HL Deb 24 July 1860 vol 160 cc85-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


moved the second reading of this Bill. Its object was to assimilate the practice in cases of felony or other criminal proceedings to that adopted in civil proceedings, so far as regarded the regulation of addresses to the jury. It provided that in every trial for felony or misdemeanour, at the close of the case for the prosecution, the presiding Judge shall ask the prisoner's counsel whether he intends to adduce evidence; and if he states that he does not, then the counsel for the prosecution shall, if the Judge think fit, be allowed to address the jury a second time for the purpose of summing up the evidence. The Bill further allowed the prisoner or his counsel, after opening his case and calling his witnesses, to again address the jury, commenting on his evidence; the right of the counsel for the prosecution to reply, and all other proceedings, to remain as at present. Under the existing practice it had been found in too many cases that counsel for the defence, being afraid of the speech in reply at the other side, abstained from calling witnesses, thereby defeating the very aim and end of justice, namely, the discovery of truth. The great recommendation of the Bill was, that it placed the procedure in cases of felony and misdemeanour on the same footing as in civil cases. He did not support it on the ground of its being more favourable to prisoners and defendants, but because it was calcuated to elicit the truth.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


felt great objections to the measure. The nature of civil and criminal proceedings was entirely different. In the former, which were often most complicated, a clear exposition of the law was requisite in the first instance, and difficulties which constantly presented themselves in the course of the trial required to be elucidated by argument. There were, moreover, no means of anticipating what the witnesses would say. But in any criminal case in which a conviction could be hoped for, the facts appeared clearly in the preliminary depositions; and long speeches would only consume the time of the Court, without being attended with any corresponding benefit. He therefore moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out "now," and insert "this Hay Three Months."


said, he was unable to understand on what principle it could be refused to place counsel in criminal cases on the same footing as in civil actions. The consumption of time, he thought, was wholly beside the question. If it were just and proper that counsel should have this right, the time employed was a secondary matter as compared with the attainment of justice. The counsel for the prosecution had always the advantage of basing his statement on ascertained facts; the defendant's counsel, on the contrary, having to treat of evidence which in most cases had never before been adduced. An ingenious counsel on the other side might point out discrepancies between the speech made under such circumstances and the evidence as afterwards given; it was consequently but fair to afford defendant's counsel an opportunity by summing up the evidence of removing such an unfavourable impression from the minds of the jury. He hoped, therefore, that their Lordships would read the Bill a second time.


said, he felt the greatest diffidence in giving an opinion upon this question, but still be must say that he thought there was great weight in the objections which had been stated to the measure. He also thought that it would he particularly hard upon prisoners who had no counsel to have two speeches instead of one made against them by the counsel for the prosecution.


said that, though with some hesitation, he should support the Bill. He was quite persuaded that this Bill would lengthen trials; yet if it were necessary for the proper administration of criminal justice the question of time ought not to have any weight in their decision. The principle, however, had been tried in civil cases, and on the whole successfully, and it might be of use in crimi- nal cases. If, indeed, the Bill were to pass, he could not help feeling some satisfaction that he would no longer have to go circuit. He was afraid that the multiplication of speeches would tend to the perplexing of juries. In Scotland there were only two speeches in criminal cases, one for the prisoner and one for the prosecution; both being delivered after the evidence on both sides had been given. This practice had been found very successful. Under the Bill, as at present worded, if four prisoners were tried together there would be ten speeches. Still, as this right of summing up might be essential in 'some cases, he would not withhold his assent, though it was with some misgiving and hesitation that he gave it.


said, that practically in all important criminal cases in Scotland there were two speeches on each side.


thought that in ninety-nine cases out of 100 the Bill would very unnecessarily lengthen trials, and anything which made the proceedings of criminal courts more distasteful to prosecutors must be generally injurious, and prevent the detection and punishment of crime. A great increase in the number of speeches, he was afraid, would by no means tend to the enlightenment of juries. He had no doubt that in many cases the Bill would operate more to the advantage of prosecutors than prisoners, but the advantage of either part was not the question they had to consider. The object to be attained was the greatest possible safeguard for the delivery of true decisions, and if he could persuade himself that improper verdicts were given for wan); of this right, he should be very sorry to oppose the Bill. He suggested that the Bill might be qualified in this way—that the presiding Judge might allow two speeches if he thought the case one of such difficulty a nddoubt as to make it reasonable. They would thus secure the object in view whenever it was necessary, and yet save the unnecessary protraction of all trials; because every counsel would construe the powers into a duty to address the jury a second time.


said, that having heard the speeches of two lawyers on each side, though they were not of great length, his mind was not more clear than before they addressed their Lordships. The noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, with a partiality for Scotland, said that the proceedings in that country were perfect. His noble and learned Friend who moved the second reading must also have a natural admiration for Scotch institutions, but he proposed an entirely novel course, different from what existed here, and different from what existed there. If the Scotch law were so perfect, why should it not be adopted?

On Question, That "now" stand part of the Motion, their Lordships divided:—Contents 13; Not-Contents 10: Majority 3.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Bill read 2° accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.

Campbell, L. (L. Chancellor.) Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) [Teller.]
Somerset, D. Broughton, L.
Chelmsford, L. [Teller.]
Caithness, E. Foley, L.
Ducie, E. Harris, L.
Granville, E. Stratheden, L.
Spencer, E. Wodehouse, L.
Amherst, E. Cranworth, L.
Carnarvon, E. [Teller.] Egerton, L.
Romney, E. Silchester, L. (E. Longford)
De Vesci, V. Wensleydale, L, [Teller.]
Melville, V.
Sydney, V.

House adjourned at Eight o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.