HC Deb 17 February 1837 vol 36 c648

Sir Eardley Wilmot moved the second reading of the Judges' Opinions Bill, and stated that, in former times, and until recently, when any difficulty arose in any cases tried at quarter sessions, by persons holding the commission of the peace, such difficulty was not to be decided unless in the presence of a Judge of Assize. At present it was the practice, if the friends of a prisoner convicted at quarter sessions, or before a recorder, thought that the conviction was illegal, to forward a memorial to the Home Secretary, who generally referred the case to the opinions of the law officers of the Crown. He objected that the officers of the Crown should be the justicial referees, and he preferred returning to the ancient practice. He proposed in the present Bill that if in the case of any prisoner tried at quarter sessions, a difficulty arose upon any point of law the opinion of the going Judge of Assize should be taken thereupon. He proposed that, in the meantime, the prisoner should be respited. If the Judge decided that the conviction was legal the sentence should be carried into execution; if, on the contrary, the conviction was held to be illegal the prisoner should then be discharged. He moved that the Bill be read a second time.

The Solicitor-General

felt that the country was greatly indebted to the hon. Baronet for bringing forward his measure, which was calculated to put an end to a most objectionable anomaly.

Bill read a second time.