HC Deb 18 April 1879 vol 245 cc605-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Depart- ment, Whether, in consequence of an impression existing that Thomas Perry-man, now under sentence of death in Newgate, is entirely innocent of the crime for which he is about to suffer, he will recommend the postponement of the execution now fixed for Monday next, until further investigation into the facts of the case can be made?


had also a Question on the Paper to the following effect:—Whether it is intended to carry out the sentence of death for murder, pronounced on Thomas Perryman by Mr. Justice Stephen at the Central Criminal Court on 2nd April last, the evidence being altogether circumstantial, and the learned Judge having apparently in the first instance failed to make it clear to the jury the actual legal ingredients which constituted the offence of murder?


Perhaps I may answer not only the Question of my hon. and learned Friend, but that also of the hon. Member for Stoke, which rather challenges the ruling of the learned Judge at the trial. Now at the trial neither party suggested that the offence committed, if any, was manslaughter. The question was assumed to be between murder and suicide. It was, therefore, unnecessary for the Judge to explain to the jury in his summing-up the law relating to the definition of murder. When the jury, however, returned a verdict of "guilty," at the same time recommending the prisoner to mercy on the grounds of absence of premeditation and malice aforethought, the Judge explained the law as laid down by Lord Coke, and the jury unanimously struck out of theirverdict—which was in writing—the expressions relating to absence of malice aforethought. The only difficulty—if difficulty there be in the case—arises from the fact that those who had charge of the prisoner's defence did not call the medical witnesses for the defence, although they were in Court at the time. Their affidavits were afterwards sent in to the Secretary of State. On the most careful consideration of this case and after consultation with the Judge, I have no doubt in my own mind that the prisoner did cause his mother's death. The jury, however, recommended the prisoner to mercy on the ground of want of premeditation; and the Judge, not being satisfied that the prisoner intended either to cause her death or to inflict on her such injury as to show that he was reckless whether she died or not, concurs in that recommendation. I agree with the Judge on both points, and therefore have advised Her Majesty to commute the sentence to penal servitude for life.