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passed. This Act was confined to England, and no similar Act was afterwards passed relating to Ireland.
In 1832, the 2 Will. 4, c. 34, passed, which consolidated and amended the law relating to coin in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
This is a brief account of the Criminal Acts that were passed between the time when Sir R. Peel commenced his labours, and the appointment of the first Criminal Law Commissioners.
On the 23rd July, 1833, a Commission was issued, whereby Messrs. Starkie, Ker, Wightman, Amos, and Austin, were appointed Commissioners "to digest into one. statute all the statutes and enactments touching crimes, and the trial and punishment thereof, and also to digest into one other statute all the provisions of the common or unwritten law touching the same, and to inquire and report how far it may be expedient to combine both these statutes into one body of Criminal Law, repealing all other statutory provisions, or how far it may be expedient to pass into a law the first-mentioned only of the said statutes, and generally to inquire and report how far it may be expedient to consolidate the other branches of the existing statute law, or any of them."
It may be well to observe in passing, that this Commission assumed that all indictable offences might properly be included in a single statute, and that it originated the attempts to reduce the unwritten law into a statute. As to the latter, the Commissioners were to report whether it was expedient or not; but as to the former, they seem to have had no discretion, but were to include all statutory indictable offences in one Act. It is plain that this was equivalent to declaring that the course which had been adopted by Sir R. Peel was erroneous; for that course had been to pass single Acts relating to one subject-matter, and not confined to indictable offences only, but including summary offences and other matters. It may well be doubted whether this Commission were not the origin of
much delay, by causing an attempt to be made to consolidate and codify the whole criminal law at once; and it may be, that the result of the Commission would have been very different if the Commissioners had been directed to prepare a single statute on one subject in the first instance, as the consideration of that statute would probably soon have brought the question to some determination or other.
On the 27th October, 1836, a second Commission issued, for precisely the same purposes, and to the same Commissioners, except Mr. Austin, for whom Mr. Jardine was substituted.
On the 26th October, 1837, a third Commission for the same purposes, and to the same Commissioners, was issued, in consequence of the former Commission having expired on the death of William IV.
On the 22nd February, 1845, a fourth Commission issued to Sir E. Ryan, Messrs. Starkie, R. V. Richards, Ker, and Amos, to complete a report on criminal procedure then preparing, and to consider the previous "Reports, and the alterations therein suggested, and the expediency of consolidating into one or more statute or statutes, agreeably to the digests contained in such reports, or with any, and what, alterations and additions, the whole, or any part or parts, of the Criminal Law, as well written as unwritten, and for preparing a draft of a bill, or bills, for that purpose."
Under the earlier Commissions eight reports were made. Under the last Commission five more; and in a report made the 30th of March, 1848, there was added a draft of a bill containing "An entire Digest of the written and unwritten Law relating to the Definition of Crimes and Punishments."
On the 6th of June, 1848, Lord Brougham introduced into the House of Lords the bill so prepared by the Criminal Law Commissioners, but it was not proceeded with.
On the 13th July, 1849, the Commissioners made a report on Procedure, and this was their last work.
From the time when Sir R. Peel began the consolidation of the Criminal Law till the issuing of the first Commission, there had been a succession of Acts relating to that subject passed almost every year; but after the Commissioners began their labours this course of legislation ceased, no doubt in order to await the results of their investigations. However, during the continuance of these Commissions, sundry Acts relating to criminal matters were passed, most of which either owed their origin to, or were prepared by, the Commissioners. Of these, the Prisoners' Counsel Act, 6 & 7 Will. 4, c. 114, may be entitled to the highest place; then there were the six Victoria statutes, 1 Vict. c. 85, relating to offences against the person; 1 Vict. c 85, relating to burglary; 1 Vict. c. 87, relating to robbery; 1 Vict. c. 88, relating to piracy; 1 Vict. c, 89, relating to arson; and 1 Vict. c. 90, relating to the punishment of sundry offences; and, perhaps, some others.
In 1850, Lord Campbell, then C. J. of the Queen's Bench, placed in my hands a bill, which ultimately became the 14 & 15 Vict. c. 100. This bill originated with the Home Office, and contained, when I received it, some halfdozen clauses; I made many alterations in these clauses and added many others, and the bill passed the House of Lords; but, in a Committee of the whole House of Commons, it was so completely spoilt, that I recommended that it should be withdrawn, and that course was adopted. The bill was reconsidered, amended, and introduced the next session, and passed, after having gone through a Select Committee in the House of Commons.
In the same session (1851) the 14 & 15 Vict. c. 19, passed. By Lord Campbell's desire, I had obtained the original of this bill from the Home Office. I re-wrote it, and added many clauses to it. This Act was framed to
meet particular offences, which were prevalent at the time it passed.
In the autumn of 1852, Mr. Lonsdale and myself were directed by Lord St. Leonards, then Chancellor, to prepare bills for the codification of the Criminal Law. The directions we received were specific. We were directed to prepare each bill from the Reports of the Criminal Law Commissioners, and each bill was to incorporate both the Statute and Common Law relating to the offences contained in it. The duty imposed on us was to reconsider the clauses framed by the Criminal Law Commissioners, and to amend every defect which we discovered in them, and to make the bills as perfect as we could. We were directed to prepare the Offences against the Person Bill in the first instance. From first to last, it never fell to my lot to be consulted in any way as to the course to be adopted in framing the bills, or the order in which they should be prepared.
According to these instructions, the Offences against the Person Bill was prepared, and afterwards introduced by Lord St. Leonards, and referred to a Select Committee, consisting of Lords Lyndhurst, Brougham, Campbell, Cranworth, Truro, Overstone, Wrottesley, and some other noble Lords, with Lord St. Leonards in the chair. That Committee sat eleven mornings on that bill, and had not completed their labours on it when Parliament separated in the summer of 1853. They had, however, gone through the bill once; and although they had postponed sundry clauses for further consideration, they had fully considered and approved of sundry amendments of the law which had been introduced in the bill, and had disapproved of a schedule containing a class of punishments, which were referred to by a number at the end of each clause, and had directed the punishments to be placed at the end of each clause in the usual manner.
In the early part of 1853, Lord Derby's government had gone out, and Lord Cranworth had succeeded Lord
St. Leonards as Chancellor; and he had directed Mr. Lonsdale and myself to proceed with the preparation of bills upon the same principle as Lord St. Leonards had laid down; and, accordingly, we had prepared a Larceny Bill in the spring of that year.
At the last meeting of the Lords' Committee in the summer of 1853, the Committee intimated that the course adopted should be proceeded with as expeditiously as possible, and Lord Campbell wished the whole code to be prepared before the next meeting of Parliament; accordingly bills for burglary, malicious injuries, forgery, piracy, coin, public peace, and trade and commerce, were prepared by Mr. Lonsdale and myself before February, 1854. In preparing all these bills, the Reports of the Criminal Law Commissioners were constantly referred to, and every amendment suggested in those reports which appeared practical and beneficial was inserted in these bills. And I cannot help observing in passing, that the Reports of the Criminal Law Commissioners contain a vast mass of most valuable information, together with many observations on the different parts of the Criminal Law, which are well deserving of consideration by any one who may turn his attention to the improvement of that branch of the law.
In the autumn of 1853, copies of the Offences against the Person Bill and the Larceny Bill were sent to the Judges, and on the 9th of February, 1854, their answers were ordered by the House of Lords to be printed. On the 7th of March following, the replies of Mr. Lonsdale and myself were published, and were afterwards ordered by the House of Lords to be printed. It would be quite beside the purpose of this preface to enter into any consideration of any of the points discussed in those papers. It is enough to say that the bills of 1853, and those prepared afterwards, were not introduced in 1854, and the attempt to codify the Criminal Law was abandoned.
To my mind it is plain that a code of the Criminal Law,