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Speech respecting the Reform Bill - - -
A LETTER TO THE ELECTORs UPON THE CATHOLIC
QUESTION - T - - - -
A SERMON ON THE RULES OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY
Stockton on the Practice of not allowing Counsel for Prisoners accused of Felony, 8vo. London, 1826.
ON the sixth of April, 1824, Mr. George Lamb (a gentleman who is always the advocate of whatever is honest and liberal) presented the following petition from several jurymen in the habit of serving on juries at the Old Bailey: — ‘That your petitioners, fully sensible of the invaluable privilege of Jury trials, and desirous of seeing them as complete as human institutions will admit, feel it their duty to draw the attention of the House to the restrictions imposed on the prisoner's consel, which, they humbly conceive, have strong claims to a legislative remedy. With every disposition to decide justly, the petitioners have found, by experience, in the course of their attendances as jurymen in the Old Bailey, that the opening statements for the prosecution too frequently leave an impression more unfavourable to the prisoner at the bar, than the evidence of itself could have produced; and it has always sounded harsh to the petitioners to hear it announced from the bench, that the counsel, to whom the prisoner has committed his defence, cannot be permitted to address the jury in his behalf, nor reply to the charges which have, or have not, been substantiated by the witnesses. The petitioners have felt their situation peculiarly painful and embarrassing when the prisoner's faculties, perhaps surprised by such an intimation, are too much absorbed in the difficulties of his unhappy circumstances to admit of an effort towards his own justification, against the statements of the prosecutor’s counsel, often unin
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tentionally aggravated through zeal or misconception; and it is purely with a view to the attainment of impartial justice, that the petitioners humbly submit to the serious consideration of the House the expediency of allowing every accused person the full benefit of counsel, as in cases of misdemeanour, and according to the practice of the civil courts.'
With the opinions so sensibly and properly expressed by these jurymen, we most cordially agree. We have before touched incidentally on this subject; but shall now give to it a more direct and fuller examination. We look upon it as a very great blot in our over-praised criminal code; and no effort of ours shall be wanting, from time to time, for its removal.
We have now the benefit of discussing these subjects under the government of a Home Secretary of State, whom we may (we believe) fairly call a wise, honest, and high-principled man—as he appears to us, without wishing for innovation, or having any itch for it, not to be afraid of innovation*, when it is gradual and well considered. He is, indeed, almost the only person we remember in his station, who has not considered sound sense to consist in the rejection of every improvement, and loyalty to be proved by the defence of every accidental, imperfect, or superannuated institution.
If this petition of jurymen be a real bond fide petition, not the result of solicitation—and we have no reason to doubt it—it is a warning which the Legislature cannot neglect, if it mean to avoid the disgrace of seeing the lower and middle orders of mankind making laws for themselves, which the Government is at length compelled to adopt as measures of their own, The Judges and the Parliament would have gone on to this day, hanging, by wholesale, for the forgeries of bank notes, if juries had not become weary of the continual butchery, and resolved to acquit. The proper execution of laws
* We must always except the Catholic question. Mr. Peel's opinions on this subject (giving him credit for sincerity) have always been a subject of real surprise to us. It must surely be some mistake between the Right Honourable Gentleman and his chaplain They have been travelling together, and some of the parson's motions have been put up in Mr. Peel's head by mistake. We yet hope he will return them to their rightful owner.