Welsh Newspapers

Search 15 million Welsh newspaper articles

Hide Articles List

9 articles on this Page

|3 jrtrr. "......--"'--'-'""".,'.,


-U."uUin» IriitfiltfjTUfp.|



SUMMAllY CONVfCTIOXS. Most of our readers will coincide in the opinion ex- pressed by Mr. Serjeant Adams, assistant judge, against any extension of the power of convicting summarily. The learned judge furnished many and weighty arguments, drawn from his long experience as a criminal judge, in support of his views, any one of which, however, is with us conclusive. Summary conviction is only tolerable ifi a free country upon the ground of necessity; and is, more- over, entirely opposed to the genius of the English law. Much as the gentlemen of the grand jury, who had been drugged from their several avocations at their great per- sonal inconvenience, command our sympathy, we cannot admit that the time and attention bestowed upon the few cases submitted to them were wasted. The declara- tion of the barons against changing the laws ofUnglaud. ought to be especially preserved against any change which should deprive the country of its great bulwark of public liberty-thegrand and petty jury. The arbitrationhy jury, in conjunction with a free press, afford the most ample guarantee for the preservation of our liberties. We do not wish to disguise our opinion, that the legislature, on the ground of convenience, has extended the power of summarily convicting offenders far beyond its proper boundaries. Many difficulties and delays, no doubt, were constantly arising in the way of a complete vindication of the law; but they were, as our srreat legal comment- ator has said, the price paid for the degree of public freedom that distinguishes the institutions of this country. The following passage of Montesquieu, cited by Black- stone, will serve to illustrate our view on this subject:- In Turkey, where little regard is shown to the lives or fortunes of the subject, all causes are quickly decided the Basha, on a summary hearing, orders which party he pleases to be bastinadoed, and then sends them about their business. But in free states the trouble, expense, and delays of judicial proceedings are the price that every subject pays for his liberty and in all govern- ments," he adds, the formalities of laws increase in proportion to the value which is set on the honour, the fortune, the liberty, and life of the subject." It is almost superfluous to add anything to the weight of this eloquent passage; but we cannot forbear directing the reader's attention to the following observations of Mr. Serjeant Adams, which appear to us conclusive against the princi- pie of summary conviction. The learned judge, in answer to the regret expressed by the grand jury, that the trival cases before them had not been disposed of by the ma- gistrates, says "As far us that court was concerned, however triding or petty the cases might be which came before it, he could not for a moment think that any time which was required for their inves- tigation could be considered as having been wasted. An expe- rience of upwards of 35 yeari in this branch of the legal proceedings of the country had induced him to arrive at a very opposite conviction. Allow him to remind them, that there was no man living—let his mind be as pure as the mind of man could be conqtitated-but might, when he is in the daily habit of trying cases, of which 99 out of every 100 were cases of guilt, arrive at a resolution to adopt a given course, which might not in every instance be tempered with strict justice. The result was, that the interposition of the inquiry before a jury was re- quired to correct either his hasty opinion, or in some cases pro- bably erroneous judgment. The prisoner who was now at the bar made within 25 of 80)0 persons whom he had tried since his appointment as judge of that court, so that it would be assumed with truth that he was not without considerable expe- rience on that subject. After he had returned home from that court then- had never occurred an evening when he had not thanked Providence that there had been a jury to interpose, as it were, between himself and the parties who had been tried. It was not exactly that those gentlemen were of any value in a case turning upon a legal construction, but it was, that as a case proceeded the judge might occasionally go too quickly, to a conclusion, when the jury, by asking a simple question or two, would draw forth such an answer as at once to satisfy him that the matter required further investigation. By this simple cir- cumstance the legal mind was sometimes brought back to the consideration of facts at the very moment probably when it was absorbed by the legal points of the case only. If then it were merely in this view, the interposition and assistance of a jury was of the highest importance in the trial of every case, how- ever trifling. If every case were clear, he should then concur with the opinion just expressed by the grand jury but when he was enabled to tell them that in the various police courts there had been no fewer than 100 cases in a day disposed of, they would readily imagine that it would have been an utter impos- siblity for the magistrates to have entered into that full inquiry of each case which justice had demanded." The candid distrust of himself to which Mr. Serjeant Adams so gracefully alludes, is not likely to lessen his estimation in the public mind as a judge. Judges are men, and are as likely, if not more likely, to draw wrong conclusions from facts as those who are profoundly igno- rant of the law. But, in addition to this circumstance, no man, however zealous, can avoid falling into a certain routine discharge of his duties when called upon, as sometimes occurs, to dispose of not fewer than 40 or 50 cases daily—cases involving the liberties and property of the subject. It is idle to imagine, in the few minutes the judge can devote to the inquiry, that every case is submitted to the searching scrutiny that justice requires. There must be some instances in which the judge arrives at a wrong conclusion, and where the accused is conse- quently visited with a punishment for which the law affords no warrant. Unquestionably these mistakes, to use no stronger term, occur most frequently in cases of summary conviction; but they are not, we regret to say, altogether unknown in cases where the intervention of a jury is invoked between the judge and the accused.- Morning Herald.



[No title]