HC Deb 03 July 1834 vol 24 cc1095-7

Upon the Motion of Mr. Lennard, the House resolved itself into a Committee upon the Punishment of Death Bill.

Upon the second Clause being read,

Lord Howick

proposed an Amendment, to the effect that the punishment of death should not be abolished where any violence was committed, or bodily harm inflicted.

Mr. Lennard

objected to the Amendment, as it would in effect destroy the whole value and efficacy of the Bill. If it were recollected that, for offences which had lately ceased to be capital, there no longer existed the same reluctance to prosecute as formerly, it must be admitted that the slight increase of two per cent which had taken place in the commitments was a virtual diminution; and this was the more worthy of notice, because, in the other two classes, the commitments had increased in a much greater ratio. The capital commitments in the same period had undergone an increase of forty-four per cent! and this, too, notwithstanding undiminished rigour in the execution of the law; for the number who suffered death increased from 110 in the first period, to 126 in the second period, for those offences which are still punished with death. He, therefore, felt bound to resist the Amendment.

Mr. Hardy

thought that, for the purpose of preserving uniformity with the other Acts of Parliament, it was necessary that the Amendment should be adopted.

Lord Howick

said, the object he had in view in proposing the Amendment to the House was to give persons who should be guilty of robbery an inducement to abstain from the further commission of crime. The existing law was quite at variance with the practice that had prevailed for many years past, and his object in proposing the Amendment was, to reconcile the law to the prevailing practice as far as it was practicable.

Mr. Roebuck

said, that the Amendment, far from effecting the object the noble Lord had in view, held out an inducement to the robber to commit murder. If in the scuffle which naturally ensued when a robbery was committed the person robbed should receive any bodily harm from the thief, the latter, knowing himself to be guilty of an equal crime with the murderer, would have a strong inducement to commit the greater crime to facilitate his escape or prevent detection.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the Criminal-Law of England was a bloody and barbarous code, and very badly administered. It was lamentable to see a country excelling every other in science and art so backward in the progress toward civilization in her criminal laws. What did the noble Lord mean by bodily harm? A mere bruise or discolouring of the skin was included in the words of the Amendment, and this was to be as great a crime as murder in the eye of the law. What else could be meant by "bodily harm?" They knew that "grievous bodily harm" was already a capital offence; every case of cutting was provided for by the bloody Act of Lord Ellenborough. This reminded him of three deaths which had recently taken place from boxing-matches. He contended that all the persons engaged in these barbarous practices were guilty of murder. He would have all those who backed the pugilists, as well as the lookers on, and those who encouraged such acts of inhumanity, punished as murderers. It was easy to show they were guilty of murder. The law was clear, that if any persons went out to fight with weapons likely to cause death, and death should ensue, they were guilty of murder. It could easily be shown that the weapons used at a prize-fight did produce death, for death had taken place in several instances. There could, therefore, be no doubt they were murderers, and should be punished as such. He thought if a batch of the noble Lords, Magistrates, and gentry who were present, and gave encouragement to such inhuman scenes, were sent to Botany Bay, it would have a tendency to put an end to them. He should oppose the Amendment of the noble Lord.

Amendment withdrawn, and Clause agreed to.

The remaining Clauses were agreed to, with verbal amendments, and the House resumed.

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