper to alter his intention with regard to the nature of his motion. He had not spoken to one gentleman of Wales who did not disapprove of the mode in which justice was administered in that part of the empire. He would therefore move, "That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report to the House their opinion touching the laws relating to the administration of justice in Wales."
Sir W. W. Wynn
seconded the motion, and said, that the laws relative to the administration of justice in Wales required considerable revision.
said, he would not oppose the motion; but he wished it to be understood, that in agreeing to it, he did not mean to throw any slur on those most respectable persons concerned in the administration of justice in Wales, which was certainly different from those which pervaded the other parts of the kingdom, and he therefore thought them a very fair subject for parliamentary inquiry.
disclaimed any intention of throwing a slur on the persons actually employed in the administration of the laws of that country.
said, that if the question which was fixed for that night had been brought on, he should have thought it his duty to have explained some matters which related more particularly to himself in his judicial capacity. He was extremely anxious to have an opportunity, which indeed now presented itself, of speaking on that subject. He had scarcely left town, when he was informed that an hon. baronet had asked in that House, whether he and an hon. and learned friend had not postponed the circuit for a week or a fortnight, on account of special retainers which they had received to go to Launceston. He never heard any fact that gave him more utter astonishment. No human creature had ever suggested to him, even in a whisper, that any arrangement which had been 98 made had occasioned any inconvenience; and there was in fact no foundation whatever for the assertion. It had been said that the judges left the business to be done by a clerk, which was nothing more than the usual practice whenever circumstances rendered it necessary. When he accepted the situation of chief justice of Chester, he found associated with him as honourable a person as ever lived (Mr. Burton), who had been the second judge for twenty-eight years; and he then took the resolution, that as long as he had that second judge for his associate, he would leave him to fix the time of the circuit, He now said, in the presence of some of the most respectable gentlemen of the profession, that he had never been on that circuit in the spring at an earlier day. If they proceeded to Chester sooner, they would have travelled on Good Friday, which was not thought proper, and therefore it was resolved that the 31st of the month should stand. The appointment of the circuit in this way gave him the opportunity of performing his duty at Launceston. He had at that moment the very envelope of the card sent down to him at Westminster-hall, which was written by the amanuensis of his learned friend (for it was very well known that he could not, from his infirmities, write himself), in which it was stated, that the appointment of the 31st of March would suit the convenience of public business. Acting on this information, which was the best he could resort to, he had fallen into a scheme which was represented to him to be as good as any other. His predecessors, in fixing the circuit, had always thought it necessary to consult the convenience of the Oxford circuit. From the moment he commenced the Chester circuit, the directions he gave were, that no special retainers should be received. He could not reply to calumnious attacks in newspapers, but he would defend himself in that House from the charge of having acted with any impropriety, or having sacrificed the public interest to private emolument. The cause at Launceston was tried on a Friday, and he was at Welchpool, the first assize-town, before it was usual to be there. It was not customary on the first day to do more than open the court, and then to adjourn to the next day. Both judges were there at the earliest hour that their attendance could be required. It was said that the judges had delayed the trial of the prisoners, 99 which, if true, would be a serious charge; but the fact was, that on his appointment, he, for the first time, introduced the practice of trying the prisoners on the first day of the session, instead of the fourth, as had been usual before that time. The attorney-general on that circuit (Mr. Benyon) was the only person who could have uttered a complaint of any inconvenience from delay; but he could assure the House that that learned gentleman had never said a word on this subject. He was thankful for having had this opportunity of explaining his conduct, and was only anxious to show that he had not neglected the claims of public justice for the sake of private emolument.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
said, that it was with no view of calumniating the hon. and learned gentleman that he had put the question which had been alluded to. He had information on which he thought he could rely, that the sittings at Chester had been postponed, on account of other engagements of the hon. and learned gentleman; and although he was bound to give credit to all that had now been stated, yet he was not at all persuaded that the sittings at Chester had not commenced later than usual by nine days. The hon. and learned gentleman acknowledged, that of two plans which had been submitted to him, he had chosen that which gave him the opportunity of going to Launceston. It was not for him to determine any thing as to this, or whether it was usual for the attorney-general to take special retainers. He believed that he was correct in saying that the gentlemen of the bar had experienced great inconvenience from the arrangement made by the hon. and learned gentleman.
declared, that he had never heard of any inconvenience to any body but the attorney-general for the circuit. When lord Ellenborough was attorney-general, he took special retainers to the last.
said, that he had been that circuit for seven years, and the chief justice had always thought himself at liberty to make very great deviations in fixing the time of the assize. In the present instance he did not think that any inconvenience had been occasioned by delay. He never remembered, however, that the associate opened the court. It was usual to appoint a barrister to do so, because it might be necessary to make a motion which could not be heard before the 100 clerk. This was the only deviation which he recollected from what he believed to have been the constant custom. He concurred in the very humane regulation of the learned chief justice, of bringing prisoners to trial on the first day, instead of the fourth. With respect to the motion then before the House, he thought it extremely wise and proper, and gave it his entire assent.
said, he had received communications from gentlemen in the profession, who thought very differently from the hon. and learned gentleman. He understood, with reference to Easter, that the Chester assizes were twelve days later than usual, and according to the most favourable way of viewing the subject, two days later than usual. They felt that something different from the ordinary course had taken place on the present occasion.
expressed a hope, that this would be the last time that the two offices of attorney-general and chief justice of Chester, would be vested in the same person. Very considerable inconvenience must always arise from this union, and he trusted the committee would direct their attention particularly to this subject.
§ The motion was then agreed to.