HC Deb 16 August 1871 vol 208 cc1756-9

Order for Committee read.


said, it was unfortunate that the measure had been brought forward at such a period of the Session that it could not be fully discussed. The Bill increased the powers of the police to an enormous extent, and proposed, in reference to the mode of proving crime, a very queer addition to our present laws. By the system now in operation it was sought to bring thieves and the police in close acquaintance, under the belief that the police would thereby gain some advantage. He believed, however, that more crime would be detected if the police knew nothing of the old thieves, who were quite competent to throw dust in the eyes of the police, and would, by cunningly avoiding cause of complaint, create the impression that they were excellent people. In that way suspicion would be allayed and crime would not be detected. It could not be proved that by giving such extraordinary powers to the police any material alteration had been made in the number of offences committed by persons for the first time or afterwards. The system had also a sad effect in closing the door almost completely in the face of those who, having once committed an offence, desired to return to an honest course of life. But he wished especially to call attention to the Amendment to be proposed by the Government, with the intention of removing the pecuniary burden connected with the arrangements of the Bill from the national Exchequer to the local rates. He did not consider that to be a just proposal. He did not think that a Bill of that sort should be brought forward at a time when things were being so jumbled together. The expense involved in this legislation was no small matter, and it was only fair that the national Exchequer should bear its share of the expenditure. He also complained of the introduction of a new and dangerous principle in the Bill, by which a man might be convicted of an offence which was not included in the indictment for which he was tried. The Bill said that a man might be convicted "under the circumstances of the case." He wished to know what facts might be comprised under such a phrase. He thought it was hardly fair for the Government to bring forward a Bill containing these important provisions at a time when it was absolutely impossible they could receive the attention and discussion which they ought. It was absurd to say it could be amended in Committee, for it was quite idle for anyone to propose anything without the assent of the Government, because, in the present state of the House, the power of passing Bills was in their hands.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of London had some Amendments on the Paper, which he had requested him (Mr. Straight) to move. He also wished to say a few words upon the Bill on his own behalf. The measure was practically a reproduction of the Habitual Criminals Act of last year; but the language had been rendered much more plain and intelligible. With respect to Clause 20, it was merely a reproduction of a clause in the Habitual Criminals Act, where the prosecution were entitled to put in the fact of a previous conviction. He hoped that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), relating to the harbouring of thieves in publichouses, would be accepted by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General. This seemed a much better Bill than that of last year, and he thought it would work effectively.


considered that it should be in the discretion of the magistrate to determine whether a publican should lose his licence for the offence of harbouring thieves, and that in those cases there should be an appeal similar to that provided by the 9 Geo. IV. c. 61.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Penalty on holders of licences getting their livelihood by dishonest means).


recalled the attention of the Government to the objection which he had made to those clauses a few moments before.


said, it was from no want of respect to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) that he had not at once met the objection; but he thought it would be more convenient to consider the Bill clause by clause. With respect to the particular objection, facts and circumstances meant the same thing.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 struck out.

Clauses 7 and 8 amended, and agreed to.

Clause 9 (Person twice convicted may be subjected to police supervision).


said, he could not allow these clauses to pass without expressing his deep regret that in the present state of society it should be necessary to have such a restrictive Bill. Every year there was some new Act for the prevention of crime, and every year crime continued to increase. How could anyone wonder at it? The old system of transportation, which worked so well, had been abolished, and men were now discharged from prison, and left to wander about the country without any means of finding a livelihood. If anyone deeply imbued with religious motives wished to receive such an one into his service he was not allowed to take him, for his very domestics would revolt against him. Formerly, when a criminal was sent to a colony, he had a chance of doing well, but now, for some reason which he could not understand, the ticket-of-leave system had been introduced, and was turning out upon society a parcel of ruffians who could not do well. He hoped Government would consider the matter, and bring before the House some measure which would give these people a chance of earning a living. He did not mean to conclude with any Motion, but he could not help making these remarks.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 10 (Penalty for harbouring thieves, &c.)


moved, to add to the clause the following words:— Provided that any person convicted under this section shall have a right to appeal against such conviction in the same manner in all respects as if the said conviction had been for an offence committed against the provisions of the Act of the ninth George the Fourth, chapter sixty-one.

Words added.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.

House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.