HL Deb 14 July 1837 vol 38 cc1907-8

On the motion of Lord Denman, the Forgery Bill, the Robbery and Stealing from the person Bill, Offences against the Person Bill, Burglary Bill, Burning and Destroying Bill, Transportation for Life Bill, and Piracy Bill were read a third time with amendments.

Lord Brougham

said, that before these Bills left their Lordships' House, he wished once more to remind their Lordships that it was only in consideration of the advanced period of the Session that it had been thought expedient to allow partial measures, such as these were, to pass at present, instead of waiting until the whole change which it was so desirable to make in the Criminal Law of the country could be conveniently made. It was under that circumstance only, that he could have brought his mind to agree to such restricted measures for the improvement of the Criminal Law as those that had just passed their Lordships' House. He had on a former occasion stated his desire to see the principle of these Bills extended to all offences, with the exception of murder, entertaining doubts whether capital punishment ought to be retained even for that. Nothing had given him greater satisfaction than to find that his noble and learned Friend on the opposite bench had come to nearly a similar conclusion, and he therefore entertained the hope that this salutary change in the Criminal Law would take place before long. Important alterations had been made in the details, though none in the principle, of these Bills. The extreme hurry with which they had been passed was greatly to be regretted, as certain oversights had occurred in consequence; but it was to be hoped, after the great pains that had been bestowed upon these Bills by several noble Lords, that such oversights would be few and immaterial. He would add, that he did not conceive there was any blame whatever to be attached to the framers of these Bills on the ground of the inconsistency which had been pointed out almost irresistibly a few evenings ago by his noble and learned Friend. There were inconsistencies, no doubt, between them and the existing law, but amongst themselves, taken singly or as a whole, they did not contain any discrepancy which could be said to be discreditable to those who had framed them.

Lord Lyndhurst

begged to state, that when he made the observation alluded to, he was not aware of the correspondence which had passed between the Commissioners and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department, from which it appeared that the Commissioners had at that time pointed out the inconsistencies to which he had adverted.

Lord Denman

expressed his gratification at the pains that had been taken with these Bills by several noble Lords, and the manner in which they had been received generally. The difficulty, as regarded the time for their consideration, would, however, have been less, had not his noble and learned Friend (Lyndhurst) been anxious to extend them further than in the first instance, it was thought right to do. There might be inconsistencies between them and the law as it existed at present, but it was nothing as compared with the monstrous incongruity of the present law, under which were convicted of capital offences twenty times the number of persons it was intended should suffer capital punishment. He had, however, to thank the noble and learned Lord opposite and his noble Friend near him for the present improved condition of these Bills.

Lord Lyndhurst

observed, that they were now, since they had been stripped of the inconsistencies and anomalies which he had pointed out, extremely valuable measures.

The Lord Chancellor

said, that the Government had been placed in the dilemma of being obliged to pursue one of two courses—either to allow the law to remain as it was, or to pass Bills which should of necessity contain, to a certain degree, incongruities, and of which he was fully aware when the Bills came before their Lordships' House.

Bills passed.