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Volume 230: debated on Tuesday 20 June 1876

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Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Qualification of jurors).

had put the following Amendment on the Paper, in page 3, line 13, at end, to add:—

"Provided also, That in any county of a city or county of a town, every person residing within such distance of twelve miles, computed as aforesaid, and who shall be a director or manager of any Banking, Railway, Insurance, Steamship, or Shipping Company incorporated by any Charter or Act of Parliament, and having an office or place of business within such county of a city or county of a town; or who shall he a director or manager of any other Company carrying on any trade or business for profit within such county of a city or county of a town; or who shall be a member of any Board or Harbour Commissioners or other body entrusted under the provisions of any Act of Parliament with the management of the port, harbour, or docks of such city or town; and in every such case the name and the residence of such juror shall be stated in the proper column, so as to describe both the office or place of business of the company or board to which he belongs, and also the place where he actually resides; and any summons for the attendance of such juror sent by post to the place so stated as his actual place of residence shall be deemed to be duly served."

said, he proposed an Amendment similar to that of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, who was absent. It was to insert in the clause words—

"Providing that any person who should be a director or manager of any Banking, Railway, Insurance, Steamship, or Shipping Company, or any other Company incorporated by charter or under any Act of Parliament, or a Harbour or Dock Commissioner, should be liable to service as a juror."

Amendment agreed to.

, in reference to a complaint made by the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen) as to persons being liable for service in both county and borough, said, that his feeling was that those who were qualified in two places should be called upon to serve in both, but he would look into the particulars of the complaints of the hon. Member.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 (As to jurors' property qualification).

proposed to leave out the words "Juries Procedure (Ireland) Act."

hoped the right hon. Baronet did not intend to drop the Juries Procedure Bill, and he sincerely hoped it would be passed this year.

said, it was not his intention to drop it; but he did not want to refer in this Bill to another which was not yet law.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Schedule 1.

moved, in page 5, line 6, to leave out "50," and insert "40."The former was too high, and in his own county alone—one of the best counties in Ireland—it would take off the list no less than 2,000 liable to serve as jurymen. He had looked carefully into Returns affecting this point, and he found that in five Unions in Cork there were on a rating of £30—which amounted in Ireland to a rental of £45—1,892 persons. If the increased rating of the Bill were adopted, those 1,892 persons would be reduced to 657—that was to say, two-thirds of those at present qualified to serve in the county of Cork would be struck off absolutely. Upon the evidence of the sheriff of the county of Cork 1,000 jurors would be required for the two Assizes and the different quarter sessions; but with the increased qualification it would be utterly impossible to get those jurors unless by having those qualified summoned a second time, which was not the object of the Bill. In the Committee on this very Bill there was no particular evidence in favour of the qualification being raised. The evidence was only of a general character, and he hoped that the Government would consent to the alteration from £50 to £40.

thought the feeling of the Committee would be almost unanimous that there were very strong reasons for a considerable increase in the rating qualification of Irish jurors. The question really was, whether under the figures chosen in the Bill they would get a sufficient number of jurors? Returns on the Table showed that in Cork County there would be an ample number. In the county 2,220 jurors would be required, and according to the qualification fixed in the Bill for the occupation of lands, tenements, and hereditaments, there would be 3,695 persons available. Then under the household qualification there would be 1,785 more persons, making nearly double the number that was required. Under these circumstances he thought the Committee would be of opinion that, so far at all events as the county of Cork was concerned, the qualification was sufficiently low. He regretted that he could not accept the Amendment. If any reduction were made it would be better to make it in the value of the houses than the value of the lands, tenements, and hereditaments. The test of a man's capacity and intelligence was much more the house he lived in than the land he might occupy. ["No, no!"] In saying that he was only expressing the opinion which he had expressed with regard to jurors in England.

said, he could not agree with his hon. Friend the Member for Cork. He was one of those who thought that the qualification ought to be much higher than it was; but, at the same time, he was against any selection of the sheriff or things of that kind, by which an improper jury was obtained. From his own experience of the county of Cork he thought ample jurors could be got at £50 a-year.

said, neither the right hon. Baronet nor his right hon. and learned Friend who had just spoken had answered him. He had stated that in five Unions the number of jurors would be reduced by the increased qualification from 1,892 to 657. In the Returns quoted by the Chief Secretary it must be borne in mind that a number of persons were included who by the Act of Parliament were exempted and disqualified. Instead, therefore, of there being 3,600 available, it might, he fancied, be more nearer the mark to say the number was only 1,600.

said, they started on a wrong basis. They began by making the qualification altogether too low, and hence they had been obliged gradually to go upwards. They should have provided as high a qualification as they possibly could, and then gradually reduced it. It was desirable to enlist in the administration of justice a larger number of persons; but he altogether denied that they were to educate jurors at the expense of suitors.

said, the counties in Ireland were divided into three different sets, and the rating in them was different. In one a man was liable to serve on a jury if his qualification was £12; in another if his qualification was £10;and in the third if his qualification was £6. That was an objectionable proceeding. In Galway and Mayo, where there was not the slightest difference in the condition of the people, the rating was £12 in the one county, and £6 in the other. He thought in the Schedule there should be a change to £8 altogether.

said, that the figures given by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing) tended to different conclusions from those at which the right hon. Baronet opposite had arrived. In a matter of this kind, however, he did not feel himself in a position to differ from the Government. With them, on the one hand, rested the responsibility, whilst, on the other hand, they had every means of obtaining the requisite information. Possibly, some reduction might be made in the house qualification, which he agreed with the right hon. Baronet was a more satisfactory test of a man's competency to act as juror than the acreage he might happen to hold. Such a reduction might meet the views of his hon. Friend behind him.

said, he was very anxious to conclude the Bill that day. The hon. Member for Cork had kindly furnished him privately with figures with regard to his own county; but he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had had no opportunity of going fully into the matter. If the hon. Member would consent to postpone the question, he would undertake on the Report to discuss the matter more fully with him.

reminded the right hon. Baronet that the hon. Member for Cork, although one of the most trusted Representatives, was not the Member for all Ireland, and as other hon. Members with their constituencies were interested in the subject, they should have an assurance from the right hon. Baronet that he would so modify the qualification as to reduce it to £40 in all counties.

said, his Amendment dealt with the whole of Ireland. He must say that he was afraid if the question had depended upon his hon. Friend who had just sat down, they would not have had a discussion at all.

said, the Amendment did apply to the whole of Ireland, but what he meant was, that the undertaking of the right hon. Baronet to discuss the matter applied only to the county of Cork.

said, the question amounted to the oscillation of the pendulum to the other extreme. He thought the House was entitled to a full explanation of the Chief Secretary and the Law Officer of the Crown as to the arrangement of rating, for the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Galway was an extraordinary one. The Schedule ought to be postponed altogether. The Chief Secretary had told them that in Cork there would be a certain number of jurors. An hon. Member, who knew that county well, declared that the Chief Secretary was entirely mistaken, and that the increased qualification would cut off 2,000 of the existing jurors. Was that to be done at half-past 6 o'clock, when hon. Members from Ireland connected with the law were not present? He moved that Progress be reported. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Mitchell Henry.)

hoped the Motion would not be pressed. The Bill did not propose for the first time a difference in the qualification for jurors in different counties. On the contrary, that difference had existed since 1871, if not before. He had no wish to shut out any discussion, but he hoped they might be allowed to conclude the Committee that day, and then the question could be again discussed on the Report.

said, that they were quite willing to consent to the postponement of the Schedule, but they were not willing to pass it then.

said, it was wrongly assumed that the poor people were anxious to serve on juries. It was an advantage to a poor man if they could get jurors to serve without coming down to him, as serving on juries was really a penalty on such a man, as he had often to leave his farm and neglect his work at critical seasons in order to serve. He appealed to his hon. Friend not to press the Motion, but to accept the proposition of the Chief Secretary.

remarked that if there was no other reason why the debate should be adjourned, the speech they had just heard was sufficient. He would recommend his hon. Friend to read some constitutional history. The sole object of empanelling a jury was not that the trials should go on, but the qualification of jurors concerned the doctrine that every man should be tried by his peers. To say that Irish farmers did not wish to be placed on juries was a thing which he did not believe. If it was so, that House should teach them better. They should be taught to appreciate the value of trial by jury. If they did not, the reason was, that in former days the jury system—["Question!"] He thought, however, they were now getting into a proper condition; but whether the farmers liked it or not, he claimed for them the privilege of being placed on the jury list.

said, as there were only six minutes left, he would postpone the Schedule. Motion and Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule postponed.

Schedule 2 postponed.

Schedule 3.

said, the question of exemption had better be dealt with under the Procedure Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

It being now ten minutes to Seven of the clock, Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.

said, he had hoped that they would have got through Committee that day. As it was important the Bill should become law in a very short period of time, he was authorized to state that it would be taken as the First Order on Thursday,

Yes, this Bill. The House suspended its sitting at Seven of the clock. The House resumed its sitting at Nine of the clock.