§ MR. BERNARD COLERIDGE (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether Mr. de Souza, a coloured barrister, practising in British Guiana, was, on July 9, 1888, sentenced by Chief Justice Chalmers, Mr. Justice Atkinson, and Mr. Justice Sheriff, to be imprisoned for six months, and to pay a fine of $500, for contempt of Court, in writing a letter in The Royal Gazette, dated June 27, 1888, reflecting on a decision of the Judges; whether, after Mr. de Souza had been sent to prison—namely, on July 11, 1888, the Acting Attorney General, at the direct request of the Chief Justice, moved before the Chief Justice for a rule nisi, calling upon Mr. de Souza to show cause why he should not be further punished for contempt of Court, in having written a letter to The Daily Chronicle on June 20, 1887, 13 months previously; whether for that offence the Court sentenced him to the further punishment of having to come up for judgment within 12 months if called upon; whether his attention has been drawn to the report of the Judg- 1236 ment of Chief Justice Chalmers, in which he is reported to have said of Mr. de Souza that hePosed as the victim of the intolerance and injustice of the Judges before an ignorant and partly educated population;that he wasan unprincipled demagogue,and possessinga fluency of speech which, unless coupled with high principle, was, as regards the interest of the community, one of the most dangerous gifts any man could have, because it enabled him so easily to make the worse appear the better reason in the eyes of the unthinking multitude;whether that sentence prevents his being able to practise as a barrister during that twelve months; whether he is aware that during his imprisonment his wife died, and that Mr. de Souza was not permitted to visit her death bed or attend her funeral; whether either of the said letters had any reference to any matter pending before the Court at the time the letters were respectively written; whether it is a fact that Mr. de Souza has no right of appeal in the matter to the Privy Council; and, whether the Government purpose to take any steps in the matter?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE (Baron HENRY DE WORMS)) Liverpool, East Toxteth
In answer to the nine Questions put to me by the hon. Member, I have to say that the Secretary of State has no official information on the subject; but from the reports in the Colonial newspapers it appears that the first and second Questions should be answered in the affirmative; and that, for the contempt of Court mentioned in the second Question, the Court ordered Mr. de Souza to come up for judgment within 12 months if called upon. The Secretary of State does not know whether Mr. de Souza is a coloured barrister. The Secretary of State has observed in the newspaper reports of the Judgment the third passage quoted in the fourth Question, but not the other two. The Secretary of State is not aware that the order to come up for judgment within 12 months if called upon prevents Mr. de Souza from being able to practise as a barrister during that time. The Secretary of State has no information as to the matters alluded to in the sixth Question. Neither of the letters referred to in the 1237 seventh Question appears to have had reference to a matter pending before the Court at the time it was written. It has been held that there is no appeal to the Privy Council in such a case. As at present advised, Her Majesty's Government do not propose to take any steps in the matter.
§ MR. BERNARD COLERIDGE
asked whether there was any precedent for punishment for contempt in respect of a matter not pending before the Court?
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
That is a legal Question, which had better be addressed to the Law Officers of the Crown.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
The hon. Member should give me Notice of such a Question.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
said, he had known Mr. de Souza when he was a Bar student in this country, and was, therefore, interested in the case. He asked whether one of the Judges had not been guilty of conduct that had been seriously reflected upon by the Privy Council; and whether Mr. de Souza was prevented from attending his wife's funeral?
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I have already stated that Her Majesty's Government have no official information on the subject. [Several hon. MEMBERS: Will you get it?]