HL Deb 10 May 1860 vol 158 cc998-1001

Order of the Day for going into Committee on the Offences against the Person Bill read.


said, this was one of seven Dills for the consolidation of the Statute Criminal Law, which stood for Committee that evening. The subject had been before Parliament for many years, and he took no credit to himself in respect to the production of these measures, except that of continuing the labours of his predecessors. As their Lordships would remember, many years ago Commissioners were appointed, to consider the subject of the codification of the law. Those Commissioners pursued their inquiries with great labour and diligence; they presented eight or ten Reports, which were subsequently reduced to the shape of Bills; but ultimately the codification of the whole of the law was found to be impossible, and it was, therefore, resolved to attempt only the consolidation of the Criminal Statutes, together with the assimilation of the criminal laws of England and Ireland. Such was the origin of the present Bill, and the set of Bills of which it formed one, which he hoped would receive the favourable consideration of their Lordships. It was only by placing a certain degree of confidence in those who had been employed to prepare the Bills, that the work of consolidation could be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The Commissioners had done their best to fulfil the mission intrusted to them: the Bills had been referred to a Select Committee of their Lordships, which had been attended by lay, as well as by law Lords, and had been reduced to such a shape as that their Lordships might advantageously agree to them. He trusted their Lordships would not lose the present opportunity of effecting at least a partial consolidation of the criminal statutes.


said, he was satisfied that the limited amount of codification now proposed would be of infinite benefit; but hoped that ultimately the common law would also be reduced to a system.


complained that the drivers of private carriages were not so amenable to punishment as they should be for any injuries which might be caused by furious driving or carelessness; and that the punishment awarded to offenders against the person was not so heavy as the nature of the offences demanded. In cases where such persons had caused the death of another by careless or furious driving, the offenders had been sentenced to two months' imprisonment only; though it would be hard to distinguish between their offence and that of some classes of murderers. By law the driver of a hackney carriage, who caused the death of another by driving over him, was liable to be indicted for a felony. He wished to see the drivers of private ve- hicles placed upon the same footing as those of licensed carriages.


said, the provisions of the Bill were taken from an existing Act, which was among those which were to be consolidated, and which was confined to the drivers of public carriages. The difference in the punishment awarded to them over the drivers of private carriages was, that hard labour was added to imprisonment, in the case of the former class. The reason of this distinction, he supposed to be, that drivers of public vehicles had charge of the persons whom they carried for hire; whereas drivers of private carriages had no such interest, and there being no special interest in the case, were loft to the operation of the common law. With regard to crossings, a person using them was bound to do so with ordinary care; and if any driver did not display a proper amount of caution in passing them, he would be liable to criminal indictment.


said, the clause was a mere consolidation of the laws applying to public carriages, and had no reference to private carriages. In consolidating the law, the only defects which could be corrected were palpable mistakes, the Amendment of which would give rise to no difference of opinion. He desired to take that opportunity of acknowledging the very great assistance the Select Committee had derived from Mr. Greaves, an eminent member of the Bar, whose knowledge of all the branches of the law bearing upon their labours was most astonishing.


referred to the insuperable obstacles which had hitherto beset all attempts at the codification of the criminal law. The difficulty encountered in defining the word "murder" of itself ultimately led to the abandonment of one of those attempts. The various Bills which had been introduced for this object had cost the country not less than £100,000, and he doubted whether the expense would be compensated by the result.


addressed a few observations to the House which were inaudible.


pressed the necessity of making some alteration in the law relating to aggravated assaults on women, since the parties by whom they were committed did not care at all for mere imprisonment. He suggested the propriety of enabling the magistrates to add hard labour to imprisonment in cases of aggravated assaults.


said, he did not approve of the magistrates, in cases of summary conviction, being empowered to inflict the punishment of hard labour.


hoped that a provision would be introduced to the effect that the same penalty should follow where mortal injury was inflicted by a private as by a hackney carriage.

The House went into Committee on the Larceny Bill.


thought the only practical course for their Lordships to take, if they ever wished to pass these Bills, was to place all but unlimited confidence in those who had gone through them upstairs.

House in Committee.

Amendments made.

The Report thereof to be received tomorrow.

The other six Bills having for their object the consolidation of the statute criminal law—namely:—

(2.) Larcency, &c., Bill.

(3.) Forgery Bill.

(4.) Malicious Injuries to Property Bill.

(5.) Coinage Offences Bill.

(6.) Accessories and Abbettors Bill.

(7.) Criminal Statutes Repeal Bill also passed through Committee.

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