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Metropolitan Police Courts

Volume 49: debated on Wednesday 31 July 1839

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House in Committee upon the Metropolitan Police Courts Bill.

On Clause 13.

proposed that it should be altered so as to make the period of the magistrates' sitting each day like that of the Central Criminal Court, from nine to five.

objected to make it com pulsory upon the magistrates to sit at nine o'clock.

The Committee divided on the original question:—Ayes 40; Noes 8: Majority 32.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 15, which empowers any one of the magistrates to do alone any act which, by any present law or any future law, not containing an express enactment to the contrary, is or shall be directed to be done by more than one justice.

Mr. Law moved that the consideration of the Clause be postponed. It not only affected cases provided for by other parts of this bill, but would extend to cases within the scope of the Metropolis Police Bill, which had been sent up to the other House. Hon. Members on the other side of the House were very eager in their advocacy of what they called the rights of the people, but they were ready, without hesitation, to dispense with trial by jury, and to intrust the power of committing for felony to an officer who was removable at the pleasure of the Crown.

said, that the principle involved in the hon. and learned Gentleman's objection would be an argument against several important enactments, now in force, which had been introduced by Sir R. Peel.

said, that although be did not presume to put his opinion in competition with that of the right hon Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, upon any subject, yet he was bound to have an opinion of his own. He felt it his duty to state, that the least beneficial portions of the enactments of Sir Robert Peel were, in his opinion, those which related to summary jurisdiction. He would at least guard the exercise of summary jurisdiction by every check in his power. However, seeing the strength of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, and in that early and inconvenient sitting (the House met at twelve o'clock,) he felt it useless to press his objection to a division.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 19. (Every warrant for the apprehension of any person charged with any offence arising within the Metropolitan District, may be served by the constable or constables to whom the same shall be directed.) It was proposed, after the word "served," to insert the words "or executed out of the Metropolitan District."

inquired, if it was really intended to give the power to a single constable of executing a warrant in another district without its being endorsed by the magistrate of that district. [Mr. F. Maule: Certainly.] He thought it should be at least necessary for a constable of the district to accompany the metropolitan constable. This clause was, in fact, giving power to a to a public constable, created nominally for the metropolitan district, a run all over England, and the police magistrates jurisdiction all over England, powers much too extensive, and likely to lead to inconvenience, for a strange officer would not be so readily obeyed, or looked upon of so much importance, as the officer of the district in which he was known. By this clause a man might be brought up from Northumberland to a police-office in London upon a charge of assault.

would modify the clause by the omission of the words "by the constable or constables to whom the same shall be directed," leaving the clause to run thus—"by any constable or other peace officer of the county, city, or place in which the person named in the summons or warrant may be;" the consequence of which would be, that as long as the warrant was in the hands of the constable to whore it was delivered by the police magistrate here, he could execute it in any part of England. But he could not see why the magistrate's warrant should not be good throughout the country without being endorsed.

said, that the provisions of the bill, as it now stood, would not merely apply to those who sought to escape justice in really serious cases, but would apply equally to those who were accused of having committed the most trifling assaults. Even under proceedings for the most insignificant penalties—recoverable for dusting a carpet, for example, at any time or in any place forbidden by law—the individual accused would be liable to all the vexatious severity that the bill would go to inflict. A man might be brought from Carlisle to London on the most trifling charge.

contended, that under many circumstances it might be necessary, and therefore it was not unfair, that individuals should be brought considerable distances in order to advance the ends of justice. Witnesses were frequently brought great distances.

The Committee divided on the question that the words be inserted:—Ayes 36; Noes 17: Majority 19.

List of the Ayes.

Barnard, E. G.Clay, W.

Clements, Visc.Russell, Lord J.
Dalmeny, LordRutherfurd, rt. hn. A.
Donkin, Sir R. S.Sanford, E. A.
Ferguson, Sir R. A.Seale, Sir J.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir C.Seymour, Lord
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.Smith, R. V.
Grote, G.Stanley, hon. E. J.
Hawes, B.Stanley, hon. W. O.
Hobhouse, T. B.Steuart, R.
Hodges, T. L.Thornely, T.
Hoskins, K.Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Howard, P. HVigors, N. A.
Hutton, R.Wakley, T.
Morpeth, Visc.Wood, Sir M.
Norreys, Sir D. J.Wood, G. W.
O'Connell, J.
Parker, J.

TELLERS.

Pigot, D. R.Maule, F.
Rice, rt. hn. T. S.Solicitor General, The

List of the NOES.

Acland, T. D.Parker, R T.
Alsager, CaptainSheppard, T.
Bridgeman, H.Stock, Dr.
Douglas, Sir C. E.Teignmouth, Lord
Duncombe, T,Vere, Sir C, B.
Eliot, LordWilliams, W.
Euston, Earl ofWood, Colonel T.
Irton, S.

TELLERS.

Kemhle, H.Law, hon. E. C.
Lockhart, A. M.Hodgson, R.

Amendment and Clause agreed to.

On Clause 23, which enacts, that magistrates may further issue warrants for the apprehension of any person charged with any offence upon a statement on oath with- out summons.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 41 Noes 6: Majority 35.

List of the Noes.

Irton, S.Wood, Colonel T.
Lockhart, A. M.
Parker, R. T.

TELLERS.

Sheppard, T.Law, hon. C. E.
Vere, Sir C. B.Douglas, Sir C. E.

We give the Noes only on the division.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 26, giving the power of summary jurisdiction over the receivers of stolen goods,

said, that this clause would maks a very important change in the law, and objected to proceeding with it in so thin a House.

thought this clause the most valuable in the bill. If it were postponed, they could not expect a fuller attendance on any other day. A summary jurisdiction was well calculated to prevent crime by preventing the intercourse of the prisoners in gaol after committal, The duration of the imprisonment which might be inflicted was limited to three mouths, and the magistrates would have the power of committing for trial in cases of a graver description.

What was expected from this clause in abridging the time of imprisonment in cases of petty thieves and others? He might mention that the pickpockets of the metropolis were of two classes—either they were really without means of gaining an honest livelihood, and therefore took to theft as a trade, or they were young persons who were sent out by their parents to pick up as much as possible. These parties ought to be severely punished; and this would best be done, he believed, by means of transportation, for they could hardly be expected ever to do any good in this country. He did not believe that in any case these offenders were brought before a court for their first offence. If the Committee were to affirm the principle of giving discretionary power to magistrates by the former part of this clause, he should propose, that there should be a liberty of appeal from their decision in all cases which involved character and carried infamy along with them; but he would first take the sense of the Committee on the principle. He moved, therefore, to omit the words, "That if any person within the metropolitan district shall steal any chattel, money, or valuable security, or," which would have the effect of limiting the clause to cases of receivers of stolen goods.

could not vote for the clause without knowing what was to be done with the question of appeal. He thought it would be better to give the right of appeal in all cases. There would be no inconvenience in that course, for no man who was not conscious of innocence, would, after a summary conviction, go before a quarter sessions, where he might incur the risk of an increase of punishment. If a right of appeal were given, he would vote for summary jurisdiction in all cases, but otherwise he could not conscientiously do so. It was well known, that in many instances where parties were tried before one of the judges of Westminster-hall, with all the advantages of a jury, and the aid of counsel, erroneous convictions took place, and the parties had been recalled while undergoing the sentence passed on them.

Amendment negatived.

House resumed. Committee to sit again.