§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY moved the second reading of this Bill, the object of which was to re-apportion the terms of imprisonment in cases where the fines were not paid. The relative periods of imprisonment were, for any penalty not exceeding 10s.., seven days; exceeding 10s. and not exceeding £1, fourteen days; exceeding £1 but not exceeding £2, one month; and exceeding £2 but not exceeding £5, two months.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Stanley of Alderley.)
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, he had no objection to the Bill so far as it went, but he thought their Lordships should take the whole subject into their consideration with a view to its improvement. There were certain alterations in the Bill which he thought it would be desirable to make when the Bill was in Committee.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, this was one of those Bills which were introduced on account of some particular case of hardship. One or two instances would occur in which persons were sentenced to a few days' more imprisonment than perhaps would have met the justice of the case; then the Government were memorialized, and a Bill was introduced into Parliament. He believed the magistrates throughout the country exercised the greatest discretion in apportioning the amount of the fines and the terms of imprisonment, and therefore this Bill, by depriving the magistrates of their discretion, would do more harm than good. He objected altogether to legislation on this system, and therefore hoped their Lordships would refuse to pass this Bill.
said, that this Bill was intended to remedy the discrepancy in the punishment of drunkenness contained in the Wine Licences and Refreshment Act, which empowered magistrates to imprison for drunken and riotous conduct, without a fine, for seven days; or, if a fine of not exceeding 40s. were inflicted, to imprison for not exceeding three months in default of payment. The 969 cases, however, were so frequent against the same offenders that the longer term of imprisonment did not seem to be too severe; and in awarding the fine the magistrates (for whom he felt great respect) were careful to proportion the fine to the circumstances of the defendant. He felt sure that abridging the discretionary powers of the magistrates would make them more and more unwilling to act. He wished that in Committee a power might be inserted to imprison for drunkenness for twelve hours in some local Bridewell approved of by the magistrates, for which there was a Statute applicable to Ireland. Prisoners were often sent for seven days to a prison distant thirty miles in England.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
said, he could not see what objection there could be to deprive the magistrates of the power of inflicting terms of imprisonment beyond those which would be sufficient to meet the justice of the cases.
§ Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.