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dar exhibiting an increase in the annual average of committals of 48 per cent, this cause leaves 29 per cent unaccounted for. · Crimes, however, do not of necessity bear a direct proportion to committals; for a quickening impulse was lately given to prosecutions by an enhanced rate of allowance for the expenses. The arresting officer, and all the witnesses, are now liberally paid so much a-day for their attendance at the sessions, which possibly may last a fortnight; and the officer may even ingratiate himself with his fraternity by multiplying witnesses. Dogberry hands the stolen watch to Verges, and he to Oatcake; and the three-orfour-deep officers, all coming to trace and identify the property, receive the like liberal compensation. Without here dwelling on the two-fold tendency of this practice to increase crime,-first, by making it the officer's interest rather to see a starving man steal a loaf from a baker's shop, than warn him off the premises ; 'and secondly, from the streets being left unwatched, while the preventives attend the trial,- we find in it a natural explanation why many offences, which would formerly have been left unpunished, should now be brought to light.
The inference of crimes from committals is subject to another deduction, from the allowance of costs, formerly granted to felonies only, being now extended to misdemeanours of a lower degree. Hence, every person who has a squabble with a neighbour. rushes before the Grand Jyry with a bill of indictment, hartzuen
prosedute at the public expense. The evidence of Mr Serjeant Pell (whose attention to this interesting subject does him the highest honour,) shows other causes for the increase of committals.'
I find in the two gaols for the county of Middlesex, one of which is called the New Gaol, the other the House of Correction, that in the year 1827, up to the 25th of March 1828, there have been committed to the gaol 3306 persons. Those 3306 persons are made up in this way: There have been committed for not being able to find sureties until the Sessions, comprising cases of assault, 2105 persons. That was in the year 1827. The same year for sureties for good behaviour, 571; and for sureties of the peace, 182.
The first 2105 were committed for trial. They are stated in the return here as being for sureties until the Sessions, and they would be (when the Sessions came) discharged of course, either by the verdict of the Jury, or from there being no prosecution. Then in the present year, up to the 25th of March, there have been committed for sureties to keep the peace until the Sessions, 367; for good behaviour, 56 ; for suretiés for the peace, 25; making, for the last year, and up to the 25th of March this year, 3306 persons. I naturally asked myself how that could be, and upon inquiry, found that the greater part of them were for Assaults, until the Sessions. Undoubtedly, a good deal, as the
Committee must know, must depend upon the discretion of the magis. trates ; such as the case of a man who comes with an idle complaint of an assault, which, if it went on to trial, no prudent man, sitting as a judge, would do more than fine the man 6d., and discharge him. But if a case of that description is brought before a magistrate, he is bound to require bail, and if the man has no bail, which probably is the case in a majority of instances, the gaol is overflowing, and it is in my judgement a disgrace to the country, to see the gaol full of persons of this description. Now, there is another class of instances, which is still stronger, and which, if the Committee would permit me, I would, as shortly as I can, state to them the exceeding impolicy as well as illegality of it. They are persons committed in the year 1827; I take that year only to give the instance; they amount to 571, and they are described in the list which has been returned to me by the gaoler, as persons confined because they can find no sureties for good behaviour, not because they have menaced any person, which would require sureties to keep the peace.
No precise conclusion, we admit, can be drawn from these' premises ; but they greatly weaken the proof of the increase of crime, and leave us indeed very doubtful of the fact.
These must not be censured as idle speculations; since they may throw light on the practical question, how the amount of crime-certainly always greater than it ought to be-can be reduced ? In the first place, then, we say, let all the incentives to it, which are supplied by the actual administration of the laws, be carefully done away. Of the most malignant of these we have often spoken,-the moral contagion of our crowded gaols. The magistrates' power to commit should be materially curtailed, and his disposition to do so watched with the utmost jealousy. Above all, especial care should be taken that the period of imprisonment, before trial, do not exceed what would be awarded by a prudent judge upon conviction.
Sir John Hawkins, himself a police magistrate, takes some whimsical opportunity (either in his Life of Dr Johnson, or in his History of Music,) of cataloguing the chances of escape, which our law provides for every guilty person. He makes the number thirteen, consisting principally of technical forms, by which justice was embarrassed and disfigured, till Mr Peel set about reforming the Criminal Law. Some, indeed, still survive; and as all other sources of crime are barren, when compared with Impunity to Guilt, we boldly venture to attack some of the strongholds, which will be most obstinately defended.
It is not without fear and trembling that we pronounce the word Jury, in connexion with our general argument,-a word so musical to English ears. The open trial by equals indifferently chosen, where the law is publicly laid down by a responsible judge, and the fact decided by a full hearing of the evidence on both sides, is beyond all doubt one of the best and noblest securities for all the rights of social man. We are not here bound to question or admit the superiority of that unanimous verdict, which our own criminal law does not require, but which has received the sanction of Bentham and Dumont. In cases of severe punishment, it shelters the accused with perhaps no unreasonable protection. But the generous institution here characterised corresponds in no single feature with that anomalous excrescence attached to Courts of Criminal Law in England, under the name of a Grand Jury. That is not an open, but a secret tribunal. The accused has no voice in its formation; no challenge against his worst enemy, who may possibly direct its unwitnessed deliberations. The legal points that may arise are clandestinely debated and decided, without the assistance of any known minister of the law. In their private chamber, the Grand Jurors hear the testimony on behalf of the accusation only, subject to no cross-examination or contradiction. In a spirit directly hostile to the most cherished principles of English Law, every thing takes place with closed doors, and in the absence of the party to be affected. Finally, as if to complete the contrast, the verdict need not be unanimous, or even the opinion of twothirds; for a bare majority, twelve to eleven, is sufficient either to put the party on his trial, or to stifle the most important investigation.
The books leave the duties of Grand Juries extremely indefinite. The Judge often exhorts them not to try the cases that come up stairs to them, but merely to inquire wbether there is ground for ulterior inquiry. Yet they present upon their oaths, positively, that A stole the goods of B, &c.; and Lord Somers wrote a tract to prove that they were bound to sift minutely the whole evidence, before they could be justified in returning a truc bill. The effect and use of their functions it is still more difficult to collect. Where they find the bill, they only express the opinion already adopted and acted on by the committing magistrate, after a much more satisfactory proceeding. Is not this superAuous ? If they differ from him, and, by rejecting the bill, quash the charge, they can hardly clear the suspected character, but may do irreparable injury to public justice.
Some of the witnesses summoned before the Committee, intimate, with hesitation and apologies, that in some cases a Grand Jury might be dispensed with, for the important purpose of lightening the burden of attendance both to witnesses and jurors. But the facility of escape afforded by this unnecessary stage, is a far more serious objection. The many accidents, that may conspire in favour of the criminal,--in themselves a great inconvenience-furnish an excuse for the corrupt compromises that are daily defeating justice. Witnesses are not at hand, when called; they have mistakenly conveyed the stolen property to the wrong place; they are plied with liquor, and forget all the material circumstances which they disclosed to the magistrate, but of which there is nothing to remind them, as the depositions do not find their way to the Grand Jury in their private apartment. The effect appears in the abstract set forth in p. 288 of the Appendix to this Report; the average number of escapes un. der the column 'no bills found,' and not prosecuted,' varying between 1-5th and l-10th of the whole number of committals.
In ordinary cases of theft at least, the magistrate's opinion might be deemed a legal initiative of the trial ; and even in an earlier stage, if the party arrested should expressly admit the truth of the charge before a magistrate, we ask with humility, might not his plea be recorded, and the necessity for further proof suspended ? In that case, we can conceive no good reason why the magistrate should not be empowered to pass the sentence, especially if the nature of the offence and the prisoner's character required a mild one. We can even imagine the propriety of investing him with the power of pardon, of restoring the young offender to his parents, with no other punishment than restitution and a lecture. But an accurate register of corvictions ought to be kept and circulated, and heavier consequences to be the result of repeated delinquencies.
Another encouragement of crime, by shielding it from punishment, is excessive rigour in the laws. Too many offences are still Capital, and their descriptions are incredibly vague. Hence most of the Forgeries that occur are never prosecuted. Breaking, entering, and stealing in, a dwelling house, by day or night, is a capital crime: and thus the same extreme punishment awaits him who lifts the latch of an outer door, and steals an old hat from the entry, and the most savage night burglary in a lonely house. It is capital to steal to the value of £5 in a dwelling house: yet value seems as strange an ingredient in crime, as it is a slippery subject of discussion, as well in Courts of Justice as elsewhere. The statute, which admits of being so acted upon, as this was a short while since, can do little good to the community. A boy was tried for stealing a watch of the value of L. 10 from a dwelling house, and the case was most clearly proved in all its parts; but the Jury, by finding the watch to be under the value of L.5, acquitted him of all but the simple larceny, and he was whipt and discharged. Had not the law been thus eluded by a pious perjury, that young child, for a first offence instigated by others, would have been solemnly doomed to death! He would bave
stood in Court with a band of incendiaries and murderers, condemned to the gallows, in the hearing of his agonised parents and a disgusted audience, and kept in Newgate a capital convict, perhaps for months. The very possibility of such enormous consequences is shocking to humane and religious minds, investing all culprits indiscriminately with a misty halo of compassion, and producing a general unwillingness to assist in the administration of the Law.
The removal of clogs like these, with which English justice appears to take a pleasure in obstructing the freedom of its own course, might render it needless to provide additional facilities for its procedure. We own we feel a stronger repugnance to permanent sittings for the delivery of prisons, and to the indefinite enlargement and multiplication of prisons, than perhaps we can well defend by reasoning. But we dislike the assumption that offences will come in such numbers, as to require a Session more frequently than eight times in a year ; for there is a mysterious tendency towards equalization in supply and demand of every sort. We deprecate too much familiarity with the awful apparatus of Criminal Justice: and we think with horror of the immense proportion of our countrymen, who may be drawn into the contamination of prisons. We cannot, however, refrain from expressing our favourable opinion of the proposal to keep young offenders in separate confinement.
Over the more general causes assigned for the prevalence of crime, we fear that Police can exercise but little influence; and that even Laws or Kings can cause or cure' but a very small part. Excess of population can only be kept down by prudence in the lower classes, by the decent pride of independence, by real kindness towards the dearest objects of natural affection. Employment cannot be forced; but the demand for it may be ircreased by good government, cheap and simple law, security of property, lightness of taxation, freedom of trade, every thing conducive to the general welfare. The glut of a market overstocked with labour may be thrown off by seasonable emigrations; and to the unfair competition of Irish workmen, we endeavoured to point out, in our last number, the appropriate barriers.
The greatest enemy to crime—the Education of the peoplewe found, to our astonishment, enumerated among its causes ! not indeed by the Committee, nor by more than three at most of the fifty-five witnesses whom they examined. But a respectable magistrate, who presides at the Mary-le-bone office, Mr Rawlinson, makes, at p. 57, a confession of faith on that subject :
I confess, I think the over-education of the lower class of peo