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Chapter V. by a committee appointed to inquire into the state of the
gaols, that Sir W. Rich, a prisoner in the Fleet, had been misused by the warden of the Fleet, in consequence of evidence given by the former to the committee. The house declared, nem. con., that the warden was guilty of contempt, and committed him to the Serjeant-at-arms.
On the 10th May, 1733, complaint was made that Jeremiah Dunbar, Esq., had been censured by the House of Representatives of Massachusetts Bay, for evidence given by him before a committee on a bill, upon which the house resolved, nem. con., “That the presuming to call any person to account, or to pass a censure upon him, for evidence given by such person before this house, or any committee thereof, is an audacious proceeding, and a high violation of the privileges of this house." 2
In 1819, Thomas Stinton, a soldier examined before the Worcester Election Committee, was arrested by the sergeant of his regiment, in the lobby, for absenting himself from drill. There were, however, other circumstances in the case, which induced the house not to regard this as a breach of privilege.3
On the 2nd July, 1845, Mr. Jasper Parrott complained to the house, by petition, that an action had been commenced against him in respect of evidence which he had given before a committee. The plaintiff and his solicitors, having been ordered to attend, disclaimed any intention of violating the privileges of the house, and declared that the action would be discontinued. They were, in consequence, discharged from further attendance, although the commencement of the action was declared to be a breach of privilege. It is worthy of remark, that the plaintiff's solicitor stated, in a petition to the house, that the declaration had been framed upon the assumption that a witness would not be protected, by privilege, in respect of any evidence which was wilfully and maliciously false, any
121 C. J. 247.
· 100 C. J. 672. 680. 697; 81 H. D. 3 s. 1436.
more than the powers of the superior courts at Westminster Chapter V.
In the same year, a similar case occurred in the House
breach of privilege, and committed.
of the company, at the bar, under an order of the house
82 H. D. 3 s. 431. 494.
Chapter V. The member was heard in his place, in behalf of himself
and the other directors and the manager of the Cambrian
one of the directors expressed his entire concurrence with
and manager of the company had disclaimed any intention
admonished by Mr. Speaker for the breach of privilege Admoni- that they had committed. The directors and the manager 94.'** were accordingly called in, the member standing in his See formal place, and the other directors and manager standing at motions, p.
the bar, and received the admonition of the Speaker;
The privilege of protection from molestation in respect Protection
to Parliaappears that statements made to Parliainent in the course ment not of its proceedings are not actionable at law. In Lake v. aci 147 C. J. 166.
2 58 L. J. 128. 145. P.
King, which was an action upon the case for printing a Chapter V.
deliver copies, whereof they ought to take judicial notice." Admissible In Rex v. Merceron, an indictment against a magistrate
c. for misconduct in his office, in having corruptly granted
licences to public-houses, which were his own property, it was proposed, in behalf of the prosecutor, to prove what had been said by the defendant, in the course of his examination before a committee of the House of Commons, appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the police of the metropolis. The defendant had been compelled to appear before this committee, and had, upon examination, delivered in a list of certain public-houses, with the names of the owners and other particulars. On the part of the defendant it was objected, that since this statement had been made under a compulsory process from the House of Commons, and under the pain of incurring punishment as for a contempt of that house, the declarations were not voluntary, and could not be admitted for the purpose of criminating the defendant : but Abbott, C.J., was of opinion that the evidence was admissible.?
11 Saunders' Reports, 131 b; 1 Lev. 240; 2 Keb. 361. 383. 462. 496. 659. 801. See also 2 Inst. 228, as to
evidence before a jury being privi. leged.
? 2 Starkie's Nisi Prius Cases, 366.
Table of Contents, see Introduction.
JURISDICTION OF COURTS OF LAW IN MATTERS
The precise jurisdiction of courts of law in matters of privi- Difficulty
of the lege, is one of the most difficult questions of constitutional question. law that has ever arisen. Upon this point the precedents of Parliament are contradictory, the opinions and decisions of judges have differed, and the most learned and experienced men of the present day are not agreed. It would, therefore, be presumptuous to define the jurisdiction of the courts, or the bounds of parliamentary privilege: but it may not be useless to explain the principles involved in the question; to cite the chief authorities, and to advert to some of the
leading cases that have occurred. Considera- It has been shown already (see p. 59), that each house Principles matters of of Parliament claims to be sole and exclusive judge of its see p. 270.
6. own privileges, and that the courts have repeatedly acknow
ledged the right of both houses to declare what is a breach