HC Deb 05 April 1867 vol 186 cc1201-3

said, he had given notice of his intention to call the attention of the House to the sentence passed by Mr. Baron Bramwell, at the recent Kingston Assizes, upon two prisoners, Burton and Hay, aged twenty-three and twenty-nine, who were indicted before him for burglary, and sentenced to eight and ten years' penal servitude, respectively, and who having been removed from the bar by the police were ordered to be brought back by the Judge, who there upon sentenced them each to a further term of five years' penal servitude. If, when on a recent occasion he had put a Question on the subject to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) he had been able to inform him that he was acquainted with the circumstances of the case, and that the learned Judge had not proceeded beyond the limits of his authority, he should have abstained from mentioning the matter a second time. It appeared from the accounts which had been given in the newspapers that the two prisoners named had immediately after sentence was pronounced upon them become exceedingly violent in the dock, and had used most outrageous language towards the Judge. From those accounts, not only he himself, but many others supposed that the additional sentence which had been passed upon them was a punishment for their insubordinate conduct in Court. He had since learnt from the right hon. Gentleman, however, that the penalty of five years' penal servitude had been inflicted as part of the original sentence, and that it was perfectly within the discretion of the Judge to impose that increased penalty. Under those circumstances, disclaiming all intention of unnecessarily impugning the sentence of a Court of Justice, or of making, directly or indirectly, a personal attack upon the learned Judge, than which nothing could be further from his views, he should not press the right hon. Gentleman for any further explanation on the subject.


said, that as a member of the Home Circuit, and an intimate friend of Mr. Baron Bramwell's for many years, he could not allow the subject to drop without making a few observations. He was glad to find that his hon. Friend had withdrawn the Question, and so far had made the amende honorable; but he must say it was rather a hasty course of proceeding in giving notice of the Question. Such questions brought forward without sufficient inquiry and information of the facts had the effect of shaking the authority of the Judges of the land. [Mr. GILPIN: No, no!] Such was their practical effect; and therefore it was desirable that they should be very cautious before they called attention to judicial sentences in that House. There was not a more upright or humane Judge on the Bench than Mr. Baron Bramwell, and he would be the last man to be induced from a spirit of anger or ill-judged feeling to aggravate a sentence on a fellow-creature. Such insinuations were worse than direct charges. He, however, accepted the hon. Gentle- man's disclaimer on behalf of Mr. Baron Bramwell and the profession generally.


said, that nothing could be further from his intention than to make an attack on Mr. Baron Bramwell, and no one was more alive than he to the necessity of upholding the dignity of the judicial Bench, but he could not help thinking that the occurrence in question was unfortunate. The conduct of the prisoners had undoubtedly been most disgraceful, amounting as it did to a very gross contempt of Court. There was no doubt that it was open to the Judge in point of law to increase as he had done the punishment which was originally inflicted upon them. It was not the mere passing but the recording of the sentence which was the decisive act. At the same time it might, he was afraid, appear to the public that the Judge having felt himself insulted by the conduct of the prisoners had lost his temper, and sought to punish the insult offered to his dignity. He thought the incident unfortunate, for anything wearing the appearance of personal feeling on the part of a Judge had a tendency to impair the dignity of the Bench, though there might be no personal feeling in the matter.