§ MR. EWART
rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it was the intention of Government to institute a court of criminal appeal, or adopt 528 any similar remedial measures in cases where persons have been convicted and sentenced, and afterwards discovered to be innocent? A case had recently occurred where a young woman named Mary Ann Turford had been found guilty of stealing a watch, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment, and afterwards her innocence was clearly established, and another person was convicted on his own confession of the felony. A person of the name of Thomas Whalley was sentenced at the Stafford assizes to transportation for fifteen years, and after suffering eight months' imprisonment he was proved to be innocent, and was forthwith discharged. These and similar cases clearly showed that some tribunal of appeal ought to be instituted, where the suffering parties might obtain redress. The late Sir S. Romilly brought in a Bill upon the subject, and one of its provisions was to give compensation to the persons injured. That measure, however, did not become law. In civil cases there were courts of appeal. It was true that an error in the indictment might be made the subject of argument before the Judges; but where the evidence as to the offence was alone in question, there no appeal lay, and the verdict of the jury was conclusive. About twelve years ago he endeavoured to legislate upon this subject, but he did not meet with sufficient support to encourage him to proceed. Since then Sir Fitzroy Kelly brought in a Bill on the same subject; but circumstances prevented his going on with it, and he was now, unfortunately, not a Member of the House. In his opinion, no one could undertake the measure so satisfactorily as the Government; he, therefore, begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government intended to introduce a Bill upon the subject?
§ SIR G. GREY
did not consider it a very convenient mode to bring such an important subject forward in the shape of a question. Were he to enter upon its discussion, a very considerable portion of time would necessarily be occupied. With regard to all the cases mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, his opinion was, that if the measure of Sir Fitzroy Kelly had been passed, it would not have afforded a remedy in any of those cases more speedily than had been rendered by the system that was at present practised. The hon. Gentleman, however, very much underrated the difficulties attending the establishment of a criminal court of appeal. Sir Fitzroy Kelly brought in his Bill in the early part of the 529 Session of 1844; he afterwards became Solicitor General, and from that time up to the summer of 1847 he did not attempt to revive the measure. With regard to the case of Mary Ann Turford, who was convicted of stealing a watch, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment—if there had been a criminal court of appeal, the proceedings necessary to be taken before she could have obtained the benefit of that appeal, would have occupied nearly the whole period over which her term of imprisonment ran. But what was it that actually took place? The Recorder wrote to him (Sir G. Grey) stating that a man named Ward had been convicted of the very same offence, and that in his opinion Mary Ann Turford was innocent. On that very day an order for her discharge was issued. Now, it would have been impossible for so speedy a remedy to have been obtained from a criminal court of appeal. In the case of Thomas Whalley, who had been tried at the Stafford assizes, great negligence had been imputed to him. It was alleged that Whalley's was a clear case of innocence; and yet he had suffered eight months' imprisonment under an unjust sentence. What was the fact? He was convicted in March; and, for three months after, his case never came under his (Sir G. Grey's) notice. On the 11th of June a petition was addressed to him (Sir G. Grey), calling his attention to the case. It contained statements of a very important character, and numerous documents accompanied the petition. The usual course was taken in this case by the Home Office as in all others. He read the papers, and having received them on the 11th he returned them on the 16th to Mr. Serjeant Gaselee, who tried the prisoner. In taking this course he did that which had always been done by his predecessors in the same department; not relying simply on the statement on the part of the prisoner, the documents were first forwarded to the judge who presided at the trial, and who was therefore enabled to form a much more satisfactory opinion upon the case than any one else. A very considerable time elapsed before Mr. Serjeant Gaselee made his report. In August he was reminded of the circumstance, and in reply he stated that he had been requested by the prisoner's counsel to delay sending in his report, as further documents would be furnished. Until those documents were furnished, Mr. Serjeant Gaselee expressed his entire concurrence in the verdict of the jury. Other documents were, however, 530 produced, and some evidence as to the previous character of the husband of the prosecutrix having been brought forward, he (Sir G. Grey) then felt it his duty to send the papers to one of the Barons of the Court of Exchequer, who had some cognisance of the case, and request his opinion. He (Sir G. Grey), at length, on the 9th of October, received from the learned Baron and from Mr. Serjeant Gaselee a report, in which they stated, that after a careful consideration of the case, they were satisfied that the verdict was an erroneous one, and that the prisoner ought to be discharged, and he was immediately discharged accordingly. Some remarks had been made with reference to the case of Charles Butler, who was discharged after undergoing a portion of his sentence. That person was discharged solely on a medical certificate stating that further confinement would endanger his life. He was convicted of what was supposed to be a criminal offence, but which turned out to be a civil one. With regard to affording compensation to persons under these circumstances, it was quite true that three persons were sent out to Van Diemen's Land under sentence of transportation for a crime which it was afterwards proved they did not commit, and that they were brought home free of expense, and had 10l. each given to them. As to the general question, he did not say that there were not cases in which such a court of appeal might exorcise a useful jurisdiction. He could assure his hon. Friend that he should be very thankful to get rid of such a duty as his office now devolved upon him.
§ Subject at an end.