said, that, although he had considered it necessary a week or ten days ago to bring in a Bill on the subject of the Administration of Criminal Justice, there was so little difference between that Bill and the Bill of his noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor) that it was not his intention to press his own Bill, if his noble and learned Friend's Bill should be well received in the other House. He wished to suggest to his noble and learned Friend the propriety of giving the magistrates a greater discretion in some cases, so far as related to the acceptance of bail or the liberation of prisoners on their own recognisance. A case had recently come before Mr. Baron Alderson which strongly evinced the want of some power on the part of magistrates to discharge persons on bail charged with a certain class of criminal offences. A woman committed upon a charge of manslaughter remained in prison during seven months, including the whole of the winter, and when the assizes arrived the grand jury ignored the Bill against her. If the magistrates had had a discretionary power to allow her to go out on bail, or upon her own recognisance, this frightful injustice would not have been committed. In another case, a child twelve years old had been exposed to the contamination of a gaol for three months, having been committed to prison with her father, charged with a crime of which she could not possibly have been guilty—that of causing the death of her mother by starvation.
The noble and learned Lord concluded by moving for a return of persons committed for trial and out on bail at the Central Criminal Court in 1854, and Middlesex Sessions in the same year, with the result in each case, distinguishing those in which there was a conviction, those in which there was no Bill preferred, those in which there was no true Bill returned, and those in which the persons committed did not appear in discharge of their bail.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that he proposed to add two clauses to the Bill,
541 enabling the magistrates either to commit for trial or to take bail if, in their opinion, the circumstances should justify them in so doing, or to let parties out on their own recognisances.
§ Return ordered to be laid before the House.