HC Deb 01 July 1845 vol 81 cc1412-4
Mr. M. Milnes

rose "to call the attention of the House to the evils attendant on the present mode of conducting the public execution of criminals." He said, that his object was to give the Judges authority to appoint at their discretion, places for the execution of criminals within the walls of prisons. No man was more convinced than he was of the evils attending private executions, or of the necessity of publicity. The real question was, what should be then ature of that publicity? He thought that the full ends of a public execution could be attained by an execution within the walls of a prison in the presence of properly authorized persons. That practice had been adopted in Pennsylvania, and since then in all the Northern States of the Union. The circumstances that had transpired of late in consequence of the admission of the public to the condemned sermon, had more particularly induced him to bring forward this Question at this late period of the Session. But the truth was, that the public feeling had very considerably advanced on the subject, so much so, that the Home Secretary had issued his order to exclude all but certain authorized persons from the condemned sermon; and this step had been taken in accordance with a very general expression of public feeling argued in favour of an advanced state of civilization in this country. In some foreign countries they were not so advanced. In Bavaria a custom existed of allowing the whole population to go through the cell of the condemned criminal for a small payment, which went to his family afterwards. Executions in this country formerly were conducted as spectacles for the people. It was supposed that they would work on the public mind, to the prevention of crime; and the practice was kept up to a late period. The progress of civilization had already done a great deal to put an end to the revolting circumstances which attended public executions in former times, and the same civilization now demanded that the circumstances still attending our public executions should be still further altered. The plan he was prepared to recommend was, that the Judge who passed sentence on the prisoner should also be authorized to name the place (within the walls of the prison) of his execution. He proposed that the execution should take place in the presence of the authorities, and also that the reporters of the public press should be admitted. The press afforded the true publicity, and it was right, therefore, that the reporters should be admitted. Public executions were defended on the ground that they improved the morals of the people. This could hardly be the case, when they reflected that those who attended executions were the dissolute and the desperate, and they were looked at as a sort of gladiatorial exhibition, and were visited as a kind of barbarous diversion. The hon. Member was proceeding, when

An hon. Member moved that the House be counted, and there being only thirty-two Members present, the House adjourned at a quarter to eight o'clock.