HL Deb 30 March 1852 vol 120 cc343-4

presented a petition from Pwllheli, for the extension of the County Courts jurisdiction. He wished now to ask once more the best attention of the Government to the important subject of the digest of the law, which he had often brought before the House. Their Lordships were aware in what position this question stood. After a most able and learned report on the digest of the statute law, civil as well as criminal, made by the Common Law Commissioners in 1835, those learned persons had been instructed to digest the criminal law, common as well as statute, and had printed a digest of crimes and punishments; upon which he had brought in a Bill, and on the suggestion of his noble and learned Friend, then Chancellor (Lord Lyndhurst), had referred it to a Revision Commission, which reported it again, with improvements, in 1845. He (Lord Brougham) again brought in the Digest Bill, thus improved, and it was referred to a Select Committee, which had communicated with all the Judges of the United Kingdom, from several of whom important answers' had been received, while the others offered no objections. In 1849, the Commissioners presented their digest of criminal procedure, a work of much greater difficulty and importance, and it was agreed between himself and Lord Cottenham that the same course should be pursued as he had agreed with Lord Lyndhurst on the other digest, namely, referring it to a Revision Commission. Instead of this, unfortunately, by an oversight, he was sure, though the contrary had been stated, the Commission was suffered to expire; and when he called upon the late Government, in June, 1850, to renew the Commission, in order that all the expense already incurred, and all the labour bestowed on this great work might not be thrown away, it was clear that the whole might be finished in six or eight months, certainly within the year; the expense of it being provided also without any burden to the country. That offer was courteously declined; and it was stated that without renewing the Commission, steps would betaken to secure the benefit of the Commissioners' labours, meaning, of course, that the Digest would be forthwith completed, which they had so nearly finished. Nearly two years have elapsed, and nothing has been done. He strongly urged the Government to lose no more time in renewing the Commission. Some of the able and learned persons of whose labours he had spoken were no more; Mr. Starkie's loss was a serious one. But Mr. Ker, Professor Amos, and Mr. Ryan, remained, with the secretary, Mr. Lonsdale, whose assistance had been invaluable. The whole expense of the Commission from the beginning had been between 50,000l. and 60,000l. Of this, the greater part had been incurred by the preparation of the Criminal Law and Criminal Procedures Digests, between 30,000l. and 40,000l. Nothing could be more improvident than allowing all this to be absolutely thrown away, when by renewing the Commission for a single year, the whole labours of the Commissioners would be made available to attain the most important of all objects, a complete digest of our criminal law.