§ Mr. Brougham
said, he held in his hand a petition from a person of the name of John Quin, a surgeon, of Belfast, to which he wished to call the attention of the House, as it complained of a very great abuse in the administration of justice. He knew nothing personally of the petitioner, or of the facts which his petition related. The member for the county in which the transaction 'was said to have occurred, had, he believed, left this part of the kingdom, and therefore he could not make any inquiry from him with respect to the petitioner or his statement. The language of the petition was, however, perfectly respectful towards the House; and on that ground he felt it to be his duty to present it, without pledging himself in any way whatsoever, and without indulging in any comment that could tend to prejudge the case. If, however, the whole or any particular portion of the petition were founded on fact, it did appear to him to disclose a case which called for the interference of parliament. The petitioner stated, that five years ago he brought an action against a person with whom he happened to have an affray, which action was tried before Mr. Baron M'Clelland and a special jury. A verdict was given against him, and he was taken in execution for the payment of costs. The consequence was, that he was ultimately ruined, and was obliged to take the benefit of the insolvent act; his prospects which before were very fair, having been completely blasted. The charge now made by the petitioner divided itself into two parts. The first was against 1443 the sheriff and those connected with the sheriffs-office, for packing a jury; and the next against the learned judge, for misconduct in his direction to the jury. With respect to the first point, the petition set forth, that an application had been made for a special jury, which was refused as being too late, the distringas having been delivered before the application was made. He then complained, that the common jury panel which was returned to try the cause, was not the panel of that year, but of the year preceding. He next stated, that though it had been decided, in the first instance, that the cause should not be tried by a special jury, yet, a second application being made, not by the defendant or his attorney, nor by the plaintiff or his attorney, but by the returning officer of the sheriff, four days prior to the assizes, it was agreed that a special jury should be empanelled. He (Mr. B.) did not understand this. It was contrary to practice thus to procure a special jury; and therefore, perhaps, there might be some mistake in the statement; although, in other respects, the petition seemed to have been drawn up by a person conversant with the law. How a returning officer to the sheriff could apply for a special jury, and have his application complied with, he could not imagine. This was four days before the assizes; and, although it had been ruled, that the cause should be tried by a common jury, it was now, as the petitioner stated, granted to the returning officer of the sheriff, who had no right to meddle in the affair, and set down as a special jury cause. The petitioner further complained, that the said special jury consisted of the, defendant's own friends and acquaintances, selected by him, all of whom were reputed and avowed Orangemen. He then stated, that he was a Catholic, and the defendant a clergyman of the established church; that the sheriff was the cousin-german of the defendant, and that the returning officer in question was the law-agent of the sheriff. The cause was called on, as the first cause, on the first morning of the assizes. The cause was brought before Mr. Baron M'Clelland, who presided in the crown court, while the other judge decided Causes in the record court, An objection was taken by the counsel for Mr. Quin, against proceeding to trial with a special jury which had been improperly obtained; but it was over-ruled by the learned 1444 judge, and the cause was peremptorily called on to proceed. This was the first part of the charge, and was perfectly distinct from the main point, which related to the conduct of the learned judge,. It was an action for an assault, of a very aggravated nature. The petitioner was a Catholic, and happened to be in the pit of the theatre of Armagh, while "God Save the King" was played. The, defendant, who was also present, came up to him, and chid him in harsh terms, for I remaining covered in contempt of the music. The petitioner said, he did not remain covered in contempt of the music. The defendant was told by several bystanders, that it was not in contempt of the music they remained covered. He however continued to use abusive language, and at length committed the assault for which the action was brought. His expression to the petitioner was, "By the immortal God, if you don't take of your hat, I'll knock your head off," There were some parts of the first charge which he (Mr. B.) could not reconcile to the legal practice of this country; bur such language as this was still less reconcilable to that notion of decency and propriety, which might be expected from the reverend defendant, as a clergyman of the church of England. When the ""music had ceased, he called for a repetition of it, and continued to conduct himself with the same violence. After wards when some other tunes of a popular character were played, and among the rest "Patrick's day," the defendant, stood over the petitioner with his hat on, and in a menacing attitude, endeavouring to provoke the petitioner to commit an assault on the defendant similar to that which had been made on himself, but this the petitioner declined. He made out the case which was here stated by evidence at the trial, and he charged the learned judge with having, when he addressed the jury, used the following words, "The strict letter of the law is decidedly against the defendant; notwithstanding, you can find a verdict for the defendant, in honour, of our good old king, who may be truly called the father of his people." The petitioner stated the two facts distinctly first, the improper manner in. which the jury was empanelled; secondly the misconduct of the judge; and he called on the House to direct that a new trial may be had [a laugh];—for which proceeding, however, the House, certainly had no 1445 authority. As he was on his legs, he begged leave to say, that his not having alluded to a certain statement which he had on a former occasion made use of, with reference to another Irish judge, the lord chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, was not an accidental omission; for he had purposely declined making any retractation of, or alteration in, the statement in question; because, notwithstanding its denial in the public newspaper, where it first found a place, he had received private letters from respectable persons, warning him not to retract that which he had brought under the observation of the House, since it was substantially correct. Besides, the letter of the editor or reporter was not couched in such unqualified terms of denial, as his letters were in those of affirmation. It was also equally certain, that when the chief justice called the printer before him, he did not give the same reason for his displeasure. His observation was—"It is very hard that I cannot have my own jokes." The learned gentleman then moved, that the petition be read.
Mr. Secretary Canning
observed, that as the complaint contained in the petition was that of wilful misdirection from the bench, courtesy, he thought, ought to have induced the learned gentleman not to bring forward so grave a charge in a questionable shape. The learned gentleman himself admitted that there appeared to be some mistake in one part of the petition; and certainly with some small inquiry, he might have learned what the real facts of the case were. In his opinion, the best course would be, to withdraw the petition until the learned gentleman could communicate with the parties who were affected by it; and if it were necessary, he might bring it forward hereafter.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that this was precisely one of those cases which it would be unfit for him to accompany with any statement. He had refrained from doing so, and the whole responsibility rested with the petitioner. This was precisely the course he had adopted on a former night, when presenting a petition, of the statements in which he personally knew nothing. He was not in such a case bound to make any statement; but, as the petition was respectful towards the House, he thought it right to present it. The present was also just one of those cases in which he thought the petition should 1446 not be printed—not on acount of its containing a charge, because every petition did contain a charge; but because it complained of the conduct of a judge in administering the duties of his office. No undue impression had been attempted to be created against the learned judge. The statement rested entirely on the individual who petitioned the House, and consequently, it would go forth without the possibility of doing any mischief; while, on the other hand, it afforded the accused party a full opportunity for contradicting it.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that this was a charge preferred against a judge for wilfully misdirecting a jury; and, before the House received it, they ought to be put in possession of the fact which was contained in the petition itself—that application was made for a new trial before the whole court, and all the judges concurred in thinking there was no ground for granting it. It should also be recollected, that the trial complained of took place five years ago.
§ Ordered to lie on the table.