§ Mr. Cripps
moved for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the law regulating County Coroners (England). The subject which he introduced to the House had been already brought under its notice; and he thought it was one well entitled to the consideration of the Legislature. The contests at Coroners' elections, the feuds and bad feeling they produced, and the ruinous expense with which they were often attended, were evils that called for the interposition of Parliament. At present the election was vested in the voters of the county at large, though the duties of the officer might be confined to a particular district. It was highly desirable that the election of a judicial functionary like a Coroner should not be carried by means that tended to produce discord and immorality. He would propose that the 558 Magistrates should divide the counties into certain districts, and that each district should have its own Coroner, who should be elected by the voters residing in that particular district. He would not have a whole county made a scene of turmoil on account of a Coroner's election. He would also apply a remedy to the difficulties now experienced in collecting Jurors and witnesses, for he would grant the power of inflicting a fine of 40s. on each Juror and witness for non-attendance. The Amendments he meant to introduce were designed to remove the opposition which the Bill would probably meet with if left in its former state in the Upper House.
§ Mr. Warburton
regretted that the hon. Member had confined himself merely to the election of Coroners. He (Mr. Warburton) should feel it his duty to give notice of the introduction of a declaratory clause, to the effect that the Coroner's Court was an open Court. At present the general opinion was, that it was an open Court; but it would be very desirable that a declaratory clause to that effect should be introduced into the Bill.
concurred in the necessity of introducing such a Bill as that of which the hon. member for Cirencester had given notice. It was perfectly true that, at present, when the Coroner was elected by the whole county, any person seeking that office was put to an enormous expense. It was said, that, occasionally, so large a sum as 100,000l. was expended to procure a seat in that House, and he could assure hon. Members that a sum comparatively as large was occasionally expended at the election of a county Coroner. No person could for a moment doubt the propriety of having a Coroner's Court an open Court. He believed, in fact, that it was legally so, and that those who closed the doors against the public upon an inquest, did so unadvisedly and without authority. However, if there was any doubt upon the subject, it would be well that a declaratory clause should be introduced into the Bill, of which the hon. Member had given notice. He regretted that the hon. Member had not also included the subject of Coroner's fees. He was very anxious that a satisfactory clause upon this subject should be introduced into the Bill. At present, a Coroner was entitled only to the sum of 1l. for attending an inquest, and not unfrequently he 559 was obliged to hire a room at a great expense. In fact, by the present law, the Coroners of counties could not pay their expenses, and they were thus placed in a disadvantageous position. He, however, certainly did not wish to increase the county rates; and he would suggest that this matter should be referred to a Select Committee.
Sir Matthew White Ridley
was disposed to support the principle of the measure. But it had been strongly urged by many Coroners that additional remuneration should be given them for their trouble. There could be no doubt, certainly, that at present plenty of candidates were to be found to fill up the vacancies as they occurred, and, therefore, there might not appear any grounds for a Motion to increase the allowances. Seeing, however, that Coroners were allowed only 9d. a mile, and 2s. per day, under any circumstances, he thought the system required revision. He protested he could view the Coroner's Court, not as a final, but as a preliminary Court only, in respect to examination, and he feared if it were declared an open Court great injury might arise in cases of murder, where the perpetrators might escape punishment, from the fact of evidence being published before it was put in a proper train. In short, the ends of justice might often be defeated.
§ Leave given. Bill brought in and read a first time.