HC Deb 27 June 1837 vol 38 cc1661-3

Lord John Russell moved the Order of the Day for the further consideration of the Report of the Offences against the Person Bill.

House in Committee.

On Clause 2,

Mr. Aglionby

proposed an amendment, the object of which was, to separate these offences into two classes, making all cases of murder punishable by death, and all cases of attempts at murder subject to periods of transportation to be fixed upon. The subject had given rise to considerable discussion in the Committee, and he, for one, did not disguise his opinion, that if the punishment of death was to be continued on the Statute-book, it ought to be limited to murders alone. He hoped his Majesty's Government would have considered the question, as upon the former occasion, the punishment of death had been carried by only a very small majority. He regretted, that his hon. Friend, the Member for Liverpool, who had for many years attended to the amendment of the criminal law, was prevented from attending in his place by a severe domestic calamity; but as the proposition for continuing the punishment of death in any cases, except actual murder, had been carried merely by a majority of one; and as the opinion out of doors was strongly against the proposition, he had earnestly hoped that the Government would have taken the question into its own hands, as one not unworthy its consideration. By this means, they would get rid of great difficulties and many legal technicalities. Unless there was a very strong opinion expressed against it, it was his intention to take the sense of the Committee upon that point.

The Attorney-General

objected to the amendment. He had given his best attention to the subject, and he questioned whether the punishment of death should be confined to cases of actual murder only. The clause objected to by the hon. Member had been framed upon the suggestion of one of the most eminent judges in the land. He trusted, therefore, that the House would adopt it.

Mr. O'Connell moved, in place of Mr. Aglionby's amendment, that after the word "death," at the end of the clause, there be inserted the following words:—"or, at the discretion of the court, be transported for the term of the natural life of such person, or for any term not less than fifteen years."

Mr. Shaw

objected to the amendment, because it would place the judge in the painful situation of deciding, in all cases that came within the meaning of the clause, whether the offence should be visited with a capital punishment, or not. this would be new to the law, and, in his opinion, far from an improvement of it.

The Attorney-General

also objected to the amendment, and upon the same ground. Leaving it to the judge to determine whether an offence should or should not be held capital was contrary to all rule, and wholly anomalous. It would, b sides, have the effect of placing the judges in an embarrassing, a most painful, and oftentimes, perhaps, a most odious, situation. Every body, he thought, would perceive how very different the situation of the judge would become when it was known that the decision of life or death was left entirely to his discretion.

The Committee divided on the amendment:—Ayes 36; Noes 60: Majority 24.

List of the AYES.
Acheson, Viscount Lynch, A. H.
Aglionby, H. A. O'Brien, W. S.
Baines, E. O'Connell, M. J.
Beauclerk, Major Pease, J.
Blake, M. J. Pechell, Captain
Brotherton, J. Potter, R.
Buller, C. Power, J.
Chapman, L. Pryse, P.
Codrington, Admiral Robinson, G. H.
Dennistoun, J. Sibthorp, Colonel
Ellice, E. Strickland, Sir G.
Fector, J. M. Surrey, Earl of
Fenton, J. Thompson, Colonel
Gaskell, D. Vigors, N. A.
Goring, H. D. Wakley, T.
Hawes, B. Wallace, R.
Hodges, T. T. Williams, W.
Hutt, W.
Lennox, Lord G. TELLERS.
Lennox, Lord A. O'Connell, D.
Lister, E. C. Grote, G.
List of the NOES.
Alsager, Captain Lowther, J. H.
Alston, R. Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Baillie, H. D. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Baring, F. T. Paget, F.
Bewes, T. Palmer, R.
Biddulph, R. Parker, J.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.
Canning, rt. hn. Sir S. Pattison, J.
Clive, hon. R. H. Pollen, Sir J. W.
Colborne, N. W. R. Poulter, J. S.
Dalmeny, Lord Pusey, P.
Darlington, Earl of Richards, R.
Dillwyn, L. W. Ross, C.
Duncombe, hon. A. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Elley, Sir J. Russell, Lord J.
Fergus, J. Scourfield, W. H.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Seymour, Lord
Fitzroy, hon. H. Sheppard, T.
Gordon, R. Stanley, Lord
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Steuart, R.
Goulburn, Sergeant Thompson, T. B.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Vere, Sir C. B.
Grey, Sir G. Williams, W. A.
Hay, Sir A. L. Wilson, H.
Hillsborough, Earl of Worsley, Lord
Hoskins, K. Woulfe, Serjeant
Houldsworth, T. Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.
Howard, P. H. Young, G. F.
Inglis, Sir R. H.
Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E. TELLERS.
Knight, H. G. The Attorney-General
Law, hon. C. E. The Solicitor-General

The clause agreed o. House resumed.

The other ills for the amendment of the criminal law were forwarded through the same stage.

Back to