HL Deb 26 February 1869 vol 194 cc332-50

My Lords, as the Bill which I shall conclude by presenting to the House involves some considerable changes in the Criminal Law, I have given a general Notice that I shall call attention to Measures for the further repression of Crime, thinking it would be most convenient to your Lordships that I should at the outset explain the principles on which the Government propose to legislate, and the general scope of the Bill. In order to make the subject clearer, I will first state very briefly the history of recent legislation. In 1853, as your Lordships doubtless remember, after a very full discussion with, respect to transportation, it was resolved—partly on account of the evils of the system and partly on account of the strong remonstrances of our Australian colonies to which the convicts had been sent—that it should to a considerable extent cease. An Act was accordingly Passed imposing for the first time the sentence of penal servitude as a substitute for transportation in the greater number of cases. From that time, therefore, a diminution occurred in the number of convicts transported, and in a very short time transportation was limited to Western Australia and the Bermudas. Gibraltar I leave out of consideration, as the convicts are there simply employed on public works. The numbers sent to Western Australia of late years did not average more than about 460 per annum. At last, in consequence of strong remonstrances being made by the other Australian colonies, it was found necessary that transportation should entirely cease, and it was accordingly announced by Mr. Cardwell in 1865 that, after the expiration of three years, transportation would be entirely discontinued. This has been consequently carried into effect. Now, on establishing the sentence of penal servitude, it was also arranged that convicts should obtain a remission according to their conduct while undergoing their sentence, and be released under what is now termed a license, but which was better known as a ticket of leave. Considerable alarm being excited in the public mind at the number of convicts thus scattered over the country holding these tickets, a Commission, presided over by my noble Friend Lord Grey, was appointed to examine the whole question of Penal Servitude, and report whether any changes were expedient; and in 1863 the Commission issued an extremely able Report, containing several important recommendations. As this Bill, in a great measure, carries into effect the principles there laid down, I may state the substance of those recommendations. The first was that sentences of penal servitude, winch had been as short as three years, should not in future be passed for shorter terms than seven years. The second was, that the principle already recognized by the law of subjecting re-convicted criminals to severer punishment should be more fully acted on. The third was, that convicts sentenced to penal servitude should be subjected, in the first place, to nine, months' separate imprisonment, and then to labour on public works for the remainder of the term for which they were sentenced, but with the power of earning by industry and good conduct an abridgment of this part of their punishment. The next recommendation was, that all male convicts who were not disqualified for removal to a colony should be sent to Western Australia during the latter part of their punishment. The fifth was, that those who might be unfit to be sent there, but might earn an abridgment of their punishment, and who might consequently be discharged at home under license, should be placed under strict supervision till the expiration of the terms for which they were sentenced, and that the necessary powers should be given by law for rendering this supervision effectual. In pursuance of that Report, in 1864 an Act was passed making considerable changes in our Criminal Law, the principal being the extension of sentences of penal servitude from three years to five years, or in case of a previous conviction to not less than seven years. The provisions under which police supervision has since been carried out and the conditions under which licenses should be earned by good conduct were also laid down. It is important that the House should know the present number of convicts under these sentences, and how far they seem to have been effectual. Now, when the Act of 1864 was under consideration, great doubts were expressed whether it was possible to carry out a satisfactory system by which the good conduct of convicts and their industry when employed on public works could be so measured that they should earn an abridgment of their sentences. In those doubts I myself shared; but I am bound to say that from all the information I have been able to gain the system has been to a great extent successful. Under the late Sir Joshua Jebb; who, although a very able public servant, certainly did not succeed so well in the later as in the earlier part of his career, there were great relaxations of discipline: but under the management of Colonel Henderson, who succeeded him, it has been found possible to exact from convicts the really hard and patient industry which is necessary before they can obtain a remission of their sentences. If this good conduct and industry were measured merely by the officers who superintended them there might be some suspicion of a too favourable view being taken; but the figures I shall quote leave no doubt that the work of the convicts is real work, which may fairly be considered satisfactory. I find that the value of the work performed by convicts at the three convict prisons, Portland, Portsmouth, and Chatham, was during last year £106,421, while the cost of maintaining those establishments was £110,532, so that the earnings of the convicts nearly equalled the whole expense to which the country was put. I may mention, also, that at Chatham, where there are great facilities for remunerative labour in making bricks for public works, there was an actual profit. In 1867—the last year for which Returns have been issued—the average daily number of convicts at Chatham was 990, and the value of their labour was £40,898 7s., while the cost of their maintenance and supervision was £35,315 18s., there being thus a surplus of £5,582 9s. Another change, which formed part of the Act of 1864, was the establishment of police supervision; and one of the principal objects of the present measure being to extend this, it is well that I should, state the results of that supervision. A great evil which was apprehended from the close supervision of convicts, released on tickets of leave, was that the necessity of reporting themselves to the police and the constant surveillance of the police over them would prevent their obtaining an honest livelihood. So far, however, from that being the case, it has in many cases afforded great assistance in their earning an honest livelihood; nor am I surprised at it, for my opportunities of seeing the working of the system in Ireland convinced me that the supervision of the police might be carried out so as effectually to prevent the recurrence of crime, and at the same time be no hindrance, but a great assistance, to their obtaining employment. There is, however, no central registry or control, and no sufficient communication between the police authorities of different parts of the country; and it is obvious that, without a complete network of communication and a registry easily accessible to the authorities of all the different places where the convicts may be found, this supervision cannot be efficient. I am anxious, however, that the House should not suppose that in bringing forward this measure we are actuated by any feeling of panic or alarm. It would be a decided mistake to conclude that past legislation has been a complete failure, that crime has greatly increased, or that there is anything in our position more calculated to excite alarm in the public mind than at other times. I know the great danger of referring to statistics, for it is easy to pick out figures to prove some particular conclusion, and it may be aptly retorted that there are other figures leading to a different conclusion. While, however, aware of that danger, certain broad facts bearing on the question may be gathered. In 1865–6 the indictable offences known to the police numbered 50,549, and in 1866–7 they were 55,538, showing an increase of 4,989, or something under 10 per cent. That is not, perhaps, very satisfactory; but, looking back to a longer period, and taking—I am not able to find precisely analogous figures—the convictions, excluding summary ones, I find that from 1856 to 1862 the annual average was 13,859, while in 1867 the number was 14,207. I begin with 1856, because in the previous year the Criminal Jurisdiction Act was passed, which placed many classes of offences under the jurisdiction of the magistrates, and enabled a considerable number of crimes to be dealt with summarily. Now, although there is an apparent increase of crimes from 13,859 to 14,207, your Lordships must remember that in the interval the population increased by nearly 2,500,000, so that there is a decrease rather than an increase in proportion to the population. These facts show that crime has not in general largely increased. Then, again, the number of sentences to penal servitude was during the ten years ending 1857 2,374 a year, while in 1867 it had fallen to 1,772. Looking back, then, to see whether crime has increased or not, I think our system has been tolerably successful, and that on the whole there is no increase in the crime of this country. Why, if so, I may be asked, do we come forward to propose fresh legislation? There are two obvious reasons for this—one of a general nature, the other of a more special character. One reason is that we naturally obtain fresh experience from year to year as to the treatment of criminals—fresh opportunities of knowledge as to the best mode of dealing with criminals, fresh means of knowing how crime is committed, and how it may be prevented, and how to make punishment more effectual and deterrent; so that it is necessary from time to time to readjust our system and make it more complete. But there is at the present time a special reason for carefully scrutinizing and seeing whether we cannot improve our system, and that is the complete cessation of transportation; for though during the last few years we have not sent out to our colonies any very large number of convicts, it is obvious that for 500 convicts a year to remain in the country involves a considerable increase of the criminal population. Another reason for such an increase is that the operation of the Act of 1864, imposing longer sentences of penal servitude, is beginning to tell. I hold in my hand two interesting Returns, showing the present number of convicts under detention in England and Wales, and the probable number in future years. The convicts now under detention are 6,898 males, besides 552 at Gibraltar, making a total of 7,450, and 1,172 females. It is not likely there will be any increase in the number of female convicts, as the transportation of females has ceased for a long time. Confining the calculation, therefore, to males, the probable number on the 31st of March. 1869, will be 7,507; in 1870, 8,619; in 1871, 8,938; and in 1872, 9,146; the maximum estimated number in 1877 will be 10,666. The calculation, of course, assumes that the amount of crime will be constant. As to the convicts released on license or tickets of leave, the remission never exceeds one-fourth of the whole sentence, excluding the nine months passed in separate confinement, and the average length of remission is one year and seven months. The number of males now on license is 1,566, and of females, 441. In 1870 it will probably be 1,705, and about ten years hence it will probably be something under 3,000, if the proportion of crime remains the same. That, therefore, constitutes the number with which we shall have to deal at anyone time. In dealing, however, with the criminal class, we must not confine our attention to those convicted of grievous offences and undergoing penal servitude. We must view the whole of what are usually called the criminal classes, and I regret to say that, large as may appear the number of convicts I have just stated, the number of the criminal classes is far larger. It is, in fact, a great army—an army making war on society, and it is necessary that society should for its own defence make war upon them. Here then are the numbers of the criminal classes taken from the latest Returns. The average of 1865–6, 1864–5, and 1863–4 show the following results:—Known thieves and depredators, 22,959; receivers of stolen goods, 3,095; prostitutes, 27,186; suspected persons, 29,468; vagrants and tramps, 32,938; making a total of 115,646. There was a decrease last year of 2.8 per cent on this average. In the metropolis alone there were in 1866–7 14,648 persons living by dishonest means, and 5,628 prostitutes; the numbers in 1865–6 being 14,491, and 5,554 prostitutes. Now, the question that presents itself is this—How are we to deal with this vast mass of criminals—with this great army of crime with which we have to contend? Various modes of repression have been suggested. Some think we ought to impose very stringent sentences—which to a certain extent was done by the Act of 1864, for it very properly made the minimum length of penal servitude five years, and in case of a previous conviction seven years. That was, no doubt, wise legislation, and the policy may justly, I think, be carried somewhat further. That Act, however, left untouched the discretion of the Judges to sentence criminals to imprisonment instead of penal servitude—the consequence being that a very considerable number of criminals do not come within the range of that system of discipline which has been judged best adapted to their reclamation. Some have gone so far—and I may mention among them the name of a gentleman well known to your Lordships, and whose pamphlet on the subject many of you may have read—Mr. Henry Taylor—as to suggest that all persons convicted of felony a second or third time—persons, in fact, who are habitual offenders—should be sentenced to imprisonment for life, and should actually be confined for life. I do not, however, think the public mind is prepared—at present at all events—for such a system. Independent of the great expense it would involve—to which it may be answered that the expense of their depredations is greater—I do not think the public are prepared for keeping such large numbers of persons permanently in confinement. Not only that, but I honestly think that neither the country nor the Government has yet mastered the problem how to deal with persons who are under sentence of imprisonment for life. I wish, moreover, here to state my opinion, though further legislation on this point is not necessary, that it is essential that men who have committed grievous crimes should expect their sentence to be fully carried out, and that persons who have been sentenced for grievous crime should never, except under very exceptional circumstances, have their sentences relaxed. When I was in Ireland the matter had been very strongly brought under my notice. In Ireland the transportation of criminals ceased fourteen or fifteen years ago, and consequently there is a larger accumulation of prisoners under fife sentences than in this country; and my experience there showed me that there was this difficulty in imprisoning convicts for life—After a certain time they become unfitted by age or infirmity for public works, and there arises a great temptation to regard these men as having in some respect atoned for their serious crimes. Now, there are grave reasons why they should not be released. No doubt it often happened that a criminal who has committed a grievous but solitary crime may not be a thoroughly bad man, and so far as he is concerned he might, perhaps, be released without the fear of his committing a fresh injury on society. But then there is the deterrent effect which the certainty that the sentence would be fully carried out is calculated to have upon others. The practical question, then, arises—How are we to deal with such men? The mode, I think, has been indicated in the Report of a Committee or Commission; and it has always seemed to me the only one. Your Lordships are aware that there are a considerable number of men both in Ireland and in England who are undergoing sentences under the term of "criminal lunatics." Many of these men, though out of their senses at the time of the commission of their crimes, and therefore rightly spared from the punish- ment of death, have become, through lapse of time and change of treatment, perfectly sane. Now there is no difficulty in keeping those persons under sentence of perpetual imprisonment, and it seems to me that a similar system could be applied to men who, having had a life sentence imposed on them, are no longer, on account of infirmity or other reasons, fit to be employed on public works, and might properly be put under such restraint only as is necessary to seclude them from the public eye. That might be combined with a certain amount of remission—for it is always well to hold out hope, even to the most grievous offender. Without it you cannot enforce salutary discipline, and you ought to hold out a hope not of remission, but that, consequent on good behaviour, they would be removed from public works to those prisons where they would be confined under restraints and conditions less irksome. That, I admit, is not entirely germane to the Bill, but it is relevant to the main subject, and of such importance that I desired to mention it. Now, if we reject the notion of placing all these habitual criminals under life sentences, upon what can we fall back? It seems to me that the legislation of 1864 and the system established under it suggest the alternative. I think that we should extend the range of the legislation then adopted—that is to say, that we should extend it to other classes of the criminal population; and I think we are perfectly justified in shifting the burden of proof in certain cases from the accuser to the accused. Nobody honours more than I do the good old maxim of English Law that a man shall be presumed innocent until he shall have been proved to be guilty; but there can be no harm—on the contrary, it seems to me perfectly consistent with justice to the individual himself and to be demanded by justice to society—that men who by repeated crimes have shown that they set the laws of society at defiance should be placed under a different code—that a special law should be made applicable to them—that, to a certain extent, they should be under a disability, and should have the burden of proving that they are earning a livelihood by honest means. A man who has committed several crimes, falling under the denomination of felony, may fairly be called upon to prove that he is living by honest means, and, if he cannot prove it, should be sentenced to imprisonment. He will have all the other guarantees of justice possessed by the innocent man—an open Court, a public hearing, and complete publicity, all of which are safeguards for a free and innocent man, not being oppressed or unjustly treated; but on the assumption that he has once been proved a criminal he will be put upon his proof that he is no longer so. These are the main principles which the Government propose to lay down, and I will now shortly explain the provisions of the Bill. The first part of it relates to men who are in the possession of tickets of leave. It is at present provided that such men, if brought before a magistrate, and if they fail to satisfy the magistrate that they are not earning an honest livelihood, they may be remitted to undergo their original term of imprisonment. Now, we propose that a man holding such a ticket may, at any time, be summoned by a police-constable before a magistrate and called upon to show that he is earning an honest livelihood, the burden of proof resting on him. If he cannot prove his honesty, he will be remitted to undergo his original sentence of penal servitude. Then, in order to make supervision more effectual, we propose a central registry of licenses, the Chief Commissioner of Police in the metropolis keeping a register of all licenses throughout the country. We propose, further, that officers shall be appointed by the Secretary of State to furnish all such particulars as may be required in order to establish a complete system of communication throughout the country, so as to form a complete network of supervision of criminals in every part of the country. This is obviously essential, for otherwise a man convicted in the metropolis may go to some part of the country where the authorities possess no information about him, so that there is no control over his conduct. It will also, no doubt, be convenient to carry out the plan of photographing convicts, which has been advocated by my noble Friend Lord Carnarvon, and which I believe has been partially carried out and has been found a very effective protection. In this part of the Bill the existing system in relation to criminals holding licenses is strengthened, but is not considerably changed. The next part of the Bill re- lates to that large class of criminals who are sentenced not to penal servitude but to imprisonment. We do not propose to take away the discretion the Judges now possess; but what is proposed is that whenever a man is a second time convicted of felony, if on his second conviction he does not receive sentence of penal servitude, it shall be part of his sentence that, for seven years, he shall remain under the supervision of the police over and above his term of imprisonment. We propose that a police-constable may at any time, during those seven years, without warrant, bring such a man before a magistrate, and call upon him to show that he is getting a livelihood honestly. We do not make the plan so severe as in the other case, but we propose that the magistrate shall satisfy himself that the convict is not obtaining an honest livelihood, and in that case shall have power to sentence him to imprisonment for any term not exceeding one year. We also propose that if a police-constable shall find such a person in any public place, such as is defined in the Vagrant Act, in such circumstances as to make it probable that he is about to commit or aid in committing a felony, he may likewise be brought before a magistrate, and, if the circumstances render his dishonest purpose probable, shall be imprisoned for not more than a year. We further propose that if any person under police supervision, shall he found in a private dwelling-house, or in those appurtenances of a private dwelling-house well known to the law, then also he may be brought before a magistrate and, on the case being proved, sentenced to a like imprisonment. He will be under this supervision for seven years beyond the term of his imprisonment, and will be subject to imprisonment in any of the cases I have mentioned. The next portion of the Act refers to a man convicted of felony for the third time—I think that when a man has been so convicted for the third time, he falls so entirely under the catagory of habitual offenders that it is but right to take away the Judge's discretion of imposing imprisonment, and to insist that in all cases such an offender shall be sentenced to not less than seven years' penal servitude. This, however, is subject to the proviso that one of the convictions shall have been within five years; for it would be hard on a man who may have been honest for a considerable period, but has at last relapsed, that his old crime should be brought back with such severity as to subject him to so severe a sentence without any option. This class of offenders, if sentenced to seven years' penal servitude, will be subject for the remainder of his life to the conditions imposed on the previous class. We do not propose to compel him to show that he is earning an honest livelihood, but we think it will be sufficient—he having been seven years under supervision—if he is placed in the position of a rogue and vagabond. If found at any time during his life in circumstances indicative of an intention to commit a felony, he will accordingly be subject to a year's imprisonment. Such men lead a continual life of crime, looking upon it as a profession, and on imprisonment as one of the chances of war which it is possible to avoid. It is necessary, therefore, to place them under permanent supervision. This completes the alterations we propose as regards criminals sentenced for felony. But there is a special class deserving of attention as much, or perhaps, more than others—the receivers of stolen goods. But for them the criminal would have no means of disposing of his plunder, and in proportion as we lessen the facility of doing that we shall diminish crime. At present it is necessary, in order to punish a receiver, to prove that he has received goods knowing them to be stolen; but we propose that where any man has been sentenced to imprisonment, if afterwards accused of being a receiver of stolen goods, the burden of proof shall be put upon him to show that he did not know the goods were stolen. We shall treat him as a suspected man, and we hope by that means to bring within the net of the law a great part of a class who are—I was almost about to say—more guilty than their miserable dupes and accomplices. There remains another and a very large class—vagrants, or, as they are more properly styled, rogues and vagabonds. This class has hitherto escaped being regarded in the eye of the law as criminal. We propose to strengthen the law in this respect. Though not, like convicted criminals, within the definition of suspected persons, they are at present under the Vagrant Act, and if found in a dwelling-house or public place, under circumstances indicating an intention of committing an unlawful act, they may be summarily sentenced to imprisonment. It is necessary, however, to prove some overt act. With this proviso we propose to dispense—so that if there is sufficient evidence to convince a magistrate that the vagrant was there with an unlawful purpose he will come under the provisions of the Vagrant Act. In some parts of the country where, perhaps, the magistrates have not been well acquainted with the subtleties of the law, rogues and vagabonds have been swept away by not paying attention to the condition of an overt act. That, however, is not at present legal, but, as it has been found effective, we propose that henceforth no overt act shad be necessary. There are other provisions of minor importance; one of them relates to pawnbrokers, who frequently give great facilities for the disposal of stolen goods, and to whom we propose to extend certain provisions of an Act passed a few years ago for Scotland, but with which I need not trouble your Lordships. One other change will, we think, be generally approved. All who have studied police reports must have remarked the frequency of brutal assaults on police-constables, and I think your Lordships will all be of opinion that the police, who are the guardians of the law, and who execute their duties, I must say, with a courage which does them the highest credit, should be well protected by the law. At present, in the metropolis—for what reason I am at a loss to conceive, for police constables are as much exposed to assaults there as elsewhere—the punishment for such assaults is only one month's imprisonment, while in the rest of the country it may amount to two. We propose that in all cases a magistrate may impose imprisonment not exceeding six months. I have now put before the House the general principles on which we propose to legislate, and have explained the main provisions of the Bill. We do not assert that on examination its details may not be found capable of improvement, but I believe it is based on sound principles—principles of justice and of due protection to society, and I have a confident expectation that, if passed into law, as I trust it will be, without material alteration, while it will not diminish in any degree the liberties of free and innocent men, it will materially strengthen that security for life and property which it must he the paramount object of every civilized Government to maintain.

Bill for the more effectual prevention of Crime,presented, by the Lord Privy Seal.


Of the many valuable provisions of the Bill I think none will be more effective in the repression of crime than that which refers to the receivers of stolen goods. I am persuaded that if it be possible to reduce the number of these men by throwing greater difficulties in the way of their carrying on their trade, and by punishing more severely those who are detected, you will do more to repress crime than in any other way. Even at present the great difficulty of a burglar or housebreaker is in getting rid of large quantities of valuable property; for if he has stolen a quantity of plate he is afraid to take it to his own or a friend's house lest he should be detected. His great object, accordingly, is to have it converted as soon as possible into a different form; and the consequence is that crucibles and smelting-pots are going on all day and all night in this great city. I believe that in a very large number of cases the whole of the plate is reduced within two or three hours of the robbery, or even less, to ingots of silver. As for spoons, forks, and jewellery, they are not taken so readily to the smeltingpot; but to well-known places, where there is a pipe, similar to that which, your Lordships may have seen—I hope none may have seen it of necessity—in a pawnbroker's shop. I have had a description of the process from practitioners. The thief taps, the pipe is lifted up, and in the course of a minute a hand comes out covered with a glove, takes up the jewellery, and gives out the; money for it. But, my Lords, I am sorry to say that the reception of stolen goods is carried on not by a low class only. I regret to say that there are tradesmen of high standing in this town who follow the practice. Your Lordships may have read in the newspapers recently a case of the robbery of a very valuable necklace. It appeared on the hearing of the case that the necklace in question, which was one with stones and very rich setting, had been carried to a jeweller, who instantly broke it up. On being asked for an explanation, he said, "We make it a ride never to ask questions, and for our convenience we break up such articles as soon as possible." I have no doubt that persons who are in the habit of buying such articles without asking questions do find it for their convenience to break them up as soon as possible. Once the stones are taken out of articles of jewellery and the setting is broken up, almost every possibility of detection is at an end. This being so, I would not, in the case of the receivers of stolen property, stand on the minutiae of strict evidence. I would put the onus of proof on persons well known to the police as receivers of stolen property to show that property found in their possession had been obtained by them rightly and honestly. I am inclined to think that, by such provisions as have been indicated by my noble Friend, a very great and very beneficial effect will be produced. I would just ask my noble Friend whether it is intended that persons, placed under supervision for seven years, shall be at liberty during that time to change their residence or quit the district in which they have been living. I think, my Lords, that when all the facts are before us we shall be able to come to a more consolatory conclusion than has been come to by my noble Friend. Though undoubtedly there are many thousands of persons living by surreptitious means—by robberies and larcenies—I am convinced that a very great number of those criminals are open to efforts for their reformation, and that the professional thieves and burglars—the criminals who take up robbery and burglary as a profession—are not a twentieth of the number alluded to by my noble Friend. I repeat, my Lords, that I think such amendments in the law as the noble Earl has indicated will do very great good, especially in the case of the receivers of stolen property.


My Lords, I think it would be very desirable that, when we come to discuss this Bill in a future stage, we should have more exact details of the working of the Act of 1864 than those which have been stated by my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal. I opposed the passing of that Act, and I am now of opinion that it would be very important for your Lordships to have something more than the assurance of my noble Friend that it has worked well. I should like that before your Lordships come to the same conclusion on the point as my noble Friend, we should be satisfied that the Act of 1864 has not had the effect of preventing ticket of leave men from obtaining employment, and from their being absorbed in the general population.


My Lords, the suggestion of my noble Friend (Lord Houghton) deserves consideration. I hope that during the progress of this measure we shall have the fullest information possible as to the working of the existing law; and I venture to suggest that, in order to make that information clear and satisfactory, the proper course would be to refer this Bill to a Select Committee. On this subject of the Criminal Law we have already had more than one inquiry in this and the other House of Parliament, and I think great benefits have resulted from those inquiries. I think, therefore, that when so large an alteration as this is proposed, and considering the early period of the Session, it is highly desirable that the measure just sketched out should be brought carefully under the consideration of a Select Committee. I am certain that course would not throw any difficulty in the way of legislation, but would make our legislation more satisfactory to ourselves and to the public, and I hope, also, more complete. Having made that remark, I may observe further that, from the sketch of the proposed measure given us by my noble Friend, it appears to me that the Bill proceeds on right principles, and will do something to retrieve the error committed by Parliament in 1864, when professing to act on the Report of the Committee of the previous year. The only sentence in the speech of my noble Friend which I heard with regret was that in which I understood him to say that Sir Joshua Jebb—who, I believe, was one of the ablest and best public servants of his time—in the later period of his official life had not succeeded in maintaining the discipline of the Convict establishment as efficiently as it ought to have been conducted. I think it is only due to Sir Joshua Jebb to say that, having paid great attention to the evidence brought before the Penal Servitude Commission in 1863, I believe that any failure there was in maintaining the discipline of the Convict establishment and making the punishment as formidable to offenders as it ought to be was not owing to any fault of Sir Joshua, but principally to the fault of Parliament itself. A sentimental feeling in favour of prisoners had prevailed in the public mind for some time before, and Parliament and the Government, acting under the pressure of that sickly feeling, had unduly restricted the length of sentences passed upon criminals and had established regulations which, did not enable Sir Joshua Jebb to carry out the system of punishment with that strictness and determination which, if he had had the power, I believe he would have been only too glad to employ. I am firmly persuaded that in dealing with the criminal classes real mercy to them, as well as justice to society, requires that there should be no shrinking from a course of stern determination.


My Lords, I am not on this occasion going to make any observations on the Bill which the noble Earl (the Lord Privy Seal) is about to lay upon the table, and which is not yet before us. As far as I can judge from his statement, the Bill seems to be a salutary one, and one which will recommend itself to those who hold salutary ideas on this subject. I want to say a word on the proposition of my noble Friend who has just sat down, that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. It may, perhaps, become advisable to refer the merely mechanical details of the measure to a Select Committee; but I earnestly hope the principles of the Bill will be examined and settled by a Committee of the Whole House, and not delegated to a Select Committee. I think it would be damaging to the character of the House to withdraw from the responsibility of publicity the opinions of those who influence the decisions of the House on questions of such magnitude. I submit that, if the Bill is sent upstairs, the duty of the Select Committee should be carefully confined to the details, and that the wider matter of principle should be decided upon by the wider discretion of the House itself.


My Lords, like my noble Friend who has just sat down, I rise, not to make any observations as to the details of the Bill, but to say a word as to the further progress of the measure. A proposition has been made that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, and that the Select Committee should inquire into the working' of the Act of 1864—a process which, if the inquiry is to be a careful one, would involve the taking of evidence. Now, the Bill of the Government is one founded on certain distinct principles, and I apprehend it will be your Lordships' duty, on the second reading, to consider and decide whether those principles can be safely adopted in the legislation of this country. From what we have heard from the noble Earl I think there is something very wholesome in the principles laid down in the Bill; but I apprehend that on the second reading it will be for your Lordships to pronounce an opinion as to whether those principles are worthy your acceptance or not. If your Lordships should pass the second reading and then delegate the subject to a Select Committee to take evidence as to the principle on which you should legislate, that would be tantamount to shelving the Bill for this Session. I hope that when the Bill is before us your Lordships may find it is one the principle of which ought to meet with the approbation of your Lordships' House. If it should, it may be useful to have the Bill go to a Select Committee, not that the Select Committee may take evidence, but that they may consider the details and the working of the Bill; though, even with respect to such points, I think the subject of our criminal law is so interesting that the details of a Bill like this might well be settled in a Committee of the Whole House. At all events, I must express my hope that the Government will not refer this Bill to a Select Committee for the purpose of having evidence taken.


said, he thought the Bill might be advantageously referred to a Select Committee, whose labours he thought would greatly assist the House in their subsequent legislation.


asked the noble Earl who introduced the Bill, whether he could give him any information as to the number of persons likely to come under the supervision of the police, after a second conviction, under the provisions of the Bill? He held a strong opinion that police supervision, as at present exercised, was utterly inefficient. He gathered from the noble Earl's statement that no discretion was to be left to the Judges or to the committing magistrates as to whether they would give a seven years' sentence of police supervision or not, as such a sentence was to follow as a matter of course upon a second conviction.


said, he could not give an answer to the noble Earl's question at the present moment, but he would take care to put himself in a position to answer it on a future day. He might point out, however, that the provisions of the Bill did not relate solely to police supervision, but also rendered criminals, after a second conviction, subject to certain specified regulations, by which persons other than the police would be enabled to bring them before a magistrate for examination. He was greatly obliged to the House for the attention with which they had listened to his explanation of the provisions of the Bill, and he must express his entire concurrence with the view of the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Cairns), that the proper time for the consideration of the principles of the Bill was upon the second reading. He also agreed with the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) in deprecating the practice of the House, which obtained too much, of sending Bills of importance before a Select Committee upstairs. The result of such a course—as he had been often told—was that the proceedings of their Lordships, however just and right they might be, failed to obtain that credit to which they were entitled, or to attract adequate public attention. After what had passed that evening, he thought it would be better to postpone further discussion upon the Bill until the second reading, when their Lordships would have had an opportunity of examining the provisions of the Bill for themselves, and when the Government would be in a position to determine what course it would be proper for them to adopt with, regard to the measure.

Bill read 1a; to be printed; and to be read 2a on Friday next, (No. 18.)