HL Deb 14 May 1860 vol 158 cc1203-4


1. Because by the 33rd Clause of the Bill it is provided that placing wood, stone, or other thing on a railway, with intent to endanger the safety of passengers, shall be punishable on conviction merely with penal servitude for life, and the refusal to admit on Motion words "that should death ensue it shall be adjudged to be murder," seems unreasonable. The plea of objection to this, that the law is sufficient, seems to mo to have no force, for, by the second clause of the Bill, it legislates for the crime of murder in these terms, "Whosoever shall be convicted of murder shall suffer death as a felon," which is a practical admission of its necessity in the 33rd clause. Thus the refusal to amend the 33rd Clause as suggested stands in the light of a delusion if not a snare; the more so as the Bill was introduced to the House as a compendium to consolidate and amend all existing provisions of offences against the person, and to embrace all desirable improvements. Thus the clause confuses what the Bill proposes to simplify. It appears to mo that the offence which is the subject-matter of the 33rd clause must also of necessity result in the murder, not of one person only, but of many.

2. Because, by the 36th Clause of the Bill, the penalty of a misdemeanour is to be incurred by the drivers of all public carriages who shall by wanton or furious driving or racing, maim or injure any person, while the rejection of the provision to extend the same to the driving of all carriages whatsoever is an unreasonable reserve, made on the plea that, by common law, sufficient redress may be had.

This appears to be a conclusion inapplicable, as redress for such like injury should not be confined to pecuniary compensation; but even for that there is no public officer, called a Public Prosecutor, to initiate such proceedings for poor, or needy, or ignorant persons aggrieved.

But the public wrong should be vindicated also, where death or injury is inflicted by wanton or furious driving. That it is not so the returns before the House of 134 persons killed, and 1,827 persons maimed during the last 26 months within the Metropolis, too plainly show. It appears to me to be a dereliction of duty on the part of the Secretary of State for the Home Department that, with the means of obtaining the information contained in these Returns, no amendment of the law has been proposed to Parliament to restrain and diminish the recurrence of such offences. The present provisions in the Metropolitan Police Act and the City Police Act not extending beyond the maximum of a pecuniary fine of 40s.—40s. fine for wanton and furious driving, which experience shows is impotent.

It appears to me that a provident Government would propose to legislate against the person of an offender inflicting personal injury on another, instead of making a frivolous amercement upon his purse, which can always be paid for him by another, even by a participator in the offence charged against him. WESTMEATH.

House adjourned at a Quarter past Nine o'clock till To-morrow, Half-past Ten o'clock.