HL Deb 13 March 1840 vol 52 cc1165-7
The Marquess of Westmeath

wished to know, with reference to the case of the convict Lynam, who had been found guilty of murder at the Dublin sessions, and whose sentence had afterwards been commuted, whether the noble Marquess had any objection to lay before their Lordships any memorial that had been presented to the Government for the commutation of that sentence?

The Marquess of Normanby

said, he could not answer the question until he had communicated with his noble Friend the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

The Marquess of Westmeath

was of opinion, that the well-conditioned part of the Irish community had a right to expect something better than the practice which appeared lately to have prevailed in granting pardons, when they saw, so far as they knew, and so far as any information they received extended, that the sentence of a very great offender had been commuted without any communication having been had with the learned Judge who tried the case. The noble Marquess had not informed the House, when he asked the question, whether such a communication had or had not taken place.

The Marquess of Normanby.

I declined to answer the question, because I could not do so without entering into a discussion of the whole subject. If the noble Marquess makes a motion on the subject, I shall be prepared to answer it.

The Marquess of Westmeath

said, that when he was interrupted by the noble Marquess, he was about to observe, that in ordinary times he would have been perfectly satisfied with the answer of the noble Marquess. But, looking to the peculiar state of the present times, it was not at all satisfactory. He was quite sure, that the Sovereign would not venture to commute the punishment of death in England without communicating, in the first place, with the judge who tried the case. When he asked; the noble Marquess whether, in this instance, such a communication had taken place, he refused to answer "ay" or "no," but he stated, that if a motion were made on the subject, he would meet it. He could not collect from that, that what he understood to have taken place was not to be repeated. A few days ago an hon. Member of the House of Commons had brought in a bill to abolish the punishment of death in cases of murder. That proposition was negatived, and the necessity of resorting to the punishment of death in atrocious cases was thus affirmed. Were they, then, to suppose, that any person who happened to be placed at the head of the Irish Government could take on himself, at his pleasure, to dispense with the sentences passed on offenders of the worst description? Their Lordships, he conceived, were not fairly treated when the noble Marquess refused to answer whether in this instance the sentence was commuted after communication with the judge who tried the criminal, or without any such communication. The person to whom mercy was thus extended was, it should be observed, the principal, the planner of the murder, which was committed in the metropolis of Ireland, and on account of which several persons had been executed.

The Earl of Charleville

thought, that after what had fallen from his noble Friend, the noble Marquess was bound to give some direct answer to his question. He ought to state, whether the noble Viscount (Ebrington) had commuted the punishment of this convict after sentence of death had been passed on him in the most solemn way, without having first communicated with the judge before whom his trial took place, that convict being the principal in the murder for which others had suffered. In the last Session their Lordships had agreed to this resolution:— That it is the duty of the executive Government, when considering an case of conviction had before any of the King's judges, with a view to remitting or commuting the sentence, to apply for information to the judge or judges who tried the case, and to afford, such judge or judges an opportunity of giving their opinion on such case, unless circumstances should exist which render any such, application impossible, or only possible with an inconvenient delay; but that it is not necessary that the executive Government should be bound to follow the advice, if any, tendered by such judge or judges, Now, after the passing of that resolution, which clearly recognized the propriety of a communication by the Government with the judge before whom a criminal was tried prior to extending mercy to such criminal, it appeared to him that the noble Marquess was bound to give the in formation demanded by his noble Friend. If he declined, then he hoped that his noble Friend would give notice of a motion, to compel the noble Marquess to disclose the fact, and to declare whether contrary to usage and to the resolution on their Lordships' table, the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland had commuted the sentence of this criminal without any reference to the judge by whom he had been tried. Conversation ended.

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