HC Deb 06 August 1869 vol 198 cc1373-4

said, in the absence of his hon. Friend (Sir George Jenkinson), he would beg to ask the Question which stood in the name of the hon. Baronet on the Notice Paper— namely, Whether the attention of the Secretary of State for the Home Department has been called to the great inequality of sentences frequently passed at Assizes on various criminals; for instance, the five following cases are reported in "The Times" of the 5th instant, under the head of "Assize Intelligence ":—Case 1. Home Circuit, Crown Court, August 4, by Mr. Justice Mellor, a man named Simmons, convicted for feloniously killing his wife at Redhill. Details very revolting and brutal; guilty, but recommended to mercy; not concurred in by the Judge; sentence, five years' penal servitude. Case 2. Same Court, a man named Fyfield, convicted for feloniously cutting and wounding his wife with intent to murder her; details very bad; guilty; a bad case of unlawfully wounding; sentence, eighteen months' imprisonment. Case 3. Same Court, a man named Gore, for feloniously inflicting grievous bodily injury with intent to do so; he beat a man severely with his fists; sentence, fifteen years' penal servitude. Case 4. Midland Circuit, York, August 2nd, Crown Court, Mr. Justice Brett, three men, named John Brown, Henry Lock, and William Johnson, breaking into a bacon-house and stealing eight hams and two shoulders of bacon; sentence on Brown, seven years', and on Lock and Johnson, five years' penal servitude. Case 5. Western Circuit, Bodmin, August 2nd, Mr. Justice Keating, a man named William Rapson Oates, a "herbalist," obtaining £2 5s. by false pretences; guilty, recommended to mercy; sentence, five years' penal servitude. And, whether Her Majesty's Government contemplates taking any legislative steps to obtain greater uniformity in the sentences passed on criminals in the various Assize Courts? He thought it right to add that he had been unable to verify the cases cited by his hon. Friend.


said, that he, like the hon. Gentleman, had also been unable to verify the cases cited by the hon. Baronet; but he had no doubt that at the recent Assizes, as at previous Assizes, inequalities might be observed in the sentences. They might be accounted for partly by the fact that all the circumstances which dictated to the Judges the decisions to which they came were not reported, and partly by the different constitutions of the minds of the Judges. With regard to the substantial part of the Question—whether the Government intended to take any legislative steps to obtain greater uniformity in the sentences passed upon criminals? he was not prepared to answer the Question affirmatively.