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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. Numere 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 pupenal 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 redgrounds of verdicts, they may often dered the law on that subject ineffica. be 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 pe. whom malefactors are most commonly nalties ; even a great pecuniary penalty found, the judges are, by their sta- has been found so favourable to imputions and duties, placed at a great dis- nity, that fraudulent traders prefer it tance.
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 which 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 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. of men.
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 tal, 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 magi. preventing 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- mon 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.
lings?" Mr Newman, late keeper of New- Mr Alderman Wood, a member of gate, and connected with the admini- 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, bas 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 feel. to prosecute would be greatly abated. ing 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 transvalue 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 bis 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 Bia merchant and shoe-manufacturer, shopsgate-street, ironmonger, Mr Bastated 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 printing-office, 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 forborne 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 of cases, he was convinced the more the traders of London, though, in the lenient punishment would more effec- opinion of this witness, there is scarcely tually prevent forgery.
a shopkeeper from Cornhill to CharingMr Collins and Mr Crowther, con- cross who does not suffer from shopsiderable and very respectable traders lifting. in Westminster, gave evidence which Mr Jacob, who has lately travelled the Committee consider as of pecu. through England on business, and Mr liar value. Mr Collins has suffered Jennings, for some time shopkeeper both from larcenies and forgeries, and near Bridgewater, gave some evidence was restrained by the state of the pe- tending to shew that the general sennal law from bringing the offenders timents of traders in the country were, to justice, which he would otherwise on capital punishments, the same which have taken the pains to do. He the Committee had such ample reason thinks that the laws of God do not to consider as the prevalent opinion permit life to be taken away for mere of the same valuable class of persons offences against property; and that in the metropolis. Mr Jennings obamong his friends, many of whom are served, that these opinions prevailed traders in London and Westminster, among farmers as well as shopkeepers, he does not know a single exception and that the capital punishment prefrom concurrence in such sentiments. vented prosecutions for horse, cattle, Mr Crowther stated, that no porter and sheep-stealing, as well as from had left their establishment for twen- privately stealing in shops and dwellty years for any other cause than ing-houses, and in constructive burtheft ; that a prosecution had taken glaries. place in one instance, and terminated Mr Joseph Harmer, who has pracin conviction and condemnation. “Thetised for twenty years as a solicitor at pain and anxiety," he adds, “occa- the Old Bailey, gave a testimony which sioned by that event, until we obtain- the Committee cannot but recommend ed for him the royal mercy, none can to the most serious consideration of describe but ourselves ; which made the House. He informed the Comus resolve never to prosecute again for mittee, that he knew many instances a similar offence." The general opi- of persons injured by larcenies and nion of the traders in London and forgeries, declining to prosecute on Westminster is the same with his own. account of the punishment; that the He declared, that if he received a same consideration strongly disinclines forged bank note, he should be pre many persons to serve as jurors at the vented from prosecution by the pu- Old Bailey, and induces them to bribe nishment of death, and that if the the summoning officer not to summon punishment were less than death, he them; and that he has seen juries, inshould undoubtedly consider it as his fuenced, as he believes, by the seve. absolute duty to bring the offender to rity of the punishment in numerous justice. He believes that nine trades. capital cases, but especially in formen out of ten agree with him. geries, give verdicts of acquittal where
Mr Stephen Curtis, a leather-factor the proofs of the prisoner's guilt were in London, stated several cases of for- perfectly clear. Old professed thieves, gery, fraudulent bankruptcy, and lar- aware of the compassionate feelings of ceny, where the persons injured de- juries, are, he says, desirous of being clined to prosecute, from apprehen- prosecuted on capital indictments rasions that the offenders might suffer ther than otherwise, death; this is the general opinion of In addition to the general evidence above stated, to notorious facts, and to prosecute. Mr Fryexplicitly stated, to obvious conclusions of reason, the what is indeed implied in the evidence Committee have to state the testimony of the preceding witnesses, that as a of some witnesses of peculiar weight, banker, he should consider his proon forgery. Mr John Smith, a mem- perty as much more secure if the pu. ber of the House, and banker in Lon. nishment of forgery were mitigated to don, stated, that he knew instances such a degree that the law against where prosecutions for private for that offence would be generally engeries were relinquished on account of forced ; in nine cases out of ten of forthe punishment, and had no doubt that gery which he has known, there has if the punishment was less, prosecu- been an indisposition to prosecute. tion would have taken place.
Dr Lushington declared that he Mr Barnett, also a member of the knew, that in the minds of many perHouse, and a banker in London, is of sons there is a strong indisposition to opinion, that capital punishment goes prosecute, on account of the severity extremely to discourage prosecutions of the punishment ; and that he had in forgery; he knows many instances heard from the mouths of prosecutors of this ; scarcely a year passed with themselves, who have prosecuted for out something of the kind; he is of capital offences, where there was a opinion that the majority of private danger of the persons being executed, forgeries pass unpunished, on account the greatest regret that they had so of the severity of the punishment. done ; and many times they have ex. The punishment of death tends, in his pressed a wish, that they had been opinion, to prevent prosecution, and able to have foreseen the consequences, to increase the crime.
they would never have resorted to the Mr J. F. Forster, a Russia mer. laws. chant, and Mr E. Forster, a banker Mr Charles Attwood, a manufacin London, gave some remarkable ex- turer of window glass at Newcastle, amples of the repugnance to prose. and a seller of window glass in Loncute in forgery. In one, by the con- don, had observed a very considerable nivance of the prosecutor, a person indisposition to prosecute in capital who was introduced to the magistrate cases among the traders of London. as a friend of the prisoner's, desired generally; and conceives that this reto see the forged cheque, snatched it luctance would abate, if the capital away, and threw it into the fire ;-a punishment were mitigated to somemode of avoiding prosecution which, thing less than death. from other parts of the evidence, does Mr Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, a broker not seem to be uncommon.
to the Bank, and to merchants, whose ther, a forgery to the large amount of experience in the transactions of back. 15001. where the forger and the ut- ers is very extensive, entertains no terer were both in custody, the pro- doubt that the punishment of death secution was relinquished merely be. has a tendency generally to prevent cause the offence was capital.
prosecution, and thinks that evidence Mr Fry, a banker
in London, men- to that effect might be discovered in tioned four cases of prosecution for hundreds of instances. forgery which were prevented by the Mr Daniel Gurney, a banker in the capital punishment, in one of which county of Norfolk, declared his own the party injured swallowed the forged reluctance, and had observed a similar note, that he might not be compelled reluctance among many bankers and