« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
gested any changes in these departments, even if they had been within the appointed province of this Committee. On other parts of the subject; as, for example, in the definition and arrangement of Crimes, they have recommended a consolidation of the Laws respecting only one class of offences, and have presumed only to express a general opinion of the utility of the like consolidation in some other cases. They wish expressly to disclaim all doubt of the right of the Legislature to inflict the punishment of Death, wherever that punishment, and that alone, seems capable of protecting the community from enormous and atrocious crimes. The object of the Committee has been to ascertain, as far as the nature of the case admitted by Evidence, whether, in the present state of the sentiments of the people of England, Capital Punishment in most cases of offences unattended with violence, be a necessary or even the most effectuat security against the prevalence of Crimes.
I. In the first place, they endeavoured to collect official accounts
state of Crimes and the administration of Criminal Law throughout the Kingdom, from the earliest period to which authentic information reaches. The Annual Returns of Commitments, Convictions, and Executions, first
procured by Addresses
from this House, and since required by Statute, go no farther back than 1805. Accounts, though not perfectly
satisfactory, of the same particuJars from London and Middlesex, from 1749 to the present time, have been already laid before Parliament, which, with an official summary of the Returns of England and Wales from 1805, will be inserted in the Appendix of this Report.9918 une A fall and authentic
account of Convictions and Executions for London and Middlesex, from 1699 to 1804, obtained, for the latter part of that time from the Clerk of Arraigns at the Old Bailey, and for the former part from the officers of the City of London is inserted in the Appendix. The Corporation of the City of London have shown on this occasion a liberality and public spirit worthy of acknowledgment and it is to be hoped, that they will con tinue their researches as far back as their Recordsi extendzand thus complete Returns, probably unparalleled in the history of OHminal Law.obos seus cerita is to traq on het997 s The Deputy Clerk of Assize for the Home Circuitzohas
Tlaid Before Your Committee a Return of Commitmentsy Convictions and Executions on that Circuit, which comprehends the counties of Herts, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Surry, from 1689 to 1918, from 1955 to 1784, and from 1784 to 1814. The Returns of the intermediate period from 1718 to 1755, he will doubtless furnish very soonton from this important Return it appears, that, for the VOL. XV.
to onezio 19
first thirty years which followed the Revolution, the average proportion of convictions to executions was 38 to 20; that from 1755 to 1784 it was 46 to 13; and that from 1784 to 1814, it was 74 to 19. It is worthy of remark, that the whole number of convictions for murder, on the Home Circuit, in the first period was 123, that the executions for the same period were 87: that in the se eond, the convictions for the same offence were 67, and the exe cutions 57; and that in the third, the convictions were 54, and the executions 44. If the increase of the population during a prosperous period of a hundred and thirty years, be taken into the account, and if we bear in mind that within that time a considerable city has grown up on the southern bank of the Thames, we shall be disposed to consider, it as no exaggeration to affirm, that in this district (not one of the most favourably situated in this respect) murder has, abated in the remarkable proportion of three if not four
e Dits to tas - In the thirty years from 1755 to 1784, the whole convictions for murder in London and Middlesex were 71.; and in the thirty years from 1784 to 1814 they were 66. In the years. 1815, 1816 and 1817, the whole convictions for murder in London were 9, while in the three preceding years they were 14. Most of the other returns relate to too short a period, or too narrow a district to afford materials for safe conclusion, with respect to the comparative frequency of crimes at different periods.
In general however it appears that murders, and other crimes of violence and cruelty, have either diminished, or not increased ; and that the deplorable increase of Criminals is not of such a nature as to indicate any diminution in the humanity of the people. The practice of immediately publishing the circumstanees of every atrocious crime, and of circulating in various forms an account of every stage of the proceedings which relate to it, is far more prevalent in England than in any other country, and in our times than in any former age. It is on the whole of great utility, not only as a control on courts of judicature, but also as a means of rendering it extremely difficult for odious criminals to escape. In this country, no atrocious crimes remain secret ; with these advantages, however, it cannot be denied, that by publishing the circumstances of all crimes, our modern practice tends to make our age and nation appear more criminal than in comparison with others it rcally is.
II. · In considering the subject of our Penal Laws, Your Committee will first lay before the House their observations on that part, which is the least likely to give tise to difference of opinion. That many statutes denouncing capital punishmeyts might be safely and
wisely repealed, has long been a prevalent opinion. It is sanction. ed by the authority of two successive Committees of this House, composed of the most eminent men of their age, and in some measure by the authority of the House itself, which passed several bilis' on 'the recommendation of their Committees. As a general position, the propriety of repealing such statutes seems scarcely to have been disputed ; respecting the number and choice of them, different sentiments must always be expected. Your Committee have not attempted a complete enumeration, which much time and considerable deliberation would be required to accomplish. They selected some capital felonies, for the continuance of which they cannot anticipate any 'serious argument, and which seem to them to serve no purpose but that of encumbering and discrediting the Statute Book. Various considerations have combined to guide their choice; sometimes mére levity and hurry have raised an insighificant offence, or an almost indifferent act, into a capital crime; in
other acts the evil has been manifestly and indeed avowedly temporary, though 'it unfortunately produced a permanent law. Where the punishment of death was evidently unnecessary at the time of its original establishment, and where, if it was originally justified by
temporary danger,' or 'excused by a temporary fear, it has long been acknowledged to be altogether disproportioned to the offenee, - Your Committee conceive themselves warranted in confidenify te
commending its abolition. But they have also'adverted to another consideration; if in addition to the intrinsic evidence, of Buttwarbrrancable severity in a law, which arises from the comparison of the Eact forbidden, with the punishment threatened, they find also that
the law has scarcely ever been executed since its first enactment, or if it'has fallen into disuse as the Nation became more humaine to and
generally enlightened, Your Committee consider themseldes 26 authorised to recommend its repeal, by long experience, and by If the deliberate judgment of the whole Nation. In the application
of this latter principle, they have been materially aided by the do*cuments which have been mentioned. Where a Penal Law has not been carried into effect in Middlesex for more than a century, in the counties round London for sixty years, and in the extensive discrict which forms the Western Circuit for fifty, it may be safely concluded that the general opinion has pronounced it to be unfit of unnecessary to continue in force. The Committee are aware, that there are cases in which it may be said, that the dread of the punishment has prevented the perpetration of the crime, and where, therefore, the law appears to be inefficacious only because it has completely accomplished its purpose. Whatever speciousness may belong to this reasoning in the case of conspicuous
crimes, and punishments generally present to the minds of men, it never can be
plausibly applied to rare and obscure offences, to penal enactments, of which it requires a more than ordinary degree of professional accuracy habitually to recollect the existence. Your Committee have endeavoured to avoid all cases which seem to them to be on this ground disputable. From general caution, and a desire to avoid even the appearance of precipitation, they have postponed cases, which seem to them liable to as little doubt as some of those to which they are about to advert. bni 1591 02 19d1s 2194 03 29TLEY
It has sometimes been said, that the abolition of penal laws which have fallen into disuse, is of little advantage to the community. Your Committee consider this opinion as an error. They forbear to enlarge on the striking remark of Lord Bacon, that all such laws weaken and disarm the other parts of the criminal system. The criminal code, tends to rob that punishment of all its terrors, and to enervate the general authority of the government and the
Law . The multiplication of this threat in the Laws of England has brought on them, and on the Nation, a character of harshness and cruelty, which evidence of a mild administration of them will not entirely remove. Repealsilences the objection. Reasoning founded on lenient exercise of authority, whatever its force may be, is not calculated to efface a general and deep impression. The removal of disused laws is a preliminary operation which greatly facilitates those laws which (where it is necessary). Were capital punishments reduced to the comparatively small number of cases in which they are often inflicted, it would become a much simpler
to form a right judgment of their propriety or necessity. Another consideration of still greater moment presents itself on this Laws are sometimes called into
part of the disi Feng activity long and in cases where their very e
existence may be unknown to the best informed part of the community malicious prosecutors set them in motion a mistaken administras tion of the Law may apply them to purposes for which they were not intended, and which they are calculated more to defeat than to promote: such seems to have been the case of the person who, in the year 1814, at the Assizes for Essex, was capitally convicted of the offence of cutting down trees, and who, in spite of earnest applications for mercy from the prosecutor, the committing magistrate, and the whole neighbourhood, was executed, apparently because he was believed to be habitually engaged in other offences,
. This case is not quoted as furnishing any charge against the humanity of the Judge or of the advisers of the Crown; they certainly acted according to the dictates of their judgment; but it is
a case where the effect of punishment is sufficiently shown by the evidence to be the reverse of exemplary; and it is hard to say whether the general disuse of the capital punishment in this offence, or the single instance in which it has been carried into effect, suggests the strongest reasons for its abolition.
The Statutes creating capital felonies, which the Committee have considered under this head, are reducible to two classes; the First relates to acts either so nearly indifferent as to require no penalty, or if injurious, not of such a magnitude as that they may not safely be left punishable as Misdemeanours at common law. In these Your Committee propose the simple repeal; they are as follows, ja
1.-1 and 2 Phil. and Mary, c. 4. Egyptians remaining within to the kingdom one month. E foto 18 Charles II, s. 3. Notorious thieves in Cumberland and brre Northumberland.
nino 23.+9 Geo. 1, c. 22. Being armed and disguised in any Forest, esd Park, &c. Sofie --
blunt! HT 54. EmneySTO ISTITIMO T TIJIJI
in any Warren,
Poluomi 105. Tot i TIVISTTTTM
in any High Road, bob Open Heath, Common er Down. 5.6.
9AY) Unlawfully hunting, killing, or stealing Deer. & FOTIT TM Robbing Warrens, &c.
90 betsluolas BATTIVITET Stealing or taking any fish out of any River or to atio
Pond, &c. Pirna in
Hunting in His Majesty's Forests or Chases.' 10.
Breaking down the head or mound of a Fish lat Pond.
2013 Noidv Geo. I, c. 28. Being disguised within the Mint,
HOLISTIC 12.T -12 Geo. II, c. 29. Injuring of Westminster Bridge, and
9511Jonz other Bridges by other Acts. The Second Class consists of those offences, which, though in
17591 in the opinion of Your Committee never fit to be punished with Death, are yet so malignant and dangerous as to require the highest punishments, except death, which are known to our laws. These the Committee would make punishable, either by transportation, or imprisonment with hard labour, allowing considerable scope to the discretion of the Judges respecting the term for which either punishment is to endure.
" 0 1.–31 Eliza, co 9. Taking away any Maid, Widow, or Wife, &c. 16 -21 Jac. I, c. 26. Acknowledging or procuring any
Fine; Recovery, &c.
orang pila video in 3.-4 Geo. I, cap. II, s. 4. Helping to the recovery
Goods. 177579 Milicio 4-9 Geo, I, c. 22. Maliciously killing or wounding Cattle. 5.-9. Geo. I, c. 22., Cutting down or destroying Trees grow
hovery of Stolen