« PreviousContinue »
THIS TWENTY-FIFTH EDITION.
The learned Editor of this work in the year 1825, who thereby conferred a great benefit on the public, the magistracy, and the legal profession, concludes with some observations on " the possibility and expediency of reforming the Statute Law.” In the period which has elapsed since his useful labours terminated, that law has been reformed, particularly in the departments which respect the office of Magistrates, in a degree never before attempted, though such a reformation had long been contemplated by the ablest lawyers and the most enlightened men in public capacities to whom the country has given birth. It was reserved for two eminent statesmen of our own day to effect that which Lord Bacon, Judge Blackstone, Sir S. Romilly, and many others, had recommended to be done.
Some notice will be expected in the Preface to this Edition, of the leading alterations recently made in the Criminal Law, and varying the duties of the Magistrates in and out of Sessions. In the first volume will be found the new Alehouse-licensing Bill, (9 G.4. c.61.) the chief provisions of which I have noticed in the body of the work.(a) The power of summary enquiry and conviction by two magistrates, in acts of violence
(n) Pages 48, 49.
against the person, unaccompanied by any attempt to commit felony, was first given by the 9 G. 4. c. 61. This act, the result of the Marquis of Lansdowne's labours, and intituled " An Act for consolidating and amending the Statutes in England relative to Offences against the Person,” totally or partially repeals fiftyseven acts, comprehending the law of personal offences, and supplies some deficiencies in that law. The difference between petit treason and murder is taken away, and the necessity of an examination before the Privy Council, in cases of murder beyond sea, no longer exists, though it may still be resorted to, if deemed necessary. The provisions of the act against maliciously wounding, cutting and maiming, with intent to kill (commonly called Lord Ellenborough's Act), are most materially amended, the word “wound" applying equally to injuries effected by blunt or sharp instruments of mischief. By the same act, the law as to the offence of wilfully concealing the birth of a bastard by its mother is also materially altered. Any woman, whether married or not, who has concealed the birth of a child, whether still-born or otherwise, may be indicted for that offence. She may also be tried for the wilful concealment only, if acquitted on an indictment of murdering her child. The laws relative to rape, abduction of women, child-stealing, and bigamy, have also undergone some important changes, specified under the respective titles in this work.
Another act, first introduced by the same noble Lord, is that by which the law of Evidence was altered. The object of the first clause is to admit the testimony of Quakers and Moravians in criminal cases, and to attach all the penalties of perjury to a false affirmation taken by persons of those religious persuasions. In charges of forgery, as the law formerly stood, no one responsible for the performance of the conditions of the forged instrument, if valid, could be admitted to prove the forgery. The general rule in criminal cases is now pursued in this; the party
having an interest in the deed, writing, instrument, or other matter," is now a competent witness, the court and jury deciding, as in all other cases, the question of his credibility. The third clause removed doubts as to the civil rights of persons convicted of felonies not capital, and who had undergone the punishments adjudged, those punishments having now the same effect as a pardon under the Great Seal. The last clause, in furtherance of the same principle, declares that individuals convicted, and having undergone the punishments, of certain misdemeanors, the commission of which before precluded such persons from giving evidence, shall not be deemed by reason of any such misdemeanors incompetent witnesses in any court or proceeding, civil or criminal, with the exception of parties convicted of perjury or subornation of perjury.
In the second volume, the article of " Excise and Customs,” which occupies more than 400 pages, has been entirely re-composed. Since the publication of the last edition of this work, all the laws relating to the Customs, contained in upwards of 450 acts of parliament, have been repealed, and re-enacted with amendments, by several statutes passed in the sixth year of George the Fourth ; and the laws regarding the collection and management of the revenue of Excise, which were scarcely less numerous, have also been repealed and consolidated by the 7 & 8 G. 4. c. 53. The title “ Friendly Societies" is wholly new, as also that which relates to remedies against “ the Hundred,” the several statutes relative to each of these subjects having been repealed and re-enacted since the last edition of this work. In addition to these, many important alterations will be found in the laws respecting “ Turnpike Roads; and under the head « Game" are inserted the new