§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT RAYNHAM
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, that while he retained the provisions which he had introduced into the measure on this subject which he brought forward two years ago, rendering those who committed aggravated assaults on women and children liable to corporal punishment, he had, in deference to what appeared to be the feeling of the House, so far modified his original proposal as now to provide that such punishment should be inflicted only upon a third conviction for the same offence. He, however, proposed that an additional term of imprisonment should be given for the first and second time the offence was committed. He hoped the consequence of the enactment of those provisions would be the diminution of the class of crimes against which it was his object to legislate. In view of the necessity of repressing offences of this character he trusted that even those who were opposed to corporal punishment would permit the Bill to be read the second time. If, when the Bill went into Committee, he found that 472 there was a strong feeling against the infliction of corporal punishment, even upon a third conviction, he should not be unwilling to abandon that provision, in consideration of the benefits that would result from the adoption of the remaining provisions. The noble Lord concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. ALDERMAN SIDNEY
could not see any ground for the introduction of the Bill. In his judgment the Law was not defective in its present mode of punishment. He thought it would be most inexpedient to deal too harshly with offences of this kind, because where the husband had undergone corporal punishment on the complaint of the wife, the effect would be to provoke lasting estrangement between them. He believed the Bill, if carried, would increase the mischief it was intended to allay, and therefore he should move that it be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL
said, it was, to say the least of it, very inconvenient, after the House had deliberately expressed an opinion in reference to a particular measure by rejecting it, that the same question, without any intermediate change of circumstances to warrant it, should again be submitted to the consideration of the House. This question was settled when the House agreed to the Acts for the consolidation of the criminal law, in 1861. The noble Lord (Viscount Raynham) then proposed an addition to one of the Bills, in effect the same as the Bill he now proposed; and if he (the Attorney General) recollected rightly, he did not find a seconder; at any rate, the House negatived the proposition without a division. That was in 1861; and could the noble Lord say that any change of circumstances had occurred to warrant the House to undo that which it deliberately did in 1861? On the contrary, he (the Attorney-General) believed that a reference to the records of the police courts would show that the offence had decreased. Beyond this, however, he contended that 473 it was wrong to introduce a change in the Law after it had been well considered and assumed the form of consolidation. The proposal of the noble Lord was a direct reversion to the law of 1829. Since then a Select Committee had reported that sixteen years should be the maximum age of any person who should be flogged in prison, and he did not think the House would be disposed now to disagree with that conclusion. He should support the Amendment.
§ MR. BENTINCK
thought the noble Lord (Viscount Raynham) deserved great credit for the energy and perseverance he had shown in pushing forward the measure. He (Mr. Bentinck) believed that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Alderman Sidney) was altogether wrong in saying the law was now efficient. He undertook to say, on the contrary, that the law had altogether failed to prevent the offences against which it was aimed. He was glad to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (the Attorney General) say it was inconvenient to bring forward Bills upon which the House had already deliberately expressed an opinion, without any intermediate change of circumstances to warrant such a course. He hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would adhere to that opinion on the Wednesdays throughout the Session. The hon. and learned Gentleman said it was wrong to change the law when once it had been deliberately settled. He (Mr. Bentinck) hoped, if any distinguished Member of the House introduced a Reform Bill, the hon. and learned Gentleman would repeat those words. In spite, however, of the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he (Mr. Bentinck) maintained that the present state of the Law was utterly ineffective; and he hoped the House would show its sense of the horror with which it regarded these assaults by giving leave to introduce this Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 43; Noes 153: Majority 110.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.
§ House adjourned at Four o'clock.