HL Deb 30 January 1860 vol 156 cc253-5

presented several Bills having for their object the consolidation of the statute and criminal law, and said that, as he had had little share in preparing the measures, he might say without scruple that he could strongly recommend them to their Lordships' favourable regard and consideration. So long ago as 1833, a Commission was appointed with the view of codifying the criminal law; and he joined in the hope that such a proposal was practicable, although he never thought that the whole law could be so codified. The Commissioners were most assiduous in the performance of their duties, and in successive years presented eight Reports, which embraced the whole of the criminal law of England. Before the result of their labours could be presented to Parliament, however, it was thought advisable to have a Commission of revision. Such a Commission, composed of learned men, did sit accordingly, and presented five Reports; and the sanguine hope was entertained that what they recommended might be reduced into Bills and become law. One or two Bills were, therefore, prepared under the superintendence of his noble and learned Friend (Lord St. Leonards) during the time he held the Great Seal, and were introduced by him into this House. One respected the law of offences against the person, and was read a second time, and referred to a Select Committee. He (the Lord Chancellor) had then the honour of being Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench, and attended the meetings of the Committee, which sat eleven days; but at the end of that time it found that it could not agree upon a definition of the crime of murder—a result that was certainly very discouraging. His noble and learned Friend who succeeded to the Great Seal (Lord Crau-worth) consulted the Judges on the general subject; but their opinions were by no means auspicious. If it were, then, impossible to codify one law so as to have the whole common and statute law put together in the same way as the Code Napoleon it would, of course, be a great matter to consolidate the statute law. The Statute Law Commission was accordingly appointed, and had been most zealous in performing their duties. Bills had been prepared with that object, and had been submitted to, and had received the approval of Lord Chief Justice Jervis, Mr. Baron Parke, now Lord Wens-leydale, and other most learned men; but various circumstances intervened to prevent their passing into law. The last attempt that was made towards consolidating the law was to assimilate the law of Ireland and the law of England, when Mr. Whiteside, for whom he (the Lord Chancellor) entertained the most sincere respect, not only as a great orator, but a very learned lawyer, laid upon the table of the House of Commons some Bills for that especial purpose. But before those Bills could be considered, a dissolution of Parliament took place. The object of consolidating the statute law, and assimilating in all respects the criminal law of Ireland with the criminal law of England, was a most laudable one; and he thought all their Lordships would agree that it was capable of accomplishment. During the last vacation the law officers in each country had been most assiduous in devoting themselves to the question, and he believed that it was now in a shape fit for legislation He had not read every line in the Bills himself, but he had spent much time in examining them along with the gentlemen employed to prepare them, and he really believed that in their present state they would meet with the approbation of both Houses of Parliament. To show their Lordships the difference which existed between the criminal law in Ireland and in England he might mention that, by the law in Ireland, conspiracy to murder was a capital felony, whilst in England it was only a misdemeanour. He thought, then, that the time had arrived when such anomalies ought to be swept away, and the law made uniform in all parts of the kingdom. If their Lordships would give the Bills a first and second reading, he would then move that they he referred to a Select Committee.

His Lordship then presented the following Bills:— A Bill to repeal certain Enactments which have been consolidated in several Acts of the present Session relating to indictable Offences and other Matters (Criminal Statutes Repeal Bill.) A Bill to consolidate and amend the Statute Law of England and Ireland relating to Accessories to and Abettors of indictable Offences. (Accessories and Abettors Bill.) A Bill to consolidate and amend the Statute Law of England and Ireland relating to malicious Injuries to Property. (Malicious Injuries to Property Bill.) A Bill to consolidate and amend the Statute Law of the United Kingdom against Offences relating to the Coin. (Coinage Offences Bill.) A Bill to consolidate and amend the Statute Law of England and Ireland relating to indictable Offences by Forgery. (Forgery Bill.) A Bill to consolidate and amend the Statute Law of England and Ireland relating to Larceny and other similar Offences. (Larceny, &c. Bill.) A Bill to consolidate and amend the Statute Law of England and Ireland relating to Offences against the Person. (Offences against the Person Bill.)


sincerely rejoiced at the course which his noble and learned Friend had taken with regard to the assimilation of the Irish statute law with that of England. His noble and learned Friend would do him the justice to recollect that a large portion of that was done when he (Lord Cranworth) had the honour to hold the Great Seal. He would express no opinion with respect to the present Bills, but he did hope that this attempt to assimilate the Irish and English law might not give rise to such discussions in Parliament as would lead to the rejection of the Bill altogether.

The said Bills were then severally read 1ª.

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