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Criminal Lunacy

Volume 155: debated on Thursday 15 June 1922

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asked the Home Secretary if his attention has been drawn to the reported statement of Mr. Justice Avory, when charging the grand jury at Devon Assizes, that ho very much doubted if the recrudescence of crime experienced after the War would continue to abate if the infliction of penalties of the Law is to be left to the discretion of experts in Harley Street; and whether, seeing that such a statement indicates the need of clearer definition of the Law relating to criminal lunacy, it is proposed to introduce legislation to remove any ground of judicial misunderstanding or divergence of judicial opinion?

I have seen a newspaper report of the learned Judge's remarks. As regards the latter part of the question, the matter is one for careful consideration, but I am not prepared at present to say that legislation is either necessary or desirable.

Is there at present any legal instrument or discipline that would prevent such a miscarriage as occurred in this case?

I am afraid that I do not follow the question. There is no suggestion that the learned Judge misdirected the jury.

There is a divergence of opinion between the view expressed by Sir Horace Avory and the view expressed in this House a few days ago, and in view of that divergence of opinion I ask the question.

Will the Home Secretary consult the Leader of the House as to what opportunity will be given to the House to discuss this matter, not merely in relation to the particular case, but on the general question of principle involved? Is not the Home Secretary aware, as we are, that the matter is exciting very general public interest, and that a Debate in this House more on the general principle than on the particular case would do much to allay public anxiety?

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the opinion of Sir Maurice Craig, urging that there should be an inquiry by the doctors before a judge before the criminal trial is taken, so that there may be no question afterwards of the doctors reversing the opinion of the jury?