HL Deb 23 March 1854 vol 131 cc1229-30

In answer to a question of the Earl of ELLENBOROUGH, the Duke of NEWCASTLE corrected his statement as to the parties who had delivered the hay which had been so much complained of.


I am not acquainted with the merits, or demerits, I should say, of this case. It seems a very gross one; but, for the credit of the law of England, I should be very sorry if such conduct could not be made the subject of criminal prosecution. I have no doubt that, by the common law of England, these persons are liable to be prosecuted, and on conviction to be severely punished. There was a case tried before me respecting the monument to Lord Nelson, in connection with which a gross fraud was committed in the metal employed. Those persons were prosecuted; they were tried before me, and I sentenced them to three months' imprisonment; and a much more severe punishment awaits those convicted of the infamous conduct which has been imputed to Mr. Sturgeon, of which, as yet, he must be supposed to be innocent. Upon his conviction, I say he would merit most condign punishment.


I am extremely glad to hear that my noble and learned Friend has come to the conclusion that such an offence is punishable by the law as it now stands, for it is infinitely to be preferred that we should proceed on the law as it now is, rather than make a new law with reference to that particular case. I am exceedingly happy to find that my noble Friend has, I presume on due consideration of the whole matter, come to that conclusion—in which, however, he differs, I am sorry to say, from other learned Friends of mine, who have well considered the matter, and come to the conclusion that it is extremely doubtful whether the individual is liable to punishment. This only shows how extremely inconvenient it is that this House—the Court of criminal review in the last resort—should be on any account, or under any circumstances whatever, drawn into a discussion of even a hypothetical case, respecting a case which may afterwards come before us in our judicial capacity. My noble and learned Friend has most carefully and safely guarded himself as far as regards the question of fact; and it is only in the event of the party being prosecuted and convicted of the facts alleged, that my noble and learned Friend can be understood to have pronounced any opinion whatever; and no doubt my noble and learned Friend, upon the matter of law, when it comes before him, will be perfectly ready to hear counsel for the prisoner or defendant moot that point, as well as argue on the question of fact.


I think it right to repeat—as my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chief Justice was not present the other evening—what I then stated—that the Solicitor to the Treasury is directed to make full inquiries, and if the facts be such as to warrant a prosecution, to prosecute the party.

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