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part of them is old, yet there are numerous new provisions and alterations, and these are in many cases so mixed up with the old enactments, that nothing but a comparison of the present with the former enactments can enable any one to discover what is new and what alterations have been made. It is obvious, therefore, that the present Acts call for such a publication as this much more strongly than the former.
Nor can it be doubted, that the duty to publish it falls peculiarly to my lot. No one has had the same, or indeed anything like the same, means of acquiring that information, which, if not absolutely necessary, is certainly very useful, for writing such a work. True it is, that by a very careful comparison of these Acts with the old Acts, both English and Irish, the alterations in the law may possibly be discovered and pointed out; but the reasons for those alterations must, in almost every instance, be the mere inferences drawn from the alterations themselves, when compared with the former enactments. When these Acts shall come into operation, nine years will have passed since I first was called upon to assist in the consolidation of the Criminal Law; and from that time down to their passing, whenever the matter has been taken in hand, whether by the different Ministries that have existed during that period, or by the Statute Law Commission, the labouring oar has fallen to my share, and though several other barristers have assisted in the work, yet their assistance has been for comparatively short periods, and generally as to part only of the present Acts. In fact, I alone have had the fortune to be engaged continuously with these Acts from their first beginning till they passed. Nor is it irrelevant to this point, that many of the amendments and alterations contained in them originated with myself.
Having then determined on such a publication, the next question was, what were to be the limits of the work. Now it appeared to me that these limits might well be determined by the reasons which led to its publication, and
accordingly I have confined myself, as a general rule, to pointing out the alterations in the law, and the reasons for them.
The course I have adopted is as follows:-The Acts have been accurately printed from the statutes themselves; and to each section a note is appended. If the enactment be old and unaltered, the note simply states the enactment or enactments from which that section is taken. In many cases the part of the enactment creating the offence has continued unaltered till the present time, whilst the part assigning the punishment has been altered, in some cases several times over, by subsequent Acts; in such cases, generally the original enactment creating the offence has alone been referred to, as it seemed clear that that can alone be of any use with reference to any question that may arise on the present Acts; for the various enactments as to the punishments could have thrown no light on these Acts, and to have enumerated each Act altering the punishments in the note to each section, would have added very considerably to the size of the work, without producing any corresponding advantage.
Where a clause is new, either in England or Ireland, this is pointed out.
Where a clause or part of a clause is altogether new, it is printed in italics, and the note explains the reason for it, unless indeed the reason be too plain to need any explanation. In some few instances mere verbal changes made for the sake of uniformity in the wording of a clause, without altering the sense, have not been printed in italics.
Where any part of any old enactment is omitted or transposed, the note points this out, and assigns the reason for it.
In a few instances where it has seemed that some doubt, which existed on some old enactment, might be removed, or some other useful object might be attained by deviating
from the proposed limits of the work, I have ventured to do so.
Generally, I have not noticed any alteration made in the punishments, whether of indictable or summary offences; as the awarding of the punishments by the Acts is simply arbitrary, and the alterations made in them can afford no assistance in the interpretation of any part of these Acts.
This course has been adopted as the best calculated to render this little work generally useful, and especially so to Judges, Chairmen of Quarter Sessions, and all those who may be suddenly called upon to put a construction on the new portions of these Acts; and for like reasons where the present enactments render decisions on the former Acts, either no longer applicable, or no longer binding authorities, those cases have been mentioned.
I have also prefixed a chapter on the general construction of the Acts, as it occurred to me that the observations contained in it might in some cases prove useful.
I have assumed that the persons who will consult this work either know the previously existing law, or have access to books wherein it may be found, and the observations are made in order to enable them at once to discover whether any, and, if so, what, alteration has been made in the law.
As far then as may concern the practical working of these Acts, it is hoped that sufficient may have been effected by the notes appended to the different sections, and the chapter on the general construction of the Acts; but it appears to be especially incumbent upon me to go much further, and to trace these Acts from their origin, and to describe the different stages through which they have passed, in order that it may be clearly understood not only under what circumstances they have passed, but how it happens that they have passed in their present form; and as I cannot accomplish this task without touching upon the questions of the codification of the law whether
written or unwritten, the consolidation of the statutes and the most expedient course to be adopted in framing Acts of Parliament, I shall devote some few observations to each of these subjects, and I am the rather induced to do so, because it so happens that in the connection I have had with the Criminal Bills, and in the examination which I made of a very considerable number of bills relating to many different subjects whilst I was a Member of the Statute Law Commission, many things were brought to my notice which bear very strongly on those subjects, and which would never have occurred to my mind unless I had been so engaged, and these things may very possibly have escaped the notice of others as well as myself.
Before the year 1826, the Criminal Law of England was scattered over the statute book, in many different Acts, and was in a very unsatisfactory state in many respects; but in that year the late Sir Robert Peel commenced a series of Acts, which consolidated and amended the then existing law.
The first of these Acts was the 7 Geo. 4, c. 64, which passed on the 26th May, 1826. This Act provided for the examination, commitment or bailment of persons charged with felonies and misdemeanors before Justices; the taking depositions by justices and coroners; the trial of accessories to felonies; the trial of offences committed on the boundaries of counties or in a journey; the mode of describing the property of partners, &c., in indictments; the costs of prosecutions; and rewards to persons who had been active in the apprehension of certain offenders. Consequently it was an Act relating to procedure only.
In 1827 four other Acts were passed. The 7 & 8 Geo. 4, c. 28, provided for the effect of pleading "not guilty;" the Court entering that plea where a prisoner refused to plead; challenges beyond the legal number; pleading attainders of crimes; the jury not inquiring of the prisoner's lands; the abolition of clergy; what felonies only
should be capital; the punishment of felonies for which no particular punishment was provided; the sentencing a prisoner already convicted of another felony; the punishment, &c., of felony after a previous conviction of felony; admiralty offences; the effect of pardons, and the general rule for the interpretation of all criminal statutes.
The 7 & 8 Geo. 4, c. 29, relating to larceny and other cognate offences, which was a similar Act to the present Larceny Act.
The 7 & 8 Geo. 4, c. 30, relating to malicious injuries to property, which was a similar Act to the present Malicious Injuries Act.
The 7 & 8 Geo. 4, c. 31, which consolidated and amended the law relating to remedies against the hundred.
In 1828, the 9 Geo. 4, c. 31, relating to offences against the person passed. This Act was similar to the present Offences against the Person Act.
The whole of the preceding Acts, except a few clauses, related to offences committed in England only, or on the high seas.
In the same year were passed the 9 Geo. 4, c. 54, which embodied many of the provisions of the 7 Geo. 4, c. 64, and 7 & 8 Geo. 4, c. 28, and applied them to Ireland; the 9 Geo. 4, c. 55, which embodied the provisions of the Larceny Act, 7 & 8 Geo. 4, c. 29, and applied them to Ireland, and the 9 Geo. 4, c. 56, which embodied the provisions of the Malicious Injuries Act, 7 & 8 Geo. 4, c. 30, and applied them to Ireland.
In 1829, the 10 Geo. 4, c. 34, passed, which embodied the provisions of the Offences against the Person Act, 9 Geo. 4, c. 31, and extended them to Ireland.
Each of these Irish Acts contained amendments or alterations of the clauses in the English Acts, and also additional clauses, which were adapted to the then existing state of crime in Ireland.
In 1830, the 1 Will. 4, c. 66, relating to forgery, was