HL Deb 11 June 1841 vol 58 cc1458-9
Lord Brougham,

in moving the second reading of the Punishment of Death Bill, said, that its object was to abolish the capital punishment for certain offences which had been left, punishable with death by a recent act of Parliament, which mitigated the severity of the law in many other cases. Amongst the offences which that act left capital, but which it was now proposed to subject to a milder punishment, were those of embezzling by clerks of the Bank, and other companies, by fabrication of stamps, rape, and one or two other offences. He would not enter into any general arguments on the subject on the present occasion, but would simply mention a fact, which he was sure would be heard with very great satisfaction by their Lordships —namely, that the mitigation of punishments which their Lordships had some years ago sanctioned, had not been attended with any increase to the offences they referred to, but, on the contrary, rather to their diminution. In burglary, robbery, and horse-stealing, the committals within a certain period before the. mitigation of the law, either in its letter or practical application, had been 8,774; whilst in the same period, since the application of more lenient punishments, they had been 7,820, being a decrease of 954, or about one ninth of the whole. He believed, moreover, that when it was considered, that there was not now the same repugnance to prosecute as under the more severe law, it would appear, that the amount of actual offences had decreased even in a greater proportion than shown by the number of committals. In the crime of forgery, also, there had been a diminution of offences though not so considerable, perhaps, as in the other offences he had before mentioned. With these few remarks, he begged to move, that this bill be now read a second time.

The Marquess of Westmeath

would not oppose the second reading of the bill; but if he stood alone, he would in committee oppose the clause which took away the punishment of death for rape with violence. Parliament had no right to pass such a measure, without consulting, if it were possible, the feelings of the female portion of the community.