Imatges de pÓgina

state of these secondary punishments, remarkable proportion of three, if not or on the degree of improvement of four, to one. which they may be found capable. In the thirty years from 1755 to The object of the Committee has been 1784, the whole convictions for more to ascertain, as far as the nature of the der in London and Middlesex were case admitted by evidence, whether, in 71 ; and in the thirty years from 1784 the present state of the sentiments of to 1814, they were 66. In the years the people of England, capital punish. 1815, 1816, and 1817, the whole conment in most cases of offences unat, victions for murder in London were 9, tended with violence, be a necessary, while in the three preceding years they or even the most effectual security were 14. Most of the other returns reagainst the prevalence of crimes. late to too short a period, or too nar.

The deputy clerk of assize for the row a district, to afford materials for home circuit, has laid before the Com- safe conclusion with respect to the mittee, a return of commitments, con- comparative frequency of crimes at victions, and executions on that circuit, different periods. which comprehends the counties of In general, however, it appears that Herts, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Sur-murders, and other crimes of violence rey, from 1689 to 1718, from 1755 to and cruelty, have either diminished, or 1784, and from 1784 to 1814. The not increased ; and that the deplorable returns of the intermediate period, increase of criminals is not of such a from 1718 to 1755, he will doubtless nature as to indicate any diminution furnish very soon. From this import in the humanity of the people. The ant return' it appears, that, for the practice of immediately publishing the first thirty years which followed the circumstances of every atrocious crime, revolution, the average proportion of and of circulating in various forms an convictions to executions was 38 to account of every stage of the proceed20; that from 1755 to 1784, it was ings which relate to it, is far more pre46 to 13 ; and that from 1784 to 1814, valent in England than in any

other it was 74 to 19. It is worthy of re- country, and in our times than in any mark, that the whole number of con- former age. It is on the whole of great victions for murder, on the home cir- utility, not only as a control on courts cuit, in the first period was 123 ; that of judicature, but also as a means of the executions for the same period were rendering it extremely difficult for 87: that in the second, the convictions odious criminals to escape. for the same offence were 67, and the The statutes creating capital feloexecutions 57 ; and that in the third, nies, which the Committee have conthe convictions were 54, and the execu- sidered, are reducible to two classes ; tions 44. If the increase of the popu. the first relates to acts either so nearly lation, during a prosperous period of indifferent as to require no penalty, or a hundred and thirty years, be taken if injurious, not of such a magnitude into the account, and if we bear in as that they may not safely be left mind that within that time a consider- punishable as misdemeanors at comable city has grown up on the southern mon law. In these the Committee probank of the l'hames, we shall be dis- pose the repeal; they are as follows: posed to consider it as no exaggera- 1.-1 and 2 Phil. and Mary, c. 4. tion to affirm, that in this district (not Egyptians remaining within the king. one of the most favourably situated in dom one month. this respect) murder lias abated in the 2.-18 Charles II, c. 3. Notori

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ous thieves in Cumberland and Nor- 6.-5 Geo. II, Ć. 30. Bankrupts thumberland.

not surrendering, &c. 3.-9 Geo. I, c. 22. Being armed 7.45 Geo. II, c. 30. Concealing and disguised in any forest, park, &c. or embezzling.

4.-9 Geo. I, c. 22. Being armed 8.-6 Geo. II, c. 37. Cutting down in any warren.

the bank of any river. 5.-9 Geo. I, c. 22. Being armed 9.–8 Geo. II, c. 20. Destroying in any high road, open heath, com- any fence, lock, sluice, &c. mon, or down.

10.—26 Geo. II, c. 23. Making a 6.-9 Geo. I, c. 22. Unlawfully false entry in a marriage register, &c. hunting, killing, or stealing deer. five felonies.

7.-9 Geo. I, c. 22. Robbing war. 11.-27 Geo. II, c. 15. Sending rens, &c.

threatening letters. 8.-9 Geo. I, c. 22. Stealing or 12.-27 Geo. II, c. 19. Destroytaking any fish out of any river or ing bank, &c. Bedford level. pond, &c.

13.-3 Geo. III, c. 16. Persona9.-9 Geo. I, c, 22. Hunting in ting out-pensioners of Greenwich hoshis Majesty's forests or chases. pital.

10.-9 Geo. I, c. 22. Breaking 14.-22 Geo. III, c. 40. Malidown the head or mound of a fish ciously cutting serges. pond.

15.-24 Geo. III, c. 47. Harbour11.-9 Geo. I, c. 28. Being dis. ing offenders against that (revenue) guised within the Mint.

act, when returned from transporta12.-12 Geo. II, c. 29. Injuring tion. of Westminster-bridge, and other It does not seem necessary to make bridges by other acts.

any observations in this place on the The second class consists of those punishments of transportation and imoffences, which, though in the opinion prisonment, which the Committee have of the Committee never fit to be pu- proposed to substitute for that of death nished with death, are yet so malig- in the second of the two classes above nant and dangerous as to require the mentioned. In their present imperfect highest punishments except death, state they are sufficient for such ofwhich are known to our laws. These fences ; and in the more improved conthe Committee would make punish- dition in which the Committee trust able, either by transportation, or im- that all the prisons of the kingdom prisonment with hard labour, allowing will soon be placed, imprisonment may considerable scope to the discretion of be hoped to be of such a nature as to the judges respecting the term for

answer every purpose of terror and rewhich either punishment is to endure. formation.

1.-31 Eliz. c. 9. Taking away On the three capital felonies of, priany maid, widow, or wife, &c.

vately stealing in a shop to the amount 2-21 Jac. I, c. 26. Acknow- of five shillings-of, privately stealing ledging or procuring any fine, reco- in a dwelling-house to the amount of

forty shillingsand of, privately steal3.-4 Geo. I, c. 2, s. 4. Helping to ing from vessels in a navigable river to the recovery of stolen goods.

the amount of forty shillings--the 4.-9 Geo. I, c. 22. Maliciously House of Commons have pronounced killing or wounding cattle.

their opinion, by passing Bills for re5.-9 Geo. I, c. 22. Cutting down ducing the punishment to transportaor destroying trees growing, &c. tion or imprisonment.

very, &c.

In proposing to revive those bills, and who are the jurors, by whose ver. your Committee feel a singular satis- dicts only effect can be given to the faction that they are enabled to pre- laws. sent to the House so considerable a

Mr Shelton, who has been near forty body of direct evidence in support of years clerk of arraigns at the Old Baiopinions, which had hitherto chiefly ley, states, that juries are anxious to rested on general reasoning, and were reduce the value of property below its often alleged by their opponents to be real amount, in those larcenies where contradicted by experience. Numer- the capital punishment depends on vaous and respectable witnesses have lue ; that they are desirous of omitting borne testimony, for themselves and those circumstances on which the ca. for the classes whom they represent, pital punishment depends in constructhat a great reluctance prevails to pro- tive burglaries; and that a reluctance secute, to give evidence, and to con- to convict is perceptible in forgery. vict, in the cases of the three last-men- Sir Archibald Macdonald bears tes. tioned offences; and that this reluc- timony to the reluctance of prosecutance has had the effect of producing tors, witnesses, and juries, in forgeries, impunity to such a degree, that it may in shop-lifting, and offences of a like be considered as among the tempta. nature.

He believes that the chances tions to the commission of crimes.

of escape are greatly increased by the But highly as the Committee esteem severity of the punishments. “Against and respect the Judges, it is not from treason, murder, arson, rape, and crimes them that the most accurate and satis- against the dwelling-house or person, factory evidence of the effect of the and some others," he thinks, “the pu. penal law can reasonably be expected. nishment of death should be directed." They only see the exterior of criminal T. W. Carr, Esq. solicitor of excise, proceedings after they are brought into a very intelligent public officer, gave a court of justice. Of the cases which an important testimony, directly applinever appear there, and of the causes cable, indeed, only to offences against which prevent their appearance, they the revenue, but throwing great light can know nothing. Of the motives on the general tendency of severity in which influence the testimony of wit- penal laws to defeat its own purpose. nesses, they can form but a hasty From his extensive experience it apand inadequate estimate. Even in the pears, that severe punishment has rezi grounds of verdicts, they may often dered the law on that subject inefficabe deceived. From any opportunity cious, Prosecutions and convictions of observing the influence of punish- were easy when breaches of the law ment upon those classes of men among were subject to moderate pecuniary pewhom malefactors are most commonly nalties ; even a great pecuniary penalty found, the judges are, by their sta- has been found so favourable to impu. tions and duties, placed at a great dis- nity, that fraudulent traders prefer it

to a moderate penalty. The act of The Committee have sought for evi- counterfeiting a stamp in certain cases, dence on these subjects from those within the laws of excise, was, before classes of men who are sufferers from the year 1806, subject only to a penalty larcenies, who must be prosecutors of 500l. ; but in that year it was made where these larcenies are brought to a transportable offence; of wbich the trial—who are the witnesses by whom consequence was, that the convictions

, such charges must be substantiated— which, from 1794 to 1806, had been 19


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out of 21 prosecutions, were reduced, of criminal law. From the year 1732, in the succeeding years, from 1806 to when embezzlement of property by a 1818, to 3 out of 9 prosecutions. bankrupt was made a capital offence,

Mr Newman, solicitor for the city of there have been probably forty thouLondon, speaking from thirty years' sand bankruptcies ; in that period experience, of the course of criminal there have not been more than ten proprosecutions in that city, informed the secutions, and three executions for the Committee, that he had frequently ob- capital offence, and yet fraudulent served a reluctance to prosecute and bankruptcies have become so common convict, in capital offences not directed as almost to be supposed to have lost against the lives, persons, or dwellings the nature of crime.

Mr Hobler, clerk to the Lord The Reverend Mr Cotton, Ordinary Mayor, and to the sitting magistrate of Newgate, has described in strong in London for thirty years, stated the terms, the repugnance of the public to anxiety of prosecutors to lower the vacapital execution in offences unattend- lue of goods stolen ; and has observed ed with violence, and the acquiescence many cases of forgery, in which, after even of the most depraved classes in the clearest evidence before the magistheir infliction in atrocious crimes. trate, the grand jury has thrown out

Mr Colquhoun, for twenty-seven the bill for some reason or other, where years a police magistrate in this capi- the magistrate had no doubt. The ial, and well known by his publications same solicitude to reduce the value of on these subjects, declares his firm con- articles privately stolen in shops and viction, that capital punishment in the dwelling houses, has been remarked by minor offences operates powerfully in Mr Payne, clerk to the sitting magipreventing convictions; and that there strate at Guildhall; by Mr Yardley, is a great reluctance to prosecute in clerk at the office in Worship-street, forgery, shoplifting, larceny in the who has observed a disinclination to dwelling-house, burglary without ac. prosecute in all capital cases, except tual entry, horse-stealing, sheep-steal- murder ; and who says, that in larceing, cattle-stealing, frame-breaking, nies he has often heard prosecutors, house-breaking in the day time, rob- especially females, say, “ I hope it is bery without acts of violence, and other not a hanging matter;" and by Mr minor offences, now subject to the Thompson, clerk at the office in punishment of death. According to Whitechapel, who represents it as comthe testimony of this intelligent obser- for prosecutors in larcenies to ask, ver, the public mind revolts at capital “Cannot this be put under forty shil. punishment in cases not atrocious.

Mr Newman, late keeper of New- Mr Alderman Wood, a member of gate, and connected with the adminic the House, an active magistrate, and stration of justice in London for forty two successive years Lord Mayor of years, gave testimony to the same ef. London, has strongly stated the unfect.

willingness of shop-keepers and others Mr Basil Montague stated a fact of to prosecute the number of offenders a most striking nature, immediately who, during his mayoralty, owed their applicable only to one offence, but escape to this cause ; and his decided shewing those dispositions in the minds conviction, that if the capital punishof the public, which must produce si- ment was taken away, the reluctance milar effects wherever the general feels to prosecute would be greatly abated. mg is at variance with the provisions Mr Wilkinson, a merchant in Lon.



don, stated a case of property to the the punishment were reduced to trans. value of one thousand pounds stolen portation, he would certainly prosefrom him, where he was deterred from cute the offenders to conviction. He prosecution by the capital punishment; has no doubt that his estate would be and expressed his belief that a similar better protected if the law were more disposition prevailed among persons of lenient, and that the reduction of the the like condition and occupation with penalties of the law would promote the himself.

security of property throughout the Mr Josiah Conder, bookseller, Mr province of Connaught. Joseph Curtis, currier, Mr Wendover

Mr James Soaper, of Saint Helen's Fry, type-founder, and MrJohn Gaun, Place, Mr Ebenezer Johnson, of Bi. a merchant and shoe-manufacturer, shopsgate-street, ironmonger, Mr Ba. stated instances in which they were ker, of the Tower, Mr Lewis, a reti

. prevented by the capital punishment red merchant, and Mr Garrett

, an infrom prosecuting offenders, whom they surance-broker, bore testimony to the would have brought to justice if the general repugnance to prosecution punishment had, in their opinion,

been which arose from capital punishment; more proportioned to the crime. They some of them mentioned instances in also declared, that there is a general which they had been deterred by that disinclination to prosecute among the consideration from bringing offenders traders of the city of London, or to to justice. Mr Garrett said, that as far convict in thefts without violence, and as his observation went, there was not in forgeries.

one in twenty who did not shudder at Sir Richard Phillips, a bookseller in the idea of inflicting the capital pu. London, and once sheriff, as well as nishment in cases of forgery. Messrs often a juror, has in these several ca- Frederic and William Thornhill

, hard. pacities observed the same facts.

waremen, mentioned cases of theft in Mr Richard Taylor, a common- which they had forborne to prosecute councilman, prosecuted some men for on account of the punishment of death. breaking into his, and The former added, that he found it to stealing some property out of it, for be an almost universal sentiment among which they were transported, but his neighbours and acquaintances, that whom he would not have prosecuted if excessive punishment tends very greathe had not previously ascertained that ly to the production of crime ; that he the connexion of the printing-office knows many persons who have been with the dwelling-house was not such great sufferers by thefts in shops and as to make the act a capital offence. dwelling-houses, and who declare, that

Mr Richard Martin, a member of if the punishment of such offences had the House, informed the Committee, been any thing less than death, they that the punishment of death prevent would have regarded it as highly cried prosecutions in Ireland for horse, minal in themselves to have forborde cattle, and sheep-stealing, for private. prosecution, which they had felt themly stealing in dwelling-houses and selves compelled to abstain from in shops, and in general for all larcenies every instance on account of the puwithout violence. Though the exten. nishment, and must continue to act on sive estate, of which he is proprietor, the same principle of forbearance till be almost laid waste by sheep-stealing, there was an amendment in the law. he has been prevented from prosecu. He also informed the Committee, that ting by the punishment of death. If from his knowledge of a great variety

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