HC Deb 11 April 1843 vol 68 cc830-1
Mr. Roebuck

said, that there had been laid on the Table of the House reports from the commissioners appointed to inquire into the criminal law of this country, one of which reports recommended a code of criminal law. He wished to ask whether Government was prepared to bring forward in the present Session any measure embodying the recommendations of the commissioners?

Sir J. Graham

said, that this was a most important question, and he was therefore much obliged by the notice the hon. and learned Gentleman had given him of his intention to ask it. The House was aware that the result of the protracted labours of the commission referred to was seven reports. In the last of these reports the commissioners recommended the consolidation of the criminal law, appending specimens of the mode in which they would suggest this to be done in the laws as to treason and murder. He was persuaded, however, that such important changes in the criminal law could not be effected in this way. There must necessarily be not merely a compilation of the statutes, but also a thorough examination of the decisions of the judges, and of the interpretations of the law by the courts. To render such a compilation safe and eligible, would require the exercise of the utmost caution, the most matured experience, and the most extensive knowledge. He did not think the Government, as a Government, should undertake this compilation. If done at all, it should be the work of a commission; and he was not prepared to say, that for the purpose of attempting this great work, he could advise her Majesty to issue such a com. mission. It would be one of the greatest changes ever attempted in the laws of this country, having a most important bearing upon the future administration of those laws. He could not conceive a step requiring more cautious deliberation on the part of Parliament than an attempt of this kind. He thought, that a commission for the purpose should not issue on the authority of the Crown, but should be a Parliamentary commission, appointed by statute, and, as at present advised, he could not say, that he was now prepared to recommend such a Parliamentary commission to the House.