wished the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Solicitor-general, or the hon. Member for Lambeth, to explain what those amendments were. They had not been printed, and his only knowledge of them was obtained from the newspapers of the day.
The amendments might be stated under two heads: the first referred to the third clause of the bill, giving the magistrates retiring salaries, 440 which the House of Lords had struck out; the other, which was the most important alteration, referred to the 26th clause, which had given rise to so much discussion, and which the House of Lords had also struck out. The hon. Member was aware, that that clause had been framed in conformity with the suggestions of a select committee of the House of Commons, and that it gave the magistrates, in cases of petty felony, a power of summary jurisdiction and conviction, without the intervention of a jury. Although he did not approve of those amendments, and considered the bill much better in the shape in which it passed that House, yet it was requisite to accept it, in order to preserve the power of the metropolitan police magistrates; and he, therefore, moved, that the Lords' amendments be agreed to.
§ Mr. Hawes
said, that, in consequence of the call made upon him by the hon. Member for Cockermouth, he hoped the House would indulge him with a few minutes of their time, in order to call the attention, as well of the House as of the public, to the alterations introduced by the House of Lords. As the Solicitor-general had stated, there were two principal alterations, and but two, and both he regretted. The first alteration of the Lords was, the striking out the third clause of the bill, by which the Secretary of State was empowered to supersede, upon a fixed superannuation, certain police magistrates who, from age or other circumstances, were indisposed to continue on the bench, when far more extensive and important duties were imposed upon them. The bill, as it originally stood, comprehended, not only the removal of such magistrates as he had alluded to, but the appointment of a superior class of justices in these courts. No doubt could be entertained that the public had been, and was, dissatisfied with the mode of administering justice in these offices, and it was important, therefore, that not only justices, from whatever cause incompetent, should be removed, but that better should be appointed. The Lords had left the jurisdiction as extensive as it was when the bill left this House in nearly every respect, as he would presently show, and yet made alterations which would, in his opinion, mar its satisfactory administration. It appeared, however, that this clause was not absolutely necessary, inasmuch as the 441 superannuation could be obtained by existing Acts. He trusted be should not be thought to take up too much time, when he remarked upon another principal alteration of the bill. The House of Lords had thought proper to strike out the 26th clause, which gave to the police magistrates a summary jurisdiction in cases of petty theft; a clause which he regretted to find no longer in the bill, as he firmly believed it was a most valuable provision, and one constantly called for, and which would have been acted upon with general consent and approbation. For the proof of the value and importance of this clause, he would just refer the House to the evidence of one of the witnesses before the committee, which put this provision in a very important point of view. Mr. Hard-wick says—We do exercise a very important jurisdiction at present, from a belief that it is better to decide the case at once for the interest of all parties, both the accuser and accused, in lieu of sending it to the sessions to be tried, involving as it does frequently long periods of imprisonment to the party accused. We do exercise such power perpetually, and we are assailed continually to exercise it still more, and an experienced officer said the other day, that there are few persons who have gone through a criminal proceeding that would ever complain again. There are nineteen out of twenty who have done that for the first time, not knowing what they have to go through, passing through the examination and re-examination at the police office, thence before the clerk of the Central Criminal Court taking the notes for indictment, thence to the grand jury, and thence before the petty jury and the court.Let it be remembered, that these proceedings all have to be taken for the most trifling, and the most numerous class of offences, the stealing a bun, or an apple, as may be seen in the reports of the inspectors of prisons. But the objections taken in the House of Lords surprised him. It was not that such petty offences were not fit objects for a good and well defined system of summary jurisdiction, but that the jurisdiction given under the bill interfered with trial by jury. Now, to that he begged to give a decided contradiction. The bill, as it went to the Lords, gave no jurisdiction over felonies, if he understood the technical meaning of the word. No such jurisdiction was ever intended or given. Felony was the crime of theft to which the law attached certain penalties, penalties which were very severe. 442 Long periods of imprisonment, transportation, and forfeiture of goods, corruption of the blood, &c. It was never intended, nor was there anything in the bill to give such power. The crime of theft, petty thefts in particular, had long, for forty years at least, been within the jurisdiction of a single magistrate, and of the petty sessions, of justices throughout the country without the intervention of a jury. Felony, then, was never placed by this bill under the single jurisdiction of a magistrate, whilst petty thefts, under several Acts—the Vagrant Act, the Larceny Consolidation Act, introduced by Sir Robert Peel, and the Police Act—all gave this jurisdiction, and were all in full operation throughout the kingdom, certainly without any practical injustice or complaint, or any idea that the right of trial by jury was impaired. The objection, however, respecting the violation of the right of trial by jury, came with a bad grace from those to whom such observations were attributed in the papers: no doubt such remarks were very erroneously attributed to them, but such objections were attributed to Lord Lyndhurst and Lord Brougham. The former noble Lord had sanctioned and prepared the 7th and 8th of George 4th, Sir Robert Peel's Act, and stated this in the debate in the House of Lords in June, 1827. The bill was introduced by Lord Tenterden, and the then Lord Chancellor (Lyndhurst) said, that the bill had long been under the consideration of Sir R. Peel, "who had been assisted by himself, by the late Attorney-general, and by the then Solicitor-general." Lord Brougham also took part in the debate upon Sir R. Peel's bill, and raised not one word of objection to the severe, and he must say, arbitrary provisions of that bill. By that bill, a single justice could inflict twelve months imprisonment, and fines varying from 50l. to 2l. Compared with this, which required amendment, the bill now before the House was preeminently humane and merciful. In fact, the bill was wholly in mitigation of the existing law. The utmost imprisonment which could be inflicted was two months, and the utmost fine 5l., and in all cases an appeal was allowed, where the sentence of imprisonment exceeded one month and the fine 3l. It should not be forgotten, that these magistrates were professional men, sitting in open court, under the constant influence of 443 public opinion and the public press. But if the observations in the House of Lords surprised him, the observations made recently on the bench of the Central Criminal Court surprised him more. There he found the Recorder of London stating, "that the present House of Commons had given their sanction to a measure for trying prisoners without a jury at all." The account goes on to state, that "the jury looked astonished, as well they might." The Recorder continued: "Gentlemen might well be astonished, but it was the fact, that a bill had lately passed the House of Commons empowering a single magistrate upon his own judgment to convict prisoners in cases of felony." This, he confessed, surprised him; for no such bill ever passed, giving any single magistrate any such power. A felony, he had said, was a technical word, implying the crime of theft, and a certain amount of punishment combined. Felony, then, was never placed under the jurisdiction of a magistrate, whilst petty thefts, had, as as he had shown, been long under the cognizance of a single magistrate throughout the country. What became, then, of the statement made from the bench, and the assertion that the right of trial by jury was invaded? The fact was, that the law, when the Recorder was speaking, enabled a magistrate, on suspicion only of a felony, to convict for two months, without appeal, whilst the bill thus noticed required proof of theft to be given before conviction, and then allowed an appeal from a sentence of imprisonment exceeding one month. The law as it stood was unnoticed by the judge, whilst the bill was commented upon by the hon. Member. The impartiality of a judge was lost sight of, and he must say, that such observations appeared to him to be unbecoming the judicial character. The fact was, that this bill was only very objectionable to a certain class of legal gentlemen who were not indifferent to the fees derivable from the business of the Central Criminal Court, and they fancied, contrary to the opinion of many witnesses examined, that the more constitutional and direct jurisdiction proposed to be given by the bill would lessen the business of that court, and hence all the objections made. They could not endure, from the highest to the lowest functionary, that anything should interfere with either the fees, emoluments, or power of that 444 little burglarious world, in which they lived and moved and had their being. Such observations as those to which he had alluded appeared to him better fitted for that House than a court of justice. He begged pardon for thus occupying the House. The remarks he had made had been called forth by the unnecessary address of the Recorder of London, to whom he had written a note, apprising him of his intention to notice it when this bill came again under discussion. He would sit down, only saying that he had a firm conviction that this bill would confer great benefits upon a vast community which had long been denied justice. There could be no excuse for not now appointing thoroughly competent justices—men who would not only do justice, but would make the administration of justice respected; and so far from thinking this bill narrowed any right of the subject, invaded any ancient right, inflicted any severe penalty, or gave any harsh power, be believed it was a bill mitigating the existing law, and creating a useful and most beneficial jurisdiction. It was very capable of improvement, he hoped it would be improved, and that in lieu of the very objectionable power now exercised indirectly by magistrates, instead of that proposed in the bill, which required the proof of the crime alleged before conviction, the bill, as it formerly stood before the Lords' alterations, would hereafter become law. A short time would only elapse before the public would, he hoped, enjoy the full benefits contemplated by the police committee, in the more orderly and satisfactory administration of justice throughout the metropolis.
§ Sir C. Grey
was not aware of any address having been made from the bench of the nature alluded to by the hon. Member for Lambeth, and thought the hon. Member somewhat premature in coming so rapidly to any conclusion upon that subject. He agreed, however, with that hon. Member, in entertaining an anxious desire that the bill should not be ushered into the world subject to any misrepresentation: and that, as regarded summary jurisdiction in case, of felony, the question turned more upon the technical meaning of the words than anything else. But it appeared to him that the hon. Member for Lambeth had omitted to notice one very material point. According to his (Sir C. Grey's) impression, the bill, as it passed that 445 House, did not allow an appeal to a jury in all cases, a motion to that effect having been made by the bon. Member for East Kent and negatived. According, then, to his opinion, the bill, as it passed that House, gave power to the magistrates to punish summarily British subjects to the extent of imprisonment and hard labour for a limited period, without the right of appeal. He must say that he considered that was a strong interference with the liberty of the subject, and he had stated so when the bill was discussed in committee. He objected to the right of any magistrates to imprison without appeal to a jury. He would put the case to the hon. Member for Lambeth, how he himself should feel if placed in such circumstances, and if he found that he might be thrown into prison by the command of a single judge, subject to all the heats and infirmities of human nature, and that the right of appealing to a jury of his countrymen was denied him. It was true that parties in that situation might apply to the Secretary of State, and so long as the noble Lord now at the head of the Home Department held that situation, they would all have pretty good chance of access. But that noble Lord did not command a perpetual lease of office, and his successor might not be so willing to pay attention to the duties of his office as the noble Lord; he therefore felt it desirable that the power of appeal should exist in all cases. He could speak from his own experience, that he never knew a rogue who had been rightly convicted, appeal from the conviction. With the right of appeal, he should not object to giving summary jurisdiction to a greater extent than they did at present.
§ Sir C. Grey
certainly thought that the motion of the hon. Member for East Kent, for allowing appeals in all cases, had been negatived, and that the House of Lords had adopted that principle.
said, the Lords had done nothing. The law remained precisely the same as formerly, giving an appeal in all cases where imprisonment exceeded one month, and the penalties 3l.
stated, that the hon. Member for East Kent had moved in the com- 446 mittee, that parties should have an appeal in all cases, but that amendment was negatived. We were going on abolishing the trial by jury by degrees, until at last we should arrive at the Turkish state in which the criminal law was administered by the will of the magistrate alone. He was most averse to depriving her Majesty's subjects of the protection of trial by jury.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
was very sorry to hear the hon. and learned Solicitor-general declare, that he was ready to agree to these amendments of the Lords. To that declaration he could by no means assent; and unquestionably he should take the sense of the House upon them. He rejoiced, however, that the Lords had struck out of the bill the summary clause. If it were right to give such jurisdiction to magistrates, why was the clause to be limited to a circle of fifteen miles round London, and why was not the benefit of it to be extended to the rest of the country? The real alteration, however, of the Lords, to which he wished to call the attention of the Commons, was one which completely spoiled the bill altogether. The Lords had struck out of the bill the third clause. That clause gave the responsible advisers of the Crown, the power of superseding the existing magistrates on payment of a pension or retiring allowance, not exceeding in amount two-thirds of their present salaries. The House of Commons, by a subsequent clause, had increased the salary of the future police magistrates, from 800l. to 1,200l. a-year, and had been induced to accede to that increase, from the declaration of Ministers, that under the third clause they should be able to get rid of all the weak, worn-out, imbecile old fixtures in Worship-street and in Queen-square. Yes, all the Whites, and Gregorys, and Nortons were to be swept clean away, and in their stead, we were to get young barristers of seven years standing, distinguished for great learning and legal talent. Now, the consequence of the Lords striking out the third clause, would be this—that Ministers would not be able to supersede the existing magistrates; and the result of that would be, that these old, worn-out, incompetent magistrates would get 1,200l. a-year, instead of the 800l. a-year which they now had, and would continue fixtures on the bench as long as they could either see, write, or eat. When the Lords struck out the third clause, they should also have 447 struck out the clause increasing the salaries of the magistrates. To do Lord Lyndhurst justice, he had come forward to strike out that clause; but then down came the Whigs in flocks, and defeated him for the sake of the golden fleece. After the superseding clause was struck out, the salary-increasing clause ought not to have been kept in. He should move that there amendments be read a second time this, day three months. If he succeeded, as he trusted that he should succeed, in carrying that amendment, the effect of it would be the loss of the bill. He was aware that the Police Act expired in the present year, but nothing could be more easy than for Ministers to have recourse to their ordinary practice, and to bring in a short bill to continue it for another year.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that considerable misconception appeared to prevail in the mind of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, respecting the provisions of this bill. His hon. Friend's observations were quite inapplicable to the real facts of the case. If this bill were to be rejected, and a continuing bill were to be introduced, as his hon. Friend advised, all the objections which had been urged against the present defectiveness of the police system, would remain n full force. In the bill, as it passed the House of Commons, the salaries of the police magistrates were increased with a view to obtain a better administration of justice, through the hands of professional men of learning and experience, than could be obtained from the services of some of those who were now employed by the Government as police magistrates, but whom he would not allude to by name, as they were not present to defend themselves. The clause granting that increase of salary, was coupled with another clause, enabling the Crown to supersede, at its discretion, certain magistrates upon retired allowances of a limited amount. The latter clause had been rejected by the Lords; and, therefore, to a certain extent, the public would not obtain the benefit which the bill as it passed the Commons was calculated to give them. But there were two circumstances which his hon. Friend had overlooked. In the first place, all the existing magistrates held their offices during pleasure; but that circumstance would not justify the Crown in removing them, so 448 long as they discharged the duties of their stations faithfully and efficiently. In the next place, the retiring allowances to be granted to them, did not rest upon this superseding clause; for they were provided for by the Act of 4th and 5th of William IV., cap. 24, an Act passed in 1834, for the purpose of regulating pensions and retiring allowances. In the schedule to that Act, were contained the retiring allowances to be granted to the police magistrates in the county of Middlesex, the city of Westminster, and the borough of Southwark. The Crown, by that Act, could enforce the superannuation of the police magistrates. As the consequence of rejecting the present bill would be to leave the present state of the police of the metropolis very defective, he did hope, that his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, would not persist in pressing his amendment. One word more before he sat down. His hon. Friend and colleague (Mr. Pryme), had declared himself most averse to abolishing the trial by jury, which he described as one of the most efficacious protections of her Majesty's subjects. Undoubtedly so it was, and most hostile should he and the rest of his colleagues be to any proposition which went the length of abolishing the jurisdiction of the petty jury. But the jurisdiction of the grand jury was also a protection to her Majesty's subjects; and yet his hon. Friend and colleague had proposed to abolish it altogether. On the next occasion on which his hon. Friend brought forward that proposition, he must pair off with himself, as nothing could be more contradictory than his opinions on the utility of grand and petty juries.
said, that his right hon. Friend and colleague had just shown that he had not listened to his speech on the subject of grand juries, for, if he had listened to that speech, he would have known that the abolition of the functions of a grand jury would not impair, but strengthen the functions of a petty jury.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
observed, that the Act to which his right hon. Friend had referred was passed in 1834. As in the interval which had elapsed since the passing of that Act—her Majesty's Ministers, had not removed on retiring allowances any of those gentlemen who were such ornaments of the bench, he inferred that they had no intention to remove them now. He must, persist in his amendment.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that her Majesty's Ministers had not till very recently received the recommendation of two committees that some of the present magistrates should be set aside. If, therefore, they had set them aside without such a good cause, they would have been accused of removing the magistrates from improper motives. By the present bill they would be authorized to remove the magistrates, and to procure in their room legal gentlemen of greater competency.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The amendments of the Lords were agreed to.