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Wednesday, 21 July 1920


Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir Elliot Johnson - I am not concerned with the legal argument as to whether or not a particular case was sub judice. I was authoritatively informed that it was so. The real point of my ruling was that matters awaiting the adjudication of a Court of law should not be brought forward in debate. This rule was observed by Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell, both by the wording of the speech from the Throne and by their procedure in the House of Commons, regarding Mr. ' O'Connell's case, and has been maintained by the rulings from- the Chair. (Vide May, 10th Edition, page 316.) In the same edition, at page 264, it is stated- -

A matter whilst under adjudication by a Court of Law should not be brought before the House by a motion or otherwise.

I will quote from the authorities which I referred to in May as laying the foundation of this decision. In the address from the Throne, referred to in Parliamentary Debates, 1884, Volume 72, appeared this passage -

I forbear from observation on events in Ireland, in respect to which proceedings are pending before the proper legal tribunal.

In that instance the Queen in her speech from the Throne forbore from mentioning a matter that was before the Court. On page 86, Lord John Russell is reported as having said -

I quite agree, that while the trials are pending before a judicial tribunal in that country, it would be impossible, with a proper regard to the proceedings of a Court of Justice, to discuss certain topics one way or the other, without involving the conduct of persons who are now obliged to defend their conduct before the Judges.

Sir RobertPeel spoke to the same effect on page 98 -

Her Majesty declares her reluctance, while the legal proceedings are pending, to refer to those proceedings; and it is indeed impossible to' refer to parties connected with affairs in that country without in some way alluding to the trials now going on.

The actual issue raised upon the Speaker's ruling was in this case brought up in 1899, when the adjournment of the House of Commons was moved " for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the conduct of the police at Falcarragh, and the circumstances attending the arrest of Mr. Harrison and the prosecution of Mr. Conybeare." Mr. Wharton, at page 1254, volume 355, third series, said - :

I rise to order. I do not wish to interrupt the honorable member, but I wish to ask you, sir, whether it is in accordance with the practice of the House for an honorable member to refer to the circumstance of a case pending legal jurisdiction. The fact is that all the circumstances to which the honorable member is alluding, will come before the Court of Appeal, and will probably form the charge against the honorable member opposite before that Court. I wish, therefore, to know if it is in accordance with the practice of this House, that the circumstances of .the case can be referred to on this occasion?


Mr SPEAKER - When the honorable member on a previous night gave his notice, I thought it my duty to take upon myself the responsibility of saying that I thought, under the then circumstances, it would be indecorous in the highest degree to bring the circumstances under the notice of the House. But to-night, the honorable member has varied the notice on moving the adjournment of the House, namely, "For the purpose of calling attention to the conduct of the police at Fal.carragh." He now appears to be dealing with another subject, namely, the prosecution of the honorable and learned member for the

Camborne Division (Mr. Conybeare), and I hope I may say I do not think I am travelling out of my responsibility and my proper functions when I say that 1 do not think the House will sanction any remarks which are likely to prejudice the trial which, though it is over in the first instance, is now the subject of appeal. The honorable and learned gentleman has asked mc whether it is the practice of the House. I am not aware that there has been any definite and distinct expression of opinion on the part of the House that pending trials should not be alluded to. Nor am I aware of any distinct and definite ruling from the Chair, though I am aware of frequent expressions of opinion, both from Ministers in this House and other members, with regard to the impropriety of alluding to pending trials in such a way as to prejudice a fair trial of the case.


Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - As the clock is nearing the hour of 5, at which time the debate will expire in the ordinary course, I suggest that the time for the debate be extended.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I do not like the idea of preventing any honorable members from speaking. Of course, it is for Mr. Speaker to say what he wishes in this matter, but I suggest that we might agree to take a vote on this motion before the dinner-hour.







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