HL Deb 27 March 1906 vol 154 cc992-1008


Order of the day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill deals with a subject which has been a great deal canvassed for many years in this country, and which, I think, has partially divided the opinion of legal experts, but I do not think there is, or has been for a long time, any considerable section of opinion, either at the Bar or on the Bench, that is not prepared for a measure going a considerable distance. Though I believe there is no country in the world where justice is more fearlessly and more effectively administered than it is in this country, and while I yield to no one in my respect and admiration for the spirit in which the Criminal Courts are conducted, of which I have had myself some experience, yet it is beyond human nature to suppose that there is, or that there ever can be without some opportunities for appeal, an entirely satisfactory condition of things. From time to time there have been, as, indeed, quite recently, instances of error, admittedly innocent error, on the part of the Courts, resulting in a great deal of hardship and suffering to individuals, which have stirred the public mind. With that preface, for your Lordships are many of you familiar with the administration of criminal justice yourselves, I shall proceed to say a word or two on the subject of criminal appeals, and contrast them with the appeals allowed in Civil Courts.

Let me take, in the first instance, the system of appeal which obtains in the Civil Courts of this country. In regard to civil procedure, the smallest cases tried, for example, in the County Courts, are subject to appeal upon matters of law, but they are not subject to appeal upon questions of fact; and I must say that I have never seen any cause for complaining of the state of the law. It is to the interests of the public that litigation should be ended, and where the sum of money involved is small it does seem to me more desirable that there should be some risk now and then of failure than that there should be constant opportunity for appeal, and the waste of time and money which that would involve. When you go from the smaller kind of civil case to the more important litigations, which are abundant in this country, you find that the facilities for appeal are enormous. A case may be tried by one of the greatest Judges of the day before a special jury. It may have lasted days, or indeed, as sometimes—but happily seldom—happens, it may have lasted even weeks; but there is an appeal, not only as to law, but an appeal on every point of fact on which the jury have come to a determination—an appeal to the Court of Appeal, and then to your Lordships' House. There is an appeal also on the point of damages that may be assessed, assuming that the verdict and judgment may be right.

Not only so; there is an appeal on what may be called interlocutory proceedings. I would give an extreme illustration. Suppose that one side wishes to have a case, involving, say, £100, tried at Bristol, and the other side wishes to have it tried at Glasgow. Such is the state of the law that an appeal can be taken to the Court of Appeal and then to the House of Lords upon the question whether this case, involving merely £100, shall be tried at Bristol or at Glasgow. I am not making any complaint about the facilities for appeal that exist in regard to civil causes, but I think it is a very open question whether there is not too much facility for appeal in regard to civil causes. It is not a matter that is relevant to my proposals to-night, but I think it may well be that some restriction would be advisable, but nobody would ever dream of proposing that there should be no appeal at all. All that the most zealous reformer in that respect would suggest would be that there should be some limitation to the exuberance of appeal in civil causes. So much for civil causes.

Now I come to the criminal law. Your Lordships will find that in the Criminal Courts the law is almost exactly the reverse of that which obtains in Civil Courts. In small, insignificant cases tried before the magistrates, where three months' imprisonment is a possible penalty, there is an appeal. In small cases, where a man may only be fined, or where he may be sentenced to only three or four days' imprisonment, there is an appeal to quarter sessions, and very properly, too; but in grave criminal causes, in which a man may lose his life or his liberty for the whole of his life or for ten or five years, there is, with two exceptions, substantially no appeal at all. Let me give the two exceptions. I am not pretending to offer to your Lordships an exhaustive and detailed statement, but merely an outline, which I think will be found perfectly accurate, of the right of appeal in these cases. If the Judge who tries the case thinks fit to reserve a point of law for the Court of Crown Cases Reserved, he can do so, and then the point of law alone may be made the subject of appeal. But it very often happens that the Judge, being himself satisfied of his own opinion, refuses to grant a case at all; and there is no machinery of any sort, kind, or description known to the law—I mean no machinery of the law apart from the prerogative of mercy—by which that Judge can be set right, though it may be notorious that his law is wrong.

There was the case, quite recently, of Adolf Beck, who, I believe, was perfectly innocent, and was so stated to have been by a Royal Commission. There was an undoubted misdirection in that case; evidence was refused admission which was palpably proper evidence to have been allowed. The Judge was confident that he was right, although he was transparently wrong; he refused to grant a case; and no remedy against his refusal was possible. Another case where an appeal is allowed at present is that limited kind of case in which by certiorari the case has been brought up for trial in the King's Bench Division, and then there is an appeal both on law and on fact. But those cases are very rare. The result is that, no matter how bad the law may be that the Judge lays down—and criminal law is not always absolutely clear—no matter how erroneous the verdict of the jury may have been, there is at the present moment no means of obtaining redress in any Court of Appeal in this country. To put an extreme case, a man may be tried for his life and have no appeal; he may wish to get a case, involving only £100, tried at Glasgow instead of Bristol, and he may take that question up to the House of Lords. Surely, my Lords, such a state of things is a plain absurdity.

As to the remedy proposed by this Bill, a Court of Criminal Appeal is to be constituted, consisting of Judges of the King's Bench Division, with the Lord Chief Justice of England as President. It is proposed that they shall have authority to entertain appeals upon all questions of law that may be raised, and that they shall be able to hear appeals on all questions of sentence. All points of law may be heard by them and reviewed; all sentences may be heard by them and reviewed; and also all questions of fact may be reconsidered by them in the same way as in Civil Courts. A prisoner is not to be required to be present, and, unless the Court think fit, he is not entitied to be present at the hearing of the appeal. He need have no counsel or solicitor, and, if he has none, the Judges will consider the depositions and the evidence he has given and any statement in writing which may be made.

I would point out that there is only a small portion of this Bill which has not been already covered by high authorities. As to point of law, a Bill was introduced last year by the late Government, which I heartily agreed with, requiring any Judge to state a point of law so that it might be made the subject of appeal. Substantially, I think, everybody will agree that my proposal is, in spirit, so far identical with that of the late Government. As to the reconsideration of sentences on appeal, that has been the subject of various Bills, and it was also the subject of a recommendation—I think a unanimous recommendation— by His Majesty's Judges themselves in the year 1892. As to the reconsideration of questions of fact, that is not a novel proposal, but I am sorry to say I cannot claim for it the same high authority, and I am afraid from what I hear that it is quite possible that it may encounter resistance. I do not propose to enter in detail or at length into that question tonight, because we are, after all, dealing with the Second Reading of the Bill, although I fully acknowledge that this is a very material portion of the Bill and wall no doubt require scrutiny afterwards.

To those who object to the proposal I would put two questions for consideration. First, within the limited scope in which the Courts have already the power of reconsidering the findings of juries, has it not been found that the power is very necessary to justice? I do not think that any Judge will deny that that is the case, and if it is the case in civil practice, why should it not be equally necessary, or, at all events, equally expedient, in criminal cases? Secondly, in that limited class of criminal cases in which reconsideration has been tried by certiorari, is there any member of the Bar or Bench who has ever heard of any complaint of the way in which the power of revision of trials has been used and applied by Judges? For my part, I feel that the Bill would be shorn of more than half its value if, after granting an appeal on a point of law and also on a question of sentence or punishment, Parliament were to refuse an appeal on the ground which makes the full complement of justice—the right to reconsider from all points of view every element which had gone to procuring the conviction.

It is said that a measure of this kind will in some way interfere with the functions hitherto discharged by the Home Office. I have not the least doubt that it must be a most painful and difficult duty on the part of the Home Secretary to act as a sort of informal Court of Appeal from the trials of causes at assizes or quarter sessions. I believe that the work has been most conscientiously and most laboriously done, and with the most excellent effect in many ways. But I cannot help suspecting that every Gentleman who has ever filled the office of Home Secretary must have felt how inadequate was the machinery at his disposal for the discharge to his own satisfaction of this most important of all duties—the prerogative of mercy in all its various phases. This Bill does not propose to deprive the Home Secretary of any of the powers which he possesses at the present time, but it does give him a facility which, I think, he will value—that is to say, he is entitled, if he thinks fit and finds he has not the machinery for weighing evidence, to send any case which puzzles him for advice and recommendation to the Court of Criminal Appeal. That is the whole substance of this Bill, and I trust the House will give it a Second Reading. If, however, an onslaught is made on any particular part of the Bill, I will endeavour to satisfy the criticism when we reach the Committee stage. But I hope that the Bill will at least be allowed to reach Committee stage, so that it may be made into a workable measure.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, having twice filled the office of Secretary of State for the Home Department, I can assure your Lordships that no one has felt more deeply than I have the grave responsibility cast on the Home Secretary in a great number of these criminal cases, and I am sure that no future Home Secretary would feel other than thankful to be relieved of some part of these duties. But it is quite clear that the prerogative of mercy must be retained. With that safeguard I only want to say that, so far as the Second Reading of this Bill is concerned, not only shall I offer no opposition to it, but I am glad to hail its introduction into your Lordships' House. At the same time, I am bound to make one or two observations on the matter.

I agree with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that there should be an appeal for the revision of sentences, and to a certain extent an appeal on questions of fact; but I think, with regard to questions of fact, that this Bill is too large. I am quite sure that that part of the measure will require to be carefully considered, and probably a good many safeguards may be necessary there. With regard to the most important criminal cases of all, where the prisoner is sentenced to death, I think it is quite right that there should be an appeal to a Court of law on the question of law. There could be no appeal against the sentence. It cannot be denied that this Bill would involve a large increase in the Judiciary. I am perfectly certain that it would be impossible to throw these extra duties on the existing staff of Judges. They would not have time to discharge them; they are overworked as it is. There are great delays in connection with civil causes, and if you throw all these extra duties on the present Judges the delays will be very much greater.

I believe the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will agree that where a man is sentenced to death and there is an appeal, the country would not allow that the death sentence should be hanging over the head of this person for a month or six weeks until the Court of appeal had given judgment. It would be absolutely necessary in the statute itself to lay down that appeals in those cases should be decided within a very limited time. I am very strong on this point, that that should be laid down in the statute itself, and should not be left to the Judges to be dealt with by rule. It should be laid down in the statute that wherever the Judges may be, whether on holiday or not, appeals in cases of murder should be tried within a limited time. The first effect of this Bill, if it passes, will be to render necessary a considerable increase in the number of Judges. When the Bill is in Committee I may have a good many things to say as to the details, which I will not enter upon to-day; but as one who has felt for many years the burdens which are cast on the Secretary of State for the Home Department in dealing with these cases, I willingly support the Second Reading of the Bill, on condition that when we go into Committee the clauses will be very carefully considered.


My Lords, I may say at once that I do not rise to move the rejection of this Bill. I think it would be disrespectful to the noble and learned Lord who has introduced it, and disrespectful, also, to the subject-matter, which is of supreme importance, not to consider the Bill and its details. Therefore, though I must admit that no amount of Amendment would induce me to consent to one part of the Bill, I gladly acquiesce in the suggestion that it should be read a second time. I cannot think that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack quite contemplates the extent of what he is going to do.

Let me, in the first instance, point out what the effect of the Bill as it stands will be. There is to be an appeal on every question of law or fact. There is to be a right to have the question of the sentence considered, but it is a right that is only to be exercised in one direction. A conviction may be quashed; a sentence may be altered to the advantage of the prisoner who has been convicted; but there is no power to increase the sentence. This is a general right of appeal in every case, either upon law, or fact, or sentence, but it is only a one-sided appeal in this sense, that the sentence cannot be increased. What will the obvious effect of this be? Is it possible to doubt that there will be, if not in every case, in almost every case, an appeal? What has a convicted prisoner to lose by it? He may benefit; he cannot lose. That is rather a serious proposition. A jury is a constitutional tribunal, and to say that, on every question of fact, three, four, or it may be five, Judges are to be empowered to overrule the deliberate verdict of the jury in every case seems to me to be a most extraordinary suggestion, and one which is inconsistent with the constitutional theory which makes the jury responsible in this matter.

But what strikes me as one of the most important and serious parts of the suggestion is this. No one has, I think, more justly or more truly described the course of administration of criminal justice in this country than the noble and learned Lord himself. I think it is recognised to be as careful and as upright as could possibly be desired; but what do you suppose will be the effect of such an alteration of the law as this Bill proposes? Those who have been familiar with Criminal Courts will know that juries are rather reluctant to convict. They have a sense of responsibility involved in the fact that from their decision there is no appeal. Pass this Bill, and jurymen will say, "It does not much matter whether we convict or not. The case will be tried again before the Judges, and they will put it right if we are wrong." I think that the feeling of responsibility among jurymen has been of infinite value in preserving the care with which justice is administered in this country. Under this Bill that will be swept away. I have no doubt that jurymen, if this Bill is passed, will convict with much greater facility than they do now.

I want to know what is the error in our system which calls for the introduction of a Bill of this kind. It is said that occasionally injustice is done. Just conceive the number of cases that are tried with perfect satisfaction to everybody, except, perhaps, to the prisoner convicted, and the number of cases which are supposed to constitute hardship. Take the case of Adolph Beck. It is quite beside the present question. What was the error in Beck's case? I am not now speaking of the technical error to which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack referred; but what was it which caused an innocent man to be convicted, sentenced, and severely punished? It was the evidence of the twelve independent witnesses who swore to his identity. How are you going to alter that? It is said that there was a particular question of law which ought to have been reserved. Probably that is so; but I think my noble and learned friend was a little hard on the learned Judge who refused to reserve a point. My experience is not like his in that respect. I have never known a Judge; to refuse to reserve a point of law.

The alteration in the law suggested by the late Government in the Bill which was brought forward by myself and passed through this House was simply this, that instead of its being optional with the Judge to reserve a point of law he should be compelled to reserve it. That would certainly have made no such revolution as is made here. As this is to be only a preliminary discussion—the noble and learned Lord has reserved to a future occasion the great discussion which we are to have on the subject—I do not propose to go through the various clauses; but I may say that there are points in the Bill to which no objection can be taken. I should not, for instance, entertain any objection to a revision of sentences, but it is not right that there should be no power to increase sentences. In civil causes the right of plaintiff and defendant are identical in that respect. You do not provide for small cases in this Bill because, you say, they are sufficiently provided for. But are they? You may have a cumulative sentence, for instance, of twelve months, and then you have to have notice of appeal, to serve the notice on the magistrates, and then to have the question discussed whether that appeal can be allowed or not.

The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has no authority, that I am aware of, for saying that people are desirous of new trials on questions of fact. There was a Commission of the Judges on the subject. They made no Report in favour of new trials on fact. There was a subsequent Report of the Judges in 1892. They made no such recommendation at all. It must be remembered that you are dealing here with experts who have had long knowledge of what they are talking about. They made no such suggestion. There was, however, a suggestion as to revision of sentences. Let me read the recommendation of the Judges— Such Court of Appeal should have power to revise a sentence on any person convicted of any criminal offence on application of the person convicted or the Attorney-General, and to confirm, or to increase, or to diminish the sentence. That was the recommendation of the Judges. The proposal in this Bill is an absolutely new proposal. It reverses the whole legal industry of this country. I do not say that it is necessarily a conclusive argument against it. It removes from the people themselves—from the jury—the determining of guilt or innocence, and gives it to persons appointed by the Crown. That seems to me to be a very serious matter indeed. This is a rash experiment, and I must say, for my part, that I should be sorry to see the mode in which the administration of justice in this country has been hitherto conducted so seriously interfered with. I have had some experience myself as a criminal Judge, and my experience of the mode in which juries administer justice is that there is a most earnest desire to do right, and great reluctance, unless compelled to do so, to find a verdict of guilty. I believe this Bill, if passed into law, would most seriously interfere with the tone and spirit in which juries administer justice in this country.


My Lords, my noble and learned friend Lord Halsbury has extended considerable courtesy to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack in agreeing to the Second Reading of this Bill, but I think he will not be disposed to contradict me when I say that he is not foregoing the battle against it; he has only postponed the pitched battle which is to take place. I would ask your Lordships' permission to say a few words, a few very sincere words, in support of this Bill. Few things in my political life have given me greater pleasure than the prospect at last of seeing a real Court of Criminal Appeal in this country. As Attorney-General, and as a private Member, I have drawn three of these Bills in different directions. Fortune has been against me; but now, under the circumstances that exist in the other House of Parliament, it is to be hoped that, with your Lordships' sanction, this Bill will not only be considered, but will pass into law.

Let me ask, What ought to be the chief aim of our criminal law and its administration? It is no doubt to protect the community and to punish the wrong doer. But I claim a higher duty than either of those—namely, that the law should take care that no innocent person suffers punishment. Let us see what safeguards we have in this country that innocent persons shall not unduly suffer. My noble and learned friend Lord Halsbury speaks, I think quite, correctly, of the anxiety of our Judges to do their duty, and of the juries to find just verdicts; but they are not infallible, and those who have been in the Home Office know full well that many cases have arisen in which innocent persons have been convicted, and it must be obvious that there are a great number of such cases which are never known. We have a right, on behalf of our national character, to see that all is done under our machinery to secure that justice is administered.

We stand unique among civilised nations in that we will accept error without attempting to remedy it. We have no Court of Criminal Appeal. I think in every other civilised nation in Europe, and certainly in America, there are these Courts of Appeal; but, strangely enough, while we have no Court of Appeal we also have no Minister of Justice, whose duty it is, as in other nations, to see that justice is purely administered, and to take care of the accused as well as the prosecutor. Notwithstanding the absence of such a Minister, we now hear from a very high authority that it is better that things should remain as they are than that there should be set up a Court of Criminal Appeal. The best we can do at present is to see that the prerogative of mercy shall be exercised. But instead of leaving that to persons who have had the training and experience necessary to enable them to determine when that mercy should be exercised, we have of late years entrusted this duty to men who, however able they may be, have had no knowledge whatever of criminal proceedings. In the first place, the machinery of the Home Office is no tribunal at all. How a prisoner makes his application to the Home Secretary no one knows. He is never heard in person at the Home Office; no witnesses can be heard; no advocacy can take place. It is simply an inquiry, no doubt by men who thoroughly desire to act conscientiously and with justice to the accused persons, but it is not any approach to a determination by a properly constituted tribunal. Many of your Lordships will recollect the time when the Home Office represented great legal strength. Men of legal experience were always chosen as Home Secretaries. There were such men as Sir George Grey, Mr. Austin Bruce, and my noble friend Lord Cross. Then came men like Sir William Harcourt, Lord Llandaff, and Mr. Asquith. You could understand that those men were capable of seeing, by virtue of their experience, that justice was done. I remember one case in which a man was condemned for the murder of a woman in East London. Lord Llandaff instituted an inquiry, at which I was asked to be present, and I am confident in saying that no Judge could have made greater efforts to arrive at the truth than did the Home Secretary on that occasion. Now a change has taken place. I am speaking with the greatest respect of recent Home Secretaries, but what legal experience had Sir Matthew White Ridley, Mr. Ritchie, and Mr. Akers Douglas, or what legal experience has Mr. Herbert Gladstone had?


Mr. Akers-Douglas has had experience at quarter sessions.


Yes, as chairman. These four gentlemen have represented in this country the only approach to a Court of Criminal Appeal; and I say that it is an insult to our judgment that we should be asked to accept that state of things as sufficient. I believe your Lordships are not aware of the number of innocent people who are convicted in this country. I know—for I was in consultation with him on the subject—that Sir William Harcourt made most diligent and conscientious inquiry into this question, and was convinced, after he had discharged, during the first three years that he was Home Secretary, twelve innocent men whose cases had come accidentally before him, that they represented only a few of the cases of innocent men who had been convicted.

My noble and learned friend Lord Halsbury has said that no authoritative declaration can be quoted in which the Judges have expressed themselves in favour of a Court of Criminal Appeal. I do not know that I have ever spoken in other than terms of the highest appreciation of the Judges of this country, but I must say they never have been legal reformers. They are more disposed to oppose reform than to support it. But there is an authority to be found. Very conspicuous Judges have been liberal and generous enough to see the necessity of such a measure as is now proposed. In 1889 a distinguished member of this House, Lord Fitzgerald, who must be remembered by many of your Lordships, appealed to my noble and learned friend who was then Lord Chancellor, to institute a Court of Criminal Appeal, and he based his arguments upon the Report of the Committee of 1878, consisting of Lord Blackburn, Mr. Justice Lush, and two other experienced Judges.

If my noble and learned friend will turn to the last sections of their Report he will find that the four Judges who sat on that Committee recommended an appeal upon questions of fact—an appeal against the verdict of the jury—with the qualification that it should be with the leave of the Court or Judge. That is a distinction, but still the infallibility of juries' verdicts was thrown over by these four Judges. Lord Fitzgerald, in an eloquent speech, appealed to my noble and learned friend on the subject, but his appeal was in vain. The late Lord Esher, who had been accidently absent when Lord Fitzgerald was speaking, wrote a letter immediately, which appeared in The Times, and his view was— The appeal should be as large as possible on law, facts, and sentence. The Judges should be bound in case of conviction and sentence of death, at any inconvenience to business, to attend in a court within seven days after any such appeal. My noble and learned friend has described a jury as a constitutional tribunal. So it is. But my noble and learned friend does not hesitate to let a court overrule the finding of a jury in every civil case in this country, and, if they think right, they are entitled to enter a verdict of fact against the finding of the jury. Yet in the case where men are suffering all the torments of wrong conviction, and all the torture that men can suffer in this world, my noble and learned friend will do nothing for them, but wishes things to be left as they are. We may all approve of the exercise of conservatism to a certain extent, but surely we cannot steel our hearts against the demand that justice shall be done to all innocent men who are charged with crimes in this country.

There is one appeal I would make to your Lordships, which I hope will not be misunderstood. I think it is one that ought to receive attention. This House has trying times before it, and, under the present political conditions, we shall have measures brought before us which we individually may wish either to reject or to alter. We know the difficulty we shall have in determining whether we can exercise that power. But our power of resistance against such measures is but limited; we had better not waste it. I can tell your Lordships that this Bill is demanded by no political Party. Men have communicated with me on this subject over and over again. Lately I received as many as a hundred letters in connection with the conviction which crystallised this question, and I can say that it is the common sense of this country, and the feeling of justice of this country, which asks that this Bill should pass into law, and I therefore hope your Lordships will give it a Second Reading.


My Lords, when I presided rather more than a year ago over a large public meeting at which a resolution was passed calling for the establishment of a Court of Criminal Appeal, I confess that I did not expect that within so short a time either Government would have brought forward so wide and comprehensive a Bill as the one which has been introduced to-day by the Lord Chancellor. I confess that I share a good many of the apprehensions which had been expressed by Lord Halsbury in regard to the question of criminal appeals. It is with a good deal of reluctance—reluctance which, I think, is somewhat instinctive when one regards the present criminal system—that I have been slowly driven to the conclusion which it would appear His Majesty's Government have now arrived at, that some Court of Criminal Appeal, I will not say for the moment how extensive, is necessary, and that the present system of revision of sentences by the Home Secretary, exercising his prerogative of mercy, does not give that full measure of justice and that full protection to innocent prisoners that is required by the law.

The tone of the Second Reading debate to-night has been one entirely on the general question. I understand that the noble and learned Lord in charge of the Bill wishes to leave the discussion of details until a later stage. But there appears to me, on looking carefully at the Bill, to be one or two points which are hardly explained by the Bill as it stands. I suppose that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has fully considered them. I do not see, for example, any provision for prisoners, who are to appeal under this Bill being either kept in custody or released pending the appeal. I am not clear as to whether they are to be required to give any sureties, or whether they can appeal without any consequences even of a pecuniary character. If there is to be a right of appeal in every case, it does seem to me that there will surely be a large number of appeals, because by appealing every convicted person will stand to gain a great deal more than he can possibly lose, if, indeed, he can lose anything; and considerable addition will also have to be made to the Judiciary of the country.

Then, I do not quite understand how far the Court is to sit as a sort of board and how far it is to sit as a Court. There is a provision in the Bill which is not perfectly clear as to the board not hearing or deciding these cases in public. I imagine that the judgment and the reasons for it will, at any rate, be given in public and in open Court. The question of appeal by criminals on matters of fact—matters of fact pure and simple—is a very difficult one, and I cannot help thinking that this provision will do something—it may not be much—to diminish the sense of responsibility under which juries at present arrive at a conclusion against the prisoner. There are some other provisions which will have to be added to this Bill if appeals are not to be universal and without reason. There seems to me to be no penalty at all. A convicted person has nothing to lose by an appeal under this Bill, and if he loses absolutely nothing the number of appeals will be such as to almost swamp the judicial business of the country. The fact that there is to be an appeal of a judicial character as against a consideration of a non-judicial character is to my mind a very great advance on the present law, and, so far, I most heartily welcome the Bill itself, and hope it will succeed ultimately in passing your Lordships' House without serious alteration in the objects at which it aims.


May I say, in regard to the important question asked me by the noble Viscount as to the necessity of the Bill's providing in cases of murder for the hearing of the appeal without delay, that I heartily agree with him and will undertake to assent to any provision which he may propose to secure that object.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the whole House.